Dynamite Kid (English)
Tom Billington is one of the most influential in-ring performers in wrestling history. He is credited as innovating a style of wrestling which took from the British, Canadian, Mexican and Japanese styles. His most famous feuds were against Tiger Mask in Japan, and Bret Hart in Canada.
As a youngster in school, Billington was more interested in sports like wrestling and gymnastics over academics. He also trained in boxing, which instilled toughness in him. His father (the brother of Davey Boy Smith’s mother) was a miner and labourer, and would take Tom to see the wrestling in Wigan. As a way of avoiding work as a coal miner, Billington joined the local wrestling school.
In 1975, Billington joined the reformed Joint Promotions with Max Crabtree as the booker. During his time he won the British Lightweight title in 1977, and the Welterweight title in 1978. Aside from that, Big Daddy remained the top star, and was carefully positioned in tag teams with young bucks like Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and Steven Regal to protect him. The idea was to have the young guys carry the match and tag Daddy in to finish. While it was good for TV, live events suffered as a result. It was around this time that Billington helped Chris Adams’ career and got him noticed by Stampede Wrestling. Adams would go on to train Stone Cold Steve Austin and several other talents.
Due to a lack of push in Joint Promotions, many young English wrestlers took their work to Japan and Canada in the late 70’s. This was a turning point in British Wrestling, as the talent who left went on to become household names in other promotions while British Wrestling struggled to draw like it once had, and there was no one to replace Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and others.
In Stampede Wrestling, Dynamite Kid was first noticed for his matches with upcoming star Bret Hart. Their matches were on another level of athleticism and helped to mold the ‘techincal’ style we know today. Despite them having differing opinions, Bret Hart still claims Dynamite Kid to be “pound-for-pound, the greatest wrestler who ever lived”. In 1979, Dynamite started taking steroids after Junkyard Dog introduced him to Dianabol. He was also introduced to speed by Jake Roberts.
After a successful run in Japan in 1979, Stu Hart switched his working relationship from IPW to New Japan. This was a smart move as the companies worked together throughout the 80’s. Because of this, Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask met in the ring. This was important in the evolution of light heavyweight wrestling, as it put the style on the map and inspired the next generation of wrestlers to join the industry knowing they had a place in a business filled with giants. One of their matches was given the honour of being the first ‘5 Star’ match in wrestling history by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. In 1984, Dynamite won a tournament to claim the UWA/New Japan sanctioned WWF Light Heavyweight Championship.
It was around this time that Chris Benoit showed interest in joining wrestling. He looked up to Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid as his idols. After watching tapes of matches between Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask, Chris was determined to follow in his footsteps. When he debuted in 1985, he was given the name ‘Dynamite’ Chris Benoit, and the resemblance was uncanny as he perfected his trademark moves such as the Diving Headbutt, the Snap Suplex, and the way he worked. For the rest of his career, he worked a style similar to Dynamite, with the same level of intensity. Daniel Bryan continued this tradition by adopting some of Dynamite’s moves and mannerisms into his arsenal.
In 1984, Dynamite Kid joined the World Wrestling Federation with Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart. After winning his debut tag match with partner Bret, the pair split with Dynamite joining Davey as The British Bulldogs, and Bret joining Jim Neidhart in The Hart Foundation, and the two teams started a rivalry. At Wrestlemania II, The British Bulldogs were accompanied by Captain Lou Albano and Ozzy Osbourne to challenge the tag team champions Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake. They were victorious.
In late 1986, Dynamite picked up an injury in a tag match while holding one-half of the tag team titles. During this time, Davey Boy defended the titles with guest partners in Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog and Billy Jack Haynes. While recovering from back injury, Bret Hart came to visit and stated that Vince had sent him to bring the tag belt back to the promotion, however Dynamite refused to hand it over. Shortly after checking himself out against doctor’s orders, Vince asked Dynamite and Davey to drop the titles to The Iron Sheik and Volkoff, and again refused as he wanted to drop the titles to the Hart Foundation.
In an odd match, Dynamite needed to be helped to the ring to defend the titles. He was knocked out early by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone as the team lost to The Hart Foundation. The team never reached success again, as they were primarily used as glorified jobbers to the top teams. in WWF, he was known as a tough guy and stiff worker. Foley went on to state he couldn’t eat solid food for a while after a stiff shot to the jaw. Randy Savage once asked Dynamite to watch his back in a bar filled with NWA Wrestlers. He was involved in many real-life backstage altercations with Jacques Rougeau, one incident saw Dynamite lose a few teeth after Rougeau punched him in the face. Dynamite and Bulldog left the WWF in 1988 over the principle of issuing complimentary plane tickets.
After leaving, the team returned to working in Stampede and Japan. In 1990, Davey broke up the team by returning to the WWF as The British Bulldog. As he trademarked the name in his first run, he was legally able to do so, and warned UK promotions not to label Dynamite Kid as a “British Bulldog” on their cards. Johnny Smith took Davey’s spot, as Smith and Dynamite worked in Japan as The British Bruisers. This was short-lived as he announced retirement in 1991. His premature retirement was due to years of steroid abuse (and one case of accidentally taking horse steroids), high-impact style, and illegal drug taking such as cocaine.
He wrestled again with Johnny Smith in 1993. He tried to get his younger brother into wrestling, and promoted tours, but they were not realised. It was round this time he divorced from his wife and moved back home to Wigan. Around this time he almost died twice in the same day after taking LSD with Dan Spivey. He wrestled his last match in 1996, but was a mere shadow of his former self. He suffered a seizure afterwards and was taken to hospital.
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