British wrestling history 

W: Walton - Wasburg


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Steve Walton
1970s wrestler fpr independent promoters Steve Walton achieved international recognition as one of the best, but it was not in the world of wrestling. For forty years, until his premature death, Steve was a world renowned  animal trainer, specialising in Dolphins, yet also working with other creatures such as whales, sea lions bears and chimpanzees. Indeed it was an unfortunate incident with a chimpanzee in frilly knickers that brought Steve to national attention in December, 1972, when the Daily Mirror reported that Molly had escaped and made uninvited visits to houses in Stanley View, Leeds.

Steve’s interest in animals was connected  to his wrestling activities. Steve was employed as the  dolphin trainer at Don Robinson’s Marineland in Scarborough. One of Robinson’s many business interests was as a major independent wrestling promoter in the 1960s and 1970s.  Forty years later Steve described himself then, and still, as part of the Don Robinson family, as his friendship with Robinson and colleagues endured for decades.

Although soccer was his first sporting love, he had a trial for Leeds United, Steve developed an interest in wrestling whilst working for Robinson in the company of wrestlers Klondyke Bill and Toma Hansom.   Steve trained  with them and eventually became  a part time wrestler on 1970s independent shows, mainly working for Don Robinson. He was certainly handily placed to fill the place of a missing wrestler on a Robinson show.

From Scarborough Steve moved as head trainer of dolphins at Windsor Safari Park and yet this was only the start of his incredible story. Following work in many animal parks Steve worked self employed as an animal adviser, travelling the world and setting up animal health and breeding programmes.

Wherever he travelled Steve always returned home to Scarborough where he remained in touch with, and supported,  Toma Hansom (until his death), Don Robinson, and the other north east lads. Until the outbreak of Covid 19 earlier this year  he was still travelling the world sharing his internationally acclaimed knowledge of marine wildlife.

Steve Walton died 13th December, 2020, aged 66.

Jim Wango (Also known as The Black Devil)
The original Black Devil was the French based Congolese heavyweight, Jim Wango, brought to Britain in the early 1930s by promoter Atholl Oakeley. 

The 6'5” heavyweight French based Congolese was a sensation when he was brought to Britain by promoter Atholl Oakeley.He would bound over the top rope and mesmerise opponents with his bulging eyes. An immensely colourful attraction but it was all to end in tragedy. 

Following Wango's death the name Black Devil continued to be used by a wrestler of West Indies descent, Dave Smith, who lived in Dewsbury.  Like his predecessor Dave Smith was an extrovert character with one report, whilst in the process of defeating the Japanese wrestler Yoshoko, declaring the Black Devil "...screamed and ran around the ring  as if he had been stung by a swarm of bees."

We will tell no more of the Wango story here, but direct you to our extended tribute “Wrestling's First Martyr.”

Read our extended tribute  on www.wrestlingheritage.com in 1930-1945 Pioneers  - The First Martyr of Wrestling?

Otto Wanz
The giant Austrian Otto Wanz  weighed in around the 25 stones mark, Born in 1943 his first sporting love was boxing, and he had a nationally successful amateur boxing career. 

He turned professional around 1970, establishing himself in European rings. He is mostly remembered by British fans for his epic clash with Ray Steele in the 1984 Royal Albert Hall Spectacular, when he successfully defended his CWA championship against the Yorkshireman.   Otto subsequently gained international acclaim in North America, the Far East and Europe, winning the AWA World heavyweight championship. He later returned to Britain to work for promoter Orig Williams. Following retirement Otto settled back in his native country, Austria, promoting, acting and  organising strong men competitions. 

Johnny War Eagle
American Indian who visited Britain in 1974 to 1975 and gained victory in his sole Royal Albert Hall appearance over Johnny Yearsley. 

Bearing a remarkable physical similarity to the more renowned Mohawk Billy Two Rivers, War Eagle was a harder hitting no-nonsense wrestler and we witnessed his humourless style in an angry televised clash with Johnny Czeslaw as well as live.  In fact War Eagle had tagged with Two Rivers in North America in 1970.

Another North American tag partner familiar to British fans was Billy White Wolf . If that's not enough add Linda, the wife of Adrian Street, who was Johnny's partner in a mixed tag pairing when whe wrestled as Blackfoot Sioux.

In view of his name, hardly going down as one of the all time greats, we have to classify him as grossly under-rated - and possibly under-promoted due to the exaggerated nostalgic reverence the promoters had for Two Rivers' initial impact.  

A hard-hitting 16 stoner in the Jon Cortez and Albert Wall school of very realistic fighters. When back in the USA he drew with big name champions Dory Funk, Eduardo Carpentier and Gene Kiniski before going on to take the North American tag titles alongside Billy Two Rivers.

