Les Kellet (English)
He was a star in British wrestling during the 60’s and 70’s. He was a character, and had an unorthodox style using comedy antics and surprise tactics like acting punch-drunk and almost defeated before unleashing a decisive move to claim victory. Despite his style, he was well-respected and regarded as one of the toughest opponents in the business.
He didn’t make much money from wrestling, so he worked another job running a café with his wife. In the 1970’s he was presented to Prince Phillip at the Royal Albert Hall. He also trained celebrities such as British show jumping champion Harvey Smith, and the controversial TV personality Jimmy Saville.
Mike Marino (English)
Marino was winning championships in the 1950’s. and appeared in the first televised wrestling match in the UK. He won the World Mid-Heavyweight Championship in 1957 (and claimed the title three more times), British Mid-Heavyweight Championship in 1966, and the European Mid-Heavyweight Championship in 1967. He held all three belts until his death in 1981.
He was a regular on the main shows at the Royal Albert Hall, and was recognised as one of Britain’s leading technicians of the era. He gained the nickname ‘Mr. Wrestling’ due to his ability and length of service.
He fought against all the big names of the time, like Kendo Nagasaki and Big Daddy. He was also the mentor of Wayne Bridges, who he had matches with. Mike Marino may go down as one of the biggest faces in UK wrestling history, and despite dying prematurely in 1981, he left his mark on anyone who saw his work.
Johnny Smith (English)
His real name is John Hindley. You may remember him as the kayfabe brother of Davey Boy Smith, and in Stampede had a heated rivalry with his brother and the Hart Family. He followed Dynamite Kid to wrestle in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), and in 1990 formed a tag team (as a replacement for Davey Boy Smith) with Dynamite called The British Bruisers.
While wrestling in Japan, he would travel back to America and Canada to work independent events. He also had a brief stints in ECW in 1996 and 1999 with his entrance theme “Sad But True” by Metallica. In Stampede Wrestling he had a rivalry with Chris Benoit in 1988 and 1989 over one of the titles, as they exchanged victories and title reigns for over a year.
In 2003, Hindley collapsed to the floor during a match in AJPW. He was rushed to hospital as he lost feeling in some parts of his body. The media suggested it was caused by use of painkillers, but others thought it was to do with a previous injury. Sometime afterwards, Hindley retired from wrestling.
He is a former three-time tag team champion in AJPW (once with Dynamite), and four-time Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Champion. He currently resides in Canada with his wife at the young age of 50. According to Dynamite Kid, he was a gentleman and one of few foreign wrestlers in Japan to not negotiate their pay, instead letting Giant Baba pay what he thought was fair.
Another story tells us of a fan who made a ring jacket for him, but the name Johnny was misspelled ‘Jhonny’. Being the nice guy he is, he didn’t have the heart to point out the mistake, and instead kept and wore it. That’s the kind of man John Hindley is. Check out this amazing promo and match.
Les Thornton (English)
He was considered one of the best junior heavyweights in the world in the 70’s and 80’s. At one point he simultaneously held the WWF and NWA Junior Heavyweight titles, and later held the NWA title five times. He had incredible matches with Tiger Mask, K J Anderssen, Alberto Madrill and Tatsumi Fujinami.
He joined WWF after the hostile takeover of GCW, but was only used as a jobber during the Hogan Era. After his career he formed the promotion Canadian Independent Wrestling Federation (CIWF).
He traveled the world and wrestled in Japan, Europe and the United States and won numerous NWA titles, and a few Stampede titles. He was inducted into the Stampede Hall of Fame. He’s also known for helping the career of Terry Taylor and many others; he still gets wrestling training requests. He resides in Calgary at the age of 82. The video quality sucks, but it’s the best I could find. Sadly, Thornton’s career did not reach new heights following this entertaining Piper’s Pit.
Orig Williams (Welsh)
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” – He went under the ring name ‘El Bandito’. He is considered the most famous wrestler to come from Wales. He spent his entire career as a villainous heel.
In his youth he served time with the RAF, before becoming a professional football player. He played for teams such as Bangor City, Shrewsbury Town, Oldham Athletic and Pwllheli. He later became a player-manager of a Welsh football club, which became known as a very dirty and violent team. Williams himself would be red carded frequently for excessive fouling. An injury forced him to retire, but it was good timing as he noticed the dwindling crowds. He found televised wrestling to be a major contributor to this, so he took advantage of the fad and started working as a wrestler and boxer in fairgrounds.
By the mid-60s Williams was such a strong draw he was invited to fight in India and other countries in Asia. Despite his hard image, he was popular and able to promote other wrestlers such as: Adrian Street, “Mighty” John Quinn, Tony St Clair, Mark Rocco and Johnny Saint.
In the 1980’s he was offered a job presenting the Welsh wrestling show Reslo. He brought different forms of matches which were alien to other promotions such as cage fights, chain matches, pole matches and female fighting. He became a prominent booker, and his shows were linked with the name ‘British Wrestling Federation.’ He appeared on many of his wrestling cards, as he was quoted as saying he didn’t see the point in wasting money for another wrestler.
He was a Welsh nationalist. He encouraged the Welsh to broaden their horizons by traveling the world. He had a very positive outlook on the abilities of the Welsh, and often showed disappointment with the negativity of his fellow countrymen. According to his daughter, he was more than a wrestler, he was a cultured human being who wanted so much for his country. In 2009, Orig Williams died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 78.