S: Sexton - Sherman
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
A prestigious wrestling visitor came to Britain and Europe in 1950. Frank Sexton, a thirty six year old from Ohio, was the AWA World Heavyweight Champion, and reckoned by some to be the best of the World champions at the time. He was one of the few American World Champions to defend his title in Europe during his tour in the early months of 1950. The Dane Ivor Martinsen (6/1/50), Frenchmen Henri de Glane (13/1/50), and Felix Miquet (28/3/50), and two Briton’s Bert Assirati (11/2/50) and Bert Mansfield (7/3/50) all failed to take the title from Sexton. Both Mansfield at the Harringay Arena, and Assirati in Belgium, held the American to a draw. Sexton’s title was to remain intact throughout his European tour, but his five year reign came to an end a few months later with a loss to Don Eagle on 23rd May in Cleveland, Ohio.
The popular motor mechanic and welterweight from Doncaster was one time tag partner of Catweazle Gary Cooper in the independent rings of the north, where he also had many bouts with Al Marshall.
Born in Doncaster in 1934 Dave came into the professional business quite late in life, turning professional in 1967. At first he worked the independent rings of the north for Cyril Knowles and Ace Promotions. In 1970 George DeRelwyskow signed him up to work for Joint Promotions, the proviso being that Dave was available for work travelling further afield to George's Scottish venues. A good pro, remembered by fans , but frequently for many enjoyable matches against his friend Catweazle, and two televised contests, one against Catweazle and the other versus Little Prince. Dave disappeared from our rings in the late 1970s.
We were saddened to hear of his death in December, 2014.
Syed Saif Shah
Memories of Pakistan's heavyweight Syed Saif Shah are of a quiet, methodical wrestler who seemed to confront his opponent as if he was involved in a strategic game. On television we had seen him in action against villaisn Roy Bull Davis, Ian Campbell and Johnny Yearsley as well as good guys Johnny Allan and John Cox. Those matches were nothing compared to the first time we saw him live, against Klondyke Bill, recently having joined Joint Promotions. Disciplined precision was thrown out of the window when the usually calm Syed Saif Shah exploded.
Saif was born in Punjab, India, in 1926, moving to Delhi and becoming a resident of Pakistan following partition. He was already a professional wrestler when he arrived in Britain, where we have found him facing Prince Kumali in January, 1960. Dale Martin Promotions signed him up for Joint Promotions and he quickly established himself as a mainstay of British wrestling.
National attention came his way in 1961, when he was matched with Roy Bull Davis on television. It was to be the first of more than a dozen televised contests. Syed Saif Shah was a methodical scientific tactician that appealed to fans who liked wrestlers with a classical style. Throughout the 1960s he wrestled the top heavyweights in Britain, with frequent sojourns to Europe and the Far East.
Deeply religious, publicity was given to his pilgrimage to Mecca at a time we knew little of such things.
In 1970 he moved to the independents, a frequent opponent of Klondyke Bill, Count Bartelli, and Josef Zaranoff. He later returned to live in Pakistan.
1980s Pakistani heavyweight worked in Britain and Germany. Wrestled on ITV wrestling three times between June 1977 and August 1988.
Michael Gallagher was born in William Street, Derry, in 1950. He was destined to become known to wrestling fans as Mick Shannon a regular worker for Dale Martin Promotions around southern England in the 1970s. Like many others wrestling was not his first sporting interest. It was an interest in boxing whilst serving in the Royal Navy that eventually led Mick to hang up the gloves and turn to wrestling.
Living in Kent Mick was signed up by Joint Promotions, working mostly for Dale Martin Promotions around the south of England. Cyanide Sid Cooper was an early opponent, and the two of them were to meet many times over the years, clearly a match that the fans enjoyed. Other opponents included many of the top lighter men around at the time: Alan Sergeant, Sid Cooper, Joe Murphy, Peter Szakacs and Zoltan Boscik. Highlight of his career was most likely 22nd September, 1976, when he partnered Jon Cortez at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in opposition to Bert Royal and Vic Faulkner. He returned to the Royal Albert Hall a year later, this time a double knock out being the ending to Mick's clash with Gary Wensor.
In 1979, along with many other Joint Promotions stars, Mick crossed over to work for the independent promoters. With greater experience and a little more poundage he was matched with heavier men like Fit Finlay, Tony St Clair, and a Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship challenge for Count Bartelli's belt.
