To the wrestling fans he was the amiable Bob Anthony who entranced them with some dazzling wrestling moves. To the family he's always been known as Tony, that's his middle name. Born Robert Anthony Archer in Chelmsford in 1937 to Robert and Sylvia Archer young Tony was brought up in wartime Chelmsford by his mother and grandmother as father was fighting in the army. Father Robert was the famous and very accomplished wrestler, Bob Archer O'Brien. One of the top wrestlers of his time young Tony would travel with his father to watch him wrestle and was motivated to follow in his footsteps.
Dad might well have known a lot about wrestling but he didn't know that since he was ten years old Bob had been learning to wrestle at a local club, the Chelmsford Wrestling and Weight Lifting Club.
The youngster would wrestle at local carnivals and fetes, which is where we found the twelve year old at the Ipswich Fete, Chelmsford and Maldon Carnivals in 1949 and 1950. The Chelmsford Chronicle reported that 1,000 watched the wrestling at the Maldon carnival. It was a big surprise to father Bob when a friend commented to him that young Tony was coming on nicely with his wrestling, "What wrestling?" was the reply. As the youngster progresses he was prepared for the professional ring by Fred Bentley and policeman, Tom Pinch. How's that for an appropriate name for a Bobby?
A motorbike accident could have brought an end to Bob's wrestling ambitions before he had even started. Fortunately he made a full recovery and was raring to go. By the mid 1950s he was establishing himself around southern England on bills presented by independent promoters, many of them organised by Bert Assirati's wife, Marjorie.
It didn't take long for Tony to come to the attention of Joint Promotions. By 1958 we find him working for Dale Martin Promotions. In his early days with Dale Martin Promotions Bob was billed as Tony Archer, a name that he didn't like. Requesting a name change he was invited to Dale Martin offices in Brixton and recalled, "I asked to be known as Bob Anthony." I remember Charles Mascal saying 'How about Tony Roberts?' and Les Martin saying 'Not now Charles.' "
So, Bob Anthony it was, and the boy was on his way. In October, 1960 Bob Anthony made his first appearance on television with a match against Ted Hannon at Purley. He was back on the small screen the following year with matches against Tony Charles, Mick McMichael and Brian Trevors. An inevitable loss against Mick McManus came in April, 1962, a sure sign that the boy had made it. The men who he had seen wrestling his dad, George Kidd, Mick McManus, Jack Dempsey, were now in the opposite corner as he entered the ring.
Behind the scenes, though, there was grumbling in the ranks. Professional wrestlers were growing tired of the pay and conditions imposed by Joint Promotion members, which led to the formation of a wrestlers union, the Wrestlers Alliance, in April 1962. It was a summer of discontent with further allegations that wrestlers involved in the union were discriminated against. Bob Anthony took the decision to leave Joint Promotions and began working once again for the independent promoters, most notably Paul Lincoln Management. This brought a new set of opponents that included newcomers Zoltan Boscik and Jon Cortez, experienced wrestlers who had already left Joint, such as Harry Fields, and visitors from overseas, Gil Cesca and Inca Peruano. It was also during this period that Bob brought into wrestling his younger brother, Chris, with the two of them making a popular tag team for Paul Lincoln, with spectacular matches against their main rivals Jon and Peter Cortez.
Trips to the Continent were a regular occurrence, with ten day trips to France as well as regular work in Spain, Belgium and Italy and further afield to Hong Kong and Thailand. On one visit to France Bob challenged Rene Ben Chemould for the World Middleweight Championship at the Palais des Sports in Paris.
This was the swinging sixties and life was good. Bob went into partnership with his wrestling pals Paul Lincoln, Al Hayes and Ray Hunter. They took ownership of The Cromwellian in South Kensington, a club and casino with an infamous past. By now a respectable venue it became the haunt of the rich and famous, and none more so than The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Bob, who already had some experience in promoting rock bands and staging concerts at Chelmsford Town Hall, booked the acts for the Cromwellian, amongst them Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger. In 1967 he moved on to open the Pantiles nightclub and restaurant. Bill Haley and his Comets, Fleetwood Mac, Georgie Fame and Elton John were amongst those who worked for Bob at the Pantiles,which he ran until it's closure on 14th July, 2007, exactly forty years to the day after he had opened it. In 1995 Bob was presented with The Discotheque of the Year South award by Jonathan Ross. Embryonic plans for Bob to embark on a singing career fortunately (for wrestling fans) came to nothing.
In 1965 Paul Lincoln Management merged with Dale Martin Promotions which meant Bob was back on the Joint Promotion circuit. Along with him came his Lincoln colleagues that included Al Hayes, Ray Hunter, Steve Haggetty, Bob Kirkwood, Alan Sarjeant, Dave Larsen and the rest of the Lincoln regulars. For each of them it meant a return to television exposure and matches against the big names of the time; Pallo, Logan and McManus. The Anthony brothers also continued their rivalry with the Cortez brothers whilst also taking on other established teams McManus and Pallo, Capelli and Joyce, and the Hells Angels. National exposure returned for the first time since 1962 with televised matches against Alan Dennison, Bobby Barnes and Johnny Saint.
Most wrestling fans were oblivious to the double life of Bob Anthony. A popular, successful wrestling career would be enough for most people let alone another life as an entertainment entrpreneur. No wonder he was nicknamed The Wrestling Beatle. Fortunately for wrestling fans Bob continued to devote energy to wrestling until the early 1980s, still performing at the highest level. In October, 1980, he still had the beating of Zoltan Boscik in front of 5,000 approving fans at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington.
Well over a quarter of a century after turning professional Bob began to reduce his commitments. He continued to concentrate his efforts in the entertainment busines until finally retiring to spend more time extending his skills of another sport, golf.
Bob Anthony was inducted into the British Wrestlers Reunion Hall of Fame on Sunday 8th August 2021.
(above text courtesy of Wrestling Heritage)