Billy Robinson
Robinson in 1976.
Birth nameWilliam Alfred Robinson
Born(1938-09-18)18 September 1938[1]
Manchester, Lancashire, England[1]
Died27 February 2014(2014-02-27) (aged 75)[1]
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.[1]
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]
Billy Joyce[3]
RetiredMay 8, 1992
Sports career
Medal record
Freestyle wrestling
British Senior Championships
Gold medal – first place 1957 Light heavyweight[4]

William Alfred Robinson (18 September 1938 – 27 February 2014)[1] was an English professional wrestler, amateur wrestler, and coach. Robinson was one of the leading practitioners of catch wrestling, a national champion in freestyle wrestling, and a professional wrestling world champion. As a wrestler, Robinson had a successful career in Britain and internationally, especially in Japan. He was known for training professional wrestlers and mixed martial artists in the catch wrestling style, including Josh Barnett, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kiyoshi Tamura, and Shayna Baszler. His favourite saying as a coach was "do it again", which came from his trainer Billy Riley. Robinson acted in several movies including The Wrestler and inspired the fictional manga/anime character Robin Mask.[1][5]

Early life

Robinson was born in Manchester on September 18, 1938 to William James Robinson and Frances Hester Exley Robinson.[1] The men in the Robinson family were boxers and Billy began boxing between four and five years of age. Robinson also worked in his family's grocery store, where an eye injury between eleven and twelve years of age required hospitalization for five months and disqualified him from ever getting a boxing licence.[3][5]

Robinson began amateur wrestling at fourteen. After a year, Robinson's father introduced him to Billy Riley, a legendary catch wrestling trainer who ran a gym in Wigan. Riley's Gym (later dubbed "The Snake Pit") was one of the most respected catch wrestling training schools in the world. Riley's had a rough training environment and produced legends such as Karl Gotch, Bert Assirati, Jack Dempsey, and Billy Joyce.[5][3] At the 1957 British Senior Championships, Robinson became the freestyle wrestling light heavyweight champion.[4] It has often been repeated that Robinson was also a "European Open Champion in the light heavyweight class, beating an Olympic bronze medal winner in the finals" in 1958.[3][5][6][7] However, FILA did not hold the European Wrestling Championships between 1949 and 1966, and despite records going back to the first "unofficial European Championships" in 1898, United World Wrestling (FILA's successor) has no records of a "European Open Championship" taking place or anyone with Robinson's name competing for Britain, England, or any other nation.[8]

Professional wrestling career

Early days in Europe

As a professional wrestler, Robinson became a double-crown British and European Heavyweight Champion for Joint Promotions. In 1963, Robinson wrestled in a match at the Royal Albert Hall that was attended by Prince Philip.[9] He defeated fellow Riley's wrestler and mentor Billy Joyce for the European title on 12 June 1965[10] and then beat Joyce again for the British title on 18 January 1967,[11] vacating both titles in 1970 when he went off to America.[10][11] He also had a high-profile feud with masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.[12] In 1978, Robinson made a brief homecoming tour of the UK including a televised win over Lee Bronson.[13]

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 traveled to Japan where he became immensely popular as a legitimate wrestler versed in submission holds. Robinson had a series of matches with Canadian George Gordienko. The pair had a notable match in 1968 as part of a "world championship tournament" where the pair wrestled to a draw in Sapporo.[5] 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. Japanese professional wrestlers learned the art of "hooking" and "shooting" from other catch wrestling icons including Karl Gotch and Lou Thesz. The new movement led to the formation of the Universal Wrestling Federation. The UWF wrestlers like Yoshiaki Fujiwara had also been to the Snake Pit in Wigan. In his last match, 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 Japan, including James Maritato, Kazushi Sakuraba and El Signo.[14] He also managed a convenience store and was a security guard at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino for a time.[5][3] Robinson moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 2001 to be closer to his son's family.[1] Robinson's autobiography, Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling, was published in June 2012.[15] Robinson continued to coach catch wrestling into his final years, in his adopted home of Arkansas along with seminars in the United States, Japan, Britain, and Canada.[3][16]


Robinson died peacefully in his sleep on February 27, 2014 at the age of 75.[1]

Notable students

Championships and accomplishments

Robinson (pictured c. 1973) held multiple championships over the course of his career.

Freestyle wrestling

Professional wrestling


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "William A. "Billy" Robinson". 9 March 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Online World of Wrestling". Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Haymes, Linda (10 December 2013). "Retired wrestling champ Robinson cultivates young talent in LR". Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  4. ^ a b c "List of British Senior Champions from 1904 - 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Billy Robinson - obituary". The Telegraph. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  6. ^ "Billy Robinson". Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  7. ^ Mooneyham, Mike (8 March 2014). "Robinson's passing marks end of an era". Post and Courier. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  8. ^ "Historical Results". United World Wrestling. Retrieved 14 December 2023. Search "Robinson"
  9. ^ BjjTribes (9 April 2021). "The Story of Prince Philip and his love of Catch Wrestling". BjjTribes. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b c "European Heavyweight Title [Joint Promotions]". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b "British Heavyweight Title". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  12. ^ "WRESTLING HERITAGE". WRESTLING HERITAGE. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  13. ^ " - 1978". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  14. ^ " - The World's Largest Wrestling Database". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling". ECW Press. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  16. ^ Oliver, Greg (3 March 2014). "Billy Robinson dead at 74". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  17. ^ "Misc. All Japan Events". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  18. ^ Real World Tag League 197 at retrieved 7 October 2018
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  20. ^ Johnson, Mike (13 March 2022). "Steve Austin & More: International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Announced". Archived from the original on 2 February 2023. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Lawler, McMahon, Road Warriors among PWHF Class of 2011". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  23. ^ "PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
  24. ^ "Strong Style Spirit". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1948-1990)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003.
  27. ^ "Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008.