R: Romany Basil Riley & Chris Riley

Romany Basil Riley

One of our personal wrestling mysteries is to ponder just why Romany Riley, a heavyweight who was around for many years, did not receive a much bigger boost from the men that paid the wages. From his earliest tentative steps in the early1970s Romany developed  into a spectacular all-round leotarded master of the wrestling craft in the late seventies. If Romany and his like had been given the prominence they deserved British wrestling in the 1980s may well have steered a different, more successful, course.

Basil Riley was born in Maidstone in wartime Britain towards the end of 1941. He started wrestling professionally around 1970, we come across him that year working for the independent promoters. Romany spent three years working for independents like Verdun-Leslie before being taken on by Dale Martin Promotions in the summer of 1973. Television exposure came in March of the following year with a debut against Terry Rudge. He soon became a television favourite, with five matches in 1975 and  over twenty in total. Televised opponents included Wayne Bridges, Pat Roach, Rex Strong and Spiros Arion.

One of the reasons we were so impressed with Romany was his ability to adapt his style according to the opponent, who ranged from an unfathomable match with Catweazle to the heavyweight class of Tibor Szakacs and the mighty,  towering Gargantua. Adding an extra dimension to his character Romany was able to adopt the role of the frustrated understated villain. In Romany Riley we  have another unsung hero.  Little acknowledged for undoubted technical expertise, and equally unheralded as a grappling rogue.

A part time wrestler Romany and his wife, Barbara, were in the hospitality business and could be found in their cafe on Station Road, Staplehurst and later behind the bar of the Thanet Arms in Hothfield, Kent, where he was the landlord. 

Our last record of Romany in wrestling action was in 1988. He can look back on a twenty year career with pride. He entertained the fans and was good value for money, was a television favourite, wrestled overseas and appeared at the grandest of venues. He played his part. We just wish the promoters had done their bit.
Into the Fact or Folklore compartment we must put the claim that Basil drove his horse-drawn Romany caravan throughout Europe on a wrestling tour of Germany, Spain and France.

Basil Riley died on 26th November, 2021.

Chris Riley
Chris Riley was born in Maidstone in 1953, eleven years younger than his older brother Basil Romany.  He wrestled in the late 1970s, often in tag matches with his brother known as the Romany Barons.

Page added 08/06/2021

Reviewed 28/02/2022