U & V: Virag - Vulcan
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Ed Don Virag
Born Ede Ebner in Budapest, Hungary, Ed Don Virag moved to America and served in the United States Army during the second world war before resuming his wrestling career and coming over to Europe in 1948. Although recognised as National Wrestling Alliance for some time we can find a record that can best be described as only mixed, with wins over Frank Sexton and Everett Marshall, a draw with Lou Thesz and losses to many lesser names. He visited Britain for promoter Atholl Oakeley in January, 1950, being knocked out by Frank Mantovitch at Harringay Arena before moving on to Germany and France. Died in a car accident in Greece on 22nd October, 1951, aged 39
Le Grande Vladimir (Also known as Taras Bulba)
It may be over forty years since we first came across Le Grande Vladimir, a 1968 match against Roy St Clair, but he left a vivid impression of a majestic giant that we recall to this day. One look at him and you knew he would be up to no good. Vladimir, otherwise Hektor Van Mullen a French based Dutch heavyweight who travelled across much of Europe, and had made his first visit to Britain in 1963 for Paul Licoln and the independent promoters. He returned in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969 for Joint Promotions, making televised appearances against John Lees and Johnny da Silva. During the 1967 tour he assumed the name Taras Bulba, a Peruvian heavyweight! He was known as "The Miracle Man of Wrestling," as we were told that he had returned to wrestling following a serious injury when doctors said he would never walk again. He made a further month long tour of Britain in January 1981, dutifully going down to Wayne Bridges at the Royal Albert Hall in a World title eliminator.
We have read reports that Vladimir also used the name Sergei Kalmikoff, a name borrowed from the “Siberian Ape Man” of the 1930s.
French amateur heavyweight champion in 1956, the disenchanted Gil Voiney turned professional when France decided hot to send a heavyweight wrestler to the Melbourne Olympic Games, even though he was the Mediterranean champion. He claimed the World heavyweight title in December 1961 by virtue of a win over Lucky Simunovich. Travelled throughout Europe, Africa, the Far East, and the USA, where he was known as Max Mortier, and wrestled top men including Bruno Sammartino, Pat Connor and Eduard Carpentier.
With a moustache that came and went, this top-notch French heavyweight visited Britain on numerous occasions between 1959 and 1967. His television bouts were against Wild Ian Campbell and Billy Robinson in the mid-sixties.
In the USA one of his frequent opponents was Mal Kirk. Returning to France in 1966 he retained his world title against the giant Hercules Cortez at Paris's Cirque D'Hiver, in a bout which made the mainstream sports pages of the French press. Fame brought him the glamorous role as Brigitte Bardot's bodyguard.
Two years later he left France and settled in Germany, opening a night club and wrestling regularly in the Austrian and German tournaments. A badly broken leg curtailed his career ten years later and he returned to a distinguished retirement on the Côte d'Azur where he opened a restaurant and was a prominent figure in local sports, particularly weightlifting.
Gil Voiney also had a number of masked guises, the most famous of which takes a key Mention in our rundown of the Top 20 Masked Wrestlers of the Heritage Years. He also wrestled as the more pronounceable Masked Gladiator. Not having wrestled in a hood in the UK, neither creation is eligible for the main listing.
He passed away on 15th December, 2003.
Baron Jorg Von Chenok
Son of Karl Von Chenok, a man who had visited Britain twenty years earlier, Baron Jorg Von Chenok defended (and lost) his European welterweight title to Danny Collins in the 1985 Cup Final televised wrestling show.
Twenty years earlier world class wrestlers from Europe and beyond had made frequent visits to British shores. By the 1980s such visits were far fewer in numbers, and in this case Baron Jorg Von Chenok seems to have appeared out of the blue, though his Continental and grappling lineage is beyond question.
We can find no record of Von Chenok winning the championship, but the title change added to Collins' status for his forthcoming visit to France.
