June 23, 2009
The fans share Billy Red Lyons memories
By SLAM! Wrestling Readers
Billy Red Lyons and Ilio DiPaolo in Maple Leaf Gardens. Photo by Roger Baker
I remember seeing Billy in Denver many times in the late '60s, early '70s. I have many autographs from him and Red Bastien. I used to pretend I was Billy when me and my friends would wrestle. I was sad to see he passed. My prayers to the family. I think I will pull out my AWA tapes and watch Billy. God love you, Billy.
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My memories of Billy may go further back than most. My brothers and I would go to see Billy and his old friend Dewey Robertson team up as The Crusaders to take on the dastardly team of the Love Brothers at the Welland Arena. One time we snuck down to the "good guys" dressing room hoping to catch a glimpse of either Crusader without their mask on. When the dressing room door opened to let out the next wrestler we were right there to catch a glimpse of our heroes. Billy was standing just inside and saw us. Thinking we were in trouble we turned to run, but Billy called for us to come back. Billy took the time to talk to us and sign autographs. I'm sure we stood in awe as one of the wrestling greats took time out to talk to two small town boys. Unfortunately the autographs went the way of our prized hockey cards. But not before we took them to school and bragged to our friends about our encounter with Billy.
Years later I was fortunate enough to be at Greg Oliver's book signing at "Big Tony's" restaurant in Niagara Falls. By then Billy was using a cane and had lost most of his famous red hair. I introduced myself to Billy and told him of our meeting decades earlier. I thanked him for "a childhood memory that will never be forgotten."
You too, Billy, will never be forgotten.
Alan Kay, Welland, ON
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I have been reading the comments about Billy, and can agree 100% with them. I was lucky enough to grow up in Toronto in the 1970s and always watched wrestling. I met him on many occasions, and he always said hello or would let me take a photo. I can remember a Sportís Day at the CNE when he signed autographs and posed for photos for all the fans. I also saw him wrestle at the Gardens and at Global studios for Superstars of Wrestling. He gave 100% every time I saw him. A true star of wrestling.
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I grew up in that era when Stampede Wrestling was big. Then it died and Maple Leaf Wrestling took over. That's when I first knew of Billy Red. Then one day the WWE came to Edmonton. My friends and I were just kids, and we couldn't afford to get into the show. But being kids we ended up going anyways just to see the hype. When we got there Billy was doing an interview right outside the doors. He started talking to us, and when we told him we couldn't get in, he walked us right in the door! It was such a big thing to us, and such a nice thing to do.
In the arena itself, the main event was Andre fighting Studd and Patera. At one point at ringside Andre threw Patera into the ringside steel fence. Everyone there all scattered, there were so many people there. The only ones who didn't scatter were my friend Mark and I. We just stood there, bent right over Patera in a heap right at our feet. We looked up and Andre was right there! He was so big, and he was amused my friend and I didn't flee and were right there! When I looked to my left after they took the fight back to the ring, I noticed Billy Red looking at us, almost laughing, very amused! I nodded my head in thanks.
Then in 2008, I travelled to the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion. That was amazing. At the table we sat at for the Baloney Blow out dinner, the conversation already started and Billy was being discussed. All were strangers to me, but I jumped right in and told my story. The respect for this man by people there was very evident. The people talking about him knew him, and that was another neat memory I had of this man.
I just wanted to share that, because of almost 30 years of being a fan, that memory of him sneaking us into the WWF show back then was and still is one of my favorite memories.
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I was very sorry to hear about Billy Red Lyons' passing. As a wrestling fan growing up in the '80s I remember Mr.Lyons announcing Maple Leaf Wrestling every Saturday afternoon and him talking about cards coming to the Ottawa Civic Centre along with his famous line: "doncha dare miss it!" So thank you Mr.Lyons for all the great memories growing up. Rest in piece sir and my deepest condolences to his family and friends.
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For a number of years beginning in the mid-'70s, I worked at CHCH in Hamilton on their remote crews. As part of our regular work schedule we taped and broadcast Maple Leaf Wrestling from every conceivable venue,from Maple Leaf Gardens to the old Hamilton Forum,Hamilton's Germania Club and the studio we occupied on Main Street. It was here I met and worked with Billy Red.We sat many a night in our edit suite on Jackson St., with Jack Tunney, piecing together the current weeks shows.I will always remember Billy's quiet strong voice and his affable character.His stories always made me laugh... mostly the ones that were a little off colour. He will be missed. There are few gentlemen like him.
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I remembered watching Billy Red Lyons as I grew up in Oshawa as a truly great Canadian Wrestler. Later as a pitch man.He will be missed. The kids today missed out on one of the greats. Gods Speed Billy
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So many memories: from a kid watching him tag with Dewey. To being backstage with him when he was being honoured as one of the legends of wrestling, Truly always was classy & I am sure would have been a lot of laughs, from the stories they shared.Thank you for your advice & kind words. Wrestling will surely miss you Billy Red. Rest in peace.
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Billy was a longtime staple of The Sheik's shows here in Detroit from the mid-'60s through the '70s. Although used mainly as a mid-card performer, his great wrestling ability was always appreciated by the Detroit fans. He conducted himself with the utmost of class, inside and outside the ring. Never to busy to stop for a photograph or an autograph, always with a smile and a kind word.
He was always a presence in the dressing room, younger talent always gravitated his way for words of advise, his peers sharing a laugh and spirited conversation.
