Mike Reviews – Classic British Wrestling at Wembley Arena (18/06/1981)

Hello You!

Back with more Classic British Wrestling, as we take a look at Joint-Promotion’s excursion to Wembley in 1981, featuring a match a lot of you may have heard off. If you fancy watching along then you can do so by visiting the website itvwrestling.co.uk and heading to the 1981 section. The matches for this taping were split across multiple Saturdays, so I’ll make sure the required dates are present so that you can seek out the induvial matches if you wish. It’s better to do it that way rather than post each one individually and possibly get the blog in a spot of bother with the Google overlords.

I’ve also got to give a shout out to wrestlingheritage.co.uk as well, as it proved invaluable in finding information on some of the wrestlers.

So without further ado, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!

These matches were all taped from Wembley Arena on the 18th of June 1981

Calling the action is Kent Walton

Shown on 20th June 1981

Knockout Only. No Rounds
Giant Haystacks Vs Big Daddy

This is a feud that sums up this era for a lot of people, as the hated Haystacks takes on the beloved Big Daddy in their most famous televised singles bout. KO is the only way to win and they’re having it at Wembley as well. Daddy gets the big entrance with his “We Shall Not Be Moved” music and young girls twirling batons, all whilst decked out in an incredibly tacky shiny hat and jacket. The crowd is of course up for the idea of these two big lads going at it, and the placing of this match on the card is pretty clever as it’s pretty far down as a side act as opposed to being a Main Event bout that’s expected to carry the show.

The wrestling itself is pretty awful, which I have to say is mostly down to Daddy. American’s who only saw his WCW run might not believe this, but Haystacks could actually work in his younger days before his health started failing him, but Daddy was pretty much terrible as a worker from the very beginning. They wisely keep this one short, with Daddy mostly doing terrible forearm strikes and hitting Haystacks with his belly. They throw a ref bump in for whatever reason, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and it’s not like Haystacks uses it as a chance to really cheat or anything. Eventually we get the finish of Daddy charging at Haystacks until he finally tumbles over the top rope through a ringside table. Haystacks can’t get back in before 10 and they class that as the “knockout” win for Daddy.

WINNER: BIG DADDY
RATING: *

The match was junk, but the crowd heat was great and they did the big bump at the end well, so I’ll be generous

Haystacks is not satisfied following that finish (And to be fair, he has a point) and thus the feud must continue!

Two Falls to Win. 8 Rounds of 5 Minutes
Rollerball Rocco Vs Mal Sanders

Rocco recently passed away and was one of the best in-ring talents of this era, so good in fact that New Japan eventually brought him in to play the first ever Black Tiger. Sanders was one of the top middleweights from this era and was one of the few people to score back to back wins over Mick McManus in the TV era. Sanders is actually filling in for Sammy Lee (Satoru Sayama) here. The sound and picture for this match is pretty bad sadly, so if I miss anything commentary wise then that’s likely why. As you’d expect from these two there’s a lot of quick action and plenty of technical holds and reversals.

It’s like a refreshing palette cleanser following that previous bout and much more representative of the style too. Rocco works some heel tactics in by stomping a downed Sanders and pulling his hair, both which were no-no’s in this style of wrestling, due to it being more like boxing when you knock someone down, meaning you have to step back to let the ref count and aren’t allowed to attack an opponent once they are on the mat. Sanders eventually gets annoyed and tries pulling Rocco up at one stage to show that this one is getting heated and that he’s none too pleased with Rocco’s rule bending antics.

Sadly the loud hum over the footage means I can barely hear Walton, but I’m sure he’s chiding Rocco in his usual disappointed grandfather manner. Rocco takes an incredible bump off an Irish Whip at one stage and Sanders quickly double legs him to pick up a three count and take the lead. I love how they made a big bump like that count, as Rocco was in trouble the moment it happened and the fall was always coming as a result. Rocco fires straight back in the next round though with a lovely float-over vertical suplex and that leaves us all even going into Round 5. Sanders is now on the defensive following that and they do a few KO teases until Rocco misses a Tenryu styled elbow drop off the ropes. Sanders has an opening thanks to that, but can’t make it count and another suplex ends it for Rocco soon after.

