Reminded of this wrestling legend of my childhood by a misunderstood tweet from Zamalisa Mdoda, I looked up Big Daddy’s wikipedia page and relived some memories of Wakefield Town Hall on a Saturday lunchtime.
Shirley Crabtree, Jr, better known as Big Daddy (14 November 1930 – 2 December 1997) was a British professional wrestler famous for his record-breaking 64 inch chest. Known for wearing his various Big Daddy leotards, Crabtree’s original one was emblazoned with just a large “D” and was fashioned by his wife Eunice from their chintz sofa.
The wrestling would be on World of Sport on ITV (via Yorkshire TV) from about 12:30 til 1:15, much to the displeasure of my parents. It would be hard to choose between that and Football Focus and I seem to remember that the footy usually won out during the season.
As you can probablytell from the sofa thing above, this was entirely more amateur than the WWF, WCW, WWE and WTF nonsense that is so popular these days. This was altogether less glamorous, although Big Daddy was one of the first big (no pun intended) showmen, this clip from a posh do down South at Wembley Arena:
Big Daddy died in 1997 and Pierre Perrone’s obituary – which I promise I have only just read after writing all of the above – completely backs up all that I have just said:
With wrestling now banished to the satellite ghetto of Sky and Eurosport, it’s hard to remember a time when the sport was very much a part of the terrestrial schedules. Yet in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the wrestler Big Daddy became a star on ITV’s World of Sport. Before ram-raiding and computer games, many a British child spent a not so wholesome Saturday afternoon egging on the leotard-clad Big Daddy as he ditched his glittering cape and top hat before taking on such rivals as Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus.
Not something I expected to think about or to post today, but a very welcome memory of my younger days.