Billy Robinson in 1976.
|Birth name||William Alfred Robinson|
|Born||September 18, 1938|
Manchester, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
|Died||March 3, 2014 (aged 75)|
Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
|Professional wrestling career|
|Billed height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Billed weight||240 lb (110 kg; 17 st)|
|Trained by||Billy Riley|
William Alfred Robinson (18 September 1938 - 3 March 2014) was a British professional wrestler and wrestling instructor. Robinson was one of the few wrestlers who was successful in several continents (Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania), winning titles in promotions nearly everywhere he wrestled. One of the leading practitioners of catch wrestling, Robinson is considered to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. Robinson was also well known in Japan where he trained mixed martial artists and professional wrestlers in catch wrestling.
Robinson began his amateur wrestling career in Britain. He was the British National Wrestling Champion in 1957, and in 1958 he was the European Open Wrestling Champion in the light heavyweight class, beating an Olympic bronze medal winner in the finals. Billy Robinson also attended the fabled wrestling gym of legendary trainer Billy Riley in Wigan, (nicknamed the "Snake Pit" - years later, affiliate "Snake Pit" gyms would later be established in Japan and the United States.) Riley's Gym was one of the most respected catch wrestling training schools in all of the world. Legends such as Karl Gotch had trained in catch wrestling with Riley at his gym. Lou Thesz also briefly trained at his gym. Robinson had to survive bare minimum amenities (luxuries such as a toilet were not provided at Riley's Gym), a very rough training environment (Riley was very impatient with those who showed even the slightest bit of weakness on the mat) and rigorous conditioning. Robinson stayed at the "Snake Pit" for eight years.
As a professional wrestler, Robinson was an undefeated double-crown British and European Heavyweight Champion for Joint Promotions. He defeated older fellow Snake Pit wrestler Billy Joyce for the European title on 12 June 1965 and then beat Joyce again for the British title on 18 January 1967, vacating both titles in 1970 when he went off to America. He also had a high-profile feud with legendary masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki. In 1978, Robinson made a brief homecoming tour of the UK including a televised win over Lee Bronson.
Robinson traveled to North America in 1970 and began wrestling for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association. He was one of the successful wrestlers of the American promotion known for hiring the "Real Deals" in wrestling. Billy Robinson was also the AWA British Empire Heavyweight Champion; he defended the title in both the United States and Canada, winning on 3 separate occasions. 12 October 1974 Robinson's image as a legitimate wrestler landed him a role in the film The Wrestler alongside Verne Gagne and Ed Asner. He wrestled in Montreal in 1982 and 1983 becoming the International Champion beating Dino Bravo and was also International Tag Team champions with Pierre Mad Dog Lefebvre. He wrestled to a 60-minutes time-limit draw against then WWF Champion Bob Backlund in 1982 as well in Montreal.
Robinson travelled to Japan where he became immensely popular as a legitimate wrestler versed in submission holds. He participated in a professional wrestling match against legendary Antonio Inoki in 1975. The match was billed as "The Match Between the World's Top Two Technicians" by the Japanese press. Robinson continued an active professional wrestling career, travelling throughout the world to participate in various events. Japanese professional wrestlers learned the art of "hooking" and "shooting" from another of catch wrestling's greatest icons, Karl Gotch. The new movement led to the formation of the Universal Wrestling Federation. The UWF had wrestlers like Yoshiaki Fujiwara who had also been to the Snake Pit in Wigan. Robinson became a part of the shoot style movement when he wrestled in an exhibition match for the UWFi against fellow AWA legend Nick Bockwinkel on May 8, 1992.
Robinson, having previously trained wrestlers in England including Marty Jones and Johnny Saint, began training wrestlers in catch wrestling at the UWF Snake Pit in Japan, including James Maritato, Kazushi Sakuraba and El Signo. Robinson was inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.
Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling, ECW Press