W: WALL - WALSH
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
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.
One of wrestling’s tragedies surrounds London’s Sonny Wallis. Born Sydney Arthur Wallis he was a fine wrestler and one of the heroes who struggled to successfully revive professional wrestling after the second world war. A keen sportsman from an early age Sonny's first love was swimming, and he was an early member of London's Penguin Swimming Club, formed in 1921. Wrestling was another love and destined to become one of the top light heavyweights of his generation Wallis served an amateur apprenticeship of five years at the Acton and Chiswick Athletic Club before entering the ranks of professional wrestler in the early 1930s, making his debut against Bob Gregory at the London Club run by Harold Lane.
A very skilful wrestler, as illustrated in this report from the Daily Worker on 7th February, 1936: “By far the best bout of the evening was between Bob Gardner, Scotland, and that clever wrestler Sonny Wallace, Hammersmith. Good, clean, clever wrestling as served up by these men received full appreciation of a large audience, which proves there is no necessity for unfair tactics to enhance the games popularity.”
Wrestling appearances were curtailed during the war but when peace resumed Sonny appeared on BBC television in 1946, soon after the station re-commenced transmissions following the end of the war, in a wrestling exhibition with Canadian Ed Barker.
Calm and confident were words associated with Sonny's style as he meticulously outwitted his opponents. Here was a man who could hold his own with the hard men of the ring such as Arthur Beaumont, Jim Foy, Jack Atherton and anyone else the promoters matched with him. Sonny's reward came in July, 1950, when his defeat of Charlie Fisher led to recognition as British light heavyweight champion.
For around a year he was widely acknowledged as British Light Heavyweight champion; for many more years he was known as one of the best men at his weight. The wrestling world was shocked when they heard of the death of Sonny Wallis, through injuries received in a car crash on 11th December, 1956.
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."
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 European 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'."