Tony Scarlo Interview (March 2015)

By Nathan P Hunt

Tony Scarlo has done everything there is to do within the professional wrestling industry. Beginning as an amateur and transitioning into a career as a professional wrestler, he would go on to compete around the country and on national television. Revered by fans and peers, Scarlo would transition into promoting shows with much success and gained a reputation for being a fair and friendly promoter. He later became a referee and even moved on into a successful acting career. In the years that followed, he would become a key founder of the annual Wrestlers reunions which have gone on to much success and have even spawned similar regional events. I was very honoured to be granted an interview with this key figure in the history and evolution of wrestling in the UK as we discussed various aspects of his career and the British wrestling scene.

What are your earliest memories of being a fan of pro wrestling, and what made you want to be part of the business?
Where we lived, there were a few wrestling friends of my Dad, such as Tony Mancelli & 'The Iron Duke' Bull Coleman. Tony Mancelli & my Dad took me regularly to the Kings Hall & the Elephant & Castle, which was a wrestling venue run by the Casey Brothers, Steve & Mick. I was about 5 years old when we started going.

How did you find a training school and what are your memories of training to become a wrestler?
In the Old Kent Road, the local church ran wrestling classes in the church hall. I went there hoping to make a name for myself in front of my mates; a big mistake. I got badly hurt and I joined the club hoping to get my own back, but I enjoyed wrestling so much that I stayed and ended up becoming their youngest instructor ever at the age of 14 years.

What is the hardest part about training to become a professional wrestler, and what are the differences between breaking into the business when you did and now?
The hardest part about learning to be a wrestler was the fitness training, & learning how to breakfall from any angle & any height. We were taught to endure pain in order to respect the title of 'Wrestler'; we had to prove ourselves before we were accepted. We had a saying, 'if you can't take the pain, you shouldn't be in the game'. It was unlike todays wrestlers, who are more like circus acrobats than actual wrestlers.

How did it feel to walk out in front of a crowd for the first time, and how long before your confidence grew to a point of feeling comfortable in front of an audience?
It was at the age of 14 years old, along with Bobby Barnes, Dick Conlon, Bob Taylor & a few more, that I first debuted. My first professional wrestling engagement was for Tony De Marco. In those days, you just built a name for yourself by proving you could hold an audience with your skill & personality. We wrestled at Cross & Blackwells, Tip Top Bakeries, ITT & a few other places. We all got 10 shillings each, which is the equivelant to 50 pence in today's money, but we all felt 10 feet tall entertaining the public.

Did you prefer working as a villain or a blue-eyes?
I enjoyed being a blue-eyed wrestler because it gave me the chance to show off my skills; applying holds & showing the public my skill at escaping from difficult holds.

Which were your favourite places to work (locations or promotions) and who were some of your favouite opponents throughout the years?
When I got signed to wrestle for Dale & Martins, it gave me a chance to wrestle at the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, Fairfield Halls Croydon & of course, a chance to wrestle on Television. The top of the list of my favourite wrestlers to work with has to be George Kidd. Then Alan Miquet,Vasilious Mantopolis, Adrian Street , Leon Fortuna, plus too many more to mention.

Did you ever wrestle in any strange or unusual venues?
I've wrestled in some strange places, like Paul Raymond's Strip Club in Soho - wrestling between the girls as they strip - or on a mat in The Cafe Royale on Regents Street; wrestling on the floor whilst men in dress-suits ate their expensive food. I once wrestled for the producers of James Bond - Cubby Broccoli & Harry Saltzman; wrestling as entertainment at their garden party. The worst was at the Metropolitan Tabernackle & at The Elephant & Castle, because there was no ring, just a canvas on a concrete floor. I wrestled Iron Jaw Joe Murphy and to get body slammed by Joe onto a concrete floor was something I would not recommend anyone to try!

What was your travelling and performing schedule like? What were the main highlights and downsides of being on the road?
When I wrestled for Joint Promotions, Dale & Martin gave me the most bookings. We received a monthly date sheet & we went wherever the contract told us, averaging 1000 miles per week. The worst downside was travelling home in the dark, while everyone was sleeping. There were no motorways then, but if you had good companions to travel with it was a laugh. We were all practical jokers!

Which British wrestlers do you feel have made the biggest impact on the sport worldwide?
Wrestlers like, Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, George Kidd & Les Kellet all made a big impact on wrestling. The heavyweight wrestlers travelled the world the most, because they were in demand by other countries, but it was the lightweight wrestlers that were the real stars of our shows.

Who were some of the most outrageous characters (inside or outside the ring) that you have met in the business?
Gorgeous George, Les Kellet, Pedro the Gypsy... but you have got to admit the most outrageous wrestler has got to be Adrian Street.

Adrian Street with Tony Scarlo - a friendship which has spanned many decades
 What has British wrestling as a whole contributed to the wider wrestling world?
British wrestling produced the European style of wrestling, (World Of Sport-style wrestling). It was the best wrestling in the world until it got ruined by mixing in this circus style of wrestling.

