“Greetings, grapple fans…”


With the large-scale pomp of the WWF, it’s easy to forget that wrestling (like football) used to be a resolutely down-at-heel kids-to-grannies spectacle that was one toe-hold away from the carnival. Whether it was Kent Walton intoning “Greetings, grapple fans…” on ITV’s World of Sport, ushering in such unforgettable characters as Kendo Nagasaki, or Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler (who taught Andy Kaufman to wrestle!) broadcasting live from a church hall in West Memphis, thrills aplenty were to be had.

A neat-o fillip to Simon Garfield’s hilarious tome about British wrestlers of the 1960s and 1970s, The Wrestling, is a more pictorial but equally entertaining book from Shangri-La Projects, detailing the even more bizarro world of Memphis wrestling. Ron Hall’s Sputnik, Masked Men and Midgets even comes with a free CD of 45s released by the likes of Sputnik Monroe, Lawler and Handsome Jimmy Valiant, reflecting the considerable confluence of Memphis’s wrestling and rock’n’roll scenes. F’rinstance, Elvis dated female wrestler Penny Banner and played gigs in the ‘square circle’ at matches, while Sputnik Monroe taught the pre-teen son of Presley’s discoverer, Sam Phillips, to grapple and billed the youngster as “The world’s most perfectly formed midget wrestler”… you couldn’t make it up! And, luckily, no-one has to…

Kendo Nagasaki in his prime!

Self-described as "260lb of twisted steel and sex appeal", Sputnik had the first integrated tag-team in the US and got arrested many times for drinking with his African-American fans during the days of Jim Crow

Lawler: "You can't lift 300lb gorillas over your shoulder every night without getting stronger."

The Dictators' debut LP of 1975 was the ultimate expression of Saturday TV wrestling, rock'n'roll and Mad Magazine humour — and it predated the Ramones' first LP.

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