K is for Wrestling

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for Round 24 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if there are repeats of previous posts.

No, I haven’t lost my grip on the alphabet. K for me will forever be associated with wrestling as I shall try to explain.

The wrestling I enjoyed watching wasn’t the muscle-pumping, body-oiled, testosterone-fuelled entertainment industry of today. Mine came from a gentler time, although it bore many of the hallmarks of stage management that you see today.

It was in the 1960s when I was in my early teens and Saturday afternoon was spent with my nan watching ITV’s World of Sport on her black and white tv and the highlight for her was the wrestling from 4 pm.

And that is where the letter K comes in. For a start, there was the regular commentator, Kent Walton, shown above. Many people thought he was Canadian because of his transatlantic accent, but in fact, he was born in Cairo, the son of the finance minister of the colonial government.

He was baptised Kenneth Walton Beckett and he grew up in Surrey where he went to the rather posh Charterhouse School. He acquired his accent during WWII when serving with Canadian airmen in the RAF.

Kent first became a wrestling commentator in 1955 and kept the job for 33 years. He was also a disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg and was the producer of several sexploitation films in the early 1970s, as revealed by the Man Alive documentary programme. That’s a poster for one of them above.

And if the commentator is one of my Ks, then so are many of the wrestlers themselves. Men like Johnny Kidd, Malcolm Kirk, George Kidd and Kendo Nagasaki.

But my nan’s favourite was Yorkshireman, Les Kellett (left). He didn’t exactly look like the athletic type and spent a lot of time in the ring acting the fool, but he was highly regarded by his fellow professionals.

Kellett began his wrestling career in Manchester after being leaving the merchant navy and his antics made him very popular, particularly when he pretended to be punch-drunk and about to keel over just before turning the tables on his opponent.

He trained others to wrestle, including famous names such as Jimmy Savile and Harvey Smith. Kellett was also nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year award in the 1960s.

Fans of the ‘grappling game’ included the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Margaret Thatcher, but not Greg Dyke, then Head of Sport at ITV. He axed coverage of wrestling in 1988 and it hasn’t returned.

For those of you who enjoy your nostalgia, below is a film of a bout between Les Kellett and Johnny Czeslaw with Kent Walton commentating.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Mama Pajama 20th March 2019

    oh my goodness, that clip is so funny! I can’t wait to show it to my son, who is a high school wrestler. great ‘K’ post!

  • Roger Owen Green 20th March 2019

    We’re so glad you hadn’t gone kookoo

  • ABC Wednesday 21st March 2019

    As you might know by know…. I know nothing of sports so I don’t understand why people do it… especially when they get beat up by another 😉

    Well as long as the fun wast a ‘joint venture’ too I am all good 😉

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week at https://abcwednesday.com
    ♫ M e l d y ♪ (ABC-W-team)

  • Trevor Rowley 21st March 2019

    Those seemed the heady days of British wrestling popularity – not just at the big venues but the local back street halls and every small town seemed to have one. My memorable names from that era were

    Mick McManus, Tibor Szackas (a former member of the Hungarian military), Jackie Pallo (Mr TV). Abe Ginsburg, Mike Marino, Bill Two Rivers (a genuine North American native Mohawk), Bert Royal and his brother Vic Faulkner, Chick Purvey, Jack Pye, Masambula (from Africa, as the name would suggest), Ricky Starr (he ballet danced in the ring), Big Bruno Ellrington (ex-Navy?) and Kendo Nagasaki (all the way from Stoke on Trent).

    Most of these were publicised as “exotic” wrestlers with backgrounds to match. The same couldn’t be said of Les Kellett who was a brute of a man, quite inclined to cheat and hurt to get the better of his opponent. I’ll bet your nan really new he was a “wrong un” but perhaps that was part of the attraction.

    Strange how wrestling disappeared from our screens, it was a real crowd puller every Saturday afternoon.


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