R: Robertson - Robinson
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Bill Robertson (Enrico Pirelli)
Jim Watt the boxer, Moira Stewart the singer and wrestler Bill Robertson have something in common. They were all born eight miles north of Glasgow in a small town called Kirchintilloch.
For Bill a good amateur background led to a good professional wrestling career, though sadly restricted to north of the border. Bill turned professional in the 1960s, working mainly for the independent promoters. He did wrestle occasionally for Joint Promotions, one of those occasions in June 1969 on a bill at the Eldorado Stadium when a young Johnny Saint came over from the opposition and defeated Iron Man Steve Logan. Work commitments prevented Bill from travelling too far south, thus limiting his opportunities with Joint Promotions. Nevertheless, a lively independent scene in 1960s and 1970s Scotland provided no shortage of opportunities to meet quality opponents and Bill proved himself one of the best, holding the Scottish welterweight championship for quite a few years. He travelled throughout Scotland, which does involve often travelling hundred of miles to contests and whilst popular everywhere he was a particular favourite in Rothesay and in his native Glasgow. Bill worked frequently for Dale Storm's Spartan Promotions against the likes of Bruce Welch, Farmer John and Dale himself. “He was a really good worker,” recalls Dale, “very popular throughout Scotland. He regularly came down to my gym in Mossblown village to train.” In the early 1970s Bill opened his own vending machine company, which restricted his wrestling appearances until he retired in the late 1970s.
In a business full of larger than life characters Andy Robin stands out large. Whenever fans or wrestlers gather together the stories or memories abound. Memories of a muscular heavyweight who was just about invincible, in his native Scotland at least, and near invincible elsewhere. Fans waited in anticipation knowing that it was inevitable that Andy would eventually wrap his legs around those of his opponent and secure a submission, and usually a technical knock out, by the application of his Power Lock hold, said to be the deadliest in wrestling from which no opponent ever escaped.
Memories of Andy carrying a huge tractor tyre to the ring which he could toss with ease. Or maybe, in later years, memories of Hercules the brown bear that Andy brought back from Canada who became his companion in the ring. Heritage member Robin Rules said: “When myself (as a 6-14 year old) and my family used to attend the wresting at St.Andrews Town Hall the place would erupt when Scotland The Brave was played and Andy Robin would enter the hall. I'm not talking a round of applause I'm talking feet stamping, cheering, clapping, it was deafening - it was brilliant! “
A Highland Games champion in both wrestling and hammer throwing Andy learned to wrestle alongside his friend Jim Bell, who was tragically killed in a boating accident. Much of Andy's early career was spent in Canada, and on his return to Britain he brought with him a Commonwealth Mid Heavyweight championship belt, a bear named Hercules and an air of invincibility.
Andy’s power and invincibility made him an eagerly sought addition to any bill, but sadly it was hardly ever a reality as Andy rarely travelled south in the 1970s for which he justifiably criticised by fans. Like so many others he ended his wrestling days promoting his own shows and wrestling on them, accompanied by Hercules.
1930 until 1938, nine years a professional boxer, including a controversial first round win by disqualification over Jack Doyle, preceded a professional wrestling career for Manchester’s Alf Robinson.
In November 1938 we have found Alf boxing Johnny Rice at Smethwick with our first documented wrestling contests in March at Middlesbrough and Manchester, “With his splendid physique and powerful punch, Robinson is equipped to meet the best of the mat stars.”
Alf’s transition to wrestling was no gimmick, he took his new role seriously. For twenty years he travelled the country meeting the best on offer, the likes of George Gregory, Bert Assirati and Jack Pye, finally retiring in 1961.
Alf also trained a trio of the best post war wrestlers at their respective weights, Johnny Saint, his son Jack Robinson, and Billy Robinson, who was his nephew.
