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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Forgotten Legend of Rollerball Rocco
April 10, 2007 by Jonathan Cruickshank


Editor's Note: The author of this column can be contacted via the OWW Forums, where this submission was first posted. Feedback can be posted automatically by clicking here - but remember you must sign up for the forums to post feedback on a column. Thanks you!


The Son of the legendary British grappler Jim Hussey (who was known as the master of the dropkick), Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco was one of the great British technical wrestlers from the days of ITV World of Sport, when wrestling was the biggest craze in the UK. He had great battles with the likes of Marty Jones, the Dynamite Kid, 'Iron Fist' Clive Myers and even the magical Tiger Mask. A fourth generation star, Rollerball Rocco has been credited by many (including William Regal) for helping to change the sport of Professional Wrestling into the fast-paced spectacle we know today.

Despite the career Mark was going to have, his father never wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a wrestler and had banned him from entering his wrestling gym, hoping for his son to have a career in show-jumping. But Rocco still learnt to wrestle behind his father's back by sneaking into the gym whenever he could and learning from one of the wrestlers who regularly practised there, Colin Joynson.

One day, when his dad had taken him to a wrestling show, there was a lot of traffic and so several wrestlers couldn't make it to the show. This prompted Rocco to fill in for a wrestler, thus competing in his first match, much to his father's surprise.

From then on, the Rollerball wrestled regularly for Max Crabtree's Dale Martins Promotions, becoming one of the company's top heels, but there was no doubt he was stealing the show every night with his fast-paced wrestling style that no one else was doing at that time.

Throughout 1977 and 1978, Rocco had a series of outstanding matches with Marty Jones, including one match that William Regal claimed in his autobiography, Walking a Golden Mile, "You wouldn't know it wasn't a modern match - in fact, it was better than a lot of what you see today. Incredible wrestling." It was these matches that made Marty Jones' career as he was soon in Stampede Wrestling.

Rocco then toured North America, tag teaming with Greg Gagne and wrestling the odd show for Vince McMahon Sr. He even wrestled Hulk Hogan but before the days of Hulkamania, when Hogan just wrestled under the name of Terry Bollea.

After some intense matches against Sammy Lee (Satoru Sayama) in the early 1980s, he caught the attention of New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was in Japan where a legendary feud began with Lee that has grabbed the attention of many Puroresu fans around the world: Tiger Mask vs Black Tiger.

Not only did Rocco wrestle as the first Black Tiger, his match with Tiger Mask drew some of the highest ratings in Japanese wrestling history. These high ratings were possibly due to the fact that the fight had been promoted through a cartoon series featuring Tiger Mask as the hero and Black Tiger as the main villain. The success of this match has made the battle of Tiger Mask and Black Tiger continue through the years with other wrestlers under the masks, including Eddie Guerrero, Mitsuharu Misawa, Silver King and Rocky Romero.

It was also during this time that NJPW were doing some deals with the World Wrestling Federation, including having the WWF Junior Heavyweight title defended in Japan, with Rocco (as Black Tiger) defeating Tiger Mask for the title on May 6, 1982, only for Tiger Mask to win it back 20 days later on May 26, 1982.

After enjoying six years at the top in Japan, Rocco went back to England and wrestled for Brian Dixon's All Star Wrestling Promotion, where he teamed with the legendary British star Wayne Bridges in some memorable tag team action.

In 1991, in a match against Finlay at an All Star Wrestling event, Rocco suffered an injury to his back and had to be taken to hospital. It was when being treated the Doctor discovered something shocking.

Unfortunately, Rocco's 22 year career ended when the Doctor diagnosed him with a heart condition, ordering an immediate halt to his outstanding time in the ring.

It's frustrating nowadays to see how forgotten Mark Rocco is, as he was truly one of the greats, but he is perhaps overshadowed by the heavyweights of the British golden age of wrestling such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks who took all the spotlight with their waistline rather then their wrestling. Not many wrestling fans know of the Rollerball and the fans that do know him are mainly guys in their fifties who only briefly remember him being on the TV every Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm in the late 1970s. But it was technical legends like Rocco who have inspired future wrestlers such as Regal and CM Punk, so whilst it may be an injustice that he is not well known to the modern fan, at least his contributions to the Professional Wrestling industry are visible on today's WWE and TNA.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

by Jonathan Cruickshank (View/Submit your feedback here)..




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