WRESTLING IN THE TOON HALL
By David Cairns.
Loved Saturdays as a kid..getting a wee lie-in..then playing oot all day, or if the weather was shite, taking yer pick of Grandstand or World of Sport tae watch endless weird sports…like Speedway and stock car racing with Dickie Davis’ ITV or Football Focus then swimming or something on BBC with Frank Bough….
Roonaboot 1977 Kent Walton wis daen his usual Saturday with the Wrestling on ITV, fae Bolton Town Hall..or Doncaster..or somewhere…and this big bearded Canadian with an ‘off-the-shoulder’ leotard is introduced to the crowd for his first fight in Britain…unusually, he took the mic’ before hand, and starts a wee speech about how nice it wis tae be in Britain…he said that his father had fought over here during the war…then he said..
“.. and my father said…he’d never fought with a bigger bunch of yella-bellies in all his days!!”… Jeezo !..there was a stooshie got up.
I didnae know what a ‘yella-belly’ was. Turned oot, he was branding Britain a nation of cowards …I was 12 years old..and I wisnae huvin’ it !…and that had me hooked for the next two years…The Mighty John Quinn was the anti-hero to end all anti-heroes that year.. he fought them all..goodies…fellow baddies like Pat Roach..and it culminated with Big Daddy geein’ him a dooin’ on F.A. Cup-final day !!..
When I started first year at the Grammar, another lad in my class, Jim Broon, was also a ‘grapple-fan’…and me and Jim decided that we should go doon tae Hamilton Toon Hall and see the wresting. We saw those yellow wrestling posters that looked like they were advertising ‘ A Night at The Palladium’ when we went doon the toon at lunchtime…pictures of The Mighty Chang, Kendo Nagasaki, Kung-Fu…..and Andy Robin ???…top of the bill ??..never heard of him…but we were goin’ anyway..
It always seemed to be a wet walk on a Wednesday night tae the toon hall…the chilly rain sneaking doon yer neck through the stitching in yer cagoule. I walked doon fae Meiky, met Jim in Fairhill, walked past the Grammar, then doon Auchingramont Road, past Sands, then bumped intae the crowds coming fae every direction..fae the toon centre, up fae the auld toon, doon fae Whitehill…you’d see a right old mix of folk..folk fae Motherwell, Wishaw, ..even Glesga…Jeezo..big stuff…
The mair times ye went, the mair ye realised the wrestlers did everything themselves…they even manned the door and took your entry fee..in my day it was aboot 50p or a quid..cannae quite mind….inside…is was like waiting tae put ten bob in the electric meter..just waiting for it tae switch on and come alive..everybody was steaming…aye…steam coming aff them fae the rain…mixing wi’ fag smoke…and the ring was bright and ready…just waiting for the lights tae go doon…
Andy Robin was the local favourite…he passed me by a bit I have to say..nae much of a gimmick..just light blue trunks…but he had a big fucking bear tae…and I don’t mean his wife Maggie..a real bear called ‘Hercules’..and every time Andy fought ( and won)..he’d announce that the next time he was coming, he would bring the bear…and every ‘next-time’…the Cooncil put a ‘health & safety’ kibosh on it…promises, promises !
Me and Jim were dead excited wan time, doon the toon at lunch time, next tae Greggs, there wis a poster for the wrestling..and Andy Robin was fighting ‘The Mighty Haystacks’…couldnae believe it..I mean…Giant Haystacks…fae the telly…in the Toon Hall..mibbees the cameras will be there..mibbees it will be Kent Walton and ITV ? The poster also said they would be ‘fighting…TO THE DEATH!!”…AYE !..it said to the death…they were going tae remove the corner rope pads…exposing the rope hooks…Jeezo !..surely no’ ?
On the actual night, there was a bigger crowd than usual…mair buzz.. mair frenzy…That night was different, it wisnae raining for a start and ootside the toon hall, there wis folk fae even further afield…I saw a snazzy dressed coloured, baldy guy with a beige three piece suit….” Excowse me mace…wheres de nearest poob” he asked..we pointed him to the Silver Tassie or somewhere…it all added to the flavour…I mean…folk fae Birmingham…mental !!
I smelt my first wrestling ‘rat’…there was a guy on the door that night who was a wee fat Lemmy out of Motorhead type..but he also looked like ???…surely no’ !!
Second Wrestling rat !..introduced by the M.C. as “..all the way from Jamaica…Ian ‘Woody’ Wood !”…and there was the exotic coloured fella fae ootside..minus the beige suit… but with three or four pints of Silver Tassie lager in his wee pot belly swooshing aboot…Jamaica ma arse !!.
Anyway !..he was jist the support act…the M.C. was announcing the Haystacks-Robins fight…Jeezo !…this was going to be mental…tae the death tae !… ” Ladiesanjenelmen !!..THE…MIGHTY…HAY…STACKS!!!….an’ oot walks this cross between Lemmy and Ronnie Corbett…I mean..I might have been 13 or 14..but I wisnae born yesterday…but they removed the post-pads..Andy and ‘The toaty haystack’ flung themselves aboot…naebody died..the bear never came…and wrestlin’ fizzled oot for me..Saturday telly wis noo aboot Daisy Duke on the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’..and she was a real ‘knock-out’ !..great memories though..great atmosphere…who wis the wummin at the front throwin’ her shoes at the wrestlers ?… anybody else go ?