Lord Littlebrook, easily one of the most famous midget wrestlers in history, has died after a long battle with a variety of health ailments. He was 87 years old.
Born Eric Tovey on January 3, 1929 in England, he came of age as the Second World War was on, and ran away from home at age 14 to join the circus. While on a tour of the United States, the circus closed down. On a friend’s suggestion, he took up wrestling. After a few months of training, he made his debut against Irish Jackie — and lost.
He was Lord Littlebrook right from the start. It was a promoter’s idea, stemming, Littlebrook guesses, from the American perception that all Englishmen are nobles.
“I came to the United States as an acrobat in the circus, but I did a little of everything. I was a clown. I worked on the trapeze. Being in the circus,” Tovey said in a 1985 Associated press interview, “is like being part of a family. Everybody does several jobs.”
The 4-foot-6 Englishman trained in Detroit under Jack Britton and Bert Ruby and was soon on the circuit with the likes of Sky Low Low and Little Beaver. Tovey married a Canadian girl and settled near Campbellford, Ontario, on a farm. There’s an oft-repeated tale of Tovey shooting a man that he caught in bed with his wife.
The late Duncan McTavish (Matt Gilmore) once shared what he knew: “I was up at his farm in Campbellford a couple of times, right after he got released from shooting a guy … I think they let him off because his finger, his index finger, the total finger is smaller than up to our first knuckle. They won’t let you in the army because you won’t have full control of a weapon. He said he didn’t mean to shoot the guy. As he said, ‘I hid in the bloody culvert, Duncan. They weren’t in the house ten minutes until they were in the kipper.’ He jumped out and took a picture and shot the guy. Luckily, the bullet went around his heart and didn’t kill him. But he was all prepared to go.”
“He went to trial, but the judge threw it out … saying, ‘If you’ve got a guy in bed with your wife, you’d probably do the same thing,'” said Al Campbell, who promoted in northern Ontario.
In an interview with Scott Teal’s Whatever Happened to … newsletter, Tovey said that was the reason he moved south to St. Joseph, Missouri. “I got into some trouble in Canada, but won my case in court. I sold the farm and got a divorce.”
During his career, Littlebrook reigned for a time as the Midget World champion. “At one time, I’d say he was unbeatable,” Sonny Myers once said about Littlebrook. He was truly innovative and used the skills he picked up in the circus in the squared circle. Lord Littlebrook was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004.
“He was an innovator for the little people,” said the late Percival Al Friend in 2010. “He started his own school there in Canada, then he went down to St. Joe and started one up there. He trained a lot of the guys, and not just the little ones but the big ones as well.”
For all his fame in the ring, Littlebrook made a major impact behind the scenes based out of St. Joe, where he booked midget wrestlers around the world and trained wrestlers, big and small.
One of the most notable was Ed Wiskoski, who was also known as Colonel DeBeers.
“Once the great promoter Gust Karras decided I was going to train and everything, that’s where I went, up to Littlebrook’s, because he had a midget gym. It was a midget gym. It was built for midgets,” said Wiskoski. “It filled up his little garage there, but it was enough space to be able to learn the basics: monkeys, headlocks, takeovers. You couldn’t work the ropes because they were built for midgets. Even the midgets couldn’t do highspots off the ropes.”
Women’s wrestling hall of famer Betty Nicoli also credits Tovey for much of her training. “Basically, he trained me more than anybody. He had ring psychology,” said Nicoli. “He made a statement to me one day. He goes, ‘Betty, you’re a short girl. Let’s face facts. Unless you get in there and kick ass and make a name for yourself, you’re just going to be known as a loser.’ So he basically told me that if I wasn’t going to get in there and fight like a pitbull, I might as well get out of wrestling.”
Others that were trained at Littlebrook’s were Butch Reed, Mike George and D.J. Peterson.
“Geez, I don’t know how many guys have come here wanting to be wrestlers — hundreds of them, maybe. Not very many of them make it. They come and go,” Tovey told AP in 1985, figuring that he’d been training wrestlers, off and on, for two decades. “I bring ’em in here for three months. By that time, they’re either ready to go put on the road, or I let ’em go, So many of them just don’t have the ability or the desire…”
“He was with me when the WWE made me the King of the Ring. I have nothing but respect for a guy who went through life like Littlebrook has had to go through it. [He] never looked back at it, never thought bad of it, just went ahead and accomplished what he did regardless of all the odds against him.”
Like the Fabulous Moolah (Lillian Ellison) with her stable of female wrestlers, Tovey had a stable of midgets that he booked around the world, for a percentage of their pay. The percentages vary depending on who you talk to, as much as 30%.
“Money-wise, it really wasn’t too good, to be honest with you, so I said to hell with it,” recalled Frenchy Lamont. “I packed it in. It wasn’t worth it.”
Farmer Pete (Paul Richardson) of Hamilton, Ontario, never worked for Littlebrook, one of the rare midget wrestlers from that era who didn’t. “Once people go to work for Littlebrook, they all got big heads,” he said. “Littlebrook would book you everywhere, so you were making good money.”
The last big run for Lord Littlebrook came in the era of national professional wrestling. He was a manager for The Royal Family of Jack Victory and Rip Morgan in the National Wrestling Alliance / World Championship Wrestling, and competed at WrestleMania III in the mixed tag-team match with Little Tokyo and King Kong Bundy against Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and Haiti Kid.
Lord Littlebrook also accompanied “King” Harley Race for a time in the WWF.
“He was with me when the WWE made me the King of the Ring,” said Race. “I have nothing but respect for a guy who went through life like Littlebrook has had to go through it. [He] never looked back at it, never thought bad of it, just went ahead and accomplished what he did regardless of all the odds against him.”
The past dozen years were very hard on Tovey and his family, which included his daughters, Shirley Brown, Lucky, and Lori (who previously wrestled as Luscious Lori), and sons Eric Hackman, Bobby (who wrestles as Little Kato), Eric A Tovey, and Bobby Tovey (wrestler Beautiful Bobby Dean). Tovey was essentially confined to his house, where Alzheimer’s Disease took hold, plus heart issues.
His daughter, Lucky, was there as he took his last breath today, September 9, 2016. “He has passed,” she simply posted to Facebook.
Funeral arrangements are not known at this time.