Les Kellett

The Wrestling Channel is a welcome addition to my Sky line-up. To be honest, most of it is Japanese shows with Japanese commentary or third-rate WWE knock-off stuff, not all bad, often fast and lively, but I think what little genuine star material they have is just waiting for the WWE call. But it also has old selections from when wrestling was on World Of Sport ages ago. Today’s showed up what I loved best and least about that show, decades ago.

First up was a tag match, with the good guy team being Kid Chocolate (ah, the good old days when a black wrestler would have such a name…) and Big Daddy, a 24 stone fat middle aged bloke who somehow became everyone’s favourite wrestler. The script had the small Kid Chocolate getting beaten up for ages, until he finally gets the tag. The bad guys then try one tactic against Big Daddy: running into his huge belly, until he falls on top of one of them for the win. Astoundingly dreary, and according to more than one good judge, what killed British wrestling.

But after that they showed two matches featuring Les Kellett, easily my favourite British wrestler ever. He was an unimpressive figure, short, 14 stone, looking about 50, very unathletic. I think he was also among the funniest men I’ve ever seen, and a unique wrestler. His skills were deceptive, but sometimes evident in his very smooth reversals, he was clearly very tough, and he had some original moves – I particularly liked when he’d fall back over the second rope, his knees would hit the top rope and he’d catapult back through to headbutt an opponent in the belly, making the whole thing look completely accidental. He also had an extraordinary way of staggering around as if completely out of it, then slowly swaying out of the way of any attack, as if drunk – at these times, he seemed a physical comedian in the Buster Keaton league. Another schtick was not hearing the round bell when he had a good hold on, and when eventually forced to break getting in the opponent’s face and shouting “The bell’s gone!” in apparent astonishment. Sadly neither of the matches on show today featured his figure four leglock, which he would seem to relax when the bell went, but the ref would spend the break trying to untangle it, and as soon as the bell went again he’d power back into it. Add in all the chat, all the “Shouldn’t you talk to him about that, ref?” and hands to his face in embarrassment when he ‘unthinkingly’ did something naughty and other byplay, and he was a great entertainer.

Incidentally, turns out he was also something of a psycho who most wrestlers would refuse to train with. There was a finger hold that was an instant win, as breaking the fingers was very easy, so it was an automatic submission. Unless you were fighting Les Kellett, who would just snarl “Fucking break it then.”