Orig Williams Swapped Football For Wrestling And Became A Legend


Hamish Woodward

Very few wrestlers from Wales can match up to “El Bandito” Orig Williams.

There aren’t many wrestling legends to hail from the country of Wales. Bit-part WWE stars, like Tegan Nox and Mason Ryan, have come from Cymru but made little impact over the years.

However, if we look back through the history of wrestling, one name stands out above the rest. Hailing from the small town of Ysbyty Ifan in North Wales, Orig Williams spent time in the RAF and as a professional footballer, before a transition to professional wrestling.

El Bandito was a proud Welshman, speaking Welsh and promoting his country, and it’s independence from the United Kingdom. He did not respect the English, and his entire village bemoaned them when the army were stationed in Ysbyty Ifan during the second World War.

Orig Williams’ Hometown is said to be where the legendary Rhys ap Maredudd was buried

Whilst he unsuccessfully trained as a carpenter as a youth, football was always his true love. When conscripted into the RAF after the war had ended, he found success playing in the Royal Air Force football team, which eventually got him signed to Shrewsbury Town.

He was known as a terribly rough player, whose main job was to shut down the opposition. This led to him playing for a number of clubs, being the dirtiest player in whatever team he was in.

He left Oldham Athletic after a head injury led to the end of his career. He would later come out of retirement – as all pro-wrestlers do – to play for a number of Welsh sides until his career came to a permanent end.

This is when he made the move to pro-wrestling.

Orig Williams In Professional Wrestling

Orig Williams had dabbled in wrestling when he was in the Air Force. Whilst on leave in Manchester, taking the trip up to watch Manchester United, he found a small boxing gym where he learnt the art of wrestling.

The Welshman was battered and stretched all over the place, but soon learnt to counter holds and apply his own. However, it would be years until he could apply this knowledge for a career in pro-wrestling.

He went on to box in the Air Force, taking on a ringer brought in by the American base just down the rode. His regiment regularly scrapped with the Americans in the pubs in Warrington, where he was stationed.

This led to a series of competitions setup between the two. The US side won the baseball match, whilst the British regiment took the win in rugby. The third and final contest was boxing, which Orig Williams was chosen as the heavyweight representative.

As there was nobody his equal in the American base, they brought in a much larger, more experienced boxer to face him. Williams was battered throughout the match, but ended the fight with a stiff knee to the groin.

He lost the fight (obviously) but earned the respect of his regiment. This flaunting of the rules would be something that followed him his career. However, it was the trill of the fight and the reaction of his peers in the crowds that inspired him to take up professional wrestling.

After his football career ended, he began working in fairgrounds, a common thing to do at the time. Money was made after the fights, with the wrestlers crudely bringing a hat around to the crowd, asking for money to be donated.

Orig Williams infamously almost lost his job as a wrestler at the time, as he refused to ask the crowd for money, thinking it was akin to begging.

The Welshman’s career lasted thirty years, wrestling from 1961-1991. He wrestled all over the world, notably having a long spell over in India and Pakistan, promoters using him to stoke anti-British sentiments during the bouts.

Very little footage is available of Orig Williams in his prime. He wrestled around the world, taking on legends like Giant Haystacks, Antonio Inoki and William Regal, and trained former WWE Superstar Mason Ryan.

The Guardian wrote in his obituary that “Williams was a master of the ballyhoo and knew what the crowds wanted. He had a quick, but never lasting, temper”, which gives you a flavour of what he was like to watch in his prime,

Orig Williams Trained Former WWE Star Mason Ryan

He took Mason Ryan under his wing as a young trainee, mainly due to his size and the fact that Ryan spoke Welsh.

Williams, a Welsh speaker himself, always wanted a Welsh-speaking star to make it big in wrestling. His dream was to hear his mother tongue all over the world, with WWE being the dream in the days he took Ryan under his ring.

In the foreword for his book El Bandito, Barri Griffiths (who was known as Mason Ryan) credited Orig Williams for his career, owing to his “burning ambition to produce a Welsh-speaking wrestling champion”, something he tried to find until his dying day.

Williams discovered Griffiths at a wrestling show. Griffiths had gone to see the show in his local town, Porthmadog, with Williams being the referee for the night. He noted that Orig “strutted and strolled around the ring… and he was the referee!”.

Orig Williams took Barri Griffiths under his wing, helping him learn to wrestle. He also helped to get him the role as Goliath on the Sky reboot of Gladiators, while also introducing him to the people in the WWE.

Mason Ryan would be the first Welshman to wrestle for the WWE, and was a part of the legendary Nexus stable. He has since retired from wrestling, continuing Orig Williams search for a Welsh wrestling champion.

He Hosted Reslo On S4C

Orig Williams is notable for bringing the wrestling to a Welsh-speaking audience. S4C is the BBC’s all-Welsh speaking channel, providing content like Sgorio (score) and Pobl o Cwn (People of the Valley) for the viewers in Wales.

In the 1980s, British wrestling was at it’s peak, with Big Daddy’s battles with Giant Haystacks drawing tens of millions of viewers on the Saturday Afternoon segment on World of Sport.

To continue this popularity, S4C hired Orig Williams, the most notable Welsh-speaking wrestler, to helm their new pro-wrestling focused show.

Reslo – Welsh for wrestling – was commissioned, with Williams the host. Under his watchful eye, Reslo became unlike any other wrestling show on TV at the time.

Whilst ITV had been broadcasting the fights since the 1950s, S4C opted to show different styles than their fellow broadcaster. Williams brought different forms of matches to Welsh audiences, including cage fights, chain matches and pole matches, as well female wrestling.

These types of matches were not shown on ITV, with William Regal claiming on his podcast that no women’s wrestling was ever shown on World of Sport in Great Britain.

Learn more about why ITV banned women’s wrestling on World of Sport.

Orig Williams also appeared on other S4C shows, including a spot with Giant Haystacks on an episode of Pobl y Cwm.

Orig Williams Died In 2009.

Orig Williams passed away in 2009 due to a sudden heart attack, aged 78. He passed away in the town of Denbighshire, in North Wales, and was survived by his wife, Wendy.


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