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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Lord Athol Layton

Lord Athol Layton with pet pooch Bo in 1981. Photo by Hugh Wesley, Toronto Sun

REAL NAME: Athol Layton
6'5", 260 pounds
BORN: Surrey, England in 1921
DIED: January 18, 1984 of a heart attack

 Fans in southern Ontario, northwestern New York state, Ohio and upper Michigan knew Lord Athol Layton as the colorful commentator for thousands of wrestling shows. Before becoming an announcer, he was a hugely successful wrestler around the world. He may be best known for his feud with Whipper Billy Watson, and his tag team with Lord James Blears. Of course, Layton was not a Lord of any type. He was born in England, and moved to Australia at 13, where he met his wife Leah. After being discharged from the Australian Imperial Forces after World War II -- where he was Australia's Heavyweight Amateur Boxing Champ for two years -- he settled down with his wife to run a pub. A troupe of travelling boxers and wrestlers came through the town, and he became interested in learning more. Shortly thereafter, through a friend, he had his first wrestling match in Singapore in 1949. He went to England to learn more about wrestling, but it wasn't until Toronto promoter Frank Tunney called that he wrestled full-time. Layton was a heel in the early part of his career but eventually grew into a fan favorite. His last match was in 1976 age age 56. He retired over concern for his injured eye. He did announcing pretty well right from the start too. Layton was quite involved in the Toronto Shriners, and even had a go at local politics, and became a Canadian citizen in 1958.

 In April 1958, his wife Leah wrote an article for Maclean's Magazine describing what it was like being married to a wrestler. Besides the obvious -- he's away from home all the time, they travelled the world, and the funny ways which people react -- she ends with this gem talking about Athol's role as commentator on a recent Buffalo show.
 
  Naturally we've always enjoyed the show, especially on a recent night when he interviewed another wrestler who shall be nameless. Athol has a fairly extensive vocabulary and unquestionably a gift for gab, but his questions elicited only inarticulate grunts and monosyllables. At length the other wrestler opened up. "Look here," he said, "I don't go for none of this 'lord' business" -- he'd obviously been consulting Burke's Peerage -- "so to me you're just plain 'mister'.''
  Athol didn't bat an eye. "My good fellow," he said, "the longer youkeep talking, the more I sound like a lord.


Feature stories
March 1, 1981

Lord Athol looks back

By JERRY GLADMAN -- Toronto Sun
  He would have made such a good bad guy.
  They called him the Lord of the Ring and he played the part beautifully. All six-foot-five, 260 pounds, posturing at centre ring in his purple coronation robes, white cape and ermine tails, bowing with disdain to all four corners. He even kept the packed Tokyo hall waiting by insisting on his usual spot of tea in the dressing room before entering the area.
  • Full story
    Memories

     With his suit on and delivering a karate shop to his head back in the early `60s watching him on WXYZ TV DETROIT. I really liked LORD LAYTON and also saw a live bout at the Detroit Olympia with Dick The Bruiser where he broke a chair and took one of the slats from the chair and raked it across Layton's face. I was only about 11 at the time and can't remember the final decision. The roar in the Olympia was deafening. No doubt it ended in a disqualification.It was a tremendous bout that I remember vividly today.
     Steven Torhan
     I remember Lord Athol Layton in the seventies on CHCH TV. He was a great commentator, and was not afraid to rough it up. One great moment occurred when THE SHEIK'S manager THE WEASEL provoked the Lord too far. Lord Layton dropped his microphone, ran into the ring and gave THE SHEIK a number of drop kicks, all with his suit and jacket on. Then he ended it with a famous karate chop to THE WEASEL.
     mfarias
     I can remember growing up in Cleveland and watching live Wrestling from the TV studio there hosted by Lord Layton in the late 1950's. What I remember most is Lord Layton saying "Hello, hello, what's this?" Great fun in a great era.
     Opera
     I remember seeing Athol Layton wrestling at the Ontario Place forum in the early 70"s at the ripe old age of 12. His best match was against German bad guy Hans Schmidt. My father kept heckling Athol throughout the entire match. When provoked beyond his limits, Athol Layton calmly looked over at us and in a loud, calm voice said " My good fellow, when I'm finished with him, I will gladly come up there and give you a sound thrashing." It gave me chills to have had us been spoken to by a man I had seen on television many times. I'm now 36and this memory is still fresh in my mind, as if it happened only last week. It still brings a smile to my face.
      Robert Hungerson, CFB Borden
     I grew up in Cleveland and remember Lord Layton quite well doing the live wrestling broadcasts. Two memories stand out. One is his interview with George Carpentier who could barely speak English but was a good subject. The other was Lord Layton interviewing a massive Greek wrestler who spoke no English and demonstrated his strength by doing a hand stand on his desk. Lord Layton tried to convince him the interview was over but the gentleman merely nodded pleasantly and smiled and continued his handstand on Lord Layton's table. It was the only time I remember seeing Lord Layton's normal unflappable demeanor ruffled.
     RJC. Cleveland
     The "Lord" was a great fan favorite in his adopted homeland of Australia. In 1971 he returned for a 2 year stint as host of Channel 9's "World Championship Wrestling". Often he would get "involved" in matches...especially against his nemesis Tiger Jeet Singh.
     He also feuded with Big Bad John, Playboy Gary Hart & Waldo Von Erich. One of his most memorable TV moments was convincing Killer Karl Kox to join with Mark Lewin & King Curtis Iaukea to rid the ring of Bulldog Brower, Don Fargo & Abdullah The Butcher. A classic 6 man tag match in a cage ensued.
     All 6 men were bloodied at the conclusion of this war.
     Great memories.
     Colin Duff
     I just thought to look up Athol Layton and find out what happened to him; too bad about his passing. His rather genteel approach to announcing made the old "Big Time Wrestling" shows on Detroit TV in the '60's lots of fun. My favorite one-liner from him was when Killer Karl Kox, upon entering the TV arena, knocked someone out of his chair; Lord Layton said, I swear to God, "That's not very nice, you know!" He made wrestling--how can I saw this--culturally acceptable.
      G. DiGiuseppe, Ft. Dodge, IA
      I had the pleasure of meeting Lord Layton on a number of occasions as I was growing up in the city of Windsor. When he would come to Windsor to tape his wrestling show, he would often stay at the hotel were my mother worked in the smoke shop and I sometimes worked part time. I would often bump into him in the lobby and he would always say hi. I also attended many of the tapings which were done at the studios of CKLW (now C.B.C.) on Riverside and Crawford Ave. in Windsor.
     I always had a great respect for this man because of his good works with the Shriners. He loved kids.
      G Wiltse
     I have very fond memories of staying up late nights on the weekend with my friend Rick, we never missed "Big Time Wrestling" Lord Layton was always the focal point of our viewing memories. Who could forget the famous match with Dick the Bruiser where the Bruiser took a chair and knocked out his opponent and then proceeded to grab a fire extinguisher and empty it into the mouth of the poor man. Always unflappable, Lord Layton then ran over to the Bruiser with mic in hand and proceeded to lecture him on how that was bad sportsmanship and that he would probably kill the man!
      Great Stuff that was. I miss that type of sport so much. Today it is all Glitz and Glam and very little good theatre. What ever happened to the likes of "The Sheik", Sonny the Big Cat King, Igor, The Student, Dr. Jerry Graham etc....
     "Tory", Michigan