Buddy Ward
The first time we saw Buddy Ward in action he struck us as a bit of a hard nut. We weren't wrong. An unsurprising assessment to those who saw the shaven headed whirlwind in action, but a little more surprising when we tell you he was facing Bob Sherry, one of the hardest men in the game. Liverpool born Buddy turned professional in 1959, and never went out of his way to make friends in the ring. Not the most scientific of wrestlers he was, nonetheless, a man with some skill who could hold his own with anyone in the ring. Some early bouts saw him billed as Woody Ward (reference to his family name of Woodward) and in the early sixties a frequent opponent was a young "German" who went on to become Steve Viedor, also from Ellesmere Port, the town that Buddy adopted. During the 1960s  Buddy worked  mainly in the opposition halls, but also made some appearances for Joint Promotions, and was a frequent traveller to the continent and Australia. In recent years he worked with Bob and Jean Bell, organising the Ellesmere Port Wrestlers Reunion. In April, 2010, Buddy surprised the wrestling fans when he came out of retirement, aged 75, to wrestle Johnny Saint in his local hall. A swift ending failed to subdue Buddy, phoning us the next day to tell us he was satisfied to have made the fans happy. No doubt just another of life's experiences that will add to Buddy's latest career change, that of after dinner speaker.

Buddy Ward died in June 2015, he was 81. One Heritage member was at the funeral and reported: “Buddy's big day was as good as he would have wanted it to be, great stories, loads of old Ellesmere Port Wrestlers that some I have not seen in 20 odd years.. A lot of the guys were saying how much they liked what you did for him on the site and contact info to your website on the huge photo board of his life starting when he was very young and definitely better looking, through his army days, early wrestling, heydays and some just 3 days before he left us. I was amazed at the numerous messages from wrestlers old and new thanking him for the help and encouragement he had shown right up to his passing. All in all as nice as those things can be and I am sure he will remain firmly in the folklore of British Wrestling for a long time to come.”
Jock Ward 
The dark, wavy haired heavyweight was a post war protege of Athol Oakeley. He wrestled Ed Bright in 1952 for Oakeley's version of the British Heavyweight Title  at the Royal Albert Hall and faced  Tiger Joe Robinson at Harringay in another high profile match.   Other memorable opponents included Bert Mansfield, Al Hayes and Gerry Hoggarth.  It was against Hoggarth, at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1953, that Jock finally dropped his British heavyweight championship. Many of Jock's contests were for promoter Atholl Oakeley who, following the end of the second world war, strived to revive the all-in style of wrestling he had introduced to Britain in 1930, which included a twenty count for a knock-out.

Max Ward

The iconic Max Ward brought a touch of American style razamatazz as the referee wearing his trademark striped shirt. In 2012 Wrestling Heritage named him the Number 1 Wrestling Official of the Heritage for refereeing duties in which he remained unobtrusive, allowed the wrestlers retain centre stage whilst also enhancing the overall performance.

Yet Max Ward ‘s contribution to wrestling went back much further. Before his unmistakable refereeing style was unleashed on the unsuspecting public by promoter Paul Lincoln Max Ward was a heavyweight wrestler working throughout Britain and travelling to Sweden, Germany and France. We can trace him back to wrestling in 1943 whilst he was serving in the R.A.F. and reported in November by the Hull Daily Mail to have beaten Manuel Trudeau by two faills to one at Madeley Street Baths. By then he was in his early twenties, having been born in Bristol on 23rd July, 1920

A 1950s resident of Halesowen, seven miles from Birmingham on the edge of the industrial heartland Max had the geographical legitimacy for his billing as Midlands Heavyweight Champion, but we have yet to find any reference to any championship matches.

Max continued wrestling until the early 1960s, mainly for Paul Lincoln, one of the main independent promoters. In the early 1960s the bumps were beginning to take their toll on Max's body and he turned referee for Paul Lincoln Management, a role at which he excelled. From time to time Max would be called back to wrestling duties to settle a score with a wrestling villain. In 1963, by which time he was a regular Lincoln referee he said, in Birmingham’s Sports Argus, that he was challenging Dr Death, “I have stood enough of foreign wrestlers coming to Birmingham and taking liberties with me …. I will show how an old-timer deals with masked Americans.” Fans still enjoyed Max back in the ring in the 1970s for a series of referee versus wrestler matches, in which he faced Cyanide Sid Cooper.

