Review: When Wrestling Was Golden, BBC 4, December 13th 2012

screengrab wwwgThe subtitle of this latest documentary to fill the Timeshift slot is ‘Grapples, Grunts and Grannies’. That gives you a very clear indication of the material it covers in the space of an hour.

It starts off in fascinating fashion, with footage of Mick McManus v Jackie Pallo from 1962, dug out of an archive by hard-working researchers.

Then it moves on to cover a narrative that will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of British wrestling history – Adrian Street and his sexual ambiguity; Kendo Nagasaki and his mask and mysticism; Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, and their lack of athleticism combined with their undeniable audience appeal; and wrestling’s eventual disappearance from mainstream television.

It’s an interesting enough overview, with some great pieces to camera from people like Frank Rimer, Klondyke Kate and Johnny Kincaid. The story it’s telling, though, isn’t a new one, nor attempting to take a new perspective; indeed, it’s told in more detail and more elegantly and eloquently in print by Simon Garfield, who is one of the expert contributors here.

Of course, in print you don’t get to see any of the accompanying footage. So watch this show, enjoy the matches – but don’t expect to learn anything groundbreaking.

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