“There are far too few Bangers in this world”: tributes flood in for Leamington and British wrestling legend Tony 'Banger' Walsh

Tony, who wrestled with the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks on ITV's World of Sport, later went on to be a minder to the stars, the vice president of Coventry City Football Club and to set up Mayfair Security in Leamington - he died after a battle with dementia on April 16 aged 72.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh during his time as a wrestler.
Tony 'Banger' Walsh during his time as a wrestler.

Tributes have come pouring in for Leamington wrestling legend and local celebrity Tony 'Banger' Walsh who died on Saturday (April 16) aged 72 after a five-year battle with dementia.

Tony, whose birth name was John Anthony Sheehan, fought the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks in televised events in the 1980s.

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He later went on to become a minder to the stars including Madonna, Michael Jackson the vice president of Coventry City Football Club and to set up Mayfair Security in Leamington.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh with actor Ray Winstone.

Mayfair was the firm which provided security when The Queen visited Leamington in the 1990s.

During his wrestling career, Tony who put together his wrestling name from a combination his middle name, his late mother's maiden name and the ring name 'Headbanger', fought superstar Big Daddy more than 700 times at shows internationally including on ITV's World of Sport programme and was one of the great 'heels' of the entertainment sport's golden age in Britain.

His son Darren later followed in his footsteps as a wrestler.

A physically formidable man with heart of gold, Tony was prominent in helping to clean up Coventry's nightlife scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh with his wife Carol.

Born in Leamington in 1949, Tony grew up living in Denby Close, Lillington.

He went to St Peter's and then Dormer Hall which was part of The Trinity School.

He worked as a butcher for a time but was always a keen sportsman playing football and boxing.

Wresting was a lifelong passion of his and in between training sessions and matches he would deliver fruit and vegetables to shops in Wales to top-up his income.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh.

In 1984, his sister Sandra died in a car accident and he took some time away from wrestling to cope with his grief.

The lack of sympathy shown to him from many of his fellow wrestlers made Tony very bitter.

He sold his story to the Sun newspaper in 1985 exposing the monopolising of the industry over shows and the small amounts wrestlers were being paid while putting their bodies at risk in the name of entertainment.

He left the industry and started working as a store detective for Woolworths and also as a doorman in Coventry.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh during his days as a wrestler.

Seeing the disorganised way doors were run in the city, Tony set up Mayfair.

He worked very closely with the police in Coventry and his staff provided security for several pubs and nightclubs in the city.

The company later branched out into providing shop security and guarding sites.

He appeared on several television shows as an extra and in small parts.

When he got into the business of protecting celebrities he became close friends with comedian Roy Chubby Brown - touring with him for seven years.

His other celebrity friends included Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale in Eastenders, and Hollywood actor Ray Winstone.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh with former World Heavyweight Champion boxer Frank Bruno.

His closest friend was former stuntman Eddie Kidd OBE.

Eddie, who suffered brain damage in an accident in 1996, has announced that he will take his electric wheelchair from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise funds for Dementia UK in Tony's memory.

Tony’s daughter Tracy said: "If you read the tributes to him you’ll see he was very well loved and respected.

"He was a tough guy but a fair guy and he'd always try to talk his way out of conflicts first.

"As a father he was the best dad, I've had such an interesting life and I've done so much other children would not have had the chance to do and that's because of him and who he was.

"He opened so many doors for us.

"He was a family man and he could never do enough for us."

People who knew or met Tony through his various jobs and pursuits throughout his life have taken to Facebook to pay tribute to him.

One said: “I used to work for Tony at Mayfair and was a true gentleman and always looked after me.

Another said: “A proper gentleman of the highest order.

"It was an absolute pleasure to have met him.

"There are far too few Bangers in this world.”

One woman commented: “I remember when he used to lift my boy up with one arm.

"What a legend and a hero.”

And another added: ”Great man, top wrestler and even greater businessman."

Tony leaves his wife Carol, his daughter Tracy, sons Darren and Adam, four grandchildren Francesca, Jamie, Jasmine and Kayleigh and a great grandson Theo.

For details of Tony's funeral please check his Facebook page over the coming days.

Tony 'Banger' Walsh with his good friend Eddie Kidd OBE.
Tony 'Banger' Walsh with his good friend the comedian Roy 'Chubby' Brown.
Tony 'Banger' Walsh.
Big Daddy and Tony 'Banger' Walsh.