A Column About British Wrestling
October 21, 2005 by Joe Poulton
Back before the Hulk Hogan Era of wrestling, us here in little ol England across the pond had a large wrestling industry of our own that used to regularly pull in audiences of over 10 million. Not bad for a small island. The point of this article is to prove the influence of our British Wrestling’s gimmicks on the more recent / past gimmicks, describe some of the lesser known wrestlers that we have had in our country long before we had heard of the WWE, and finally take a look at the wrestlers that this era produced for the WWE WCW etc product.
BIG DADDY? The Hulk Hogan of British wrestling, he was Big, Blond had roughly 3 moves - Body Check, Splash and Double Elbows. Back stage politics made sure he rarely if ever lost. Sound familiar? Hard to believe that his brother used to referee matches and no one thought to themselves that it was rigged. The first match I ever saw was Big Daddy against Giant Haystacks, and was watched by 18 million people in 1981 (a huge amount for a British TV Program). Another match saw the two Gut Barge each other and knock the Ref out in the first move of the match. He was also the Queen and then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Favorite Wrestler. His finishing move was the Daddy Splash and at the end of his career spent most of his time in tag matches with William Regal and Davey Boy Smith doing very little on the apron until he was tagged in to win the match.
GIANT HAYSTACKS? You may have heard of this 6’11” 625 plus pound Behemoth as he was going to run a program with Hulk Hogan as a gimmick called the Loch Ness Monster in 1995. He was a cross between Earthquake and Hillbilly Jim but meaner than both of them. His moves consisted of Body Splashes, Elbow Drop,s and a Grab Suplex that no on ever got up from. One of Britain’s most successful wrestlers, he had matches all over the world and even wrestled for Stu Harts Promotion in Calgary.
LES KELLETT- Britain’s most Hardcore Wrestler, a pig farmer by trade and one of the meanest wrestlers ever to have set foot in a ring. It was common Knowledge that a reporter asked him a dodgy question and he burnt the reporters face on the metal rungs on the front of his electric heater back stage. Without the law suits in America this is the sort of stunt I would imagine Stone Cold pulling, but I liken Less Kellett more to Terry Funk. Once a particularly nasty pig from his farm bit him on the hand and left it horrible and swollen being in a bad mood, he wrestled later on in the day and asked his opponent “either you stamp on my hand or I will stamp on you” his opponent duly obliged leaving puss and blood all over the ring. Now that’s a Hardcore legend.
KENDO NAGASAKI? The masked martial arts warrior from the Far East. Big Daddy did finally illegally unmask him in December 1975, and in 1977 he had his official unmasking ceremony complete with novelty contact lenses. He clearly wasn’t Oriental, as he looked like he was from Romford. Kendo Nagasaki is one of the true greats of British wrestling and the Ricky “the dragon” Steamboat of his day.
MICK MCMANUS- The Queen of England’s most hated wrestler, he was one of the masters of the Heel tradition. His look and gimmick very similar to that of the Honky Tonk Man and bought just as much heat. He only ever lost twice on TV and the second loss came when he was 50 years old.
KID CHOCOLATE- The token black wrestler who was a pioneer in the long line of stereo typical race gimmicks ? Bad News Brown, Booker T etc. Although his wrestling technique was quick and unorthodox, I will liken him too Haku and Tama, The Islanders, as his favorite move was yep you guessed it the Head Butt; no stereo types there then.
THE BRITISH BULLDOGS? There is probably not much I can say that you don’t already know about this tag team so I will give my opinion for what its worth. I have never been a particular fan of the Bulldogs - Matilda was always my favorite. Dynamite Kid was my pick of the two. His Head Butt off the top turnbuckle and power moves were definitely his strength. Davey Boy Smith I always thought was overrated; limited mic skills and the most unconvincing dreadlocked hair cut for a supposed British Bulldog. One of my most vivid memories of the Bulldog was when he did a promotion in London’s HMV record Store on Oxford Street around the time of WrestleMania 7. I was at the back with no money for the DVD/Video he was promoting, shouting “Bring on the Warlord” that about sums it up really.