Karl Von Chenok
Karl Von Chenok was German wrestler Josef Martynchenok, born in 1927, who made his first appearance in Britain in 1956. In a ten day visit to southern England he lost to Charlie Fisher at the Royal Albert Hall, and went on to other matches against Bert Royal, Tommy Mann, Jean Morandi, Johnny Peters and Steve Logan. He returned to Britain in 1968, seemingly for just the one match, losing to Les Kellett at the Royal Albert Hall on 13th March, 1968. He was known as Karl Von Chenok only in Great Britain. In Germany and Austria he was known as Martin Chenok. He was the father of Baron Jorg Von Chenok
Baron Ladislaus Von Heczy
Like so many overseas visitors to Britain Baron Ladislaus Von Heczy arrived on our shores with great promise, a powerful heavyweight who had claimed many overseas titles including Heavyweight Champion of Australia, a title he held after beating George Pencheff in 1957 until losing it to Kangaroo Kennedy in 1962. Oh, and the promoters also threw in a bit of descent from Austro-Hungarian nobility. The reality was an eighteen stone six foot plus villain who displayed little skill en route to the seemingly inevitable disqualification against the domestic opposition Ray Apollon, Georges Gordienk, Johnny Allan, Joe Cornelius and Dave Armstrong amongst them. There were the occasional exceptions and we have records of wins over Gwyn Davies and Mike Marino. Von Heczy was an Australian citizen who was born in Hungary, and visited Britain between June and September 1961.
Franz Von Heymbeeck
By all accounts a rough rulebending German who visited Britain in 1953. Results suggest that what we have been told is a fair description, losing by disqualification to Dave Armstrong, Sandy Orford and no doubt a few others. We have more recorded matches, mostly in northern England, and mostly losses to quality opposotion that included Jack Pye, Mike Marino, George Clatk and Norman Walsh. A newspaper report said that customers were amused by his costume – a black, skin tight 1900 style bathing costume kept in place by dainty shoulder straps.
Karl Von Kramer (Also known as Jack Land, Jack Kramer)
One of the great wrestling villains Karl Von Kramer looked every bit the part. Until he opened his mouth that is, because Von Kramer wasn't all that he seemed, being Jack Land from Barnsley, Yorkshire.
In Joint Promotion rings he would use his real name in the ring, and we have seen him billed as Jack Kramer. Jack was a former pitman with a keen interest in boxing, which he learned in the army where he became an Army champion. Karl Von Kramer took to wrestling after going along to Charlie Glover's Junction Gym in Barnsley to box. One night the wrestlers asked them to join him and the rest, as they say, is history.
He turned professional in the mid 1950s and wrestled his way around Britain and the world for the following thirty years, having his last match in his late fifties. Jack's story from pit to wrestling star has been re-told once again in Grappling- The Musical, which made its debut in June, 2010.
‘Grappling’, written by 22-year old Barnsley born and bred playwright, composer, actor and director, Jack Land – Noble, took its inspiration from the life of Jack's grandfather. The musical told the story of one miner’s uproarious journey from the coalface to the wrestling ring in 1970’s Northern England, containing the odd body-slamming expletive, fusing kitchen-sink drama, physical frolics, a wealth of memorable musical numbers and much Northern wit.
Karl Von Kramer died in July, 2012
Karl Von Schober
Teutonic Titan" visited Britain in 1952 and struck up a friendship with
Alan Garfield which led to the pair of them being crowned WWA tag team
champions when Garfield visited the United States and the pair of them
defeated Eric Rommel and Dick Garza in September, 1962. Von Schober
was Louis Sjoberg, the son of Swedish immigrants born in Two Rivers,
Minnesota. In the USA he formed a tag partnership with Fritz Von Erich.
Karl Von Schober died on 16 August, 1977
Count Von Zuppi
Fortuntely for his opponents the real life dentist who was the man behind the mask of Count Von Zuppi didn't resort to pulling teeth in the ring. A referee transformed into masked heavyweight by promoter Max Crabtree in the 1980s, and often well placed for another Big Daddy splash.
The fast and clever 1950s wrestler from Treeton, Sheffield, obviously thought that Vulcan had more of a ring than his real name, Fred Higginbottom. A couple of television appearances under his belt and he continued wrestling until the mid sixties. Following retirement Vulcan and his wife became top breeders of bulldogs!