Shirley Crabtree (November 14, 1930 - December 2, 1997), better known by his ring name Big Daddy, was one of the biggest stars of British Wrestling during the 1970s and 1980s and was the main star of Joint Promotions.
Crabtree's early wrestling career was spent as a muscular heel where - wrestling under alias the Blond Adonis, Mr Universe or the Battling Guardsman - he won two European Union Heavyweight Titles (the first title win coming in 1952 and the second title win coming in 1961) and one British Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Title (the title being won in a tournament in 1960)
Sometime in the 1960s he became disillusioned with the wrestling business and retired to Blackpool to be a lifeguard. He would wrestle occasionally at local shows during his 15-year professional retirement.
In the 1970s his brother Max (by then one the most powerful promoter in Britain) convinced him to come out of retirement and join Joint Promotions. Coming out of retirement Crabtree donned his most famous guise as Big Daddy. The inspiration for the Big Daddy character came from the film "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" which he had seen and come to the belief that the character Big Daddy (played by Burl Ives in the film) would be a good wrestling character.
As Big Daddy he was no longer the muscular wrestler he once was but was a large, heavy set man. Big Daddy would come to the ring in a Top Hat and Jacket, both in a Union Jack Motif, to the theme tune of "We Shall not be Moved" as sung by the Seekers and his appearance in any Arena would be greeted with chants of "Easy! Easy!" or "Who's the Daddy" from the crowd. He would quickly become one of the most recognizable faces of British television and one of the most enduring characters of British Wrestling.
His most famous feud would be with Giant Haystacks. While there was nothing but pride at stake during this feud the two quickly became the biggest stars of British Wrestling and when they finally clashed in a one on one battle a reported 18 million people tuned in live to watch. In addition to his famous feud with Giant Haystacks he is also most noted for feuds with Mick McManus and Kendo Nagasaki.
He was also noted for teaming with young, up-and-coming wrestlers on World of Sport. Some of his notable partners were Davey Boy Smith (later the British Bulldog), Tom Billington (later the Dynamite Kidd) and Steven Regal (later William Regal). He was also one of the men who helped Gentleman Chris Adams get into the business, who was a noted Judo Star before getting into wrestling.
Crabtree's wrestling career began to end after an in ring tragedy. During a match in 1987 with Mal "King Kong" Kirk he delivered his trademark Daddy Splash but it was soon clear that something was wrong as Kirk turned an unhealthy colour and was quickly rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Despite an investigation into the death discovering that the death was due to Kirk suffering a serious heart condition and clearing Crabtree of responsibility he blamed himself and dropped out of the wrestling spotlight foever. While he would wrestle sporadically for a while he officially retired in the early 1990s to spend more time at home with his family in Halifax.
He died of a stroke in 1997 in Halifax General Hospital.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Daddy Splash
- Wrestlers trained
Championships and accomplishments
British Wrestling Federation
- European Heavyweight Title
- British Heavyweight Title
- European Heavyweight Title