O: Openshaw - outlaw
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Arthur Openshaw came from Salford and played rugby league for Salford. Arthur later emigrated to Australia and defeated Ken Medlin to take the Australian lightweight title in November, 1966. He later appeared briefly in the UK during the early 1970s, working for independent promoters in the north.
Pat O’Reilly (Bernard Coward)
Heavyweight villain and one time challenger for Bert Assirati's title Pat O'Reilley was busy around the country for the best part of two decades. He was a giant of a man, standing 6' 3” tall and weighing in at over eighteen stones. His wrestling career began in 1947
O'Reilly met the best in the business, Bernard Assirati, Tony Mancelli, Ray St Bernard, George Gregory, Dave Armstrong, and the rest. Best remembered for a series of bouts with Jack Pye and Bert Assirati in the 1950s. He was the last man to challenge Assirati for his British title before the champion left Britain for his world tour in 1952. Although billed from Ireland O'Reilly was actually Chelmsford,s Bernard Coward, the name he used at his local hall. He assumed the Irish persona when working for a northern promoter. An Irishman failed to appear and so Bernard substituted as the fictional Pat O'Reilly, the so-called Irish heavyweight champion. Bernard died in 2002, aged 80.
The second of our three O'Reilly wrestlers, and possibly the one with the most likely Irish credentials. Sheamus was a 1960s worker for the independent promoters. The man behind the name was Coventry's Mick Macalasky, so it sounds like there may have been some Irish blood in him. He was trained to wrestle by Coventry's Freddie Barnes' gym in St Peters School in Yardley Street, Hillfields. A regular worker for independent promoters Jack Taylor and Lew Phillips, often in tag matches with "brother" Sprike O'Reilly, who was neither his brother nor Irish.
Spike O’Reilly (Les Riley)
A green dressing gown and trunks were the hallmark of this popular light heavyweight of the 1960s, billed from Donegal, though we are unsure of the connection as he was otherwise Les Riley, a plumber, from Langley Mill. Irish or not Spike was a formidable wrestler who learned the wrestling trade whilst he was in the Royal Navy. Serving in the Royal Navy at Chatham Les enjoyed body building, running and wrestling, and was said to be the Navy’s Light heavyweight champion.
We first came across Les in 1951, performing a muscle control demonstration at the Heanor Festival of Britain celebrations. He would doubtless already know another local man, Jack Taylor, who was to later promote many of his matches. The local paper announced that Les had turned professional wrestler in July, 1955. Spike continued wrestling into the 1960s and met the likes of Randolph Turpin, Shirley Crabtree and Cowboy Cassidy. Wrestler Mick Collins remembers and admired Spike O'Reilly, "“He was one of life's characters,Spike, larger than life, arriving at the hall in his Mercedez and always keeping that dressing gown of his in immaculate shape.”
Spike O’Reilly died in February, 2009
Edwin James “Sandy” Orford was a tough as nails Welsh heavyweight, born in Pontypool in the south of the country, turned professional in the 1940s, though he later moved to Yorkshire where he owned a farm. The move to Yorkshire, whilst still at school, deprived Sandy of an opportunity to play rugby for his country at schoolboy level, an injustice he reversed later in life by playing for Wales four times as a senior between 1939 and 1944. He pursued his interest in rugby whilst in Yorkshire, and played for Wakefield Trinity, Dewsbury and Bradford Northern Rugby League Clubs.
Whilst a schoolboy Sandy received the Royal Humane Life-Saving Certificate after rescuing a boy from drowning.
In 1955 Sandy wrestled in Rhodesia and South Africa, where he is reported to have defeated South African champion Wllie Leibenberg and South African idol Manie MaritzHe had two spans as a masked wrestler, for details of which see Top Masked Wrestlers' countdown Top Twenty Masked Men.
He wrestled all over the world and, like so many, seemed to just fade away.
Sandy seems to have had more “goes” at the great Lou Thesz than any other Brit when the American visited the Uk, managing one draw and two losses against the American.
Sandy Orford was born 5th December, 1911, died 1986.
For the son of Sandy Orford it was a toss up whether he should pursue a career in rugby or wrestling, with the latter winning the day. Tony's father, Sandy, had played rugby at both club and international level. In 1966 Tony moved to Canada initially working for promoters Rod Fenton and Stu Hart. Most of Tony's remaining career was spent working in North America with occasional visits back home.
