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WRESTLING COLUMNS

A History of Dynamite
December 16, 2007 by Jonathan Cruickshank


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'The Dynamite Kid' Tom Billington was one of the most revolutionary wrestlers of our time. He was the innovator of extremely hard ring work and the man responsible for the pace a common wrestling match employs today. He will forever be remembered for his intense physical matches against the likes of Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask I), Mitsuhara Misawa (Tiger Mask II), Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco, The Cobra and, of course, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart. Dynamite became legendary for his work in the USA, Canada, and above all, Japan, but ultimately paid the price for all the abuse his body took in the ring throughout his career, but what a career it was...

Growing up in Golbourne, in the Borough of Wigan, Thomas Billington excelled in boxing and rugby, before being asked if he wanted to wrestle by Ted Beckley, who himself used to wrestle as 'Dr. Death.'

For three years, everyday of the week other then Sunday, Billington was trained to wrestle by Beckley. He also sent Billington to Wrestling Gyms to have sessions in Catch Wrestling, where he learnt to deal with a lot of pain from experienced wrestlers twisting his limbs up. He even spent a few lessons at the legendary Riley's Gym, also known as the Snake Pit, which I'm sure he learnt soon enough was more than just a name.

In 1975, Billington had his first match in Malvern Wells against Bobby Hems, in which he not only won, but also went under the name of the Dynamite Kid for the first time, right from his debut.

Only a young kid in his teens, Dynamite spent the first few years of his career wrestling for Jack Atherton and then moving onto Max Crabtree's Dale Martin Promotions. It was here he teamed with Vic Falkner and Bert Royal in six-man tag matches and in regular tag matches where he teamed with Big Daddy. In these matches Dynamite usually played the young rookie getting beaten up by the villains before tagging in his hero tag partner who would come in fresh and win the match.

Eventually, Dynamite defeated 'Cry-baby' Jim Breaks to win the British Lightweight title and shortly after won the European Welterweight title by beating Bobby Ryan. Professional Wrestling in the UK at this time was much more popular then it is today, and business for Max Crabtree was good, justifying running shows seven nights a week. Being one of the champions, Dynamite was required to wrestle every night, getting more experience and practice at performing. His ring work got better and better as he was wrestling guys like Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco and Marty Jones, both experienced junior heavyweight wrestlers who had had success in Japan.

In 1978, Dynamite was scouted by Bruce Hart to wrestle in Canada for Stampede Wrestling. Taking the offer, Dynamite went to live in Canada and became a regular on TV, having great matches with The Cobra, Bad News Allen, Bruce Hart, Keith Hart and a young Bret Hart. He battled in streetfights, cage matches, ladder matches and won the British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title five times. From here, opportunities came for Dynamite to wrestle in Hawaii, Germany and Japan, where his career boomed.

Dynamite's hard-hitting, technical style suited very well in the land of the Rising Sun, where he worked for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and this is where his matches against the first Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) took place. These were extremely fast-paced matches that got everyone talking and were great displays of athletic ability, packed with kip-ups, suplexes, dives, piledrivers, spinkicks, back somersaults, moonsaults and other moves just too fast to make out.

Around this time he also wrestled for Pacific Northwest Wrestling where he won the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team championship, teamed with the Assassin. On September 7th 1983, he defeated Curt Henning to win the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight championship, which he held until October 7th 1983 when he lost to Billy Jack Haynes.

By this time, Dynamite's cousin, Davey Boy Smith was involved with the Stampede and New Japan promotions, and was a regular opponent of Dynamite for a while before becoming tag team partners. On February 7th 1984, Dynamite defeated The Cobra to become the WWF Junior Heavyweight Champion (the title was shared by both New Japan and the WWF). He also became Stampede Wrestling's North American Heavyweight champion by defeating Killer Khan on March 9th 1984, which he held until March 30th 1984 when he was defeated by Bad News Allen.

In November 1984, Dynamite and Davey Boy Smith left New Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling, resulting in Dynamite vacating the WWF Junior Heavyweight title (which still belonged to New Japan). In AJPW, Dynamite had a lot of matches against Tiger Mask II (Mitsuhara Misawa) to continue the feud he had had with the original Tiger Mask back in NJPW. These were very hard -hitting bouts that truly lived up to the Strong Style of Japan (making full contact with every strike and manoeuvre). Whilst partnered with Davey Boy he faced Terry and Dory Funk as well as Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada in tag-team matches that he still holds in high regard as being very intense fights.

Also in 1984, Dynamite and Davey Boy were recruited by the World Wrestling Federation and had excellent tag team matches against the Hart Foundation(Bret Hart and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart), competing as The British Bulldogs. On April 7th 1986, The Bulldogs defeated the team of Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine and Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake to become the WWF World Tag Team Champions at WrestleMania II. It was around this time that Dynamite started to physically feel terrible, coping with a bad shoulder and a bad back.

