R: Bert Royal, Vic Faulkner, Vic Hessle

Wrestling's Royal Family

Vic Hessle(Lew Faulkner), Bert Royal, Vic Faulkner

The pages of Wrestling Heritage may well be filled with names of some long forgotten combatants of the ring. Hold it right there. No one reading this page will have forgotten the ever popular Vic Faulkner. Vic, along with older brother Bert Royal, ranks right up there alongside the most easily recalled, and fondly remembered, of British wrestlers – McManus, Logan, Kellett, Pallo, Daddy, Haystacks.

The family name was Faulkner, confusingly father and the eldest brother chose other names for fame, leaving it to the youngest of the lot, Vic, to carry forward the family name.

Vic Hessle

Vic Hessle was born Lewis Faulkner on 4th March, 1913, which left him well placed to capitalise on the 1930s wrestling boom. He was born in Bolton and educated at the Saint Peter and Paul's Roman Catholic School, but this didn't stop 1930s wrestling promoters billing Vic Hessle as "The Austrian Tornado" and light heavyweight champion of Austria. Well, we guess Vienna does have a slightly more exotic ring than Bolton.

An energetic, fast moving and skilful wrestler he established himself as one of the country's favourites soon after his 1935 debut. He was a main eventer at the recently opened Bolton Stadium from the very start. Opponents included all of the lighter heavyweights, Izzy Van Dutz, Jack Pye, Jack Atherton,  and Billy Riley.

Presumably work and family commitments prevented Vic travelling too far; he had married Vivienne Armstrong and the couple were parents of Herbert Faulkner (born 5th December 1931) and Victor (born 14th June 1944). These two, of course, went on to become the ever popular Royal brothers, Bert Royal and Vic Faulkner.

Vic Hessle remained a popular wrestler throughout the 1930s and  served as a paratrooper in the Second World War.

Following the second world war many wrestlers went into retirement because they were too old to adapt their style to the Mount Evans rules, or because they were simply too old. Neither the war nor the change of style were sufficient to stop Vic Hessle going on to become one of the most successful and respected wrestlers of the post war era. Visiting post war American Pat Curry claimed that Vic troubled him more than Bert Assirati.

Having turned professional in  the days of Pojello, Oakeley and Sherry, Vic Hessle finally hung up his boots in 1963, and went on to serve as landlord of the Bull's Head in the Breightmet area of Bolton for seventeen years. He left a legacy in the form of his two sons, Bert Royal and Vic Faulkner, with the latter adopting the family name abandoned by the young Lew Faulkner many years before.  

One satisfying moment in his last year must have been wrestling in Paris in 1963 with all three of the family on the same bill. Father Vic defeated the “German Strangler” Eric Muller, young Vic wrestled Moise Besh, whilst Bert was knocked out by Rene Ben Chemoul.

Lewis Faulkner died on 3rd October, 1978.

Bert Royal

Fans from the 1950s to the 1980s all remember Bert Royal. Few were  as fortunate enough to stay in contact with Bert long after his retirement as Heritage member Graham Bawdon; “Who can forget Bert`s amazing monkey climb, short arm scissors or the great Irish whip? He really knew all the holds, the ultimate professional. My father first spotted Bert when he used to watch wrestling back in the late 1950`s with his uncle on television. They both agreed that The Bolton Thunderbolt as he was known had a great talent, and made it look easy. You knew damn well that indeed it was not easy. Bert`s technical perfection and skill stayed with him until he retired at the end of 1982. I`ve had the pleasure of speaking to Bert on many occasions, and I can only say that he is a gentleman.”

When Allan Best declared in the Talk Wrestling forum that around 1950 he had seen Bert Royal wearing a mask there was a collective dubiousness until a photograph was uncovered. Hardly surprising when we all remember Bert as  the dashing good guy who could sort out the villains of the ring McManus, Pallo, Logan and the rest. Not just in singles matches but often in a tag pairing with his little brother, the even more cherub like Vic. 

Bert Royal was born on 5th December, 1931, with the name Herbert Faulkner on the birth certificate.

