British Wrestlers Reunion
Strengthening the Ring of Friendship

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WAYNE BRIDGES

 

( Wayne Bridges and Sarah Bridges during  his 77th Birthday  celebration dinner - July 2013)

Born Billy Woodbridge in the roughest part of  Islington, London  on July 5th 1936, it was on the cards that WAYNE BRIDGES  would end up on the wrong side of the fence, but his obvious love of sport  managed to keep him out of the long arms of the law.  Bill’s Father sadly died when he was just 3 years old, leaving him to act as Dad to his younger Sister Esther , plus becoming  the breadwinner for his Widowed Mother at an early age. He was an unruly child who hated school, rarely attending his lessons and preferring to run with the local pack, getting into all sorts of mischief, with would be gangsters such as the infamous Naish Brothers with whom he grew up. On one occasion, he set light to the back door of his home for a prank.

( Swimming for great Britain at the Rome Olympics 1962) 

However by 9 years old, he was introduced to swimming at the local Hornsey Road Baths where he took everyone by surprise at his prowess in the water. Soon, he was winning competitions and eventually beat everyone in his class. His ability at the crawl was awesome and he became like a fish in the water. By the time that he was in his teens, the young Woodbridge had been chosen to represent his Country many times, culminating by being chosen to swim for the British Team  at the Rome Olympics in 1962. Here he was beaten by the Legendary IAN BLACK , during the 100 metres crawl and also his friend and rival DICK CAMPIAN.

 

 

( Representing Great Britain 's wrestling Team)

 

Simultaneously, away from the pool, Bill was becoming increasingly interested in Amateur wrestling and having grown into a strapping 6’ 2’’ inch giant with a Tarzan type body to match, was a natural to do well at this sport also. He regularly trained at the United, the Ashdown, The Loughborough, The YMCA in Edgeware Road, and Police training headquarters at Hendon, with great Champions such as DENNIS MCNAMARA,DON IRVINE,BILL MOSTYN, GEORGE COLEMAN, DENNIS GARVEY, FRANK WARREN and TONY BUCK  who has remained a friend to this day. Simultaneously, he honed his great physique at the London gym's in the celebrated company of ARNOLD SWARZENEGGER  when he lived here. Title followed Title as the almost invincible grappler with the immense strength tore his way through the top Division, until yet again he was chosen to represent his Country  at International level, where he fought for  Great Britain over 15 times, travelling to France, Germany and many other Overseas Tournaments, his meteoric rise to fame being assisted by JIMMY BROWN  and TERRY BLACKWALL   It was at one of these contests at the United Club,  that  the immortal Legends : MIKE MARINO and ‘DAZZLER’ JOE CORNELIUS  happened to frequent and were immediately struck by the sheer physical presence of this super youngster.  They invited him to attend a Professional Show where they were working and Bill became immediately drawn to this new form of wrestling. There followed some training  by his hero : MIKE MARINO  in the different styles and his amateur days were soon forgotten, when the late great PAUL LINCOLN offered him a job , having his inaugural bout against the same MIKE MARINO, re christened now  by Lincoln as WAYNE BRIDGES, the Legend began

( Wayne Bridges in first pre Professional wrestling  bout photo)

 

Meanwhile, PAUL LINCOLN ‘s  Business Empire was in full demand, with the ‘CROMWELLIAN’ Night Club, 2I’s Coffee Bar , Booze cruises and other outlets were flourishing, giving WAYNE BRIDGES a new role as minder and chief Security Officer of the many pop stars who were booked such as SIR TOM JONES, P.J. PROBY and many more. This success, gave him the opportunity to reward his Mothers devotion to his upbringing and he managed to buy the four story house where she had a flat , followed by the house next door., so that she might live in comfort. Erstwhile pop stars like SIR CLIFF RICHARD, HANK MARVIN and THE SHADOWS, MARTY WILDE, JOE BROWN ,BILLY FURY,LONNIE DONNEGAN ,TOMMY STEELE, etc., were all working for Lincoln, erecting the rings in exchange for a spot singing at the 2 i’s and Bridges cashed in by letting out spare rooms to these would be stars. He soon graduated into pub life by buying his first pub called The Cock’ in Deptford, retaining ownership of all three to this day and with the houses being let to the Japanese Embasssy.

