Historic Bouts

by Ron Farrar Ace Sports Promotions

The background story to this bout was every bit as exciting as anything seen in any ring. Ladies were a popular feature of pre-war wrestling in London, the big names being Jean Hackensmith, Peggy Allen, Evelyn Croft etc. With the advent of world war 2 all entertainment licenses were revoked but re-issued soon after with the exception of the ones held by professional wrestling venues. At the end of the war applications were put in for the renewal of the entertainment licenses to cover the sport. But before any were granted, a series of rules were put together for the sport by a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Mountevans who has been a pre-war amateur wrestling champion.

With the re-introduction of wrestling, a London bye-law was passed through the Metropolitan Police under the Home Office prohibiting any exhibition of female boxing or wrestling within the Greater London Council jurisdiction.

The situation continued throughout the late 1940s until the late 1970s. In 1978 the British Wrestling Alliance met to consider the situation. Verdun-Leslie promotions, the London based member of the B.W.A., were running several very successful halls around all parts of London and considered that a ladies bout would be an added attraction to offer their countless fans. At the meeting it was decided that Verdun-Leslie Promotions would offer Miss Sue Brittain the current B.W.A. ladies champion an opportunity to become employed by them to take part in a contest in one of their halls. It was decided that Wimbledon town hall was a likely venue to accept a ladies contest and that Jill St John was a leading contender and would be a suitable opponent. Wimbledon town hall was of course, within the GLC so on approaching the venue the promoter was told that though they had no objection the GLC would not allow it.

Under the regulations of the Equal Opportunities Act, the relevant sections of the act forbidding a woman the right of employment because of her sex did not apply as the bye-law prohibiting the bout was an act of parliament as were all London bye-laws. Though the Home Office and act passed before 1964 were exempt from the EO Act, therefore Miss Brittain decided to challenge the bye-law and approached the EO commission who agreed to take up her case. The case was heard at no one court, Horseferry Road in the summer of 1979. A full report of the case was published in The Times legal section. There the arbitrator of the day decided that the EO commission has shown under the EO act that Miss Brittain was being prevented from taking up employment by reason of her sex and the verdict was given in her favour.

Verdun-Leslie Promotions with the assistance of the whole B.W.A. decided immediately to stage a ladies bout at the earliest opportunity and put together a spectacular with many top TV names of the day who worked for the B.W.A. alongside with their work for the Joint Promotions (TV) Ltd.

The bout was an eight round contest with two falls or one KO to decide, and was for the official B.W.A. the ladies championship of Great Britain.

The bout took place in Wimbledon town hall on 23 August 1979 before a full house with the local press well in attendance. The first round saw plenty of action from both girls. With forearm smashes much in evidence from both girls, but as of yet it was too early for either of the girls to show any predominance. Round two opened with Sue Brittain dashing the full length of the ring and trapping Jane in her corner began a series of low blows to the groin area ending with straight finger jabs to the groin which sent Jane to the mat but brought Sue her first public warning. After the resumption of battle Jane gave back to Sue some of the force and violence she had received and forcing Sue into the corner commenced a series of forearm smashes to the bust and throat. After this outburst the girls both switched to more orthodox wrestling and some fine mat work was to be seen. This however seemed not to suit Sue who whilst maintaining a throat lock rolled towards the ropes and still keeping the throat lock succeeded in forcing Jane under the rope and using rope as leverage tightened the lock until the hold was broken by the ref. and order was restored.

Round three saw more action - the most vicious of which was when Sue, having taken Jane to the mat, stood over her opening her legs in a leg split and began to boot the prone opponent in the groin. When again rescued by the ref Jane decided that retaliation was in order and with both girls again on the mat she secured a good wrist hold combined with an arm stretch and as retaliation began to boot Sue in the breast. This hurt Sue who, weakened on resuming her feet, was assailed by a series of Judo chops and falling to the mat found herself pinned with a cross press. First fall to Jane St John.

Round four started with Sue in a rage again. Rushing across the ring and throwing Jane the length of the ring several times. The rest of the round settled down to more straight forward wrestling and both girls showed why they were the one selected for this important contest. Round five opened with Sue deciding that it was time to show why she was the champion and after a series of straight wrestling moves got Jane into a side headlock and taking Jane down to the mat got herself into a position to apply a single leg Boston which was reinforced with a couple of smashes to the groin and brought the round to an end with a submission from Jane.

Round six opened with both girls even, one fall each. It soon became obvious that the duration of the bout and the punishment dished out had had a weakening effect on Jane and after several throws and a series of illegal moves on the ropes, which brought a second public warning to Sue, Miss Brittain dived at Jane's legs and turned her into the Boston Crab. This brought an instant submission from Jane. Much to the disapproval of the audience, Miss Brittain was declared the winner and retained her belt and title.

Post script to the bout came soon after. The GLC lawyers appealed against the industrial tribunal's ruling and won after taking the matter to the House of Lords. The GLC then re-introduced the ban on ladies matches and kept the bon for several years until the ladies were then a part of an independent show in the Royal Albert Hall. This time they were unopposed and with the demise of the GLC the problem seems to be a part of the past.

Sue and Jane kept on in wrestling for some years after this important bout. When given the opportunity in 1981 Jane showed herself to be a fine boxer, and had she pursued this career would no doubt have gone to the USA and become one of the very top over there.

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