British wrestling history 
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T: Terry - Thunderbird

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

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Morris Terry

We are seeking information on Yorkshire heavyweight Maurice Terry, a trainee of George de Relwyskow.

Lou Thesz

Read our extended tribute: Lou Thesz

Lee Thomas

Tall, slim and wearing his habitual white trunks Dundee's Lee Thomas quickly became one of the most popular Northern middleweights of the late sixties and early seventies. Turning professional in 1967 he quickly established himself throughout the north. Lee was a fast and skilful wrestler who combined agility, acrobatic flair and wrestling skill. His flying body scissors and drop kicks were a delight to the fans. He proved a real contrast to those other Scottish middleweights, the rough hard man, Chic Purvey, and the dour Ted Hannon. Seemed at ease with his frequent tag partner George Kidd, who was also from Dundee.

Norman Thomas

“The Cockney Kid” weighed around 13-14 stones and was a prolific worker in the 1940s and 1950s. So much so that we feel guilty for not knowing more. We come across him in 1946 when it is said he has just finished serving in the RAF. Throughout the 1940s we find Norman billed as Welsh, which he may well have been. By 1950 we find references to Norman Thomas “The Cockney Kid.” In a moment of wrestling inspiration a young Tony Scarlo wrestled Norman Thomas for use of the title “Cockney Kid.”

Clay Thomson

Billed from Glasgow he wrestled for most of his titled period out of Leeds and then Essex. A dedicated amateur who we are told was trained for the professional ranks by Norman Morrell. His professional debut is reported as at Blackburn against Don Branch in 1959, though our earliest documented record is in Coventry wrestling Pasquale Salvo in February, 1960.

Star quality was evident from the beginning. In April, 1961, the Evening Express reported a two falls to nil win over Eric Tylor. He quickly won the Scottish Light-heavyweight championship and within two years had twice failed to defeat Ernie Riley in British championship bouts. He did, though have a short reign as holder of the Heavy Middleweight belt, defeating the champion at Aberdeen in July 1961. and there was little surprise when he later went on to take the British Middleweight Championship.

Undoubtedly skilful but Clayton struggled to find a niche amongst the colourful antics of his peers. Did we really want to know in 1969 that he had gone six months without being pinned? Did this make for exciting professional wrestling? Perhaps at the time it seemed so.

He surprised everyone by his heel turn when donning a mask. Almost unbeaten, never ununmasked, but the phase failed to arouse much excitement all round. To discover who he was and find out more about his masked alter-ego you will have to turn to the pages of The Wrestling Heritage Top 20 Masked Men.

Wrestled once again as Clay mid-seventies before disappearing without ado. News of Clayton's 2010 death, as announced at the Wrestlers' Reunion that August, came as a shock to many.

Related article: Shenanigans, Skulduggery and Betrayal in Armchair Corner on www.wrestlingheritage.com 

Scott Thomson
Scott Thomson was born in Govan, Glasgow. Following a chance encounter with Dale Storm after a show  he was persuaded to attend Dale's  gym for a tryout. Having been taken under the wing of several top stars, he emerged as a formidable opponent, not only in his own lightweight division, but could hold his own with most in higher brakets as well. 

Being one of the fastest and strongest in the lightweight class, he excelled in the ring in most of his one to one contests and even found some fame along with his regular tag team partner Jeff Bradley when it came to a four up. Occasional spells as a referee helped improve his overall knowledge and understanding of the finer points of wrestling and he quickly became a huge crowd pleaser nationwide. Amongst his toughest opponents he lists Ireland's Michael O'Hagan, Jim Morgan (the younger twin in The Fabulous Harlequins Tag Team),  also former (independent) British Lightweight Champion Ian McKenzie and Aberdeen's Len Ironside. His greatest achievement must be Perth, in the late 1970's where with the bout evenly balanced at one fall each, an accidental shoulder injury prevented a first career win, over one of the UK's best ever, Mr Johnny Saint! After he retired Scott moved to the Scottish Borders where he and his wife Margaret fully enjoy the slower pace of life in a glorious rural surrounding. 

