S: Syed Saif Shah
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Poetry in Motion
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. His wrestling style was poetry in motion.
On television we had seen him in action against villains 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 the independent promoters. Disciplined precision was thrown out of the window when the usually calm Syed Saif Shah exploded.
Saif was born in Punjab, India, in 8th January, 1926, moving to Delhi and becoming a resident of Pakistan following the partition of India. Said to be from a wealthy and highly respected family the name suggests that to be true. Syed is an honorific title given to those who are said to be direct descendants of the prophet Muhammed. It usually precedes the given name.
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.
Eddie Rose recalled one of Saif's earlier matches, against South African Gerhardt deJaeger. Jaeger, an experienced opponent with an aggressive style was expected to win the match, but "After ten rounds of action and incident the fans were thrilled and surprised by the cobra like chops, the flying head scissors and thunderbolt drop kicks that Shah raised on an irate and battered deJaeger." The match went ten rounds without either man securing a fall.
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, Albert Wall, Bill Robinson, Dennis Mitchell, Gwyn Davies, just about everyone who was anyone. The only criticism we have heard of Syed Saif Shah was that he lacked colour. Well, we've heard of far worse being said about most wrestlers. His appearances in British rings were frequently interrupted by sojourns to Europe, Africa and the Far East.
A deeply religious man, publicity was given to his pilgrimage to Mecca at a time we knew little of such things. He was then known as Syed Saif Shah Hajj to acknowledge that he had undertaken the pilgrimage.
In 1970 he moved to the independents, a frequent opponent of Klondyke Bill, Count Bartelli, and Josef Zaranoff. We last saw him at our local hall, working for Wrestling Enterprises, in February 1971 when he beat Roy Bull Davis. That was it. We neither saw nor heard no more of him. We have been told that he later returned to live in Pakistan. We'd certainly like to hear from anyone in the know.