W: Orig Williams
Larger than life, colourful,
and flamboyant are terms that come to mind when wrestling fans remember
Orig Williams. Forthright, genuine, and dependable are descriptions put
forward by friends and close acquaintances; and we have no doubt other
words might well spring to mind that we would not wish to print here!
Orig Williams was certainly larger than life as we remember him flying across the ring to crash into the bulk of Klondyke Bill, forthright as we recall him remonstrating, (not long after turning professional) with a well-known promoter about the quality of his ring, and always, whether in the ring or pursuing one of his many other interests he was always, without fail, exciting and unforgettable.
very occasionally, the passing of a famous person generates an
unexplainable sense of loss amongst those who did not even know the
deceased personally. Such was the case when Welsh heavyweight Orig
passed away in November, 2009. Following the announcement of his death
on the BBC national radio station, Radio Cymru, listeners phoned in for
an hour sharing their memories of the
colourful, controversial and much loved wrestler, promoter,
commentator, newspaper columnist, and defender of the Welsh Dragon. Not
forgetting that Orig displaying his culinary skills in the Eisteddfod, a
role which did not seem to fit comfortably with the tough Welshman.
Wrestling fans were sincere in their tributes to a man who had never
ranked amongst the most famous of names.
Tributes at the time of his death were led by Deputy First Minister of Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones, who said: “Orig
made a significant contribution to Wales through sport and through his
unique personality, and he will be greatly missed." Obituaries were published in the national press, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and the Daily Post.
a personal note our earliest memories of Orig go back to the 1960s when
he was making his first steps up the wrestling ladder, gaining a
reputation as something of a firebrand on the independent circuit. He
had recently left behind a career in soccer, having played for Oldham
Athletic, Shrewsbury, and various Welsh league clubs, most notably
player/manager for Nantlle Vale in the Welsh league, where he led the
club to success and notoriety in equal measures. Orig had acquired the
reputation of a tough fighter on the soccer field long before his
thoughts turned to wrestling!
it came to professional wrestling Orig was a natural. His lack of
amateur training did nothing to lessen his prowess in the professional
ring. It could be argued that the absence of formal training, learning
the business in the fairground booths and rings in the small halls of
independent promoters liberated the development of his natural talents
of speed, agility, colour and showmanship. Early bouts were against
other talented newcomers such as Henri Pierlot
and Jack Martin, and more experienced professionals such as Jim
Armstrong and Gordon Corbett, but we enjoyed Orig mostly as the good
guy bringing come-uppance to villains Klondyke Bill, Lord Bertie Topham,
The Monster, and Bill Coverdale; a very different Orig from the
loveable villain he was destined to become.
the mid to late 1960s Orig was topping the bills on the independent
circuit. International success came with extensive visits to Asia, and
Orig was always willing to tell the tales of his numerous bouts with
the Bholu brothers in Pakistan, who he came to count amongst his good
friends. As both a wrestler and promoter Orig travelled the world,
visiting more than two dozen countries throughout his long career.
came to national prominence in 1972 when he featured as both wrestler
and promoter in the BBC2 documentary series, The Philpott File. In that
programme Orig could be seen pounding
away at Klondyke Bill, performing a tribalistic victory dance on the
prostrate giant's chest, with the unfortunate referee Brian Dixon
established himself as one of the top independent promoters, most
notably acquiring the name British Wrestling Federation. As promoter,
commentator and presenter of the S4C television channel's Reslo
programme Orig established himself as his nation's pro wrestling supremo
and folk hero.
The patriotic fervour was never far from the surface as Orig commentated on the Reslo shows, bringing innovation and a level of excitement to televised wrestling unknown on World of Sport. At a time when British televised wrestling was in decline Orig created a new lease of life throughout Wales, later enjoyed throughout Europe thanks to the advent of satellite television
Having grown a Mexican style moustache Orig acquired the name and image of El Bandito, a cunning villain who would mercilessly take advantage of his luckless opponent in any imaginable (and a few unimaginable) ways.
Bandito was nothing like the real life Orig who was a kind hearted
mentor of many youngsters who went on to find success in the wrestling
rings of the world. One of these was Barri Griffiths (Mason Ryan of
WWW) who said of Orig "I owe everything to him...he became a 'second father' to me."
In his professional life Orig had the talent of engaging with fans and creating immense interest and excitement in wrestling. Outside of the ring Orig preferred a quieter life, reading poetry, enjoying the companionship of his family and friends, and championing the cause of the Welsh nation, it's culture and language. He wrote a regular column in the Daily Post, ""Siarad Plaen," fittingly translated "Plain speaking." In "Cario’r Ddraig: Stori El Bandito" Orig wrote, "I'll always thank that I can speak Welsh and can understand and enjoy her poetry. It is not safe to have 'no other language in the world with as much feeling behind their words."
Cario’r Ddraig: Stori El Bandito was published in 1985, and a quarter of a century later his story can now be read by English speaking fans, El Bandito - An Autobiography of orig Williams.