Do you think that British wrestling could ever be a strong territory in it’s own right again (like how Japan and Mexico operate), and maybe even get back to the level of popularity that it had during your career?
Thats a difficult task. If the circus-style wrestling ceased and that World Of Sport-style took over then, yes, we could make a big comeback. When I've been talking to the members of the public who watched wrestling, they enjoyed watching it because there was no alternative, but when they started to show World Of Sport again on The Wrestling Channel etc., it reached a large section of viewers who said it was still the best wrestling ever.

You have been a wrestler, referee and trainer. What are your favourite memories of your time refereeing and training?
I enjoyed being a referee, but only in the old style. What I really loved was when I was asked to teach wrestling to pupils who, in some cases, could not tell their left foot from their right. When they progressed into great wrestlers, that made me so proud. I trained Marty Scurll, Martin Stone, Shah Hossenpau, Paul Robinson, Leroy Kincaide, plus many more. I follow their progress with pride. The most underestimated wrestler - I don't know why he is not a big, big star - is Robby Williams, who also uses the name Rob Lynch. The one I think has achieved the most is Terry Dormer, also known as Terry Fraser. Not only is he a good wrestler & actor, but he is also a top model. I told all my wrestlers 'I can open doors, but they have to walk through'. He did.

What made you want to start promoting your own shows and what were the main challenges you faced?
I had issues with the main promoters of the day. I started promoting because a lot of good wrestlers were not getting any work, because there was no opposition, as such [to Joint Promotions, a conglomerate of promoters who dominated the British wrestling landcape at that time]. So the main promoters started to dictate terms & conditions. I then became a promoter who was a threat to the main promoters. The biggest challenge was getting wrestlers away from the main promoters, because a lot of wrestlers stayed with the promise of television shows. It was a huge accomplishment when I proved I could be a serious promoter.

You had a reputation for being very generous to your wrestlers with their pay. Was this mainly because you had been on the other side of it and wanted to look after the wrestlers who worked for you?
Yes on all accounts.

Which were your favourite halls to promote shows at?
The York Hall at Bethnall Green, Seymour Hall, Canning Town Hall. Then later came the contract to all the Classic cinemas.

 York Hall, Bethnall Green

Were there any halls that presented problems and made you not want to promote there again?
Only council halls, like public baths. It was always the same problems, like public liability insurance and getting a wrestling promoters licence.

A lot of the halls around the country were run by gangsters in those days, what are your memories of having to deal with 'less desirable' characters?
I was approached by a third party who was a member of the Kray's organisation, saying the Krays would like me to promote wrestling at York Hall, Canning Town Hall, Hackney Town Hall & Shorditch Town Hall. I stated my terms & they agreed. I never had any problems and to the best of my knowledge, none of the wrestlers had any problems. I think the wrestlers were only worried when they heard who was paying their wages, but they never had any actual trouble.

Ronnie & Reggie Kray

Who were your favourite workers to book and were there any wrestlers who were a constant headache?
My favourite wrestlers were those who could wrestle & captivate an audience, who were always early & never questioned my decisions. The headache wrestlers were the prima donnas.

How long did you promote for and what made you eventually stop?
I promoted for many years, I only stopped when I had a partner who upset the manager of the Classic Cinemas, causing the loss of the contract. I tried on numerous occasions to promote more shows, but could not get any top class wrestlers, who had now returned to Joint Promotions.

 Tony (center) with students at one of his seminars

Have you seen much British wrestling recently and, if so, which current British workers do you feel have potential to become big stars in the business?
I watch my pupils regularly & they all have the potential to be worldwide stars.

You are also an actor and have appeared regularly as an extra on Eastenders, as well as roles in 'Judge John Deed' & 'The Stick Up'. What attracted you to acting and what are your favourite memories from your acting career?
My first commercial was for Lovels Milky Lunch, where I was wrestling Mick McManus. After that, I opened an agency called The Butch Agency for boxers and wrestlers. I have appeared in many TV films and shows, like 'Only Fools and Horses', 'The Impressionist Show', any programme about boxing, plus too many others to mention.

Your son Dino followed you into the wrestling business and your grandson followed you into acting, appearing as Tyler Moon on Eastenders. How did it feel to see the next generations take these steps and did you worry about them, knowing the downsides and hard work those careers involve?
I was pleased and proud for them to follow me into those professions & I had previously warned them about the pitfalls. My grandson Tony, aka Tyler Moon, is a great actor, but then I am biased!

Darren Ward, Tony Scarlo, Mal Mason & Peter Thompson (Steve Fury)

To learn more about the wrestler's reunion, please go to:

To keep up to date with details of other interviews, reviews & articles from Eye On Wrestling, as well as news and trivia, please follow on Twitter and like the Facebook page.