Evening Telegraph (First Edition)
Wrestler’s glorious career proved how a small man could be a big winner
IT is 45 years since legendary Dundee wrestler George Kidd, aka the Houdini of the mat, fought his very last fight.
Revered by the wrestling fraternity and worshipped by fans across the globe, George Kidd was one of Dundee’s finest athletes.
Yesterday marked 45 years since the legendary grappler fought his last fight – on March 2, 1976.
Since his death, the former Clepington Road Primary School pupil has been honoured with a memorial plaque marking his induction to the Scottish Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It adorns a wall of the Caird Hall, a venue where George had his first paid bout and where he made his name as one of the biggest British stars in the business in a career spanning more than 30 years.
Born in 1925 in Dundee’s Hill Street, George became a member of his local boxing club at the age of seven to learn how to defend himself from kids who mocked him.
The story goes that on his first visit, George was ridiculed for his small size and severely beaten by other lads.
In one early fight, George claimed that the boy he was fighting hit him until all he could see was a “brown blur” and then landed a hard punch on his nose.
In retaliation, George dived at his tormentor’s legs and dragged him to the canvas and by the time club officials pulled him off, the brave lad had got a little of his own back, even though he had incurred a “jeely nose”.
It seemed that George Kidd, the would-be wrestler, had arrived.
At 5ft 6in in his socks and weighing less than 10 stone, the odds were stacked against him and many considered him far too small to be a professional wrestler.
However, having left the Navy in 1946, he was given his chance by promoter George de Relwsykow who booked his first paid match at the Caird Hall that year.
He went on to conquer numerous championship titles, making a name for himself internationally.
A master of fitness, stretching and weightlifting, George also studied ju jitsu, self-defence and yoga.
Yoga in particular aided George’s famous flexibility and allowed him to go into some bizarre positions to escape from submission holds.
His rise to fame and dogged determination to prove wrong those who said he was “too small” culminated with him being crowned world lightweight champion in 1951 – a title he held for 26 years after defending it 49 times.
George wrestled across the world, battling foes in rings in Mexico, France and South Africa.
Career highlights include wrestling in the presence of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1963.
George was also awarded Grampian TV Personality of the Year in 1965, cemented by his appearances on the show World Of Sport and was made Dundee’s “First Citizen” when honoured by Dundee District Council.
On March 2, 1976, after more than 1,000 matches, suffering only seven defeats, George fought a retirement bout at the Caird Hall.
A story in The Courier the following day bore the headline: “Farewell, George Kidd, champion extraordinary”.
He was reported to have beaten “honest bad guy Steve Logan” in a “quick victory”.
He had fought Logan eight times in the previous 20 years and won every bout.
“Kidd wasted no time in finishing off his opponent,” read the report.
“A forward arm roll and press earned him the first fall in round two and the master finished things off in the next round with a double leg nelson.”
When asked what made him decide to call a halt on his glittering career, George answered: “I wanted to retire while I’m still at the top. From my position, there’s only one way to go – and that’s down. It’s a greasy pole which you quickly slide down.”
He went on to explain he had seen too many one-time sporting greats, friends of his, falling from grace in double-quick time.
And a few weeks prior to his final fight, he sustained painful rib injuries, another reason he submitted to his retirement.
Thereafter, he resigned his championship.
In his retiral, he continued his long association with the sport on the promotional side of the business.
He coached his protégé Tom Lee (ring name Lee Thomas) and other up-and-coming wrestlers, plus he looked after a series of Dundee pubs, including the Ellenbank Bar in Alexander Street.
George led a quiet life in his twilight years, living in Lawrence Street in Broughty Ferry