Born in the roughest part of Islington, London on July 5th, 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. Bills 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
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.
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.
Simultaneously, away from the pool, Bill was becoming increasingly interested in Amateur wrestling and having grown into a strapping 6ft 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 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
Meanwhile, PAUL LINCOLNs Business Empire was in full demand, with the CROMWELLIAN Night Club, 2Is 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 is 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.
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 Lincolns promotions in the mid 60s. 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.
Wayne Bridges was born a gifted athlete and was one of those infuriating people that excels in everything. Standing tall at 6ft 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.
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.
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 HURSTand more.
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.
Family life was also good for Wayne with his then wife Sheila and two children Dean and Jo Anne. Dean grew up wanting nothing more than to follow in his fathers 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 : JOHN ELIJAH. Dean often could be seen in the corner for Waynes 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.
By the early 90s, he owned and ran a large public House called The Prince of Orange in Greenwich. It was here that he eventually met and fell in love with SARAH BRIDGES, who was working as a barmaid. Around this time, he took on the hosting of the British Wrestlers Reunion after his pal JOE CORNELIUS, emigrated to Cyprus in 1993, a role that he has played ever since.
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.
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 Bills own life, in order to maintain his enormous physique, and he trained daily in the gym, followed by over 40 lengths of the local pool twice weekly , where he still cuts a dash against the youngsters.
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.
For all the hardships that he has endured over the last 25 years however, the star remained positive and cheerful , welcoming all his many friends at the Country pub whenever they called, 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.
Sadly, on Sunday 8th March 2020 the inevitable happened, Bill Bridges faced a bout he was unable to win, after years as a star and a champion he passed away with Sarah, his sister Esther and his niece Tina at his bedside.
Bill Bridges has left a legacy in wrestling that will never be equalled, a true gentlemen, a champion and an all round top man, he will never be forgotten and he will live on in all our memories through his family and the Reunion. RIP Bill, you will be missed.