Monday, 20 October 2008 08:58
In response to my article on the life of Big Daddy: -
When I originally came up with the idea for the article on Big Daddy it was really for one reason, to pass on information to people. After hearing Dave, Bryan and Karl Stern talk in vague terms about Big Daddy I thought it would be an interesting idea to write a brief biography on Big Daddy. Now, I won’t profess to be a British wrestling historian but I have been a wrestling fan most of my life. I’m 34 years old and used to watch ITV wrestling growing up. I then progressed onto WWF, WCW, ECW, Global, World Class, some New Japan, CWA in Europe, USWA, ROH, TNA and probably a few more I’ve forgotten. Let’s just say I’ve watched a lot of wrestling. Anyway this isn’t the point to the article, so let’s move on to the loveable old fat bloke in the shiny top hat.
The Observer Hall of Fame was originally only intended to be a summing up of Big Daddy but it seemed to spark quite a debate. Many British fans think Daddy’s inclusion was well overdue while many American fans couldn’t see the big deal over an overweight, old man doing comedy matches. These are my thoughts on various threads brought up on the board along with various qualities (or lack thereof) of Daddy’s in regard to getting into the Hall of Fame.
I think this point is a bit null and void really in British wrestling. British wrestling was always a series of small travelling shows that would put on an event in a town hall (holding a few hundred), and then move on to the next town. At its peak British wrestling would have numerous shows all over the country on a nightly basis. The venues would range from town halls, leisure centres to old theatres. It was never really about making huge money at big arenas. It was more a case of run as many locations as possible on a nightly basis and then throw all the money into the pot at the end. I remember seeing wrestling at the Guild Hall (a venue that has hosted well known comedians and some well known pop and rock stars) in Preston, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool (Regal’s home town), King George’s Hall in Blackburn and Bamber Bridge Leisure Centre. If you had over a couple of hundred in the crowd you had done well in most cases. I never remember seeing a British wrestling event that had more than a few hundred fans. The 10,000 fans (Daddy vs. John Quinn, at Wembley in1979) that several people mocked probably appears laughable to US standards but that was basically a British supercard. British Wrestling was always run on a shoestring budget with the wrestlers always complaining of poor payoffs. I used to hear stories of £5 a match for lower card guys, mid card maybe £20 and if you were a big money player maybe £40 to £60 and an extra £5 if you juiced or Daddy was headlining. This is backed up in William Regal’s book, ‘Walking a Golden Mile’. “When I went to work for Max (Crabtree, Daddy’s brother) he cut me down to a tenner.” He does say he usually got around £60 for TV but that is still poor for a TV performance in front of millions.
Without a doubt Big Daddy was a terrible worker. From recent matches I have viewed his repertoire was very limited. His offence consisted of shoulder charges, corner splashes, bodyslams, backdrops, and his Big Daddy Splash. His ‘Belly butts’ consisted of his opponents charging towards him and being knocked over by his huge gut in the comedy spots of the match. He only ever used the most basic of holds and did his best to belittle his opponents in the ring. He wanted to be a domineering force and most rivals were made to look a joke. He was nimble on his feet for a big man and could run off the ropes at a decent speed in the 70’s. Although compared to American heavyweights such as Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow it may appear pathetic. Work rate wise he almost surely would be the worst in the Hall of Fame if he were to get in. However I did like the comment on the board, “If it was all about working ability then please rename it the "Hall of Talent".” A lot of wrestling’s allure is its charismatic, crazy characters. Someone with no interest in wrestling would almost surely stop flicking the channels if they came across an intriguing, wacky character rather during a technical masterpiece. That’s only my view of the casual channel switcher not necessarily what interests me as a fan.
I think Big Daddy’s best chance of entry to the Hall of Fame is his national prominence. As already explained in the 70’s and 80’s he was everywhere, from kid’s comics to TV shows. Some mock him but he was a well-known figure in British culture, often better known than many famous footballers of the time. Many people say Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo and Kendo Nagasaki should go in the Hall before Daddy if we are talking of credible British stars. I may cover these in more detail at a later date if there is interest but for now a few quick thoughts on each.
