U & V: Verna - Vipond
Big Bill Verna
Born in Perth, Australia, in 1929 Bill Verna travelled the world mostly from his homes in Belgium and Britain. When he came to the UK in 1950 he weighed just sixteen stones, but our memories of him as a 1960s wrestler are of a 21 strong villain. Following a short interest in boxing turned to wrestling and made his professional debut aged eighteen. After a couple of years working around the rings of Australia he made his way to Europe where he quickly established himself in the German tournaments and in British rings . Following a short period in England in 1950 Bill wrestled in the Far East, where we have reports of him wrestling Dara Singh, and billed as “The Blonde Tiger” in a match where both men were said to display rare mastery in the game. Other opponents included Aslam and Akram Pahalwan and Emile “King Kong” Czaja. He was back in Europe in 1954 and amongst his opponents during this visit was the American world champion claimant Frank Sexton, who he held to a draw. Over the next fifteen years he wrestled all over the world but always returned to the UK, where he was one of those popular villains the fans loved to boo. His status as a top class professional was confirmed when Bill was selected as one of the few to oppose World champion Lou Thesz on his British visit.
There was a very active wrestling scene in East Lancashire in the late 1960s and early 1970s, not just in cities like Blackburn but in the smaller halls of Darwen and Cole, and outdoor events such as the Burnley Horse Fair. Eddie Rose attributes much of this to the work of promoter and wrestler Sid Vickers. The wrestler and promoter from Burnley was something of a firebrand in the rings of the 1960s. Okay, we are basing this only on the stories we have heard and the one time we saw him in the ring. That was the only time we have seen the crowd involved, chairs flying and the police called to a scene described in the evening paper as "a riot." Not that we are pointing a finger.... Syd Vickers, a great character and all action wrestler who kept the 1960s/70s wrestling scene so lively.
Steve Viedor (Steve Veidor, Steve Bell)
Read our extended tribute in Shining Stars: Every Bout An Epic
Globe trotting French heavyweight who was a regular British visitor in the 1950s and 1960s. He also wrestled in the USA and Canada, which in the 1950s was fairly uncommon. Whilst in Canada he tagged with Whipper Billy Watson to claim the Canadian tag team title.
See the entry for Ragnor the Viking
Complete with Norse battle clothing Tony Wood was The Viking. As a teenager Tony began wrestling in the south of England, unsurprisingly finding that his career was interrupted by the inconvenience of two years National service. Here was a villain of the first order who could rile the fans on Joint Promotions and later independent rings. After retiring he took up a new career as a stock car racer!
Hobbies for Tony included the creation of rocking horses and study of Norse culture. Tony Wood passed away in 2011 as a result of lung cancer.
See the entry for Pete Curry
In the 1970s Terence Grayson was fleetingly known as the clean cut Milton Keynes wrestler Tony Vince. He died of cancer, aged 70, on 14th May, 2012.
The Welsh and Great Britain international rugby player moved north in 1956 and played for Oldham, where he played seventy games and was part of the 1957 championship side. In 1958 he signed for Wakefield Trinity, appearing in four rugby league cup finals at Wembley. All that was before he became one of the biggest, in more ways than one, villains of the 1960s (mainly) Northern wrestling rings. Frequently seen in the rings of Morrell-Beresford and Relwyskow & Green. Weighing eighteen stones and standing over six feet tall Don was most definitely one of the villains of the ring whose combination of rule bending and arrogance made him unpopular with fans. Appeared in the 1960s film "This Sporting Life." After wrestling Don became a debt collector for a furniture company in Wakefield.
Al Vipond (Also known as The Gay One)
Jackie Pallo's pigtail had been considered flamboyant. Jim Lewis's preening himself had amused, and Adrian Street firmly established himself as the queen of them all. Where Adrian Street had started others followed and went further, and further. Al Vipond was “The Gay One,” a wrestler from Luton in the late 1970s and 1980s who cashed in on the more liberated views of the time with a camp persona to amuse, entertain and enrage.