I was sorry to hear that Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco has died. Pretty much a legend in British wrestling, he fought all over the world, including in Japan (and MSG) as Black Tiger. His dad, grandad AND great-grandad were wrestlers. By the time I got into wrestling he had just packed it in as his heart was failing him. In fact, one of the first wrestling shows I ever went to, in August of 1991 at a seaside theatre in Rhyl, had a programme that detailed his heart surgery. Sorry to see him go, but nobody lasts forever as we’re getting to realise more and more. I thought I’d have a look at a selection of his matches with some stars we all know of.
Big Daddy and Ringo Rigby vs. Rollerball Rocco and John Quinn
Round one: Typical Big Daddy tag match, big fat Shirley Crabtree teaming with a smaller man who takes the beating from a heel team, in this case matching size with Rocco and Canadian heavyweight the Mighty Quinn, who did a lot of business as a North American heel putting down the British in a snotty way for a lot of heat. Rigby and Rocco match each other move for move, including some dirty tactics, until Rocco pulls the hair and gets the advantage. Quinn comes in and uses his height and weight advantage to put the knees to him. Big slam. Max Ward is the ref, so a lot of “One-ah! Two-ah!” from him. Rigby fucks up an Irish whip and takes a flip instead. Rocco comes back in with a double axehandle off the top, which was as uncommon as a punch in this period. Rigby gets thrown out and then helped back in by the front row, including an old granny. Quinn and Rocco keep Rigby in their corner. Cradle tombstone from Rocco, but he turns around and Rigby gets the tag to Big Daddy. Crappy edit on the tape to Daddy getting a splash and the first fall on Quinn. If you ever wanted to see someone do a splash without leaving their feet watch Daddy.
Round two: Rocco runs in and bounces into and off of Daddy. Kent Walton points out that Quinn should’ve stayed in the ring because he was the legal man, but the point isn’t pressed. Irish whip into the corner, followed by another crappy splash, but he actually gets off him and tags in Rigby. Monkey flip (or climb) and dropkick to send Rocco out of the ring and onto the commentary table. Quinn comes back in with boots and a rope-assisted stomp and gets a public warning for not backing away when instructed to, while granny shakes her fist. BIG backbreaker and Daddy comes in, to no public warning, to try and help out. Interesting slam ON the ropes from Rocco, kind of like a tree of woe but a bit higher and more forcefully. Knee to the back from the second. Quinn in with the over-the-shoulder backbreaker for the equalising submission.
Round three: Daddy ineffectively tries to fan Rigby with a towel while Quinn gives someone in the crowd the finger. Rigby foolishly walks himself into the opposite corner. Quinn with more big slams and an elbow and splash. He looks like a giant compared to Rigby. Rocco comes off the top with a move totally missed by the camera. Missed elbow lets Rigby tag in Daddy, who finishes off Rocco with a BIG back bodydrop and splash. Kent talks up an upcoming solo match between Daddy and Quinn, but I feel like if you’ve got him dropping the first fall to him then the lustre has been lost, although it did draw a big crowd at Wembley. Pretty decent tag match, kept moving and the crowd were up for it and Daddy’s interactions were kept to a minimum.
Marty Jones vs. Rollerball Rocco
From 1988, the last year wrestling was on ITV in the UK. The WWF influence is obvious, with pre-match promos. Rocco, who was always one of the better British talkers, cuts an awesome interview about ripping Jones up into little pieces, stuffing him into envelopes and then sending him out to his fan club. I would’ve thought a badge would’ve done. Jones, with his turned in eye, offers a boring retort.
ITV was dubbing music over the introductions at this point, so no sound of TNT for Rocco. The ring announcer for All Star Promotions has an ugly gold lame jacket and is trying to do Brian Crabtree’s deal with red trim on one side and blue trim on the other. Rocco is stirring everyone up from the moment he’s in, with his Maniac headband and studded leather glove he’d threaten to use as a foreign object.
Round one: Rocco jumpstarts the match by attacking Jones with the belt, but gets fought off and a boot to the gut is caught. Fast action. Jones has grey tights and boots with black trunks over them and pink pads over his knees in an ugly look. Jones was pretty good about going between face and heel and I saw him wrestle once and challenge a heckler to come in with him. The guy started handing his false teeth to his mate and Jones told him “Don’t worry about taking those out, I won’t break them, just everything else on you”. Rocco controls with a side headlock and then drops the elbow on his face, chickening out when challenged back. Rocco bumps like crazy off being rammed into the corner. Lousy edit to the end of the round.
Round two: Rocco straight out with punches, but gets whipped into the corner in a bump I can’t work out how he took it. The corner padding comes off and Jones starts whipping him with it. Rocco attacks Jones’ knee from the outside. Takes the leg back in the ring, but gets caught with an enzigiuri temporarily. Leglock and stomps to the knee to wear it down. He goes for the leg again but almost gets caught with a backslide. Public warning as he comes off the top with a double axehandle. Falling headbutt, followed by a chinlock. Again, another edit on the video to the end of the round, with no falls and everything even.
Round three: Rocco takes the advantage again early, but Jones threatens wringing his neck with a towel. Kent remarks on Rocco’s “colourful” ring attire in red, white and blue. To the outside, which is followed by a sweet Jones baseball slide. Back in and ANOTHER crappy edit to Rocco having just eaten a pinfall off an O’Connor roll.