I will forever remember our dinners shared with Dewey Robertson and Murray Cummings after the shows at one of Detroit's famous Greektown restaurants. He always gave me precious material for one of many stories I wrote about him for the Detroit Body Press program or giving an extra facial expression when I was photographing him ringside.
I was lucky to have enjoyed many of his memorable matches at Maple Leaf Gardens. I was among many of the boys who always gathered in the dressing room hallway to watch him perform.
In this business, it is rare to find an individual whom I have never heard an ill word spoken about. Luis Martinez and Bobo Brazil immediately come to mind. I would have to add Billy Red Lyons to that short list of gentlemen.
I can only repeat one of my favorite lines from the movie The Wizard of Oz
when I think of the legacy Billy has left on the world of professional wrestling -- "A man is not judged by how much he loves, but rather how much he is loved by others."
He was always loved, and he will certainly be missed.
Dave Drason Burzynski, Royal Oak, MI
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When we moved from Newfoundland at age 14, I would wait for Sundays at Maple Leaf Gardens. Being a kid, with long red hair and freckles, I guess I stood out more than others because I was a girl, hanging out waiting to catch a peek at the wrestlers. Billy noticed me, and asked an usher named Denis to let me in free of charge. From that Sunday, I would always be hanging out by the railing waiting for a wave from him. One day, he was with a masked man who signed a scrap of paper with his real name. It was Dewey Robertson. When Dewey realized what he had done he asked for it back. Billy said, "She is a good kid, she will not say what is on that paper." I giggled being a silly teen and handed the paper back. You may be gone from this world, but you will always live in the hearts of your many fans.
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I remember watching him on CHCH out of Hamilton ON Saturday mornings on Maple Leaf Wrestling and the way he promoted the upcoming cards for the Gardens and his interviews with the wrestlers. I liked him a lot better than Mean Gene at the time and it was before the WWF took over all the programming with squash match after squash match (I always felt bad for Iron Mike Sharpe, he growled so well).
Dave Thomson, Oshawa Ont.
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I have many memories of Billy Red, but I would say the best one is the way that he used to acknowledge my friends and I in the crowd at Mapl eLeaf Gardens back in the pre-WWF mid '70s, when the NWA was king. Also, check out You Tube for an amazing interview Billy Red did with Rowdy Roddy Piper.
R.I.P. Billy Red.
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This one really hits home for me as Billy Red Lyons was the first person I ever saw in wrestling. I was flipping channels one Saturday afternoon in the late-summer of 1987 and came across Billy talking about a great card they had lined up at Maple Leaf Gardens and then he mentioned that the main event would feature this man--a man with long blond hair, a deep tan, big muscles, and talking about what I was going to do when Hulkamania ran wild all over me. Since I'd been reading superhero comic books since I was a wee boy (I was 11 when I saw the show), I thought Hulk Hogan was a superhero come to life. I kept watching the rest of the show to see if Hogan would appear again but of course, he never did. At the end of the show, Billy told us about next week's show and delivered his classic line "Don'tcha dare miss it!" so enthusiastically that I was hooked and tuned in the next week as he instructed. Thus, my 22-year love affair with professional wrestling began--all thanks to Billy Red Lyons!
Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada
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Good Lord....all the icons are leaving us!
I can still remember how on Saturday afternoon I'd plunk myself down in front of the television in our Scarborough home and wait to hear the opening of "Maple Leaf Wrestling"! The program came on CHCH-TV out of Hamilton, Channel 11, and it always started with the famous opening guitar solo from "Money for Nothing" from Dire Straits. Obviously I'm dating myself to back in the '80s.
I absolutely loved pro wrestling. It was colorful...lamebrained....and totally entertaining! Sure the images it pushed could be perceived as racist....but I always thought that anyone who got their views on life...and people...from professional wrestling were from the shallow end of the gene pool anyway.
God...how many times did I see Billy "Red" Lyons "interviewing" the wrestlers....and then promoting up-coming matches with his famous "Don'cha dare miss it!" at the end.
It was a time of a certain amount of innocence in pro wrestling... unlike the slick, steroid-fuelled product I see now.
Junkyard Dog... Hulk Hogan... "Rowdy" Roddy Piper... The Iron Sheik... Andre the Giant... Nikolai Volkoff... and all the rest. So often Billy "Red" represented them in my mind, and more than anything, worked with them to promote pro wrestling. He never tried to steal the show.
He always seemed like a real gentleman...and he'll be sorely missed by pro wrestling fans in Canada.
R.I.P. Billy "Red"....the Big Promoter in the Sky will surely welcome you!
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Growing up, my Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent in front of the television watching wrestling, and it was always very exciting to count down the days til Jack Tunney would be brining the WWF wrestlers back to Maple Leaf Gardens so I could go see them live. The man who let me know every weekend who would be on that card was the one and only Billy Red Lyons.
In the early 2000s I had the delight of producing an interview between Billy Red and my LAW co-host Dan The Mouth Lovranski, and to my delight he was such a gracious and polite individual to speak with that it just solidified all of my memories of the guy that always had the knack of getting that mic in the right place at the right time.
Hearing Billy Redís voice always brings me back to those happy childhood memories, and I even feel as though he was an influence on my choice of career. Therefore over the past few years as my little tribute to Billy Red I have ended all my game shows with the line "As Billy Red always says, Donítícha Dare Miss It!" Heíll definitely be missed but not forgotten.
Jason Agnew, co-host, The LAW: Live Audio Wrestling, www.liveaudiowrestling.com
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