W: Watson - Weston

Wrestling Heritage A - Z

Whipper Billy Watson

Many fans of the 1960s will remember reading of the exploits of Whipper Watson in those American magazines that arrived in our shops weeks after their publication. He was  another of those larger than life characters that existed in the same distant world as other greats such as Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Freddie Blassie and Gene Kiniski. Most of us were probably ignorant of the fact that this American superstar had spent his formative professional wrestling years learning his trade in the All-In rings of Great Britain. 

Canadian by birth as William Potts, born in Toronto, he was brought to Britain in July 1936 by Harry Joyce (father of Doug and Ken), and during his first week faced Tony Baer, Tony Mancelli and Al Korman. His specialism Irish Whip move quickly led to Billy Watson becoming Whipper Watson. Billy wrestled his way around Britain for four years until shortly after war was declared in September, 1939. He returned to Canada to become one of North America's most popular wrestlers and National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion. Whipper Watson retired in 1971, and died at his home in Florida on 4th February, 1990.

Billy Watson Jr
Nearly forty years after his famous wrestling dad, Whipper Billy Watson, had toured Britain, twenty one year old Billy Watson Jr came to Britain during the winter of 1970-71. Billy Jr was born Phil Potts, but the family had long ago changed legally changed their name to Watson. 

He was much lighter than his father, barely a middleweight, facing newcomers such as Steve Young and  Tony St Clair as well as more experienced opponents that included Jackie Pallo and Colin Joynson. Tagged with fellow Canadian Red Pollard who visited Britain around the same time.  His tour ended suddenly at the end of January, resulting in his planned main event contest against Mick McManus at the Royal Albert Hall being cancelled.

Digger Watson

At a claimed 6’5” tall and 19 stones Digger Bill Watson was the Australian Goliath. Apart from other times when he was Herbert Watson the miner at Ormonde Colliery in Heanor, Derbyshire. For such a small town, the population is still under 20,000 Heanor certainly boasted a rich wrestling history, largely due to the efforts of Jack Taylor and Ron Moore.

Although Herbert showed an interest and promise in boxing it was wrestler and promoter Jack Taylor that encouraged him to take up wrestling,training him at his wrestling school at Heanor Football Ground. Taylor created the persona of Big Bill, or more often Digger Bill, Watson. Unsurprising for a man of his stature Digger was a rough, bruiser of a wrestler, nothing too technical, and an expert at arousing the wrath of the paying public.

He turned professional in 1959, twenty-one years old at the time, and we first discovered him working for Jack Taylor at the Granby Halls, Leicester, in October 1959. In the years that followed Digger worked mostly in the midlands with quality opponents that included Prince Kumali, Bruno Elrington, Don Mendoza, Shirley Crabtree and Black Butcher Johnson.

Digger disappeared from our radar in 1964. We don’t know why. He died on 1st June, 2015, aged 77.

Leo Wax
Leo Wax was an Australian boxer with around 130 professional fights to his credit, having boxed in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Denmark and Sweden before arriving in Britain as a boxer in 1929. It clearly suited him because he stayed here. With 67 boxing matches in Britain alone he was a well known name to British wrestling fans. As he neared his thirtieth birthday and wresting booming in Britain Leo became interested in the sport and by 1934 was mostly familiar to wrestling fans, with Jack Dale and Mario Magisti regular opponents. Along with more famous wrestling personalities Jack Pye, Bob Gregory, and King Curtis he appeared in the 1936 film "All In. After finishing with wrestling we have been told Leo managed a night club in London. In 1938, fourteen years after leaving his home in New South Wales, Leo returned for one last boxing match. One match too far as he was knocked out in the first round by  Jack Wilson. Following the Second World War Leo settled in Sweden.

Mark Wayne
Present day fans simply could not believe what it was like back in the 1960s and 1970s. In Greater Manchester alone there could be as many as half a dozen shows taking place on the same night, wrestlers often jumping in a car to work on two or three shows a night. 

Not all shows were in the big venues like Belle Vue, the Free Trades Hall and the Houldsworth Hall, but in just about every working man's club, social club, even school hall. 

One of those busy, and popular wrestlers from those days was young Mark Wayne of Eccles, a trainee from the Hollywood AWC and contemporary of Eddie Rose,Pete Lindbergh,  Ian Wilson and Bob Francini. 

When the Hollywood Club closed down Mark's career almost came to a premature end, until he was taken on by Jack Atherton for training at the Wryton Stadium.  The Sunday morning sessions at Wryton Stadium, with old timers like Alf Cadman showing him the ropes  led a progression from the independent halls to Joint Promotions in the summer of 1969, and regular work from Jack Atherton and Best Wryton Promotions. 

Mark was a very popular welterweight, nicknamed Prince Charming by his colleagues. He gained a lot of work in the early 1970,s but his promising career was cut short by injuries sustained in a road accident. He left wrestling to concentrate on a singing career on the club circuit.  

Dave Webb
Another of those skilful workers who were enjoyed in the independent rings of the 1960s and 1970s yet never hit the national limelight. Dave Webb was  trained by Stockton’s Jimmy Devlin. Away from the ring he was a mechanic at his own garage in Sedgefield.
Arpi Weber
Arpi Weber (known elsewhere as Arpad Weber) made just the one visit to Britain, for four weeks in January and February, 1971. He accompanied the already familiar Josef Molnar as one half of the Hungarian Horsemen tag team, debuting and  defeating the Black Diamonds at the Royal Albert Hall on 20th January. On television Weber drew with both Tony Charles and Barry Douglas, the latter result suggesting the promoters were willing to give little away to the  Budapest born heavyweight.  It was a pretty unspectacular tour, with Arpi not facing the highest rated wrestlers and  losing to capable but much  lighter men that included Ian Gilmoure and Ted Heath.  Arpi wrestled in Europe, Mexico, the Unted States and Japan. Following his retirement he promoted in Germany and later, Hungary.

