It was revealed today to the media that one of the United Kingdom’s greatest junior heavyweight wrestlers, Manchester’s Les Thornton, had passed away on February 1. No word on whether his passing was beyond natural causes, but on his wife said he “passed peacefully”.
Les Thornton started out in the UK wrestling scene in 1957, a former pro rugby player who trained at the infamous Snake Pit wrestling school in England that also produced the legendary Billy Robinson. After a lengthy run in the British scene, through Billy Robinson’s help, he entered the US scene in 1970 and began working for multiple National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories. But Thornton found a bias from the US promotions in pushing British wrestlers, for the most part, finding solace north of the border with Stu Hart and Stampede Wrestling in 1971. Hart was a big fan of Thornton’s submission style wrestling and Thornton became a regular with Stampede for much of his in-ring career in North America. His first title win came in Stampede, winning the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship in 1971, a title he would win once again in 1974. His last title would also come in Stampede, the Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title in 1986.
While he never got the main event push he’d hoped for in the NWA, he was one of the most successful junior heavyweights, as a 5x NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion. In the early 80s, Thornton was working for both Stampede and Georgia Championship Wrestling when the WWF acquired both promotions, inheriting Thornton’s contract in the process.
He would work for the WWF for several years in the 1980s, but mostly in an enhancement role. His most famous appearance for the WWF was as the tag partner for Mick Foley in his WWF debut in 1986 (as Jack Foley) against fellow Stampede alumni The British Bulldogs.
He worked for the WWF until 1987 before departing the company, returning to his home in Calgary, Alberta. He retired from the sport in 1990.
Our condolences to the entire Thornton family.
Very sorry to learn of the passing of former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Les Thornton. I was honored to team with Les in 1986 against The British Bulldogs in the second match of my career. pic.twitter.com/3KkEBDJTh0
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) February 3, 2019
RIP Les Thornton. Coming into the job in the early 80's, I listened to many great stories of Les. Sad to hear of his passing.
— Robby Brookside (@RobbyBrookside) February 3, 2019
So very sorry to hear of the passing of Les Thornton at age 84 on February 1st. A serious wrestler & solid worker who always gave you a hell of a match. Go with God my brother & know you will be remembered with love & respect! 🙏🖕🤼♂️
— Les Thatcher (@LesThatcher) February 3, 2019
The Cauliflower Flower Alley Club is saddened to report the passing of former World Junior Heavyweight Champion Mr. Les Thornton. Dead at 84. May he rest in peace. Our condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/5yehfihHVQ
— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) February 3, 2019