Heavyweight who frequently wrestled in Britain during the first half of the 1960s, including a 1961 loss to Steve Logan at the Royal Albert Hall. His career spanned more than twenty years from 1951 onwards and he died in June, 1981.
17 stones visitor from Oregon debuted in UK in October 1967 in a Lewisham bout with Johnny Yearsley, closing the win via the unusual route of a grapevine submission. His most notable British victory was a surprise Royal Albert Hall defeat of former British Heavyweight Champion, Geoff Portz. Such visitors brought to British rings useful worldwide links, Osborn being a case in point having faced Lou Thesz and Japanese champion the seven foot tall Great Babu. However, he exited from his British tour with a whimper, going down bloodied 0-2 to The Outlaw.
Londoner Eddie O'Shea was a popular middleweight across Southern England throughout the 1960s. His was another of those careers that seemed to hold promise that was never realised. His early career was dogged by injuries resulting from a car accident not long after he had turned professional. A very good amateur foundation at the United AWC led to a professional debut in the early 1960s, and Eddie was soon a favourite around Dale Martin Halls. In the years that followed he moved through the ranks from lightweight to light heavy, a regular worker mainly in southern England.
Our memories of rumbustious Manchester heavyweight Shaun O'Shea are in exciting bouts against some of the biggest and baddest on the independent circuit - Big Bill Coverdale and The Monster. Little did we know at the time that his pedigree went back more than twenty years to the Second World War. Shaun was also one of the myriad of Manchester based independent promoters of the 1960s. Here is a man who deserves recognition, and we would like to learn more.
Wandsworth's Chic Osmond worked regularly on Joint Promotion bills of the late 1950s and early 1960s, tangling with the likes of Pallo, McManus and Capelli. His main claim to fame seems to be that Adrian Street names him as his greatest influence, having trained him in the ways of the professional world at the London YMCA.
Fiery young Irish wrestler came onto the scene in 1978. A frequent worker with a less than impressive record, subject to a surprising number of straight falls defeats. Fans found him entertaining and welcomed his place on the bill. Made three television appearances and sadly passed away in 2005. More information welcome.
Way back in the 1960s when life was simpler us wrestling fans knew where we stood as far as masked men were concerned. They were mostly heavyweights, invariably dirty (as we called the villains in those days) and seemingly invincible. The Outlaw followed a path led by Count Bartelli, The Ghoul, and a number of other home grown hooded terrors.
The Outlaw was destined to tread paths that had not yet been opened to the masked Bartelli, Ghoul, or even Kendo Nagasaki. The British television viewing public was permitted to view this masked man in action on their television screens at the end of 1965, and a dozen or so more times over the next two years.
Although one half of the Wrestling Heritage team always considered the Outlaw fairly tame alongside The Ghoul, The Monster and Kendo Nagasaki we have to admit that he was a class act, and his tv opponents were top-notch, including Peter Maivia, Ian Campbell, Bill Howes, Steve Veidor, Pat Barrett, Jim Hussey, Gwyn Davies and Chati Yokouchi. We can think of no other long-term masked heavyweight who did not finally meet his match, but the original Outlaw disappeared from our shores some three years later unbeaten and unmasked.
Whilst the original Outlaw defeated all before him in Joint Promotion rings there were always imitations (Carl Dane a particularly good one) in independent rings. In subsequent years the name re-surfaced time and again in both independent and Joint rings.
Top Masked Wrestlers' identities are revealed only in the Wrestling Heritage countdown of Top 20 Masked Men.
Related article: Top 20 Masked Men on www.wrestlingheritage.com
“The Lancashire Ace” from Leigh, weighed around 12 stones. Our first recorded appearance is in September, 1932, and the last in December, 1939. Our impression is that Jack was a more than capable catch wrestler who never rose above a supporting role yet was acknowledged as one of the country’s best middle and light-heavy weights.. One discovery was a match at Preston on 21st May, 1937, when the Lancashire Daily Post reported “Capital wrestling was seen in the contest between Billy Riley and Jack Owens. Owens revealed mastery of leg holds and was too fast for the older man, who was unable to carry on after being counted out in the fourth round.”