WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

V: Vadar - Van Lotter

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Maruti Vadar

In the early 1970s Count Bartelli claimed Maruti Vadar had proved his toughest opponent in recent years. The very powerful Indian held Bartelli to a 15 round draw at the Digbeth Civic Hall on 6th May, 1969, with Bartelli's Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship at stake. Maruti Vadar came to Britain from his home town of Kolhapur in the state of Mahrashtra in 1969.

Dave Valentine

Rugby league player for Huddersfield (and 15 caps for Great Britain and captain in the 1954 World Cup Finals in which Britain beat France 16-12 in Paris) Fartown's Dave Valentine also gained his kicks in the professional wrestling rings of the north during the 1950s.


Dave made his debut for Huddersfield Rugby Club  on 1st November, 1947, and was to go on and make over 300 appearances for his club as well as playing for Great Britain every year from 1947 until 1954.  In the early 1950s Dave took up professional wrestling, weighing around 13 ½ stones,  working around the country and making a six week tour of Austria in 1953. Shortly afterwards he retired from wrestling at the request of his Rugby club.  On the occasion of Dave's Testimonial match in 1956 Norman Morrell and Ted Beresford wrote:  “In this sphere he found himself outweighed, inexperienced and pretty well up against it. However the streak of dogged persistence that runs through him kept him at it until after months of training he was clashing with the best. But for the Australian tour …. he might have been in the top ten British wrestlers, but Rugby naturally had first call.”

Johnny "Legs" Valentine

Johnny "Legs" Valentine was, like so many others, nurtured by Jack Taylor  at his Leicestershire gymnasium to take his place in the independent promoters' rings of the 1960s. Jack gave the twenty-three year old his chance to enter the professional ranks and in 1961 he was touring the country tackling the likes of  Butcher Goodman, Mick Collins and Leno Larazzi. John lived in the village of Newbold Vernon, Leicestershire, and continued wrestling until into the 1970s. A teenage interest in politics continued throughout his life, serving as a local councillor and standing as a  candidate in  Parliamentary elections. An organiser of charity events over many years and involvement in the jazz club which he ran at Newbold Verdon Working Mens' Club, led to Johnny receiving the Mayor's Award for Outstanding Services in the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth.  Following a long battle with lung cancer Legs Valentine passed away on 29th December, 2011. He was 73 years old.


Frank Valois
Canadian bruiser Frank Valois was wrestling in France and Germany when he was brought to Britain in 1950 by Atholl Oakeley to wrestle Stan karolyi at Harringay Stadium. This is the only British appearance we can find. He was advertised on 3rd April, 1958, to wrestle Jack Pye in Morecambe but was replaced by Jose Calderon (Professor Adiwasser).

He was later to become known as the trainer of Jean Ferre, a pertnership that continued in 1980 when they formed, along with Gono Brito, the Montreal based promotion,  Promotions Varoussac.

Frank Valois was born 17th December, 1921, died 31st December, 1988.


Benny Van Den Burg

Heritage member Tom Hawes was impressed when he watched Benny van Den Burg in the early 1960s on Paul Lincoln tournaments against wrestlers such as Peter Rann and Iron Jaw Joe Murphy. "He was skilled and clearly an experienced wrestler," Tom told us. Tom was surprised to find Benny missing from the A-Z and provided information for us to rectify the omission.


Born in Durban in 1933 Benny was orphaned soon after birth and brought up in an orphanage before coming to Manchester to be brought up by an aunt. It was a rough area and Benny was in frequent scrapes with other youngsters. This led to a futile attempt to enter the professional boxing ring which did lead to a meeting with Micky Kiely and regular work on Micky's fairground boxing booth. 


Benny got to know wrestler John Bates, better known as The Ghoul. Benny learned the rudiments of wrestling from Bates and started working for independent promoters in northern England.  In 1955 he returned to South Africa for a short time, returning with a South African welterweight championship belt which he never lost in the ring. Eventually he moved south to work for Paul Lincoln, who in the early  1960s was the biggest of the independent promoters. Benny worked regularly for Paul Lincoln but with the merger of Lincoln into Joint Promotions he decided he did not want to pursue his career with the  cartel. He continued to work for other opposition promoters for a few years but towards the end of the decade decided to retire from wrestling and became manager of the Riverboat Night Club in Salford. Management of one club led to management of many, until Benny retired and settled into a quieter life.


