Kettering wrestling show will pay tribute to former great from Rushden

Rushden's Ken Joyce
Rushden's Ken Joyce

Wrestling fans in Northamptonshire will have the chance to pay tribute next month to one of the greats of the grappling game who hailed from Rushden.

Double European champion Ken Joyce will be remembered when top UK matchmakers Premier Promotions stage their first-ever American Rumble Wrestling Spectacular at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering.

The show on February 18 will feature the Ken Joyce Trophy in memory of the former wrestler, promoter, MC and referee who was a ring legend in the golden era of Saturday afternoon World of Sport shows on ITV.

Joyce ran a motor trade and tyre fitting business in Rushden when he was not swapping holds with other big names of the day like Mick McManus, George Kidd and Jackie “Mr TV” Pallo.

He also put on shows across the county under the Devereux Promotions banner.

Among his regular venues was the Windmill Club in Rushden, while he also appeared extensively in wrestling contests in the area during the 1950s and 1960s, including at the old Kettering Drill Hall.

Joyce, who held the individual European welterweight title and the tag team championship with Eddie Capelli and also partnered his brother Doug in bouts, died in 1990 at the age of 67 from a heart attack while playing golf.

Premier Promotions has held the trophy event in his memory every year since, and a tribute to the esteem with which he was held with his fellow professionals is that the list of winners reads like a who’s who of modern wrestling, including Doug Williams, Johnny Saint, Pat Roach and Robbie Brookside.

Former world lightweight champion Steve Grey, who won the trophy in 1994 and will be the referee on the show on February 18, remembers facing Joyce in a televised bout that fans can still view on YouTube.

"It’s a bit of a classic, really," said Grey.

"Ken was one of the best technical wrestlers I faced in my career, and he had some unusual moves. I must admit I nicked a few of them!"

The Lighthouse Theatre show will feature an American rumble, in which all the wrestlers compete and are eliminated by being thrown out of the ring over the top rope, with the last man standing being declared the winner, plus a supporting programme of tag team and solo matches.

Tickets for the show are available from boxoffice@thelighthousetheatre.co.uk and via telephone on 01536 414141.