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Billy Robinson (September 18, 1938 – March 3, 2014) was a British professional wrestler, author and catch wrestling instructor. Robinson was well known in Japan where he trained mixed martial arts fighters in catch wrestling. 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.
Early days in Europe
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 “Snake Pit” started by legendary trainer Billy Riley. The Snake Pit 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 in the Snake Pit with Riley. Robinson had to survive bare minimum amenities (luxuries such as a toilet were not provided at the Snake Pit), 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.
In North America
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 WWWF 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.
Robinson died on March 3, 2014, at the age of 75.
Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling ECW Press
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- British National Wrestling Championship (1 time)
- European Open Light Heavyweight Wrestling Championship (1 time)
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- American Wrestling Association
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Other honoree (1994)
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- Continental Wrestling Association
- International Wrestling Enterprise
- Joint Promotions
- Lutte Internationale
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Greatest Gaijin Best Bout Section (2002) vs. Antonio Inoki
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Stampede Wrestling
- Tokyo Sports
- World Championship Wrestling (Australia)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards