WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

Thumb - Tommy the demon

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Tiny Tom Thumb
Chelmsford lightweight Tom Thumb was given the name when wrestling for Jackie Pallo Promotions (though it was Jon Cortez's idea). It didn't take a second look to know why because he stood barely five feet tall and was said to be Britain's smallest wrestler. For the Essex teenager it all began when Neil Sands invited him to his new gym in Chelmsford and that was the start of  the classic wrestling fan's  dream of becoming a wrestler coming true.  In the ring the fans loved him as he literally ran rings around villains such as  Sid Cooper, Bobby Barnes and, maybe most memorable of all, Jim Breaks. More comedy than classic wrestling there was certainly a place for Tom Thumb in British wrestling of the seventies and eighties, and no one was more likely to send the fams home with  smiles on their faces.  Memorable tag partner of Catweazle and Big Daddy; both pairings cold have been dubbed The Odd Couple!  Since retiring from the ring Tom Thumb has remained very much part of the wrestling business, as promoter, referee and master of ceremonies.

Chief Thunderbird (Canada)
The first native American to wrestle in British rings, a decade before we had heard the name Billy Two Rivers. The original Chief Thunderbird was possibly a bigger attraction in Britain, where he wrestled 1951-2 and 1954-5, than he was in his native Canada.  Born in  1896, given the name Jean Baptiste Paul in 1896, he was the hereditary chief of the Tsartlip Indians at Brentwood on Vancouver Island. His entry to the ring in native American costume and to the sound of pounding drums  made him a colourful addition to British rings long before the arrival of Billy Two Rivers. His specialist move was the  "Saanich Snap," which was similar to what was also known as the "Indian Deathlock. Having turned professional in 1933 he retired from wrestling  in 1955 when he broke his leg during a match.  Opponents included Bill Garnon, Dave Armstrong, Jack Pye and Mike Marino.   

Wrestling Heritage member Gareth Clayton wrote: "I lived on the west coast of Canada for three years a little while ago. I was studying out there and worked with some people from the local First Nations reserve. It was the reserve where Chief Thunderbird, otherwise known as Jean Baptiste Paul was from. I did some research into canoe racing and he was part of a very successful team.  His family still live on the reserve now and at one point he had a totem pole erected in his honour after his death. I think it was removed due to age."

We are privileged to have a wrestling enthusiast who saw Thunderbird wrestle during his 1950s tour. Bernard Hughes told us of a match between Thunderburd and Alf Rawlings: "Thunderbird entered the ring with full ceremonial headdress and I think I remember an embroidered sleeveless kaftan type of top that slipped over the head. Memories are fading now, but I think that Rawlings got a submission fall . Chief Thunderbird tried retaliating with what we called  an  Indian Death Lock and Rawlings foiled it a few times by holding onto the ropes. Eventually Chief Thunderbird started using his Chop (Tomahawk Chop) and giving what we presumed was a War Dance. (I was only 15 then ). Anyway after going down a few times from the chops and watching the dance, Rawlings got up and proceeded to give his version of a dance. He then started punching and got warned by the referee. He threw Thunderbird to the ropes and on the way back punched him behind the ear and Thunderbird went through the ropes and  way back onto the stairs to the dressing  rooms. Les Kellett the referee disqualified Rawlings."

Jean Baptiste Paul died on 23rd November, 1966, following which a totem pole was commissioned in his honour with the inscription "All the world knew him as Chief Thunderbird, greatly skilled in athletic games and world champion wrestler.”

Chief Thunderbird  (UK) (Also known as Chief Sitting Bull, Ben Watijeski)
The name Chief Thunderbird re-emerged in the 1960s on the shows of the independent promoters. This time his origins were not wild west, but east European. The man beneath the headdress was  Polish born Ben Watijeski who was now living in Levenshulme. Wrestled for the independents throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.  He was the Indian who was double crossed by Bill Blake in "Send in the Clown" and finished up getting a tomahawk chop down his own throat.

Thundercloud
A breath of fresh air and a much needed dash of colour came to British wrestling in 1973 when genuine overseas visitors were far less in number than during the previous decade. Chief Thundercloud was another he addressed native American, oft seen partnering Whitecloud, another Hispanic.   Thundercloud was an American wrestler named Jesus Lopez who until adopting the native American persona for his British tour had wrestled during the 1960s as  Pat Valentino.  Although he did wrestle in singles matches Thundercloud is best remembered for tag matches in which he and Whitecloud faced the Dennisons, the Hells Angels and the Saints. The Hells Angels were in the opposite corner, and victors, when they met at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1973. During the same month Thundercloud and Whitecloud made their only television appearance, losing to Roy and Tony St Clair. There were Thundercloud and Whitecloud imitators working for the independent promoters.

