(Jane Wade and Ken Sowden at the 2014 Reunion)
On Remembrance Sunday, the 8th November, the British Wrestlers Reunion remember all those men and women who have fought and given their lives in conflicts around the World so that we can live a peaceful life today.
Reunion President Joe D'Orazio was one of many grapplers who fought in the war. Joe spent four years in the RAF marine craft/air sea rescue unit
God bless each and every one of you and thank you .
(Joe D'Orazio, centre, during his time in the Royal Air Force)
(Steve with the GLOW Ladies of Wrestling)
(Steve at the 2019 Essex Reunion)
Stu Allen aka the Dominator has finally put pen to paper so to speak (alongside Neil Cameron) and written his autobiography 'Simply the Beast'
The book which has now been published tells the hard-hitting story of Stu Allen aka The Dominator, one of British wrestling’s most loved, and iconic, characters of the last 20 years.
If the book is anything as good as his wrestling career and his podcasts (and we are sure it is) we are sure that it will be an absolute knockout and a must read for all wrestling fans.
The British Wrestlers Reunion wish Stu and all those involved in the book all the very best with it and if you would like a signed copy it can be obtained from the following link:-
(Stu received an award at the 2019 Reunion)
(Jim Isdale and Dale Storm)
As you all know over the last few months we have brought you news on the upcoming book on the life of Chick 'Cocky' Knight and the Petition to get him a plaque on Hammersmith Bridge for his heroic actions. We were also delighted to be able to induct Chick into the British Wrestlers Reunion Hall of Fame in August and that his great nephew and author of the book Andy Scott was able to join us at The Bridges.
Andy has now updated us on the progress of the project and this is as follows:-
'The petition now has in excess of 370+ signatures on it, I’m still hoping to get to 500, but its taking its time. It has support of All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on wrestling, and has been heard on BBC5 Live now too on the Colin Murray programme and further coverage in online media.
The book is now on the last 60 pages of proofreading, this is all that’s left of the fight history to do (years remaining to read are 1944-1958) rest of the book has been read and corrected & tweaked.
It will go off to be read and approved/commented on by remaining family then mid-November off to layout designers. Once signed off it will be uploaded to Amazon for sale and publication.
I’m hopeful we can get this out just prior to Christmas. Reason its taken so long is details, checking and re-checking, additions, and then we’ve moved house in last 2 weeks so as you can imagine its been a bit chaotic!
Think that’s all for the moment, Getting some great comments and feedback and follows from current British Wrestlers which has been heartening and nice to receive.
Take care, stay safe and all the very best. Thanks again for all your help, assistance and patience'.
We are delighted that so much progress has been made and we look forward to bringing you details as to exactly when the book will be available via Amazon as we know many are eagerly awaiting its publication.
If anyone has not yet signed the Petition but would like to do so the link is as follows:-
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our best wishes to Adam Kilby (seen here with dad Alan) who has sadly been diagnosed with Coronavirus.
Adam is now at home where he will be isolating for the required time period.
We wish Adam all the very best and hope that he makes a speedy recovery and is soon back to good health.
(Tony with Sweet Saraya and Ricky Knight)
Legendary wrestler and performer extraordinaire Neil Sands is releasing his first novel entitled 'Time for Justice' on Thursday 8th October.
The novel will be available via Amazon in Kindle version or from www.neilsandsbooks.com
Please show your support for Neil as this certainly looks like a good read.
(Clive received a Services to Wrestling award at the 2014 Reunion)
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to our friends at colleagues at the Wrestlers Reunion Scotland who are creating their own bit of history on the 13th September by being the first Wrestlers Reunion in the UK to hold a virtual event.
Sadly, the 4th Scottish Reunion had to initially be postponed due to Covid19 but thanks to Zoom they are able now able to bring their Reunion to many via the wonders of the internet.
Unfortunately, due to Zoom restrictions only 100 people people can view this Reunion and all spaces have now been allocated. However, a full report with award winners etc will be posted to their fb page in due course.
We are sure the day will go well and that the Scottish Wrestlers Reunion will continue to go from strength to strength over the coming years.
We very much look forward to joining everyone on the 13th September and being a part of history in the making
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to Sarah Bridges who has recently returned home following successful hip replacement surgery.
Sarah, who had suffered with hip pain for some considerable time now, is convalescing well and will hopefully be back to good health again in no time.
We all wish her the best of health and look forward to seeing her again soon.
(Sanjay Bagga, Frank Rimer, Sarah Bridges and Ken Sowden at the 2020 Reunion)
Sunday 13th September should have seen the Scottish Wrestlers Reunion take place. Sadly, due to Covid19 the event has been cancelled. However, the committee have decided to go ahead with their souvenir programme with the profits from the sale of these being donated to the Homeless Project Scotland.
We are now in receipt of the programme as shown and it is, as was last years, a great publication. The programme consists of 16 pages and includes award winners for 2020 (these will be announced on Sunday when the WRS hold their virtual Reunion) and details of all those great grapplers that have passed away in the last 12 months There are also a number of very informative articles including one on our very own Wayne Bridges which we are very grateful to the WRS for, and a number of rare photographs which have not been seen in public for many years.
The programme costs £4.00 (this includes p&p) and is available from the Wrestlers Reunion Scotland facebook page.
Well done to everyone associated with it, it made good reading and you should all be proud of it. We hope that you sell many copies so that a good sum is raised for your chosen charity this year
As we have previously reported the Scottish Wrestlers Reunion has been cancelled this year due to Covid. However, the committee of the Reunion are still intending to issue awards etc this year and have also published a Souvenir Programme. Dale Storm, spokesman for the Scottish Reunion has advised as follows:-
'This is the Front and the Rear Covers of our 2020 Programme. Inside it features four exclusive articles by some of the best and most knowledgeable writers in UK Wrestling. Eddie Rose, Alan "Hack" Bamber, Wilf Archer and our own Honorary Present former "Glitter Boy" Martin Gillott. Also included are Tributes to both Mr Wayne Bridges and Mr Andy Robin who sadly left us since our last Event and a compehensive list with Full Headshots (where possible) of the many others with conections to both UK and USA Grappling who have also departed this good earth.
Also available is a full list of those who have rightly been honoured by our Committee, including those in catagories "Services to Wrestling" "The Lads and Lassies of the Old Mossblown Gym" "Legends of the Ring" And our newest and totaly exclusive honour "The Mossblown Gym Fellowship Award"
Pictures are included, some never before, made available to the public of such hard working former grappers as Andy Robin, Teddy Bear Taylor, Robin The Sheik" Watson, Bruce Welch, and The Ladies who prepare the "Best Buffet" by far in the whole of the UK Reunion Movement. And at least one of our annual Charity Cheque Presentations. Plus an exclusive picture of Adrian McCallums Mother and Father with the Trophy wholly dedicated in honour of the Great Man. And we also reveal the name of the inautual recipient of this wonderful accolade remembering for all time, our friend and mentor "Lionheart!"
Our designate Charity for 2020 is HOMELESS PROJECT SCOTLAND which we hope with you, our members and supporters help, we can raise a goodly sum to assist them to continue their precious work. 16 Pages of News, Views amd Memories of a now, sadly bygone age.
The Programme will be on sale shortly price £3 + p&p'
We hope that many of you will support the Scottish Reunion and their chosen charity by purchasing a copy of this years programme and we will give details on how you can do this shortly.
(The Essex Reunion will return in 2021)
It is with regret tio advise that the Essex Wrestlers Reunion due to be held on Sunday 4th October has been cancelled due to the Covid19 pandemic. Reunion organiser Neil Evans has made the following announcement:-
'Hi everyone I had people asking whether or not our Essex Wrestlers Reunion would still be going ahead on Sunday October 4th, it’s a question that I had been pondering over for a week or so. My heart tells me it would be great to have what has now become our annual get together, seeing many of us together, talking over old time’s and memories, but my brain is saying would it be wise to do so, and I am sad to say that considering that we probably have quite a large age group from around 40 year olds to at least one in his nineties. We are a bunch of huggers, handshakers and touchers, would we be comfortable in a large group of friends and that have been isolated and careful for the past 5 months, would it be fair to put such friends at risk, I don’t think so. This means that I’m of the opinion that the sensible action to take is to postpone this years event. I’ve been chatting to Neil Sands, and we both agree it would be nice to hold our 2021 early summer. Everyone stay safe during these very unprecedented time’s.'
It is disappointing that the Essex Reunion is unable to proceed and we wish them all the very best when they hold their next event in the Summer 2021.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to Barry Howard who has been diagnosed with neck cancer. Having found a lump a few weeks ago Barry underwent a biopsy along with CT Scan an MRI and blood tests.and sadly the results have come back confirming that the lump is infact cancerous, not a result any of us wanted.
Barry has been a great supporter of the Reunion for many years and for a number of those provided the musical entertainment for us. In 2017 Barry won many plaudits when he was the compere for that years event due to his laid-back although still very professional approach. Although Barry has taken a step back from his duties at the Reunion he remains an integral part of the team.
We, along with everyone here, wish Barry well. On a positive note he has been told that this type of cancer is 95% curable and so we hope that once the treatment have finished he will be clear of this awful disease and back to full fitness.
Following on from the very sad news that Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco passed away, the Manchester Evening News have written a glowing tribute to him which you can read at the following link:-
Sadly, due to Covid19 only 27 people can attend Marks funeral on the 20th August but hopefully his memorial service on the 11th May 2021 will enable many more to pay their final respects to him.
Over the last few months we have brought you regular updates on a book being written about 'Londons Lovable Villain' Chick 'Cocky' Knight. The book is now well underway and will be published shortly.
To coincide with the release of the book Chick was to be inducted into the British Wrestlers Reunion Hall of Fame this year. However, due to the changes made to this years Reunion it meant that all award presentations had to be postponed until 2021.
We were approached by Chicks great nephew and the author of the book, Andy Scott, who advised us that Chicks Hall of Fame induction was to be mentioned in the book and could we supply him with something he could use to publicise this. In the circumstances, and to assist Andy, we made a special exception this year and have now inducted Chick into the Hall of Fame. An official presentation will be made to Andy at the 2021 Reunion.
Chicks induction into the Hall of Fame is well deserved and you can see this by clicking the following link:-
We were delighted that Andy and his partner Linda paid us a visit at the 2020 Reunion and we look forward to welcoming them both back in 2021 to receive Chicks award.
(Reunion organiser Ken Sowden and Andy Scott at the 2020 Reunion)
At this years Reunion Johnny Saint was invited to pay tribute to the legendary Wayne Bridges which he accepted without question. Johnny is of course one of the great legends of wrestling and had known Wayne since the 1960s and we were delighted that he was able to attend, especially this year, to pay tribute to his long time friend.
Johnny also made reference to the future of the Reunion urging everyone to continue to attend stating ' We want to see you every year, lets keep it going in memory of Bill'
Johnnys quote is one that we hope people will listen to and act upon. During the last few years the wrestling fraternity have lost a huge number to the Dressing Room in the Sky, if the Reunion movement is to continue around the UK we need your continued support otherwise the Reunions will eventually fade away and we will only be left with our own memories with nobody to share them with.
(Johnny Saint addresses the Reunion)
On Sunday 9th August the British Wrestlers Reunion staged a Reunion like no other. Instead of our usual celebration of wrestling this years event was held in tribute to Wayne (Bill) Bridges and Mark Rocco, two of the greatest, who sadly passed away in March and July respectively.
If the death of two wrestling legends was not bad enough for us, we all have been affected by the terrible Coronavirus and whilst we had been urged to pay some form of tribute to both Bill and Mark we in all honesty were not expecting anymore than about 50 people to attend this years Reunion. Therefore, we were somewhat surprised that approximately 150 people arrived at The Bridges to pay their respects to not only Bill and Mark but all the other wrestlers that have passed away this year.
As is customary, after the opening address, Colin Joynson normally leads the tributes to those that have passed to the Dressing Room in the Sky. Unfortunately, Colin was taken ill and had to return home (we are pleased to say he is now feeling a lot better) and as a result of this Frank Rimer offered his services to substitute for Colin. This year 30 members of the wrestling family have passed and all were remembered followed by a 10 bell count for which we thank Karl Heinz and Steve Cresswell and a minutes silence which, as always, was respected by all.
Bill Bridges was a great fan of bagpipe music in particular Amazing Grace and we were honoured that this was played as a tribute to him, again this was well received by all in attendance.
This years Reunion was to continue with tributes paid to both Bill and Mark by their colleagues and friends both in wrestling and in Bills case from the bodybuilding world which he remained heavily involved in until his death and also the boxing world as he was a keen supporter of the Dartford Boxing Club. Despite this being a sombre occasion, there were a few lighthearted stories along the way from the likes of Johnny Saint, Johnny Kincaid, Frank Rimer and Lloyd Ryan along with others. All of these tributes were wonderful to listen to and very fitting for both men.
Following on from the tributes to Bill and Mark the mood was lifted when the UKs number one Elvis tribute act, Scott Elvis, performed a medley of Elvis’ greatest hits and this was appreciated by everyone.
As always, we held a raffle and sold memorabilia (thanks to Roy Smith) and this year the Reunion is able to confirm that we will be donating £450.00 to charitable causes as previously advised.
This years Reunion was not one that anyone would relish organising and we are pleased that the UKs Reunion movement as a whole have supported us. The Scottish Wrestlers Reunion was represented this year by their President, Martin Gillott whilst the Blackpool Reunion was represented by their President and their Chairman, Johnny Kincaid and Tony Scarlo. Peter Thompson from the Leeds Reunion sent a message saying he was pleased we could get together with Bills close family and friends and pay tribute to him and to have a great day whilst Neil Evans from the Essex Reunion wrote to say he was wishing all a great day.