WINNER: ROCCO
RATING: ***1/4

My main complaint about this one is that there wasn’t more of it! Really good match, with great work from Rocco in particular. That man was special

With that match finished we move onto matches that aired on the 27th of June 1981

Two Falls to Win. 6 Rounds of 5 Minutes
Dalibar Singh Vs Pete Roberts

Singh lived in Yorkshire and wrestled both in the UK and Germany. He was always a strong technician between the ropes but lacked charisma, with scuttlebutt being that this was why he got booked quite a lot because the promoters felt he wasn’t a threat to Big Daddy’s star power. Roberts had a couple of gimmicks over the years, playing both a Judo guy and also going under the “Super Destroyer” name as well after a tour in Japan.

We get a lot of patient technical work on the mat here, with both men working the holds well. Singh even works a cravat at one stage, which Chris Hero eventually brought to America down the line. Both men move on to striking in the second round, with Roberts dipping into some inspiration from his days in Japan by firing off a lariat and then following up with an elbow drop quickly enough to pick up the three. Though you weren’t supposed to hit a downed opponent, if you followed up quickly enough that it could be considered all part of the same movement then the ref would allow it, just as he did in that instance.

The quick-fire response we saw in the Rocco match is displayed here also, as Singh pulls out a backslide out of nowhere in the third round to level it up. Things heat up in round 4, as both men keep throwing strikes, but they do break for a handshake at one stage in an effort to cool things down a bit. They’ve built this one well, with the steady technical wrestling in the first round leading to the pace picking up and the intensity increasing with each following round. In a nice touch though, Roberts breaks a hold as soon as Round 4 ends to show that he still has respect for the rules and his opponent even though the bout has started ramping up. We get a fast paced running drop-down segment in Round 5 and that leads to Singh catching Roberts with a hip toss power slam to pick up the three and the second fall.

WINNER: DALIBAR SINGH
RATING: ***

That one built nicely and featured some good wrestling

We of course get a handshake post-match.

World Heavyweight Title – Title Vacant
Two Falls to Win. 15 Rounds of 3 Minutes
The Mississippi Mauler Jim Harris Vs Wayne Bridges

Harris would eventually go on to greater fame as The Ugandan Giant Kamala, whilst Bridges was a mainstay in the heavyweight division who tended to spend a lot of his time taking on hated foreign menace heels like Kendo Nagasaki and big scary monsters like Giant Haystacks. This one is joined in progress in Round 4 with neither man holding a fall. Harris actually looks a bit like Jerry Lawler with his one shoulder singlet and tights apparel. You’d have no idea of what his future career would entail watching this one.

Harris draws some good heat by stalling and using underhanded tactics when the opportunity allows. Bridges is his ever solid self, as he tries to out wrestle Harris and work holds like a good babyface should. Harris makes good use of the no closed fist rule by getting sly punches in whilst the referees view is obstructed, which draws good heel heat as a result. It’s stuff like that which makes me wish they’d bring that no punching rule back, but sadly that ship seems to have sailed. When you’re not allowed to punch you can draw nuclear heat from a couple of punches if you execute it correctly. Walton returns to his disappointed father tone by stating that Harris has been wrestling in Europe long enough to know the rules now. Walton as the indignant babyface commentator tutting at the heels cheating is always great.

Bridges survives the illegal punches and manages to heave Harris over with a back body drop before getting a running cross body block for the first fall, which gets a great reaction from the crowd. Harris continues to cheat, so Bridges gets fired up and delivers his trademark running head butt before throwing some uppercuts. Harris’ American styled stooge selling really gets over with the crowd, and they cheer whenever Bridges manages to stagger him. In a nice touch, Harris blocks a snapmare a few times, so when Bridges finally manages to get it and follows up with a knee drop it feels like he’s actually achieved something because he had to work for it and it wasn’t just a throwaway move.

