W: Keith Williamson
(Also known as Keith Williams, Arturo Martinelli, Keith Martinelli)
No Muckin' About
The name was Williamson, Keith Williamson, born in Bolton on 21st April, 1936. The name on the poster may have been different – Keith Williams, or Keith Martinelli. Yet whenever ex wrestlers gather together another name soon comes into the conversation. “They didn't call him Blood-boots for nothing”, is a comment often heard, and Eddie Rose named him as one of those who "Loved a scrap at any price."
It seems generally agreed Keith Williamson was one of the hardest men in wrestling, and many a past opponent was happy to share stories of the bruises they received. Eddie Rose told the story: “I travelled with him and Carl Dane to a Butlins show in Wales. We chatted away and he told me of his daily training routine: 500 press ups, 500 abdominals etc. At the end of the drive he turned to me and casually said: ‘You're on with me Eddie.’ The bout was 100 miles an hour with nothing easy. His monkey climbs were unbelievably high. At the end of six rounds I rushed out to the chalet in which we changed and stood behind the door with a chair just ready for him. I heard a tapping on the window. It was Keith with a big grin on his face! All good friends! “
Another colleague, Paul Mitchell, agreed: "A fine wrestler and one of the hardest in the game, Keith was always witty and interesting and his hard wrestling always admired if usually by booing.”
For the fans it was a less painful experience. We just remember a very skilful and agile middleweight of the sixties and seventies who was a relentless opponent for anyone he faced. Action was assured and we enjoyed it, but we weren't the ones taking the knocks. Wrestling enthusiast David Franklin was an admirer: “I was always impressed by how real his matches seemed at the time. Many years later, chatting with friends who worked with him, I was pleased to hear those initial perceptions were well founded.”
After leaving Brownlow Fold Secondary Modern School at the (then) usual age of fifteen Keith joined Bolton Harriers Amateur Wrestling Club. It was here he met Jimmy Niblet, who wrestled professionally as Bob Sherry. Jimmy was a man who didn't suffer fools gladly, and he made sure that Keith was no fool. He coached Keith and encouraged him to turn professional.
The professional debut came in 1954 when Keith was eighteen years old. The reputation of being a hard hitter came early on. Fewer did more to legitimise professional wrestling than Keith; it was a case of when it looked like it was hurting it probably was. That’s not to say he wasn’t a true professional. That he certainly was and had the respect of his colleagues.
Keith often wrestled at his local Hall, the Wryton Stadium. Ron Historyo found him at the Stadium during his debut year, Keith is billed as Arturo Martinelli, a name he soon dropped, and in the “Sensational challenge match” is reported to have jumped the ring to challenge Jim Mellor three weeks earlier; “History captures a bout where he would be schooled by an experienced man in Jim Mellor. The billing is descriptive and straight into the theatre of it all.”
It was the name Arturo Martinelli on the poster in the earliest match we could find for Keith, against his mentor Bob Sherry, at Salford’s Devonshire Club in April, 1958. It was the start of three decades of action, which included over thirty televised matches against opponents that included Jackie Pallo, Johnny Saint, Johnny Kwango and Marty Jones.
Around 1970 Keith formed a tag team with Wrexham’s Jack Martin. Although the team achieved some success and wrestled all the other top teams we just didn’t feel comfortable with Keith in tag, which seemed to dilute his ruggedness, and even less comfortable with the name, The Martinis.
Away from the ring Keith’s “day job” was a million miles from his ring persona. He was an accomplished sign-writer and those hands that inflicted pain in the ring created signs which adorned hundreds of businesses around southern Lancashire.
We have found Keith wrestling as late as June 1989, though his obituary states that he continued for two more years. Thirty plus years, that’s quite an achievement.
Eddie Rose again: “I didn't see Keith again for many years, not until Streiger's funeral. I saw him getting out of his specially improved vehicle and it was obvious that years of very tough physical effort had caught up with him. I walked over to him and gripped his arm and thought (very naughty) what an opportunity to get my own back. He saw the look in my eye and just started laughing again.”
Keith Williamson died on 24th January, 2017.
Page added 14/11/2021
Page reviewed 12/04/2022