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.

Professional wrestling career

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 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. He later 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 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 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.


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


''Physical Chess: My Life in Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling'', ECW Press

Championships and accomplishments

Amateur wrestling

*British National Wrestling Championship (1 time) *European Open Light Heavyweight Wrestling Championship (1 time)

Professional wrestling

*All Japan Pro Wrestling **NWA United National Championship (1 time) **PWF World Heavyweight Championship (1 time) **January 2 Korakuen Hall Heavyweight Battle Royal (1980) **World's Strongest Tag Determination League Technique Award (1978) - with Wild Angus **World's Strongest Tag Determination League Technique Award (1980) - with Les Thornton *American Wrestling Association **AWA British Empire Heavyweight Championship (3 times) **AWA World Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Verne Gagne (1) and Crusher Lisowski (1) *Cauliflower Alley Club **Other honoree (1994) *Championship Wrestling from Florida **NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship ''(Florida version)'' (1 time) *Continental Wrestling Association **CWA World Heavyweight Championship (3 times) *George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame **Class of 2002 *International Wrestling Enterprise **IWA World Heavyweight Championship (2 times) *Joint Promotions **British Heavyweight Championship (1 time) **European Heavyweight Championship (1 time) *Lutte Internationale **Canadian International Heavyweight Championship (2 times) **Canadian International Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Pierre Lefebvre *New Japan Pro Wrestling **Greatest 18 Club inductee **Greatest Gaijin Best Bout Section (2002) vs. Antonio Inoki *Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum **Class of 2011 *''Pro Wrestling Illustrated'' **PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (1974) **Ranked No. 151 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003 *Stampede Wrestling **Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 1995) *''Tokyo Sports'' **Match of the Year Award (1975) vs. Antonio Inoki on December 11 *World Championship Wrestling (Australia) **IWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time) *''Wrestling Observer Newsletter'' **Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)


External links

Scientific Wrestling's Certification Camp where Billy has coached since 2007
Website of the film 'Catch - the hold not taken', a documentary on the history of Riley's gym where Robinson trained
* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Robinson, Billy Category:1938 births Category:2014 deaths Category:British catch wrestlers Category:English male professional wrestlers Category:Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Category:Professional wrestling trainers Category:The Heenan Family members Category:Stampede Wrestling alumni Category:Expatriate professional wrestlers in Japan