 

 

 

 

( Wayne Bridges against Great Togo or Oddjob -Harold Sukarta)

 

 

( Caught in the ropes by Fajuma)

( Headlock on Kendo Nagasaki)

 

 

 

Over the next few years, his rise to the top billing spot was phenomenal, working with grapplers that were to become lifelong friends such as ‘JUDO’ AL HAYES, BOB KIRKWOOD, DON STEADMAN, ‘REBEL’ RAY HUNTER ,BOB ANTHONY, ZOLTAN BOSCHIK, PAUL LINCOLN ( DOCTOR DEATH), JON CORTEZ,DENNIS DEAN , etc.,and when DALE-MARTINS bought out Lincoln’s promotions in the mid 60’s. he was integrated into the main stream of wrestling in a way that was unprecedented. Once Established and with many TV appearances under his belt the ‘Beau Brummel’ of wrestling as he was often called, because of his insistence that the wrestling socks were always even , commenced many Foreign Tours, especially into Europe,  Japan, Africa, Canada and the USA where his charismatic charm , physique and good looks made him a firm favourite on the circuits. Shoot Legends such as KARL GOTCH  and GEORGES GORDIENKO not known for their generosity towards opponents took the youngster under their wing, teaching him many new manoeuvres while on Tour, working for the WWE . Such was his popularity , that the original VINCE McMAHON  Snr., invited him to lodge at his home in Connecticutt.

 

 

 

 Finally, after many minor titles, WAYNE BRIDGES was given the opportunity to wrestle for the belt and a new Heavyweight Champion of the World was crowned.   During his reign as Champion, there were many attempts to lift the strap, with the Title changing back and forwards three times, but his bouts against  KENDO NAGASAKI and the great ‘MIGHTY’ JOHN QUINN were the most legendary and ironically despite the ferocity within the ring, the two have remained friends to this day. 

 

( Brian Dixons first show at Fairfield Halls 1985)

 

 

 

 ( Wayne bridges versus Mighty John Quinn)

Wayne Bridges was born a gifted athlete and was one of those infuriating people that excels in everything. Standing tall at 6’ plus, dark hair, good looks, a physique to die for, he was destined to become the global super star that he was to become. Everyone who has ever known him, is drawn to his quiet modest charm, and he can number many former opponents as his closest allies. Men such as STEVE VEIDOR, PRINCE KUMALI, JOE CORNELIUS, COLIN JOYNSON ,GORI ED MANGOTITCH,’JUDO’ PETE ROBERTS and dearest pal the late ‘BOMBER’ PAT ROACH.

 

( Wayne bridges with the gentle giant Prince Gordon Kumali)

He has helped many colleagues into Business ventures of their own and rarely does anyone say anything detrimental about this immensely popular character known as ‘Big Winnie’ or 'Waynetta', a joke that he absolutely loves in his self deprecating way,  modestly referring to his own work in the ring as ‘Lacklustre’, which was a phrase used by KENT WALTON during one TV broadcast.

 

 

 

( Spina Bifida charity appearances with Mike Marino and Prince Kumali)

( accepting cheque and dyalysis macjine ) 

 

 

He also played regular soccer for the wrestlers team to raise monies for charity and appeared many times in public to generate funds for spina bifida and other worthy causes with others wrestlers such as TONY 'BANGER' WALSH, BILL BROMLEY, IAN MUIR, SID COOPER, ROBBY BARON, DAVE 'BUTCHER' BOND, JOHNNY KINCAID, MAL SANDERS, LENNIE HURST and more.

 

 

( Football for the wrestlers eleven with Banger Walsh, Dave Bond, Lennie Hurst, Mike Marino, Big Daddy, Johnny Kwango, Sid Cooper, Mal Sanders))

 

Simultaneously, his athletic frame was in constant demand on movies and TV shows , where he body doubled for old friend  SEAN CONNERY in all his JAMES BOND films,  plus numerous roles in other productions and TV favourites such as ‘THE GENERATION GAME  ‘ with SIR BRUCE FORSYTH, and THIS IS YOUR LIFE etc.. 

 

 

Away from the ring, he continued swimming and training on the weights , plus  a love of horses and never more than when he was living in the States, where he roamed freely across the cowboy lands on horseback.

 

Eventually, the mat man settled down to married life when he married childhood sweetheart: Sheila and soon two lovely children Jo-Anne and  their Son Dean followed. Life was good for the super-star, buying a home in Barnehurst ,Kent,  but sadly, all too soon a double tragedy was about  to strike.

