Standing at 6ft 6, and weighing over 26 stone and with a record breaking 64” chest, Big Daddy formed one half of the most famous wrestling tag team in Britain in the 1970s and 80s. Alongside Giant Haystacks, he was the king of the ring, and defeated his challengers with his signature move, the Big Daddy Splashdown. Starting out as a ‘heel’ (bad guy) and crushing the hopes of many a blue-eyed hopeful, he later became a crowd favourite and switched to a ‘blue-eye’ himself, feuding with his former partner Haystacks.
Shirley Crabtree was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire and was named after the Charlotte Bronte novel - his father thought the name would be character building. Indeed, it seems that Shirley quickly learned to use his impressive size to fend off any teasing on the playground. After he finished school, Crabtree worked variously as a miner, rugby league player and a Coldstream Guardsman. He made his debut as Big Daddy in 1976 and was quickly established as a main draw for crowds of fans.
His career went from strength to strength until 1987 when Big Daddy was wrestling Mal "King Kong" Kirk. At the end of the bout, Crabtree performed his signature splash, but when he got up, his opponent stayed down. An inquest later found that Kirk had an underlying heart condition, and he could have died at any time. Still, Big Daddy blamed himself for the accident, and although he continued wrestling, he retired soon after. He spent the rest of his life running a gym in Halifax, and making sporadic appearances on TV.