Joseph Acton (March 8, 1852 – June 26, 1917), known by his ringname "Little Joe" or "Limey Joe", was a British professional wrestler and world champion who competed in England and America during the late 19th century. Acton is one of a handful of wrestlers credited with introducing "catch-as-catch-can" wrestling (also known today as free-style), with its roots in old Lancashire wrestling, to the United States. Wrestling under the name Joe Acton, and nicknamed "The Little Demon," Acton was considered one of the top wrestlers of his era.
Acton began wrestling in his native Great Britain during the 1870s defeating Tom Cannon to become the first World Catch-as-Catch-Can Heavyweight Champion on December 12, 1881. He toured the United States that same year facing several prominent wrestlers including Edwin Bibby, and Matsada Sorakichi as well as several rematches against Tom Cannon and was widely regarded as the best wrestler in America by 1887, although he lost the American Catch-as-Catch-can Championship bout to Evan "Strangler" Lewis on March 14, 1887 in one of the biggest matches of the decade.
Acton would also face Australian bare-knuckle boxer William Miller in a series of wrestling matches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between March and July 1888 as well as Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891.
Although retiring close to the turn of the century, he did agree to several exhibition matches while a student instructor at Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon.
In one of his final matches, at age 59, Action faced Tokugoro Ito in a jacketed wrestling match at the Grand Opera House in Seattle, Washington on May 11, 1911. Although he had previous experience in jujitsu-style fighting having faced British judoka Yukio Tanai in 1904, he lost to Ito in two bouts, in three and two minutes respectively.
- Little Joe
- Limey Joe
Championships and accomplishments
- American Catch-as-Catch-Can Championship (1 time)
- European Catch-as-Catch-Can Championship (1 time)
- World Catch-as-Catch-Can Championship (1 time)
- Dublin Collar-and-Elbow Championship (1 time)
- American Heavyweight Championship (1 time)