On Monday, Mar. 3, British wrestling legend Billy Robinson died in his sleep. The catch-wrestling master was 75 years old.
The name may not ring a bell with younger wrestling fans, but the man from Manchester, Lancashire, England was undoubtedly one of the all time greats and easily the most successful international grappler ever to come out of the United Kingdom.
Robinson wrestled all over the world. From his debut in 1955 to his retirement in 1992, he held titles in places like Australia, Japan, Canada and Hawaii.
Robinson was renowned for his catch-wrestling and always used this to his advantage throughout his career. He was one of the best “hookers” of his era, someone who could legitimately shoot-wrestle and worked his matches in a stunningly realistic manner.
Due to his amazing technical wrestling skills, Robinson became a major headliner in Japan. In 1975, he challenged Antonio Inoki, the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling. The contest was billed as a dream match between the two best technical wrestlers alive, and to this day, the match is considered an all-time classic in Japan.
In the United States, Robinson wrestled for Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association, where he was routinely a contender for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. As he was in Japan, Robinson was believed by many to be the best technical wrestler in North America during this time period.
Robinson’s technical skills and tough-guy persona made him a natural trainer, and he helped school some of the greatest wrestlers ever. Young grapplers such as Ric Flair, Sgt. Slaughter, Ricky Steamboat and the Iron Sheik felt the wrath of Robinson’s many holds.
As his career moved into its later stages, Robinson transitioned away from “sports entertainment” and put his technical skills to work, training MMA fighters. Fans of mixed martial arts will recognize the names Shayna Baszler, Josh Barnett and Kazushi Sakuraba, all of whom trained under Robinson; Baszler is currently the only certified female catch-wrestler in the United States.
Robinson is a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (class of 2011), Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (class of 1996). Undeniably an all-time great in the history of the sport, Robinson will be sorely missed by many.
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