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Big Daddy

Article: A Column About British Wrestling

Title History


  • British Wrestling Federation European Heavyweight title defeating Yvar Martinson (????, 1960);
  • British Wrestling Federation British Heavyweight title defeating Ed Bright (April 10, 1960);
  • British Wrestling Federation European Heavyweight title defeating Milo Popocopolis (????, 1961);
  • Joint Promotions Mythical Champion of all Mankind (late 70s through late 80s);


Career Highlights

In The Beginning:

  • November 14, 1930: “Big Daddy” was born Shirley Crabtree..
  • …His mother wanted a girl so bad that she said she’d name her baby “Shirley” no matter what!
  • …His father’s name was also Shirley, and was a part time wrestler himself..
  • …Shirley had two brothers, Brian & Max..
  • …Shirley would learn to defend himself when children at school made fun of his name..
  • …Shirley became a lifeguard as a teenager and became interested in bodybuilding..
  • George Hackenschmidt became an influence on Shirley in terms of body building and wrestling..
  • …Shirley and his brothers began wrestling at age 16..
  • …Brian would later become a wrestling referee..
  • …Max would later become the most powerful wrestling promoter in British history..Round 1:
  • Shirley became a big hit in the late 50s and early 60s with heel gimmicks, called “The Blonde Adonis” or “Mr. Universe”.
  • Shirley won two titles in the British Wrestling Federation before he quit out of frustration..
  • Shirley was ‘retired’ for roughly 15 years..Round 2:
  • Max’s power in “Joint Promotions” grew and he brought Shirley back in..
  • Shirley seen the play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and believed the “Big Daddy” character would be a huge hit in pro-wrestling..
  • 1976, Shirley Crabtree made his comeback as Big Daddy!
  • …Not as the tanned, muscled heel he played 15 years prior, but as an obese, pasty white baby face.
  • …As a heel, Shirley feuded with Mick McManus & Giant Haystacks..
  • …The Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks match allegedly drew up to 18 million fans live and on television!
  • …Big Daddy was known for teaming with young up-and-comers and standing on the apron for most of the match..
  • ……Big Daddy would let the runt take most of the punishment and then get the hot tag and pin for the glory!
  • ……Big Daddy would often team with Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, and Steven Regal.
  • The Queen of England was publicly linked to being a fan of Big Daddy..
  • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was another fan..
  • While scouting Britian for talent, Bruce Hart stole the “Big Daddy” gimmick for someone back at Stampede!
  • …Sylvester Ritter became “Big Daddy” Ritter — Later he became the Junk Yard Dog!
  • August 1987: Mal “King Kong” Kirk died after receiving a splash by Big Daddy..
  • 1988: British wrestling took a major dive and was taken off television..
  • 1989: Max and Shirley made a last ditch effort to get their product on Sky Television, but failed..
  • Many say that Big Daddy was the most popular wrestler in British wrestling history!Final Round:
  • 1993: Shirley Crabtree suffered a stroke..
  • December 2, 1997: Shirley Crabtree died of a heart attack at age 67…
  • 1978: Big Daddy had a Guinness record of having the largest chest in Britain at 64 inches.

    Geoff Turner wrote: Just a small update on your profiles section.. British wrestler Big Daddy did not disappear for fifteen years.While working as a life guard in Blackpool he could quite often be seen wrestling as a masked man the White Angel being just one of his identities.Between times he also starred in his own show 20the Century Wrestling Promotions run by his “manager”Norman F Berry. Along with brothers Max and Brian they ran a number of dance halls culminating in a disco club named Big Daddys,where on the opening night the star of the show was 60s pop star Donovan,a sort of British version of Dylan. Shirleys other great claim to fame was that his was one of the first, if not the first shows to feature a female wrestler, Jenny Muff of Halifax.


Bernie Tyrrell wrote: Just to correct the statement that Shirley Crabtree was not a very good wrestler. The Big Daddy persona came about as he put on weight but I remember seeing him take on Rebel Ray Hunter (the New Zealander) for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship (and winning it) at the Metropolitan Edgware Road around 1960/61. At that time, he was a VERY accomplished wrestler with a fine physique.


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Trained By

George Hackenschmidt




Novemeber 14, 1930


Halifax, West Yorkshire





350 lbs

Finishing Move(s)

The Daddy Splash

Favorite Move(s)

Notable Feuds

Mick McManus
Giant Haystacks