Came to town for Kenyans to watch live
from what Gill had told me. He was a native of Bengal in India, a place where tigers roamed the forests. From an early age, he showed a courage to match the ferocious cats and so when he took up professional wrestling, it was natural that fans nicknamed him “Tiger.”
Yet when you met him, you found a surprisingly gentle giant. Although his towering height, great bulk and rough hands never made you forget in whose company you were, his voice, his eyes and his body language were full of assurance: he was your friend.
“Gill,” I asked him, “some people say wrestling is all made up; that it is just entertainment. They say those blows are not for real. Tell me the truth.”
Gill paused and took in a little breath and lifted his eyes from the floor. Then with barely controlled emotion, he said to me: “The last thing I do before I go into the ring is to pray that I don’t get killed. Praying is my first move before I make contact with my opponent. I ask God to allow me to leave the ring as I walked into it. The people who say those things don’t know what they are talking about. Wrestling is a fighting sport. You can get hurt.”
If “Honey Boy” Zimba was loved by the crowds, “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye was loathed to the ends of the earth. When looking for bio data on the visiting wrestlers, this is what I saw: “Tally-ho Kaye. He is a top British bad-boy of the wrestling ring. He is hated by the fans for his illegal tactics. He goes into action right from the first bell at an all-out speed and is determined to win at all costs. Outside the ring, he is a farmer who breeds horses. His specialty is throwing his opponent out of the ring.”
At the KICC, “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye did not disappoint – or rather, he disappointed as expected and so comprehensively that those who keep sane by hating got a new lease of life.
Wade Huie wrote for Nation Sport: “In earlier matches, “Little Prince” Mohammed Alam, spurred on by his relatives and the rest of the cheering crowd, overwhelmed Tally-ho Kaye, who showed the wear and tear of his fright the previous night. “Little Prince” was in command all the way, at times having Tally-ho Kaye cringing on the ropes or on his knees begging for mercy. When none was forthcoming, Tally-ho Kaye resorted to a kick on the groin forcing referee Peter Szakacs to award the rightly deserved victory to Alam earlier than expected.”
Boxing gave the English language the phrase “hitting below the belt” to define aggressive action in the area where it hurts a man the most. In time, the phrase came to mean doing something unfair to somebody else. In the world of “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye, going for that zone was fair game. It earned him so much hatred you almost felt as if the men in the crowd were actually feeling the pain he had inflicted on his opponent, including the curiously nick-named Syd “Cry Baby” Cooper.
The chairman of the Kenya Amateur Wrestling Association at the time all this was happening was a man called Ndirangu. I tried hard to get him to have his take on what was going on because it seemed all of Nairobi was talking about wrestling. There were no mobile phones then and I was almost giving up when by happenstance I bumped into him near the law courts on City Hall Way. I asked him whether he had watched the wrestling at KICC and what he thought about the tour. I am sure I detected a hint of annoyance in his demeanour which he was wrestling to contain. Then he told me: “I wish you could stop writing about these foreigners and concentrate on our people. This is not wrestling. This is entertainment. You newspaper people should try to be more patriotic.”
I was right, he was angry. Now he was openly showing it. I tried to nudge him to at least say something on the world television stars enthralling Kenyans “live” but he could only say with evident impatience: “Ask me about our people and we can talk. But I have nothing to tell you about foreign entertainers.”
Okay, thanks, I said and we went our separate ways. But there were no hard feelings, just business. When next I wanted to write about local wrestling, Ndirangu was more than forthcoming. But before that, I had plenty of writing to do about the foreigners he didn’t want anything to do with.
Do you remember any of these names: Johnny Saint, John Naylor, Ray “Thunder” Glen-denning, Ray Steele, “Gold-belt” Maxine, Billy “Tornado” Torontos, “Billy Boy” Muia and Mick Mcmichael? I watched them all in Nairobi and not in some European city. We asked for them and…we got them!
British wrestler Mick Mcmichael (right) fights his opponent Tally Ho Kaye in this undated picture.