ITV resurrects World of Sport Wrestling


ITV Studios is to bring back its iconic World of Sport Wrestling almost a quarter of a century on from its demise on British television screens.

The comeback event at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on Sunday, November 17 is being recorded for ITV and will feature new wrestlers but promises to be in the spirit of traditional World of Sport wrestling.

A number of the original World of Sport wrestling legends will also be making a special appearance, including the masked man of mystery Kendo Nagasaki and Johnny Saint, the man widely considered the world’s greatest technical wrestler.

No transmission date or channel has been confirmed for the broadcast of the comeback show.

The official WOS Wresting Twitter account said: “For the avoidance of doubt, as per the agreement, the event is being taped for ITV; however the event is not yet scheduled for broadcast.”

ITV televised wrestling for 33 years at the height of the sport’s popularity between 1955 to 1988.

The sport was a mainstay of ITV’s Saturday afternoon flagship ‘World of Sport’ from 1965 onwards and was broadcast under the ITV Sport banner from 1968 to 1985.

Despite going ahead against the BBC’s more traditional sporting line-up of cricket, rugby and tennis on Grandstand, ITV’s wrestling coverage became an unlikely hit with viewers.

It attracted huge ratings with an average viewership of 8.5 million and sometimes drew in up to 12 million in the slot bwteen the football half-time and full-time results on Saturdays.

At the sport’s peak, an audience of 18 million tuned in for the 1981 clash between Big Daddy (pictured above) and Giant Haystacks match at Wembley.

Other British wrestlers such as Mick McManus, Jackie “Mr TV” Pallo, Les Kellett, and “Bomber” Pat Roach all became household names.

‘World of Sport’ presenter Dickie Davies would introduce the programmes, while the late Kent Walton was the legendary voice of ITV’s wrestling coverage for all of its 33 years on the channel. 

So popular was ITV’s wrestling that a 1963 event held at the Royal Albert Hall featured Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as a guest of honour.

But following the demise of ‘World of Sport’ in 1985, wrestling’s days as a televised sport were numbered. 

Three years later all British wrestling coverage was axed by ITV’s head of sport Greg Dyke, who decided that the sport, along with darts, were too downmarket for the channel as it attempted to freshen the image of its sports coverage post-World of Sport.

Classic footage of World of Sport Wrestling has since been shown on The Wrestling Channel and ESPN Classic during the mid-2000s.

The new incarnation of World of Sport Wrestling and its comeback event has been three years in the making.

It utilises a highly respected technical style drawn up by the late Admiral Lord Mountevans in the Committee Rooms of the Houses of Parliament in 1940s, following his orders for a unified set of rules to be written up for professional wrestling.

IT entrepreneur John Chapman incorporated WOS Wrestling Ltd in 2010 and started the process of acquiring rights to Bona Vacantia wrestling trade marks from the Crown.

In June 2013, WOS Wrestling Ltd sold numerous World of Sport trademark rights to ITV Studios, with an agreement to provide new World of Sport Wrestling programmes for ITV.

“What’s old is new again,” said WOS Wrestling Ltd’s Managing Director John Chapman.

“The internet age has produced a whole new generation of wrestling fans who study the wrestling skills of British legends such as Johnny Saint, Mark “Rollerball” Rocco, and Dynamite Kid.

“We’ve gone full circle. The public want this style of wrestling to come back; it’s an alternative to the American style.

“World of Sport Wrestling goes right back to basics, putting a clear emphasis on the actual wrestling.”

Tickets for this family friendly event are priced at £12 adults, £10 concessions, and £40 for a family of four.

They can be purchased via the Fairfield Halls website, or alternatively via the Fairfield Halls box office hotline on 020 8688 9291. Some tickets will also be available on the door, subject to availability.

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