The Wrestling

Extract

From Chapter 12: ‘I travel alone,’ said Giant Haystacks

Max Crabtree: The big fella? Oh God, He’s a bad’n. He’s a profound liar, let’s start with that. A big horrible man. I started him, but he won’t tell you that. I was running the King’s Hall, Belle Vue, and an old-time wrestler called Billy Graham brought him down. He was working on a club door. In those days he weighed about twenty-six stone. Looked quite tidy. Then he blew himself up, and at one time he was about forty-eight stone. A great guy, but born a liar.

Brian Dixon: Haystacks started with me very early on, before all the other big names came over. We needed a giant. I gave him the name Haystack Colhoun. I’d seen the name in an American magazine. Then we came up with Haystacks. It seemed fitting at the time. People got sick of him, but they’d still come and see him. He’s such a huge man – people are mesmerised by him.

Simon Garfield: The first time I saw Haystacks in the ring was in 1992 at Tunbridge Wells. He was in against Franz Schumann, a dashing Austrian thirty stones lighter.
‘ Wrestling,’ Haystacks announced before the contest, ‘is the only way to release my pent-up feelings without being prosecuted.’
I found Franz Schumann shaking gently backstage. When I asked him how he felt, he said ‘I’m Confident.’

The master of ceremonies – as always at these heavyweight contests – was a tiny, weedy man in a bow-tie. He introduced Schumann as funereal music played in the background. The Austrian waved his arms in the air, as if to say, ‘These are my arms. I may never use them again.’

Then Haystacks entered, to the tune of ‘Two Tribes (Go To War)’. All the other wrestlers who had appeared earlier on the bill had leapt into the ring with great enthusiasm, as if to say, ‘I’m ready for action!’ Not Haystacks. Haystacks had a chair supplied so he could climb up and heave himself into the arena. Once there, he leaned back on the three ropes to check they could hold him.

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