WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

W: Waddington - Walsh

 

Wrestling Heritage A-Z


Keith Waddington

Keith Waddington was something of a surprise inclusion in the The Who's Who of Wrestling, because he was by no means a household name of the 1960s or 1970s. We do know that he was respected by those who knew him and those that wrestled him, and that he was trained at Bradford's Hilltop Club and Relwyskow's Leeds Gymnasium, so his credentials were first class.


We were told that Keith disliked travelling far from home, and therein probably lies the reason for his low profile and premature disappearance from the wrestling circuit – Relwyskow and Green demanded from their workers a willingness to travel to their Scottish venues. We later learned that Keith aversion to travelling was that he was the carer for his father, Ronald, and it was these responsibilities that prevented him fulfilling the required travelling commitments of a professional wrestler.


Keith Waddington died, aged 71, on 13th March, 2015.



Dave Wade

Birmingham born lightweight moved to the Isle of Man and learned to wrestle at the George Barnabus Club alongside Phil Barry and Bill Kennedy in the early 1970s. The lads would work weekly shows on the island during the summer months and monthly during the winter, alongside the dozen or so locally based wrestlers and imported stars such as Klondyke Bill, Orig Williams and Gordon Corbett. We are not aware of him travelling further afield.



George Wade

Bradford's George Wade will be remembered by most Wrestling Heritage readers as one of the top referees in the 1960s. Prior to that he was a wrestler in the late 1940s and early 1950s.



Syd Wakeling

A regular worker for the independent promoters, particularly Paul Lincoln in the early 1960s. Opponents include veterans like Ed Bright and Tony Zale as well as Lincoln's new kids on the block Bob Lincoln, Dave Larsen and Al Fontayne. On occasions Syd would pull on a mask and assume the identity of The White Angel.



Vladimir Waldberg

Professional wrestling is full of larger than life characters, and none more so than Vladimir Waldberg, "The Polish Eagle." Only the biggest of names, McManus, Pallo, Assirati, Bartelli and a few others have had their deaths reported in the national press, but add to that list Vladimir Waldberg whose obituary in The Guardian stated, "Unfortunately, Rondel initially did not understand that the idea in professional wrestling – even in the days when so-called "hard holds" were applied – is not to maim your opponent, and it took some harsh lessons from the British champion Bert Assirati to explain this to him."


Assirati was a frequent opponent of Waldberg in a career lasting less than ten years and interrupted by numerous encounters with the law. Waldberg, real name Norbert Friedrich Rondel, was born in Berlin in 1929. Following his mother's death it seems the nine year old boy was abandoned by his father. With the outbreak of war imminent the Jewish boy was transported to Britain, and a new life in Manchester, as part of the Kindertransport programme.


A fitness fanatic he turned professional wrestler in 1951, adopting his mother's first married name and appearing as Vladimir Waldberg, the Polish (sometimes White) Eagle.


Admittedly Rondel's infamy mainly resulted from his activities outside the ring, "an unusual variety of scrapes with the law," according to the Guardian. Found guilty of grievous bodily harm in 1959 he attempted to sue his barrister for professional negligence, claiming he had bitten off part of his victim's ear and not cut it off as claimed. In his appeal that followed Rondel was permitted time out of the court room to stand on his head and clear his thoughts. Rondel appealed to the House of Lords who ruled that a barrister could not be sued for negligence. Rondel campaigned against the decision for years until the was changed in 2002. On his release from jail Rondel became involved with property entrepreneur Peter Rachman, serving further periods in prison.


Norbert Friedrich Rondel, otherwise known as wrestler Vladimir Waldberg, died on 19 June 2009, aged 81. He was buried on 30 June at Waltham Abbey Jewish cemetery.



