S: Steel - Stein
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
The lanky, blond haired light heavyweight was a popular addition to the wrestling circuit when he made his debut on 3rd June 1969, knocking out Dennis Savage at the Eldorado Stadium, Edinburgh.
There was never any likelihood of Ray being labelled as "flash" but his technical skill and agility for a man of his size did give him a certain kind of flair. His methodical, technical style was respected more than loved by fans.
To his not inconsiderable credit Ray's skill did bring a much needed credibility to the wrestling rings of the 1980s when it was much needed. He was rewarded with the British heavyweight title which he held from 1985 until 1986.
Ray, who learned to wrestle at the Leeds Athletic Institute, turned professional after a successful amateur career, winning a British light heavyweight title. A few more of Ray Steel's calibre may have maneouvred professional wrestling away from its suicidal tendencies of the 1980's
The depth and richness of talent of British wrestling in the 1960s made it difficult for a wrestler to stand out amongst the crowd, especially if he failed to wear a colourful costume, dye his hair or adopt some other outrageous gimmick. Salford's Bob Steele did stand out, and he did so simply by relying on an outstanding level of technical ability. He was singled out by middleweight champion Tommy Mann as the best of the early 1960s newcomers and biggest threat to his title. Born in 1931 Bob became interested in wrestling whilst a child and attended his first show at the Ardwick Stadium when he was eleven years old. Manchester's second stadium, “The bloodtub,” was known for fights that were just that bit more exciting and violent than at the nearby Belle Vue, and the frenzy inside the hall hooked the youngster. A couple of years later he joined the Manchester YMCA, initially to box, but soon turned his attention to wrestling. When Bobby was called upon to complete his National Service he became friends with wrestler Tony Vallon. Vallon encouraged the Salford yongster to put his wrestling knowledge to good use by turning professional, which he did in 1951. Right from the start it was apparent that here was a wrestler with exceptional ability and Bobby was soon matched with the big names like Danny Flynn, Cliff Beaumont and Tommy Pye. Wins over welterweight champion Jack Dempsey were rewarded with a championship clash but Steele was unable to beat the champion in any title bouts. He remained a highly respected campaigner on the periphery of championship honours for the best part of two decades. By 1967 the bumps and the grind of the wrestling ring were getting the best of Bob and he took over management of a garage in Manchester.
Eddie Rose recalled Bob: “A truly great wrestler. Had some marvellous bouts versus Tommy Mann, Chic Purvey, Cliff Belshaw, Ted Hannon, Jack Dempsey. I had a car from him (he had a place in north Manchester). It was a red Ford Zephyr 6 and it ran like a dream. Its previous owner was Alan Ball, the England footballer. Bob Steele was one of the perhaps unsung heroes who made wrestling such a great favourite during the Golden age.”
Bob Steele died in 2012.
Kurt Stein (Germany)
Shaven headed, rugged features and a disinclination to follow the rules were the trademark of eighteen stone, six feet tall Kurt Stein. The heavyweight villain from Berlin wrestled in many European countries and Africa as well as extensively in the UK. His first visit to our shore was in 1958, the highlight of his visit facing Mike Marino at the Royal Albert Hall; he lost. We would have loved to have been ringside for one of his other matches, against the turbulent Alan Garfield. No doubt the sparks flew before Kurt was disqualified and sent back to the dressing room. He returned to Britain in 1960, with some impressive wins over top heavyweights Dazzler Joe Cornelius, Rebel Ray Hunter, Judo Al Hayes and Gordon Nelson. Another Royal Albert Hall appearance had a more fortunate outcome, an impressive one fall apiece draw against Tibor Szakacs. Tibor won the return!
Kurt Stein went on to wrestle in North America as Kurt Von Brauner and Kurt Von Stroheim. He died in 1993.
Kurt Stein (St Helens) (Also known as Fred Hill)
The name Kurt Stein was re-cycled on the independent shows of the early 1970s. Despite an impressive build-up in The Wrestler magazine, and inclusion in the A-Z of wrestlers book, this Stein, living in St Helens in Lancashire, seems to have worked mostly for the independent promoters. Not exclusively so, as he did work for Joint Promotions using the name Karl Schultz. Heritage member Frank Thomas remembers a rather steamy bout between Schultz and Bill Howes at Liverpool Stadium, "Got the feeling that there was very little 'fixed' about this one... " We saw him on the northern independent circuit against Orig Williams and Klondyke Bill.
Stein or Schults the family name was far less exotic, more synonymous with Lancashire than Deutsch land! He was Fred Hill of St Helens. Dale Storm remembers him, " I worked with him for Danny Flynn and other Independents back in the 1960's. I remember it well, he was a big solid guy and he almost broke my jaw with a very dodgy Forearm Smash. I still have some trouble with it to this day, it clicks. He also worked as the "Masked Outlaw" for serveral promoters and yes he did work for Joints for a time. He also toured India with my good friend Sam Betts (both men featured in my memoir "As him again Ref!") he was a quitet unassuming individual outside the ring and he was a very good villain in his day.