Sunday 2 June 2013

Mick McManus, RIP

Mick McManus died last month, aged 93.

He was a fixture of my childhood Saturday afternoons, when I would watch televised wrestling with my grandmother for forty minutes before the football results came on and she switched off. She disliked all other sports, but all-in wresting was a guilty pleasure of hers. McManus was her favourite. He resembled the actor Ian Hendry and, in later years, the tubby comedian Terry Scott. With his died black hair, black trunks and unhealthy-looking body he was always cast as the bad guy, "The Man You Love to Hate", the one who broke all the rules while the referee's back was turned. His catch-phrase, a very good one by any standards, was "Not the ears! Not the ears!"

They were all terrific entertainers, those 1970s teatime wresters - Jackie 'Mr T.V.' Pallo from Islington, the lumbering Giant Haystacks, the soft-hearted crowd-pleaser Big Daddy (whose real name, we all knew, was Shirley Crabtree) and the terrifying, masked weirdo Kendo Nagasaki. The latter was unmasked by Big Daddy in 1975, a bizarre moment you can watch here. (Any cultural anthropologists out there will need a pen and paper.) McManus was a consistently reliable, no-nonsense performer, his trademark short range forearm jabs culminating in the finishing move of a Boston Crab. 'A dreadful man' said my grandmother, approvingly. 

The ITV commentator was Kent Walton, who was good at his job in the same way the disc jockey Alan 'Fluff' Freeman was good at doing the chart countdown - they both made it seem to matter. Walton's top lip was permanently malformed from long years of close-up ringside microphone wrangling at rowdy venues in Croydon, Birkenhead, Belfast and Gravesend.

After retiring from what Walton liked to call 'the grunt 'n' grapple game' McManus ran a pub in South London and became an expert in antique porcelain. He will be missed.

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