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The Two Sheds Review: When Wrestling Was Golden
at 6:53 pm
Written by Julian Radbourne
Added to Opinion Columns

Ah, those were the days. Sitting in my front room on a Saturday afternoon, watching two blokes trying to beat the hell out of each other, my Dad really getting into the action before he could check his pools coupon when the football results came on.

I’m guessing that I wasn’t the only one who was taken back to that magical time last Thursday when BBC Four presented When Wrestling Was Golden.

Narrated by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, the documentary took us back to the heyday of British wrestling, back when it was a staple part of almost everyone’s weekly television viewing, back when it could draw viewers of up to 20 million.

The programme delved deep into British wrestling’s history, from it’s early days in the music halls through to it’s ban in the city of London for being too violent, to the introduction of the Mountevans rules system that led it to become an art form admired around the world, an art form that’s still admired to this very day (just ask Colt Cabana).

It certainly helped this lifelong wrestling fan hark back to his younger days as it looked at some of the greatest moments in British wrestling history, such as the Big Daddy/Giant Haystacks feud, the aura surrounding masked superstar Kendo Nagasaki, and much, much more.

But perhaps the best thing about this entire piece was footage from the 1967 bout between Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo. Their years-long feud was even more legendary than the Daddy/Haystacks rivalry, and this footage, from what I understand, hadn’t been seen on television for over 40 years.

There has been, of course, a bit of criticism with regards to the content, that it didn’t focus on some of the other stars of the time, and that it belittled the British wrestling product of today.

Let’s face it folks, if this documentary had focused on everyone who made an impact on the small screen back then it would have lasted for hours. There’s only so much you can fit into a 60 minute show.

And although there are some great wrestlers doing the rounds of the British wrestling circuit today (a quick look at the current roster of the big two confirms that) it will never be held in such high esteem as it was back then. Unless all of the current promotions suddenly get their heads out of their backsides and start to work together for the greater good.

Rant about the current British product aside, this was a great piece of historical storytelling, and it’s for that reason I’m giving this the big thumbs up.

If you haven’t watched this show yet you can still watch it for the next few days on the BBC iPlayer. Details can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p96ly.

Don’t forget to check out my website at twoshedsreview.blogspot.com. It’s been online in one form or another for over 12 years!



By day I'm an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I'm the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain's longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. It's been online in one form or another since June 2000!

  • Melvin_M_Melvin

    I liked the delve into British wrestling’s early history in
    fairground tents and smoky music halls, and would have preferred more content
    like this – except that available newsreel is probably limited, and this
    documentary tended to concentrate on the product as viewed through our TV
    screens – hence the paucity of detail about non-Joint promoters like Brian Dixon
    and Pallo himself; Pallo’s rage against the machine in ‘You Grunt, I’ll Groan’;
    the tragic death of Mal Kirk, etc.

    I agree that the Mick McManus-Pallo footage was alone worth
    the cost of the TV license, and – for me – it is this pre-Daddy black-and-white
    era that is the true Golden Age – missed by those Crabtree aficionados that
    were born a little later than I.

    While I don’t go out of my way to watch British grappling
    these days,  I don’t feel that the current
    scene came off badly, as the protagonists had a fair crack and came across as

    Some sad omissions, though, including definitive stars like Kidd and Kellett, plus Bill Robinson et al…


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