R: Riley - Riza
Nipper Eddie Riley
Salford lightweight Eddie Riley was nicknamed Nipper for obvious reasons, and the young lightweight could certainly move around the ring.
Eddie learned to wrestle as an amateur for two years at Marty Jones' gymnasium, before he was considered ready for the professional style. Turning professional in the late 1970s Eddie weighed in at 10 stones 12 pounds, just inside the lightweight division, and could be found flying around the ring against the likes of Mike Jordan, Jackie Robinson and Sid Cooper.
Over the years that weight did increase a little and Eddie eventually filled out to just over 12 stones, adding a bit more power to his still fast moves.
Eddie was a television favourite in the 1980s, making seventeen appearances on the small screen. He told us , “It was a privilege to be in the ring with Johnny Saint, Jim Breaks, Steve Grey, and Sid Cooper, plus many more great wrestlers.” Eddie remained active until 1998, when a persistent knee injury finally got the better of him. “These are memories no one can take away from me, and this is why we have to keep our 'heritage'
After retiring from the ring Eddie went into acting and secured roles on many of the most popular television shows. Nowadays television appearances are more likely to be in Coronation Street or Shameless (he was once a victim in Crimewatch!) as Eddie develops his entertainment career.
Ernie Riley (Jack Fay)
Read our extended tribute in Personality Parade: In His Father’s Likeness
The name is Riley and the home town is, of course, Wigan. Frank Riley was a trainee of Billy Riley's gymnasium. Respected amongst colleagues he had a short lived career as a welterweight during the first half of the 1960s.
See the entry for Spike O’Reilly
The trunked wrestler and transport café owner from Staplehurst developed into a spectacular all-round leotarded master of the wrestling craft in the late seventies and he is discussed in more detail in Armchair Corner. He is one of our Wrestling Heritage favourites, a skilful under-rated heavy who could have done so much more, if only the promoters would have allowed him. When not punishing the villains of the ring Basil Riley could be found behind the bar of the Thanet Arms in Hothfield, Kent, where he was the landlord.
Into the Fact or Folklore compartment we must put the claim that Basil drove his horse-drawn Romany caravan throughout Europe on a wrestling tour of Germany, Spain and France.
Related article: Roman Trilogy in Armchair Corner on www.wrestlingheritage.com
During the last half century few men have made their contribution to professional wrestling in such a variety of ways as Frank Rimer. Where to begin? An amateur career in which he won the south eastern england lightweight championship, followed by professional training from Johnny Yearsley and at the Dale Martin Gymnasium. His professional career began with the independents before being signed up by Joint Promotions in 1964. It was a surprise to many when Frank and his good friend, Ray Fury, started promoting their own shows, cheekily using the name Independent Joint Promotions. In 1998 Frank and Tony Scarlo founded the Dropkixx Wrestling Academy which grew into the largest wrestling school in Britain. Add to that refereeing, MCing, and not least of all member of the organising committee of the British Wrestlers Reunion and management of the British Wrestlers Reunion website.
See the entry for Tony Rowney
Yet another 1970s second division masked man, from an age when masked men were created as overnight flash in the pans to go down and enhance the glory of the stars of the day. We are not talking Bartelli or Nagasaki here. We have been told various well respected wrestlers performed the role. One name we have heard is Ted Heath whilst we have records of Phil Pearson and Jack Rowlands being unmasked.
Tommy Heyes was better known to wrestling fans of the early 60’s as Gene Riscoe. Tommy joined Riley’s Gym (aka, ‘The Snake Pit’) at the age of 17 where he spent more than 15 years being schooled in the finer points of Catch-as-catch-can Wrestling by former World Middleweight champion Billy Riley. Both Catch-as-catch-can and Pro wrestling were taught at Riley’s gym and Tommy learnt them both. During his time at the gym, Tommy wrestled most of the gym’s great wrestlers, including Billy Joyce, Ernie Riley, Billy Robinson and Tommy Moore (Jack Dempsey). Tommy Heyes was sometimes referred to as ‘Tall Tommy’ by other gym members because he was taller than Tommy Moore. The two Tommy’s were regular training partners for many years.
After a brief spell as an amateur, Tommy Heyes turned pro and had his debut against former amateur champion Frank Hough. Mainly wrestling for Riley and Atherton promotions, Tommy appeared on the bills with the likes of Alan ‘Tiger’ Wood, Jack Fallon, Abe Ginsberg, Jimmy Ryan and Monty Swann. Due to family and working commitments Tommy never wrestled outside of the UK.
Today, Tommy has not lost his love of wrestling and still actively coaches the Catch Wrestling he learnt at Riley’s gym at Bolton wrestling club. He is also an avid historian on Lancashire catch-as-catch-can wrestling and has written many articles on the subject.
Melwyn Riss (Al Prince)
In terms of wrestling ability Mel Riss ranked alongside the more often remembered Jack Dempsey, Billy Joyce and Ernie Riley. Mel Riss trained at Riley's gym, and it showed.
Mel Riss was born Harold Winstanley in the Scholes area of Wigan on 19th February, 1931. During his twenty plus years as a professional wrestler the one time British lightweight champion was a great ring craftsman. Fellow wrestler Eddie Rose told us, "Melvyn Riss was one of the very best wrestlers ever. I watched him many times; he could wrestle in the rugged Wigan style & he could enhance a bout with moments of sheer comedy magic. He was so full of energy and drive in the ring that you had to work flat out just to survive with him."
A joiner by trade Mel learned catch wrestling and the pro style from Billy Riley. He turned professional in 1950 with the first of his many career highlights coming in April 1953 with a Royal Albert Hall encounter against fellow Lancastrian John Foley. Four years later he was back at the Royal Albert Hall, this time topping the bill whilst losing to Mick McManus.
The following year he won the British lightweight championship which he held for five years until surprisingly losing it to a young Yorkshireman by the name Jim Breaks at the Royal Albert Hall in October 1963.
Melwyn was a lightweight contender for the remainder of the decade until 1970 when he cut back on his wrestling commitments and began working for the independents; his last recorded bout being in 1974 using the name Al Prince.
Mel Riss died in 1983
John Ritchie is the son of wrestler John Hall. He turned professional in the 1980s following an amateur career at the United AWC. John developed into an influential force in wrestling as head trainer and owner of the Dropkixx Wrestling Acadamy and LDN British Heavyweight Champion.
Ali Riza Bey
Turkish heavyweight travelled the world and was well known throughout Europe, Asia and Australia, visiting Britain in the mid 1950s.