WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

S: Saari - Saulnier

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Arnie Saari

Rugged Finnish heavyweight Arnie Saari visited Britain in the winter of 1965/6 wrestling in the north of England and Scotland against opponents that included Bill Rawlings, Billy Joyce, The Mask,,Norman Walsh and Gordon Nelson. When Arnie made his UK debut on television in November, 1965, he was placed in the safe hands of Mr Ultra Reliable Jim Hussey.

Arnie began his professional wrestling career in Australia working for Sydney promoter Hal Morgan, making his debut in 1960. In 1962 we found him in Cabramatta Civic Hall knocked semi-conscious by the Black Hun and reportedly taken to hospital.

After retiring from wrestling he concentrated on his business interests, a building restoration company.  Arnie Saari died in July 2019.

Sabu (Also known as Gurdial Singh)

Gurdial Singh, or Sabu as he was most often billed, was another of those fast and clever welterweights who we thought had the skill and charisma to take him to the top. We last saw him in wrestling action in March 1971, back on the independent circuit wrestling Billy Ryan, It was an impressive performance against another newcomer, Sabu displaying an extensive range of wrestling holds and nipping around the ring at bewildering speed. Previous appearances against Earl McCready and Hamid Ali Gil were just as pleasing and we did expected Sabu to be given more of a push when working for the bigger promoters. To add a splash of colour to what was already a colourful appearance Sabu would demonstrate an ability to smash a collection of roof tiles before many of his contests.


At the time we were writing an article on him for Ringsport magazine, and he was eager to tell us of his recent appearance at the Royal Albert Hall. Sid Cooper was in the opposite corner, and although Sabu had lost the bout he was very proud of his appearance at the venue. We guess that bout must have remained the highlight of Sabu's career. Gurdial told us he was born in the Punjab and moved to the United Kingdom when he was nine, eventually settling in Coventry. At one end of the Public Hall stood a magnificent organ chamber, and it was beneath this that he told us that it had always been his ambition to play the organ! Experience in the fairground booths taking on all challengers led to a professional debut against Micky Fear. Sabu worked for the independents for half a dozen years before being signed up for Joint Promotions in June 1969, working most often for Wryton Promotions. An energetic, athletic style made him popular with fans, all the more memorable for the dramatic demonstration of tile smashing with the side of his hand. Results on the Joint Promotions circuit were mixed and after a couple of years Sabu returned to the independents, forming a formidable tag partnership with Killer Joe Burns. We were pleased to meet up with Gurdial Singh once agin in 2010 at the Leeds Reunion.


Tony Saint
Dark haired, clean cut lightweight from Huddersfield worked for independent promoters in Yorkshire in the 1970s.

Tino Salvadore 
The Belgian based Sicilian, and self-styled master of the back drop-kick,  made a couple of  British television appearances as part of a Continental team taking on UK wrestlers. His  televised debut against Tug Wilson is recorded in Armchair Corner (see photo).  Following his undistinguished British tour of 1973, which included a Royal Albert Hall defeat at the hands of Brian Maxine,   Tino made his way to the USA where he found greater success under a variety of guises: Salvatore Bellomo, Crazy Bellomo, Centurian Marsella, Salvatore Martino, Adonis Romano, and Wildman Bellomo. 

Pasquale Salvo
.The 1960s middleweight was born to Italian parents Pasquale Salvo was a tough South Londoner, born and brought up  in Bermondsey. It was a hard life and the kids of Bermondsey grew up tough in order to survive. It was an upbringing reflected in his compromising ring style. 
The Anglo Italian middleweight tagged with Peter Rann as the Riot Squad, Salvo was a rule-breaking hell-raiser and hated by the crowds - except in Bedford and Peterborough where the large Italian migrant community  gave him fully vocal support. An ex-boxer who had a particularly noteworthy feud in 1964 Southend with British Champion Jack Dempsey and came out on top twice.  A one time waiter, driver, greengrocer and latterly a petrol station proprietor petrol sales must have boomed for Pasquale disappeared from the fight scene in the late sixties.

Mal  Sample
Cheshire's Mal Sample came onto the pro wrestling scene in 1961 and during the first half of the 1960s  seemed to be everywhere in the north and midlands. 