Whilst this was no ordinary Reunion we are pleased that we could give Bill and Mark a fitting tribute. We must of course thank Sarah Bridges for her hospitality, as you will understand this was a very difficult day for her and she, and the rest of the staff at The Bridges did a sterling job for us ensuring that social distancing/ppe etc was all in force.
We have loaded some photographs of yesterdays Reunion to the website and these can be found under the Reunion Galleries section.
We would finally like to once again thank everyone from the bottom of our heart who took the time to attend this years Reunion, especially at these very difficult times. We hope that over the next few months things will continue to improve and that next year we will be back to some form of normality. If this is the case then we hope to see many of you on Sunday 8th August for our 30th anniversary Reunion.
Thank you all for your continued support and please stay healthy and safe.
(Sarah Bridges releases the balloons in memory of her husband Wayne Bridges)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are saddened to hear that Big Jim Harris aka The Mississippi Mauler who toured the UK in the early 1980s has passed away aged 70.
On returning to the USA Jim wrestled as Kamala, a ring name he would use working for various promotions most notably the WWE, NWA, AWA and also toured Japan working for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Jim had suffered from ill health for a number of years, resulting in the amputation of his legs through complications with diabetes and last week contracted Coronavirus.
We send our thoughts and condolences to Jims family and friends at this very sad time and may he now Rest in Peace.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to Colin Joynson who was taken ill at the 2020 Reunion.
Colin, who had travelled all the way down to Kent from his hoime in Manchester this morning, fell ill shortly after arriving but still showed that bulldog spirit by refusing an ambulance. Luckily, Colin had travelled down with his son who immediately left to return home.
We have now heard from Colin who has advised us that he is now feeling better and will see the doctor tomorrow.
We hope that Colin makes a speedy recovery and will bring you all news when we have it
The British Wrestlers Reunion are saddned to receive news from Lyndsey Mason that John Powers aka Rug John passed away on Tuesday 4th August. . Lyndsey writes:-
'It's with a heavy heart to announce that John Powers aka Rug John sadly passed away this morning. I am sorry I do not have more information at the moment but I received a message around lunchtime to advise of this awful news'
John has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky and we of course send our condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time
The legend that is Adrian Street has been keeping this under wraps, but here is some exciting news regarding his documentary.
The anticipated feature length documentary “You May Be Pretty, But I Am Beautiful: The Adrian Street Story” will be released worldwide to English speaking territories from 4th August 2020!
The documentary will initially be made available on several video on demand platforms including:
- Amazon Prime Video
- Google Play
- Microsoft Store
The documentary will be available on iTunes at a slightly later date.
Further releases will be officially announced on here and of Adrians Twitter page.
The team behind the documentary would like to thank all the fantastic fans for the continued support they have given them along the way to getting this dazzling production released.
Let the countdown begin!
In a year when we have seen 27 of our wrestling family pass away the British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to announce that David Gentle died on Friday 31st Jully aged 86 after suffering from an aneurysm.
Dave was a wrestler, bodybuilder and excelled in Ju-Jitsu for many years and was an Internationally acclaimed historian and author. Dave wrote for numerous publications dedicated to physical culture around the World and also worked and became editor of Health & Strength Magazine, a publication he remained with for over 60 years.
Dave was a regular contributor to the Reunion website, writing what would be his last article for us in May this year. Dave would also attend the Reunion every year to meet up with his former colleagues and friends. Dave was a great friend of Bob Kirkwood and the two would spend many hours reminiscing about their illustrious careers.
Dave has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Rosemary, his family and friends from around the world at this very sad time.
May Dave now Rest in Peace.
Following on from the passing of Mark Rocco, World Wrestling Entertainment has paid the following tribute to him:-
'WWE is saddened to learn that Mark “Rollerball” Rocco has passed away at the age of 69.
A fourth-generation wrestler, Rocco became renowned for his grappling exploits around the world, competing as the original masked Black Tiger and winning the WWE Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Known as a pioneer of today’s modern cruiserweight style and a legend of British wrestling, Rocco left a lasting influence on the industry, including NXT General Manager William Regal and NXT UK Superstar Flash Morgan Webster who both took to twitter to express their sadness at Marks passing:-'
WWE extends its condolences to Rocco’s family, friends and fans.
On Friday 31st July we brought you the very sad news that Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco had passed away aged just 69 years of age.
Since the announcement tributes have poured in from wrestlers, officials and fans from around the World on all forms of social media. Not since the passing of Mick McManus in 2013 have we seen such a response to a wrestlers passing which just goes to prove that Mark was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him. A selection of tributes received by us at the Reunion are as follows:-
Barbara-Ann Swan heartfelt sympathies to Marks family xx
Edwin Caldwell A great wrestler and a great lad. Eddie Rose (Manchester). RIP and condolences to Mark's family.
Tranch Tranch R I P MARK 🕷️
Lewis Spragg God bless you mark 🙏🙏👍🙏👍🙏👍🙏👍
Feargus McDonnell RIP Mark
Sam Betts Snr One of the finest grapplers ever to step foot in a ring & a great pullerover a sad day for wrestling r,I,p mark
Melanie Smith-langridge Very sad news indeed and quite a shock at a comparatively young age. RIP Mark and thank you for all the entertainment you gave wrestling fans, and for your tough, uncompromising style....
Chris WrestlingFurnace This is very sad news. I remember at a reunion a few years ago when Mark was guest of honour. There were many tributes to him, and the main theme throughout was that he never, ever, let anyone down. He once fought with a leg heavily bandaged, concealin…See more
Tracy Ann Bennett Oh no what a shame he was one of my mums favourites.r.i.p x
Tom Lees True💔
Lyndsey Mason Very very sad news indeed. Sending my love and condolences to Marks family, friends & colleagues alike. Aother taken too soon but he can now be added to the amazing ring in the sky. RIP Mark xx
Alan Sugden God bless rip mark
Tommy Millar RIP Rollerball :(
Carl Elliot Allum Rip mark always titanic battles v Marty
Michael Stockdale Very sad news. RiP
Clare McMahon So incredibly sad 💔 thoughts are with all who loved him Xx
Doug Mongan OMG
very sad news. One if the greats!!
May he rest in peace and rise in glory
Ellard Roberts RIP. Very sad to hear the news. Another of my heroes gone
Clifford Cowie Very sad, very few people really deserve to be called a legend but Mark was.R.I.P Mark Rocco
Stuart Arnold Sad news RIP
Ian Rhodes RIP Mark
Ben Roberts Gutted
Jane Wade Such a great loss to the wrestling fraternity xx 😢
Kevin Brown So sad to hear Rocco was a brilliant wrestler & a credit to the sport our thoughts & condolences go to his family & his wrestling family RIP Mark xx❤️❤️
Davy Anderson Jeez that is a shock, one of the greats
Richard Brock Sad news. One of my favourite all time British Wrestlers.
Shaun Marsh sad news rip mark
Darren Chivers RIP Mark, very sad news
Dave Twigg Oh thats a real shame, a real star in the ring & great ambassador for the sport, gutted.
Timothy Cross That's really sad news. He was an awesome wrestler. He brought wrestling up to another level. His bereaved family though can be heartened by a life well lived, and the excitement and interest he brought to millions of lives.
David Holden guys a legend
Stephen Day So sad to hear the sad news...we travelled together around 1979-85......ken: might it be prudent to reprint that lovely 1981 close up photo of mark,myself and stax?....do you still have it?....I just thought that it was a great photo of him in his prime,taken after a bout in walthamstow.x
Broderick Bassett Such awful and sad news. One of the great wrestling characters. In a year which seems so full of bad news this is such a terrible shock to anyone who watched Mark all those years ago. My sincere condolences to his family at such a difficult time.
Phil Coley I
Watched Mark On Lots Of Occasions At The Wolverhampton Civic Hall .
He Was A Tough Character In The Ring But He Had A Heart Of Gold Out Of It RIP Mark 🙏
Mark Wall The greatest wrestler of all time in my eyes an absolute legend and I'll never forget him RIP to the master of disaster thanks for the memories no other wrestler comes close.
Jason Spooner I worked for Mark , many years ago. I can honestly say he was a fantastic guy who will be sadly missed. Sending my love and condolences to all the family. RIP
Hugh Templeton Oh
no; in tears reading this.
I am glad he is no longer suffering.
Rest in Peace Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco; the greatest wrestler of all time.
Lance Nicholas This is a massive loss to the world of wrestling. I watched Rollerball close up at Belle Vue on countless occasions and was in awe of his performances. For me one of the all time greats of British Wrestling and certainly in my top 3 favourites. Sleep well Mark. Will never forget the enjoyment you provided for me. 😢
Martin Brady Gutted probably one of the best wrestlers ever . So so sad my condolences to his family. He was a legend and you couldn't meet a nicer man . Absolutely gutted
Peter Nulty Mark it was a privilege to work with you and travel with you. But most of all it was a privilege to know you and enjoy your company. My condolences to Ann, Jonno and Richie. Rest easy my friend.
Mark Firth He and his comrades were a big part of my Saturday afternoon’s as a kid. RIP Mark.
Dave Boyd An absolute tragedy. Mark was one of the standouts for me in my journey getting into traditional British wrestling this past year and I’m gutted I never got to meet him to get his two cents for my study. One of the best wrestlers the world has ever known
John C-West This is very sad news. A true Champion no longer with us. He will be sadly missed. Condolences to his family. RIP Rollerball. World Heavy-Middleweight Champion.
Rich Hils Such a shock to read this, so sad. A brilliant wrestler who was well respected. Condolences to his family and friends.
Tony White What
a shock I can't believe it, Mark was without doubt one of the best and a true
gentleman always had time for everyone.
My condolences to his family RIP❤️
Steve Cox Met him in the 90's on the canary islands, nice bloke, always a great figure on the British Wrestling scene. Many condolences.
David Daniels I cannot believe this news ! A terrible loss. I understand he did have health issues but I am still very shocked. RIP Mark, you were the best !
Debbie Betteridge So sad to hear this news a true great always knew it was going to be a great night when Rocco was on the bill ! Huge loss RIP Mark x
Simon Lang Very sad and unexpected news. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Another legend gone.
John Muir This
news saddens me deeply! Condolences to his family and friends!
The man is a true legend, way ahead of his way of thinking! He will be missed sorely!
Colin Daffern Very sad news. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. I'm so glad I got the chance to meet him at the reunion back in 2006.
Dean Ayass My favourite wrestler of my childhood. And a lovely man when I met him as an adult. Gutted. Leaves an amazing legacy.
Anthony Morris Wow.Shocked.A truly gifted man in so many ways.thoughts go out to the great ones family and friends
Zoe Clarke A great & massive loss to the wrestling world. He has left many memories for alot of people. Safe journey to the squared circle in the sky Mark with the other legends. Much love from Norwich xx
Edwards What a great man had a few chats at wrestling
reunions had plenty of time for his fans
Rip Mark you will be missed
Peter Hickenbottom Was only watching his bout with the Dynamite Kid yesterday. RIP Mark
Larry Green Mark Rocco will be remembered forever.I was so lucky to meet him 3 years ago at the reunion & tell him he was the best in the business for entertainment.He said “thank you, I really appreciate that
Austin Rigo Bless
Mick Mcmichael will be waiting for you in the ring in the sky....
He spoke many a good times about you x
Richard Harris Very sad. Rocco was one of the greats. His matches with Dynamite were years ahead of their time
Andrew Smith spa royal hall bridlington always top of the bill RIP mark rocco
Paul Gattrell Wow , this is a shock , so sorry to hear this, condolences to marks family and friend
Frank Thomas So sorry to hear this, Mark was a wrestler years ahead of his time, reunited with his Dad, will be much missed. RIP
Christopher Bucko Buckley This is sad news, One of the best wrestlers to ever grace the mat. RIP Rollerball
Stephen Cresswell Very sad news a great innovator sending condolences to the family 🤼
Steve Harbott Omg massive loss to the wrestling world, rip mark. You was the best off all time. So sad.
Bob Howison His battles with Marty Jones and Dave Fit Finlay were always tough and entertaining.
Sam Cadwallader Rip Mark "rollerball" Rocco thank you for the memories.
Jim Soucy RIP! First seen videos of him as the Original Black Tiger against the original Tiger Mask their matches were extraordinary! Got to see videos as himself when I started looking up British wrestling!
Douglas It’s hard to put into words how amazing a talent
Head & shoulders above most wrestlers, not just in wrestling ability , but charismatic & exciting.
Nigel Pacitti Talented guy and introduced more of an American style type wrestling while generally adhering to British rules to UK audiences..Sad loss
Jonathan Barnett Condolences to Mark's family. A true legend of wrestling.
David Walker This devastating news just sums up 2020 in a nutshell. The greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots and criminally underrated.
Francis Rowe My favourite British wrestler of all time, a true legend in the business when that term is thrown around lightly.
David Smith Omg, his battles with Marty Jones were the best... rip
John Lowing Very sad news. His style in the 70's and 80's was way ahead of it's time in British wrestling. And was a forerunner of the American style seen today.
Andrew David I'm devastated. Roller ball was one of my favourite heels. His matches with the Dynamite kid were legendary.😪
Dave Rocky Cullum My thoughts are with Marks family in this darkest hour , RIP The legend “Rollerball
Stephen Day R.I.P To one of the best in the business as someone once said no one went to the bar when mark wrestled the will be no more like mark rollerball rocco,
Steve Higgins One of the best, carried matches way before his time...