Round four: Jones is ready for Rocco this time, but gets caught by a gut punch and kicks, plus being choked under the ropes. Kent marvels over Rocco not wrestling like a man who’d had a back operation for seven hours, been at death’s door for four days, in intensive care for three weeks… Hate to tell you this, Kent, but as good as he was wrestling he was on borrowed time at this point in his career. Rocco goes to the top, Jones, cuts him off, gets headbutted down, then YET ANOTHER crappy video edit to Rocco having gotten the second fall, which the replay reveals was off catching a Jones flying bodypress and turning it into a cradle tombstone. He’s also bleeding off the headbutt.
Round five: Rocco puts the boots to Jones, and would you guess it that we’ve got another edit and Rocco boots down Jones and throws the referee off. Jones has been disqualified for something during the edited period while someone in the crowd bellows “Bloody idiot! Rocco should be diisqualified!”. Turns out that he has been disqualified too. Good, fiery match, but killed by the uploader having an edited video up there. Rocco and Jones exchange words on the mic, with Jones trying to get an “Here we go, here we go, here we go!” chant started to zero success. They fight to back after the match as everything falls apart.
Dave Taylor and Ironfist Clive Myers vs. Rollerball Rocco and Kendo Nagasaki
Dave Taylor is of course the Squire, Kendo is the British version (the masked samurai warrior), Ironfist is a Jamaican guy doing a martial arts gimmick.
Quick sequence to start with Myers and Rocco. Rocco back bodydrops Myers so far that he almost ends up in the ropes. Comeback with finger jabs. Kendo offers a knee to throw Myers into and gets his first public warning without even stepping in the ring. Kendo tags in and helps with an assisted piledriver to get Rocco his first public warning. Taylor gets the tag and takes down both heels to a big pop with a double clothesline. For perspective, Taylor looks like Lex Luger compared to most British wrestlers as far as muscularity and height. The good guys get a public warning for a double arm wrench. Kendo gets knocked out of the ring and onto a cameraman. Back, in a so-so high knee brings the advantage back to Kendo. Boots to the chest. Full nelson to allow Rocco to come in with a double axehandle and his second public warning. Dave does a great timber bump off it. Kendo carries on wearing him down, including throwing him across the ring by his neck. Taylor avoids the setup for the Kamikaze Crash and comes back with his trademark European uppercuts. Slam for the attempted pin, but Rocco comes in off the top to break it up and ends up dropping both knees on the throat and head, temporarily knocking Kendo out.
This is where it gets really interesting, with Rocco sent outside, because Taylor starts pulling the mask off Kendo, which was a very rare occurrence. It’s half off, just past the nose, but Rocco breaks it up. He then starts trying to roll it back down after elbowing Taylor off, but on the rebound Taylor hits Rocco with a forearm and on the impact he pulls off Kendo’s mask at the same time! Kendo, with shaved head and ponytail, runs for his life, while Rocco stands embarrassed in the ring and Taylor and Myers celebrate. No finish, but a fun match with a great finish. Kendo would end up blaming Rocco for embarrassing him and they’d proceed to have a series of heel against heel matches.
Fuji Yamada vs. Rollerball Rocco
One more for now, but if there’s interest I’ll look at a bit more British wrestling. Yamada would of course go on to become Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, and this was part of his world tour to get some seasoning. The match is from Reslo, so Welsh commentary. I’m from a Welsh family, but not even the Welsh people in my family could speak it. Rocco does a great gurning look at the camera as he comes out and tells Yamada he’s going down. Referee is infamous All Star Promotions promoter Brian Dixon!
Round one: Rocco pounds away with forearms and elbows and drops a nasty knee. Yamada gets a headlock and flips out of a reversal and quickly gets a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Rocco misses a knee and retreats. Slows down for some matwork, trying to get some pinfalls, but speeds back up with Yamada trying to tie Rocco in the ropes and eating an elbow. Flying bodypress and crucifix get two. Backslide, but Rocco’s feet are in the ropes. Back down to a Yamada leglock, into a single leg Boston. Rope escape and shot to the gut. Yamada flips over a back bodydrop, dropkicks Rocco out and gets a plancha out. Rocco gets cornered on his knackers, giving Yamada his first public warning. Yamada is in great shape here, muscular and built but not like a bodybuilder. Dynamite Kid dropkick off the top, but Yamada misses a standing one back on the mat. Rocco takes him up for an over-the-shoulder backbreaker, which is escaped and followed by a clothesline. Bodypress countered into Rocco’s piledriver. Rocco follows with a suplex. Goes for another, which is countered by a back suplex that folds Rocco up. Dixon has a bizarre way of pounding the mat for the standing count. Superplex OFF THE TOP from Rocco, which would be like doing a space flying tiger drop in 1934 for this Welsh audience, but he misses a senton flip. Bodypress off the second from Yamada for two. BIG piledriver follows, and he really spikes Rocco with it. Another bodypress off the top gets two. Rocco then suicide suplexes himself and Yamada out and they brawl on the outside for the DCO. FANTASTIC action and shows exactly why Rocco was a star on a worldwide level.
Conclusion: Fuck it! Even if there isn’t interest, which there absolutely should be, I’ll go back and watch some more matches with the likes of Rocco and Rocky Moran and Fit Finlay because they absolutely hold up overall. R.I.P. Rocco, you were dynamite.