British wrestling history 

N: Nandor - Nenic

 Wrestling Heritage A-Z

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Lajko Nandor
Hungarian light heavyweight visited during the winter of 1951-2, meeting the likes of Tony Mancelli, Milo Popocpolous, light heavyweight champion Sonny Wallis and inevitably losing to Bert Assiratti.

The 1960s witchdoctor wrestler was covered head to toe in a one-piece outfit and green mask to cover his face. The outfit was for good reason. Nawamba's nationality was not all it seemed. The outfit was worn by a number of wrestlers with links closer to Newark, Northampton or Nottingham. We suspect his studying of voodoo was also something of an exaggeration.

John Naylor (Also known as Golden Ace)
Standing on the top rope facing the audience, a backwards summersault on to his astonished opponent and the inevitable result was a pinfall for John Naylor. Such moves were to become almost commonplace thirty years later, but in the early 1970s they helped make “The Golden Ace” John Naylor one of the new breed of wrestling stars.

Wigan’s John Naylor brought a breath of fresh air to the northern wrestling scene when he appeared in the early 1970s. Here was someone with skill, style, speed, and a healthy amount of aggression. The speed and agility should not disguise just how the hardness of John Naylor. Wrestler Tony Francis recalls, "Many Moons ago I was billed to wrestle Ray Steele on the pier at Morecambe. When I arrived at the venue I felt quite ill, and even more so when I saw the poster; Ray was never known for his gentleness! Anyway I had to cry off, and as it was too late to get a substitute it was down to Steve Fury to appear twice. Steve did his best, took the bout to round five, and left the ring absolutely exhausted. Now,the plot thickens. Steves'original opponent,The Little Prince, had also cried off, but this time a sub had been found....John Naylor!! Well,if Steve thought his match with Ray was hard, John took him to a different plane. Strangely enough,after a large whisky in the bar I was able to enjoy both bouts in comfort. I don't think Steve Fury has ever forgiven me! " 

Having learnt the business at Riley’s gym he could certainly wrestle, and his early professional experiences came on weekend visits to France. Along with contemporaries Steve Wright, Dynamite Kid and Mark Rocco, John Naylor played just as significant part in changing the style of 1970s wrestling, but often seems one of the forgotten men of the new breed.  

Red Naylor (Also known as Fireball Naylor)
A busy Welterweight on the north and midlands independent circuit in the first half of the 1960s;  Fred Naylor  was a frequent opponent of Kevin Conneely, Shem Singh, Colin McDonald,Johnny Saint. On the nights he wasn't wrestling Red could be found refereeing for independent promoters.  A referee of some merit according to Heritage member, Duncan, who told us he was "A good ref. though who knew when to turn his back!"  Barbara Sandwell told us, "I worked with him at Imperial Chemical Industries, Thornton Cleveleys in Lancashire. One morning shift we worked together and imagine my surprise when that evening he wrestled on Dominic Pye's bill at Blackpool Central Club."

N’boa the Snakeman (Also known as The Headhunter)
Said to be from darkest Africa N'Boa the Snakeman  was Bob Elandon from Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo, a Belgian colony in central Africa, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He toured Britain several times in the sixties, initially billed as Elandon the Headhunter and later N’B oa the Snakeman.  What a sight he was as he brought with him to the ring a six-foot python, a gimmick subsequently copied by others. N’Boa walked slowly to the ring with the python wrapped around his shoulders, causing gasps from the audience as they moved quickly a few feet backwards.  With hindsight we can see that there was no danger to anyone, but this was a very effective and original gimmick at the time. 

Once he had entered the ring N'Boa the Snakeman showed himself to be a  colourful bare-footed and barely-toothed light-heavyweight baddie from wrestling’s golden era, who topped the Royal Albert Hall bill when he faced Steve Viedor.
Ray Neal
Many fans remember the 1970s middleweight from Streatham with great fondness. Ray was a promising newcomer at a time when talented new blood was becoming scarce, making a welcome addition to the wrestling scene  when big men with limited ability were sadly tainting the legitimacy of the sport. 

