Hall of Fame: Billy Robinson

Born on September 18th 1938 in Manchester, England, William Alfred Robinson would embark in an amateur wrestling career that would see him become British National Wrestling Champion in 1957. He followed this up the following year winning the European Open Wrestling Championship in the light heavyweight class, beating an Olympic bronze medal winner in the finals. Billy Robinson also trained at the legend Riley’s Gym aka The Snake Pit led by Billy Riley for eight years.

As a professional wrestler, Robinson was an undefeated British and European Heavyweight Champion for Joint Promotions. He defeated 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 full time.

On December 12th 1968, Robinson defeated sumo wrestler Toyonobori in a tournament final to become the first International Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion in Okayama, Japan. He would hold the title for 158 days before loosing it to Tsuneharu Sugiyama a Japanese amateur and professional wrestler who competed in the men’s Greco-Roman light heavyweight at the 1964 Summer Olympics.

Arriving in North America in 1970, Billy began working for Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association. He was recognised as the AWA British Empire Heavyweight Champion; he defended the title in both the United States and Canada. Robinson’s image as a legitimate wrestler landed him a role in the film The Wrestler alongside Verne Gagne and Ed Asner.

On June 3rd 1974 Robinson would become International Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion for a second time when he defeated Great Kusatsu in a tournament final in Tokyo, Japan. His second reign would last 74 days before he was defeated by “Superstar” Billy Graham in Denver, Colorado, USA. On November 20th 1974 Robinson would battle Verne Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in Tokyo, Japan. The match would end with both wrestlers failing to make the 10 count.

In 1975 Robinson wrestled the legendary Antonio Inoki. The match was billed as “The Match Between the World’s Top Two Technicians” by the Japanese press. On March 5th 1977, Robinson defeated Jumbo Tsuruta to become NWA United National Championship in Akita, Japan. He would loose the championship back to Tsuruta 18 days later in Miami, Florida, USA. In 1978, Robinson made a brief homecoming tour of the UK including a televised win over Lee Bronson.

On June 12th 1978, Robinson defeated Tor Kamata in Ichinomiya, Japan to become Pacific Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Champion. He would reign as champion for 128 days before being defeated by Abdullah the Butcher in Utsunomiya, Japan.

Robinson wrestled in Montreal, Canada 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.

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 8th 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 3rd 2014, at the age of 75 years old.

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