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When they were young: Billy Red Lyons
By FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

Billy Red Lyons. Photo by Terry Dart.

  Sacrifice and dedication were his hallmarks, but sports fans will forever associate William Lyons with those unmistakable red locks.

The color has changed to a hue of grey and white, a reflection of his age, but wrestling fans still affectionately refer to his as Billy Red Lyons.

A strapping 6-foot-2, 240-pound dynamo, who was - and still is - a model of physical strength, Lyons was revered for his scientific skills, but nonetheless had a vicious streak.

The key to Lyons' success inside the squared circle was basic hard work.

"I was a product of the school of hard knocks," reminisces Lyons from his home in Dundas, where he and his wife Norma reside.

In May of this year, Lyons will celebrate his 54th birthday and second year of retirement from the mayhem of professional wrestling.

Born and raised in Dundas, Lyons attended Westdale High School and at 20 decided to pursue a wrestling career.

He travelled all over the globe and held various championship titles, including the world tag- team belts in 1968 with partner Red Bass Dean.

"Like anything else, there were ups and downs. Naturally, when you get an injury you have second thoughts. You wonder if you've done the right thing. Leg casts, ankles broken, back injuries that kept me out for up to three months, all these pains are catching up to me now.

"But you know something?" adds Lyons. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Promoter Frank Tunney was one of the people who helped Lyons when his career was in its infancy.

Immortal mat idols Lou Thesz and Verne Gagne were the attractions in Lyons' era.

The details are somewhat sketchy, but Lyons believes his first match occurred in Kitchener- Waterloo.

"It was in a legion or it could have been at a high school."

In the late 1950s, Lyons was one of wrestling's biggest attractions in the southern U.S. and Asia.

Lyons was a master of the sleeper and figure-four leg lock, but his greatest ability was his sense of showmanship and dedication.

He's now employed by Jack Tunney and is seen every weekend on Maple Leaf Wrestling interviewing today's wrestling and occasionally providing color commentary.

Fans may remember Lyons and partner Dewey Robertson as the popular Crusaders.

"No one like to grow old," continued Lyons.

"I don't feel old but you're only fooling yourself when you turn 50 and think you can do the same things you were doing at 40.

"I knew when to step down and make room for the younger guys. When you try to hang on too long, you'll feel humiliated and depressed. I love wrestling. It's been my life and I wouldn't know what to do without wrestling."

RELATED LINKS

  • Billy Red Lyons bio and story archive