Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Kurt Zehe was a giant of a man, the original Gargantua of the ring who began wrestling in the mid 1930s. Born in 1913 in the then German city of Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad) he was brought to the United Kingdom in 1952 by Atholl Oakeley in the promoter’s continuing attempt to revive the all-in style, and his business, following the Second World War.
The year before his visit Zehe had lost to former World heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera in Frankfurt.
That Zehe ever made his return into the wrestling ring in the 1940s was something of an achievement. Imprisoned by the Russian Army towards the end of the Second World War he came close to starvation. On release he worked in a slaughterhouse, built up his strength and weight, and resumed his wrestling career.
Posters claimed Zehe towered eight feet four inches above his opponents and weighed 50 stones. That may have been something of an exaggeration, Oakeley wasn’t known for modesty, but the boy was certainly big. and reputed to have stood at 7 feet 2 inches.
A huge amount of national publicity led up to Zehe’s 1952 contest against former champion boxer Jack Doyle. When the German arrived in London photos of Zehe lifting Doreen Oakeley, wife of Atholl, were published not just in Britain but in newspapers around the world. After all the advanced publicity the bout inevitably proved a huge anti climax and it did nothing for the reputation of Oakeley or the all-in style.
Zehe found more capable heavyweights like Bert Assirati, and tall ones like Primo Carnera, a tougher proposition.
Nevertheless, whatever the size of the opponent Zehe's stature made it very difficult for promoters to find convincing opponents - see him in the photo above towering over one of our big heavyweights, Strangler Ed Bright, in their 1952 encounter at the Royal Albert Hall.
Zehe’s appearance made him sought after to make numerous small part appearances in a dozen or so films.
Here was another of those 18 stone brutes who delighted fans around the world when their clean cut local hero made the inevitable return from the seeming dead following a terrible beating. The Vulgar Bulgar, as we called him, was a globetrotting heavyweight who worked throughout Europe and other parts of the world including Australia and New Zealand. Wherever he travelled he made a big impression as something of a wild man, and made a big impression in the German tournaments of the early 1950s.
The bushy haired Bulgarian globe-trotting heavyweight came to Britain in 1958 with cracking contests against big names such as Norman Walsh, Count Bartelli, The Mask and Jack Pye. He was destined to return in the early sixties, this time working for the top independent promoter Paul Lincoln, always on the lookout for overseas talent to complement his home grown talent.
Honey Boy Zimba (Nigel the Warrior)
The Ebony Hercules from Freetown, Sierra Leone, started out wrestling as Nigel the Warrior in the early sixties before taking on his more mellifluous monicker. The distinctive features, the muscles on top of muscles, the colourful persona, the red and white beads around his neck, combined to make Honey Boy Zimba one of the most popular heavyweights of the sixties and seventies. At 15 stone 7 pounds but only 5'7", Manchester-based Honey Boy was ideally placed to take on middleweights and up, and regularly faced Giant Haystacks. Many anecdotes related to other wrestlers seem to end up "... and so we all went off late night drinking with Honey Boy Zimba." Went in for the tiniest of war dances but could deliver a whole array of aerial moves, including all manner of head butts, the tail drop and the plank. One of the most animated of heavy breathers in the Czeslaw mould, and frequently seen in tag action: as a founder of the Black Knights with Ezzard Hart; then alongside Masambula, Lenny Hurst as well as a memorable World of Sport bout with Butcher Bond against Haystacks and John Quinn; and even in action with Charlie Fisher. Honey Boy was a colourful and popular addition to the British wrestling scene, who sadly passed away at too early an age in 1999.
We have on record a handful of appearances in 1950 and 1951 by this heavyweight, all of them in the midlands. Opponents included Count Bartelli, Jim Hussey, Larry Laycock, and Hassan Ali Bey, all top of the bill bouts. We would welcome further information.
See the entry for Zoltan Boscik
Jake “Dutch” Zorra
The North American heavyweight of German descent made a couple of visits to Britain in 1954 and again in the early sixties. He was a rough an tough out and out villain who engaged in a series of bouts with the popular Georges Gordienko. He was a big man, tipping the scales at over 18 stones. An unenviable matching against Josef Zaranoff at the Royal Albert Hall ended in an almost inevitable disqualification.
Jake Dutch Zorra visited Britain in 1954 and again in the early sixties. He was a rough and tough out and out villain who engaged in a series of bouts with the popular Georges Gordienko. He was a big man, tipping the scales at over 18 stones. An unenviable matching against Josef Zaranoff at the Royal Albert Hall ended in an almost inevitable disqualification.
Heritage member Graeme Cameron supplies the background information
Jake "Dutch" Zorra was in reality Jacob Grobbe, born and raised in Leiden, Netherlands. He emigrated to America after World War II by illegal means and became a body builder, which led him into wrestling. He spent 1955-56, living in Australia when his transgression was exposed by an irate wife. (yes, really).
I've dubbed him the "globe-trotting chameleon". He worked all over the world, seemingly adopting a new name or identity in each place. In the UK, you knew him as Jake "Dutch" Zorra. In Australia and New Zealand, he was The Great Zorro. In Japan, he was Dr X.. In all, he used 23 names and identities during his career (I'm not kidding), many of them featuring the name Zorro (Spanish for fox), the Dutch equivalent, Zorra or combining them with his real name. At the end of his career, he even portrayed a Brit. as manager/wrestler Sir Charles Montague in Texas. His greatest success, was as "German" villain Hans "The Great" Mortier in 1963-4 in the WWWF where he challenged Bruno Sammartino for that world title a number of times, including some main events in Madison Square Garden
Jacob Grobbe died on 19 December, 2010, age 84, after a battle with cancer of the mouth.
See the entry for Ezra Francis
See the entry for George Burgess
1970s masked heavyweight who made little impact. Believed to be Brian Hunt under the mask.
See the entry for Andreas Svajik.