Jackie Pallo is no doubt a well-known household name in Britain but as with Daddy he made a lot of enemies. ‘Mr TV’ really crossed the line for a lot of people by breaking kayfabe with his book, ‘You grunt and I’ll groan.’ On top of this he brought his son into the business who apparently had very little talent compared to his father. Of course, this annoyed people but we’ve seen family members pushed over more talented guys many times. So, if Pallo’s name ever came up for inclusion I see him as a tough one for people to vote for. Probably similar to Daddy he may not have many favourable voters on his side.
Mick McManus I can see as having more potential as he was a great heel, a good wrestler and known as a celebrity in the 60’s and 70’s outside of wrestling.
Kendo Nagasaki is one of the top five most recognised British wrestling names that people would remember. He had a great gimmick playing the mysterious masked samurai character. Even though there was an abundance of masked wrestlers Nagasaki stood out as being different somehow. He had a certain aura about him and years after wrestling was off TV he was still very secretive about his identity and gimmick. He also has the longetivity factor as he is still wrestling on occasion to this day, recently fighting Rob Brookside.
It really does depend how you view all of this. Are all of us Brits looking through rose tinted glasses? Possibly. But I think you may need to be British and to have lived through the Big Daddy era to really appreciate the impact he had on society. In some ways he is similar to the Carry On films where he has become a British institution, fondly remembered by many. People forget that many of the Carry On films weren’t great. Don’t get me wrong; some such as Carry on Up the Khyber were hilarious. They made 31 films over five decades. Sid James and Kenneth Williams are still quoted and referenced to this day, as is Big Daddy.
Maybe we get carried away with our celebrities, David Beckham is forever in our papers. He has been a very influential footballer for England and his various clubs. He can cross a ball better than anyone but he isn’t a great all round player. Someone suggested, Big Daddy should be in a British Hall of Fame but not the Observer Hall. Maybe that is a fair comment. I can see the arguments for and against but I would still have to sway towards voting him in. He was too well known in Britain not to be in. British wrestling would have been popular regardless of Daddy. But as with a Hogan, I think he swayed a lot of non-wrestling fans over just to see what all the fuss was about.
A couple of more things to discuss: -
My comment on Daddy or Davey Boy Smith as the most popular British Wrestler of all time is probably misleading. Daddy’s fame was mainly from the 70’s to the end of the 80’s. Smith, really hit it big leading up to his match with Bret Hart at Wembley in 1992. Daddy was wrestling in Blackpool in front of 100 fans while Davey Boy was packing out 80,000 or so at Wembley. Most Brits over 30 would probably say Daddy was the more famous wrestler. Anyone much younger may name Smith. I recently saw a photo of Big Daddy with a group of young fans. A young boy of about 10 was in the photo wearing a British Bulldog T shirt. This sort of says it all, Daddy was still going but Davey Boy was fast becoming a star.
Somebody else quoted this extract from ‘Pure Dynamite’ by Tommy Billington: –
"...but he was a load of shit. Well, what would you think if you were a decent wrestler and someone like Big Daddy hit you with a couple of belly butts and the people were going "Oooh"? Exactly." Dynamite also said Big Daddy was a two-faced bastard and hated the kids who looked up to him.
I have read Pure Dynamite and really enjoyed the book, as I was a big fan of the Bulldogs in their WWF days and Davey Boy Smith as a solo. Dynamite was certainly a well-respected wrestler but from all accounts a heartless and cruel guy. So his comments may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. From most accounts many British wrestlers don’t have a good word to say about Daddy. Was this professional jealousy of having to either job or be overshadowed by a talentless fat man or was there something to it? Enough people seem to suggest he wasn’t a nice person to be around.On the flip side I met him as a fan and found him very pleasant and amiable. Likewise, Daddy commented that it hurt him deeply that some wrestlers said he hated kids. I think the fact that he had six children himself and the amount of work he did for children’s charities may say something about him.