Billy Robinson (Bill Kenton)
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The spring of 1969 saw the emergence of another of the family Robinson with young Jack following in the footsteps of his father, Alf, and cousin Billy. Coming from such a famous wrestling family expectations of the youngster were invariably high, but the new addition to the Robinson clan certainly did not disappoint. What he lacked in the power of his heavyweight predecessors he more than made up for with speed, agility and the wrestling knowledge that had been passed down to him. Trained by Alf and Billy, along with Ken Cadman, Martin Conroy and Jack Atherton, Jack's first few bouts saw him matched with youngsters like Dave Barrie and Paul Mitchell as well as experienced and highly rated Alan Wood, Mel Riss and Terry Downs. So he certainly wasn't given an easy start. In fact Jack had only been in the professional ranks a few weeks when he faced another youngster, Tony St Clair, at Belle Vue. In the 1970s, as the general standard of pro wrestling declined Jack Robinson was one of those who demonstrated that all was not lost, finding fans across the country with more than a dozen television appearances against quality opponents whilst bigger men were bringing the business into disrepute. For more than twenty years Jack Robinson was to remain at the top of one of the country's most competitive weight divisions, lightweight, three times holding the European lightweight championship.
Tiger Joe Robinson
Years before the great Billy Robinson cut a swathe through British heavyweights there was another Robinson who for a time was one of the most talked about grapplers in town. Joe Robinson came from a wrestling family.
His father and grandfather had been world champions in the Cumberland and Westmorland style and Joe also took the title to make it three generations in a row. Joe's father, Professor Jack Robinson, was also an early judo and jujitsu exponent who claimed the jujitsu championship of the world having beaten Leopold McLaglen, brother of Hollywood film star Victor McLagen.
After emigrating to South Africa with his wife and baby son Joe, Robinson Snr continued his career in wrestling and judo, claimed the Lightheavyweight Championship of the British Empire and lost the title to Billy Riley, and raised a large family who would all go on to make a name for themselves in the combat arts.
When Joe returned to UK in his early twenties he was a fully grown heavyweight confident of beating anyone in the world either in the wrestling ring or on the judo mat. Initially working for Athol Oakley, Joe won the European Title from Axel Cadier in a memorable contest at the Royal Albert Hall in 1952.
When Oakeley retired from promoting Joe moved over to Joint and for a time was topping the bill up and down the country. A promising career was cut short by a serious back injury sustained in a French ring. After hanging up his trunks Joe concentrated on film work, including a staring role opposite Diana Dors in A Kid For Two Farthings, and teaching judo and self defence.
Tiger Joe Robinson died 3rd July, 2017
With thanks to Ray Hulm for contributing this A-Z entry for Tiger Joe Robinson.
Ray is author of The Bad Old Days Will End.
Joe Robinson (Newcastle)
Another Joe Robinson hit the rings in the 1970s. The long hair and beard made the choice of a name for Joe's tag pairing with the even longer haired Pip Alvison an easy choice, they were The Hippies. Newcastle's Joe Robinson trained at the gymnasium belonging to the Hardwick Hall Gymnasium in Sedgefield alongside Farmer's Boy Pete Ross and Pip Alvison. Joe, from Newburn, midway between Newcastle and Gateshead, had his early experience in the fairground booth of Ron Taylor, turning professional in the late 1960s. A mid heavyweight standing six feet tall Joe's wrestling career lasted about ten years. When he wasn't wrestling Joe could be found in his day job, he was a school teacher.
Joe Robinson (Wigan)
Born on 10th June, 1902 Joe Robinson was the elder son of Samuel and Mary, and elder brother of British heavyweight champion Billy Joyce. Father Samuel was a coal hewer, a miner who loosens rock, and Joe followed his dad doing the same job.
Trained by Billy Riley Joe was, of course, a real wrestler's wrestler.
Said to be meaner and a harder wrestler with more of a killer instinct than his highly acclaimed brother Joe Robinson taught Karl Gotch when he came to Wigan to learn catch wrestling, and played his part in training the great Billy Robinson. Karel Gotch said that Joe Robinson was the best of the Wigan wrestlers, better even than Riley.