This is another one off the top of my head (with a little help from Will and Duncan). I must confess to knowing very little about Rocco's time in Japan. I've seen one of his matches as Black Tiger once about 5 years ago and I loved it, but that's as much as I know. Maybe one of you can fill me in. Anyways, here it is...
1. Was he ever regarded as the best draw in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best draw in his country or his promotion?
Probably not. Given the structure of the territory, no-one (until Big Daddy) was considered THE top hand. The title-holders, regardless of weight class, seem to have been regarded as the draws though, and between Marty Jones, Dynamite Kid, Chic Cullen, Dave Finlay and touring guys like the Harts, Sammy Lee (Satoru Sayama) and Fuji Yamada (Jushin Liger), the mid-heavyweight division of the time seems to have been one of the more keenly contested divisions.
2. Was he an international draw, national draw and/or regional draw?
National at best. Had a run in Japan as Black Tiger, but couldn't realistically be considered the draw in that equation.
3. How many years did he have as a top draw?
Won his first British heavy middleweight title in 1977, the won the world title in 1981 and held that three times (after 2 switches with Yamada in '86 and '87) before he vacated his last in 1991 when he retired after suffering a heart attack during a match. He was still considered a top hand at the end, although business was undoubtedly down at that point, after wrestling ended on TV in 1988 in England and around 5 years earlier in Scotland.
4. Was he ever regarded as the best worker in the world? Was he ever regarded as the best worker in his country or in his promotion?
Yes. In British locker rooms today, he is still regarded as one of the all-time greats. At the time, it is unlikely he would have been given long runs with such a prestigious belt if he weren't considered a true top hand.
5. Was he ever the best worker in his class (sex or weight)? Was he ever one of the top workers in his class?
6. How many years did he have as a top worker?
It seems he had at least 10-15.
7. Was he a good worker before his prime? Was he a good worker after his prime?
In his book, Dynamite Kid describes wrestling Rocco in the mid-1970s and says he was a fabulous worker at that time. Dynamite Kid doesn't praise many people who weren't really good. Rocco never had a post-prime career due to his heart condition.
8. Did he have a large body of excellent matches? Did he have a excellent matches against a variety of opponents?
Yes. He had a number of excellent televised matches with Dynamite, Marty Jones, Yamada and Cullen. There are probably many more, but records are pretty hazy.
9. Did he ever anchor his promotion(s)?
No. With the exception of Big Daddy, nobody in Britain could claim to anchor the promotion, as there were as many as 15 shows per night. He was certainly a strong presence on TV though, regularly having very good matches, and thus did his part as much as any title-holder did.
10. Was he effective when pushed at the top of cards?
His rapid elevation from British to World title staus suggests that he was. There were several workers who seemed to do well at British level but were never given the opportunity to step up to World title contention.
11. Was he valuable to his promotion before his prime? Was he still valuable to his promotion after his prime?
12. Did he have an impact on a number of strong promotional runs?
As with all British wrestlers, this is all but impossible to answer. One can only assume that since they kept putting the titles back on him, that he was considered an important piece of the puzzle.
13. Was he involved in a number of memorable rivalries, feuds or storylines?
His rivalry with Dynamite led to at least a couple of sensational TV matches. Ditto his work with Marty Jones and Fuji Yamada. Feuds and storylines are not exactly relevant to the British way of doing business.
14. Was he effective working on the mic, working storylines or working angles?
Mic work was a tiny part of the British business. He got by.
15. Did he play his role(s) effectively during his career?
Yes. His image was of a tremendous natural athlete with a bad attitude, and he played the role very well. Though babyfaces and heels (blue-eyes and villains in British parlance) were much subtler in Britain, Rocco knew how to rile a crowd with a well-timed closed fist, repeatedly picking his opponent up off the mat, attacking his downed opponent, arguing with the referee or continuing his assaults between rounds.
16. What titles and tournaments did he win? What was the importance of the reigns?
Two British Heavy Middleweight titles (beat Bert Royal 11/6/77, lost Marty Jones 13/9/78, Jones vacates, beat Chris Adams in tourney final 6/12/78), and three World Heavy Middleweight reigns (beats Sammy Lee by default 6/81, lost Chic Cullen 30/10/85, beat Cullen 4/11/85, lost Fuji Yamada 26/9/86, beats Yamada date unknown, lost Yamada 3/3/87, beat Yamada 28/4/87, vacates late 1991). "Importance" is tough to guage. The title is still considered prestigious today, with Rocco having been present for the recent revival involving American Dragon and Doug Williams.
