Physical Chess by Billy Robinson with Jake Shannon

August 15, 2019

A brief read, this still manages to convey a life and career that was fuller and more widely influential than many wrestlers can dream of.

There are few wrestling tales that take you from the Snake Pit in Wigan (described in all its unglamorous reality) to the US territorial scene to both the glory days of New Japan’s TV era and the growth of the shoot-style promotions (and in events obviously not covered here, to WWE’s cruiserweight show via trainee Jack Gallagher).

Robinson tells a story that encompasses his skills and accomplishments without ever seeming arrogant. In particular, the moment he defeats Billy Joyce in a legitimate gym bout (which Joyce made a prerequisite for dropping the British heavyweight title in a public worked match), he is quick to point out it was more a question of ageing vs athletic prime than superior talent.

There’s also a great balance of including the technical detail of Robinson’s grappling skills without confusing the reader. One key example is when Robinson explains how legitimate catch wrestling, which allows both pins and submissions, was able to work as a contest: while at first glance these might seem two completely contrasting aims, Robinson tells of how a wrestler trying to bridge out of a pin inevitably risks exposing a joint to a submission hold.

The closest thing to a criticism of this book is that it could have been longer, but that’s certainly not to say it will leave you short-changed.

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