U&V: Ubo - Valentine
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
A colourful Nigerian wrestler appeared on the British wrestling scene in 1985, heralded as a future star by TV Times.
Based in Yorkshire he made one television appearance, making little impression in a six man tag contest. Even the widely anticipated head-butt failed to gain the required result. We are told he was a likeable, good natured man outside the ring but the general feeling amongst fans seemed to be lovely costume, shame about the wrestling.
If you're reading Wrestling Heritage these days Samson we'd love to hear from you.
In the second half of the 1970s with the ever creative Max Crabtree in charge of Joint Promotions masked men seemed to spring up all over the place. Mind you, most of them were a million miles away from the likes of The Outlaw, Count Bartelli and Kendo Nagasaki. Enter the masked UFO, often accompanied by his manager Charlie McGhee. UFO seemed to have one purpose in life, and that was to lose. He lost to Big Daddy, of course. He lost, not unreasonably, to other top rated heavies such as Tibor Szakacs and Count Bartelli. Then there were the lesser heavies, losing to Honey Boy Zimba and Pete Roberts and the lighter heavies, losing to Clive Myers and Johnny Czeslaw, but then there were the much lighter men, losing to Alan Dennison, Alan Wood, Jackie Turpin and Jim Breaks. We could go on. We know of one man behind the UFO mask. Whether there were others we don't know, but can only guess that there were - it would take a pretty versatile man to lose to that range of opponents!
Decades before the name was taken up by the Americans British wrestling fans booed and jeered The Undertaker, a villain of the independent circuit in the 1960s. A bearded, fearsome looking character, dressed in frock coat and top hat as the stereotypical undertaker of days gone by, would walk unhurriedly to the ring to the accompaniment of the Funeral March. With him was an equally sombre companion and aid. On their shoulders they carried a coffin, albeit one that did look decidedly on the small side. The coffin would be ceremoniously lifted into the ring and propped against the corner post. The aid would produce a tape measure and attempt to “measure up” the opponent, obviously without success. Gestures and words, drowned by the jeers of the crowd, indicated to the opponent where he was going to end up. Of course, he never did, despite the aid pushing the coffin back into the ring at opportune moments for The Undertaker to try once again to get the luckless wrestler inside.
The Undertakers Jonathan and Nathaniel
Two masked men, top hated and black jacketed, emerged on to the mid sixties independent circuit, billed from Chicago. They were so-called brothers Jonathan and Nathaniel, The Undertakers. It goes without saying they were villains of the first order, and unlike most masked men seem not to have a perfect record. During the early and mid 1960s they were regulars on the independent circuit but were amongst the few masked wrestlers, Doctor Death being another, to transfer to the Joint Promotions circuit. The original Undertakers are believed to have been Vince Apollo and Bob Abbot, though various others took the role during the 1970s.
See the entry for Dirty Dave Adams
See the entry for Johnny Angel
See the entry for Shirley Crabtree
The Unknown Star (Alex Alexinis, The Phantom)
The Unknown Star was an American serviceman, serving in the Air Corps and based in Warrington towards the end of the Second World War. He was Alex Alexinis from Long Island, who seems to have come onto the American wrestling scene around 1941. He wrestled in Britain in 1944 and 1945 whilst based in Warrington. He worked for Wryton Promotions, often alongside fellow American Mike Jones. Mike Jones told us that Alex was sometimes billed by British promoters as The Phantom.
Alex was reported in the Daily Mirror for having fought a 450lb Canadian black bear. Apparently the bear grabbed Alex and threw him out of the ring in under one minute. Match over.
On his return to the USA Alex continued to work in Canada and the United States using various names but mostly Al Smith, finally retiring in the early 1970s. Unknown Star Alex Alexenis died in April, 1986.
Would you buy a used car off this man? Maybe, because wrestler John Ure combined his wrestling career with that of car salesman. Born of Scottish parents, the muscular heavyweight from Halifax, a regular trainer with weights, turned professional in 1961.
John was trained by fellow Halifax grappler, Bob Sweeney. It wasn't just an interest in wrestling that brought the two together. It was also a mutual interest in physical culture and healthy living. These interests brought them together outside thr ring also, and John and Bob opened a chain of health studios. He was nineteen years old at the time and his debut in November 1961, saw him lose to Don Branch at Grantham. After a promising start, and a couple of television appearances against Norman Walsh and Ken Cadman the popular Yorkshireman disappeared from the scene in 1964. His early retirement, little more than two years after turning professional, was around the same time that John sold his interest in the health studio business to partner Bob Sweeney and invested in a new venture, launderettes. At the time of writing (April 2011) John is alive and well, living in Florida.
The bushy bearded French Canadian Paul Vachon stormed into Britain in September, 1964, knocking out both Dazzler Joe Cornelius and Gerry de Jaegar on the same night before coming in second to Peter Maivia in an eight man knock out tournament at the Colston Hall Bristol. Almost half a century later those fans who watched the unruly Canadian on grainy black and white television screens have full colour memories of the self-styled butcher of Montreal. 1960s fan Beancounter told us:
"The bout which stands out in my mind was the occasion he was billed in the 'T V Times' to wrestle Francis Sullivan. However, on the day Joe Cornelius was substituted and won 2 - 1. The final fall was effected by the considerably lighter Cornelius lifting up Vachon and executing a perfect body slam and cross press. "
Right from the start of his British visit, if eighteen months in the country constitutes a visit, Butcher Paul was a top of the bill performer. Maybe as one of thirteen children Paul was used to fighting his way to the top.
John Shelvey said:
"He went in with just about any heavyweight available at that time. Among those he hooked up with were Cornelius, Campbell, Billy Joyce, Kumuli, Lees, Pierlot, Portz, Rawlings, Reagan, Streiger, Szakacs, Veidor, Wall, to name a few of the 'home' boys and Gordienko, Kuti, Maivia, Kingston, Napolitano, Simonovitch, Manousakis, and Nelson to name some of the 'visitors.' "
Whilst victories over most of the top heavyweights are easily found throughout his record, losses via the disqualification route are in equal abundance, including his Royal Albert Hall debut against Gordon Nelson. Fortune was no kinder on subsequent Royal Albert Hall outings against Joe Cornelius, Billy Two Rivers and Jan Wilko. To dwell on such misfortune does the Canadian an injustice as we were genuinely surprised when reviewing his record at the consistent quality of his opponent during his time in Britain. On his eventual return to Canada Paul formed a successful tag team with his brother, Mad Dog Maurice Vachon. and the pair twice won the AWA World heavyweight title. In 2008 Paul was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Cauliflower Alley Club.
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.
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.”
Greg Valentine (Greg Gable)
Way back in the 1960s we wrestling fans bought three month old American wrestling magazines where we read of the likes of Freddie Blassie, Bruno Sammartino and Greg Valentine.
Promoter Max Crabtree made use of the latter's name when his son Steve, having already been billed as Greg Gable, turned into Greg Valentine. Greg worked around the country in the 1980s and 1990s, often seem as tag partner of his famous uncle, Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree.
Tall, slim, blond haired, and agile Greg was popular with female fans. Greg did have the physique, looks and skill to have established himself in an earlier era even without the family credentials.
But any of us expecting to see Greg the Hammer would have been bitterly disappointed.
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.
Another of the Crabtree clan and son of Max Crabtree. Spencer Crabtree joined brother Greg in the wrestling world and, unsurprisingly found himself a frequent tag partner of uncle Shirley, the Big Daddy.