Brian Scott Ford Didn't he have a pub on Manchester Rd. Kearsley Forgotten the name.
Pete Coppola Sad to see this post RIP to The Maniac. Did he start hardcore? It seemed he would anything as a weapon, if it wasn't bolted down
Bob Smith So sorry to hear this terrible news, my thoughts and prayers and condolences to Mark and his family R.I.P, Mark.
Linda Murray One of my faves. Loved watching him on World of Sport wrestling. 💔💔💔
Nigel Hamlett One of the great wrestlers ever so sad news rest in peace buddy
Jon Waters Sad news. Great wrestler ahead of his time. RIP Mark.
Cameron Thomson Very sad to hear this, I knew him best as Black Tiger 1, many great matches
Ian Hancox Absolutely stunned condolences sent to the family
Andy Marsden Wow very sad new great wrestler watch him as a kid on world of sport
George Glen I am so sorry to hear this, he was a legend, God rest him
Tom Lees So sad RIP old buddy so sorry we never got to hold hands again!
Mick Daley RIP Mark. Well respected here and in the USA.
Carolyn Morris so very sad .. a true wrestling legend .. a favourite of mine for many years. RIP .. thoughts and love to his family and friends 💔
Gordon Pryor So so sad R.I.P. Mark My deepest sympathy to his wife and family
Shazz Maddison So sorry to see this. Thinking of his family and friends at this sad time xxx
Calum Hossack So sad,great heel and a great wrestler
Mike Connell Gutted. A big inspiration to me and one of the absolute best 😞
Gina Vetter My thoughts are with Mark's family and friends. R.I.P MARK X
Garry Vanderhorne A proper legend and ground breaking icon of World Wrestling. Rest in Power. xVx
Harold Weller I met him in the early 1980's, Sad news nice guy.
Julian Kirby Oh no.........one of the best, never stopped coming forward. Sad loss.
Silv Auriemma Very sad news. A true British Wrestling icon..... RIP
Dan Hopkins Sad news a true legend off the business. Thoughts are with his family
Stuart Dobbins Top
wrestler sadly missed
Followed him for years
Steven Tempest-Mitchell So sad but I will remember Mark with fond memories and the fact he was a top worker worldwide, and a nice man, just like his dad Jimmy, my thoughts are with the family, please remember him as he was a top athlete and wrestler, and just a nice man RIP 💔
Brian Syddall RIP
Mark I & millions more will still watch you
On You Tube.
John Hutchinson One of the all time greats...RIP Mark
Graham Robinson RIP MARK ONE OF MY FAVOURITE WRESTLERS
David Newson for me he was the Gov'nor. I'm gutted RIP x
Haruhiko Iwasawa Very big shock! Actually Black tiger did visit our country Japan a few years ago.
Simon Walker Oh no! What a shock, always watch him on You Tube.
Gareth James Phin R. I. P mark rollerball Rocco.
Gary Cook Was always one of my favourite wrestlers. Very sad news
Michael Stockdale Very sad news. Was always in the top 3 of best wrestlers Rest in peace
Peter Philip Sneesby God Bless RIP Mark Rollerball Rocco One of the great villains in the World Of Sport wrestling but a truly great wrestler none the less. He's matches against the likes of Marty Jones & Kendo Neversaki & Many others will be long remembered .. ❤💪😉
Cho Jim My favourite, RIP Rocco,
Shane Hennah The all time best ..feast well in the Great hall Rollerball , you have earned it
Garry Jones Am shocked and saddened by this such a great wrestler RIP Mark
David Webb R.i.p Marc
Michael Wittinbaker I am gutted 💔 deepest sympathies to his family, friends and fans 💔
James Bowkett Legend RIP
Simon Holden Very sad news.
Martin Thorne Real tough wrestler
Julie Thrasher Rip Marc volleyball Rocco
Gary Palmer 😮omg that has poleaxed me , 😪
Michael Pratt Great Wrestler
Dabinder Rana May his soul Rest In Peace 🙏🙏🙏
Davy Elder R,I,P, mark rocco,
Brian Lord I am so very sorry, my condolences go out to his family, a sad day indeed...
Ken Sowden 2020 is a year none of us will remember with any great fondness and today more sad news as one of the greatest wrestlers ever to step through the ropes, Mark Rollerball' Rocco has passed away at the age of 69.. Although Mark had been ill for some considerable time his passing is none the easier for any of us.. A wrestler who was ahead of his time and who always gave 110% every time he stepped into the ring. Mark has certainly left his legacy in wrestling, he is one of those who will never be forgotten and his memory will live on for generations to come.
Graham McRobert Rip 😢
Dave Rennie A true LEGEND the fans loved to hate....a proper heel who could produce all the heat required in any situation...Marc 'Rollerball' Rocco...Job done Sir! Wrestle In Peace!
Mark can now Rest in Peace leaving a legacy in the wrestling industry that will live on for years to come.
The British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to announce that Christiane Gregory, the wife of wrestling legend Tony St Clair passed away at 11.30 on Thursday 30th July having battled cancer for 20 years.
Tony and Christiane were together for 27 years and married for 19 and were simply devoted to each other.
Our deepest sympathies go to Tony and his family at this very sad time and may Christiane now RIP.
Mark Hussey was born on the 11th May 1951 in Manchester to a family that was already well established in the world of boxing and professional wrestling. Marks great grandfather had worked on the boxing and wrestling fairground booths, his grandfather was a good amateur and most famously of all his father was none other than Jumping Jim Hussey, the powerful heavyweight wrestler who himself was known throughout the world.
The name Rollerball Rocco in which Mark was later to become most famous for was a long way off when he first took a keen interest in the wrestling business. At the tender age of 6 years old Mark would regularly accompany his father around the halls of Britain and more notably Europe watching all the great names of that era, taking in the atmosphere and hoping that one day he to would be stepping into the ring as a main event star. However, as great as Marks wrestling career was to become, life could have been very different for him. His father, Jim Hussey, was adamant that his son would not follow in the family tradition and enter the world of boxing or wrestling, instead, Jim encouraged his son to try his hand at equestrian. The Hussey family were keen showjumpers and Mark, or so his father thought, had a career mapped out in this profession. Infact, Mark did excel in equestrian and could well have become one of the top riders in the country but his first love was professional wrestling and no matter what his father said he was determined to carve a career for himself in the ring.
The Hussey family had a gymnasium at their home which was fully equipped with a practice ring and a weights room. Infact, many of the top wrestlers from the North of England would attend the Hussey gym for training and Mark saw this as a great opportunity to learn the art of professional wrestling from some of the leading wrestlers in the UK. Jim Hussey was, like many others at that time, regularly away from home travelling not only around the halls of the United Kingdom but also of Europe. One of the wrestlers who was already himself an established star was Colin Joynson. Colin would often train at the Hussey gym and he agreed to teach a young Mark the art of professional wrestling although it was agreed that Marks father would not find out about this. Mark would go to the gym as often as he could when he father was not at home and trained vigorously for three years where he would lift the weights learn the holds and was taught how to take the bumps and it soon became apparent to everyone that he had exactly what it took to succeed in the world of professional wrestling.
Marks first professional bout came somewhat unexpectedly when in November 1969 at 18 years of age, he, like he did many times, accompanied his father to a wrestling show. This show was being held in Yardley, West Midlands and due to adverse weather conditions the promoters found themselves short of wrestlers and so Mark agreed to step up to the plate and entered the ring against none other than Colin Joynson. This was the first Jim Hussey knew of his sons involvement in the business but by this time it was too late, Mark Rocco was a professional wrestler and his next goal was to ensure that he became the best that he could. Growing up in the business Mark knew the pitfalls of being a wrestler but he also knew the adulation that you could get if you got it right and this is what Mark strived for. Although Jim had previously been against his son entering the wrestling business he knew that if this is what he really wanted to do then he would need to do it properly and he therefore sent a young Mark around the UK and across Europe to learn the different styles of wrestling and to enhance the skills that he had already acquired.
By the early 1970s Mark was now working regularly for Joint Promotions and was starting to get noticed around the halls of the UK. It was at this time that Mark was to start using the ring name of Rocco, this was taken from his Italian great grandfather at the request of his father. Later on Mark worked as a stuntman on the film Rollerball and it was after this time that wrestling supremo Max Crabtree suggested that this be used as his ring name, therefore Rollerball Rocco was born.
Mark soon progressed from the opening bout of the night to mid card and after just six months he found himself thrown into the national spotlight when he was given his first taste of appearing in a televised bout. This bout was to emanate from Wembley on the 14th November 1970 where he faced an already established star in his own right in Brian Maxine. Although Mark lost this bout it was good training for him and he would go on to appear on television many more times over the coming years against the likes on Bobby Barnes, Caswell Martin, Tony St Clair, Johnny Kwango, Steve Grey, Marty Jones and Mike Marino to name but a few in solo bouts as well as tag teams bouts partnering the likes of Giant Haystacks, Mal Kirk, Banger Walsh and Steve Logan.
Although Mark was still considered a rookie in the wrestling business he spent a lot of his early years abroad wrestling in such countries as India, Turkey, France, Germany, and Austria learning his craft and striving to get better and better with each passing day. On returning to the UK Mark was to have his first taste of championship glory when on the 11th June 1977 in Marks home town of Manchester he defeated top wrestler Bert Royal for the British Heavy Middleweight Title. Around this time another young wrestler was emerging on the scene in the shape of Marty Jones. Mark and Marty were to have some tremendous battles over the coming years, all top class and entertaining bouts and you would be hard pressed to see two better wrestlers in this weight category anywhere in the World. Infact, Mark was to be defeated by Marty on the 13th September 1978 at Woking for his Championship belt but was to regain it again on the 6th December 1978 when he won a tournament against Chris Adams after Jones had vacated the belt. Mark would successfully defend this Championship on many occasions until he himself vacated it in August 1981.
August 1981 was to be a pivotal month for Mark, having now made it to a main event star in his own right he was now challenging for the biggest prize in the wrestling industry, this being a World Championship. On the 26th August 1981 in Southport Mark was to get his opportunity to achieve his lifetime ambition when he faced Joel de Fremery from France. Although this was a hard fought battle, as you would expect, Mark was victorious and was named World Heavy Middleweight Champion before a packed crowd. Mark was to hold this championship on three occasions losing it to Frank Chic Cullen and Fuji Yamada but regaining it in both rematches. Mark was to remain the World Title Holder until his retirement from in ring action in 1991.
By the late 1970s Mark was now wrestling all over the World and was in great demand, adding the World Title was just a bonus and Mark found himself wrestling for many of the top promoters in the USA such as the AWA and the WWF. A bout in Madison Square Garden brought Mark to the attention of the top Japanese Promoters and they soon offered Mark the chance to headline their promotions. Mark had at this time been having some tremendous bouts around the UK with Japanese star Sammy Lee who had returned to Japan and was wrestling as Tiger Mask. The Japanese Promoters were keen to let the Japanese fans see these two great wrestlers face each other in their own country and a series of matches were made. However, Mark was not to wrestle as Rollerball Rocco but as Black Tiger and on arriving in Japan lived the life of Black Tiger wearing the mask whenever out in public. The two men wrestled each other around Japan and was the main event at a sold out Tokyo Dome, the action was said to be the best seen in years and the two continued to feud until Tiger Mask left the promotion.
Although Mark would continue to tour the World and make several visits back to Japan he returned to the UK but rather than return to his old stomping ground of Joint Promotions decided to jump ship where he worked for Orig Williams and All Star Promotions. By doing this Mark was allowed to continue with his world tours, something that Joint Promotions were not happy to allow him to do. Although by leaving Joint Promotions Mark would not be on mainstream television this all changed in 1987 when he made a triumph return to the small screen where he would take on such wrestlers as Chic Cullen, Danny Collins, Johnny Saint and Fuji Yamada. Mark also had a notable feud with Kendo Nagasaki, a rarity as Mark was one of the biggest baddies on the scene at this time and to face another baddie in Nagasaki was something of a gamble but it paid off. The feud started in a televised bout aired on the 5th March 1988 from the Fairfield Halls in Croydon where Mark was teaming with Nagasaki against Dave Taylor and Kung Fu. This was a heated bout which resulted in Mark ripping off the mask of Nagasaki thus starting a feud that would continue around the halls of the UK even after ITV wrestling was axed at the end of that year.
British wrestling now had no shop window with the loss of mainstream television although Mark continued to tour the halls of the UK having top of the bill clashes with the likes of Kendo Nagasaki, Marty Jones and Danny Collins as well as continuing with his tours of Germany, Austria, France and Japan. However on a fateful night in Worthing in 1991 Marks wrestling career was to be dealt a massive blow and this was one bout that he wasnt going to win. Mark had just completed a bout against Dave 'Fit' Finlay when on returning to the dressing room he collapsed. Mark was taken to hospital where it was discovered that his heart was severely damaged and he had an irregular heartbeat. This was a very sad day not only for Mark but for the wrestling business as he immediately announced his retirement from the ring.
On his retirement Mark lived in his luxury home in the Canary Islands, a premature end to his wrestling career had not stopped Mark from making a good living and he has a number of successful businesses on the Island. Throughout his wrestling career Mark was at the very top, a competitor who would easily be a star of the ring today as he was in his day, a true professional who wrestled to full houses whenever he appeared, a wrestler known around the world and loved and admired by not only his fellow professionals but by the fans alike. The wrestling business will never see the likes of Mark Rollerball Rocco in the ring again and for those fortunate enough to have witnessed him wrestle can count themselves as very lucky to see the Worlds best.
Sadly in later years Mark suffered from dementia and had full time care and on Friday 31st July the sad news was reported that Mark had passed away aged 69 years of age.
