“The Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington Passes Away at Age 60 (VIDEOS)

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One of the most influential professional wrestlers of the 1980s, Tom Billington – known professionally as The Dynamite Kid – passed away this morning on his 60th birthday. Billington has been suffering from various health issues for the past several years.

Tom Billington got his start in 1975, when he decided to pursue professional wrestling as a ways of escaping the life of a miner that his father had. Working his way up the ranks of the mid-70’s UK scene, he captured the British Lightweight and Welterweight titles early in his career. In 1978, along with his cousin Davey Boy Smith, the pair were scouted by Bruce Hart and relocated to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to continue their training with Stu Hart and compete for Stampede Wrestling. Dynamite Kid’s explosive style made him one of the hottest young stars in Stampede, especially after a feud with one of Stampede’s other emerging young talents, Bret Hart, over the Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight title. During his early years in Stampede, Dynamite became the tag partner of Stampede star The Great Gama, often competing against Davey Boy Smith.

In 1980, Dynamite Kid began to work with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), as Stampede had a working relationship with NJPW, starting with a feud with Tatsumi Fujinami, then the WWF Light Heavyweight title (it had become a Japan-centric title by this point), as well as a series of classic matches with Tiger Mask that have become essential viewing for many wrestling students. By the time Vince McMahon purchased Stampede Wrestling in 1984, Billington was a 3x Stampede Mid-Heavyweight Champion, 5x Stampede Tag Team Champion and held the WWF Light Heavyweight title in Japan.

Following McMahon’s purchase, Billington was brought to the main roster – alongside his cousin Davey Boy – as well as Bret Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. The duo of Dynamite and Davey Boy, called The British Bulldogs, became one of the most popular tag teams of the Rock N’ Wrestling Era, with classic rivalries against their Stampede co-horts The Hart Foundation as well as The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine) and Demolition. They duo defeated the Dream Team for the WWF World Tag Team titles in early 1986, holding them for nearly 300 days. Their title reign was actually cut short due to increasing problems with Dynamite’s back, which forced him to require back surgery. When he returned, he was never quite the same wrestler, although someone like Dynamite at 75% was still better than most at 100%. In 1988, the Bulldogs left the WWF and returned to Stampede Wrestling, which Vince had sold back to the Hart Family a couple years previously.

Back in Stampede, Dynamite Kid would start having some stellar matches against another Hart son making his mark, the youngest son of Stu and Helen, Owen Hart. The Bulldogs would also return to Japan, but this time the duo would work for All Japan. When Davey Boy Smith returned to the WWF in the early 1990s, Dynamite would chose to stay with All-Japan, instead partnering with Johnny Smith. With his injuries mounting, Dynamite would work more and more tag matches, until injuries finally took its toll. He wrestled his final match with Michinoku Pro in 1996.

The wrestling community paid it’s respects today to a legend in the business and one of a handful of stars who could truly be considered pioneers and innovators of the sport.

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There are people in life that have a ripple effect both professionally and personally. Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington was one of those people.  The second professional wrestling match of my career was against Dynamite. I benefited from his greatness and through our matches in Stampede, WWE, and everywhere in-between, I became a better wrestler because of him. Dynamite truly was the best wrestler ever, pound-for-pound. Tom was family, my brother-in-law, and we were very close. In many ways I felt like one of the few people who truly knew him, both the good and the bad. I saw Tom one final time this past June in England and I can only hope he is finally at peace. My thoughts are with his children Browyne, Marek, and Amaris, and the entire Billington family.

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