17. Did he win many honors and awards?
I don't know.
18. Did he get mainstream exposure due to his wrestling fame? Did he get a heavily featured by the wrestling media?
In as much as any wrestler who featured on TV regularly was a mainstream star then yes.
19. Was he a top tag team wrestler?
No. Tag team matches were relatively rare in Britain at that time, and singles champions tended to wrestle only in singles.
20. Was he innovative?
Yes. Amongst British workers, he is usually mentioned in the same breath as Dynamite Kid when discussing the hard-hitting aerial style most associated with the latter. Certainly his bumps and suplexes were not common, and latterly his brawls outside the ring were considered somewhat groundbreaking in the otherwise very pure, traditional British style.
21. Was he influential?
Yes, in the sense that a generation of younger wrestlers grew up wanting to be like him. It is said in British dressing rooms that Dynamite got famous by taking all Rocco's stuff and doing it before bigger crowds overseas. In Britain, Rocco had the same influence that Dynamite had in Canada and Japan.
22. Did he make the people and workers around him better?
Difficult question, given the calibre of his opponents. Given how young Yamada was when working with Rocco, one would have to think Rocco had an influence there. Sayama, too, seems to have been impressed enough with him to take him to Japan as a featured opponent.
23. Did he do what was best for the promotion? Did he show a commitment to wrestling?
He certainly never showed anything less than 100% effort. I've never heard stories about him being anything less than easy to work with.
24. Is there any reason to believe that he was better or worse than he appeared?
None that I can tell.
-------------------- There is one mark you cannot beat - the mark within.
I had a complete mental blank about this, but Rocco also held the New Japan WWF Junior Heavyweight belt for a short time. After Tiger Mask was injured wrestling Dynamite Kid in April of '82, Rocco (as Black Tiger) beat Gran Hamada for the belt on 6th May 1982, putting Tiger Mask over for his second title run on the 26th. Clearly he was only given it a brief transitional champion, but it's not like there weren't a number of other guys they could have used.
-------------------- There is one mark you cannot beat - the mark within.
"Out of all the guys that I faced at the time, I think my favourite bouts were with Mark Rocco," ("Kung Fu" Eddie Hamill) recalled. "We had some great matches all over the country.
"I remember a gimmick we did one time, with an old watch of mine that was broken. Max (Crabtree, the promoter) wanted me to do an angle with Rocco, where I'd challenge him after his match. So I told Max, 'Leave it to me, I have an idea', and I let Rocco in on what I was going to do.
"So, he was in the ring after his match, and I'd had mine earlier on in the card. I got into the ring in my regular clothes and challenged him, taking off my watch -- the broken one -- and handing it to the referee, like I was getting ready to fight. But Rocco ran over, grabbed the watch from the referee, and smashed it on the ringpost, sending bits flying everywhere. I shouted, 'No! That was an anniversary present!", and so he got incredible heat for that.
"It was such a simple thing for that level of heat, and, of course, that meant we could have a return match the following week. But to show you how over a little idea got, when we came back for my revenge on Rocco, the audience had clubbed together and bought me a new watch! That's God's honest truth."
Along with the reputation for being a world-class junior heavyweight -- a cause he furthered in Japan as Tiger Mask's nemesis, Black Tiger -- Rocco was also known for his boundless energy and aggression, which routinely made the bouts between he and Hamill show-stealers. The hard style suited "Kung Fu" just fine.
"Rocco was completely hyperactive, in and out of the ring. If you were walking down the road with him, he'd be knocking you up and down the street. He was like that -- and in the ring, too. He was never off you, and you always came out of a match with Mark with a black eye or something. But truth be told, I liked it that way, because I wanted it to look real. In the ring, he was my perfect partner."
-------------------- Brian Elliott is a British journalist, covering soccer, MMA, and pro wrestling. He has written for the likes of the AP, Sports Illustrated, and Yahoo! Sports, and is currently the editor of pro wrestling monthly Fighting Spirit Magazine..