Courtesy of Bradley Craig of The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for Scotland:
A native of Fife, Ian Campbell was born at Culross Abbey. As a young man, he found early athletic success as an outstanding amateur wrestler, winning the Dunfermline Carnegie Physical Training and Athletics Club championship in 1953. The following year, he travelled to North America where he began his career in the professional ranks. Learning his craft by grappling on the same bills as revered former World Heavyweight Champions Buddy Rogers, Dick Hutton and Lou Thesz, the young Scot adapted to various aspects of the professional wrestling circuit, an industry in which he also operated as a promoter.
In 1959, Ian Campbell would make his return home to the United Kingdom and rapidly became one of the premier stars in Joint Promotions, a syndicate of wrestling organisations which operated throughout the country. Campbell quickly adopted the patriotic moniker ‘Mr. Scotland’, a persona which would be reinforced as he frequently entered the ring accompanied by a troupe of bagpipers. Thrilling audiences in early battles against opponents such as Dennis Mitchell, Roy ‘Bull’ Davis and Mike Marino, the young hopeful would eventually be crowned the Scottish Heavyweight Champion in 1961. It was a claim that was solidified by Campbell through successive victories against the reigning British titleholder Billy Joyce, and in battles against World title contender Georges Gordienko.
As the Official Heavyweight Champion of Scotland, the reign of ‘Wild’ Ian Campbell was noted for a series of successful defences from a variety of international challengers including Tibor Szakacs, ‘Texas’ Jack Bence, Peter Fanene Maivia and Prince Curtis Iaukea. He would frequently serve as the captain to teams of Scottish wrestlers against international squads in tournaments across the United Kingdom.
One of the interesting things about Campbell was he filled a void in the main event scene in Scotland as the top heavyweight in the country. At the time of Campbell’s career, Scotland had a bustling lightweight division featuring the likes of George Kidd, Andy Anderson, Bill Ross and Jim McKenzie. It also had superlative middleweight wrestlers including Clay Thomson and Andy Robin (who grew into a mid-heavyweight competitor in later years). But Campbell’s size and credibility as a heavyweight enabled main events between a Scottish star and talent such as Billy Robinson, Billy Joyce and other top names in the division. Physically, Campbell had a lot of facial similarities to Braun Strowman, with the wild beard, and burly frame. He was often billed as ‘Mr Scotland’ and would frequently be led to the ring by a troupe of bagpipers.Bradley Craig
With the credibility of Ian Campbell as a major crowd attraction fully established on the domestic circuit, his international reputation continued to grow. He won the All-Nations Tournament of 1961, featuring an elite class of athletes from across the globe, hosted by promoter Gustl Kaiser in Krefeld, Germany. Over the course of the next decade, Campbell would wrestle all over the world, competing in high-profile contests across Japan, South Africa, and Iraq.
A crowd favourite, respected for his mammoth frame and rugged matwork, Ian was also able to transfer his stardom from the live halls to the small screen. He became a regular star on ITV’s coverage of professional wrestling since his debut win over Kiwi Kingston in 1961. On 22nd May 1963, Campbell was selected to compete by Royal appointment, wrestling to a draw with Billy Robinson before a crowd which included Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Ian would even perform to a more mainstream audience the following year, playing himself on the ITV soap opera Coronation Street, in an episode where he played himself and wrestled against the character Stan Ogden, portrayed by actor Bernard Youens.
Although Campbell was seemingly unbeatable as the heavyweight champion of Scotland, arguably his finest championship glory would be realised on 4th May 1966 when he captured the British Heavyweight crown from Billy Joyce at Perth City Hall. After relinquishing that title, Ian remained determined in his quest for competition, and once again prove his capabilities on the European circuit as an entrant in the Catch Cup ’70 tournament held in venues throughout Germany.
In 1972, Campbell faced the reigning Irish titleholder Sean Regan in a special ‘champion versus champion’ contest which would be his final televised appearance as a professional wrestler. He would remain billed as the undefeated champion of Scotland until his quiet retirement from the industry in the summer of that year. Upon his departure, Ian would focus on charity work and briefly return to acting starting with a small role in the film The Wicker Man. He passed away in 1993, yet his many contributions to the professional wrestling industry have left an enduring legacy.
On 8th September 2022, ‘Wild’ Ian Campbell will be inducted into The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for Scotland as its eighth member. A plaque that commemorates his induction will presented by Jim Leishman MBE, Provost of Fife, during a Civic Ceremony held in the town of Dunfermline. This plaque will go on permanent display in the town.
‘Wild’ Jim Campbell joins George Kidd (2015), Andy Robin (2016), Frank ‘Chic’ Cullen (2017), Bill Ross (2018), Drew McDonald (2019), Chic Purvey (2020), and Jim McKenzie (2021) in The Professional Hall of Fame for Scotland.