British wrestling history 

O: Oakley - Odooma

 Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Ron Oakley
When Middlesbrough’s Ron Oakley moved from physical culture and body building to wrestling he acquired thousands of new fans and admiration for a body that gained him the name the “Northern Adonis,”  and place on the cover of "Health and Strength" magazine in January, 1956.

This man had muscles where we didn’t know muscles existed. He turned professional in 1960, when he was twenty-four, and had already won around twenty body building titles. These included Mr Yorkshire, finalist in Mr Britain and British representative in Mr Universe.

Within a couple of years of turning professional he was in combat with the big names of the age, not just in his own middleweight division, but against much heavier men such as Billy Howes and Eric Taylor. 

Around a dozen television appearances included amongst his opponents Johnny Kwango, Eddie Capelli, Peter Szakacs, Pasquale Salvo and Bert Royal, the majority of them being for Dale Martin Promotions.

Throughout the 1960s Ron remained a popular middleweight around the country. He was also an influence on other young body builders and encouraged many of them into professional wrestling. He owned and operated his own gymnasium in the St Hilda's area of Middlesbrough, the home of many successful body builders and wrestlers.  

Barney O’Brien
Nearing 15 stones in weight and billed as Irish heavyweight champion. A challenger for British heavyweight honours held by Atholl Oakeley.  In August, 1932,  "The Elstree Adonis" Len Franklin defeated Barney O'Brien in an eliminator contest to face (and lose to) Oakeley for the British title on 29th August. Otherwise we have little information on Barney who we can find for just a few months in 1932. 

Bob Archer O’Brien
Our memories are of Bob Archer O’Brien as a well respected and popular referee. Of course, there was much more to the history of this wrestling great. Indeed, he was one of a handful of post war professionals who appeared on television way back in the pioneer days of both tv and our sport. On 6th January, 1947, Bob appeared on BBC television in an exhibition wrestling match against the Cambridge wrestler Charlie Law, who was to gain fame as a professional known as College Boy.  The following month, in February, 1947 we discovered Bob defeating Plymouth’s Jackie Harris.

Bob's career, which  we understand started in India, developed at home into one of Britain’s best post war welterweights. Maybe it was a lack of colour, his modest disposition or lack of good fortune but although his skill  placed him alongside the likes of Dempsey, Kidd and Capelli, and way beyond certain other welterweight superstars , Bob didn't receive the full acclaim that he deserved from the paying public. That's not to say the fans didn't respect him, they did so hugely, and always enjoyed seeing his name on the bill even though  his drawing power didn't match some of his contemporaries.

Bob was able to hold his own, and usually defeat, most of the wrestlers of his day. He was a popular hero of the day, with a smile that would quickly evaporate his rugged facial features. A modest, unassuming man Bob Archer O’Brien must be included in any list of post war greats. Following a wrestling career that spanned three decades he went on to become a popular referee in the days when a referee really could make or break a contest.

Bob disappeared from our rings in the summer of 1968, though we believe in 1971 he was to be seen in ring action again, coaxed back by independent promoters.

The Chelmsford star also bestowed two other fine wrestlers on UK audiences, his sons Bob and Chris Anthony.  
Jimmy Ocean
Twice holder of the British lightweight championship, for two weeks in 1991 and then from 1993 until 1998, Jimmy Ocean just edges his way  into the wrestling heritage years.  

A sole ITV appearance (against Ivan Trevors) and a few more on C4C and satellite channels brought him to national attention. His high flying, exciting style, and a penchant for skulduggery made him a huge favourite amongst British fans. Considered by many modern day fans to have been hugely under-rated at the time Jimmy Ocean could conceivably have been a star in the highly competitive 1960s and 1970s.

Ocean and Knight made up the Superflys tag team, generally considered one of the top tag teams of the 1980s. At one time Jimmy formed frequent tag team opposition to Big Daddy and his numerous partners.
Victorio Ochoa 
The Navaresse Lion,  Heavyweight champion of Spain and 1940s world title claimant, visited Britain in 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1962. He was the son of Javier Ochoa, a great Spanish wrestler who played a leading role in popularising professional wrestling to Mexico. Opponents included Ernie Riley, Black Butcher Johnson Norman Walsh, Geoff Portz and Count Bartelli.  A very technical wrestler he was at the peak of his career, just 40 years old, when he was killed at his home in Urdain during a family dispute on 4th July, 1960.

Frank O'Donnell 
Rough and tough middleweight Frank O’Donnell used the sort of tactics that made the crow love to see him lose. 

Frank started wrestling in 1946 and his bald dome and the flying fists were a familiar feature  of wrestling halls during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Born in Loughanoran, Donegal, Frank moved to Scotland in his late teens,  three years of farming  preparing  him for a planned boxing career. Life often takes unexpected turns, and having settled in Scotland, again as a farm worker, Frank was introduced to the wrestlers George and Harry Broadfield. 

Frank was encouraged to give up his boxing aspirations and take up wrestling by George and Harry,  who also persuaded him to move to Yorkshire, where he lived throughout his life. 

His working life was shared between his wrestling career and  roadbuilder with McAlpine. Following his retirement in 1972 frank was able to use his construction and landscaping skills to good effect when he designed the Bagden Hall golf course and managed its construction. Golf was Frank’s main love following his retirement.

Frank O'Donnell passed away in 2003. When he died, aged eighty, the flag was lowered to half mast at the Dewsbury Golf Club. 

Tuma Odooma (Also known as Jimmy Odooma, Juma Odooma) 
Another of those colourful characters who made professional wrestling such a unique sport. A muscular light heavyweight Manchester based  Odooma would enter the ring dresses in a leopardskin cloak and grass skirt. You don't get that in cricket.  

Known variously as Jimmy or Juma Odooma, and sometimes simply Odooma. Worked mainly in the north and midlands for Wryton Promotions between 1962 and 1965, a popular good guy in the ring. Billed randomly from Ghana or the West Indies we suspect Manchester might have been closer to the mark.

We have confirmation of his Manchester credentials but can neither confirm or deny the press publicity that he was a runner-up in the Mr Jamaica contest, came to Britin in the late 1950s and made his professional debut in 1961. Tooma worked across the rings of northern Britain in the early to mid 1960s and then disappeared from the British wrestling scene.