Although TV wrestling became increasingly theatrical (everyone knew it was fixed - but who cared it as long as it was entertaining), McManus had been a serious fighter, winning his first British championship in 1948.
McManus was born Michael Matthews on 11 January 1928 in New Cross. According to a discussion at Downham Online, he was a member of the New Cross Tramways Swimming Club and was trained at the John Ruskin Amateur Wrestling Club - not sure where that was, but guessing Camberwell.
Evidently he also liked to sing country and western in his spare time - in that Downham Online discussion, somebody recalls hearing him sing in a pub 'next to and underneath Lewisham Odeon in the 70s'.
There is also New Cross folklore that at some point in the 60s or 70s he ran the Goldsmiths Tavern/New Cross House . Anybody know any more about this or have any tales of his SE London connections?
Update: 22 May 2013: Mick McManus died today, aged 93. Several obituaries recall that he was also known as 'the Dulwich Destroyer', not a very credible name for a hard man really.