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Hospital porter wrestling with his past

Are you ready to rumbbbble: Steve Lee Curtis
Are you ready to rumbbbble: Steve Lee Curtis

Hospital porter Steve Lee Curtis got to grips with more than patients as a former wrestling champion.

The 58 year-old fought during the heyday of British wrestling in the 1970s and 80s sharing the ring with greats including Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco, the Dynamite Kid and Iron Fist.

His own interest in the sport was sparked by a wrestler who suggested the teenager have a go himself.

He enthusiastically turned up at the gym and found himself ‘sailing through the air and seeing stars’ after one of the trainers asked for a volunteer to climb in the ring.

“I just remember landing on my back with a real thwack and being surprised how much it hurt.”

Steve was hooked despite breaking his nose on two successive visits.

He made his pro debut a year later shortening his name from Steve Silverman to Steve Silver and, later, to Steve Lee Curtis in homage to movie star Tony Curtis who is a distant relative.

“I loved every minute of it,” said Steve, who would wrestle up to five times a week at various shows around the country and was crowned British Light Middleweight champion in 1987.

Steve, who lives in Abbots Drive, north Wembley, fell in love with the sport as a boy.

“I used to watch it on TV every Saturday afternoon and go to the local shows at Brent Town Hall with my grandad.

“Its heyday was in the 1970s and 80s although it has enjoyed a huge come back in the recent years with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) franchise.”

Steve made his professional debut a year after he first stepped into the ring.

“It was great fun. We’d all squeeze into a car, do the show and then travel on to the next event after a night in a B&B.”

The majority of fights had a staged outcome - with the exception of championship bouts - but the risk of physical injury was real.

Steve’s battle scars include several broken noses and fingers, cracked ribs, concussion and various tears and strains.

“It’s funny that I work as a porter in Northwick Park’s A&E nowadays because I visited here enough times as a patient.”

 “Timing is everything. The majority of injuries come from trying to lift or throw someone when you’re out of synch. It takes a lot of practice and, if you misjudge it, it can hurt.”

Steve’s big break came in 1987 when the challenger for a national title dropped out and promoters asked Steve to be a last minute replacement to fight Bobby Collins.

“I won in the first round with a knock out. It felt too quick but that’s the nature of the game. Train hard and always be prepared.”

His success was short lived when an injury curtailed his career and he retired without having the opportunity to defend his title. He did consider a comeback at 50 but a heart attack prevented his return to the ring.

“I still meet up with a lot of the old wrestlers. We’re a tight knit bunch and often hold fan events where we talk about the good old days.”

Steve isn’t the only wrestler to have graced the corridors of Northwick Park Hospital. He was preceded by Flower Child aka Paul Darton who worked at the hospital during the 1970s.

Flower Child entered the ring wearing a kaftan and flower patterned trousers and played the villain by blowing kisses to the audience while fouling his opponents

So what does Steve think of the modern day sport in the shape of WWE with its super-sized wrestlers and showmanship?

“It’s a bit over the top for me but it is about entertainment at the end of the day and it attracts a big audience. The British popularised the sport and people still respect the fact that we were athletes as well as entertainers.

“I don’t regret a moment of it and have some fantastic memories. My advice is follow your dreams. I did and became a champion.”