Tributes have poured in for Mark following his death from wrestlers, promoters, officials and fans from around the World and may he now RIP.
The British Wrestlers Reunion are very saddened to hear that Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco has passed away on Friday 31st July.
Although Mark has suffered over the last few years with health issues this has still come as a great shock to us all.
Mark was without doubt one of the all time greats of wrestling around the World and will be sadly missed.
A full tribute to Mark is posted above..
Mark has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
We send our condolences to Marks family and friends at this very sad time.
As you will all know on the 9th August the 29th Annual Reunion will take place.
This year the Reunion is being held in tribute to Wayne Bridges who sadly passed away in March.
To commemorate Waynes life the British Wrestlers Reunion have once again teamed up with British Wrestling DVDs and have produced this special dvd in tribute to him. This dvd has been done specifically for the Reunion and will not be available anywhere else.
There are a limited number of these dvds and they will be on sale at the Reunion so make sure you get yours as a lasting memento to the great World Champion that was Wayne Bridges.
(Joe accepts an award on behalf of the Reunion from our friends at the Scottish Wrestlers Reunion in 2017)
On Tuesday 27th July wrestling legend and Reunion President Joe D'Orazio celebrated his 98th birthday and we here at the Reunion received many greetings for him from wrestlers and fans around the World, a selection of these are as follows:-
Ross Mycroft Holmes Congratulations & happy Birthday Joe.
Roy Chamberlain Happy birthday Joe
Conor Clyde Lafferty Happy Birthday Joe!
Thomas Wright Happy birthday, hope you have a great day. Enjoy
Tony White Happy birthday Joe
Ken Sowden Happy 98th Birthday Joe, you are an inspiration to us all and without doubt one of the all time greats of wrestling. Hope you have a great day.
Stephen Cresswell Happy birthday to young joe and no celebrating it’s bad for you
John C-West Happy Birthday Joe.
Tim Gilks Happy birthday Joe.
Ben Hollis Happy Birthday Joe! Hope you have a great day.
Gina Vetter Happy
Tom Lees Happy Birthday Joe
Ann Richardson Happy birthday Joe
Broderick Bassett Many Happy Returns Sir!
Glyn Jenkins Hi to Joe just to say a very happy 98th birthday and congratulations from your number one fan David Boyes age fourtyeight,
Alan Ainsworth Happy Birthday
Bill Kinsey Congratulations Joe Happy Birthday
Jon Waters Happy birthday Joe
Micky West Happy birth day Joe
Gabriella Niccoli Happy Birthday Dad !! and Dad thanks you all for your kind thoughts !!
Antony J. Peters Happy 98th Joe!! Hope you enjoy your special day with the people that count!! Family & Close Friends!!
Stephen Cresswell Sending joe best wishes
Kevin Arthur As you know ken I've worked with joe happy birthday joe xx
Margaret Powell Best wishes to Joe, for his birthday and we hope he has the best time 🎂🎁🤗❣️
Ruslan C Pashayev Happy Birthday The Father of Wrestling !!! Long Life To The Patriarch of English Pro Wrestling!!!
Andrew Bryden Al the very best to you Joe. Andra
Chris Smith-Haynes Happy birthday Joe x
Neil Sands Congratulations to Joe he is without a doubt one of the nicest, kindest men you could ever meet.
Stuart McRoberts Happy Birthday Joe
Mick Sullivan Hi JoeHappy birthday and have a great day,
Richard Dartnall Happy Birthday Sir.
Tony White Happy birthday Joe, I hope you have a great time 🥂👍
Gary Wensor happy birthday joe many more mate x
Paul Harrisson-Sandra Harrisson Happy Birthday joe have a great day ·
Gary Johnson Happy Birthday!!!!
Sam Betts Snr All my best to you joe ',the godfather of wrestling indeed ,,
Chris WrestlingFurnace Happy birthday to Joe. I'd never met him before, but he greeted me like an old friend at the first reunion I attended about 20 years ago. What a wonderful man.
Clive Williams Happy Birthday Joe, have a great day
Tony Scarlo Happy birthday Joe still one of my best friends hope you have a great day
Tracy Ann Bennett Happy birthday x x
Jonathan Barnes happy birthday Joe hope your having a lovely day great photo xx
David Gee Happy Birthday to a legend
Frank Cullen Happy Birthday Joe, and here’s to many more 🙏
Frank Rimer Bob Stafford spoke with him today and Joe is in great spirits sending his love and best wishes to all. He is still very active writing his poetry and painting
Diane Fretwell Happy birthday Joe have a wonderful day xxxx 🤼♂️
Tracey E Kilby Happy birthday Joe xx
Pete Hall Happy
birthday to a true British wrestling legend
Have a great day Joe.
Edwin Caldwell Best wishes, Cheers! Eddie Rose (Manchester)
John Hutchinson Happy birthday Joe :)
Lewis Spragg A big happy birthday to One of the great legends of wrestling Joe have a great birthday mate 🎂🎉🎂🎉🎂👍👍👍👍👍
Neil Evans Happy Birthday Joe,
Staal du Plessis Happy birthday legend. Have a super day. May God bless you in the years to come
Tony StClair Happy Birthday 🎉
Wrestlers Reunion Scotland The Full Committee and all the Members of Wrestlers Re-Union Scotland would like to to take this opportunity to wish all the very best to the great Joe D'Orazio President of The British Westlers Reunion on the occasion of his 98th Birthday. All the very best to The Man and "The Legend of the Ring
Joe spent his birthday at home with his family and his daughter has advised us that he had an enjoyable time and that he would like to send his thanks to everyone who has sent him good wishes on his special day.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send the warmest of wishes to our President and wrestling legend Joe D'Orazio as he celebrate his 98th birthday. In honour of Joes birthday we pay our own tribute to him and look back at his astonishing career as he celebrates his special day.
Joe D’Orazio was born on the 27th July 1922 in Bermondsey, South London, of Italian parents.
Joe was brought up in a very tough working environment with five others becoming professional wrestlers. Joe was educated at English Martyrs Roman Catholic School in Walworth, attending school with Harry Geoghegan who went on to become a fine wrestling referee. At 13 years of age, Joe was elected by his classmates as the youngest ever Captain of the school. Joe’s best friend until his untimely death in 2003 was the South London iron man and for many years Mick McManus’s tag partner Steve Logan.
Joe’s Grandfather owned what was considered to be the best fish and chip shop in South London and this is where Joe worked until the outbreak of the Second World War. During the Luftwaffe’s horrific blitz on London, before enlisting in the Royal Air Force, Joe worked as a member of a demolition squad, knocking down bombed buildings in the City of London.
The war meant the parting of the ways for best pals Joe and Steve Logan. Joe was to spend 4 years in the Royal Air Force air/sea rescue unit, while Steve was away with Montgomery’s 8th army, serving as a desert rat in El Alamein, but they managed to keep in contact by mail, throughout the war, and afterwards renewed their old friendship.
On leaving the armed forces, Joe took up Judo and Steve took to boxing as well as Judo and he joined the South London Judo Society, under the instruction of George Chew, and in just over a year went from novice to Black Belt 1st Dan. Joe and Steve were key members of the 4 man Judo team that took the interclub Judo team title in 1948 at the Chelsea Town Hall.
Joe became a Professional wrestler in 1948, closely followed by his old friend Steve Logan whilst Joe’s cousin Mike Marino was already established in the wrestling business.
His first professional match was against the New Zealander Russ Bishop in Poole Dorset. Joe’s abilities were quickly recognised, and he was soon in great demand by all the top Promoters to wrestle on their shows. By 1950, Joe was made a honorary member of Gruppo Autonomo Lotta Giapponese, and travelled to Rome for the presentation of his membership enrolment. For the next 20 incredible years, he wrestled all over
Britain and Europe. His tag partner during this hey day of grappling, was the inimitable entrepreneur Paul Lincoln,who was sometimes known as the fearsome Doctor Death, but doubled up with Joe as Togo Tani. However, after several injuries, he decided to retire to ‘avoid becoming an invalid for life’.
Joes last Professional bout was against the legendary George Kidd in 1968.
Unable to shake off his passion for wrestling which was in his blood Joe returned as a referee, only to break his nose twice in the first six months. However, he persevered, and as in his earlier wrestling career, refereeing took him to many places including Blenheim Palace, Olympia, Café Royal, , Lyceum Ballroom, Paisley Ice Rink, Paris, Belgium, Berlin’s Big Top, Hanover Big Top, King Hussein Stadium in Jordan, Italy and many more.
For a further 20 years, he was resident referee at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall Tournaments,becoming a favourite of his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, with whom he became quite friendly.
Joe has made many friends in wrestling over the years. Despite their often fearsome uncompromising ring image and reputations, wrestlers have a common bond and their loyalty and enduring friendships are admirable.
Away from the ring, Joe became a member of Mickey Woods ‘Tough Guys Unlimited’ stunt team.He did lots of film and television stunt work, a highlight coming when he doubled for Hollywood star J.Carroll Naish whilst filming the TV series ‘The New Adventures of Charlie Chan’. He also stunted and acted in ‘Camp on Blood Island’ and ‘Terror of the Tongs’ , and appeared in the film ‘Geordie’. Joe worked in Rome on ‘Quo Vadis’ , 'A matter of Honour', and was a gunslinger in the Wyatt Earp Show, when it came to the U.K. from America, plus a starring part in 'Night and the City' with Richard Widmark.
Other television work included ‘King and Castle’, ‘Flight through the Branches’, ‘Young Charlie Chaplin’, ‘Blind Justice’, ‘Radical Chambers’, ‘Story Board’, ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, and more recently : Londons Burning’, ‘The Bill’, Henry Kelly’s early morning breakfast show, He also starred in one episode of Humphrey Burton’s ‘The Age of Aquarius –The Wrestling Poet’.
On radio, Joe worked on the ‘Late Night Show’, with Monty Modlyn, and was on the panel with Monty and Anne Shelton, which ended up with Joe singing a duet of ‘My Old Man said follow the van ‘ with Miss Piggy. Up until then his role had been to answer listeners questions on wrestling !
Following the sad demise of the TV wrestling and the death of favourite and charity worker extraordinaire Catweazle from cancer, Joe realised that there was a need for wrestlers to hold a regular get together and not just at funerals. Mal Mason subsequently held a gathering in his Kent garden, and then Joe decided to Found the British Wrestlers Reunion with the aid of Tony Scarlo . Their next attempt several weeks later saw a few more wrestlers attend, with the result that the event was to be moved to London in the pub owned by the great dazzler himself Joe Cornelius. One year later, the Dazzler emigrated and Wayne Bridges assisted by his wife Sarah Bridges took over as hosts, a role that they held until Waynes death earlier this year. The Reunion with Joe at the helm, has grown out of all proportion and flourishes to this day to have become the largest Annual gathering of its type in the world, only exceeded by the Cauliflower Alley Club in the United States As a mark of recognition for all his efforts in achieving this remarkable feat, Joe was made Life President in 2003.
The Reunion and Steve Grey in particular, commissioned a sketch drawing by a celebrated artist depicting some of the great mans achievements in gratitude for everything that he has done for the community.
A rather lesser known facet of the great mans unending list of talents, is that Joe D’Orazio is an accomplished artist/painter, selling a lot of his art work in exhibitions, with the rewarding result of him being recruited many years ago by the Teachers of Crispin House, an Adult Training Centre for the mentally handicapped in Bermondsey, and where he worked full-time for over a decade.He surprised everyone, not only by teaching severely handicapped people to paint, but also exhibiting their work and selling a number of paintings. Joe’s students have exhibited at South London Gallery in the Park, Southwark, The Stock Exchange, St Johns, Piccadilly, Royal College of Art, The New Cross Art House, and Southwark Cathedral. Joe is constantly asked by Handicapped schools all over London to give art seminars .He was originally introduced to this rewarding work by the great Steve Grey , who has also shared a lifetime career in the care Business.
As a writer, Joe is a successful writer of prose, and in 1971 wrote ‘The Who’s Who of Wrestling’ with Co-Author : Pam Edwards. A book which has become an all-time favourite reference manual on grappling. The book was written in parallel with his refereeing career, he worked for Dale- Martin Promotions publicity Department. His work included the preparation of write-ups and programme material for all their shows, which in those days could often run to as many as 10 per day! Joe also turned out a weekly column in ‘Business’ and for many local papers throughout Great Britain
Joe D’Orazio was a researcher for the ‘TV Times’, ‘Guide to Wrestling’ ,and compiler of ‘The Cover Men of Wrestling’ . He supplied copy to ;Wrestling review’, ‘The Wrestling Monthly‘Weekly Sporting review’, and ‘Show Business’, ‘Smash’, ‘Ring Wrestling USA’, ‘Tiger Annual’, ‘Beano Annual’, ‘The Royal Albert Hall Centenary Compendium’, plus countless other publications worldwide.
As a celebrated poet, he has had many books of poetry published, and continues to write. To date, he has written over 300 poems. Like ‘Ode to Mad Hannah’, his long masterpiece. Many are deep ,dark, meaty and haunting . Some of his lyrics inspired by his lovely Italian born wife: Tina, are soft and touching. He says “I never thought about poetry until I met her”. His work is varied, sonnets ranging from love through odes to tramps and meths drinkers, ‘Old Beppo the Potter’,‘an Italian Resistance Worker’, ‘Mick McManus’, ‘The Income Tax Man’, and ‘Tell them I sleep’.
