W: Wolfe - Woods

Wrestling Heritage A - Z

Emile Wolfe

We saw Emile Wolfe a couple of times on independent shows around 1968 or 1969, a clean but unexciting middleweight if memory serves us correctly. That was our only experience of Emile and so we were more than a little surprised when he cropped up in The Who's Who of Wrestling a year or two later. We have since learned that he did work for a short time for Joint Promotions and then vanished. We were told that Emile was Yugoslavian born but had learned to wrestle in Australia. Whether it's true we don't know but Wrestling Heritage members John and Margaret knew Emile and told us he met a nice girl from Widnes who he married. 

Nonga Womba
Wrestling was never short of colourful characters with equally colourful names. Well Nonga Womba, “The Zulu Warrior” takes a bit of beating in that department. He visited Britain in February, 1954 and we have uncovered a handful of matches. Real life couldn’t quite match wrestling but Nonga Womba’s real name almost equalled his wrestling persona. Born in British Guyana his name was Henwood Adrian. His wrestling activities were merely a means to an end as Henwood was an artist, using wrestling to support his pursuit of art.  He claimed to have encountered Norman Morrell by chance in Paris, resulting in Morrell inviting him to Britain where he lodged in Bradford. Opponents included Emile Poilve, Len Britton and Robert McDonald.

Alan Wood

Without question Alan Wood was one of the most under rated wrestlers of the Mountevans era. A product of the Riley gymnasium, and cousin of Snakepit torchbearer Roy Wood, here was one of the best welterweights of the 1960s. Brightly coloured wrestling trunks and a striped dressing gown were the closest the Coppull wrestler came to gimmickry.  A professional debut on the Isle of Man against Dennis Rothwell led to a career in which he outwrestled the best and gained little of the credit. Either the politics of the professional wrestling business, or just a travesty of justice, saw him fail to win the British welterweight championship vacated by Jack Dempsey, or at any other time. Lack of recognition led to Alan leaving Joint Promotions  and setting up his own promotional business (C&A) in the early 1970s, though he did return to Joint Promotins towards the end of his career.

Billy Wood

Lightweight silver medallist in the 1908 Olympic Games and amateur British middleweight champion in 1909. We have not established the link but he may have been the same Billy Wood who went on to the professional rings of 1930s, and wrote the foreword of “Wrestling: Catch-As-Catch-Can, Cumberland & Westmorland, & All-In Styles” in 1934. The book does cite Billy wrestling in Argentina in 1911 and France in 1913 Billy was certainly wrestling professionally as early as 1932, and was billed then as ex middleweight champion of the world. A man of some substance weighing just 13 ½ stones Billy took part in an elimination tournament for the British heavyweight championship, going out to Len Franklin in the semi final of the tournament (15 August 1932). In the 1950s when he must have been in his seventies, Billy was still involved in wrestling, running a fairground boxing and wresting booth.

Ken Wood

Stoke on trent wrestler who trained at the gymnasium at theBlack Boy Public House in Cobridge , Stoke on trent,  alongside Jim Mellor, Jack santos and George Goldie.. Second opponent of, and victor over,  Jeff Conda (later Count Bartelli).

Roy Wood

Wigan's Roy Wood has a unique place in Britain's wrestling heritage, as both one of the great shooters, a respected professional and one of the most influential of amateurs. As a teenager Roy started to learn the art of wrestling at Billy Riley's gym, and learn he certainly did. It was 1961 when he entered Riley's for the first time and began to learn  alongside Billy Robinson, Billy Joyce, Jack Dempsey, Bob Sherry and Ernie Riley.  Not much more than a year later Roy turned professional, and in the years that followed gained success both in solo matches and as partner to Johnny Eagles in The White Eagles tag team.  Over the years Roy began taking more of a training role at Riley's gym, with all of the seventies Riley based men benefiting from his knowledge. When the Riley gum in Whelley was beyond repair Roy and a friend, Tommy Heyes, literally re-built the place. In the 1980s they moved the gym to Aspull, where it is still based.  Roy has devoted his time to passing on the Riley skills , and travels regularly to Japan teaching submission style wrestling to young Japanese professionals. Roy was Team Manager for the England Youth Wrestling Team that participated in the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in India.

Tiger Woods

Tiger (Freddie) Woods is one of those fondly remembered names of the post war years, though those with memories of this middleweight since the 1940s remember him only towards the end of his career, and in the 1960s as a referee in the Manchester clubs


Eddie Rose remembers the Manchester wrestler as "Chunky and bald and, outside the ring, wore a black leather trilby hat. What a source of jokes and stories, gags and memories he was. He kept the changing rooms in uproar in between bouts and it didn't do to catch his mischievous eye in the ring becasuse he always sparked off at least a smile if not a fit of the giggles. Tiger's "dizzy act"  was a comedy classic on a par with Kellett or Critchley. He knew every little trick in the book and could milk a situation for a whole round if he felt like it. One of the best... "  

Wrestler Mark Hudson also recalled fond memories of the original Tiger Woods, " I was wrestling at Manchester YMCA when 'spotted' by Arthur Wright of Wryton Promotions. This was early 1953.  My trainer was Tiger Woods.  We spent many hours together in and out of the ring. In fact my first bout was with him at the Tower, New Brighton. I was scared stiff but he saw me through and made me look good!"

Another ex wrestler, Al Tarzo, told us,"I only had the privilege of seeing Tiger work once when we were on the same bill at Atherstone. "What a showman. I have never seen a man that could get tangled in the ropes so easily and often. He had the crowd in hysterics. The ref was still trying to get him out of the rope when the bell for the next round sounded. Tiger Woods had the edge over Les Kellet in my book."

Page revised 26/10/2019: Addition of Nonga Womba