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Seconds Away, Round One by Nigel Roth

Dernière mise à jour : 17 juil. 2021

When I was thirteen, I was locked in a dungeon.

Well, actually, a cellar, and I wasn’t exactly locked in. I had to work there bringing bottles of wine and spirits and beer up from the depths of the dank darkness to the light of my father’s liquor store.

The weekly after-school work wasn’t so bad, because evenings in my house were generally spent watching awful TV shows like Starsky & Hutch and Kung Fu, while balancing a carb-laden dinner plate on your lap, and so being late to that because I was ‘working’ seemed a great excuse to miss the entertainment, eat at a table, and quietly not consume the pasta, potatoes, and rice that passed as vegetables.

Weekdays were one thing, but Saturdays were another altogether.

It wasn’t that I was desperate to work on my train layout, adding a tree-line to the Swiss hills above Ryness Valley, or to play LPs on my Dual 505 turntable, or even to re-catalog my miniature bottle collection, noting the examples I needed to replace, my grandfather having secretly opened and swigged down the contents, thinking I hadn't noticed.

No, my desire to end my bottle run quickly was because of one man, and he went by the name of Rollerball.

Rollerball was everything. Suave and dark, strong and fast, clever and calm, and above all, a hero.

These were the days of World of Sport, when Dickie Davies in a suit and tie, with his neatly coiffed hair and healthy moustache, led the country through an entire day of sport, a virtual landscape of galloping horses like Rubstic, and show jumpers like Caroline Bradley on Tigre, rugby highlights with Bill Beaumont flying through tackles, and cricket lowlights with batsmen like the morose David Gower, tennis moments with the ultimately-likeable but always unlucky Roscoe Tanner, and every result of a football season that culminated in Liverpool winning an eleventh league title, and, most importantly of all for me, the wonder of wrestling.

Davies would smile his broad smile and hand over to Egyptian-born Kent Walton, who’d greet me and the millions of others eagerly anticipating this week’s bouts with his signature welcome, ‘Good afternoon, grapple fans’.

And us grapple fans would cheer and holler, and get ready for the grand entrance of such luminaries as Shirley Crabtree, known to his followers as Big Daddy, a ‘face’, a good guy, or the two-metre-eleven-centimetre Martin Austin Ruane, also known as the Giant Haystacks, and a bad guy, a ‘heel’. And we all knew we were in for an afternoon of excitement and craziness, and the heavy bouncing of huge bodies.

You never knew who was on the bill until Walton announced it, and then you’d see the mysterious masked Japanese Samurai Kendo Nagasaki (actually Peter Thornley) come bounding into the ring, or King Kong Kirk (real name Malcolm) would appear in the gangway, his huge frame wobbling furiously.

There might be the Irish fighter Fit Finlay (really, just David), or the Dynamite Kid (plain old Tom Billington), with his multi-coloured boots, or the disheveled Catweazle (Gary Cooper), or the mighty Mick McManus (Bill Matthews, I’m afraid), a favorite face of the wrestling crowd.