Monday, 27 February 2012

Your first match of the evening

It has occurred to me the that the revival in British Wrestling fortunes has been a wondrous thing. As a fan of the old school it makes me very happy. I got the idea for this blog as I was reading Twitter and watching CM Punk and Colt Cobana batting names of long forgotten English wrestlers back and forth; "Clive Meyers" typed Punk "iron fist" typed Colt. I added a link to that match in the conversation and wondered if I could push it further by framing some old matches and giving some commentary from a fan perspective. Well I'll give it a shot anyway. My blogging inspiration of course comes from the amazing Scott Bowden that has been entertaining me for years. Hopefully I can relive the passion for those old matches, some that happened before my time and highlight the style of presentation, the grandeur and the greatness that drew a nation together at 4 O'clock on a Saturday afternoon. It will also give me something to do while I'm waiting for Walk Like a Panther to come to a TV screen near me soon.

So without further ado I hand you over to our MC to introduce in the red corner Mr. Les Kellet of Bradford and in the blue corner Mr. Leon Arras of Barnsley.

This match is everything you could want from a British match of time as far as entertainment is concerned. Not a great wrestling match to be sure, but something else to watch.

Kellet built his reputation on comedy, however the legend of Kellet is a little bit more than that. As Simon Garfield explored in his book "The Wrestling" Kellet was by all accounts as hard as nails. He wasn't a bona fide shooter, he was just so tough he didn't care. Arras wasn't actually Arras at all; he was a secondary school English teacher called Brian Glover who quiet by accident received a new identity and realised he could hide his secondary profession from his school pay masters by merely being billed differently. Max Ward Referee is well Max Ward, a slow moving gruff voiced ref who always seemed to be in the comedy bouts and the title matches. I am pretty sure the old granny in the front row will appear pretty regularly in this series to.

What amazes me about this match is the efficiency of movement. Nothing is wasted, even a simple pin fall attempt is a something to be turned into a joke. It is like they are both going through the routines of their respective roles and turning the volume up to ten, something Chikara does incredibly well now. We are all in on the joke so the game is to use those familiar roles to entertain us in a non traditional way. Let's face anyone who can make a face-lock this interesting is a visionary.

Arras' cocky heel character was honed as Shakespearian actor in an around Bradford and later, as commentator Kent Walton mentions, in television and film. His most famous role in Kes. How he got away with use of the word "bugger" on national television, a relatively strong swear word for the time, goes unrecorded. One thing the round system of British wrestling did give was the ability for the face to have multiple comebacks, as in round three where Kellet hits the figure four and bar his favourite finisher which turns into another comedy aside. The classic heel rough bandage spot also was just enough to get the crowd riled. Memphis may have had fire balls, but in Bradford we preferred something a little more subtle.

The public warning system was also in effect which worked wonders for heat. The face had a chance to really break the rules if riled, but it gave the heels much more of a chance to cheat. Of course if things went to far out of control you could just disqualify people outright, but clean finishes where the fashion.

The famed Kellet tee'd up swinging back kick someone should really bring back to Ring of Honour, are you hearing me Colt Cabana?

On to round five. Arras's pitch perfect whine of "referee, referee" used to ring in my mind most Saturday afternoons, here it builds to a crescendo, the odds are even. Les has equalised and so we head to the finish. There could only be one winner of course.

Arras, or rather Brian Glover won a nations heart as an actor in the aforementioned Kes. The source of his name though was fascinatingly retold one afternoon on Radio 5 Live. Having taken a job on in France, again well away from Yorkshire teaching bosses, the promoter had booked a wrestler called Leon Arras who had no showed. He asked Glover to fill the spot who came to the realisation that if he could be Leon Arras in Paris, he could be Leon Arras in Barnsley. Many years later at the end of his career wrestling in Spain an old grizzled French veteran wrestler came into the dressing room and introduced himself; "Leon Arras?", "Ah oui", Replied our Brian, "Non" replied the vet pointing to his chest "LEON ARRAS". The two veterans then proceed to make fast friends and all was forgiven.

Alas Les Kellet suffered an unforgiving fate a few years later or so I have heard. A friend of my Dad's was refereeing in Doncaster and saw what possibly was the swan song to Kellet's career. A young Marty Jones on his way up, faced Kellet who took a few comedic liberties, to many for the Oldham shooters liking. Jones put the veteran in his place or so the legend goes. As Simon Garfield found out in "The Wrestling" maybe the legend is better than the truth.

That's all grapple fans to quote Kent Walton, have a good time till the next time.