Shakespeare was his favourite writer, and he writes only to satisfy himself , quoting ‘Once I have the first line, the rest is easy’. Ideas come at any time- even when he is buffeted between ring baddies. His pockets bulge with instant first lines scrawled on odd scraps of paper.Joe firmly believes “The world would be a better place if we all spoke poetry to each other”
These days this God of the
Mat world, this awe inspiring wrestling/ Judo playing athlete turned
referee, poet, writer, artist, painter, film actor, TV actor, Reunion President is still busily writing and loves nothing better than to reminisce about his varied career.
(Joe is presented with a specially commissioned sketch of his achievements at the Reunion)
(Joe displays a painting he did of wrestling legend and his great friend Bert Assirati)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to announce that former British Lightweight Champion Zoltan Boscik passed away peacefully on Saturday 25th July aged 81 years in the care home in which he was residing in Christchurch, New Zealand with his wife Suzanne at his bedside holding his hand.
Zoltan was born and raised in Hungary until the time of the Hungarian uprising. As a result of this Zoltan managed to cross the border to Austria and ultimately was one of the thousands of refugees who came to the UK. Zolton initially found factory work and in his spare time trained at Ted Beresford gymnasium, firstly as an amateur before entering the professional ranks.
Zoltan was a regular name on independent bills up and down the UK and eventually found himself in the employ of Paul Lincoln. Zoltan soon gained a reputation as one of the great lightweight wrestlers of his era.
In 1966 Lincolns merger with Joint Promotions gained Zoltan national coverage via the television screen and his regular appearances on World of Sport made him an instant hit with viewers across the UK. Whilst he was still facing his old foes Zoltan was now able to oppose other greats that Joint Promotions had to offer.
Zoltan became a regular at the Royal Albert Hall as well as on the small screen and he soon found himself in competition against the likes of Johnny Saint, Al Miquet, Jon Cortez, Jim Breaks, Bill Ross, Bobby Ryan, George Kidd, all of whom were at the top of their game in the lightweight division, this was certainly a great time, albeit a competitive one to be a lightweight wrestler in the UK.
In June, 1969 Zoltan defeated Jim Breaks at Sheffield to take the British lightweight championship, and had another championship victory over Breaks at the Royal Albert Hall the following year. Zoltan lost his British belt to Jon Cortez, before regaining it and finally losing it to Johnny Saint at Sheffield on 12th May, 1971.
Throughout the 1970s Zoltan remained in high demand and was one of the busiest wrestlers on the circuit such was his talent and popularity with the fans.
Zoltan finally retired from the wrestling business in 1988 after more than 25 years in the professional ranks. On retirement Zoltan moved to New Zealand with his wife Suzanne.
Sadly, over recent years Zoltan suffered from dementia but he still had fond memories of his wrestling career and was inducted into the British Wrestlers Reunion Hall of Fame in 2016. Zoltans wife had also kept in regular contact with Johnny Kidd throughout the years updating him on Zoltans health issues.
Zoltan was the ultimate professional and respected by all who knew him, a great competitor and ambassador for wrestling, he will be sadly missed.
Zoltan has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
We send our condolences to Zoltans wife Suzanne and his family and friends at this sad time and may he now Rest in Peace.
Tributes have poured in from around the World since the news of Zoltans death was announced and a selection of these are as follows:-
Frank Thomas RIP, always a great worker, and a master wrestler..
Bob Howison Zoltan was good.
Philip Howlin RIP Zoltan one of the greats
John Hutchinson One of the all time greats famed for his 3 in 1 submission hold. RIP Zoltan :(
Clive Williams Rest in Peace Zoltan
Tranch Tranch R I P Zoltan 🕷️
Thomas Wright Very sad News, my thought are with his family
Ann Spencer RIP Zoltan great wrestler. Xx
Geoff Stout The first time I ever saw a live wrestling show he was on the bill and was a great heel against Bernard Murray, great wrestler RIP
Pete Hall R.i.p. Zoltan.
Tony White I am very sorry to hear that, my condolences to his family
Rich Hils Condolences to his family. Sad news
David Gee RIP.A great wrestler
Steve Cornish R I P zoltan
Jody Shealy Fantastic worker. A true legend of the style. RIP
Mick Sullivan Anther legened had passed on RIP Zoltan RIP
Dee Thomas Meet zoltan many times at the stadium Liverpool during the 70s may zoltan rest in peace
Anthony John Craddock Always an awesome performance.
Alan Miquet We worked together many many times he was good very good
Jay Gauldie One of my personal favourites
Roy Chamberlain Rip Zoltan and thanks for the great memories
Barry Howard RIP ZOLTAN. thank you for all the excellent memories of your matches on WOS
John Lowing Suzanne messaged me earlier to inform me of Zollie's passing. She was with him at the end and his passing was very peaceful.
Alan Ireland So sorry to hear this. He was on the bill of the first show I went to
Matt McNamara What a great pro, my thoughts are with his family :(
David Webb R.i.p zoltan
Steve Austin Banks R.I.E.P to a REAL legend of his sport 😔
Philip Lawton w o s legend
Monika M Markwart R.I.P
Stephen Cresswell Sending condolences to the family 🤼
Broderick Bassett My condolences to his family and friends. So many great names and characters no longer with us but we still have the precious memories they blessed us with.
Mike Connell Phenomenal wrestler. Deep condolences, but know he should be incredibly proud of what he achieved during his career.
Frank Rimer A truly great grafter and inspiration to many. RIP
Bob Bartholomew Always great when he was on a bill, guaranteed a great match.
Gary Pennington R I p,
Gordon Pryor Top lightweight, one of the very best R.I.P. Zoltan
Philip W Guest 😞😞😞��
Philip Newell So sad to hear this, Condolences to the family. 😪
Kiss Áron Rest in Power 🖤
Tom Lees RIP!Zoly!
John Sweeney RIP.
Fred Ottman GODBLESS
Brian James RIP
Alan Sugden God bless rip
Stephen Day Very Sad rip zoltan
Jackie Abrahams rip
Ronald Crook Very sad news one of my favourites may I send my very deep condolences to his family. R.I.P. Zoltan Boscik
Conor Clyde Lafferty Rest in Peace, Champ.
James Muir RIP God bless
Ryan Ringo Ambrose one of my heroes. loved watching his bouts! very sad to hear
Chris Ball Loved watching him on ITV World of Sport, RIP x
Ken Sowden One of the all time greats in lightweight wrestling and a sad loss to the entire wrestling world. Zoltan was a legend and his memory will live on. RIP Zoltan.
Ann Richardson RIP Zoltan
Shayne Nichols RIP
Tracy Ann Bennett R I.p zoltan you were a great ambassador for the sport
Ian Mizon Very sad to hear of Zoltan. Always loved to see Zoltan wrestle, may he now Rest in perfect peace <3
Tony Scarlo I wrestled Zolly on many occasions he was a brilliant wrestler worthy to hold the championship belt RIPZolly
John C-West Sad news. RIP Zoltan. Nice pic with him wearing the championship belt. A brilliant lightweight.
Sid Morton Rip
John Mcloughlin A brilliant tactical wrestler very clean and clever I enjoyed watching his bouts greatly missed by all who knew him RIP
Andrew Bryden This really sad news marks almost a month of ups and mostly downs among those of us who were in the business, when this ring-man was tops. He was simply fantastic and always gave 100 percent every time he climbed through the ropes. All at Wrestlers Re-Union Scotland would like to take this opportunity to send our deepest condolences to both Zoltan's Family and his many, many friends. RIP Brother
(Zoltan Boscik in action against Al Miquet)
Some great news to bring you all as Mick Sullivan left hospital on Friday 24th July after a stay of 4 days and returned home to his beloved wife Margaret for further recovery.
Now at home Mick has send the following message to us all:-
'I was making a comeback and I was top of the bill with that stiff b.....d, Corona virus at Southampton, and he thought I was going down too straight, little did he know , I still had some of fight left in me. ..this is all down to the old school wrestlers like Alan Miquet an JC aka the fabulous John Cortez Charles Verhulst, (who taught me and Alan so much)... it's all down to you and all my friends on facebook so thank you all very much for your wishes and concerns. The fight is not quite over, but I'm getting there.
We are delighted that Mick is home and lets hope that his health issues are behind him and he makes a quick and full recovery.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send the warmest of wishes to John Welsh aka Lord Bertie Sinclair who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 24th July.
John started his career in the late 1950s and worked for the independent promoters mainly in the North before retiring at the age of 48.
We hope that John has a great day and enjoys his celebrations.
(Lord Bertie celebrates his special day)
The British Wrestlers Reunion remember Brian Glover aka Leon Arras who sadly passed away on the 24th July 1997 aged just 63.
Teacher, turned wrestler turned actor turned author, Brian certainly had a varied career. Trained by his father Charlie, Brian would team with Jack Land as 'The Toffs'. On moving to Joint Promotions he formed a tag team with Bobby Graham and were known as 'The Untouchables'
Although having a number of television appearances throughout his career he is most well known for his hilarious bout against Les Kellett, his in ring comments of "you can hit that bugger all night Kellett boy it doesn't bother me!" , “I know the rules”, “Count im ref,” or"'ow about that then?" made it a bout which has stood the test of time and is still talked about today.
Brian/Leon is much missed to this very day, he was certainly one of wrestlings characters and may he continue to RIP.
(Appearing with Giant Haystacks in ITVs Send in the Girls - The Wild Bunch)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are sad to receive word that wrestling legend Mick Sullivan has been re-admitted to hospital. Micks wife Margaret has sent us the following:-
'Mick has been back in hospital again since Tuesday, pretty much the same symptoms as the last twice, making 3 admissions in under 8 weeks!!! Got shares in the NHS now I think 🤔 He is a little better today and not in so much pain, but still no proper diagnosis, only that having Covid 19 for so long has left him with lasting damage to parts of his body, ie lungs and heart. I will keep you updated for those that wish to know. Take care everyone xx'
We send Mick our very best wishes as always and hope that his health improves over the coming days.
(Max Ward and Joe D'Orazio at the British Wrestlers Reunion)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to report that Dundee wrestler Dave Kidney passed away on Tuesday 21st July peacefully in his sleep his daughter Dawn has confirmed.
Dave turned semi professional shortly after the war, In 1959 he defeated George Allan at the Caird Hall, Dundee, to win the BWA British Featherweight Championship. The fight was reported in the Dundee Courier and he defended his title around the country.
Dave worked for many independent promoters as well as Joint Promotions throughout his career. Dave was also a successful promoter working the Perth, Dundee, Fife and Angus areas as well as being a trainer to the next generation.
Dave has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky and we of course send our condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.
May Dave now RIP.
The British Wrestlers Reunion remember 'Judo' Al Hayes aka the White Angel who passed away on the 21st July 2005.
After a 20 year career in the UK working for Atholl Oakeley, Joint Promotions and Paul Lincoln, Al was soon one of the most recognised names in the UK ring making numerous appearances at the Royal Albert Hall during his career.
In 1971 Al crossed the Pond to the USA and was soon billed as Lord Alfred Hayes continuing his successful wrestling career for various Promoters.
On retiring from in ring competition and after a stint as a 'Manager' Al became a successful co-commentator for the WWF and continued with this until his retirement from wrestling.
Al's daughter remains in contact with us at the Reunion and often tells us how fondly her father talked about his time in the UK and especially his friendship with Wayne Bridges.
Al is much missed by all who knew him and will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family on the anniversary of his passing and may he RIP.
(Al Hayes and Jackie Pallo meet Prince Phillip at the Royal Albert Hall)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are saddened to learn from our friends over at Wrestling Heritage that middleweight wrestler Terry Camm passed away on Saturday 18th July aged 82.
Trained by Al Nicol Terry travelled the UK throughout the 1960s and had two television appearances during that time opposing Colin Joynson and Jean Morandi and worked mainly for Relwyskow and Green, Morrell and Beresford and Wryton Promotions.
Terry has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
We send our condolences to Terrys family and friends at this sad time and may he now RIP.
We are saddened to receive news from our colleagues at the worlds largest and oldest Wrestlers Reunion, The Cauliflower Alley Club, that their 55th Reunuion due to held in Las Vegas in September has been cancelled due to Covid19. CAC President B Brian Blair has made the following statement:-
'Due to the C-19 pandemic and the safety of our reunion attendees, along with Nevada state C-19 protocol, we have postponed the 55th reunion which was scheduled for September 21st-23rd, 2020.
Our 55th reunion has been rescheduled for April 25th-28th, 2021. Discount rooms will be available to those that have purchased reunion tickets and have a “Passkey code,” from April 21st-28th, 2021.
The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino will automatically refund existing room deposits to your credit card. Room reservations for the new 2021 dates will begin December 1st, 2020.
This move has been contemplated by our hard working, all volunteer staff for the past several weeks. We also wanted to ensure that our Deposit with the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino (Boyd gaming), would not be jeopardized and this has been resolved to our satisfaction, with 100% of the deposit moved to the new 2021 dates.
Everyone that has purchased their 55th reunion ticket(s) has 1 of 3 options:
1) Receive a full refund.
2) Donate your reunion ticket to the CAC Benevolent fund for a tax write off.
3) Leave your deposit on hand to ensure that you have a seat for the April, 2021 reunion.
Since we have 1 person handling your choice in regard to “Reunion tickets,” please allow our CAC Treasurer, Darlene Kreis, ample time to process your request. Your request can be made via email or in writing to 1 of the following addresses: Darlenekreis@yahoo.com or Cauliflower Alley Club, 10823 Indian Hills Ct., Unit 29, Seminole, FL 33777.
Your understanding during this most challenging time is greatly appreciated!
Together we will strive to fulfill the “Mission statement” of the CAC, while adhering to our “Creed” and “Motto”. We are the “Ring of Friendship” and together we remain CAC strong!
