A: Tony Ancell

Tony Ancell

As wrestling fans we all had our favourites. Our A-Z by-line is that "Everyone was someone's favourite." Leicester's Tony Ancell certainly had his fans. Yet the support of the fans was not enough to ensure a successful career over a sustained number of years. The fans were not the ones who paid the wages. Well, not directly.

When we spoke to those in the business we understood why Tony Ancell played a significant role in Britain's wrestling heritage. Okay, his was not the most famous of names. Not the most readily remembered. Yet a man who the promoters valued, respected, booked regularly, and the fans were always happy to see on the posters. That's a professional, and a man we should remember.

The first time we talked with Doug Williams, brother and "back room boy" of promoter Jack Taylor, Doug told us that Tony Ancell was a terrific wrestler and one of their most reliable workers who they were always keen to employ. We didn't raise the name Tony Ancell. We just asked him about the good guys. 

The first name Doug mentioned was Tony Ancell. If Tony agreed a booking he turned up. If Tony agreed a fee there was no argument. If Tony was on the bill he would give his best. Tony was a professional in every sense of the word. The promoters and the fans could ask of no more. 

Praise also from wrestling colleagues. In our discussions with Mick Collins, Al Tarzo and Ray Taylor.  Without our prompting they each mentioned Tony Ancell as a great wrestler to work with and a lovely man to know outside of the ring.

It was wrestling fan Brian James who told us of Tony entering the ring at the Granby Hall, Leicester, splendidly adorned in a Canadian Mountie outfit, and accompanied by his trusty companion, Chiska. Well, this was wrestling. 

Promoter Jack Taylor had a creative mind and Tony Ancell of the  Royal Canadian Mounted Police did certainly have a  more glamorous sound to Tony Ancell of Leicester. 

Like many of our wrestlers Chiska the dog had a dual identity. The closest Chiska had come to the Mounties was sniffing at Tony's outfit. Chiska was much more at home playing with Tony's sons, David and Neil. 

The dog was for real, but not the outfit. Nor the nationality. Tony Ancell was born  Anthony Payn in Camberwell, London, on 11th January, 1932 He was a neighbour of Henry Cooper. When he moved to Leicester he met wrestler and promoter Jack Taylor.  To say that Jack had a gift for spotting talent was a bit of an understatement. Jack could sniff it out. Sometimes he was off the mark, but not often.  He spotted the potential of Tony Payn and invited young Tony to his weekend wrestling school.  

Yet Jack Taylor was not working with a novice. We have discovered an earlier Tony Ancell. In 1951 Tony Payn was called up for two years National Service. Following demob in January, 1953 we have found him (as Tony Ancell) wrestling for Norman Morrell at Lime Grove Baths against Andre DuBarry.

Precisely when Tony moved to Leicester we are not sure. We can report that in February, 1959,  he was a referee for Jack Taylor in Stamford. A good referee too, it seems, as in the match between Chick Elliott and Roy La Rue, referee Tony Ancell missed just what the promoter expected him to miss and gave the verdict to bad guy Elliott.

Tony wrestled regularly on the independent circuit facing other wrestlers such as Al Tarzo, Johnny Eagles  and Ronnie Knight. During the first half of the 1960s Tony was a very busy wrestler, and as he gained experience and weight came face to face with more experienced opponents such as Harry Bennett, Bobo Matu and Spike O'Reilly. Tony also faced former world middleweight boxing champion, Randy Turpin, in a number of wrestler v boxer matches.

He disappeared from the wrestling scene in 1965. Just why we do not know. His son David  can offer no reason other that his father was devoted to family life and he was  born that year.

Away from wrestling Tony loved marching bands and founded a marching band called  "The Millfield Militia" in Braunstone Leicester. 

Tony also worked as a machine tools sales man until the time of his death in March, 1986. 

With thanks to Tony's sons, David and Neil Payn.

Page revised  21/08/2019

Reviewed 03/02/2022