We begin our second round of our blog on the history of British wrestling with the second wave of the sport in the UK. And once again America was the inspiration for the British resurgence in a world that was trying to come to grips with the aftermath left by WWII.
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)
Three years after the end of the war, there was a unified allegiance of regions and territories in America under one banner and that was the National Wrestling Alliance. Pro wrestling once again was in the spotlight and the new medium of television bought wrestling into the living room of every American household.
The new wave of American wrestling success soon came over to Britain in the early 1950’s. Promoters such as Les Martin and the Dale Brothers came together together to hold events under the banner Joint Promotions. Other wrestling promoters from Yorkshire, Scotland, Liverpool and Manchester joined the bandwagon and together they ruled the UK wrestling scene.
With the advent of television in 1955, Joint Promotions presented a regular wrestling show on the ATV network which eventually became ITV as we know today. The highly popular World of Sport program broadcasted by the network was the pinnacle of sporting shows at the time, and a regular feature on the program was wrestling. Over the next decade the wrestling section of the program was arguably the best loved part of the popular sports program and the legendary names of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus became household celebrities.
The Legendary British Boxers of the 60s & 70s
Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Johnny Kidd, Kendo Nagasaki, Billy Robinson, Dave Finlay, Jackie Pallo, Johnny Saint, Les Kellett, Rollerball Rocco, Davey Boy Smith, Fit Finlay, Dave Taylor, Dynamite Kid, and William Regal.
These are the names of the great wrestling personalities that starred on the ITV World of Sport program. The host was the charismatic Dickie Davies who helped elevate these rather unknown wrestlers into stardom. In the 1970’s Big Daddy was as popular as the Incredible Hulk which at the time was the most popular TV show on both sides of the Atlantic.
By the time the 1980s came along in Britain, the aging wrestling stars of the 60s and 70s began to lose their popularity. A re-branding was attempted in 1984 when the All Star Wrestling brand hit the UK market. All Star Wrestling used young and up-and-coming wrestlers to attract audiences back. A damming interview in the tabloid Sun Newspaper by former wrestler Tony Walsh, revealed cataclysmic details of wrestling in Britain. He cited the sport was riddled with fraud and most bouts were pre-determined. The final blow came in 1986 when World of Sport was axed from the network.
The UK Wrestling Scene Today
The UK independent wrestling scene started a revival in the 2010s. Southside Wrestling Entertainment and Pro Wrestling hit the streets to promote the UK wrestling scene and soon Attack joined them. Recently Celtic Championship Wrestling and Preston City Wrestling have joined the resurgence, and 2012 was recognized as a pivotal year in Britain’s development once again as a true wrestling nation.