Ricky Waldo

Okay, we admit to never having seen Ricky Waldo in action, but we have seen the results and those disqualifications could not have been a result of misfortune or accidental. This man was even disqualified against Jim Hussey! Not that the muscular heavyweight didn't have credentials. Aslam Pahelwhan was said to rate him as one of his toughest opponents, and he was a one time challenger to Lou Thesz for the NWA World heavyweight championship (he lost!) At the Royal Albert Hall he faced Norman Walsh, and lost, another disqualification! Ricky Waldo was born in Norfolk Virginia, USA, but was based in Alberta Canada.



Woody Waldo

In the mid 1970s an energetic newcomer with a famous name hit the northern wrestling circuit. Fans knew the name Waldo, but this wasn't Ricky Waldo, this was Woody Waldo. Apart from the name there were few similarities. Woody was no heavyweight for starters, he was an energetic, tough and accomplished welterweight. He worked for northern promoters Jack Cassidy, Orig Williams, Brian Dixon, and Bobby Barron in some cracking matches with Adrian Street, Mike Jordan, Marty Jones and Jackie Pallo.


Promoter Graham Brooks recalled the night Woody arrived at the hall suffering from a previous injury but not wanting to let down the fans or the promoter, " He arrived a few minutes before bell time hardly able to move. He was in no state to wrestle two bouts with opponent Karl Mc.Grath. They were planned to be fast-moving affairs but the tenor of the bouts had to change considerably due to the state Woody was in. It was this, I think, which first pushed Woody Waldo into the position where he had to be a rulebender and it was a role which he came to relish in later years, particularly at Liverpool Stadium. A great joker and a nice guy."


Many of his memorable matches were at the legendary Liverpool Stadium, one of them a tag match in which he partnered Adrian Street against the team of Ricky Starr and Jon Cortez. Woody was an effervescent character with a good sense of fun who enlivened many an otherwise dull bout.


Harry Walker

Harry Walker was from Heywood in Lancashire, a battler from the end of the Second World War as we find a report of him beating Pat Brennan at Fleetwood in 1947. Other opponents around this time included Alan Colbeck, Jack Wentworth and Emile Poilve.  A wily character who liked to wrestle the hard way Harry could arouse emotions in the fans. Sam Betts remembers one lady fan, Clara, who would regularly poke her walking stick at Harry on his way to and from the ring. On her 90th birthday Clara was sat in her usual ringside seat and Harry walked in and presented her with a bunch of flowers. We last find Harry wrestling Terry Nyland at Edinburgh in 1964.


'Sky' Walker

He stood nearly seven feet tall and weighed 25 stones. This was at the end of the Heritage Years in 1988 when he faced Pat Roach on television. We weren't impressed. He was Canadian though. That's a big country, lovely scenery, friendly people.Members tell us he went on to become Big Sky in WCW. Powerlock told us he was better known as Tyler Mane and played Sabretooth in the X-Men. Count Von Zuppi told us " I travelled and worked with him. And he stayed a few nights in the spare room at my parents' house.." Now that's the attention to detail you expect at Heritage.



Vic Wall 

1960s Birmingham based wrestler who worked for the independent promoters. Often billed as Captain Vic Wall, sadly we know little about him. We do know he was also a referee for the independent promoters, and said to be a good one by other wrestlers because he had the talent of not seeing everything.

Al Walsh

Billed as "The tough guy from Chicago" we can't confirm his place of birth and have our doubts. Al Walsh weighed somewhere between 13 and 16 stones according to the posters. He appeared in British rings in September, 1931 and was around for much of the 1930s, our last sighting in 1937. With a reputation for speed and aggression he was a busy worker and opponents included British champion Atholl Oakeley as well as Harry Brooks, George Clark, Golden Hawke and Charlie Green. Sounds like here was a man who could look after himself. He was certainly no textbook purist and even with the fluid rules of the 1930s he was a magnet for disqualifications. In September, 1936 Al Walsh opened the Southall Sporting Club where members enjoyed boxing, wrestling, dancing and whist drives. He was still a resident of Southall in 1940 when he was a bouncer at the Locarno dance hall but no longer named as owner of the Southall Sporting Club.


