Rainham wrestling group RCWA pays tribute to ‘generous’ fan

Bill Barnard (centre) and Will Ospreay (right, kneeling) (credit: Linda Fuller)

Bill Barnard (centre) and Will Ospreay (right, kneeling) (credit: Linda Fuller) - Credit: Linda Fuller

Hundreds paid tribute to a “true gentleman” who played a part in the success of a wrestling group, encouraging youngsters to persevere.

The RCWA (Rainham Championship Wrestling Alliance) and those with a love of the sport gathered at the Chafford Sports Complex, Lambs Lane South, Rainham, on Saturday night for a special match held in memory of Bill Barnard, 84, who died in October.

Founder Will Ospreay said: “He was a lovely, generous, caring man and just a true gentleman.

“Bill helped us get to where we are and we’ll never forget that.”

When only an audience of about 15 people attended to watch the wrestling group, initially set up in 2012, and founder Will Ospray couldn’t afford to pay the venue the Rainham Methodist Hall, it was looking like the club would be over before it even began.

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But Bill, who was sitting in the audience that day, gave the group the money owed to the hall and told them not to give up.

Four years later and hundreds of people at a time attend the matches.

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Will was also signed to the second largest wrestling company in the world, New Japan, earlier this year.

Will, 23, said: “Everyone has obviously worked hard to get us where we are now but he definitely played a big role.

“After that first match, I wasn’t sure how we could carry on so when Bill came and gave me the money, I couldn’t believe it.

“He always had a seat right by the ring, giving everyone support.

“He was a great man.

“Without Bill, I might not have been doing any of this.”

On Saturday, RCWA wrestlers honoured Bill with a 10-bell salute which is usually given to honour a wrestler who died.

Wrestlers will also be able to fight for the RCWA Wrestling Bill Barnard Memorial trophy next year.

Bill’s daughter Linda Fuller, 71, of Rainham, said: “I am so proud of my dad and makes me so happy to know these young men will remember him in years to come for his selfless act.”

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