 

 

( Dean Brisco)

 

 Dean grew up wanting nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps turning Professional as soon as his age permitted. His height, and youthful good looks reminiscent of his Dad. He took the name DEAN BRISCO and was soon emulating the success of his world famous Father, taking on all the star names of the day, even appearing on TV against the Bear man : JOHNNY ELIJAH.  Dean often could be seen in the corner for Wayne’s title defences, and the two appeared together many times as they travelled the same circuits.  Everything seemed perfect until the boy became ill when he was just 24 years old, contracting Leukaemia which ravaged his body. He fought the disease with immense courage, but lost the fight  in January 1986. He had just turned 25 years old! To make matters worse, the lad had recently settled down with his girlfriend and they were expecting their first child who was to be christened   DANIEL  but  who Dean would never see. The Family were devastated  and none more so than Wayne  himself. To add even more sadness to his life, Daughter JO ANNE lost her Husband within three months of Dean’s death at the tender age of just 26, leaving her with a baby to raise alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heartbroken and devastated  World Champion's  wrestling then lost all sense of purpose after the tragedies and having honoured all contracts, he retired from the ring shortly after-wards  to concentrate on his Business ventures, buying and running several more pubs, including one in Leicester Square, but nothing could make up for the loss of his beloved Son and Son in Law.  

 

By the early 90’s, he owned and ran a large public House called ‘The Prince of Orange’ in Greenwich, but by then the mutual sadness they felt meant that  his marriage to Sheila was in the doldrums and they agreed to separate, although they have remained  close friends, speaking regularly on the telephone. It was here that he eventually met and fell in love with SARAH BRIDGES, who was working as a bar maid. Around this time, he took on the hosting of the British Wrestlers Reunion after his pal ‘DAZZLER’ JOE CORNELIUS, emigrated to Cyprus in 1993, a role that he has played ever since.

 

( With Johnny Kidd at The Bridges)

Presented with poster by Mr and Mrs Les Spoor)

 

 

Sarah meanwhile, started to visit a local gym and took an increasing interest in body-building with Bill eventually becoming her mentor. Her success in that field has been outstanding, winning the Miss Great Britain Title and then conquering the world as the largest woman bodybuilder on the planet, numbering legends like  Mr. Universe: LOU FERRIGNO ( Incredible Hilk) and  6 times Mr Olympia :DORIAN YATES as her friends. She has since taken the States by storm, working for ARNOLD SWARZENEGGER  at his classic shows, where she has rubbed shoulders with SYLVESTOR STALLONE and other notables. Film work has followed and she took a starring role alongside NICK NOLTE in THE GOOD THIEF. This was followed by another movie with JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME  and many guest appearances on TV. Lately, Sarah has been appointed a National coach and runs her own very successful bodybuilding shows. Her latest challenge will be to pull a fire engine along as she enters her first Strongwoman competition.

 

The couple decided to settle in Kent and sold the Orange to buy a beautiful bungalow  and a nearby pub in Horton Kirby, South Darenth, which they renamed ‘The Bridges’.

Of course, weight-training has never been far away from Bill’s own  life, in order to maintain his enormous physique, and today at 77 years old, he still trains daily in the gym, followed by over 40 lengths of the local pool  twice weekly , where he still cuts a dash against

 the youngsters.

 

( The BBC One Show with Sarah Bridges, Giles Brandreth and Frank Rimer in  2010 )

 

Wrestling for so many years and against the giants of the ring, took its toll on his body however and a few years ago, Bridges underwent serious spinal surgery in a double  operation, each  taking 7 hours, but the nervous system was damaged beyond repair and although the pain factor has been removed, the nerves have never re-grown, leaving the Legend struggling to walk or stand up straight for any length of time.

 

( Dave Fit Finlay, Sarah and Wayne Bridges at Swanley 2012)

( Wayne Bridges, Mark Rollerball Rocco and Johnny Saint at Fairfield Halls -June 2012)

 

For all the hardships that he has endured over the last 25 years  however, the star remains positive and cheerful , welcoming all his many friends at the Country pub whenever they call, often playing host with Sarah to close wrestling buddies over dinner and convivial evenings of chat and laughter, plus  telephoning all his pals on an almost daily basis. The Reunion has grown to become the second largest in the world of its type, and the icing on the cake of life is that   Dean’s  Son Daniel who looks remarkably like his Late father,  is a regular visitor to the pub , often sitting for hours with Bill . Daughter Jo Anne has her own children, one of whom works for JAMIE OLIVER as a chef, giving him 5 grandchildren  and great Grandchildren to live for.

 

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