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Grapplevine 31 July

WRESTLING MOURNS THE DEATH   OF RING LEGEND MARK ROCCO

Grapplevine tribute by Russell Plummer

 

MANCHESTER-BORN Mark Hussey, the man who took the wrestling world by storm during a 26 year ring career campaigning as ‘Rollerball’ Mark Rocco from 1965 to 1981, sadly died on 31 July at the age of 69. He had been in failing health for some time and passed away at a Cheshire Care Home where he had been a resident for a lengthy period. The son of formidable heavyweight campaigner Jim Hussey, who initially was not keen to see him go to the ring, Mark started amateur wrestling at 16 and progressed into the professional ranks with Joint Promotions members and quickly became a successful campaigner at major northern venues including Manchester Belle Vue, Liverpool Stadium, Blackpool Tower Circus and Newcastle’s City Hall. Then he often headed south for appearances at top venues on the Dale Martin roster including London’s Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena and the Colston Hall in Bristol. He also quickly became a regular on ITV ‘World of Sport’s’ Saturday afternoon televised wrestling presentations with the inimitable Kent Walton in the commentary seat.

Mark first struck championship gold when beating Bert Royal for the British Heavy Middleweight Championship in June 1977 and although losing out to ‘Lancashire Lion’ Marty Jones during the following year he stormed back as champion winning an open tournament with a final victory over judo ace Chris Adams after Jones had moved-up to compete among the light heavyweights. Rocco then established himself as world number one in the Dale Martin Wembley Arena bill in 1981 that was headed by the super heavyweight battle between Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy. Rocco was due to face Sammy Lee with the world crown at stake and was awarded the belt on default after the Japanese star had to head for home following a family bereavement. New Japan Pro Wrestling spotted Rocco’s explosive appeal in the 1970s and he made frequent successful tours campaigning in a mask billed as the Black Tiger and he was also no stranger to North American rings and was held in high regard by rivals and fans alike.

During 1987 the paths of Rocco and Sammy Lee crossed again in a the tag team main event of a televised bill from Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, the ‘Rollerball’ bringing Kendo Nagasaki as his partner to defeat Lee and martial arts ace ’Iron Fist’ Clive Myers. But in June 1988 a bid to gain the CWA World Tag Team title, partnering Dave Finlay – and with individual rivalries put aside  the tag test ended in a defeat at Linz, Austria, by Continental ace Mile Zerno and the then Germany-based British favourite Tony St.Clair. Rocco’s ring career came to an end in 1991 when he collapsed in the dressing following a match against Finlay in Worthing and was taken to hospital where a heart condition was diagnosed which brought an immediate end to his ring career.

Mark later moved to Tenerife to establish a number of successful business interests but during August 2006 he came home and along with his father Jim Hussey received a lifetime achievement award during the 15th Southern Wrestlers Reunion in Kent, the occasion also seeing Mark present a similar award to promoter Brian Dixon who described him as the best wrestler he had ever worked with – and a firm friend!

William Regal, who cut his teeth on All Star bills when Rocco was in his competitive hey-day, was quick to pay tribute saying: ‘Mark was so ahead of his time and whether campaigning as himself or as Black Tiger he had an unbelievable work ethic. My life is certainly better for having known him.’

Rocco as Black Tiger

Rocco meets Hulk Hogan

Mark Rocco

Brian Dixon with his best friend who will be dearly missed.

Today the wrestling world were truly saddened at the announcement that Mark Rollerball Rocco lost his battle with dementia and passed away peacefully in his sleep in a Warrington care home were he spent the last several months of his life suffering from this horrible disease. 

We thank Russell Plummer for spotlighting for these pages the remarkable carrier of the master of disaster, and I wish to add my very own personal  memories of this true one off wrestling  talent.

Our first thoughts go to Marks wife Anne, and two sons Jono and Richie  who are all living in Tenerife along with the boys partners.  Richie and Emma have a gorgeous son Albie a first Grandson to Ann and Mark.     

The family got  a message from the  care home to inform them that Mark had deteriorated in the past few days and was expected to loose his battle.   Anne having the nightmare task of having to face the world wide problem of 14 day lockdown on arrival from Tenerife  to Manchester if she tried to make the journey at such short notice, so thankfully very close friends of Mark STEVE TAYLOR and COLIN JOYNSON arranged an immediate visit to console the very weak colleague and were in fact the last people to spend anytime with him  before his departure from this world .

As the news broke early this morning the messages from all around the world flooded In to ASW head quarters from wrestlers, promoters and fans all sharing the admiration of the very rare qualities of this exceptional man.   Rollerball was a wrestling superstar who thrilled  the fans with in his action packed matches.

His ring craft was second to none and it is the belief of many that if Rollerball was still active in the wrestling world he would be head and shoulders above any current world rated stars, one of the phone calls received  today  was from Liverpools Robby Brookside who is one of the main trainers in WWE performance centres in the USA and he in fact mentioned that tapes from the tv matches 

of Rollerball are still used to show tomorrows stars the true genius of British wrestlers and in particular the excitement Mark created in such classic matches when faced against the likes of

World champions,  Johnny Saint, Marty Jones and Danny boy Collins Tony st. Clair  and not forgetting Chic Cullen which will all be remembered for years to come as being classic matches.

His final ring appearance was in Worthing when he faced in a real grudge match with Dave Fit Finlay, after this match Mark ended up in hospital and days later was told the devastating news by his physicians ,his wrestling carrier was over ,  even though in the past he had appeared in the ring with 25 stiches in head wounds numerous broken bones  and even  insisted he would fight on, on a proposed trip to |Israel the night before the ASW team were to leave for this 10day tour with Rollerball main event he insisted he would travel those thousands of miles on crutches simply not to let the fans down, This was the man he was.

Outside of the ring I had the true pleasure of calling him a friend in fact a very close un-placeable pal who myself mitzi, Letitia and family enjoyed several holidays with the Husseys at their home in Los Americas,

I will never forget the day that after attending a barbeque at their home in Altringham Cheshire that afternoon Mark agreed with me  to leave Joint Promotions and start appearing on ASW shows, this was without any shadow of a doubt one if not the biggest scoop of all stars history as Rollerball Rocco was the  hottest talent around the British wrestling scene in all those years after that agreement we shared and enjoyed thousands of miles in road journeys and I am proud to say in all those days we never once had a cross word to each  other, I had so much respect for the man, the talent and the friend  he had become and he in turn he appreciated my efforts in keeping British wrestling alive around the countries main venues.

I could spend many an hour Reminiscing on this man but will close by saying ROLLERBALL ROCCO| you are my HERO.  I love every bone in your body and will never forget the memory  and privilege of you sharing your time with me, my family and the entire world of All Star Wrestling promotions.

You are a legend and will never be forgotton.

God Bless you Mark you were always a one off never ever to be repeated.

  Your friend always

   Brian 

 

Marty Jones with Mark Rocco

Joe D Orazio with Mark Rocco

All Star family raising a glass for Mark Rocco

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