Lost in all the busyness of Christmas was the death of “Cry Baby” Jimmy Breaks, who was a top star in Britain before a notable fall from grace, charged with murder but deemed unable to stand trial because of dementia.

Breaks died on Gran Canaria, in the Grand Canary Islands on Christmas Day. He was 83.

He was born March 25, 1940, in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

In a 1978 interview with Sheila Weber in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, in the town he’d lived in for some time, and owned the New Inn pub in Wyke with then-wife Carol, Breaks recalled his start as a professional, after wrestling amateur at the Windmill Club in Bradford.

“It all started because we had a gym at the bottom of the street where I grew up in West Bowling,” Breaks said. “I went down to have a look, continued to go regularly and picked up wrestling. But you have to have a flair for it. You can only be taught the basics, not the timing.”

The in-depth wrestlingheritage.co.uk website fills in some details: “At eighteen Jim was called up for National Service and served as a physical training instructor in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Following the army Jim returned to civilian life as a pin setter in a textile mill. For a while he considered re-joining the army but Bernard Murray suggested he go along for a chat with the local wrestling promoter, Norman Morrell. Morrell gave the twenty-one year old a trial, liked what he saw, and offered Jim a professional bout. It was December, 1958, and the man in the opposite corner, guiding him through that nervous debut, was his mentor Bernard Murray.”

From there, it was a slow process to build himself up, both physically and as a top performer, eventually a champion lightweight. A 1969 advertisement noted that Breaks was a “hard fighting machine who has battled his way to the top against all opposition. Equally at home in lightweight or welterweight class. His ambition is the World Crown.” He’d achieve that goal and many more.

Over the years, Breaks held the British Lightweight title, the UK version of the European Lightweight belt, the British Welterweight championship, and the Europa version of the World Lightweight title.

Jim Breaks

Breaks was “nicknamed by the fans ‘Crybaby’ for his unruly tantrums” but he admitted that it started by accident, and was not planned. He ran with it, though, as detailed in an 1972 article in the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle upon Tyne by Sue Hercombe:

Now it was obvious right from the start that Jim Breaks, some sort of champion judging by the trophy belt he waved above his head, was a vile, mean horror of a man.

Arrogant and cocky he was picking a fight with the ref before he even stepped into the ring. Just the sort you’d like to see get hammered. A blonde in the front row agreed with me, and said so loudly enough for the ring to hear.

Jim leans out of the ropes and snarls, “Who’s side are you on? You can’t even beat bloody Hereford.” Hoots of derision, shouts of abuse. Well, you’ve just got to boo a chap like that, haven’t you.

Yet Breaks had plenty of fans, including future UK wrestling promoter Brian Dixon, who ran a fan club magazine for the villain.

He is most associated with battles with the likes of George Kidd and Johnny Saint. Note the two bouts between Saint and Breaks 14 years apart below:

A bout on July 3, 1971 in Manchester, England.

A bout on July 3, 1971 in Manchester, England.


A show on Oct. 25, 1985 in Tunbridge Wells, England.

A show on Oct. 25, 1985 in Tunbridge Wells, England.


In the Kent Walton book, This Grappling Game, published in 1967, the famed announcer talks about Breaks:

That’s our boy over in the corner, there, dancing about like a whippet held in check. To my mind he is the most mischievous-looking of all wrestlers. His bright blue eyes are alight with pure devilment. He shows his teeth in a tight, white grin. And just look at the condition he’s in. His skin glows like a newly-polished apple. The muscles writhe under it like snakes that have just been fed a double-ration of purple hearts. He looks at the timekeeper, jerking his head, impatiently. The bell goes. And he’s away. Straight in, no messing. That’s the Jim Breaks trademark. His opponent comes confidently to meet him. Why shouldn’t he? He has a big weight advantage and is an old hand at the game into the bargain. Which doesn’t phase Jimmy-boy in the slightest. The man has his legs spread too wide. This is a mistake. Ferret-like, Jimmy dives between them. The man leans down to grab him. Jimmy, now behind him, leap-frogs over his back, turns in mid-air and, landing, back-heels him. Then, with all the good humour in the world, he leaps down on him and tries to commit as much wrestling-mayhem as he can. All clean stuff, mind. His opponent throws him off and regains his feet with a neat shoulder-roll. Jim rises warily, grinning in reluctant admiration. The bout sizzles on. Jim gains the first fall. His opponent equalises. Now they fight like demons being paid time-and-a-half. It is no use. Neither can gain the decider. The bell goes. It is a draw. The crowd roar. Jim makes extravagant gestures of self-disgust. The crowd love it — and him, as well.

