On the back of ITV’s taping of the revamped ‘World of Sport Wrestling’ this week, I decided to have a look back at some of the classic World of Sport matches available to watch on YouTube. For anyone looking to familiarise themselves with the classic style of British Wrestling presented by ITV throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, here are five matches to give you a feel for World of Sport.
Bernie Wright vs Davey Boy Smith
The late Davey Boy Smith is probably one of the most famous British wrestlers of all time; former WWF Intercontinental Champion, two time European, Tag Team and Hardcore Champion. The British Bulldog became a household name across the world in the 1990’s; however, long before his worldwide fame Davey started out on World of Sport, teaming with his cousin Dynamite Kid. This match was his first television appearance as a 15-year-old boy against a young Bernie Wright – who also went on to have a good career in British wrestling, after getting considerably larger!
A great display of the style associated with World of Sport and just baffling that two competitors who are this young could put on such a great match.
Fit Finlay vs Marty Jones
When I was coming up with this list there were a few names that I knew I just had to include, but having only five matches to choose from made this very difficult. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone for most of this list, this match being one of those. Fit Finlay is another one of the British wrestlers from the WOS era that broke out into mainstream American wrestling and make a big name for themselves. Debuting for WCW in 1995 and eventually having a WWE run in 2006, Finlay is someone who most wrestling fans will be aware of. His opponent in this match is one of the legends of British Wrestling, Marty Jones. While never breaking into American wrestling like some of the other WOS generation, Jones did compete for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1980’s, sharing the ring with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and Antonio Inoki.
These two were no strangers to competing against each other and this match is a great showcase of both competitors in-ring ability.
Johnny Czeslaw vs Les Kellett
While World of Sport has a reputation for some of the best pure wrestling matches in the world, it was also a pioneer in comedic wrestling. Les Kellett was the king of comedy in wrestling, while also being feared as a legitimate threat to his opponents. However, it was his opponent that made me have to include this match. About a year ago I discovered a wrestler called Johnny Czeslaw, and was mesmerised by the way he handled himself in the ring. I never thought I’d be sitting here in 2016 laughing at something a wrestler did in the 1970’s, it doesn’t matter who you are, watching a Czeslaw match will bring a smile to anyone’s face. The Poland born grappler is probably one of the most underrated wrestlers from the WOS era and his matches still hold up today.
A good mix of classic British grappling and comedy from two fantastic wrestlers in this match. Great watch.
Fuji Yamada vs Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco
I couldn’t even think about posting this list without including Mark ‘Rollerball’ Rocco. One of the household names of British wrestling, he had the big personality that is synonymous with today’s wrestling but also incredible in-ring ability. Rocco found fame in Japan as “Black Tiger”, having some of the most famous matches in Japanese wrestling history with Tiger Mask. In the UK, Rocco is well known for his massive feud with Kendo Nagasaki, following the unmasking of Kendo. His opponent, Fuji Yamada is more widely known as Japanese legend Jushin Thunder Liger. Long before Liger became one of the most popular names in wrestling, he was sent to the UK on an excursion where he learnt from some of the best wrestlers in the world at the time.
This match comes from 1987, after World of Sport had stopped being aired but before wrestling was pulled from television. A very interesting time for British wrestling but the quality of the matches never faltered.
Johnny Saint vs Mick McManus
Johnny Saint is the man. Simply put, he is the legend of British wrestling. Wrestlers all over the world now site Saint as one of their major influences, which isn’t all that surprising when you watch one of his matches. He is one of the smoothest wrestlers you will ever watch, transitioning into holds before your brain can actually compute what he’s doing. While he was as good as anyone on his day, he never found success outside of Britain. His opponent Mick McManus is one of the most highly regarded bad guys in wrestling history. He was arguably the most hated man in wrestling at the time and was just so good at getting a reaction from a crowd. Now that would have been enough for him to go down as one of the greats… but he was also an incredible wrestler going toe to toe with some of the greatest talents our shores have ever seen.
This is just a masterclass in wrestling. You’d struggle to find a better example of the golden era of British wrestling than this. Two of the greats going at it, perfect.
With the return of World of Sport Wrestling to our TV’s in the near future, we can expect more great wrestling from this generation’s home grown talent and hopefully more eyes will see how great British wrestling truly is.
Follow @WOSWrestlingITV on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest news at this very exciting time for British wrestling.