He was billed as Britain’s youngest wrestler when he first came on the scene, the earliest advert we have found for him being 2nd December, 1949 in Chesterfield, opponent Billy Howes. Success came quickly and Bert was soon travelling up and down the country and wrestling the top lighter men of the day. Any wearing of a mask must have been very limited and for a short time.

During the 1950s Bert established himself as one of the country’s top wrestlers. By the mid 1950s he was no longer an up and coming youngster, he was an established middleweight. A little bit of wrestling history came his way on 9th November, 1955 when Bert wrestled Cliff Beaumont at West Ham Baths in ITV’s first televised wrestling transmission. By 1958 he was billed as a champion for the first of many times, European Middleweight Champion.

There was a bit more wrestling history in September 1963 when Bert and Vic took part in the first UK televised tag match. 

A Bert Royal bout was certainly full of joy for fans also, whether it be a clean, scientific affair against another technician or bringing about the come-uppance of villains such as Jackie Pallo, Mick McManus or Steve Logan. Forty years on whenever fans discuss the wrestling of old the name Bert Royal is usually one of the first to crop up.

Ex wrestler colleague Paul Mitchell recalled: “Bert Royal was a superb straight wrestler, yes there were elements of showmanship but also standout skill and athleticism. His high regard for the paying public and protection of the game were second to one."

Outside of the ring Bert had many interests, one of them being politics, and in 1967 Herbert Faulkner was elected a councillor of Turton District Council. 

Vic Faulkner

Flash, bang, wallop.

The angelic looking Vic Faulkner could never have been anything but a hero. 

The younger of the Royal brothers  was handsome and good humoured making him a favourite of just about everyone in the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately, the boy could wrestle too. He was one of the new breed of acrobatic speed merchants that came onto the scene in the early 1960s, replacing the skilful but slower mat based technicians of the 1950s.  

Flash as he whizzed around, bang as he slammed into his luckless opponent as he propelled himself across the ring, and wallop when the forearm smash or dropkick hit the target. Fans expecting a bit of action were never disappointed. 

Born in wartime Bolton on 14th June, 1944 (definitely not July as sometimes cited).  Vic was the son of another wrestling great, Lew Faulkner (Hessle) and his wife, Vevey. Like his elder brother, Bert, and father Lew, Vic attended Saint Peter and Paul's RC School. 

With wrestling in his blood an entry to the pro ranks could hardly have come as a surprise. Bert and Lew taught Vic how to wrestle, with his professional debut in 1960.  He  was a modern day master of the mat with skills learned from his father, Lew Faulkner, better known as heavyweight wrestler Vic Hessle.  

Vic supplemented his skill with speed, so much so that he could be tiring to watch. A favourite move was to play “dead” up to the count of nine before springing to his feet and attacking his opponent. Highly predictable after being seen for the millionth time fans loved this ploy, though whether opponents enjoyed being humiliated is another matter.  

Charisma and ability were more than enough; Vic didn't need a  championship belt to secure popularity or status. Nevertheless, during his career Vic held both the British Welterweight title and the European Middleweight title; so the promoters must have liked him too.

Vic made his tv debut in 1962 against the experienced Alan Colbeck. He was back in the ring just a few months later opposing Colbeck again, but this time in television’s first tag team contest with brother Bert facing Colbeck and Ivan Penzecoff.   In the years that followed Bert and Vic did more than just about anyone to popularise tag team wrestling. To say they were the country’s most popular tag team would be no exaggeration. Vic’s appearances with brother Vic, plus single contest against just about every other big name welter and middleweight wrestler resulted in more than 130 television appearances

For many years Vic was licensee of the Railway Tavern on the Wigan Road, Euxton. He later went on to work for Thwaites, the Blackburn brewery and in 1998 was named Thwaites Salesman of the Year.

The wrestling fraternity was shocked to hear of the death of Vic Faulkner on 6th July, 2017.

We end with the words of Graham Bawden: “Vic Faulkner, was amazing in the ring and always enjoyed his wrestling. Bert brought a more serious scientific side to his wrestling and it showed. Bert and Vic, two of Lancashire’s finest.”

Page added 13/06/2021

Reviewed 28/02/2022