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  • Writer's pictureBen Veal

Doug Williams on Retiring From Pro Wrestling After 30 Incredible Years

Updated: Feb 17

'The Ambassador of British Wrestling' is a lofty moniker to say the least. The British Isles has produced some of the greatest, most versatile in-ring talent that the wrestling world has ever seen, but arguably no performer is a prouder custodian of the art form than Doug Williams.

Doug Williams - photographer: James Musselwhite

As one of the most respected - and well-travelled - names to ever come out of the British wrestling scene, Doug Williams has shared a ring with the best of the best, clocking up title after title along the way. A true journeyman, Williams is a two-time TNA X Division Champion, co-holder of the IWGP, Pro Wrestling Noah, NWA and TNA Tag Team Championships, and a former OVW Heavyweight Champion and ROH Pure Champion, and has built up a reputation globally over the last thirty years as one of the finest in-ring competitors to emerge from the United Kingdom.

Shortly after making the decision to leave wrestling behind after three decades in the business, Williams joined Ben Veal on the #WrestlingLifePod to reflect back on the highs, and lows, of his time as a professional wrestler.

Wrestling Life with Doug Williams: Spotify | YouTube | Apple Podcasts | Amazon Music

Doug Williams: "My body was breaking down"

Williams competed in what is likely to be his final match in 2023, respecting the time-honoured tradition of leaving his wrestling boots in the ring at the conclusion of his last bout. Discussing the decision to walk away from the ring on 'Wrestling Life with Ben Veal', the tenured competitor reflects that "it was definitely the right time, and this time is almost certainly it."

"I had scheduled knee replacement surgery, which happened a little bit sooner in the year than I expected, forcing me to cancel a bunch of bookings unfortunately ... I knew then that was it, really. To be honest, it was a relatively easy decision to make, because I wasn't enjoying wrestling for the first six months of 2023 as I was constantly getting hurt or injured; signs that my body was breaking down in ways that only it can show."

"It was emotional [leaving the boots in the ring] ... it's the end of something that has something that has [covered] over half of my life has been in a wrestling ring. It was difficult in that respect. But I'd made up my mind. It wasn't a spur of the moment decision or something forced on me; it was planned for."

"I was relentlessly trying to get bookings outside of the UK"

Starting out in the UK in an industry where the chances of succeeding globally were minimal at best, Williams was at the forefront of a movement that would see top British independent talent earn global reputations. He would go over to major US promotions and carve out a name for himself, whilst still retaining the distinctive style gained through his work on the British scene.

"It was very difficult when I was starting out." "The first ten years of my career, I was relentlessly trying to get bookings outside of the country and it paid of thankfully - a combination of luck and talent as well ... it was much more organic, a slower process with so much uncertainty. And the UK was quite isolated in its exposure by the wrestling media of the time, limited to three or four magazines and the newsletters. The coverage in them was near-to-non existent, as the British scene had died on a major level."

Since debuting in the sport in the late-nineties, Doug Williams has competed for fans globally - with many Stateside and beyond first being introduced to his work during his tenures with beloved independent US promotion Ring of Honor. Competing in ROH would be a key moment in Williams' career, yet the experience wasn't quite as grand as those looking back on that era of wrestling history with rose-tinted spectacles would have you believe.

"Come Ring of Honor, I was already in my thirties"

"Obviously the exposure [ROH] had through the [wresting] newsletters made them out to be a big deal and something very special and important," shares Doug, "but that aside, when you got there, it was pretty much like wrestling any other show back home or wherever ... there were 500 people [in] a rough-ish part of Philadelphia, you still got changed in the basement, there wasn't any air conditioning ... once you got over that fear of global exposure, it was like working on any other show really."

Yet despite its humble settings, ROH provided a global platform for many wrestling fans to gain their first introduction to many of the biggest names to influence the sport today - many of whom shared a ring with Williams during his two tenures with the promotion.

"I always really enjoyed wrestling Christopher Daniels and Bryan Danielson too. AJ Styles, I loved working with him, Jerry Lynn, they were some of my favourite guys to work with. And on the British scene, I always worked really well with James Mason and Phil 'Flash' Barker, one of my favourite opponents; we wrestled hundreds and hundreds of times on the British circuit.

"It's interesting - a lot of the guys who I worked with went on to be huge stars, and I'm often asked, why that didn't happen for me - but I was actually ten years older than [most of] these guys. These guys started in the States and they were in their early 20s; come Ring of Honor, I was already in my thirties."

Episode 008 of Wrestling Life with Ben Veal is out now: real talk from real talent.

Join the conversation on social media: #WrestlingLifePod


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