Born on 9th September, 1942, Arpi Weber died of a heart attack on 2nd August, 2010.

Gil Wehrle
French wrestler Gil Wehrle visited the United Kingdom in April 1971 to face, and lose to, Tony Charles at the Royal Albert Hall.

Colin Welford
Fast and clever 1970s Tyneside wrestler working for the independent promoters in his trademark white gown and trunks. Wrestled with Ken Williams as The Vulcans. tag team.

Roger Wells

Bronco Roger Wells was a rowdy rough guy who was one of the great baddies of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Trained with his friend Bruno Elrington, for whom he was driver in the late 1960s, and started appearing on bills for independent promoters in the early 1960s. By the mid 1970s he was a regular worker for Joint Promotions, mostly Dale Martin Promotions, travelling throughout southern England to raise the ire of the fans. Although never a main eventer in his own right Roger met all the big names on the southern circuit, Bruno, Tibor, Kumali and the like.  Promoters told us that he weighed 21 stones 7 pounds, but we reckon this was on the generous side. For a time Roger tagged with Big Bruno, though we perceive the  peak of his career being chosen as the television opponent of the recently unmasked Kendo Nagasaki.  It had been as the opponent of another former masked man, Count Bartelli, that Roger had come to the nations attention two years earlier when he made his television debut in November, 1976. Other tv opponents included Lee Bronson and  Ed Wensor, but by November, 1978, had reached the ignominious fate shared by so many others, canon fodder for Shirley Crabtree. Towards the end of the 1970s Roger took to refereeing, though continued wrestling until around 1982, returning to the independent promoters for the last couple of years. A regular and welcome addition to any bill Roger lacked the height to be considered a serious super heavyweight. 

Jack Wentworth

Claimed by Canadians as one of their own and one of their great wrestling legends Jack Wentworth was as Lancashire as pies, puddings and Uncle Joe's Mintballs. He was born in Lancashire in 1907 but did move to Ontario, Canada in 1910, leaving Liverpool on 24th June on The Virginian.  When it came to wrestling though, Jack was back on the boat to England and established himself as one of our Top Wrestlers of the 1930s. Shortly after making his professional debut in Canada he worked his way to Southampton and remained in Britain for most of the decade.

He quickly dropped his family name of Alfred Hodgson and took the name Jack Wentworth, Wentworth being his home county back in Canada.He travelled throughout the country, meeting the biggest names in the business - Iron Duke, Jack Pye and King Curtis amongst them. He was only 5 feet eight inches tall and weighed around thirteen stones, but Jack was a solid and powerful wrestler, with great stamina from swimming and football. Once he was established in Britain Jack was joined by his wife and two children. In 1937 he travelled to South Africa, where he stayed for two years, filling out to a powerful sixteen stone heavyweight. In 1939 with war approaching he returned to England and resumed wrestling until 1940 when he returned to Canada.

Jack returned to Britain, with a group of his protégés that included his son Robert, in 1954 and again in 1958.  In 1958 he opened a wrestling gymnasium in Hamilton, Ontario, one of his many proteges being Ivan Koloff. The passenger list of the 1954 state his occupation as wrestler, whilst by 1958  it had changed to gum instructor.

Jack Wentworth passed away in 1984, aged 77.

Alex Wenzl

German mid heavyweight visited Britain in 1953 and made a number of further visits during the 1950s. Was knocked out by Al Hayes at the Royal Albert Hall, and lost to Dennis Mitchell in the 1956 Royal Albert Hall heavyweight tournament. Reward came his way with a defeat of  Alf Cadman on television.

Mick West

A clean and skilled lightweight of the 1970s with  hair to die for, humungus sideburns and heavily tattooed arms. Those are our memories of the popular Chatham lghtweight Mick West. In later years he moved up to middleweight, but then that's the fate of most of us. Sad to say we can offer little more, but if anyone has memories or information to please get in touch.

Sid Weston

Yes there was wrestling life in the 1920s, and Heritage member Ron Historyo discovered it. Whilst just about every other wrestling source states there was no wrestling in Britain between 1910 and 1930 Ron has disproved this opinion on numerous occasions, and none more forcibly than in the case of Sid Weston. 

Sid came from Chesterfield and Ron told us that on 17th July, 1922, Sid Weston wrestled Joe Sheppard (known as Johanfesson)  at the Chesterfield Hippodrome in a Catch-as-Catch-Can contest. Weston (billed as British Heavyweight Champion) outweighed Sheppard by four stones. Weston took the only fall after 53 minutes,  but as the challenge was for the heavier man to throw the local man three times, Sheppard was declared the winner after one hour.

Ron uncovered another match between the two men in 1924, with Sheppard again declared the winner.

Consequently Sid Weston was well placed to benefit from the 1930s wrestling boom, which he did billed as “The Perfect Man” on account of his wonderful physique or “Pitman's Champion,” suggesting a mining heritage. He faced the best of them all, Billy Riley, Henry Irslinger, Mitchell Gill and Douglas Clark.

Page revised 26/10/2019: Addition of Dave Webb