WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

O: Openshaw - O'Reilly

 

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Arthur Openshaw
Arthur Openshaw came from Salford and played rugby league for Salford. Arthur lemigrated to Australia in 1965.  Our earliest Australian record for him is  on 10th December, 1965, defeating Germany’s Rheinhardt Molitor  at Sydney Stadium. He was often in the same ring as his long time friend from Salford, Spike Robson, either as opponents or tag partners. Ed Lock remembers them both: “I found both Openshaw and Robson to be very skilful, talented, technical wrestlers, who never put in a bad performance. While both wrestlers were cast as preliminary matmen I was always happy to see Arthur and Spike on Sydney Stadium events and on the World Championship Wrestling TV shows..” On television Arthur and Spike wrestled the Americans Larry Hennig and Harley Race.”

Graeme Cameron told us that he remembered Arthur when “He worked with the top light heavyweights either defeating or drawing with all of them.”  Arthur defeated Ken Medlin to take the Australian lightweight title in November, 1966. Arthur returned to Britain in the late 1960s.   He later appeared briefly in the UK during the early 1970s, working for independent promoters in the north, with Paul Mitchell remembering him working at the Houldsworth Hall, Manchester.


Pat O’Reilly (Also known as 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.

Sheamus O'Reilly
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 (Also known as 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