WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

R: Rolfe - Royal

  

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Chick Rolfe (1930s)

We know very little about Chick Rolfe despite his presence in British rings for twenty plus years. We came across him for the first time in 1933, fighting Phil Siki. Billed from America, "The tough guy from Bowery, New York," this may well have been promoters hype, and the later billing of Birmingham (that's Birmingham, UK) was probably more accurate. Although there are reports that Chick could wrestle, there are more frequent reports of a more rugged character, on one occasion tearing the referees trousers to shreds! In his twenty year career Chick met most of the big names, Black Butcher Johnson, Dave Armstrong and Vic Hessle.


Chick Rolfe (March, 1970s)

We have a second Chick Rolfe, this one from March in Cambridgeshire. His birth name was Michael Sharder and he worked frequently for Jack Taylor and Terry Goodrum in the 1960s and 1970s. Martin Campbell recalled him: "He hovered around light-heavy, so he could take on the Ghoul, which he did on many occasions as well as middleweights. Another good worker. Travelled, I think, around the south-east with others who never really made it, like Digger Summers and Hardy Lingus."


Mick Sharder briefly assumed another identity also. Here's a glass half-full or glass half-empty test. For those with a half-full outlook the creation of Brother Death was a touch of creative genius. From a half-empty perspective it's a sign of just how low a promoter could stoop. Brother Death was a short lived invention of promoter Jack Taylor to fill the void left by Dr Death when he went to work for the rival Joint Promotions. Mr X was an even shorter lived creation, we suspect for the sole purpose of being unmasked by the Brother. Mr X was unmasked as Chick Rolfe. He's probably had more glorious nights.


John Romeiro

Martin Campbell recalled John Romeiro, "John Romeiro was used by Jack Taylor a lot in the late sixties He was a good worker ... heel or very occasionally baby face depending on the bill, but usually heel. He wore a black leotard and was used by Jack as a tag partner for Dr Death, with whom he 'fell out' and fought.  He was a good-looking swarthy lad, quite tall. Like most 'swarthy' wrestlers he was occasionally billed as Gypsy John Romeiro, but mostly it was John Romeiro, Latin American glamour boy. He could work a crowd and I was mystified that he didn't go further, because outside East Anglia and the south-east and into the 70s he seems to have fallen off the radar. He really is one wrestler I'd like to know more about."


Rito Romero
Mexican heavyweight Rito Romero was a good friend of World heavyweight champion Lou Thesz and travelled to Europe with Thesz during the winter of 1957-8.  Whilst his early career was in his native Mexico Rito settled in the United States, winning the NWA Pacific Coast Heavyweight Championship, defeating Verne Gagne for the Texas Heavyweight Championship and twice holding the NWA World Tag Team Championship. In Britain Rito faced the likes of Jack Pye, Sandy Orford and Dennis Mitchell, going down to the Bradfordian at the Royal Albert Hall in February, 1958.   Rito Romero died of a heart attack on 17th January, 2001.

Karl Romskey
“Ex Russian Army Officer” proclaimed the wrestling balderdash. Unlikely we feel as George Bowden, the alter ego of Karl Romskey, was born in Sheffield on 29th January, 1897, and worked in one of the Sheffield Steel Works by day.  He was one of the earliest entrants into the All-In rings following it’s emergence in December, 1930. 

Our earliest recorded match for Karl Romskey comes in February, 1931, wrestling Johanfesson at the Astoria, Morecambe. Johanfesson. The link between Johanfesson and Romskey is strong, the former likely being the mentor of George and creator of the Russian persona. 

Little Hackenschmidt and Strangler Johnson were frequent opponents during Romskey’s short career that we can find no later than 1933. 

It was a match against George Strangler Johnson, described by the press as “savage and brutal”  that came to national attention when Johnson died following the contest at Romskey’s local Hall  in Attercliffe, Sheffield.  The inquest, recorded a verdict of death by heart failure, adding that wrestling ought to be barred. Questions about the death of Strangler Johnson and the need to regulate wrestling,  were raised in Parliament. Although involved in seemingly brutal matches George Johnson and George Bowden were good friends who wrestled each other frequently.

