B: Tony Baer

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A Bundle of Dynamite

Tony Baer

Tony Baer. 

There's a name from the past that will bring a smile to our more senior readers. Barnsley’s Sam Betts, who wrestled as Dwight J Ingleburgh, knew Tony well, and it was he that told us what a bundle of dynamite he was.

He was one of the top men of that decade, often wrestling fully blown heavies.  When we suggested  that  Tony lacked the size to tackle the really big men we were quickly put right by Bert Assirati expert Mike Hallinan, “He in fact fought Assirati over a dozen times, from the early forties onwards...…...he was a very strong weightlifter, and very capable of holding his own with larger, and heavier opponents.”

It was shortly after the all-in wrestling rules were introduced into Britain in 1930 that the young Glaswegian  dropped  his birth name of  Burn in favour of  Baer and began  travelling up and down the country day in, day out, facing British stars Bulldog Bill Garnon and Bert Mansfield as well as overseas visitors Whipper Watson and Pat Curry. 

The work rate of the young Scot was phenomenal and he was just as likely to be seen wrestling in Plymouth as he was in Edinburgh - remarkable in those pre-motorway days.

In 1935 he claimed the Scottish heavyweight championship for the first time, and on and off during the years that followed. Although a powerful man he  was not a fully blown heavyweight.  Nonetheless he was one of the finest of the lighter weight heavyweights. 

With the outbreak of war Tony's appearances were unsurprisingly reduced. He served in the Royal Air Force as a  Physical Training Instructor  and most of the matches we have uncovered have been in the North of England, many of them in Newcastle.

Following the war Tony, now living in Accrington, resumed activities at full speed and was soon traelling up and down the country once again.  To list Tony’s opponents would not prove particularly interesting because it would be a list of just about every heavyweight of note. He was an outstanding wrestler of his time.

Heritage member Alleyman told us,  “Tony Baer  lived in Hapton, a group of houses between Accrington and Burnley. He had a small flock of goats and his wife sold milk to interested mothers. Mine was one of them He was a motor bike fanatic. My Dad, a policeman used to come home regularly after his night shift and tell us they had caught Tony again.The police car used to clock his speed [Tony's] coming down Manchester Road, and another car would stop and book him three miles further on. They never could apprehend him at the speeds he was doing!”

In 1950 with the British light heavyweight championship vacant Tony  reached the final of a knock-out tournament only to lose to Norman Walsh in the final on 17th September, 1951, in Edinburgh. Tony continued full throttle until the mid 1950s when he began to cut back on his wrestling commitments.

Bernard Hughes told us "I remember seeing Tony Baer at Newcastle in the 1950's. A real hard man from Scotland and he knew his way around a ring.  Saw him in a couple of good contests with Norman Walsh. Neither of them were 'real' heavyweights although they fought regularly at that level.”

In retirement Tony moved to the Staffordshire village of Rocester. He maintained an interest in wrestling and training others in the art. In 1962 the Rocester wrestling club opened for adults (extended to children in 1978); it was named the Tony Baer Wrestling Club, commemorating one of wrestling's greats.

Page added 27/07/2019

Reviewed 07/02/2022