Little Toby
Londoner Peter Kinch wrestled as Little Toby and  was a good friend and student of Dangerous Danny Lynch, a neighbour of his when he moved to Ashford.  Toby learned his wrestling at an amateur club in Woolwich, and it was after he moved to Kent that the two men became friends in 1970 and Danny offered to  train Toby in the professional style.  Three years later Toby was deemed ready to hit the rings, and turned made his pro debut in 1973. Toby and Danny would often travel to venues together and Toby became a popular wrestler  around the south in the 1970s, unsurprisingly naming his local Stour Centre in Ashford as his favourite venue.  Toby unfortunately mislaid all his wrestling memorabilia some years ago, and would  like to hear from anyone with any photos, programmes or posters featuring him. Now retired from wrestling Toby runs a driving school in Kent, and is a near neighbour of another Wrestling Heritage friend, Romany Riley.

Roger Tofield
Lightweight Roger Tofield, from Bletchley,  wrestled around the south and midlands of England in the 1970s and until the mid 1980s. He worked for a variety of promoters, including All Star Promotions and Jackie Pallo. He also worked regularly for a local promoter, South Midlands Promotions, which wasn’t surprising because he was the boss. The name South Midlands Promotions was revived by Roger’s son, Sean, and when Sean staged wrestling at their local Towcester Leisure Centre the Master of Ceremonies was an old favourite, Roger Tofield.

The Great   Togo (Also known as Oddjob)
Less than two decades following the end of the second world war the Oriental features may well have been enough to make The Great Togo a hate figures amongst wrestling fans in the non politically correct Britain of the 1960s. Mind you, the rule bending tactics no doubt helped to make him a first class villain.  Not to forget his salt throwing good fortune ceremony where salt could oh so easily find its way into his opponents eyes.  Togo, real nameToshiyuki  Sakata , was actually born in Hawaii, though he began to use the Westernised name of Harold Sakata after moving to mainland USA.  His sporting career began as a weightlifter and he represented the USA in the 1948 Olympic Games. In North America he wrestled under the name of Tosh Togo where he  tagged with his wrestling brother who was  confusingly known as Great Togo. If three names, or is that four, wasn't enough Harold added another when he achieved worldwide fame starring as  Oddjob, the bodyguard to James Bond villain Goldfinger. The steel-brimmed bowler hat  became a familiar trademark for the wrestler and was much parodied by later villains. Following his British wrestling tour Togo, now commonly known as Oddjob, wrestled around the world took part in numerous film and television series.   Toshiyuki  (Harold) Sakata died on 29th July, 1982 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Tommy the Demon
A well known name of the 1930s and 1940s there is as much mystery surrounding the identity of Tommy the Demon as any masked man. We come across Tommy the Demon in 1934, “The Hurricane He Man” from Doncaster, he weighed around 10 stones and was said to be a bit of a whirlwind,  a friend and training partner of Jack Pye.

The billing seems pretty consistent during the 1930s. Until the promoter at Nelson, in 1935, announces that Tommy Mack was the wrestler known as Tommy Demon. His  lead was followed by others and we find Tommy Mack on posters with the tag line of Tommy the Demon. As Tommy Mack was also billed from Doncaster that seems simple enough.  Until January 1953 that is when we find Tommy the Demon previously known as the Black Knight until unmasked and revealed as Bob Hooton.

So, one Tommy the Demon or two?

Or more?

The name Tommy the Demon (that is Tommy Mack and/or Bob Hooton) disappeared in 1953. The name resurfaced again in 1958, an apparently much heavier man working for the independent promoters.

Wrestler Al Tarzo told us "I remember Tommy the Demon very well. Once I travelled to a show in Redruth, we travelled in Red Callaghan's VW caravette.  When we arrived in Redruth Red went to collect a brand new caravette. Not getting much sleep due to the fact we left Thursday evening for Friday night and travelled back after the show Red's nerves were a bit ragged. We really aggravated Red by telling him that Tommy was putting his feet on the seats of his new motor.  That journey almost ended with a knock out. But Tommy was an all round joker and decent in my book."

So two or three Tommy the Demons? Here’s another. The name was used again by  promoter Max Crabtree for wrestler Tommy Stewart in the 1980s.