For Ray the build-up to that professional debut in the mid 1970s had been a long time in the making. It was back in 1960, when he was nineteen years old, that Ray joined a local gymnasium near his home in Wimbledon. 

Whilst training he met the experienced welterweight Eddie Capelli and another youngster about to make his way in the ring, Johnny Dark. The three became good friends, and when Eddie asked Ray if he'd like to become a second at Wimbledon Palais he naturally  jumped at the chance. Half a century later Ray is still amused at the thought that Eddie,  a hardened wrestler and former British champion, didn't like the sight of blood.

It was another of his friends, American wrestler Ricky Starr, who arranged for Ray to train at Neil Sands gymnasium in Cheltenham, and later at Tony Scarlo's gymnasium. Eventually Ray was considered ready for the professional ring and made his debut working for the independent promoters. Another wrestling friend, Brian Maxine, encouraged Ray to go for a trial with Dale Martin Promotions. Brian introduced Ray to Mike Marino who arranged a trial for Dale Martin. Ray still remembers the aches and pains resulting from his try-out with Johnny Kincaid, but that didn't prevent the two of them becoming good friends. 

Mike Marino was impressed by Ray and he was offered work for Joint Promotions. Overnight he was facing a new calibre of opponent, now wrestling the men that a few years earlier he had been watching on television - Mick McManus, Zoltan Boscik , Sid Cooper amongst so many others. Ray was loving every minute of it. Career highlight for Ray was the night he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall. The atmosphere was electrifying that night with his friend Kincaid topping the bill as the Caribbean Sunshine Boys defeated Kung Fu and Caswell Martin. Ray's big night matched him with the Brixham hard nut, Chris Bailey. Too hard on that occasion, as Bailey defeated Ray by a knockout. Ray and Chris had many tempestuous matches with honours going to both men.

By the early 1980s many of the Joint Promotion regulars were disenchanted and making the transition to the independent promoters. Ray too made that move, which again brought him into contact with other big names who had already made the crossing - Jackie Pallo, Adrian Street and The Wild Man of Borneo amongst others. They were all happy days, Ray has told us, and as a healthy 73 year old, (as we add him to the A-Z in 2014) living in Crawley, he has so many happy memories of the friends he made. There is one moment of sadness. A few years ago Ray lost all his personal wrestling memorabilia. If you have any posters or programmes with Ray on the bill please get in touch with Wrestling Heritage.

Robert Negrete
South American middleweight visitor in the winter of 1966 and often tag partner of Inca Peruano.

Johnny Nelson
Life in Lancashire during the 1920s and 1930s was hard, and it produced hard men. Amongst them an accomplished catch wrestler and amateur champion Johnny Nelson. Bolton's Johnny Nelson turned professional in the mid 1930s, having been an accomplished amateur  who wrestled in the British amateur lightweight championships in 1933 and 1934. One of the top 1930s Bolton wrestlers he didn't confine his appearances to northern England but travelled the country  meeting the best of the lighter men.  Reports suggest that Johnny was a skillful wrestling, in one report said to have held his own with Olympian Norman Morrell, whilst a rough character who lost by disqualification on occasions.   War interrupted Johnny's wrestling activities from 1941 onwards, though he returned to the ring in 1946 and continued wrestling until 1950. After retiring from wrestling he continued as a  trainer at the club where he had learned the sport, The Bolton United Harriers and Athletic Club.  Johnny is credited with having taught fellow Boltonian Bob Sherry to wrestle.

Janos Nemeth
Hungarian Janos Nemeth was an agricultural student and teenager when he left his native land during the 1956 uprising. He got a job working in the south Yorkshire coal mines before moving to Southend. James pursued the amateur wrestling career he had started in Hungary, and turned professional early in 1962. Weighing under twelve stones Janos worked for independent promoters for a couple of years, facing other promising lighter men of the independent circuit such as Zoltan Boscik, Reg Trood and Peter Rann.

David Nenic
The Belgian mid heavyweight visited  Britain in November 1959. He obviously appreciated the British winter because he came back again in 1960 and again early in 1962.