A busy worker, usually for Wryton Promotions, he wrestled most of the lighter men, and a few of the heavier ones, between 1961 and 1966. On television he faced Ivan Penzekoff at Crewe Town Hall, not far from his home in Congeton.

 His disappearance was as swift as his appearance and Mal was suddenly lost to the wrestling scene.

After leaving wrestling Mal became heavily involved in stock car racing and collecting vintage trucks. We would very much like to learn more about Mal whose career promised so much and lasted so briefly

Roger L Sandilands
Unfortunately our paths never crossed with the popular worker on the the independent circuit in the 1960s and 1970s. Well remembered as the  tag partner of Al Hollamby in The Diaboliques tag team.

Neil Sands (Also known as Sky Churchill)
Neil Sands did what many Heritage readers just dreamed of. From a tv fan to an autograph collector  at West Ham and Ilford Baths Neil made the transformation, via the Redbridge Club in Ilford, to the other side of the wrestling ropes.

The 6’3” heavyweight from Halstead in Essex career within the Joint Promotions network started in 1974 following five years training as an amateur and formative years wrestling for independent promoters, initially billed as Sky Churchill.  One of his final independent bouts has the distinction of being the final career bout of his opponent, the great Alan Garfield. Neil’s 1975 television début against Steve Viedor was a highly entertaining encounter from unpromising Gravesend which had commentator Kent Walton cooing in admiration.  It would be fully 12 years before Sands would appear on the small screen once again, and then it was alongside Tony St Clair in tag. 

In 1976 he appeared in an international tournament in Munster, Germany, gaining experience alongside fellow big-name entrants Horst Hofmann and Otto Wanz, and facing old pros Micha Nador and Josef Molnar. Neil Sands made a notable Royal Albert Hall début on the infamously decimated bill and defeated Mal Kirk.  
Neil Sands (Also known as Sky Churchill)
Neil Sands did what many Heritage readers just dreamed of. From a tv fan to an autograph collector  at West Ham and Ilford Baths Neil made the transformation, via the Redbridge Club in Ilford, to the other side of the wrestling ropes.

The 6’3” heavyweight from Halstead in Essex career within the Joint Promotions network started in 1974 following five years training as an amateur and formative years wrestling for independent promoters, initially billed as Sky Churchill.  One of his final independent bouts has the distinction of being the final career bout of his opponent, the great Alan Garfield. Neil’s 1975 television début against Steve Viedor was a highly entertaining encounter from unpromising Gravesend which had commentator Kent Walton cooing in admiration.  It would be fully 12 years before Sands would appear on the small screen once again, and then it was alongside Tony St Clair in tag. 

In 1976 he appeared in an international tournament in Munster, Germany, gaining experience alongside fellow big-name entrants Horst Hofmann and Otto Wanz, and facing old pros Micha Nador and Josef Molnar. Neil Sands made a notable Royal Albert Hall début on the infamously decimated bill and defeated Mal Kirk.  

Rik Sands
Londoner Rik Sands led a full life away from the wrestling ring. He grew up in Isleworth and established  a keen interest in a wide range of sports whilst at Spring Grove Central School: javelin, water polo, cricket and swimming. He was also  an accomplished judo expert, a second degree black belt,  before turning to professional wrestling. Influential in that decision were Steve Viedor and Earl Maynard who he met whilst serving in the R.A.F.  If that’s not enough Rik was also a professional snooker referee. He qualified as a snooker referee in 1975, touring the country with stars such as Jimmy White and John Virgo, until 2002.

Rik was a respected wrestler, mostly  in the south of England, who went on to promote his own shows, which featured star names that included Viedor, John Kowalski, Bob kirkwood and Johnny Kincaid. His involvement in judo continued and Rik ran a number of judo clubs in London. 

Following his wrestling career Rik started his own business selling fabrics at his shops in Southampton, Feltham, Ashford and Bognor Regis. He moved to Cyprus, where he lived for seven years continuing to run his own business, Rik also devoted a great deal of time to charity work, organising functions and events such as dinners, variety shows, wrestling tournaments, football matches  and celebrity golf events.