Harris finally gets a public warning from the ref for attacking Bridges on the ropes, with public warnings kind of working like a three strike rule. Get pulled up three times and you get DQ’ed. Bridges tries the cross body block again, but this time Harris is able to catch him and counter into a back breaker to pick up the three and tie it up. The air just goes out of the crowd as a result of that, as they are really with this match and want Bridges to prevail. In some ways the heat is even better here than it was in the Haystacks/Daddy match from earlier.

Harris’ strikes don’t have a lot on them, but the crowd doesn’t really care and Bridges sells them well, firing up now and then to pop the crowd when required. They really get the most out of everything they do, and Harris gets his second public warning for attacking Bridges on the ropes again, meaning that next time he’ll just get straight up disqualified with no warning. Despite there being a clear Face/Heel divide in this one, the match itself has been more back and forth rather than having what we’d recognise today as a traditional heel heat segment. Harris gets a flurry in Round 9 but Bridges keeps coming and is eventually able to catch the big Yank with a school boy to pick up the three and the Title to the joy of the crowd.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: WAYNE BRIDGES
RATING: ***

The heat for this one was great, and if Harris’ work had been a bit tighter then it might have gotten an even higher rating. Still a good match though and Bridges had this sort of match down to an art form

Retired wrestler Jim Hussey, who was a big star in his day, presents the belt to Bridges. Harris cuts a heel promo saying that Bridges pulled his tights and that he’ll be coming for a rematch.

Two Falls to Win. No Rounds, 30 Minute Time Limit
Bobby Barnes and Sid Cooper Vs Bert Royal and Vic Faulkner

Barnes and Cooper were two long running heel acts from this era, with Barnes being the cocky arrogant kind whilst Cooper was more of a stooging cowardly one. Royal and Faulkner were a long running babyface act known as “The Royals”, who regularly attracted a lot of crowd support for their slick tandem offence.

There’s a good mix of technical wrestling and comedy in the early stages, which was Cooper’s speciality, and even Walton has the odd chuckle here and there. I really like the technical aspect, with some great holds from the faces and some equally great selling and stooging from the heels. The crowd is into it and has a good giggle at the comedy spots as well as cheering the faces when they deliver some nice moves. The faces even do a funny spot where they switch out to work on Barnes whilst the referee is dealing with Cooper, inverting a spot normally used by heels. Eventually Royal makes Cooper pay for his clowning by dodging a running attack and rolling him up for the first fall.

Cooper continues to bump around in the next session, whilst Faulkner makes fun of Barnes’ ugly new tights, with the crowd continuing to have a good time at the heels’ expense. You get the impression that all four wrestlers are enjoying being in front of the Wembley crowd and are making the most of it by pulling out seemingly every comedy spot they can think of to pop them. In a classic bit of heel chicanery, Cooper and Barnes put Faulkner in holds but then pretend they are stuck in them and can’t release them when the referee orders them to. The ref sees through that and issues public warnings, but it allows them to weaken Faulkner’s arm in the process, so much so that Barnes is able to level things up by submitting him in a nice Indian Deathlock styled move to the injured appendage. Cooper even gets a sly kick in following the decision just to be a jerk about it.

The heels smartly try and stay on the arm of Faulkner during the third session, but Royal manages to get a tag and makes a kind of rudimentary hot tag with hip tosses before tagging Faulkner back in for the match winning back body drop.

WINNERS: ROYAL & FAULKNER
RATING: ***1/4

The last fall was a bit abrupt, but the match in general was good fun with some humorous comedy clowning by the heels offset by some slick technical grappling from the babyfaces. A good way to close us out I think

Kent wishes us a good week till next week in his indomitable style, and we’re out.

In Conclusion

Haystacks/Daddy aside, all of the wrestling here was good and even the match between the two big lads at least had enough heat from the crowd that it wasn’t boring. Overall I’d have to give the show in general thumbs up and I think I would have dearly liked to attend it!