G: Giant Haystacks
Not Many in a Quarter
A man, as they say, who will need no introduction to the majority of our readers. The long straggly hair, beard that gave just a hint of a face beneath, distinctive costume, and those huge boots are all images etched on the memory of wrestling fans. All remember him ambling around the ring, defying gravity as he leaned over the top rope to abuse the fans, and then grabbing his luckless opponent and tossing him to the canvas. Not just wrestling fans, either. Haystacks is one of a handful of wrestlers who was known to practically all members of the general public irrespective of any interest in wrestling.
Haystacks was born Martin Austin Ruane on 10th October, 1946, in Camberwell, London, to Irish parents Martin and Julia, from County Mayo.. The family moved to Salford shortly after Martin was born, and it was here he lived through his adult life. In 1965 he married Margaret Boylan and the couple had three children.
Following numerous jobs a chance encounter with wrestler Billy Graham led to an involvement in pro wrestling. Martin’s sheer size meant that the subtleties of many holds and manoeuvres were never going to feature in his repertoire.
Coming onto the wrestling scene in the late 1960s Martin was initially billed as Luke McMasters. Later he adopted the name Haystacks Calhoun (there was already an American of that name),before settling on the name Giant Haystacks. He was to become a wrestler with one of the most enduring reputations of all time.
For a man of his size it was inevitable that he would play the part of the villain, but like so many wrestling villains stories abound of a very different character outside the ring. Heritage member Frank told us, “I can vividly remember walking up to Mr Haystacks as a young kid with my autograph book in hand and a pounding heart in my chest wondering if he would sign or rip my book up and belly splash me. Needless to say he happily signed it and behaved like the perfect gentleman he truly was.”
His matches may have lacked science, but rarely lacked excitement. He was said to stand 6’11” tall, that statistic has been questioned by Heritage members who suspect an exaggeration of four or five inches. Nevertheless taking both height and weight (choose a number between 30 and 50 stones) into consideration andhe was possibly the biggest British wrestler of all time.
At the end of 1974 he was signed up by Joint Promotions, and became an overnight star. His television debut came in July, 1975. By then he was tagging with Shirley Crabtree, a villainous duo indeed. In a contest televised from Southport they made their debut against Roy and Tony St Clair, losing by disqualification. Haystacks and Crabtree pursued their reign of terror against the nation’s blue-eyes for a couple of years until Crabtree was re-invented as the nation’s favourite, and the tag team heaviews became deadly enemies.
A feud with Big Daddy in 1977 was part of the Crabtree short-lived seventies revival. The feud was repeated around 1982, and the two were still facing each other into the 1990s, by which time most fans had lost interest..
David Mantell remembers: “There were some notable angles, in '84-ish several Haystacks brutalisations brought Daddy to the ring in protest, including one incident where Stax brutally juiced Brian Crabtree and then threatened "I'll do the same to your brother!" Also a two-week Haystacks's Wrecking Crew vs Daddy's All-Stars series in '85.”
Other notable rivalries were with John Quinn, Pat Roach and Kendo Nagasaki.
In 1991 Nagasaki and Haystacks feuded with their most famous match taking place in Croydon on October 1st in front of a BBC film crew, The match was billed as the CWA World Heavyweight title, and can be read about in David Mantell’s Year of Wrestling 1991
Another Heritage member, Sapper James, commented: “Giant Haystacks certainly brought the crowds in, if only to boo him. A lot of people look back on his feud with Shirley but Haystacks had a glittering international career too, winning tournaments and titles in Europe and Canada. “
With British wrestling nearing extinction in the mid 1990s Haystacks started working in the USA, where he was known as the Loch Ness Monster. It might have been the start of a new chapter in his life had fate not cruelly intervened. Haystacks was diagnosed with cancer and returned home to die on 29th November, 1998.