Unfortunately, his years of wrestling Tiger Mask I in extremely physical matches caught up to him when he ruptured two discs in his back during a match pitting the Bulldogs against Don Muraco and Bob Orton Jr. Due to this, Dynamite couldn't wrestle without taking painkillers and was left in poor condition. The Hart Foundation made easy work of the Bulldogs as a result and took the WWF World Tag Team titles off them on January 26th 1987.

The Bulldogs left the WWF in November 1988 and went back to Stampede Wrestling where they beat Jerry Morrow and the Cuban Assassin to win the Stampede Tag Team titles. Dynamite also joined with Johnny Smith, another British wrestler who was actually Ted Beckley's nephew, to become the British Bruisers.

In 1989, the Bulldogs were back in AJPW, in which Johnny Smith also joined them. In December 1990, Davey Boy left for the World Wrestling Federation without Dynamite and the Bulldogs finally split up. Unfortunately, Dynamite and Davey never spoke to each other again after the split. Dynamite continued tagging with Johnny Smith and together won the AJPW All Asia Tag Team titles on April 6th 1991, defeating Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and Kenta Kobashi.

Since Stampede Wrestling had closed down in 1989 (revived again in 2005), Dynamite went back to England to find work, regularly getting booked for Oric Williams and Brian Dixon. His body was breaking up more as he went back into his routine of wrestling seven days a week, just like back when he was wrestling as a teenager for Max Crabtree. Only now his body had been through a lot of wear and tear during the past 13 years he'd been wrestling in other countries. He had to quit working in Japan due to the physical style practiced there being too much for his body to take anymore, so he wrestled his last tour for AJPW in 1991, teaming with Johnny Smith again in the annual tag team tournament.

In 1996, Dynamite made two one-night returns to Japan to work for Michinoku Pro. On his first return he arrived to the ring as a mystery masked man and stood face-to-face with Satoru Sayama, and unmasked to reveal himself. The two hadn't seen each other in a long time and couldn't believe what they were seeing. Two of the most revolutionary junior heavyweight wrestlers were in the ring for the first time in 12 years.

Unfortunately, on his second return to the promotion, he wrestled what would be his last match. It was on October 10th 1996, featuring Dynamite, Kuniaki Kobayashi and Dos Caras against The Great Sasuke, Tiger Mask I and Mil Mascaras. It was a match pitting some of the most legendary high flyers in the history of professional wrestling. Dynamite apparently felt very poorly throughout the match, but managed to deliver his dangerous tombstone piledriver (which he jumped in the air to do) and his team got the win. However, on the way home to England, Dynamite suffered a seizure and had to stop competing, ending an historic career that had inspired many.

He settled down and got married to his second wife, Dot, but was soon unable to use his own legs. He is now in a wheelchair, the result of the damage his body took during the course of his 16 year career. Whilst he can no longer walk, his legacy runs throughout the Professional Wrestling industry. His matches with Tiger Mask I have a huge part in making Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Noah what they are today. There would be no X-division in TNA, and Junior Heavyweights such as Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho would never have had the fast-paced style that got them over in the U.S. The dangerous moves he performed, such as suplexing opponents out of the ring, and the time he performed a knee drop from on top of a 20-foot steel cage, played a part in inspiring the heavy stunts performed in certain wrestling matches today.

Davey Boy Smith died before the two could ever meet again, suffering a heart attack, likely brought on by past anabolic steroid use (both Bulldogs were known to use a large amount of steroids to get bigger, which a lot of other wrestlers did as well). With Davey Boy dying prematurely and Dynamite in a wheelchair, The Bulldogs were two men who both paid the price for wrestling stardom. It is important to look at history to learn from the mistakes of others, so that we don't make them ourselves. This is particularly what people in the Professional Wrestling industry should do, so they can see the mistakes of steroid use and overworking and make sure it doesn't happen again. His ring work may have been magnificent, but he went on at it for too long despite knowing the pain it was causing his body. But Junior Heavyweights of today and of the future can now see that there is a time to retreat from the extreme ring work and let their body recover whilst working a slower style for a few years. They could even take a break from wrestling for a while. Maybe Chris Benoit should have done this, but whilst he may not have learnt from someone else's past mistakes, it doesn't mean that we can't. A great deal of credit must be given to the Dynamite Kid for writing his autobiography, Pure Dynamite: The price you pay for wrestling stardom, which sent out the message of his mistakes to others. However, he is quoted in the finishing lines of his book as saying "But I'd do it all again. I wouldn't change a thing. Which I know sounds strange coming from a guy whose wrestling career put him in a wheelchair, but it's true. Wrestling was my life, and I loved it. No regrets. I had a blast." To know that wrestling left him disabled, but to still have such a good attitude about the sport, shows a genuine love for professional wrestling that tells you why he had such a good career.

Credit: Pure Dynamite: The price you pay for wrestling stardom, Wikipedia, MySpace/dynamitekidtribute

by Jonathan Cruickshank (View/Submit your feedback here)..




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