Healthy, happy wishes to all'
We fully understand the CACs decision and wish them well and hope that they are able to hold their Reunion in 2021.
On Wednesday 15th July the wrestling world said farewell to one of its greatest fans as David Franklin was laid to rest.
Sadly due to Covid19 many were not able to attend to pay their final respects to David although Johnny Kidd and Ian Dowland were invited by the family to attend and represent the wrestling fraternity. Johnny has now advised us as follows:-
'Myself and Ian Dowland were among the mourners at the funeral service of David Franklin. Known amongst his many fans and wrestlers as "Old David". Along with two other speakers I said a few words about this great wrestling fan on behalf of everyone connected with British Wrestling. A good send off for a really nice man. We did you proud Dave'.
We are pleased that David had the best possible send off that he could have under the circumstances and may he now RIP.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to Bobby Barnes who is recovering at home after undergoing surgery.
Bobbys wife Jan has now advised that he had been suffering for a number of months with back problems and had to use a frame in the end to walk but recently underwent corrective surgery.
We are very pleased to report that after a few days back at home, Bob has now taken his first steps unaided which is excellent news.
Jan will keep us updated as to Bob's progress and they would like to let colleagues and fans know that he is now in recovery.
If anyone would like to send their best wishes to Bobby you can do so by leaving a comment on our facebook page and we will see that they are forwarded to him.
(David and Johnny Kidd)
It was with sadness that we announced the passing of superfan David Franklin a few days ago and now we have been advised that his funeral service will take place on Wednesday 15th July at 10.45am in Bath.
Sadly, due to Covid19 restrictions, mourners at the service remain limited and so many who wished to pay their respects to David will not be able to attend. However, the family have personally asked legendary wrestler Johnny Kidd and Ian Dowland, both longtime friends of Davids to join the mourners and they have agreed. Both men will therefore represent the entire wrestling world and it is only fitting that there will be two people there from the industry considering Davids love of the sport.
David will be sadly missed but his suffering is now over and he can Rest in Peace.
(David and Ian Dowland)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to report that super fan David Franklin has passed away following a long illness.
As reported a few weeks ago Davids recovery had suffered a setback and unfortunately he passed away on Monday 6th July.
David was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend who after a 2 year battle with cancer was cruelly taken from them.
Our thoughts are with Davids family and friends at this very sad time and may he now RIP.
The British Wrestlers Reunion sent a huge thank you to the NHS as they celebrated their 72nd birthday on Sunday 5th July.
Never has the NHS been more needed than they have been during the last 4 months and a huge debt of gratitude is owed to all those who have worked tirelessly alongside all the other keyworkers during this terrible pandemic.
The wrestling world pay tribute to you all for what you have done and continue to do, you deserve all the praise you receive and much more.
Our respect goes to you all.
(Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy visiting a hospital)
(Some of the wrestlers who attended the 2019 Reunion at The Bridges)
Sunday 5th July saw the home of the Reunion for the last 24 years, The Bridges, open their doors for the first time in over 3 months.
The opening coincides with what would have been the legendary Wayne Bridges birthday and it is so sad that he is no longer there to welcome everyone, he is deeply missed by us all.
During its shutdown The Bridges has undergone a makeover being completely re-decorated both inside and out and he garden area has also been spruced up.
Of course due to the current situation PPE and social distancing measures have been put in place including a one way system to enter and leave the premises.
Many of the locals will be raising a glass or two to Bill today as the doors re-open and we, all being well, look forward to welcoming many of you on the 9th August when we will do the same.
(The Bridges has re-opened its doors after 3 months)
We are deeply saddened to receive word from our friends at the Wrestlers Reunion Scotland that their event scheduled for the 13th September has been cancelled due to the Covid19 pandemic. A full statement issued by WRS is as follows:-
A VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE COMMITTEE OF THE WRESTLERS RE-UNION SCOTLAND!!!
Following a long and a considered meeting this afternoon on a Video Call. It has been decided that due to the new outbreaks of the Virus in different parts of the UK and the coflicting opinions regards policy, being advocated by both the Edinburgh and the Westminster Governments . That we have been left with no choice, but to very, very reluctantly cancel this years 2020 Ayr Re-Union.
No one will be any more disappointed than those who had to make this difficult decision and we hope all our Members and Patrons will understand it was not taken lightly!!!
We will however be holding a Virtual On-Line Scottish Re-Union on Sunday 13th September. Details to follow!!!
We look forward to welcoming everyone again to Scotland for Wrestlers Re-Union Scotlands Event in 2021. And we would to take this opportunity to wish all our Brothers and Sisters in the British Reunion Kent all the very best for their 2020 Reunion on the Second Sunday in August.
We know that the committee of the WRS have not made this decision lightly and have tried everything possible to try and ensure their Reunion went ahead but sadly it was not to be. We wish them all the very best for their event which they will now hold in 2021.
A Man of All Talents is the remarkable story of rugby and wrestling legend Douglas 'Duggy' Clark.
Born in 1891 in the sleepy Cumbrian village of Maryport, at 14 he left school to work for his father's coal merchant business. Duggy grew into an exceptionally strong but quiet and reserved young man. His two great passions were rugby and Cumberland and Westmorland-style wrestling, and he excelled at both.
By 24 he was already a rugby league great and a key member of Huddersfield's 'Team of All Talents', winning every honour the sport could offer. He represented Britain in the infamous 1914 'Rorke's Drift' tour of Australia before being called up to serve in the Great War. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery, but his war injuries were so severe he was discharged with a 20% disability certificate.
Doctors gave Duggy an ultimatum: either he could stay home and live a long but sedate and ordinary life or risk his health by returning to sport.
He chose the latter and went on to achieve more extraordinary and pioneering feats.
The book is available for pre order via amazon on the following link:-
We wish the author, Steven Bell, all the very best with this book and hope it is a great success for him.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our warmest of wishes to Basil 'Romany' Riley who returned home on Friday 26th June after a lengthy stay in hospital.
Basil underwent a serious operation and then contracted Covid19.
Basils home has now been adapted with a special bed/hoists etc to assist him with his recovery and is in good spirits considering what he has endured over the last few months.
We hope that Basils health improves over the coming weeks and months and wish him well.
(Basil & Steve Veidor at The Bridges)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are deeply saddened to announce that former referee, Master of Ceremonies and historian Ray Plunkett passed away peacefully in hospital on Friday 26th June with his partner Wendy at his bedside.
As we reported recently Ray had been admitted to hospital and sadly he was not able to overcome his illness.
Ray was a great contriibutor to our website and also our friends over at Wrestling Heritage as well as having one of the greatest collection of wrestling memorabilia and results in the UK. His passing will be a great loss to us all.
Ray has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky and will be remembered at this years Reunion.
Our condolences go to Rays family and friends at this very sad time.
Tributes have poured in since Rays passing was announced, a selection of which are shown below:-
(Ray receives a Services to Wrestling Award at the 2008 Reunion)
The British Wrestlers Reunion remember a young grappler who sadly went to the Dressing Room in the Sky way before his time when Adrian 'Lionheart' McCallum passed away a year ago on the 19th June 2019.
The UK's Modern Wrestling Style lost a "Champion" a Real Trooper and a Showman who had a great career ahead of him.
Our friends at the Wrestlers Reunion Scotland lost a great supporter and in 2019 they honoured him and will continue to do so therefore keeping his memory alive.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his Mother and Father and the rest of his family on the anniversary of his passing and may Adrian be troubled no more and RIP.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our very best wishes to legendary referee Mal Mason who celebrates his 80th birthday on Tuesday 16th June.
Mal who has now been in the wrestling industry for an astonishing 50 years held the very first Reunion in his back garden before it moved to Joe Cornelius' pub a year later is still very much involved in the wrestling business today passing on his wealth of knowledge to the next generation of wrestling star.
We hope that Mal enjoys his celebrations with many more years ahead of him.
(Wayne Bridges, Mal Mason & Tony White at the Reunion)
The British Wrestlers Reunion are saddened to receive word that 'Diamond' Jim Brody passed away after suffering from a stroke on the 9th June.
Away from wrestling Jim used to run a security company with Tony 'Banger' Walsh and was also instrumental in the training of Nick Aldis and Jimmy Starr when he introduced them to Dropkixx Wrestling Academy
Jim will be sadly missed by all who knew him and he has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
We send our condolences to Jims family and friends at this sad time and may he now RIP.
Wayne Bridges last journey as he leaves The Bridges, the home of the British Wrestlers Reunion for 25 years, for the final time.
Bill may have gone but he has left a legacy that will never be forgotten and he will live on in our hearts and memories for years to come.
RIP Bill (video courtesy of Tayler Murphy)
(Wayne & Sarah Bridges in happier times at The Bridges)
On behalf of Sarah Bridges and the British Wrestlers Reunion we would like to thank you all for your heartfelt tributes that you paid to Bill on the day of his funeral.
We know that many of you watched the service live online and if you missed it it will remain available on the link previously provided.
Hopefully, even though you were unable to be in there in person, you felt part of Bills final send off.
A memorial to Bill will be held in the village hall in due course and at this years Reunion will also pay our tribute to him.
All of your tributes have been a great comfort to the family and even though Bill is no longer with us we will never forget what a remarkable man he was.
The British Wrestlers Reunion remembers the 11th June 1980, 40 years ago as Joint Promotions staged the second of their three Wembley Arena shows.
Topping the bill on the first was Big Daddy v Mighty John Quinn. The third Daddy versus Giant Haystacks and in the 1980 headliner Daddy teamed up with Wayne Bridges to take on John Quinn and Yasu Fuji.
Full results of the show were:-
Mick McManus defeats Vic Faulkner
Jon Cortez defeats Mick McMichael
Gil Singh vs. Ray Steele - No Contest
Big Daddy & Wayne Bridges defeat John Quinn & Yasu Fuji Marty Jones defeats Mark Rocco
British Welterweight Title: Alan Dennison defeats Jim Breaks (c) - TITLE CHANGE !!!
Catweazle defeats Tally Ho Kaye
Officials for this Wembley show were John Harris as MC and referees Brian Crabtree, Max Ward and Dave Reece.
Although this show did not have the hype of the one the previous year it was still British wrestling at its best and the likes of these extravaganzas have not been seen by any UK promoter since.
Great memories of a great night of professional wrestling.
The British Wrestlers Reunion are saddened to receive word that Cyril Dummer aka Cocky Watson and Rough House Watson passed away aged 90 years of age on Sunday 17th May following complications after suffering a stroke.
Cyril was a Light heavyweight and trained under Bruno Elrington at his gym in Portsmouth and worked for Joint Promotions in the mid 1950s before moving across to the independents during the 1960s
Our condolences go to Cyrils family and friends at this very sad time and he has been added to the Dressing Room in the Sky.
May Cyril now Rest in Peace.
Bert Assirati was a name feared by many in the wrestling world. His professional wrestling record speaks for itself and is envied by many. Now Dave Gentle re-visits the mans life and career:-
THE BERT ASSIRATI FILES
BY DAVID GENTLE© davidgentle.com/HOPC 2020
In a world of make believe, legends, myths and dreams Bert Assirati, was every wrestler’s night mare. Almost ignoring the sacred rules of “kayfabe”, when Bert put on a submission hold and his victim tapped out, Bert was in the habit of not releasing his opponent until he had added a few extra squeezes to impress his point. Few wrestlers ever demanded a rematch and indeed many then turning up at an event and discovering they were scheduled to be matched with the beast from Islington, developed a sudden mysterious illness or injury playing up, allowing them an early ride home to escape the torturous pain likely to have been inflicted upon them.
For Bert unless the incentive was there, there was rarely a chance he would co operate with a “working match” to him most bouts were a “shoot out” and for us oldies lucky enough to have seen him (I watched him in Southampton late 40s, early 50s at the Dell, Town Hall and The Royal Pier. Via Dale Martin and Athol Oakeley promotions) it was a privilege to watch this amazing block of muscle, resembling the elusive “Brick out- house” Lucky indeed as he was soon to take tour of pastures new, having earlier toured the USA, he then left us for the far east, where he continued to spread his awesome reputation and add a few more coins to the coiffures, guarded by this wife Marjorie
Of Italian descent and the son of garage proprietor Daniel Assiriti, Bartolemeo, Busandri, “Bert” Assirati was born in Richmond Avenue, Islington, London, on the 9th July 1908 ( IB 583 Somerset House records.) He excelled at sports especially gymnastics and cycling. When just 16 with his father, he attended a physical show to witness the famous physical culture trainer, Alan Mead demonstrating with a chest expander and Mead pulled a set of strands with what he said was a world record. Bert, jumped stage and made fifteen reps with the same poundage, impressing Mead, who later gave him his first set of weights. He developed his weight lifting prowess at the Clarance Physical Culture Club in Islington. Encouraged by his cousin Joe a great all-round lifter in his own right, and his father. Already an all-round athlete, cyclist, swimmer, gymnast, he began training with weights from his early teens. Despite his physical unathletic body type, after leaving school, he became a part (being the bearer) of an acrobatic duo, named Mello and Nello, Bert being Nello, (does anyone know who Mello was?) performing advanced acrobatic stunts to a wide audience. Touring UK and most of Europe. This early acrobatic experience enhanced his wrestling career and later, he regularly performed a standing back flip after winning a match. Like the later herculean hand balancer, Reub Martin, Bert could make a pull over at arm’s length with 200lbs, at his time setting a British record in 1938. Reub Martin, used the similar power to pull over his hand balancing partner into a balance as part of their regular act. Another feat of unusual power for a man of his endomorph body type was his ability to perform a one hand stand, and demonstrate the tough balancing act of the Iron Cross.