Les Thornton (Henri Pierlot)
Read our extended tribute: The Frenchish Connection

Tiny Tom Thumb
Chelmsford lightweight Tom Thumb was given the name when wrestling for Jackie Pallo Promotions (though it was Jon Cortez's idea). It didn't take a second look to know why because he stood barely five feet tall and was said to be Britain's smallest wrestler. For the Essex teenager it all began when Neil Sands invited him to his new gym in Chelmsford and that was the start of  the classic wrestling fan's  dream of becoming a wrestler coming true.  In the ring the fans loved him as he literally ran rings around villains such as  Sid Cooper, Bobby Barnes and, maybe most memorable of all, Jim Breaks. More comedy than classic wrestling there was certainly a place for Tom Thumb in British wrestling of the seventies and eighties, and no one was more likely to send the fams home with  smiles on their faces.  Memorable tag partner of Catweazle and Big Daddy; both pairings cold have been dubbed The Odd Couple!  Since retiring from the ring Tom Thumb has remained very much part of the wrestling business, as promoter, referee and master of ceremonies.

Ray Stomper Thunder
See the entry for Ray Glendenning

Chief Thunderbird (Canada)
The first native American to wrestle in British rings, a decade before we had heard the name Billy Two Rivers. The original Chief Thunderbird was possibly a bigger attraction in Britain, where he wrestled 1951-2 and 1954-5, than he was in his native Canada.  Born in  1896, given the name Jean Baptiste Paul in 1896, he was the hereditary chief of the Tsartlip Indians at Brentwood on Vancouver Island. His entry to the ring in native American costume and to the sound of pounding drums  made him a colourful addition to British rings long before the arrival of Billy Two Rivers. His specialist move was the  "Saanich Snap," which was similar to what was also known as the "Indian Deathlock. Having turned professional in 1933 he retired from wrestling  in 1955 when he broke his leg during a match.  Opponents included Bill Garnon, Dave Armstrong, Jack Pye and Mike Marino.   

Wrestling Heritage member Gareth Clayton wrote: "I lived on the west coast of Canada for three years a little while ago. I was studying out there and worked with some people from the local First Nations reserve. It was the reserve where Chief Thunderbird, otherwise known as Jean Baptiste Paul was from. I did some research into canoe racing and he was part of a very successful team.  His family still live on the reserve now and at one point he had a totem pole erected in his honour after his death. I think it was removed due to age."

We are privileged to have a wrestling enthusiast who saw Thunderbird wrestle during his 1950s tour. Bernard Hughes told us of a match between Thunderburd and Alf Rawlings: "Thunderbird entered the ring with full ceremonial headdress and I think I remember an embroidered sleeveless kaftan type of top that slipped over the head. Memories are fading now, but I think that Rawlings got a submission fall . Chief Thunderbird tried retaliating with what we called  an  Indian Death Lock and Rawlings foiled it a few times by holding onto the ropes. Eventually Chief Thunderbird started using his Chop (Tomahawk Chop) and giving what we presumed was a War Dance. (I was only 15 then ). Anyway after going down a few times from the chops and watching the dance, Rawlings got up and proceeded to give his version of a dance. He then started punching and got warned by the referee. He threw Thunderbird to the ropes and on the way back punched him behind the ear and Thunderbird went through the ropes and  way back onto the stairs to the dressing  rooms. Les Kellett the referee disqualified Rawlings."

Jean Baptiste Paul died on 23rd November, 1966, following which a totem pole was commissioned in his honour with the inscription "All the world knew him as Chief Thunderbird, greatly skilled in athletic games and world champion wrestler.”

Chief Thunderbird (Chief Sitting Bull) (UK)
The name Chief Thunderbird re-emerged in the 1960s on the shows of the independent promoters. This time his origins were not wild west, but east European. The man beneath the headdress was  Polish born Ben Watijeski who was now living in Levenshulme. Wrestled for the independents throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.  He was the Indian who was double crossed by Bill Blake in "Send in the Clown" and finished up getting a tomahawk chop down his own throat. 

Page revised: 06/10/2019 Revision of Chief Thunderbird (Canada) entry