S: Stevens - Stock
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Yorkshire's Ray Stevens was a familiar figure on the independent circuit from the late 1960s onwards, a regular worker for Cyril Knowles and other northern promoters. Like so many others it was a night at the wrestling that got Ray hooked. His older brother regularly went along to the fortnightly shows in Halifax. One night Ray went along with him and was mesmerised by the local favourites on the bill that night, Max, Brian and Shirley Crabtree. Max and Albert Wall were to remain the two wrestlers that Ray admired the most.
From that time on Ray was determined to become a wrestler himself and trained hard at the Hilltop Amateur Wrestling Club until given the chance to prove himself in the professional rings by the independent promoters. With Romeo Joe Critchley already well known he dropped his family name of Peter Critchley in favour of Ray Stevens, reminiscent of the American heavyweight of that name.
Promoter Cyril Knowles gave Ray his first opportunity in the professional ring, a match against fellow Yorkshire man Al Marshall. Ray recalls that the money he received for that match didn't even cover his petrol money, but he didn't care; he was a wrestler and that was all that mattered. Within a short time he was working for numerous independent promoters around the country.
It wasn't long before Ray came to the attention of Joint Promotions and was signed up to work for them in 1971. National exposure came his way when fetured in the July, 1971, issue of The Wrestler magazine, followed in August, 1973, when he made his television debut against Phil Pearson at the Newark Sports Centre. Ray was unfortunate to go down to Phil Pearson by the only fall required on that occasion, in which Kendo Nagasaki knocked out Tibor Szakacs in the main event.
Ray loved his wrestling, and gives specific mentions of the times he enjoyed working with Johnny Saint, Roy St Clair and Kid McCoy. The pressure was always on to travel further afield which did lead to conflict. Although a busy worker over many years Ray, like most others, wrestled on a part time business. He and his brother went into partnership with a bakery business. They did well and the business was thriving. Ray had to prioritise and devoted his time to the business. "I loved wrestling, but to be a star you have to devote all your time to it. I did not have the time."
Peter Stewart (Also known as Iron Duke)
Tall and slim Peter Stewart started wrestling professionally around 1964, but it was a couple of years later that we first came across him at our local hall. In those days he was often accompanied by his father, Vic Stewart, but in the world of magic and mirrors that is professional wrestling they were billed at the Stewart brothers. In the mid sixties one of the Sunday newspapers revealed they weren't brothers at all, but father and son. Shock and horror! Did we care? Not a bit. Not that Stewart was their name either, Peter Stewart was born Peter Ernest Lawler, and adopted his father's ring name. By the mid sixties the Stewarts were tangling regularly with the likes of the Royal brothers and the Black Diamonds. We read harsh words about him in The Wrestler magazine that don't tally with our memories of a clean skilful wrestler. By 1969 when father Vic retired from the ring Peter was well and truly ready to fly the nest. By then he was demonstrating that he could hold his own, though not necessarily beat, the likes of Billy Joyce and Mike Marino. Like the majority of wrestlers he never reached the top flight but throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s Peter Stewart remained a good value for money heavyweight.
We loved our tag team wrestling in the 1960s. Oh, how we loved it when the high flying speedy Stewart brothers outfoxed their villainous opponents the Cadmans, the Donlevys,the Rawlings and the Black Diamonds. Until, shock horror, one of the Sunday newspapers exposed the fact that Vic and Pete Stewart were not brothers at all, but father and son. Did we care? Not a jot. If the Sunday newspaper thought that this piece of minor deception would undermine our belief in the sport they were to be sadly mistaken. All it did succeed in doing was demonstrate that Vic Stewart was a man who had extended his youth. He was quite believable as Pete's older brother as we watched him speed his way around the ring outfoxing men many years younger. Vic Stewart was a very skilful wrestler. A technician who worked within the rules aided by a youthful appearance that made him immensely popular with fans. Vic Stewart turned professional in the early 1950s and from the beginning found himself opposing established favourites that included Jack Beaumont, Martin Conroy, Tommy Pye, and Cyril Morris. The boy had class, and when Joint Promotions were formed in 1952 Vic was signed up to work exclusively for their members, making a rare Royal Albert Hall appearance in 1954 against Spencer Churchill. We note that the following night he was on the bill at Willenhall Baths, a stark reminder that false delusions had no place in professional wrestling . With his work mostly limited to the Midlands and north of England Vic worked for all Joint Promotion members, but most often for Wryton Promotions. In December 1957 Vic was tempted by offers from the independent promoters and dallied with