SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024



The reaction from Big Daddy was somewhat inevitable

BEAST OF A MAN: Wrestler Big Daddy (don’t call him Shirley)


It wasn’t the easiest job I’d ever been given. My boss at the Sunday People said: “I want you to go to wrestler Big Daddy’s house and ask him if it’s correct that his wife is a lesbian.” 

Big Daddy, a beast of a man, although born Shirley Crabtree, lived in a picturesque weaver’s cottage in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire. It would have been an idyllic place to visit except for two things: the snarling Alsatian dog chained to a kennel a few feet from the front door and the note which read “If you are Press go away.” 

Undeterred, the photographer I was with, Jeff Ross, and I entered the cobbled yard, manoeuvred gingerly around the growling canine, so close we could feel his hot breath, and knocked. Big Daddy, 6ft 2in, came to the door dressed in a light purple tracksuit. Well, for a few seconds, he was like a badly cropped photograph, the top of his head and the sides of his massive torso obscured by the door frame. 

One look at Jeff’s already poised camera told him we weren’t autograph hunters. I put my question as diplomatically as I could but Big Daddy seemed strangely distracted. His wrath, initially at least, was directed at Ross, whom he grabbed in a hold I first heard Kent Walton describe on ITV's World of Sport, the one that wrestlers used for the notorious “piledriver” throw. This time Big Daddy wasn’t bothered to see whether Ross landed on his head or not. He simply threw him out of sight over the yard’s surrounding wall. 

It was clear we'd chosen a rather inappropriate time to call so naturally, I made my excuse and left, at a not inconsiderable velocity. Big Daddy, famous for his record breaking 64 inch chest and despite weighing 26st 9lbs, gave chase. 

Despite my fitness as an amateur footballer, he was actually gaining on me and I hate to think where my career would have gone had he caught me. Luckily, just at that moment, a car pulled up containing two representatives from the News of the World. Big Daddy stopped and the last memory I have is of him shaking the parked car almost off its chassis like a peroxide-headed Godzilla. 

Oh, and before you ask, if I remember correctly, the village gossip was that his wife batted for both sides. But it was probably just that, gossip. As far as I recall, the story was spiked.

Crabtree, (don’t call him Shirley), retired in 1996 and died aged 67 in 1997, after suffering a stroke two months earlier — Ed