Wrestling enthusiast Ballymoss told us: “When Max worked for Paul Lincoln I believe it was part of the show for him to become fully involved and he filled this role brilliantly, particularly when involved with some one like Docker Don Stedman. If he had disqualifed Don or some other top notch heel he often wrote down their name on a notepad and informed them in grave tones that they would be reported to the British Wrestling Federation - hilarious stuff; action which could see the disqalified wrestler demand a re-match, a much needed ingredient with the paucity of wrestlers in the Paul Lincoln stable.”

With the 1966 merger of Paul Lincoln Management and Dale Martin Promotions Max became a popular tv referee and, around 1967 or 1968, became one of the regular referees at the Royal Albert Hall.

Max Ward died in 2002, aged 83, and just two weeks after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Wrestlers Reunion.

Ralph Ward
1960s lightweight working for independent promoters mostly around Lincolnshire. Trained by Leicestershire based Jack Taylor. Opponents included Dave Shade, Pete Lapaque and Hurricane Smith.

Sharky Ward
The big, bruising Australian Sharky Ward made his way into British rings during the winter of 1980 - 81. He faced an odd assortment of opponents ranging from Jeff Kaye to Wayne Bridges, losing to the kent wrestler in a World Heavyweight Title eliminator at the Royal Albert Hall in October, 1980.  Sharky was Australian Phil Ward who used a variety of names in Australia, USA, New Zealand and  Japan. In New Zealand he was appointed coach of the national sumo wrestling team.

The Warlord (Also known as Tony Taylor)
1970s wrestler for independent promoters that frequently worked for Jackie Pallo. The Warlord was Tony Taylor of Brighton, trained by Bert Assirati alongside his brother Alec, Terry Cristel  and Ray Luxford.

Bill Warner
Chatham's Bill Warner survived a world war two prisoner of war camp and an 800 mile trek through Germany to take his place in British wrestling rings as a light heavyweight in the post war revival.

Born in Chatham on 15th December, 1918,  Bill  Warner became  interested in wrestling and joined the Luton Amateur Wrestling Club when he was sixteen years old.  At the outbreak of war Bill was working as  a bricklayer and enlisted with the Royal West Kents as soon as the conflict began. In 1940 he  was captured by the Germans. He endured the prisoner of war camp for five years, weighing just seven stones  when the camp was liberated, a story re-told many years later on BBC Radio Kent. On his return to the United Kingdom Bill pursued his career as a professional wrestler. Our last recorded match/ We have found him wrestling from 1947 onwards, opponents including Sonny Wallis, Charlie Fisher and Jack Beaumont. Our last sighting of Bill was in 1951. His interest in wrestling continued,  opening a gymnasium in Gillingham, with Alan Kitto and Tony Bates amongst his proteges. Bill Warner died in May, 2001, aged 82.

Earl Warwick (Also known as Tony Royal)
Tom Gaddas was born in Stockton on Tees in 1933. A carpenter by trade the man with the brown curly hair was known to the wrestling fans of northern England as Earl Warwick and Tony Royal. Trained by Jim Stockdale at his gymnasium in Stockton. He and his wife, Audrey, are the parents of actor James Gaddas.

Eric Wasburg
Franco-Finnish wrestler visited Britain in 1957 and 1959, working for Joint Promotions, mainly in the midlands and north of England. First rate opponents included Bob Archer O'Brien,  Ken Joyce and John Foley. He did venture south, in February 1959, to face Cliff Belshaw at the Royal Albert Hall. He returned twice more, in 1961 and 1962, this time working for Dale Martin Promotions in the south of England.

Bert Split Waterman
Bert Waterman is included more for what we don’t know than what we do. The name was raised years ago in wrestling forums with the name being linked with speedway star Split Waterman, raising the question of whether they were one and the same. We were able to dispel the myth. We found the name Split Waterman on a bill for the first time in January, 1959, working for Black Butcher Johnson at Walsall Town Hall. There were many appearances for various independent promoters for the following six years, our last sighting of Bert being in August 1965 against Jon Cortez. Other opponents included Bobby Barnes, Zoltan Boscik, Leon Fortuna and Reg Trood. 

Trouble arose in January, 1961. Frankie Price advertised Split at the Baths Hall. Ilford as an “ex speedway star.” Newspapers reported hundreds of disappointed speedway fans who had made a special journey expecting to see their speedway hero. Speedy Split took out a writ alleging misrepresentation. Wrestler Bert said that he had been known as Split for around five years and never claimed to be a speedway rider. Any negative impact on his wrestling career was limited as the name remained on the posters (minus any speedway reference) until the mid 1960s.

25/04/2021 Bert Split Waterman added

29/06/2020 rRevision of Max Ward entry

28/05/2020 Minor revision to Bill Warner entry

7/6/2019: Addition of The Warlord