Historian Mike Hallinan tells us a rare known fact that during 1932, Whilst working for Apollo, the strongman William Bankier, he for just the one time, wrestled under the name of John Swan at the Edinburgh Carnival. During the same year he embarked on the Cunard liner Berengaria to New York for an American tour and despite tales to the contrary although winning many bouts, did also suffer defeats, see later.
A common myth is during his tour of the States, he had 65 bouts winning all but two, later also winning those on a rematch, whereas better research suggests he actually had about 120 matches, many of which were working matches. Bert, began his weight lifting, acrobatics and wrestling at the Clarence Physical Culture Club in Islington, encouraged by his cousin Joe and father. Noting he had great potential as a wrestler and with training from the likes of George Mc Kenzie and Peter Gotz at the Ashdown Wrestling club and Wigan Wrestling schools, he followed the advice of William Bankier, The Scottish Apollo and he first turned to pro wrestling at the age of just 20years, in October 1928 beating (90 White Lion Street, Islington), Ashdown Club member Robert Cook, trained at period by top mat man (Sir) Atholl Oakeley who taught him most of the tricks of the trade. ( see Atholl’s book “Blue Blood on the Mat”) All-in Wrestling had just been introduced in the UK.(December 1930) Along -side his wrestling tuition, he continued to train with weights to become one of wrestling’s strongest men as the following listing will demonstrate. Remember also that with tougher competition many of these lifts would not have been his ultimate best or potential, this rule applies to all old timers’ feats when once they exceeded the worlds best by a huge margin, without competition, why exert yourself and attempt more?
His measurements are listed often with variations as follows. Height 5ft, 6 ins, bodyweight 17 stone or 110kgs.Getting even heavier as time went on. No one appears to have measured his width, which to be honest looked the same as his height. Perhaps they ran out of tape. He soon became infamous for his apparent delight in inflicting pain, so few requested a rematch. Mostly performed around the year 1938, some examples of Bert’s power include.
FEATS OF STRENGTH AND AGILITY
Could squat with 800lbs, then an unofficial World record.
Could squat with one leg with a 200lb barbell on his shoulder (as could the premier Mr Universe, John C Grimek) He was also able to lift off the ground his father’s taxi from the rear.
This was the period he did his 200lbs pull over at arm’s length with a 200lbs barbell setting a British record, his bodyweight was 240lbs. Decades later as a skinny 140lbs lifter I made a Southern counties record in same lift with just 120lbs, so can appreciate the power it must have taken.
He could squat continuously for half an hour with a 235lbs barbell. The barbell was formerly owned by the famous Eugen Sandow. Bert despite his bodyweight, could perform three one arm pull ups, and jump into a one arm hand stand.
He could do the gymnastic test of a crucifix on the rings when weighing 266lbs. Even when age 72, Bert was able to “walk” up and down the stairs on his hands via the handstand position.
He could one arm military press 160lbs with one arm in 1938. Later I recall Bill Kazmaier did similar as the World’s Strongest Man.
Still on his gymnastic skills, Bert is reputed as able to perform a back somersault while holding a 56lb block weight in each arm. Many old timers have been credited with similar with “historians” coming along and doubting the veracity of such a lift, saying “The weights must have been 35lbs” Personally due to Assirati’s power and ability, I have no doubts the quoted poundage is correct ,as 56lb blocks were in common use by many day to day tradesmen, eg, coal merchants, only Mike Hallinan (see later for credits) would know better?
Bert also was able to perform back somersaults or flip flaps, while weighing 266lbs, he often after winning a match would finish of the bout with a performance of back flips.
I am not sure if he was musical like his cousin Joe, but Bert was able to carry a normal size piano for quite a distance on his back, as he was also able to do same with a regular telegraph pole.
For a party trick, also demonstrated by the strong man Mac Batchelor in the Weider mags, Bert would place regular metal beer top caps in between his fingers of both hands, then squeeze and crush them completely. No shaking hands with him then………….
Back to the mat game, with many wrestling matches now under his belt. Writer Mark Gould wrote at one period Bert had an un-beaten record of 540 wins in a row. Bert soon achieved a reputation for his almost sadistic attitude and his inflexibility to accept the recognised “pre- determined” or working , set of matches, which meant promoters were reluctant to slot him in their schedules, also many professional wrestlers began to become reluctant to fight him aware of the dangers of the “fight” turning into a shooting match, one particular match included a genuine shooting match with one of the USAs toughest wrestlers Ray Steele with Steele coming out the winner, meeting twice more for a draw and then a win for Assirati. Others who could claim a victory over Bert, were Black Butcher Johnson, Alf Rawlings, Francis St Clair, Bill Garnon, Athol Oakeley Ernie and others, with also numerous draws and questionable matches.
Amongst the top international wrestlers, especially American who had long practiced the then “all in style” and claims were made that Assirati had challenged Lou Thesz, who most people recognised as world champion, with Thesz refusing. Later in his book Thesz tells exactly the opposite. Many were indeed working matches, although Bert, if he knew he was scheduled to lose according to the promoter’s card, would usually give up the fight in the first round not bothering to make a show just for the sake of entertainment. Demanding up to five times the usual payment for agreeing to roll over for his opponent. He was definitely a hard act to put on the cards, at one time being suspended by the Maryland Boxing Commission for fighting the referee. Throughout his career, he continued to be unwilling to co-operate with promoters.
Listing his titles is a night mare of myths and facts, he won official British World Championship in 1945 and two years later the British Empire and European version, eventually claiming the unofficial Heavyweight Champion of the World. Running out of victims and continually uncooperative with promoters, he left the UK in 1950 (after my being lucky enough to see some of his fights in Southampton at the Dell football ground under Dale Martin/Atholl Oakeley promotions) and travelled to the Far East, including India, where in 1954 he wrestled in front of huge audiences variously quoted as anything from 50.00 to 100.000, so who’s counting,? But his absence from the scene meant the British authorities stripped him of his title. Bert however soon returned and in 1952 regained his European title, with matches that included beating big names such as the French Angel, Maurice Tillet. (Tillet briefly stayed in Southampton with Judo Jimmy Noice, who co indecently gave me judo lessons) Tillet died in 1954 in the USA)
Restless as ever, Bert returned to India, first to Singapore using the cruise as a honeymoon with Marjorie who he had married in 1952 where they had a five month stay, during which beat the giant King Kong Czaka, The Angel and Kurt Zehe a huge man, finalising with a win over the 7ft 7inch German Gargantua by a submission, winning yet another bag of jewels for his wife Marjorie’s collection, again giving up his title only to recover it later via a match with Ernie Baldwin. (Source 9 part series by Charles Mascall in Dale Martin programs) For fans interest, all of Bert’s cups and trophies are at times put on show at the British Wrestlers Reunion at the Bridges public house.
By now Joint Promotions became the governing body, who after problems with Bert’s injuries awarded top spot to ex guardsman Shirley Crabtree, later as he gained massive bodyweight, named “Big Daddy”. Bert Assirati’s last fight was with Joe Cornelius in Brighton. His last promoter was his wife Marjorie with “Asta promotions” which ran from 1958 to 1960.
With the “All in” wrestling rules now in place in 1930 Bert began building up his record, defeating many big names of the era, including Bill Garnon, and Atholl Oakeley himself amongst others.
A unique fact disclosed by the ultimate Assirati historian Mike Hallinan was that whilst working for Apollo, in 1932, he wrestled in the Edinburgh Carnival under the name of John Swan and remained un-defeated.
It was during this year, 1932, that Bert first set sail for America on the Cunard liner Berengaria, under the ship’s passenger logs, he is listed as occupation, Wrestler. It is here the myths begin, but the truth, again acknowledging Mike Hallinan’s research, is that contrary to the popular legend, Bert did not win every match, with a study of the reference books recording many “defeats” to mid card opponents. His manager Gardini however was impressed, and Bert in one account, is credited with winning his first 35 matches, some causing near riots we are told when his Italian fans, did not agree with the current referee’s decisions. In the short time he was in the States, over seven months, One account says, he took on sixty-five matches, winning most and those he “lost” he soon regained.
The two he had to regain were over the tough Ray Steele and Hans Steinke. This is the period the infamous “Boston Crab” began to unfold as Bert’s signature hold. Bert certainly put genuine fear into his opponents, excelling at locks and submission holds, all shooter moves.
The list of top men Bert did overcome in USA, included top names like Ernie Dusex, Joe Stetcher of the scissors hold fame, Wladlek Zbyszko, Baron Leone, a draw with Frank Sexton and more and many others of their ilk, running out of his USA time he returned to the UK visiting Hackenschmidt with his father Daniel. Finally recognised as the champion of Southern UK after beating George Gregory.
He beat the French Angel at Tottenham Hotspurs football ground in 1946 before a huge crowd with various estimates of the attendance 12.000 being the average figure quoted. It is estimated he had anything from 6 to 7000 bouts including the massive 340lbs King Kong Czaya in Mala. After returning from his three year of the Far East, Bert came home to a huge tax bill, and no longer working with the top Joint Promotions ad to work for the independents He even formed his own promotions with Jack Taylor forming ASTA( ran by Marjorie from 1958 to 1960 putting on shows all over the UK with many tough matches. It appears he had not lost his blood lust as famous wrestler Prince Kumali aka Gordon Petri tells of his match with Bert, in which he had submitted, for Bert to continue to fail to unlock a hurtful head lock, cause Kumali serious injury lasting over a year such was its intensity. By now in 1960The British Wrestling Federation withdrew their recognition of Assiriti’s title claim, with Bert finally giving his final appearance in 1963. Retiring from the mat game, Bert took up work as a bouncer in Epsom Surrey, during the era of the “Swinging sixties” I just wonder how Bert actually got through the door himself. In late life, he eventually suffered eye problems leading to near blindness as well as various injuries caused by his life time of tough fighting on the mat. He was then living at Wooding Dean He died of bladder cancer on 31st of August 1990 , cremated at Downs Crematorium, and his ashes are scattered at the grounds of The Bridges Pub” in Kent, later followed by those of his wife Marjorie where fans can make an annual pilgrimage to the British Wrestlers Reunion held every August.
A few miscellaneous facts or myths about Bert are.
1.Bert started Karl Gotch’s career in USA
2.All Capone infamous gangster asked Bert to be his bodyguard Bert wisely refused.
3.On one occasion, Bert met the famous Ed Strangler Lewis in a gym. Ed put on his famous headlock and squeezed hard Bert just put his hands behind Ed’s thighs, supplexed him over backwords leaving Lewis concussed on the mat.
4. He once wrestled at the world most famous venue, Madison Square Gardens.
SINCERE THANKS TO SOURCES.
I would like to acknowledge thanks primarily to Mike Hallinan for his exhaustive study of Bert. It is said a man has to turn over a library to write a book. Every book or article I studied in my quest to discover the truth about this legendary wrestler, I find has been already studied by Mike. Many other writers often simply continue with the old myths, not Mike. The many books I have poured over include Barnam’s of Bounce, From Milo to Londos, The Pictorial History of Wrestling and literally dozens of articles from various wrestling magazines. Including those of Fred Unwin, who incidentally coached Mick Mc Manus, Wrestling Heritage, John Shelvey, The British Wrestlers Reunion, and Frank Rimer, I also had many personal conversations with his cousin Joe Assirati, Chas Smith, and former Hall of Fame, pro wrestler Bob Kirkwood. The number of people, of those I owe a dept to is too long to list, so I offer a general thank you to all who contributed to my attempt to find something of Bert Assirati’s life.
With grateful acknowledgments to my many sources,
© David Gentle for davidgentle.com/HOPC 2020.
The British Wrestlers Reunion were delighted to hear from Joel de Fremery the international French wrestling star on Sunday 3rd May.
Joel, who during his illustrious career made a number of visits to the UK, was presented with one of the Reunions prestigious awards back in 2009 by Bob Kirkwood (as seen here). Joel fondly recalls his time in the UK stating:
'I have a lot of memories my 1st coming in 1965. I was 21 now 76. I met all the great stars of that time : Mick Jackie Pallo Steve Logan and had a tv with Jon Cortez. I would like to come back at that time. In 1982 I met Mark Rocco 4 the title. Best regards Joël'
We are pleased that Joel is well and we wish him all the best and thank him for contacting us.
(Lee and Sue are celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss)
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our warmest of congratulations to the UKs number one Ring Announcer Lee Bamber and his wife Sue who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday 29th April.
Such is Lees love of wrestling that he even had wrestling at his wedding reception, how many can say they have done that???
(Lee gets a pie in the face courtesy of Mal Sanders and Steve Grey at his wedding reception in 2000)
Lee has also over the last few years been the compere at our Reunion and we thank him for doing a tremendous job for us, long may he continue with it.
We hope that Lee and Sue have a lovely day and have many more happy years together.
(Lee Bamber at the 2019 Reunion)
At these difficult of times it is nice to hear from some of the greats of the ring letting us know they are safe and well.
Sunday 26th April was one such day when the British Wrestlers Reunion received word from the great legend Bobby Barnes. Bobby keeps in regular contact with our good friend Chris Buckwell as well as a number of others in the wrestling industry and it is nice that he continues to have some involvement after such a distinguished career.
Bobby and his wife Jan advise that they are safe and well and isolating at home like many of us and will continue to do so for as long as is necessary.
Bobby wishes to extend his good wishes to all colleagues and friends at this difficult time and we are happy to pass these on.
We hope that Bobby, Jan and all our other friends remain healthy and stay safe
(Bobby with tag partner Adrian Street)
The committee of Blackpool wrestlers Reunion have been closely monitoring the situation of the Covid-19 virus and the resulting travel restrictions.
