ATLANTA – Doug Williams is back in action, for the good of British wrestling.
The English star had been retired, for all intents and purposes, since the end of 2018.
The dual whammy of a global pandemic and the #SpeakingOut movement brought him back to the ring in March 2021. To Williams’ eyes, those two events “decimated” British wrestling.
“I kind of made the decision that I needed to come back to help build British wrestling back up again, help the new young guys on the circuit and help promoters,” Williams told SlamWrestling.net backstage at the NWA Hard Times 2 pay-per-view at Atlanta, in the Georgia Public Broadcasting center, where the NWA was shooting four days of television.
Williams’ two matches on December 3 were the first matches he’d had in the United States in eight years, though since those were taped for the about-to-debut NWA USA YouTube show, the NWA claimed that his loss to Colby Corino on the December 4th Hard Times shown was his return.
On the Friday NWA USA taping, the 49-year-old Williams had two matches, first reuniting with one of his old partners in The British Invasion faction in TNA, Nick Aldis (who was known as Brutus Magnus at the time), facing Chris Adonis and Thom Latimer. In the second bout he took on Jay Bradley of the Fixers tag team, who also act as the muscle for Colby Corino.
Aldis was part of the reason he was able to return to the US, plus the fact that he already had a permission. “I’ve already got a work visa through Ring of Honor anyway, I’m under contract to them, so I just needed their permission to come here. They obviously said yes, because they weren’t doing anything either,” explained Williams. Plus, he’d had his COVID vaccine and had to do another test to enter the country. “It’s actually easier to get in now than it was probably 10 years ago when I used to work for TNA, funnily enough.”
On his side was Aldis. “I was lobbying here for him pretty much from the start. He was one of the first people to reach out to me after NWA Powerrr launched. He loved the show,” recalled “The National Treasure” Aldis. “When it was brought to my attention that he had a work visa, because of the Ring of Honor show that got canceled, from then, from that point, I was lobbying Pat [Kenney] and Billy [Corgan] like, ‘Doug’s got a work visa. Don’t overthink it. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I need an angle for him and I need something for him to do. Just just book him.’
The #SpeakingOut movement in the UK, where many of wrestling’s wrongs, including bullying and sexual misconducts, had more impact there than in North America. The British government got involved with a study and changes have been made.
“There’s ongoing investigations and debates and just some kind of movement to try and get it more more regulated,” he said. “It did have a devastating affect on the industry as a whole, unfortunately. So now we’re back to rebuilding it and try to get it back to how it was.”
The other issue was the void left behind when WWE started its WWE UK promotion, keeping so many experienced talent off the independent scene for the most part.
“You’ve also got the effect of WWE UK picking up a lot of that talent as well, which led to a lot of spots that needed to be filled on the independent shows around the country,” said Williams, who is using “The Ambassador” nickname. “I can fill one of those spots, and also help with the younger guys that are coming up that maybe are not quite ready to fill those spots, those main event spots yet. That’s what swayed my decision, really.”
After 15 years as a full-time pro wrestler, Williams now has a regular job, as a commercial manager for construction, so he can pick and choose when and where he wants to work. There were some challenges getting back in action, though.
“My body, it wasn’t the same. I had some, not injuries, but like wear and tear things that have kind of manifested themselves over the lockdown period. So I came back and I had to kind of adjust the things that I can’t do in the ring, the things I can’t do anymore,” he said.
Williams offered a couple of examples. “I can’t do a knee drop off the top anymore, because my knees are screwed. It would be foolish for me to do it. It would end my career prematurely. I have changed things like that. Running is difficult, so I have to limit the amount of running I do. So running the ropes or running, it’s things like that, though, you just have to be very mindful of, but still you have to make sure that you can put some excitement into the matches and work around your opponent in a way that helps you both.”
Aldis said that whatever Williams can’t do is outweighed by what he still can. “He’s his own worst critic. But I don’t think that anybody has ever looked at his work today and thought, ‘If only he did the knee drop off the top,'” said Aldis. “The allure of a Doug Williams match is just getting to watch smooth, flawless transitions, his effortless delivery and this calm sort of ice water in the veins persona. You can’t teach that.”
The British style of wrestling is very grounded, which helps Williams keep going. “That’s primarily what I do anyway. I might have taken a few little highflying stuff out of my repertoire, but the basis of British wrestling is chain, exchanging holds, technical wrestling, and so that that’s helpful. You can go on for many, many years just doing, no problem.”
In the promotion of the Colby Corino versus Doug Williams bout at Hard Times 2, it was noted that Williams once beat Colby’s father, Steve Corino. Williams was hoping to give Colby the same lesson, but instead it was a wrestling lesson. “It’s a learning process for them, and I’m trying to instill some of the experience and knowledge that I have to help mold with the athleticism and the pure skill that they already have. That’s a benefit I bring to them. But yeah, it probably does make me feel a little bit younger as well working guys like that.”
To Aldis, his friend is a craftsman, who deserves consideration among the greatest British wrestlers of all time. “It’s like watching an expert in their field, in any sort of craft, whether it is shoemaking, or a jeweler or watchmaker, anyone where you just see they’re doing something that’s incredibly difficult but skillful, but they make it look incredibly easy. That’s Doug with his craft. He’s a master.”
Don’t ask Williams how long he can keep it up, because he doesn’t know. “I don’t have an end game. I’m just doing it now because I’m enjoying it, I enjoy helping the guys. I’ll just go on as long as I can possibly can to continue.”
Spoken like a true ambassador.
TOP PHOTO: Doug Williams twists Chris Adonis at an NWA USA taping on December 3, 2021. Photo by Greg Oliver