Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Eight years a professional boxer, including a controversial first round win over Jack Doyle, preceded a professional wrestling career in which Alf held the European heavyweight championship.
He 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. In his book, "Physical Chess" Billy Robinson records that his uncle wrestled the Alaskan, Jack Sherry, in Belgium.
On the right Alf is advertised in a 1950 top of the bill match against Francis St Clair Gregory in Derby.
No heavyweight could execute a suplex like Billy Robinson. In fact, no heavyweight could execute just about any move like Billy Robinson.
Ask any Mountevans wrestling fan to name Britain’s top heavyweight and Robinson would definitely be in the top three, if not number one. We are not talking show wrestlers, we are talking real wrestlers, shooters. The other two contenders would be Bert Assirati and Billy Joyce. All three were graduates from The Snakepit. Joyce was arguably technically the best of the three, but Robinson had more of a killer instinct.
In 1957 Robinson won the British Amateur Light Heavyweight title, and in the same year was runner-up in the heavyweight division. A professional for a decade in Britain, making the British and European championship his own, Robinson went to North America in 1970, where he gained huge success with the AWA. The photo above shows Billy throwing Josef Zaranoff.
Ask any number of young professionals in the 1970s which wrestler they admired the most and the name Billy Robinson was the one that was most frequently answered. It was an immense shock to British fans when their heavyweight champion moved across the Atlantic and their sense of loss was to remain unequalled.
In the United States he worked mainly for the American Wrestling Association and held world champions Verne Gagne and Dory Funk Jr to drawn verdicts. Whilst reconised as a legitimate wrestler in North America he failed to receive the full extent of recognition he deserved. Whether this was due to the politics of wrestling, or to the rumours he was a hard man to work with, remains to be seen. We can be certain, though, that Billy Robinson was, and probably always will be, Britain's greatest wrestling ambassador.
The remainder of his career was spent developing young wrestlers in the USA and Japan.
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THE "MUST HAVE" BOOK .....
The Yorkshire impressario moved from trampolines to wrestler to promoter to pirate radio to television and a multitude of business ventures in between. “The northern arm of Paul Lincoln” as Bob Kirkwood described the wrestler, masked man and promoter. Photo shows Don with Jack Pye. Intrigued by our introduction to one of the lesser known heroes of British professional wrestling, read more ….
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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 knowldge 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.
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 Oakeley, 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. He lives on the South Coast and, if the photos on his website are anything to go by, is a very fit eighty year old.
Joe Robinson died 3rd July, 2017
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.
The brother of British heavyweight champion Billy Joyce kept the family name.
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 brother Bill Joe Robinson taught Karl Gotch when he came to Wigan to learn catch wrestling, and played his part in training the great Billy Robinson.
Ray Robinson always seemed to embody those old fashioned virtures that were little appreciated by fans of the late seventies and eighties.
Here was a hard, strong wrestler with more than his fair share of technical ability. We could imagine him In the 1960s swapping hold for hold with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Mel Riss and Tommy Mann.
Trained in schoolboy boxing Ray turned to wrestling in his teens and was trained in the ways of the professional ring by Cyril Knowles.
After only a few weeks of training it was apparent to Cyril Knowles that the teenager had a lot of potential. It wasn't just his strength and fitness that impressed the promoter, it was Ray's desire to be the best at everything he did, a will to win every time.
Combine these qualities and you end up with Ray Robinson, a man to whom we pay tribute in "A Man of Steel." Seen above sparring with boxing protege Jimmy Male.
Read our extended tribute: A Man of Steel.