“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Islington Hercules

All that is solid melts into air....Karl Marx wasn't referring to the mat game when he wrote that, but he might have been. In the smoke and mirrors world of old time professional wrestling few things were as they appeared. What looked incredibly dangerous was highly crafted make believe but the injuries sustained were real enough and many wrestlers retired to a life of crippling arthritis. The characters that matmen portrayed in the ring frequently bore no relationship to their real life personas and wrestlers who appeared as little more than flamboyant showmen or brutal thugs might in reality be highly skilled shooters. Jack Pye was an example of this. By the same token someone put over by the promoters as being a "scientific" master grappler might be nothing more than a clever worker with little or no background in real competition. One man who really was what it said on the tin was the Islington Hercules - Bert Assirati. I only saw Assirati wrestle once. I was a callow youth and Bert was at the back end of a career that had spanned three decades. At five feet six or seven inches tall but weighing in at eighteen stone he was an awesome sight. At one time recognised as one of the strongest men in the world with an 800 pound deadlift and a 200 pound straight arm pullover to his credit, he also had the agility of the professional gymnast that he had been in his youth. A globe trotting grappler of the old school he wrestled all over the world against anyone the promoters chose to put in front of him. Known as a "stiff worker" with a violent and unpredictable temper, Assirati could and would really hurt opponents and was treated with a wary respect both in the ring and in the dressing room. At various times holding versions of World, European and British Heavyweight Titles, Bert became somewhat of a celebrity in the 50s and was recognised as a "London Character" at the time. When not wrestling he would do a bit of door work and I don't imagine that many punters argued about his decisions on dress code.
Bert Assirati was that most unusual of wrestling phenomenon - the real deal.

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