Billy Robinson
Billy Robinson - Wrestling programme NWA 267 1976 magazine.jpg
Robinson in 1976.
Birth nameWilliam Alfred Robinson
Born18 September 1938[1]
Manchester, Lancashire, England[2]
Died3 March 2014 (aged 75)
Little Rock, Arkansas, United States[2]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Billy Robinson[2]
Billed height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[2]
Billed weight240 lb (110 kg; 17 st)[2]
Trained byBilly Riley[2]
Retired8 May 1992

William Alfred Robinson (18 September 1938 – 3 March 2014)[3] was a British professional and catch wrestler, wrestling instructor and trainer. 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 and a seven-time world champion, Robinson is considered to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, with legendary champion Lou Thesz once saying he was the greatest ever.[4][5] Robinson was also well known in Japan where he trained mixed martial artists and professional wrestlers in catch wrestling.

Professional wrestling career

Early days in Europe

Robinson began his amateur wrestling career in Britain in 1955. 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. In 1963, Robinson fought at the Royal Albert Hall in a match that was attended by Prince Philip.[6] He later defeated older fellow Snake Pit wrestler Billy Joyce for the European title on 12 June 1965[7] and then beat Joyce again for the British title on 18 January 1967,[8] vacating both titles in 1970 when he went off to America.[8][7] He also had a high-profile feud with legendary masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.[9] In 1978, Robinson made a brief homecoming tour of the UK including a televised win over Lee Bronson.[10]

In North America

Robinson traveled to North America in 1969 for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling where he defeated Archie "The Stomper" Gouldie to earn a title shot at NWA World Heavyweight champion Dory Funk Jr. Soon afterwards, he began wrestling for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association. He was one of the most 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 occasions. On 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.[citation needed]


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 two other catch wrestling icons, Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz. 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 8 May 1992.[citation needed]


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.[11] Robinson was inducted into the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.[citation needed]


Robinson died on 3 March 2014, at the age of 75 and was buried three days later.[3][12]

Notable students


Championships and accomplishments

Amateur wrestling

Professional wrestling


  1. ^ "Professional and Catch As Catch Can Wrestler Billy Robinson, 75, passes away". 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Online World of Wrestling". Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Billy Robinson - obituary". Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  4. ^ Harder, Jeff. "Wrestling Greats Remember Billy Robinson". Fightland. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Lou Thesz interview from 1980". Wrestling Classics. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  6. ^ BjjTribes (9 April 2021). "The Story of Prince Philip and his love of Catch Wrestling". BjjTribes. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c "European Heavyweight Title [Joint Promotions]". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b "British Heavyweight Title". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  9. ^ "WRESTLING HERITAGE". WRESTLING HERITAGE. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  10. ^ " - 1978". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  11. ^ " - The World's Largest Wrestling Database". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  12. ^ "ALL TIME GREAT BILLY ROBINSON PASSES AWAY AT 85-". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Misc. All Japan Events". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ Real World Tag League 197 at retrieved 7 October 2018
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  17. ^ Hoops, Brian (18 January 2019). "Pro wrestling history (01/18): Ivan Koloff defeats Bruno Sammartino for WWWF title". Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Lawler, McMahon, Road Warriors among PWHF Class of 2011". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  19. ^ "PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  20. ^ "Strong Style Spirit". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  21. ^ Whalen, Ed (host) (15 December 1995). "Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame: 1948-1990". Showdown at the Corral: A Tribute to Stu Hart. Event occurs at 27:55. Shaw Cable. Calgary 7.
  22. ^ "Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1948-1990)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003.
  23. ^ "Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame". Retrieved 9 November 2008.