WILLIAM REGAL? Without a doubt my favorite and greatest of all the British Wrestlers.. He is also the British Wrestler I have seen the most footage of from his WCW days as Lord Steven Regal to the WWE Commissioner and beyond. Once again there is not much I can say about him that you don’t already know but I admire his personality, mic skills and left handed unorthodox “European Uppercut” style of matt wrestling, not to mention the cheating. I’m going to concentrate on my favorite match of the modern Era. The Duchess of Queensbury rules match from Backlash 2001, Chicago - William Regal against Jericho. Even the matches' build up back stage had its moments of controversy with Regal intercepting the Coach before he could speak to the Duchess regarding the rules. I believed the rules to be were something to do with boxing (the Marquis of Queensbury invented new boxing rules at the turn of the century) but I was wrong. This was what initially intrigued me as I like everyone else including Jericho didn’t know what the Rules were.
The match starts as Jericho, Regal and The Duchess made her way to the ring with hilarious commentary from JR and Paul Heyman “C’mon JR, the poor woman is still mourning the loss of lady Di.” When the match starts, it's clear this is just a normal wrestling match. Until, that is, Jericho pins Regal easily with the Lion Sault off the Ropes but NO! The Fink is consulting the Duchess and the bell has actually sounded for the end of round one.
Round Two - Regal gains the upper hand, desperately trying to get Jericho to submit to the Regal stretch the next thing you know he is in the Walls of Jericho and he taps out immediately, and once again the bell sounds The Duchess gets Fink to call “a no submission match ” the crowd and J.R at the announcer table cant believe it but Paul Heyman continues to support Regals actions - “look J.R he’s waving to the Duchess”
Jericho is forced to go on, and later Regal hits Jericho with a foreign object. Again the bell sounds but this time its “the Duchess states that it is a No disqualification match”. It's obvious now that the Duchess of Queensbury rules are being made up to protect Regal from losing. Jericho then goes livid and attacks the Duchess and puts her in the Walls of Jericho, with Regal making the save by giving Jericho enough chair shots to put the soon to be undisputed heavyweight champion over for the pin a most dishonorable and unjust victory. I love it. J.R “I have never seen shafting like that in all my life.”.
Although Regal has never been WWE Champion his impressive protégé Paul Burchill looks a major talent and will hopefully become the first British WWE Champion and that would be something to live up to the legacy of his wrestling influences from the past like Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks and maybe us here in Britain will be kings of World Wrestling once more.
Thanks for reading this article any feedback; comments, e-mails etc will be greatly appreciated
by Joe Poulton ..
Zach Goldman wrote:
Thanks for filling me in on the legends of British wrestling.
thomas covenant wrote:
I think its great that you guys have a rich heritage of Pro Wrestling legends on "Your side of the pond" as well as ours. Its funny, because I personally considar Davey Boy to be a great wrestler, and Regal to be one of my all time favorites, so those guys are certainly not just great "British" wrestlers, they are great wrestlers.
I find it odd that you ommited to talk about the Dynamite Kid? Was his popularity more a US/Japan thing? I would ask the same question about Johnny Smith.
Brad Dykens wrote:
He did talk about Dynamite Kid in the British Bulldogs section.........
Clark Oliver wrote:
Thanks for the article is was a good read. I was also at the Davey Boy Smith autograph signing that day in oxford street. Talk about a small world!!!!
Samantha Gill wrote:
Excellent Column. Bring back British wrestling!!
R Wallington wrote:
Nice one dude, representing British wrestling. But I hope our American cousins
will check out our flagship FWA promotion and IWW from Ireland as well to check
out some talent still from these shores and beyond. Les Kellet rules!!!
Bill Rivard wrote:
I was reqading over the article, which by the way was very informative. But I do disagree with you about the British Bulldog. I hardly think he is an overrated superstar. He had strength,and agility, two thing that many wrestlers have a hard time putting together. He also had some of the most memorable matches in WWE history. Such as his match with Bret Hart at the '92 summerslam or the countless matches with the Bristish Bulldogs (Wrestlemania II against the Dream team, against the hart foundation, islanders) He has always been a solid competitor at the top of his game, who is truly a legend in wrestling. And I don't think you gave him the credit he deserves.
Awesome column. Nice to read about my heritage. Paul Burchill was in the FWA for a while, and hopefully Paul can win the WWE title sometime during his career.
William Regal has to be one of the greatest Wrestlers never to win a world title. Loved the article, shame wrestling isnt as big as it was
ant heald wrote:
I must say you have done a good job of calling the well in my view "the American British Legands" because big daddy and giant haystacks faught in america for i believe it was AWA (Dont hold me to that big daddys weight probbelly is double my age). I remember seeing on The Wrestling Channel (Channel 427 on sky over here in the uk) KENDO NAGASAKI fight on a classic mephis vs the king.
And to speak bout bulldog, dynomite, regal and burchill are WWF/WWE. I believe you have over looked some of Britian's born and bread legands: "The Showstealer" Alex Shane (probbally the best ever british wrestler/promoter of all time), "The Wonder Kid" Johnny Storm, "The Ladies Hero" Dave Zero (Brilliant Irish wrestler), "the pheonix" Jody Fleish and "The Anichist" Doug Williams
P.S. Yes most if not all British wrestlers have those like nikenames I myself am know as the "Preston Powerhouse" Heavy Traffic over here
Paul Dennis wrote:
I lived in England in 1969-1970 and remember Les Kellert well. He was one
of the most amusing wrestlers ever and a huge crowd favorite - very
scientific but tremendously unorthodox. Another amusing fellow was Ivan
"The India Rubber Man" Pensicov.
Mick McManus was probably Britain's greatest wrestler and certainly top
heel although Jackie "TV" Pallo certainly was a close second with Adrian
Street not too far behind. Since British wrestling utilized weight classes
similar to boxing, there were a lot of matches involving wrestlers under
200 pounds. What I'd call full blown heavyweights were fairly uncommon. Pat
Roach, Mal Kirk and Tony Charles were the main ones that I recall . Matches
between wrestlers in different weight classes were common but rarely
between wrestlers more than two weight classes apart (there was about 12
pounds separating each weight class), with each weight class having its own
I don't know what happened thereafter but while I lived there, wrestling
was held in rounds, similar to boxing, except each round was five minutes.
Wrestlers had to hang on to their opponent if they sent them to the mat, or
the opponent was given 10 seconds to get to his feet (kind of like a boxing
knockdown). Also, if a wrestler left the ring, a count out was 10 seconds
All in all, I really liked the British form of the art
Guy Rugged wrote:
It's good to see someone writing about old-school British Wrestling,
although I think you have left a few names off the list that should be
Marc "Rollerball" Rocco - a major "heel" in the 1970's and 1980's who was
years ahead of his time. He became famous in Japan as "Black Tiger", having
a series of matches with Tiger mask.
Dave "Fit" Finlay - another great heel wrestler, with his manager (and real
life wife of the time) Princess Paula. Finlay did well in Europe and then
moved to WCW as the Belfast Bruiser. His match with William Regal at WCW
Uncensored left Regal with a broken nose. Finlay is now a road agent for
the WWE and trains many of the women wrestlers. He also keeps the wrestlers
Marty Jones - His battles with Rocco and Finaly were legendary, and he was
one of the most popular wrestlers of his time. His match against Owen Hart
was a standout.
Adrian Street - one of the top heels of the early 1970's, Street went on to
jave great success in the USA, where he still lives and wrestles.
Billy Robinson - one of the best wrestlers from the Billy Riley Gym in
Wigan, the legendary training school for shoot wrestlers. Robinson was a
British and European Heavyweight champ who went to the USA in the early
1970's with the intention of getting a title shot and then "shooting" on the
night to win the title. He decided against it and became the head trainer
for the AWA. He was also a trainer in Japan.
Kendo Nagasaki - I don't think Kendo ever faced Jerry Lawler in the USA,
that would have been Kazuo Sakurada who also used the name and gimmick of
Kendo Nagasaki. Sakurada worked at Stu Harts Stampede promotion and our
British Kendo was heavyweight champ there in the early 1970's.
Pat Roach - although most american fans may not have heard of Pat Roach, I
am sure they will all have seen him! He played the shaven headed german
soldier who fights Harrison Ford under the moving propeller of an aeroplane
in Raiders of the lost Ark. He was in the follow up Indiana Jones film and
also had parts in the Conan films and Never Say Never Again.
Tony St. Clair - a former heavyweight champ who was also very popular in
Japan and in Germany.
Dynamite Kid was probably the best wrestler we ever exported, he was a
legend in Europe and a legend in Japan, Canada and the USA.
The UK had a very strong tradition in submission wrestling styles. Back in
the 1960's and 1970's, all pro wrestlers learned to wrestle properly before
they were taught the TV "Pro" style. This is one of the reasons that they
all had incredible success overseas, because every promoter knew that if you
booked a British wrestler, then he could actually wrestle!!
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