World Of Sport Never Showed Any Women’s Matches In Britain


Hamish Woodward

Women’s wrestling has a dark and shameful past in the UK.

Despite stars like Mitzi Mueller, Miss Linda and Klondyke Kate selling out clubs across the country, they were hampered in the business due to their sex. Many halls didn’t have licences for women’s wrestling, so shows including female wrestlers were few and far between.

One wrestler (Sue Brittain) attempted to sue one hall for refusing to employ her as a wrestler in 1979. She won the suit, and ended a 41-year-ban for women’s wrestling in London. This was a huge victory, although former London Mayor Ken Livingstone told Simon Garfield that he wished to ban women’s boxing and wrestling.

“I supported [the ban].” Livingstone said in ‘The Wrestling‘. “I would ban [women’s] boxing too. Women’s wrestling always had a sexual innuendo and content about it”.

Coming from a nation that birthed “Exotic” Adrian Street, that is a ridiculous claim that does not stand up to any scrutiny.

Even though the ban was lifted in 1979, fans never got to see women’s wrestling on television. ITV showed wrestling every Saturday afternoon at 4pm. This was part of their “World of Sport” TV show, which showed a variety of sports across the country.

It helped birth huge stars like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki. These men were larger than life, and became celebrities in their own right across the nation.

The women were not afforded that opportunity. In the 24 years, between 1964 and 1988, that wrestling dominated the airwaves, there were exactly zero women’s matches shown on ITV. The stars of the day were relegated to non-televised events, and had to tour the country without the benefit of TV to bring in the crowds.

It’s not as if they weren’t a draw. Orig Williams wrote about how he had to pull a women’s match during a tour of Turkey, which caused a huge riot that cost him an entire tour’s takings. Fans were desperate to see these lady wrestlers, and there were a few culprits who put a stop to their rise.

No women wrestled on ITV up until the show was cancelled in 1988. Learn more about why ITV cancelled the wrestling.

Orig Williams Claims ITV Refused To Let The Women Wrestle On TV

Welsh legend Orig Williams was a big supporter of women’s wrestling, and explained why it was not shown on ITV during wrestling’s heyday.

In his book “El Bandito“, Orig Williams blamed ITV for the lack of female wrestling matches on World of Sport. He said that he had heard that it was the TV channel that did not want women in the ring, which booker Max Crabtree corroborated (more on that later).

This was not a surprise. Many of the arenas and halls often refused to hire out the venues if they knew women would be wrestling on the card. Orig would need to lie, and not advertise the women until it was too late to cancel the show, in order to get around this.

He had a huge hand in making women’s wrestling a serious endeavour in the UK, even training stars like Tina Starr and Bella Ogunlana. He booked worldwide tours featuring just females, and his S4C show Reslo was the first one to show women’s wrestling on TV in the UK.

The Promoter’s Attitude Was Clearly An Issue

Despite Orig Williams’ claim, it was clear that Max Crabtree was the issue behind the lack of women’s wrestling on TV.

It is fair to say that sexism was a huge issue in Britain in the past, and especially in the wrestling. While women were, generally, expected to give up careers to raise children, this extended into pro-wrestling. Promoters did not want to put women’s wrestling on TV, whether they did not believe in the concept, or simply did not want to see women competing in what was considered a “men’s sport”.

Max Crabtree was the booker of Joint Promotions, the company which had the Saturday afternoon slot on ITV’s World of Sport. They broadcast wrestling every week, with his brother Big Daddy as the star attraction.

He never, ever – not once! – put a single women’s match on TV, and it appeared to be by design. Crabtree did not see a place in the business for women’s wrestlers like Mitzi Mueller and Klondyke Kate.

While speaking with Simon Garfield for the book “The Wrestling“, Max Crabtree explained it was him who refused to book women’s wrestling on TV. He said that ITV would have taken him off TV if he did, but his previous comments made it clear that he was not a fan of women’s wrestlers.

“But no matter who they were, and I say this respectfully,” he said, disrespectfully, “there was never a place for them in the history of British wrestling. I think that if I had attempted to put them on television, ITV would have instantly taken it off [the air].”

It is clear that the man in charge of TV simply didn’t like women’s wrestling. There is no doubt that he is one of the actors who put women’s wrestling back decades. If not for Max Crabtree, the likes of Mitzi Mueller and Klondyke Kate could be spoken about like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks by the British public.


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