We assume the death had an impact on George Bowden as the name Karl Romskey disappeared soon afterwards, our last recorded match being in November,1933. The name George Bowden re-appeared for a couple of matches in 1935. In the 1939 census he was registered as a steel worker in Sheffield.

George Bowden died in 1967.

Guido Ronga
Now here’s a name. Guido Ronga, the man from the Ashdown Wrestling Club who trained Bert Assirati and prepared him for the professional wrestling ring. 

A skilled amateur Guido himself turned to the professional style in the 1930s and we have found him on the bills from 1935. In 1952 we find Guido working for Atholl Oakeley and winning a World Middleweight Championship contest against Pat McGee.  Following Oakeley’s demise Guido continued wrestling with our last reference in 1956. Surely a man about whom we should know much more.

Ronto the Bull
Great name! 

Ron Moore from Heanor, a small town in Derbyshire. Well known in the local community Ron Moore used the wrestling name Ronto the Bull. He was a good friend of Jack Taylor and worked for the independent promoters around the Midlands in the  1950s and 1960s. 

Ron’s wrestling credentials could be traced back to the Second World War. He was stationed in Malaya and it was here that he took up wrestling and is believed to have had his public contest in the Army Championships at the Happy World Stadium in Singapore. Ron began wrestling professionally, mostly close to his Derbyshire home, on his return to Britain. Some of Ron’s earliest matches in the early 1950s saw him billed as Ron Moore from Singapore. 

Ron also taught wrestling at the Heanor Football Club, where he ran the Heanor Health and Strength Club two nights a week. One of Ron's proteges was Vince Apollo, known on television as Tubby Hodkinson. 

Ron also promoted his own small scale shows at Heanor Town Hall, where he wrestled and refereed.

Bob Roop
By the time Bob Roop came to Britain in 1972 Wrestling Heritage writers had been around long enough to know the ropes - American wrestler was over-hyped by the wrestling press, came to Britain, showed little wrestling ability, broke the rules and disappointed immensely.  Then came Bob Roop. He was different. He could wrestle, and did wrestle, and we rather liked him. We now look back on his UK record and see quite a few disqualification losses. Those losses conflict with our memories of a skilful heavyweight who could work with the best we could off. Little wonder, because Bob Roop had represented the USA in the 1968 Olympic Games. The year following the Olympics (he came seventh) Bob turned professional and so had three years pro experience when he came to the UK. Bob Roop retired from wrestling in 1988 as a result of injuries received in a car accident.

Globe trotting heavyweight Earl Black told Wrestling Heritage: 
“I first met Bob Roop in Tampa, Florida. I had never heard of him. To me, he looked like a big, chubby, 13-year-old, though he was actually 25 at the time. He just did not look like a Special Forces paratrooper, which of course he had been.  Two other wrestlers also thought he did not look so tough. They challenged him to a fight in the gym, and these were big, strong guys. Never one to back down, Bob climbed into the ring, and punched one between the eyes, which was the end of the line for him. The other one tried to grab Bob, but he turned him upside down and drove him head first into the mat.  You just can't judge a book by its cover. “

Paul Rose
Loughborough’s Paul Rose came into wrestling via the physical culture route, given a helping hand by Leicestershire based wrestler and promoter, Jack Taylor. A muscular six  footer of sixteen stones turned professional in 1957.  Our first sighting came at Rugby in December, 1957, when he was on the losing end against Tug Holton. Other opponents included Haystack Ed Bright, Flash Lee Edwards, Spike O’Reilly and Jack Rowlands. We found Paul Rose working frequently around Leicestershire until October, 1962, always for Jack Taylor. We would very much like to learn more.

Herbie Rosenberg
“Hard-boiled Herbie Rosenberg, The sneering, jeering Jew”, from Chicago, well that’s what the posters told us. What we do know was that Herbie liked to play rough, with one report announcing "Such was the scene, the worst in local sporting circles for many years, which brought forth loud and long bursts of booing from the crowd."  Never seemingly a regular main eventer Herbie obviously entertained the fans and was active in British rings from 1934 until 1945.

