Last Night's Viewing: Timeshift: Wrestling's Golden Age - Grapples, Grunts and Grannies, BBC4
Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight Club, Channel 4

 

"A seamless blend of sport and entertainment," was how the writer Simon Garfield described British professional wrestling, the subject of Wrestling's Golden Age – Grapples, Grunts and Grannies, a richly nostalgic Timeshift film about Saturday afternoon grappling. Which rather raised a question really. Quite a lot of people, after all, felt that those two fabrics couldn't easily be stitched together.

And even some of those who did were curious about precisely where the seam lay. When Mick McManus slammed Jackie Pallo to the canvas, how hard did he hit and how much did he know about the move in advance? Will Hodgson, former wrestler and stand-up comedian, put it this way: "Wrestling is not fake. Wrestling is fixed." The point being that while the outcome was known ahead of time, a lot of dangerously physical ad-libbing went on between the first round and the final count. Max Crabtree – promoter and creator of Big Daddy – set the question aside altogether. For those that love wrestling, he said, no explanation was necessary. For those who didn't no explanation would satisfy.

Timeshift's film wasn't really about fakery but about fans, and the way in which wrestling went from being a discreditable music-hall spin-off, so authentically violent that it was banned by the London County Council, to a hugely popular television fixture watched by millions. And the answer to that was storytelling, of a primary-colour crudity that made the Mr. Men books read like Henry James.

Under the aegis of Joint Promotions, the company that effectively ran wrestling in Britain, the grapplers were divided up into "blue eyes" (the goodies) and "heels" (the ones everyone loved to boo) and their encounters carefully scripted to blend adversity and condign triumph. "It was incredible theatre," someone said of these sweaty passion plays. "It was like seeing a good play," said another. Which, given the dull predictability of the plots, made you wonder a little what they'd actually seen on stage recently.

Crabtree gave a better clue as to the appeal: "Life can be very low-keyed and miserable without a little... panache," he said, hesitating momentarily before that unexpected final word. And pro-wrestling didn't lack for panache, particularly as it became clear that a pair of Speedos just wasn't going to cut it as ring-wear anymore. Adrian Street started his career as Kid Tarzan but found it lacked a little oomph, publicity wise. So he turned himself into "The Exotic One", a startling combination of glam-rock metrosexuality and Welsh miner.

To watch him blowing air kisses at enraged opponents or skipping girlishly out of reach of a countermove was to be convinced that wrestling, if it wasn't sport, occasionally reached the heights of performance art. Sadly, in the end, it wasn't very good art, this bare-chested panto concluding in the spectacle of Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, two wrestlers too big to do anything much except bounce off each other. Greg Dyke, small, wiry and half the size of any of them, got the conclusive pin by kicking it off air.

I hope someone at Channel 4 watched this cautionary tale of how increasingly desperate gimmickry killed off a television favourite, because they seem hellbent on undermining their own best assets in a similar way. Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight Club is the latest example, a tag-team affair in which the two Essex lads run a pop-up café at the end of Southend pier, lark about with celebrities and spearhead an assault by traditional British foods on famous continental rivals.

If it was a sausage (the subject of this week's challenge), it would be about 10 per cent prime meat to 90 per cent bulk filler, long sequences being padded out with witless comedy routines and bafflingly pointless stunts (an eating contest on a roller-coaster, for example, or a beauty parade for pigs). If it was a sausage, I'm not really sure you'd want to eat it.

twitter.com/tds153

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style