British wrestling great Mark “Rollerball” Rocco was amongst the honourees at the British Wrestlers Reunion at the Oulton Institute in Leeds, receiving a Hall Of Fame Award from longtime rival, Marty Jones.
Rocco is an international wrestling icon whose body of work includes being the first incarnation of “Black Tiger” (feuding with the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama in New Japan Pro Wrestling), as well as incredible feuds with the likes of Kendo Nagasaki, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, The Dynamite Kid and Dave “Fit” Finlay.
He is widely credited as being one of the key innovators of the faster-paced and high-flying style which has become the trademark of lighter wrestlers throughout the world. He was forced to retire due to a heart condition in 1991, but his influence is still evident.
Currently residing in Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands, Rocco made the trip to the United Kingdom especially for the reunion, where he was treated as the guest of honour and was in high demand to share stories and memories from the other attendees, including his peers from the UK wrestling scene’s golden era.
Rocco and Jones reminisced about their incredible rivalry during the award presentation, speaking about how they legitimately hated each other at the time, which resulted in some particularly stiff encounters and many, many stitches between them. They shared that when they were competing they would be trying not to give each other anything in the ring, which made their bouts about as real as real can be.
Jones told of how Rocco once injured himself on an exposed bolt while taking a crotch-first bump into the turnbuckle, resulting in a hospital visit where Rocco was receiving stitches while Jones was in the same room — both still in their ring gear — having stitches removed from his head.
These events are highly regarded and see as an excellent opportunity for attendees to meet up with old friends, reminisce about the glory days, discuss the evolution of the business and celebrate the contributions of the industry’s legends.
Other award recipients were former five-time British Heavy Middleweight Champion Alan Kilby who took home the Wrestlers Reunion Lifetime Achievement Award. Kilby would later hold the British Light Heavyweight Championship with his last reign in 2004.
The British version of Blackjack Mulligan (Laurance Coulson), “Crazy” Dave Adams who started his career at just 17 years of age and was as dastardly as they come, and “Gypsy” John Kenny who made his debut in 1973 and was a perennial figure in the famed British wrestling era of the 1980s, were all awarded for their contributions to wrestling.
The reunions are held twice yearly in Leeds and are for wrestlers, their families and invited guests. They are a welcome reminder of the glory days of pro wrestling on the UK shores and the incredible legacy it has within the industry.