Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Old Britain


If you have followed Ringside at Skull Island for a while, you know that one of its many inspirations is British wrestling from 1960 to 1980, before the wholesale importation of American-style wrestling made it virtually identical with its younger, rowdier sibling. In general, I'm a fan of the "golden era" of television wrestling in all countries. The UK, it seems to me, held on to that gold longer than most. 

What strikes me as interesting about the era is its strong sense of locale--smalltown heroes dominated the wrestling scene; "outsiders" drifted in and out of a region only long enough to raise the hackles of the local golden boy, who'd give them a sound trouncing and send them packing back to parts unknown. 

Back then, wrestling shows still had a touch of the "gentlemanly" and "sporting" about them. They were less soap opera-ish, focused more on the clash of wrestling styles than on questions of which wrestlers signed to this or that fat-cat manager or which had the most bodacious babes on his arms--emblems less of athletic idealism than success in the consumer-capitalist culture (i.e. late twentieth-century reality). Matches back then were divided into rounds. Refs ruled the ring (as best as they were able, and refs back then were largely more capable in maintaining or at least restoring order). Wrestlers were attended to the ring by trainers, who hydrated and massaged their stars between rounds--a ritual we inhabitants of Skull Island sorely miss.

What's more, the shows had a larger percentage of actual wrestling--wrestlers grappling on the mat. There were fewer dangerous stunts--barbed wire, thumbtacks, tables, ladders--and more focus on wrestlers' agility and overall fitness. Good wrestling was valued more highly than good promo skills.

Here are some favorite pictures of wrestlers and wrestling back then, gathered from a variety of sources, but mostly from the invaluable Wrestling Furnace Picture Gallery. Just look around at the "permanent exhibit" on this page for more evidence of my affection for the era.

Aaron Stone, "the Maidstone middleweight," noted for his out-of-ring talents in singing and interior decoration
Dynamite Kid, pre-British Bulldogs, inventor of the top-rope superplex
Georges Gordienko versus Earl Maynard, Mr. Universe (1964) and actor in a variety of films, including Mandingo and The Deep
Johnny "Mister Muscles" England--bodybuilder heel extraordinaire
Johnny Saint, ten-time world lightweight champion--Woof!
"Hurricane" Keith Haward
"Teen sensation" Kid McCoy fighting Jimmy Ocean
"Superstar" Mal Sanders working Johnny Kidd
Steve Wright, source of 1990s wunderkind Alex Wright's dimple
Young David, before he was "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, later teaming with cousin Dynamite Kid as the British Bulldogs

1 comment:

  1. Not only would I like to see more of these guys (pics and acrtion), it would be fun to hear them talk. Cheerio.

    ReplyDelete

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