This, then, is Jim Breaks, stocky, cocky, a typical Yorkshire tyke and a glowing tribute to his mentor, famous ex-wrestler Ted Beresford. The Gold belt he held was his pride and joy, and since he lost it to Huddersfield’s Alan Miquet, who trained down to the lightweight bracket especially for that terrific Albert Hall Championship bout in April, ’67, he is extremely determined to regain it, though he will have to go some. Al likes the belt too.

Jim Breaks in 1976.

Jim Breaks in 1976.

The “Jim Breaks Special” (an armbar) was his famed hold: “It’s a killer and my own invention. It is guaranteed success. I spent a long time developing that hold. You are always learning in this business.”

There were the usual myriad of injuries throughout his career, including many a broken nose, cauliflower ears, and he had a fused ankle.

Jim Breaks in 1990 with the Royal Albert Cup.

Jim Breaks in 1990 with the Royal Albert Cup.

Officially, Breaks wrestled until 1988, though he’s still found on cards in 1990. He consulted on a 1989 production of the wrestling play Trafford Tanzi And The Venus Flytrap in Huddersfield in his semi-retirement.

A show in Hull, England, on June 13, 1990.

A show in Hull, England, on June 13, 1990.

In his autobiography, 2011’s Straight From the Hart, Bruce Hart noted that he received some advice from Breaks that he shared with future generations:

On the way home after the match, I was riding with these two veterans named Jimmy Breaks and Alan Dennison both of whom were terrific workers, or “grafters” as they were called in the U.K. Like a lot of the British wrestlers, Breaks and Dennison were always telling off-color jokes, wisecracking and that type of thing, and this night was no exception. Breaks — who bore an uncanny resemblance in appearance and manner to Dudley Moore — related this parable about two bulls: one a young, impetuous horny bull, and the other an older, wiser one. As the story went, the two bulls were reclining at the crest of a hill overlooking the pasture filled with heifers, when the younger bull, becoming aroused, suddenly stood up and proclaimed, “Son of a gun, I think I’ll run down there and shag me one of those heifers.” To which the older bull sagaciously replied, “Why don’t we walk down. son. and shag them all.” I laughed; Breaks and Dennison shook their heads, as if to say I didn’t get it.

They then told me that from what they’d seen, my approach to wrestling was a lot like the impetuous young bull, in that with all the high spots and irrelevant crap, I was losing sight of my main objective, which should always be getting the match over. I’d never seen wrestling in quite that perspective, but when I thought about it, that made a hell of a lot of sense. Later on, when I was booking, that was another of the fundamental principles I used to impart to other “young bulls”: Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit and my brother Owen all of whom would then “walk down and shag them all” themselves.

In July 2017, Breaks was living in Gran Canaria with his partner, Donna Cowley (age 47). She was found with serious injuries in their apartment and later died in hospital. Reports at the time said that Breaks broke a cup over her head and that she was able to call 911. Breaks was watching television when the authorities arrived. They had met when Breaks ran a pub in Bradford.

Breaks was charged with murder but Judge Emilio Moya ruled that he was unfit for trial due to dementia.

Breaks had been married three times previous to his relationship with Cowley.

Though it’s difficult to remove the death of his partner with Breaks’ story, there is no argument that wrestling was a big part of his life.

“I love wrestling. I love everything about it. Meeting people, seeing people enjoy themselves. The best move I ever made was going down to that gym,” he said in 1978.

Even then, Breaks had a high opinion of himself: “The promoters want backsides on chairs. That’s it really. They could wheel me in in a wheelchair and I would be a bigger attraction than a good bout between two unknowns. It may not be fair, but people want names. It’s nice to be known.”

TOP PHOTO: Jim Breaks circa 1978.


British wrestling star won’t stand trial for murder