I was listening to the radio the other day and they were playing the theme tune to the old ITV Saturday afternoon sports show called World of Sport, and since it’s a Saturday and we seem to be wandering down memory lane a bit at the moment, I thought I’d give you a blast to see if you remember it….
Hosted by the avuncular skunk-haired Dickie Davies, whose image appears in the video, it was always the poor relation compared to the BBC’s Grandstand, as it always seemed to cover the lesser sports like speedway, rallying and bloody horse-racing. But its jewel in the crown was its coverage of the British-based wrestling scene. The slot was always on before the results sequence and presented by silky-toned Kent Walton who always used to open with his classic ‘Welcome grapple fans’ from such heady places as Fairfields Hall Croydon and West Ham baths. Now comparing ITV’s wrestling fare with today’s ridiculously overblown American WWE scene is like matching up a Morris Minor with a Chevrolet Camaro SS. They’re based on the same techniques but the dressing and performance is vastly different. Even if the contrived results remain remarkably similar.
Now I’m absolutely sure I’ve written about my personal memories of British grappling in the past but for the life of me I cannot find it. So I’ll do it again but keep it trim because I’m convinced I’ll find the original one day. The memories are all based on the characters who all had a ‘thing’ like the masked Kendo Nagasaki, camp Adrian Street, long haired Jackie Pallo, handsome Steve Veidor, black Johnny Kwango, and the dirty and largely unbeaten Mick McManus. Now later in life I would come across Mick at major mobile phone exhibitions supporting a particular dealer on the sales floor. It always seemed an incongruous match-up to me but I was too nice (I know seems unlikely) to go and ask him about it. Very much later I believe he and his beloved wife ended up in the care home for retired theatrical types just around the corner from where we lived in Twickenham Green. They say he died of a broken heart after she passed away. Hard man with a gentle interior eh.
I’m sure people of a certain age will have their favourite wrestler but mine was none of these more flamboyant characters. For some reason I was a bit of a fan of the dour Yorkshireman (is there any other sort?) Les Kellett. He was fighting in his 50’s during the glory days on TV and he appears to have been hewn out of granite from the moors.
He wasn’t especially big but he could endure pain and he had a habit of seeming to be on the point of unconsciousness before doing a neat side step and embarrassing a larger opponent with his technique. He was the only grappler I knew who could fall through the ropes seemingly falling head first onto the surrounding floor before catching his feet on the middle rope and using that to propel himself back into the ring at force thereby stunning an opponent with the trick. He could have done himself serious injury if he ever got it wrong. As far as I know he never did. He ran a cafe in Bradford with his wife when not wrestling and kept sheep and cattle at the back. He probably wrestled them for practice.
I’ve found a YouTube video of one of his performances again the much larger Brian Glover, who wrestled under the name of Leon Arras. There’s seemingly a lot of bad blood between the two and although a bit long it’s worth staying with to catch all of Les’ trademark moves. Brian Glover of course was also an actor who starred as the bullying vindictive PE teacher in one of my all time favourite films Kes. The scene where he emulates the fair slightly balding Bobby Charlton on the school footie pitch is a classic…
Having whetted your appetite for Yerkshire entertainment here’s that video of Les v Len. Enjoy…