Tony Scarlo v Dynamite Kid
Picketts Lock, 13th August, 1977
Even a hardened fan of Heritage Years wrestling could be brainwashed into viewing this bout as it wasn’t.
Ostensibly, this was a showcase for the new British Lightweight Champion, the spectacular teenage sensation from the North, making his début appearance in a London ring. It was scheduled to run just 12 minutes, enough for fans to say “Wow!” and to get down to their local halls to see the Kid in action. MC Mike Judd confirmed this through his enthusiastic introduction of the Kid, who commentator Kent Walton would go on to tell us had turned pro at the tender age of 12. Indeed, the commentator bestowed upon him that wonderful tribute of overtrumping both compere and caption by informing us that Dynamite Kid was from neither Warrington, nor Leigh, but Goulburn.
Read the listings, view the result, and yes, this must have been a showcase bout. Ostensibly.
In reality, it was Bermondsey’s Tony Skarlo who absolutely shone, in this his eighth and final televised appearance, a full sixteen years after his 1959 small-screen début against Melwyn Riss. In all seven previous appearances Tony Skarlo hadn’t gained a victory, but the promoters knew his worth as the ideal man to make up and coming starlets such as Jackie Pallo Junior shine. To be ideal, he had to appear credible. In this bout he was not merely credible, but he led the way in a professional manner, graciously positioning himself for, and reacting realistically to, his opponent’s offensives, whilst performing lightning fast attacks of his own.
The Dynamite Kid seemed intent on not selling much. In the straightforward opening wristlock, Skarlo performed the pretty standard back to canvas spins to extricate himself in a skillful manner. But the Kid was having none of it, and wouldn’t let go. This was quite worrying to witness and served to make us move even more closely to the edges of our seats, wondering how this lack of co-operation would unfold.
Further non-selling continued. Would Skarlo retaliate? No, he did not. And this is why his performance is so praiseworthy. He must have felt pretty deflated, yet still he found himself leading the bout. The Dynamite Kid’s flying leg scissors scarcely made contact, right, yet the Cockney Kid sold it purposefully.
On another occasion Skarlo invited a drop-kick and stood quite still, textbook-style. The Dynamite Kid got too close or somehow mistimed it and Skarlo took a very painful injury to the nose which worried him for the rest of the bout and clearly had him seeing stars between rounds.
The hype was all about Dynamite Kid in this match, to the extent that the commentator found himself lost in his own logic in not wanting to highlight his own fact that Tony Skarlo, as the Cockney Kid, had started wrestling at the even younger age of 11.
Skarlo fulfilled his role perfectly in allowing the youngster to look good. He flew high from a monkey climb, left, and even higher from a single-footed stomach throw, right. He performed a series of clever counter-moves and escapes, one from a toe and ankle hold was especially deft.
This double-footed leg grab was slick and drew the commentator's rightful praise. In the final round, it was Skarlo who led the way in an exciting series of false finishes before offering himself up to be pinned by his upwardly-mobile opponent, bottom right.
We were left wanting to see more of Tony Skarlo and intrigued as to what his speciality, the spinning leg jump, might be. But he was so modest in playing second fiddle that the Heritage screenside cameraman even had trouble in obtaining a face-on portrait shot, and the above is the best we could manage.
In fairness to the Dynamite Kid, the instructions may have been for a low-key affair, given that on this star-studded bill he would be followed into the ring by the likes of Nagasaki, Kwango, Viedor, Rocco, McManus and Barnes. At the time, perhaps we hadn’t seen many handsprings from throws, and perhaps we were impressed by these teenage acrobatics: having escaped from a hold via a George Kidd ball, above right, the Kid continued rolling around the ring once free. In terms of combat manoeuvres, these non-contact displays had no effect, and would have limited viability over time.
The MC’s summary at the end was noticeably more even-handed than his introductions had been, describing what we had witnessed as a “brilliant bout”.
In conclusion, if we look for a message, perhaps this bout epitomized and justified a factor we have often questioned and even criticized on this site. Maybe to become a truly effective professional wrestler you do indeed need a minimum of 15 years of experience.
Glamorous youngsters can arrive in shimmering trunks and with washboard stomachs, but guile and wile are needed to craft out over one, or more often two dozen minutes a varied and exciting professional wrestling contest.
Tony Scarlo thanked us for this evaluation of the bout in September 2011, but we pointed out that the Heritage Wrestling reviews simply describe events as ringside or screenside viewers saw them, with neither favour nor prejudice. We pushed Tony for more recollections and are grateful to him for the following comments:
"I had never heard of, seen, or even met the Dynamite Kid before that day, even on the day of wrestling we never met or spoke to each other until we met in the ring, wrestling was not like it is today where they rehearse, we never did. Pickets Lock had two dressing rooms, with no linking corridor, so we only met in the ring, Mike Judd was in the Kid's dressing room, and Mike Marino was in mine, Mike told me the fall the Kid was taking and that was all. My job as always was to make my opponent look like a champion, though when we came together in the centre of the ring it was obvious he had his own ideas; when we locked up it was even more obvious he wanted to dictate the match, I think the fact I was about 25 years older than the Kid mattered to him.
I had a struggle to put on or escape from wrestling holds, but I was determined to make a good a reasonably equal match to the audience, the rest you saw for yourself, because of the 2 dressing rooms we never met afterwards, I have never met or spoken to him since.
That dropkick broke my nose in 2 places. I had to have an operation to remove a piece of bone from my nose to enable me to breathe."
These are some of the most telling comments received since we started the Wrestling Heritage site. Notice that the wrestlers never met before or afterwards and there was, consequently, little love between the pair. See how the youngster mistimed his work, but the old pro kept going for the good of the bout.
Egotistically, we are especially pleased to see our analysis was spot on, right down to the very painful conclusion that Skarlo's nose was broken.
Many, many thanks to Tony Skarlo for providing this refreshing insight into an exciting and controversial bout. Tony's words will no doubt ring true for thousands of other bouts around the land and serve to underscore this respect we have for professional wrestling as being far more competitive than the general public were led to believe.