the opposition for a year before returning to Joint Promotions in November 1958. Vic appealed to a national audience on television wrestling during the early 1960s, making his debut in September, 1959, against John Allan. Further televised opponents included Les Kellett, The Great Togo, Bill Howes, Quasimodo, Ernie Riley and Alf Cadman. Not an easy set of opponents. Vic continued to work regularly throughout the 1950s and 1960s, mainly in singles contests and occasionally with various tag partners until 1964. In 1964 Vic's son, Peter, appeared on the scene. He was an immediate success and promoters took the opportunity to team Vic and Peter together as the Stewart brothers, testimony to Vic's youthful appearance. They quickly established themselves as one of the country's top tag teams alongside the Royals, Black Diamonds, White Eagles and McManus/Logan. After twenty years in the business Vic Stewart retired from British wrestling in the early 1970.s
Polish heavyweight Eugene Stezycki is best remembered for his feud with legendary British heavyweight Bert Assirati. Having served in the Polish army and survived a German labour camp during the war Stezycki came to Britain and set up home in Bristol. With a sporting background of weight lifting, boxing and wrestling he chose the latter as his career and began wrestling professionally in 1954, aged 30. His early career was pretty unspectacular, but all that changed in July, 1956 when he gave Bert Assirati a tremendous tussle in Brighton, and once again at Belle Vue a few weeks later. From that time on Stezycki’s place in wrestling was established, and that place was often in the opposite corner of Assirati. He wrestled Assirati almost fifty times over the following three years, one of the most memorable being a particularly bloody European title clash at the Seymour Hall on 15th December 1958. These bouts established Eugene Stezycki as one of the toughest wrestlers in British rings. Stezycki died on 19th July, 2007.
Ian St John
Speed merchant Ian St John was a favourite on the independent circuit in the 1960s and one time tag partner of Johnny Saint. Billed from Scotland Ian's birth name was Harry Walsh and he lived in Accrington where he worked as a joiner and ran a security business training guard dogs. He was most definitely Accrington ‘arry.
When younger Ian was a military policeman in the army. Trained by Bob Bannister at his gymnasium in Accrington. In the ring Ian was a wiry lightweight, very fast and acrobatic, often in action with another speedy lightweight, Andreas Svajik. Those who didn’t see Ian St John in action will probably not imagine just how fast he could move.
Very popular amongst fans Ian was also highly respected amongst colleagues. Eddie Rose told us, "A great wrestler and a very good friend with a dry sense of humour. I wrestled him on quite a few occasions and for quite a few promoters, too, and it was always a pleasure. That is, if you could keep up with him!"
Ayr's Dale Storm also recalled Ian with fondness, "He was quick, he was skilful, and he was above all, very, very generous! And he was always very safe to work with. I really liked the man and I respected his ability immensely. I learned a lot from my time in the ring with him."
Ian moved across to Joint Promotions in 1969, working mainly for Wryton Promotions in the north and midlands. Ian died on 7th December, 2012, aged 83.
Stephen St John
Stephen St John had wrestling in his blood, because dad was John L Hagar, one of the great villains of the independent rings. Dad was a regular worker for promoter Brian Trevors and took his son along to Brian's gym in 1967. For Brian Trevors it was important that all his pupils took their studies seriously and gained a thorough foundation in how to wrestle. For Stephen his training was timely, as Brian's promotional business was just beginning to grow (he hadn't long moved to the area from Yorkshire) and as Stephen's skill grew so did the size of the halls in which Brian promoted! Brian Trevors' contract to provide wrestling shows for numerous holiday camps around East Anglia gave his apprentices the chance to gain a lot of experience in a relatively short time. Stephen St John learned quickly and worked regularly for the independent promoters throughout the 1970s and in to the mid 1980s.
Stock by name and stocky by nature. Billy Stock must have been one of the shortest middleweights of the 1960s,70s and 80s. A stocky but powerful man who preferred to pummel an opponent and go for the submission route.
Born in Notting Hill and later living in Ewell, Surrey, Billy Stock was a popular 1960s wrestler,a tv wrestler who went on to work for the independent promoters. A keen swimmer he was a life guard before turning professional wrestler.
He began wrestling as an amateur at the Foresters AWC before turning professional in 1961. Usually sticking within the rules Billy could let the fury fly when he felt the situation required it. His style was not always textbook stuff and he specialised in strength holds.
A handful of television appearances included opponents Peter Szakacs, Stefan Milla, Cliff Beaumont, and on the day England beat West Germany to win the World Cup Billy partnered Bobby Barnes against the Cortez brothers.
In the 1980s he was known to don a mask and wrestle as The Assassin.
Billy Stock died suddenly in September, 2010.