Benny Van Den Burg died in July, 2016.


Piet Van Dooren

A 15 stone all-action heavyweight from the Netherlands, "The Flying Dutchman," who was well known in the German tournaments, visited Britain in June 1955, with opponents including Jack Pye, Francis St Clair Gregory and  Dave Armstrong.


Izzy Van Dutz 

Professional wrestling has never been short of colourful characters and just the wonderful name of Izzy Van Dutz  was enough to make him one of the most colourful. The dramatic resurgence of professional wrestling in the 1930s left promoters with a major headache, where to find sufficient wrestlers to meet demand. Their solution, and one replicated thirty years later by Paul Lincoln, was to make use of a combination of evergreen professionals who had made a name for themselves twenty years earlier, import  aged or inexperience or overseas wrestlers and develop local talent of mixed ability, often creating colourful personalities for a bit of added attraction.


Izzy Van Dutz falls into the latter category. Izzy was billed as a Dutch champion, but although he may have had Dutch ancestry he only needed to open his mouth to confirm he  was London through and through.


Eddie Rose told us: "In November 1963, I wrote an article for The Wrestler magazine about the history of the King's Hall at Belle Vue, "The Greatest Tradition in Wrestling". I had access to the archives at Belle Vue and interviewed Wright Mallinson, the time keeper at the King's Hall for over thirty years at that time. One of his best memories was of  Izzy van Dutz, a top attraction, and whose catch-phrase "How d'ya like-a-that?" to a hapless opponent usually brought the house down. Sounds as if he was a precursor of Leon Arras with his 'How about that then, referee?' "


Izzy was one of the many Atholl Oakeley creations. He was a top of the bill worker for Oakeley in the 1930s, though we've never heard anyone say that he was a top wrestler. The man had bags of personality, and in the wrestling business we all know how important that is. Oakeley was a master at creating larger than life personalities with legendary stories to support their persona. In 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil War  posters even proclaimed that  Izzy had “Just escaped from Spain,” which we find rather suspect as he had been wrestling the best in Britain in Britain for the previous four years. On another occasion it was claimed that he had visited America but had to leave after three matches because “The Yanks refused to fight him.”


Izzy appeared on the British wrestling scene in 1932. He started out as an Oakeley man, opposing other Oakeley regulars like Carver Doone, Norman the Butcher and Oakeley himself. As a crowd pleaser his services were taken up by other promoters and he worked throughout Britain during the 1930s. We can find no evidence of him working overseas.


During his career the dastardly Izzy wrestled every big name of the period from Athol Oakeley to World Champion Jack Sherry and Golden Boy Mike Marino. Indeed, Oakeley said it was Izzy Van Dutz that finally ended his career, through a shoulder injury. Most definitely rooted in the pre war years Izzy’s career continued post war and our final recorded appearance is 1952, at Bury St Edmunds against Don Stedman.


Tony Van Hal

Mid heavyweight from Belgium worked in Britain in the 1950s.


Arnold Van Heiden

The Anglo Dutch welterweight worked for the independent promoters from the late 1950s, moving across to Dale Martin in 1963. Our last record of him is in 1964. Tony Scarlo is seeking news of his old friend who he remembers lived in the East End of London where he owned a shoe shop called Footwear Maintenance, later re-locating to Dagenham. 


Fred Van Lotter

Born in Cape Town, in 1934, this South African middleweight first came to Britain in 1959, and became a regular feature in Southern rings for the following few years. 


From his home in Cape Town Fred had worked as a professional photographer and crew member on a tuna vessel before taking up professional wrestling. He had been professional for less than a year, having made his debut in South Africa against lightweight champion Billy Meyer at Gordon’s Bay only a few months earlier, when he set out on the journey north to Britain. 


His rough-house style found him few fans amongst the British wrestling enthusiasts but made him an ideal tag partner for Iron Jaw Joe Murphy. The pair annexed the European welterweight tag team title from Ken Joyce and Eddie Capelli for a short time.