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The Prince of Darkness

Dirty Dominic Pye

Imagine a life as the son of a monarch and spending much of adulthood waiting to assume the crown. Okay, just one of our readers will understand what we mean. Our subject is not the famous royal, but the heavyweight villain, Dirty Dominic Pye. The mere mention of the name will have brought back vivid memories for those who saw him even just once. A tiny smile as we remember his luckless opponent finally losing his temper and tying Dominic’s hair to the ropes. Oh, how he snarled. Then more of a smile as Dominic is remembered jumping nimbly over the tope rope only to catch his toe in the middle strand and find himself dangling upside down.


Dirty Dominic Pye was the son of the one of wrestling’s greatest post war exponents, the uncrowned King of the Mat, Jack Pye. Like that famous parallel heir apparent Dominic was not content at spending his professional life in the shadows of his famous parent, but carved a niche of his own in his chosen career. Fans of the 1950s and 1960s remember Dominic Pye and the accompanying frenzy as he barnstormed his way around the rings of Britain and the world. If Jack Pye was the Uncrowned King of the mat then Dominic was most certainly the Prince of Darkness.


Dominic admirably continued the family tradition as a fine purveyor of mat mayhem. The trademark black tights and brightly coloured cape were similar to those worn by his dad. The unruly jet black hair and the body language as he prowled around the ring, snarling at his opponent and verbally abusing ringsiders, meant that Dominic could easily have been mistaken for a young Jack Pye, though he kept his boyhood features and never developed Jack’s craggy facial appearance.


Verbal abuse was a Dominic trademark. He would punish and taunt his opponent, surely aware that his own demise was merely seconds away. Between rounds the abuse would be directed against the fans, who were more than willing to return the compliments..


Dominic’s extremely aggressive style should not have disguised the fact that here was a man who could wrestle and came from a family background with a great wrestling heritage. Dominic’s father had been a Lancashire miner before moving to Doncaster in search of work in the early 1920s. He was a master of Lancashire catch-as-catch-can style, a hard, submission style of wrestling which was to provide one of the foundation stones of the modern professional style. With Dominic coming into the world in the late 1920s, five years after the move to Yorkshire, Jack was always looking for ways to supplement the family income. An extension of his leisure pursuit into the world of professional wrestling seemed a logical step.


Jack wasn’t the only one to influence the young Dominic. As a youngster he was immersed (in the way that only Northern families seem able to immerse themselves) by his uncles Tommy, Harry and Frank (Bully). Family life was dominated by the wrestling business.


The family set up a small training area in their modern semi-detached home and young Dominic would enjoy being thrown around the mat by both family members and other wrestlers who came along to make use of the facilities. Occasionally Dominic would be allowed to go with his dad to the local gym in Thorne, where the youngster was again the centre of attention amongst the big men as they went about their training routines.


It was hardly surprising, therefore, that Dominic began to share in the wrestling business. In his early twenties Dominic took up the business professionally and became a regular member of the Pye family troupe that enraged fans night after night across the country. Within a year or two of turning professional Dominic was appearing regularly at great venues such as Belle Vue, Liverpool Stadium and Earls Court, tangling with many of the big names in British wrestling.


Whilst never having the same profile as his father Dominic quickly carved a niche in the wrestling business, and arguably greater notoriety than his famous dad. As if fans couldn’t get enough of them the promoters would frequently put on tournaments with the Pye family team, permutate any three or four out of the five, taking on teams of all-comers.


 Throughout the 1950s Dominic wrestled the best on offer. Count Bartelli, Bill Howes, Bill Joyce, Dennis Mitchell, Sandy Orford, Vic Hessle, Dave Armstrong, and just about every big name found themselves in the opposing corner. A feud with Man Mountain Bill Benny frequently saw bouts ending in chaos and bloodshed, with one or the other getting themselves disqualified by breaking just one rule too many.


Now living in Blackpool Dominic began working alongside Jack at their wrestling school. One young man who will remain forever grateful to Dominic for persuading him to get involved in the wrestling business was a fellah named Harry Strickland. Dominic trained the young man who went on to gain international acclaim under the more well-known name of Jock Cameron.    


Apart from passing on to his son the rudiments of the wrestling trade Jack also passed on to Dominic a great deal of common sense, or nous, as Lancastrian Jack might well say. Jack instilled in Dominic the need for a second income on which to rely in the event of injury or retirement. Maybe that was the reason why, in 1959, at the height of his career, with the promise of even better days ahead, Dominic left Joint Promotions to join the independents as both a wrestler and promoter at the Central and South Piers. Throughout the 1960s Dominic would put on shows three times a week in the seaside resort. The publicity campaign of handbills liberally distributed along the promenade on the morning of the afternoon shows may not have been sophisticated, but was certainly effective. Dominic was a regular attraction, of course, and he even enticed the established Barnsley heavyweight Harry Bennett to move to Blackpool and assume the name Crafty Casey Pye.


Father Jack was well established in the management of a couple of night clubs in Blackpool. People from throughout Lancashire would go for a night out in Blackpool to “Jack Pye’s Club.” Dominic became heavily involved in the running of the club alongside his father. He also set up another business venture, that of second hand furniture dealer. If idle hands do the work of the devil then Dominic must have been nearing sainthood.


Wrestling commitments continued throughout the 1960s, but were now limited to Northern England and became less frequent as the decade wore on. Around 1970 rumour had it that Dominic had donned a mask and was continuing his rule bending ways under the name King Evil. Whilst that can’t be confirmed the source of the information was adamant that it was true. He may well have been right. You see, once seen Dominic was never forgotten. There really was only one Dirty Dominic Pye, the Prince of Darkness.