Mark “Rollerball” Rocco, who was a memorable heel throughout his career and the first man to assume the identity of Black Tiger in New Japan, has died at the age of 69.
All-Star Wrestling U.K made the following announcement of Rocco’s passing:
It is with the greatest of sadness that we have to announce the passing of the one and only MARK ROLLERBALL ROCCO, after suffering for the past few months – our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this very sad time.
Born in Manchester, Rocco followed a lineage of wrestlers & boxers including his father Jim Hussey, and entered the industry at a relatively young age working consistently by 1970.
He became one of the top junior heavyweights of his era working for Dale Martin’s Joint Promotions and later at All-Star Wrestling for promoter Orig Williams and Brian Dixon. Rocco was featured prominently on ITV’s World of Sport during the boom period for the U.K. where the wrestling show was a massive deal.
Rocco won his first British Heavy Middleweight title in June 1977 from Bert Royal and held the title for fifteen months losing it to Marty Jones in September of the following year. Jones would vacate the title and Rocco regained it defeating the late Chris Adams in a tournament final. His final reign with the title lasted until October 1981 when Rocco vacated the belt.
In 1981, a young Satoru Sayama came to England wrestling under the guise of “Sammy Lee” and would feud with Rocco. This opened the prospect of New Japan Pro Wrestling for Rocco, who assume the masked character Black Tiger in 1982 as the rival to Sayama’s Tiger Mask. He would wrestle in New Japan as Black Tiger for the rest of the decade and into the ‘90s before his retirement.
Under the mask, Rocco became the WWF junior heavyweight champion in May 1982 winning a tournament for the title – a reign that lasted less than three weeks when he was defeated by Tiger Mask.
Future iterations of Black Tiger included Eddie Guerrero, Rocky Romero, Tomohiro Ishii, and NOSAWA among the seven men to work under the hidden identity.
When Rocco moved from Joint Promotions to All-Star Wrestling, he came over as the World Heavy Middleweight champion, a title he held on three occasions throughout his career.
Throughout the majority of ITV’s World of Sport era, it was Joint Promotions that was featured exclusively until the end of 1986 when All-Star began rotating its tapings into the timeslot. ITV aired professional wrestling for 33 years, which ended in December 1988.
Rocco’s career ended in 1991 after it was revealed he had a serious heart condition.
In 2012, TNA utilized Rocco on its British Boot Camp series that aired on Challenge, where he served as one of the mentors with Jeremy Borash serving as its Executive Producer. The series was won by Rockstar Spud/Drake Maverick and also featured Marty Scurll and The Blossom Twins.