Al Walsh (UK)

The name Al Walsh resurfaced between 1959 and 1961. We found just a handful of matches in the north and midlands. Opponents included Joe Critchley, Bernard Murray, Jack Cheers and Terry Downs.


Bob  Walsh
Tommy Walsh wrestled as Bob Walsh. Whatever the name he was one of the last generation of real wrestling grafters from the home of Catch as Catch Can, Wigan.He was a graduate of Wigan’s Snakepit and  one of the last Mountevans style wrestlers to quite literally rub shoulders with legends such as Bill Joyce, Jack Dempsey and Billy Riley. This trio of old masters were instrumental in training a young Bob Walsh who had turned up at the Whelley gymnasium demanding that they teach him to wrestle. Teach him they did, and Bob was one of the minority who returned time and again to learn more about his chosen sport. 

Heavyweight champion Billy Joyce took to the youngster and arranged a daily 3.45 pm rendezvous at the gym for Bob’s next  lesson in wrestling, the Wigan style. Others that had an influence were fellow Wigan masters Jack Fallon, Roy Wood, Jack Cheers and Ernie Riley. In the early days the grand master himself, Billy Riley, would sit in the corner offering advice whenever he thought it necessary, which seemed to be quite often. Joyce prepared Walsh for his professional debut, with some final preparations for the pro ring coming through Sunday morning visits to Ted Betley’s gym in Warrington for a pull-around with the likes of other youngsters, Bernie Wright and Davey Boy Smith.  Having turned professional Bob wrestled  for both Joint promotions and the independents, with opponents including Honey Boy Zimba, Sid Cooper , Bert Royal and John Naylor. It was Naylor in the opposite corner when Bob made his only television appearance, narrowly losing by the odd fall. A technician at the start Bob soon learned to mix it and a harder-edge found him often the object of fan’s abuse.  Never given the “big push” by promoters Bob remained in mostly supporting contests, though he did share the ring with big names such as Honey Boy Zimba, Bert Royal and tag with Alan Wood. 

Following a battle with cancer Tommy Walsh died in  August,2008,  Wrestler Steve Fury said, "Bob  was a very fit and strong wrestler who  trained with the very elite in Wigan. A nice man, another sad loss to the wrestling business."

Norman Walsh
Another of those wrestlers who combined their careers with farming. Middlesbrough’s Norman Walsh was a rough, tough, mid heavyweight who was a long time holder of the British mid Heavyweight title. 

Like other Northerners he had an aggressive style that fans sometimes confused with villainy, and a villain he was not. At the top of the profession for many years Norman wrestled Lou Thesz for the World Heavyweight Championship when the American visited Britain in 1957.

A car crash in 1963 put Walsh out of action for many months but he returned to establish his supremacy once again until retiring in the mid 1960s. Royal Albert Hall wins over international stars included Ricky Waldo and Felix Gregor. 

Our last recorded Joint Promotions bout for him is against the Zebra kid at Cliftonville in 1967, but he continued for a few more years on the independent circuit. Norman Walsh was landlord of  the Dog and Gun public house  at Knayton, between Northallerton and Thirsk.  

Norman influenced  many young wrestlers at the St Lukes Club in Middlesborough and his own gymnasium in Thirsk. He was a well respected member of the local community and is remembered to this day in a cricket competition for the Norman Walsh Trophy.

Bernard Hughes wrote:
"The photo  of Norman  Walsh  with a tan, white dressing gown and  the belt was taken just after he returned with the World title from South Africa. A few weeks later he was at Newcastle with the dressing gown now blue. I asked him why he changed it and he said that it had proved to be unlucky. His wife Flo, who always went with him to matches said to me - 'It got dirty too bloody quickly'." 

Page revised 26/10/2019: Addition of Harry Walker