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Wrestling in the 1980s England: The Lost Combat Sports that Britishers Enjoyed

Peter Byrne captured these images of wrestlers and faces in the crowd in the late 1980s, mainly in the north of England- Bradford, Leeds, York and Manchester. As a freelance photographer based in Glasgow, Byrne enjoyed watching professional wrestling on television.

Most of the wrestlers I saw were decent working-class folk trying to earn a crust in a hard game. They performed several times a week all over the country and suffered physically and emotionally. A short and tough career choice.

In 1977, ITV began broadcasting professional wrestling on Saturday afternoons at 4 pm, with commentary by Kent Walton (August 22nd 1917 – August 24th 2003), a former disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg and a producer of those nostalgia-proof British sex comedies. The show ended on December 17th 1988. Then US wrestling swept it away. The British television industry wanted things bigger, flashier, and louder – more American. In the modern era, necks are wider than waistlines, and wrestling, once associated with shin-kicking, is more about merchandise, advertisers, and money.

Peter Byrne was a final-year photography student at Yorkshire’s Harrogate College of Higher Education in the late 1980s. For his final project, he spent Friday and Saturday nights photographing professional wrestling at venues such as the Barnsley Civic, Scunthorpe’s Baths Hall, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, and Wakefield’s Unity Hall, and Blackpool’s Tower Circus.

#1 Audience watching wrestling at King George’s Hall, Blackburn, 25 November 1987.

Audience watching wrestling at King George’s Hall, Blackburn, 25 November 1987.

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#2

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#3

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#4 Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones, Hull City Hall.

Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones, Hull City Hall.

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#5 Hollywood and The Mighty Yankee, unknown venue.

Hollywood and The Mighty Yankee, unknown venue.

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#6

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#7 Hollywood, St Georges Hall, Bradford.

Hollywood, St Georges Hall, Bradford.

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#8 Klondyke Kate. Civic Theatre, Barnsley.

Klondyke Kate. Civic Theatre, Barnsley.

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#9 Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones. MC Brian Crabtree, center. Spa Royal Hall, Bridlington.

Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones. MC Brian Crabtree, center. Spa Royal Hall, Bridlington.

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#12 Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones, unknown venue.

Steve Casey, left, and Marty Jones, unknown venue.

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#13

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#14 Hollywood and Raslin Rasputin.

Hollywood and Raslin Rasputin.

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#15

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#16 Timekeeper, St Georges Hall, Bradford.

Timekeeper, St Georges Hall, Bradford.

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#17

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#18

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#22

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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