S; Rex Strong

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Strength and Storm

Rex Strong

Also known as Samurai, Barry Sherman

He was bearded. He was big. He was bad. 

He was blooming brilliant.

Rex Strong could torment the fans with his underhand tactics as one of the best villains of the day. Mind you, he had a good tutor, having been taught the wrestling trade by none other than Dirty Dominic Pye, a man that Rex admired until the day he died. Born in Blackpool, Lancashire, Barry had grown up in a town with a flourishing wrestling community and he got to know the Pye family from an early age. As a youngster Barry was a second for Jack Pye when he was wrestling at The Tower.

After leaving school Rex recalled working on the beach as a lifeguard at Blackpool, for some time alongside Shirley Crabtree. If Dominic Pye was a man short for one of his three times a week wrestling shows a public announcement would instruct him to  to make his way to the hall. 

Barry Ronald Shearman was born in 1942. He was just seventeen years old when he made his professional debut in 1959. The first few matches weren't as Barry Shearman, nor were they as Rex Strong, but as a Dominic Pye creation, Angus Campbell, complete with swirling kilt.  Rex played the part for two or three years until Frank Hoy came along to assume the role that made him a world wide star.  For much of the 1960s he would  use the name Barry Sherman (a corruption of his birth name Shearman). Initially working for the independent promoters in the north of England, often with his mentor Dominic Pye, and with other big names of the 1960s independent circuit. 

Yet it was the name Rex Strong that made Barry famous.

Rex rose to his most prominent in the 1970s. Working for Joint Promotions he was a bill topper in the opposing corner to the likes of Big Daddy, Wayne Bridges,  Pete Roberts and Count Bartelli. At the time he was also owner of a The Hadley Hotel in Blackpool. Wrestling Heritage reader Nightlight told us: "Back in the 1970's, my parents used to stay at the hotel in Blackpool run by Rex Strong. My Dad often recalled that Rex's 'party piece' was bending the old-style 'crown' tops from bottles of Guinness between two of his fingers! "

In 1975-6 he formed a notable tag partnership with Kendo Nagasaki. A familiar figure to tv viewers, he was dropped in at the deep end partnering Kendo Nagasaki against Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. A couple more televised outings against Romany Riley and John Elijah, and then promoters really stepped up the class of  opponents and Rex was in the big league on tv against Pat Roach, Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, Gwyn Davies, and Tony St Clair. 

At the Royal Albert Hall Rex and partner Kendo Nagasaki beat Haystacks and Big Daddy in March, 1977. More Albert Hall success three years later when he partnered John Quinn to defeat African Kruger and African Rand.   

In 1986 Rex was back on television screens, this time as the Masked Samurai, appearing once against Tom Tyrone and a couple of times in tag matches with Big Daddy in the opposite corner. A sad ending to a great career.

Lifeguard, wrestler, hotel owner. Barry was a busy man. So why not add councillor? He was for many years a council member of Blackpool council. We won't stop there. Add a lifetime of support of the Royal National Lifeguard Institute. Barry Shearman was a man who lived life to the full.

One final Rex Strong memory - does anyone remember seeing Rex in It's a A Knockout? Twice in fact. A member of the Shrewsbury team in 1969 and the Blackpool team of 1981.

Rex Strong died 25th November, 2017, aged 75