Rik was a keen supporter of, and generous contributor to, the British Wrestlers Reunion. 

Rik Sands died in March, 2019.

Albert Sanniez
The stylish, fast  and clever Spanish born and French based lightweight  was a popular visitor to the United Kingdom in  1967, 1969 and again in 1970. He wrestled all the top men of the lighter weights – Saint, Breaks, McManus, Kidd et al. A number of high profile matches included a loss to Vic Faulkner at the Royal Albert Hall, an unsuccessful challenge to George Kidd for his World Lightweight,  Championship at Ayr, another loss to Jim Breaks at Nottingham for the European Championship, and televised victories over Alan Sargeant and Dick Conlon. Most of his 1970 matches were tag contests in partnership with Kadar Hassouini. 

Jack Santos (Also known as Young Santos)
Maybe it was the coal dust, or just the atmosphere in the Stoke On Trent air. Who knows, but it did the trick.  The name was  unauthentic  but did sound more colourful than Jack Sambrook of Hanley.  During the day Jack's trade was that of a bricklayer, but by night he assumed an entirely new personality, that of Spaniard Jack Santos. Jack turned professional in 1941, he was Young Santos in those days.  He travelled around the country with Bill Ogden, George Goldie, and John Hall, collectively known as the Hanley Lads. Jack Santos worked throughout the country until the early 1960s, our last sighting of him being in 1965.

Miguel Santos
The nature of the wrestling business means that confusion abounds. Adrian Street: “Even I have had bogus Brothers and Cousins by the score since I first began wrestling 56 years and 15,000 matches ago.”  Miguel Santos was a Greek wrestler who worked for Dale Martin Promotions in the early 1960s, and not Jack Santos (above) as mistakenly believed by some fans. , Adrian Street told us,”The Miguel Santos that I refer to in 'So many ways to hurt you.' was not from Stoke on Trent. I can't remember his real name but he was a Greek - and according to him, emigrated with his family from Greece to Argentina - hence his Hispanic gimmick.  I once had the misfortune to travel by car, from London all the way  to one of Ted Beresford's TV shows with him, El Greco and Billy Torontos, and the three of them spoke nothing but Greek all the way there. I travelled back to London on my own, by train.” 

We believe that in the 1980s the Miguel Santos name was revived by Micky West.

Rudi Saturski
The technical German heavyweight made a short visit to Britain in December of 1956. Amongst his half dozen British matches was a one fall each draw with Mike Marino at the Royal Albert Hall. Rudi Saturski was the father of the 1960s visitor Wolfgang Stark. Rudi Saturski died on  8 August, 1975.

Michel  Saulnier
The diminutive French wrestler stood barely over five feet tall, but his lack of stature was more than made up for by skill and agility.  Skill, agility and speed. Michel Saulnier was fast, very fast. The foundation of that pro skill was an outstanding amateur career in both Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines. Amateur success was carried through to the professional ring, where Michel was a very popular wrestler, initially in his native France, and subsequently throughout Europe.

Michel was born in Paris in 1933, making him thirty years old when he made his British debut in 1963, The young Frenchman was matched with many of the top lighter men of the time: Mel Riss, Jackie Pallo, Jack Dempsey, Cliff Beaumont amongst them. Michel wrestled around the south of England for much of the winter of 1963-4.

It was a visit that was to be followed up with frequent sailings across the channel in the years that followed. During later visits Michel Saulnier eventually made his way north and worked for all the Joint Promotion members and faced just about everybody who was anybody.  Wherever he went he pleased the fans, but results certainly didn't go all his own way, not surprising with the quality of opponents. British promoters did the talented Frenchman no favours. David Franklin remembers Michel as "A top class wrestler, and considering all the lightweight talent that came over from France at that time he must have been very highly rated because he was the one regularly billed as Lightweight Champion of France".

In France Michel was for many years one of the top wrestling promoters.  We met him in 2009 at the Kent reunion when he came over with a group of his French colleagues. At the time he was in good health, but in the years that followed his health deteriorated and we are told he suffered a number of strokes before his death in January 2017, aged 83.

Page revised 24/10/2019: Arnie Saari entry updated