S: Starsky - Stead
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
The Lancashire town of Wigan was not the only one famous for coal minining and wrestling. Mossblown, a village in South Ayrshire, Scotland, also produced an abundance of the black stuff and skilled professional wrestlers.
For those who have read Dale Storm's book, "Ask Him Again Ref!" the wrestling gym in the village of Mossblown needs no introduction. Dale Storm, Bruce Welch, Big Ian Miller, Scott Thomson, Bull Wilson, Mike O'Hagan and dozens of others, including Young Jim Starsky, graduated from the Mossblown gym. We guess none of them would claim to be a Jack Dempsey or Billy Joyce, but they were every bit as dedicated and all were very capable wrestlers who devoted their lives to entertaining the wrestling public. Most nights of the week the Scottish terrain demanded they travelled more miles than most of their English counterparts to far flung venues around Scotland.
Around 1970 Young Jim Starsky joined the regulars at the Mossblown gym. He was just sixteen years old when he was taken under the wing of Dale Storm. Not long left school, just starting out in his first job as a mechanic, and with all the interests of a teenager young Jim needed a lot of determination to begin making an impression on the Mossblown men. In fact it was in the garage where he was serving his apprenticeship that Jim and Dale Storm first met and the youngster was invited along to the gym. Like many wrestling gyms it was not a grand affair. In common with Riley's at Wigan and The Junction in Barnsley the Mossblown gym was largely built by the young wrestlers themselves and filled with equipment they could beg, borrow, but certainly not steal. Apart from learning from the more experienced wrestlers Jim took to weight training, quickly adding a couple of stones to take him from a lightweight into the middleweight division.
Jim certainly proved that he had the necessary dedication and was a fast learner, impressing the boss of the gym enough to become his regular tag partner. The two of them were a well matched pair, both known for their fast manoeuvres, dropkicks and other high flying moves, with Jim learning to use the ropes as a means of propulsion to great advantage. Although Jim was still a teenager Dale told us, "Young Starsky was well respected both for his dedication to the sport and the upholding of its age old traditions."
His first few professional matches were for Spartan Promotions but the skilful youngster soon attracted the attention of other promoters, and began working for Jack Atherton, Orig Williams, Brian Dixon, Andy Robin and Relwyskow Green. He has told Wrestling Heritage that through all those matches his toughest opponents were Mad Michael O'Hagen, Bruce Welch and Bill Turner (Rory Campbell).
In the late 1980s with fans dwindling, shows reduced in number and television dropping wrestling from the schedules Jim decided he needed to move on, leaving the ring to begin teaching engineering at a local college.
Johnny Stead was a class act. That's according to Heritage member Bernard Hughes, and Bernard's word is good enough for us, Bernard recalls, "The best fight and certainly the most enjoyable for me was the 15 round draw at Newcastle for the world lightweight title between the holder George Kidd and the British title holder Johnny Stead. Just 15 rounds of great holds and fast counters. One pin fall each." Coming from Bradford we think it's a fair bet that Norman Morrell would have been a big influence on the lightweight youngster. Morrell had competed in the 1936 Olympics and as one of the top post war amateurs Johnny Stead seemed a likely nominee for the United Kingdom team in the 1948 London Olympic Games. Until he made the sudden decision to turn professional that is. By 1949 Johnny had established himself as a well respected lightweight, working mostly in northern England and Scotland for promoter Norman Morrell against the likes of Tiger Woods, George Kidd and Alan Colbeck. It was Wakefield's Colbeck that Johnny outclassed on 28th October, 1950 at the St James Hall, Newcastle, to take the British lightweight championship. This was Johnny's second bid for the title, having failed a few weeks earlier when he challenged Colbeck in a title match on 29th August in Wakefield. Save for an eleven month period beginning April, 1953, when Eric Sands took the title, Johnny Stead regained the belt and was to remain in the dominant force on the domestic lightweight scene until the mid 1950s.