Wednesday, 12 November 2008


I had been hoping to write a proper obituary of Leah Maivia for the Guardian, but since they decided not, I'll mention here why I thought she'd interest a British audience. Leah's death attracted the most publicity because she was the grandmother of Duane Johnson, better known as 'The Rock', the star WWE wrestler turned actor.

The Rock came from a wrestling family; grandad was 'High Chief' Peter Maivia, a legendary wrestler and promoter of NWA Polynesia in Hawaii after his wrestling days. When Peter died, Leah took over the promoting, making her the first woman to run a wrestling territory in the days when regional promotions were the business.

But in the 1960s, apparently no one had told her about the business, or at least that the wrestling wasn't real. Peter Maivia was touring Britain, where the biggest British heel, Jackie 'Mr TV' Pallo was his cheating opponent. Famously, one night as Pallo was giving him a beating, Leah, at ringside, got so incensed she climbed into the ring and gave Pallo a REAL beating, rather embarrassing for the British star. What's interesting is that Pallo also had a side career as an actor, and, in an episode of the Avengers, was accidentally kayoed by Honor Blackman and said 'I've never been knocked out by a lady before' or words to that effect.

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