William Aiya of Maradana challenges - wrestler King Kong
It was early fifties as I recall the Illustrious Showman, the late Mr. Donovan Andree - got down world famous wrestlers, i.e. Dara Singh, King Kong, Tiger Holden (Australia), Red Scorpion, Ali Riza Bey (Egypt), The Flying French man - George Pencheff - Flying Kick Expert, "Angel Face" - Zibisco, Haraban Singh, Hooded Terror etc.
Referee was Wong Bock Lee. These open air Bouts were held at B.R.C. Grounds, Colombo. The Late Mr. Donovan Andree was also responsible for organising shows like "Holiday On Ice" and the "Harlen Blackbirds" at the B.R.C. Grounds, Col. 7.
I can remember somewhere in 1955 - Donovan Andree was voted "Personality of the Year" by 'Ceylon Observer' readers, and if I am not mistaken Sir John Kotelawela came second. Mr. Andree was awarded the "Stanvac Trophy" (Standard Vacuum Co.) by the Ceylon Observer. He was the one who introduced Erin de Selfa - top Singer who I met at the Kinross Club - Wellawatte sometime ago - before the dreaded Tsunami. Years ago she sang at the London Paladium.
In 1980, Mr. Semage - got down wrestlers, Dhara Singh, John Powers (tattoed all over his body). The Prince etc. held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium - I took my very young 2 sons and wife to these bouts - Mr. Semage gave me passes - for this - my wife was attached to the President's Office then.
Jiffry Younoos (Deceased - Lake House) and I Premil Ratnayake (Lake House) and a crowd of about 15 went to B.R.C. Grounds - for a wresting event. With us was Williyam Aiya of Maradana, who owned a Club, with a small billiard table opposite Ananda College. Next to this Club, a big water sump was built and filled with water by the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions), this was wartime. William Aiya was a tough Guy and very straight, pint sized mazcular man, a James Cagney look, and very much tattoed on his chest were the words, "Budhu Sasuna Babeleva" and along the shoulders were the words, "Danna Apita Boru Mokatada" tattoed.
All of us sat on tiers - cheaper seats. First came Tiger Holden a real villain - smoking a cigar and mug of beer in his hand - he used to drink the beer and throw the mug at the crowd, who hooted him. He would burn his opponent and the Referee Wong Bock Lee - with his cigar, and be disqualified. But, he would not leave the ring - minutes later Dhara Singh and Ali Riza Bey - climbed the stage and removed him bodily - but he gave them a fight too.
Most popular with local audience was Dhara Singh, Ali Riza Bey and Haraban Singh - most hated were "Tiger" Holden, King Kong and "Angel Face" Zibisco because they played foul and even manhandled the referee. Flying Frenchman George Pencheff - always a favourite with some superb Flying Kicks.
The Grounds B.R.C. was always full for these fights one by one the fights ended. The last for the night was King Kong vs Dhara Singh - referee Wong Bock Lee. People cheered as Dhara came on to the ring - he bowed to the crowd. When King Kong came on stage, he was greeted with hoots - spat at the audience and showed his fists threatening the on-lookers. During the fight King Kong assaulted the Referee, when ordered to go to his corner.
He grabbed Dhara's eyes with his fingers, bit his ear, and at the end, Dhara was bleeding from his forehead and carried away in a stretcher. Some people say that these fights are staged - but we do not take this for a fact. Everyone was worked up now - as their favourite Dhara Singh was carried away in a stretcher William Aiya was the worst effected and angry.
William Aiya was a straight forward guy, who I have witnessed, taken on two or three tough guys at once, and also I remember Kalu Abey of Waidya Road, Dehiwela, still living taken on more than that and even challenged two Mr. Ceylons at the venue on the day of the final selection. William Aiya told us and a few of the crowd to come with him to King Kong's tent, which we did - about 25 of us, we reached his tent, and William Aiya stood closest to the tent and shouted "Ado King Kong Waren Do" several times and we were all joining him in the shouting.
After about few minutes King Kong emerged out of his tent - with a chair in his hand, lifted high above his head, dashed it on the ground and with a big roar - came towards us - what happened then was history - we took to our heels, falling over each other and ran for dear life. I cannot remember how I went home. I met William Aiya - only 2 weeks later - at Maradana and he gave me a sheepish look and did not utter word about King Kong.
- Maurice Dahanayake