Matthias Rosges
The scientific Scientific German heavyweight was a frequent visitor to Britain from 1960 until 1962. Working in the north in the winter of 1960 later visits concentrated more in the south, with Royal Albert Hall losses against Joe Cornelius and Tibor Szakacs. The wrestling world was shocked when it was reported that Matthias Rosges had been  murdered in Dusseldorf in 1962.

Pete Ross 
A popular wrestler in the 1970s  Pete Ross was the  “Farmer's Boy” from Sedgefield  who worked for both independent and Joint Promotions in the 1970s and 1980s. He made a handful of television appearances between 1979 and 1984, including the  inevitable couple as a tag pairing for Big Daddy.

Steve Rowe
Eric Savage was just 16 years old when he became Steve Rowe, a fast moving lightweight who the fans took to straight away. 

That was in 1968 following a grounding in the rudiments of the professional ring by wrestler and promoter Terry Goodrum. At the same time the youngster was training as a nurse and working in a hospital. Between shifts he would be travelling around working for the independent promoters. 

He made a good impression and in March, 1972, was featured in The Wrestler magazine where he was named one of the most promising wrestlers on the scene.

Although he worked mostly for the independent promoters, such as Terry Goodrum and Allan & Taylor,  Steve was signed up by Joint Promotions and the youngster was soon sharing a dressing room with the idols  he had watched on television only a few years earlier - Les Kellett, Shirley Crabtree and the Cortez brothers amongst them. 

For Steve it was a short lived career, though one he enjoyed immensely, as he took the decision to concentrate on work outside the ring and retired in 1975.

Digger Rowell (Black Mask, Dr No)
Not the most skilful wrestler in the world, but an all action style and thorough wrestling knowledge made this globe trotting Australian (born in Sunderland, England)  a favourite around Europe.  Charles Rowell, that was his real name, began wrestling whilst a PT instructor in the Australian army. In 1954 he won the “Mr Sydney” title. His style was one that excited fans, combining strength, speed and ruggedness with the aim of wearing down opponents and winning by submission. Moved around continental Europe, the UK  with the odd visit home throughout the first half of the 1960s decade. Occasionally donned an appropriately coloured hood and wrestled as The Black Mask or Dr No.

Jack Rowland (Beau Jack)
Stockport heavyweight Jack Rowlands, whose athletic build and dark, handsome features led to an alternative billing as "Beau Jack" graduated through the 1960s independent rings into Joint Promotion territory. As a youngster Jack watched the wrestling near his home at the Levenshulme Ice Rink, where his favourites included Jack Pye and Tommy Mann. He trained at the Manchester YMCA, encouraged by the Canadian Carl Van Wurden, before turning professional in 1960 for the independent promoters. In those days there were sufficient independent shows every night in southern Lancashire and Yorkshire to give a youngster an excellent grounding in the professional business. We always felt that those early matches in which we saw him against villains such as The Ghoul, Lord Bertie Topham and Dai Sullivan were the ones where we enjoyed him the most.  On Monday 10th October, 1966, he moved across to Joint Promotions, losing to Don Vines at Carlisle. For the following fifteen years Jack remained a popular figure in British and overseas ring, holding his own against the top heavyweights but never really making it into the big league. His career extended into the early 1980s.

Tony Rowney (Tony Rowley, Ring Gladiator)
Proud Yorkshireman Tony Rowney wrestled in the latter part of his career as the Ring Gladiator out of Kettering, where he had a parallel career as an unarmed combat instructor, both in the forces and in civilian life. Northamptonshire was of course Ken Joyce territory and the two had an ongoing feud, with Rowney ever the one  booed by the fans.  We had first become aware of him in the very early seventies with tales of wrestling lions inside their cages at the zoo His first televised bout was in 1977 against Dynamite Kid. Due to his daytime job at a steelworks, Tony was greatly limited travel-wise throughout his career, but we are sure he would have become a big name had he chosen to dedicate himself full-time to wrestling.
Tony died on 25th June 2009.

Roy Royal 
Wrestling Heritage member Duncan remembers 1960s independent wrestler Roy Royal billed as “A famous wrestler from a famous family.” Duncan posed the question, which famous family? Please get in touch if you can provide 

25/04/2021: Chick Rolfe (March), John Romeiro and Paul Rose added