The Small Giants of Wrestling
Whilst fans recall the big men of wrestling, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, there were giants of a different kind who played a niche part in the colourful tapestry that was British professional wrestling. These were men who would never find their way on to our television screens as Joint Promotions protected the integrity of the sport. In a world of hooded mystery men, gun slinging cowboys and war dancing red Indians (as we happily called them in those days) were the smallest men of the ring, the midget wrestlers, nowadays an offensive term.
These smaller than usual wrestlers were a part of the carnival wrestling scene in late 19th century America, and in Britain could occasionally be found on the British programmes of the 1930s. They reached their peak on American shows of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Such was their popularity in the States that in 1958 Joint Promotions brought over a quartet of the Americans who appeared at some of the country's biggest venues such as Belle Vue, St James's Hall Newcastle, and Blackpool Tower. Little Brutus, Irish Jackie, Sky Low Low and the Jamaica Kid were an immediate hit with British fans. Joint Promotions brought them back to Britain again in 1961, though this time home grown talent Tim Gallagher and Fuzzy Ball Kaye were given a look in.
American magazines rated the Americans and the National Wrestling Alliance introduced a world championship belt, with the honour of first holder going to Sky Low Low. Although fewer in number there were female Americans like Diamond Lil and Darling Dagmar.
At any one time there were no more than a handful of British based midgets appearing in our rings. The best known of them were Fuzzy Ball Kaye, a genuine hard man who could put fear into men literally two or three times his size. Kaye's colourful life story can be read in the book “Little Legs: Muscleman of Soho,” by George Tremlett (published by Harper, 1989)
Often opposing Kaye was Tiny Tim (Tom) Gallagher, said by many wrestlers to be one of the nicest people in the business. Occasionally tensions arose with other wrestlers because of the top billing given to the small men even though they were part-timers with outside interests.
Between October and February those outside interests usually involved pantomime appearances. At other times the midgets could often be seen on television in variety shows and situation comedies.
Other British contestants included Rikki Tikki Starr, (you guessed it) a ballet dancer but not the ballet dancer, The Marquiss, Wee Jimmy Sky Low Low, and the Little Toff) The Little Toff not only wrestled himself but at times took on the role of Lord Bertie Topham's butler.
In 1960s Britain the billing of these wrestlers always resulted in added interest and extra revenue for the promoters. What the fans saw bore little resemblance to the skill of Jack Dempsey or ruggedness of Bruno Elrington. What they saw was twenty minutes or so of entertainment with wrestlers literally running rings around each other and the referee, and then swiftly darting between the referees legs. At the time it was considered all good fun and the fans went home happy.
It was, no doubt, their popularity that led Paul Lincoln to cultivate his British group. As the Americans had appeared almost exclusively in the north and midlands Lincoln, with his concentration on the south, meant that he was able to bring them to a new audience. As soon as their popularity was assured they were naturally booked by other independent promoters such as Don Robinson, Danny Flynn and Fred Woolley.
Although a popular attraction they were never going to become part of the mainstream wrestling culture, partly because fans would tire of their repertoire and partly due to the shortage of wrestlers. In 1964 Paul Lincoln supplemented the limited British talent by bringing over French wrestlers.
Small wrestlers remained a sporadic part of the British scene throughout the 1960s and early 1970s with Joint Promotions bringing over an American group again in 1969 and 1974, with the independents continuing to develop the British contingent with home grown talent such as Sky Lo Lo and Little Brutus.
They may not have been the most orthodox of wrestlers but they certainly played their part in Britain's wrestling heritage and we are pleased to acknowledge the role they played