Billy Red Lyons Death – Cancer

1932-2009 (Age 77)

billy red lyons

Canadian wrestler Billy “Red” Lyons was one of the many territory era grapplers who made wrestling look so easy, regardless of who he was wrestling and whether he was working in a singles or tag team match. Lyons’ tag team with Red Bastien would earn him and Bastien a spot in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, one of many honors earned during his nearly 30-year wrestling career.

William Snip was born in Hamilton, Ontario on May 17, 1932. According to the book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams, Snip broke into wrestling at the Westdale Barbell Club in Hamilton, Ontario. Eventually, the gym’s owner suggested Snip work as a professional wrestler (168). At the time, pro wrestling paid more than other major league sports with Lyons recalling at the time it was more lucrative than the NHL, CFL, and even the NFL.

A Legendary Tag Team

Billy Red Lyons debuted in 1956.  Lyons’ red hair earned him the nickname Billy “Red” Lyons, but his grappling game got him over. His technical skills quickly impressed fans and promoters alike as a skilled mat wrestler. Like many wrestlers at the time, he was capable of working singles or tag team matches.

However, Billy Red Lyons proved the perfect tag team partner for several big names such as Ilio DiPaolo, the Destroyer, Fritz Von Erich, and Ray Gunkel. Despite the success with these teammates, Lyons’ tag team work reached a new high when he teamed with fellow redhead, Red Bastien. The team worked as The Flying Redheads, battling villainous tag teams such as Chris Colt and Bobby Duncum and the Blackjacks (Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan).

Blackjack Mulligan ranked the Flying Redheads as “the greatest team of all time,” considerable praise from a WWE Hall of Famer and tag team great in his own right. During the 1970s, Lyons teamed with Dewey Robertson in Maple Leaf Wrestling as the Crusaders, another championship-winning team for Billy Red Lyons.

the crusaders dewey robertson and billy red lyons

The Crusaders: Dewey Robertson and Billy Red Lyons. NWA International Tag Team Champions in the mid 1970s.

Later Work

Billy Red adroitly adapted to a role as a wrestling interview man and announcer in Frank Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling. Billy appeared on the promotion’s various TV programs and his catchphrase “Dontcha dare miss it” encouraged fans to attend house shows and to tune in to the next week’s wrestling program.

Billy also wrestled on occasion and while his spot on the card wasn’t as high as it was earlier, his popularity and ability to work ensured an entertaining bout anytime he stepped into the ring.

After the WWF bought out Maple Leaf Wrestling, Lyons continued working in Maple Leaf Wrestling and eventually worked backstage for Vince McMahon’s growing promotion.

billy red lyons and vince mcmahon

Billy Red Lyons remained a fixture among the wrestling community after he retired from the WWE. According to author Greg Oliver:

Billy was sort of a Godfather-like personage at the gatherings, the one who really succeeded out of Hamilton, but returned home. The oldtimers [sic] would angle for time with the frail but still sharp Lyons, who continued to drive himself to the gatherings from his Kitchener home.

Billy Red Lyons Death

Billy’s later years saw him battle cancer. Despite a valiant fight, Billy Red Lyons died on June 22, 2009. He was 77.

Other pro wrestlers who died in 2009 include  Andrew “Test” Martin, Buddy Rose, “Captain” Lou Albano, Steve Williams, Mitsuharu Misawa, Steven Dunn, and Umaga.

What are your favorite memories of Billy Red Lyons? Let us know in the comments below.