WRESTLING HERITAGE

R: Tiger Jimmy Ryan


Tiger Jimmy Ryan


Cashel is a small town, population around 4,000, in the south of Ireland. It’s famous for the Rock of Cashel, which doesn’t refer to our subject but one of the town’s sights.

Jimmy wasn’t the first Tiger Ryan, there was one on the prowl in the 1930s, but he’s certainly the one remembered fondly by readers of the Wrestling Heritage website. The fiery Irishman was capable of causing quite a stir at the time and he’s just the sort worthy of celebration and honoured by his place in the British Wrestling Hall of Fame, to which he was posthumously inducted in August, 2019.

Five feet ten inches tall, the close cropped hair of the stocky welterweight made him look the part of the hard-nut villain he played in the ring. Yet however much he was booed and jeered the fans wanted him back again; that was the nature of professional wrestling.

Jimmy Ryan was born on  25th July 1935. As a teenager his sporting interests were rugby and boxing. Like many young men of the time Jimmy crossed the Irish sea when he was seventeen years old, no doubt in search of fame and fortune. He followed the path of many Irishmen of the time and settled in Birmingham. In Birmingham he took up amateur wrestling at the Birmingham Athletic Institute in John Bright Street.

In 1959 he had his first professional contest, against Wigan’s Jack Cheers at Kidderminster. For the first three or four years he was understandably a part time wrestler, having moved to London where he worked for the fire service.

Jimmy was booked regularly by Dale Martin Promotions and was to remain a familiar figure in their rings for the next ten years. Opponents now included Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Eddie Capelli and Jack Cunningham. Television exposure came his way in June, 1964, wrestling Johnny Kwango at Wembley. Televised matches followed up to a final one against Clay Thomson in September, 1971.

With a reputation of making the fur fly in singles matches the fur flew faster and higher in tag matches. Following numerous ad hoc partnerships Jimmy settled in two notable tag pairings with Ivan Penzecoff as The Rebels, and Peter Rann as The Rioteers.

Shortly after the Clay Thomson televised match in September, 1971, Jimmy disappeared abruptly and unheralded . The bumps had started to take their toll and he was suffering from arthritis. He  worked as a security man at Debenhams in Croydon, and then moved to Horley in Surrey, where he lived until his death in 1998. He was just 63 years old.

Page added 26/06/2022