Following his retirement Mick continued to live and work in Deal, Kent, until his untimely death on 11th July, 2015.
See the entry for Mustapha Nasser
Sergeant Ben Sharpe was a visitor to Britain during the Second World War as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It wasn't his first visit to Europe having been here in 1936 as an oarsman in the Canadian Olympic Rowing Team. Back home in Hamilton, Ontario, he took up wrestling. With the outbreak of war he joined the Canadian Royal Airforce as a physical training instructor, eventually posted to Britain.
We find Ben Sharpe wrestling Bulldog Bill Garnon at Belle Vue, Manchester, in April, 1944. Frequent appearances follow against Padvo Peltonin, Alf Rawlings, Francis Gregory, Bert Mansfield and many of the top heavyweights active in northern England during the Second World War. A heavyweight of around 15 stones Sharpe was a tall lad, said to stand 6 feet 5 inches tall. This being wrestling there's always a mystery, and this time it's just how did the Canadian Air Force man qualify to take part in the British heavyweight championship tournament of 1945? With wartime affairs over Ben Sharpe disappeared from our rings in December, 1945. Ben Sharpe died in November, 2001, aged 85.
Lee Sharron was a rugged northern heavyweight who although never in the Robinson, Joyce, Wall league, was a good value for money grappler of the sixties and seventies. Numismatist Lee, trained by George De Relwyskow, was one of several wrestlers who overcame extended teenage illnesses to be successful in the ring.
He took his ring name from daughter Sharron Leslie. Debut loss in Withernsea 1962 against Les Kellett, and went on to appear extensively in Germany and the Middle East. When Leon Arras reduced his appearances dramatically it was Lee Sharron who became an Untouchable alongside Bobby Graham. Widely billed as a Jewish Heavyweight, Sharron gained revenge for that début loss a decade later when scoring an upset 2-1 falls victory on television over Les Kellett.
The Bermondsey adonis was a popular middleweight of the 1950s and 1960s. A skillled and athletic wrestler he combined his talents with immense strength, he'd started out as a body builder. As a party piece Ken would tear a telephone directory in three seconds and lie on a bed of nails, though not necessarily at the same time.
See the entry for Billy White Wolf
See the entry for Bert Craddock
See the entry for Rex Strong
The “Alaskan wild cat” weighed less than 14 stones but was one of the most significant individuals in British wrestling. Why? Because when he came to Britain in the late 1920s he began training at the Ashdown Club in London. Heritage friend and historian, the late Allan Best, wrote, “It was at the Ashdown that 'All In' had its birth in this country when Bulldog Bill Garnon met American Benny Sherman in a shooting match and although Sherman was only a middleweight he soundly trounced the heavier Welshman." A subsequent meeting with Atholl Oakeley , and (we are led to believe by Atholl) a tussle on the lawn one Sunday afternoon led to the introduction Oakeley and Garnon turning professional.
Legend tells us that Sherman was one of the world's great shoot wrestlers, which makes us all the more surprised to find that in the British professional ring he dutifully went down to the likes of Carver Doone and Norman the Butcher, both creations of his friend and promoter, Atholl Oakeley.
Benny Sherman's victory over Norman The Butcher at the Ring, Blackfriars, was reportedly one of the best exhibitions of wrestling for years, with Sherman demonstrating one of the cleverest exhibitions of wrestling.
In a match with Huddersfield's Harry Brooks in 1933 the Nottingham press reported, “The American's display in the second round got the crowd wild with excitement. He was like a hurricane … a series of clever holds that kept Brooks fully occupied.”
Wrestler Vic Coleman told Chris Owen of the Wrestling Furnace website, "Somebody had the bright idea of billing, top of the bill, Bert Assirati and Benny Sherman and I watched it because I was keen to see it. But it didn’t really live up to expectations because Benny Sherman was so quick every time Bert tried to grab hold of him, and Benny knew that if he did really hold him he would never get away. It was called in the end, and the crowd were booing, they were just facing each other and mauling each other around and it was declared a no contest."
Newspapers reported that as early as 1933 Sherman was becoming disenchanted about the way the revised sport was developing in Britain. He disliked the disregard of the rules and unscrupulous ways of some promoters. Sherman called, with others for the formation of a genuine Board of Control. Some chance.
Related article: On The Trail of Ben Sherman on www.wrestlingheritage.com