More than seven hundred wrestlers appeared on ITV screens between 1955 and 1988 and so we think it's quite an achievement to make it into the top two hundred of those who graced our screens.
Lincolnshire's Ricky Wiseman did just that, edging into the top two hundred and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Gordon Nelson, Hans Streiger, and Leon Arras. Not only that, but in two of those appearances fans saw him challenging for championship honours.
Our story begins some twenty years earlier, and for Rick it is certainly a story of good fortune for he really did have the luck to be in the right place at the right time.
In the early 1960s with British wrestling audiences at their highest levels ever there was an unprecedented demand for new wrestling talent. A similar scenario thirty years earlier had led to some promoters using wrestlers with little experience or skill, with the consequence of wrestling falling into disrepute. The promoters of the sixties did demonstrate that they had learnt something from the previous generation and provided sufficient training facilities for potential professionals to learn at least the basics of the trade before stepping into the ring. Elsewhere in Wrestling Heritage we have recorded how Jack Taylor was instrumental in introducing many youngsters into the wrestling business, and young Ricky Wiseman was just such an example.
In Ricky's case when we say young we do mean young. He was fourteen years old when a school friend asked him if he wanted to go along to the wrestling in nearby Boston. Shows were put on fortnightly at the Drill Hall by Jack Taylor's International Promotions. Excited by the prospect of their night out Ricky and his friend, Paul Rudean, went along in the afternoon to take a look at the hall. On arrival they found a large van outside and the ring being taken inside. Paul and Ricky got talking to the men setting up the ring and asked if they could take a look inside the hall. The youngsters were invited to help set out the chairs for that evenings show, which not only made them feel important but, more importantly, got them free tickets to the show.
From that day on the two boys were in the wrestling business and returned to the hall to help prepare for each show. Once the preparations were complete they would climb into the ring to emulate the likes of Dwight J Ingleburgh, Dai Sullivan, El Medico and others they would later be cheering. Jack and Doug Taylor encouraged the youngsters to learn how to wrestle properly, and so they began to train at a local boxing club. A few months later Rick and Paul were invited along to learn alongside other Taylor wrestlers on a Saturday afternoon at Leicester. It was here that they met Mick Collins and Taffy Jenkins, who were a couple of years older but had begun their careers in much the same way.
A few months later, as the boys had just finished putting away the chairs following that night's show, Jack Taylor handed them their posters for the following tournament (another perk of the job!). One of the matches was a tag contest. Ricky and Paul knew one of the teams, Mick Collins and Bobby Bierne, but their opponents were new to Boston. They were obviously local as they had the name "The Boston Stumpers" with Boston Stump being the local name for the parish church of St Botolph.
When the boys asked Taylor about this new team they were astonished by his reply. He told them their efforts had paid off and now it was time for them to make their debut and continue their training in front of the paying public. No one was more shocked than Rick and Paul to find that they were The Boston Stumpers.
"We were so nervous," Rick told Wrestling Heritage. "Mick and Bobby were only a few years older than us and so it made a change for them to be the experienced team. They didn't go out of their way to harm us, but they certainly enjoyed taking the opportunity to show us they were the bosses."
The bout was a success. The two newcomers enjoyed themselves, and enjoyed collecting the nobbins thrown into the ring by the appreciative crowd. For the next few months Rick had to mix school work with wrestling. There were more tag contests with Paul Rudean as his partner, and with a bit more experience singles contests using the name Young Ricardo, later Ace Ricardo. Opportunites were plentiful for a youngster on the independent circuit in the east of England with weekly or fortnightly shows in Boston, Spalding, Grantham, Stamford, Newark, Oakham and other towns. Young Ricardo was soon a popular addition to the Lincolnshire and Leicestershire bills, with opponents including Mick Collins, Mick La Roache, Ed Doutre, Farmer Raymond and the Lapaque brothers.
Known to fans as an all action, value for money wrestler, and to promoters as a reliable worker, bookings increased gradually for Young Ricardo/Ace Ricardo to the point that he was able to turn professional full time, with regular bookings from Jack Taylor, Brian Dixon, Terry Goodrum, Orig Williams, Bill Clark and other independent promoters. Other far more well known wrestlers failed to secure enough bookings to wrestle full time but Ricky was willing to travel around the country and gained a reputation amongst promoters as a good worker.
Rick told us that the move to Joint Promotions, which came about in 1981, was another stroke of good fortune. We would disagree. If it was a matter of good luck then it was because Rick had created the good luck. It's true that Max Crabtree was short of a wrestler at very short notice, and Rick did live nearby, but Max would not have dialled Rick's number without knowing that here was a good worker that he could rely on.
Working for Joint Promotions Rick dropped the name Ace Ricardo and used his birth name of Ricky Wiseman. Contests against the big names of the business quickly followed; Vic Faulkner, Alan Dennison, Jim Breaks, Mick McMichael, Sid Cooper, Mal Sanders, Cliver Myers and others. Ricky found that he could hold his ground with all of them, and he was soon gaining new fans around the country.
Television exposure introduced the speedy,agile technician to millions more. His televsiion debut came in May, 1983, a contest in Bradford against the local hard nut, Alan Dennison, though Rick and the nation had to wait until early July before the bout was broadcast. Things didn't get any easier in his second contest, in September of the same year, another one fall submission loss this time against Jim Breaks. Rick was to wrestle Breaks on numerous occasins subsequently and told us, "Jim Breaks was fabulous to work with."
It looked like being third time lucky for Ricky in his next contest, the preliminary round of a knock out tournament aginst Pete Lapaque. He had known Lapaque for many years, from the days they both wrestled on the independent circuit. The bout ended with honours even, but disappointment quickly followed when the referee awarded the contest to Lapaque on points. Two of Rick's British championship challenges were televised, against the lightweight champion Steve Grey in July, 1985, and welterweight champion Danny Collins in May, 1987.
Throughout the 1980s Ricky continued to wrestle throughout the country, and was one of the few that managed to work simultaeneously for both Joint Promotions and the opposition. Ricky told us, as have many others, that he loved every minute of his time in the ring, except maybe the time he was in agony wrestling Al Miquet with an injured finger! The enjoyment helped him to put up with the travelling which he found tiresome at times, one of the reasons he disliked working on the holiday camp circuit.
By 1988 Ricky had been in the business for over twenty years. He enjoyed the wrestling just as much but was beginning to tire of the travelling and began to cut back on appearances and work within a one hundred mile radius of his Lincolnshire home. With the demise of the wrestling business it was inevitable that there was less work around and Rick finally hung up his boots in the early 1990s, nearly three decades after it all began.