After careful consideration, they have decided to postpone the 5 year anniversary wrestlers Reunion originally scheduled in May until next year! May 9th 2021.
The Blackpool Reunion are deeply grateful for the patience and support of all their guests and they look forward to welcoming you all until then stay safe
The British Wrestlers Reunion in Kent and the Scottish Reunion in Ayr are still scheduled to take place on the 9th August and 13th September respectively at the time of writing but of course this may change in due course as both Reunions continue to monitor Government guidelines.
The British Wrestlers Reunion would like to send our warmest congratulations to the first couple of wrestling, the Exotic Adrian Street and Miss Linda who celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary on Thursday 16th April.
At these very difficult times and after days of reporting sad news we are pleased to bring some good news and put a smile on our faces.
We hope that Adrian and Linda have a great day and have many more happy years together.
(Adrian and Linda on their wedding day)
As the Coronavirus continues to take hold around the World the British Wrestlers Reunion hope that wrestlers, fans and all of our supporters remain healthy and stay safe.
With many of us now in lockdown or unable to live our normal life our thoughts and prayers go to those who have lost loved ones or who are suffering from this awful pandemic.
We can only hope that by following guidelines we can eradicate the Coronavirus as soon as possible and get back to normality.
Please look after yourselves and your family and friends during these very tough times for us all.
We would on behalf of Sarah Bridges, the Bridges family and the British Wrestlers Reunion like to thank everyone for their kind words and tributes following the very sad passing of Wayne Bridges on the 8th March.
We have received literally 100s of messages of condolence and support from wrestlers and fans from all around the World and these are very comforting to everyone at this very sad time.
We have been asked by many people wishing to know about funeral arrangements so that they can attend and pay their respects to Bill and as soon as a date has been confirmed we will let everyone know.
Thank you once again, it means an awful lot.
Born in the roughest part of Islington, London on July 5th, it was on the cards that WAYNE BRIDGES would end up on the wrong side of the fence, but his obvious love of sport managed to keep him out of the long arms of the law. Bills Father sadly died when he was just 3 years old, leaving him to act as Dad to his younger Sister Esther , plus becoming the breadwinner for his Widowed Mother at an early age. He was an unruly child who hated school, rarely attending his lessons and preferring to run with the local pack, getting into all sorts of mischief, with would be gangsters such as the infamous Naish Brothers with whom he grew up. On one occasion, he set light to the back door of his home for a prank.
However by 9 years old, he was introduced to swimming at the local Hornsey Road Baths where he took everyone by surprise at his prowess in the water. Soon, he was winning competitions and eventually beat everyone in his class. His ability at the crawl was awesome and he became like a fish in the water. By the time that he was in his teens, the young Woodbridge had been chosen to represent his Country many times, culminating by being chosen to swim for the British Team at the Rome Olympics in 1962. Here he was beaten by the Legendary IAN BLACK , during the 100 metres crawl and also his friend and rival DICK CAMPIAN.
Simultaneously, away from the pool, Bill was becoming increasingly interested in Amateur wrestling and having grown into a strapping 6ft 2 inch giant with a Tarzan type body to match, was a natural to do well at this sport also. He regularly trained at the United, the Ashdown, The Loughborough, The YMCA in Edgeware Road, and Police training headquarters at Hendon, with great Champions such as DENNIS MCNAMARA,DON IRVINE,BILL MOSTYN, GEORGE COLEMAN, DENNIS GARVEY, FRANK WARREN and TONY BUCK who has remained a friend to this day. Simultaneously, he honed his great physique at the London gym's in the celebrated company of ARNOLD SWARZENEGGER when he lived here. Title followed Title as the almost invincible grappler with the immense strength tore his way through the top Division, until yet again he was chosen to represent his Country at International level, where he fought for Great Britain over 15 times, travelling to France, Germany and many other Overseas Tournaments, his meteoric rise to fame being assisted by JIMMY BROWN and TERRY BLACKWALL It was at one of these contests at the United Club, that the immortal Legends : MIKE MARINO and JOE CORNELIUS happened to frequent and were immediately struck by the sheer physical presence of this super youngster. They invited him to attend a Professional Show where they were working and Bill became immediately drawn to this new form of wrestling. There followed some training by his hero : MIKE MARINO in the different styles and his amateur days were soon forgotten, when the late great PAUL LINCOLN offered him a job , having his inaugural bout against the same MIKE MARINO, re christened now by Lincoln as WAYNE BRIDGES, the Legend began
Meanwhile, PAUL LINCOLNs Business Empire was in full demand, with the CROMWELLIAN Night Club, 2Is Coffee Bar , Booze cruises and other outlets were flourishing, giving WAYNE BRIDGES a new role as minder and chief Security Officer of the many pop stars who were booked such as SIR TOM JONES, P.J. PROBY and many more. This success, gave him the opportunity to reward his Mothers devotion to his upbringing and he managed to buy the four story house where she had a flat , followed by the house next door., so that she might live in comfort. Erstwhile pop stars like SIR CLIFF RICHARD, HANK MARVIN and THE SHADOWS, MARTY WILDE, JOE BROWN ,BILLY FURY,LONNIE DONNEGAN ,TOMMY STEELE, etc., were all working for Lincoln, erecting the rings in exchange for a spot singing at the 2 is and Bridges cashed in by letting out spare rooms to these would be stars. He soon graduated into pub life by buying his first pub called The Cock? in Deptford, retaining ownership of all three to this day and with the houses being let to the Japanese Embasssy.
Over the next few years, his rise to the top billing spot was phenomenal, working with grapplers that were to become lifelong friends such as JUDO AL HAYES, BOB KIRKWOOD, DON STEADMAN, REBEL RAY HUNTER ,BOB ANTHONY, ZOLTAN BOSCHIK, PAUL LINCOLN ( DOCTOR DEATH), JON CORTEZ,DENNIS DEAN , etc.,and when DALE-MARTINS bought out Lincolns promotions in the mid 60s. he was integrated into the main stream of wrestling in a way that was unprecedented. Once Established and with many TV appearances under his belt the Beau Brummel of wrestling as he was often called, because of his insistence that the wrestling socks were always even , commenced many Foreign Tours, especially into Europe, Japan, Africa, Canada and the USA where his charismatic charm , physique and good looks made him a firm favourite on the circuits. Shoot Legends such as KARL GOTCH and GEORGES GORDIENKO not known for their generosity towards opponents took the youngster under their wing, teaching him many new manoeuvres while on Tour, working for the WWE . Such was his popularity , that the original VINCE McMAHON Snr., invited him to lodge at his home in Connecticutt.
Finally, after many minor titles, WAYNE BRIDGES was given the opportunity to wrestle for the belt and a new Heavyweight Champion of the World was crowned. During his reign as Champion, there were many attempts to lift the strap, with the Title changing back and forwards three times, but his bouts against KENDO NAGASAKI and the great MIGHTY JOHN QUINN were the most legendary and ironically despite the ferocity within the ring, the two have remained friends to this day.
Wayne Bridges was born a gifted athlete and was one of those infuriating people that excels in everything. Standing tall at 6ft plus, dark hair, good looks, a physique to die for, he was destined to become the global super star that he was to become. Everyone who has ever known him, is drawn to his quiet modest charm, and he can number many former opponents as his closest allies. Men such as STEVE VEIDOR, PRINCE KUMALI, JOE CORNELIUS, COLIN JOYNSON ,GORI ED MANGOTITCH,JUDO PETE ROBERTS and dearest pal the late BOMBER PAT ROACH.
He has helped many colleagues into Business ventures of their own and rarely does anyone say anything detrimental about this immensely popular character known as Big Winnie or 'Waynetta', a joke that he absolutely loves in his self deprecating way, modestly referring to his own work in the ring as Lacklustre, which was a phrase used by KENT WALTON during one TV broadcast.
He also played regular soccer for the wrestlers team to raise monies for charity and appeared many times in public to generate funds for spina bifida and other worthy causes with others wrestlers such as TONY 'BANGER' WALSH, BILL BROMLEY, IAN MUIR, SID COOPER, ROBBY BARON, DAVE 'BUTCHER' BOND, JOHNNY KINCAID, MAL SANDERS, LENNIE HURSTand more.
Simultaneously, his athletic frame was in constant demand on movies and TV shows , where he body doubled for old friend SEAN CONNERY in all his JAMES BOND films, plus numerous roles in other productions and TV favourites such as THE GENERATION GAME with SIR BRUCE FORSYTH, and THIS IS YOUR LIFE etc..
Away from the ring, he continued swimming and training on the weights , plus a love of horses and never more than when he was living in the States, where he roamed freely across the cowboy lands on horseback.
Family life was also good for Wayne with his then wife Sheila and two children Dean and Jo Anne. Dean grew up wanting nothing more than to follow in his fathers footsteps turning Professional as soon as his age permitted. His height, and youthful good looks reminiscent of his Dad. He took the name DEAN BRISCO and was soon emulating the success of his world famous Father, taking on all the star names of the day, even appearing on TV against the Bear man : JOHN ELIJAH. Dean often could be seen in the corner for Waynes title defences, and the two appeared together many times as they travelled the same circuits. Everything seemed perfect until the boy became ill when he was just 24 years old, contracting Leukaemia which ravaged his body. He fought the disease with immense courage, but lost the fight in January 1986. He had just turned 25 years old! To make matters worse, the lad had recently settled down with his girlfriend and they were expecting their first child who was to be christened DANIEL but who Dean would never see. The Family were devastated and none more so than Wayne himself.
By the early 90s, he owned and ran a large public House called The Prince of Orange in Greenwich. It was here that he eventually met and fell in love with SARAH BRIDGES, who was working as a barmaid. Around this time, he took on the hosting of the British Wrestlers Reunion after his pal JOE CORNELIUS, emigrated to Cyprus in 1993, a role that he has played ever since.
Sarah meanwhile, started to visit a local gym and took an increasing interest in body-building with Bill eventually becoming her mentor. Her success in that field has been outstanding, winning the Miss Great Britain Title and then conquering the world as the largest woman bodybuilder on the planet, numbering legends like Mr. Universe: LOU FERRIGNO ( Incredible Hilk) and 6 times Mr Olympia :DORIAN YATES as her friends.
The couple decided to settle in Kent and sold the Orange to buy a beautiful bungalow and a nearby pub in Horton Kirby, South Darenth, which they renamed The Bridges.
Of course, weight-training has never been far away from Bills own life, in order to maintain his enormous physique, and he trained daily in the gym, followed by over 40 lengths of the local pool twice weekly , where he still cuts a dash against the youngsters.
Wrestling for so many years and against the giants of the ring, took its toll on his body however and a few years ago, Bridges underwent serious spinal surgery in a double operation, each taking 7 hours, but the nervous system was damaged beyond repair and although the pain factor has been removed, the nerves have never re-grown, leaving the Legend struggling to walk or stand up straight for any length of time.
For all the hardships that he has endured over the last 25 years however, the star remained positive and cheerful , welcoming all his many friends at the Country pub whenever they called, often playing host with Sarah to close wrestling buddies over dinner and convivial evenings of chat and laughter, plus telephoning all his pals on an almost daily basis.
Sadly, on Sunday 8th March 2020 the inevitable happened, Bill Bridges faced a bout he was unable to win, after years as a star and a champion he passed away with Sarah, his sister Esther and his niece Tina at his bedside.
Bill Bridges has left a legacy in wrestling that will never be equalled, a true gentlemen, a champion and an all round top man, he will never be forgotten and he will live on in all our memories through his family and the Reunion. RIP Bill, you will be missed.
(Bill Bridges and Ken Sowden at a recent Reunion)
(Wayne Bridges presents Ken Sowden with one of his cups at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon in 2013)
It is with the deepest sadness that we have to announce that the former Heavyweight Champion of the World : WAYNE BRIDGES has passed away peacefully.
'Big Winnie' or Bill as he was affectionately known, achieved every success in life as a supreme athlete, swimming for England in the Olympics, representing his Country as British Amateur Wrestling Champion, then as a Professional wrestler, becoming three times Heavyweight Champion of the World, followed by appearances in many films including 'The Italian Job' with Michael Caine, 'Shalako' with Brigitte Bardot, and acting as Sean Connery's body double in the James Bond movies plus many more appearances, culminating in being Host of the British Wrestlers Reunion for over 25 years with his lovely wife and bodybuilding Champion :Sarah Bridges and travelling the Country as statistician at many bodybuilding contests.
Sarah, who was in the States working with Arnold Swarzenegger on the Arnie classics last week, got the call to return home urgently which she did spending Bill's last moments at his bedside.
Bill also has a beloved little Sister Esther whom he adored plus his niece Tina Kerry- Anne who were fortunate enough to be at the bedside in time to share some precious last moments .
Away from the glamour, Bill remained modest, unassuming, self effacing, humourus, giving most of his time to young upcoming wrestlers plus always recognising and applauding the abilities of grapplers and other athletes known as carpenters in the Business,who had not been as fortunate as himself.
His last wish was that the Wrestlers Reunion continues as normal and accordingly this year it will be on August the 9th at 'The Bridges' which will be dedicated to his memory.
When the funeral arrangements are complete, we shall post details and Sarah has asked me to say that everyone is very welcome to attend and celebrate the life of this true Champion
Needless to say that Sarah is devastated at this time and we would respectfully ask that we respect her privacy during her initial grieving.
Since the announcement of Bills death was announced we have been in-undated with tributes from wrestlers and fans from around the world, over 200 within a few hours just showing how loved and respected Bill was with everyone.