Blast from the Past: Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy

Spandex, choreographed moves and good versus evil - HELEN MCGURK recalls the heydey of televised wrestling

By Helen McGurk
Friday, 15th July 2022, 3:24 pm
Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, 1984
Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, 1984

To anyone under the age of 40, the names Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks probably sound like rappers or burger options. But they were, in fact, super-sized wrestlers whose bitter rivalry during the 1970s and ‘80s was unmissable viewing on Saturday afternoons.

Wearing skimpy, unflattering leotards stretched over their ginormous beer guts, Big Daddy (Easy!, Easy!) and Giant Haystacks played out a rope-bouncing, body-slamming, belly-flopping pantomime, as good battled evil.

These weren’t six-packed, gym-honed, fake-tanned sportsmen, but portly, middle-aged bruisers. Both were terrific performers, so it was sometimes easy to forget their theatrics weren’t real.

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Big Daddy, (real name: the implausibly effeminate Shirley Crabtree) was a former Yorkshire miner and Coldstream Guard. He stood at 6ft 6in, weighed in at 26st 9lb and had a record-breaking 64in chest.

His early leotards were fashioned by his wife Eunice from fabric off their chintz sofa because he couldn’t find any others to fit him.

He started out as a baddie, forming a villainous tag team with the even more hulking Giant Haystacks (real name Martin Ruane): a 6ft 11in, 49st bearded behemoth and ex-nightclub bouncer.

Out of the ring, Ruane was a shy, deeply religious man who refused to step into the ring on Sundays because of his beliefs.

Both men are deceased, but the memory of their devilish tricks on the canvas lives on.