The Forgotten Bulldog: “British Bruiser” Johnny Smith

Johnny Smith
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When people think of the British Bulldog family unit of Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, it usually stops at just those two. The duo are also tied in with the legendary Canadian Hart Family, due in part to their Canadian wrestling roots with Stu Hart‘s Stampede Wrestling, and also through marital ties – Dynamite was previously married to the sister of Bret Hart‘s first wife, Julie, while Davey Boy married Diana Hart, one of the Hart children. But there was a third member of the Bulldog family, and it was another UK wrestler known professionally as Johnny Smith. Unlike Dynamite and Davey Boy’s real-life cousin relationship, Johnny Smith was a kayfabe member of their family – he was actually John Hindley, a UK grappler with no family connection to Tom Billington or David Smith, who had previously competed in the UK as John Savage.

In 1981, at the age of 15, John Hundley began training as a pro wrestler under his uncle, former UK wrestling star “Dr. Death” Ted Betley (who also trained Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith in the 1970s, prior to them heading to Calgary). In 1982, as John Savage, he began to appear on World of Sport in the United Kingdom, where he competed regularly until 1985. Like many UK residents in the early 1980s, Canada offered a new land of opportunity, and in 1985, John and his new wife Jane, emigrated from England to live in Canada. They immigrated to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he would join Dynamite and Davey Boy in Stampede Wrestling.

Rebranded as Johnny Smith upon his arrival in Stampede Wrestling, he was revealed to be the brother of Davey Boy Smith. With The British Bulldogs now one of the hottest tag teams in the WWF, their presence in Stampede Wrestling was limited to only a handful of shows each year, so having Davey Boy’s “brother” in Stampede helped to keep the connection alive in-between their appearances. For his debut year in 1986, he quickly aligned with the Hart family, mostly with Owen Hart in tag matches, but also appearing alongside Keith Hart, Hart brother-in-law, Ben Bassarab, and close Hart family friend, Brian Pillman.

Johnny Smith would become a top singles star with Stampede Wrestling, winning the Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship several months after his debut, in the summer of 1986, defeating one of the promotion’s top heels, Gama Singh, for the title. Over the next few years, he would win the title four times, tying Chris Benoit and Dynamite Kid for the third most title reigns, behind Bruce Hart‘s eight and Gama Singh’s six. At a WWF Live Event in Calgary in early 1987, he would fight 6x NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion (and fellow Stampede star) Les Thornton to a time limit draw. In June 1987, he would go on to make his Japanese debut with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), facing Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta) at Korakuen Hall in his NJPW debut. Over the course of his first tour, he would face the likes of Tatsumi Fujinami, Kuniaki Kobayashi, and others in singles action, while tagging with the likes of Bad News Brown, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Buzz Sawyer.

In 1988, Johnny Smith turned on his “brother” Davey Boy and their intense feud would see the Hart family, including Diana and Owen Hart, getting involved in this intense Blood Brothers feud. By the beginning of 1989, he also began feuding with Dynamite Kid as well. They would eventually make peace and in the spring of 1989, Smith would join The British Bulldogs as a 6-man tag team entrant during tours for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). But shortly after their return to Stampede from AJPW, Dynamite Kid turned on Davey Boy and instead began working with Johnny Smith in a new more aggressive tandem known as The British Bruisers. The Bruisers would leave Stampede soon after, heading to All Japan full time – Dynamite Kid had left the WWF in late 1988. Dynamite had originally planned on bringing the original British Bulldogs to AJPW in 1990, but Davey Boy Smith had secretly re-signed with WWF and left the team to return as The British Bulldog. Dynamite simply replaced Davey Boy with Johnny, who was already known to Japanese fans from his NJPW stint and previous year in All Japan. By the spring of 1991, the Bruisers had won AJPW’s All Asia Tag Team Championships, the tag titles whose lineage went back to 1955 with Rikidozan‘s Japan Wrestling Association (JWA) and had migrated over to AJPW in 1976.

The British Bruisers remained a strong tag team in All Japan until December 1991 when Dynamite Kid was forced to retire from the sport due to injuries. But now that the Japanese wrestling scene had been fully exposed to Johnny Smith, he was determined to remain in Japan. He competed for the WWF twice more – at WWF Live Events in England in the spring of 1991 – but it was AJPW that Johnny Smith would call home for the next decade, competing in All Japan regularly from 1990 until his retirement in 2003. While he would have high-profile singles matches against the likes of Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa, he would be best known for his work in tag team wrestling and 6-man tags, competing alongside nearly every big name in 1990s All Japan, including Vader and Stan Hansen. He would win the All Asia Tag Team titles again in 1998 with Wolf Hawkfield, and then the AJPW World Tag Team titles with Taiyo Kea in 2001.

During the 1990s, he also had two stints with ECW, starting with a three-month run in 1996 that saw him pick up wins over Louie Spicolli, Super Nova, and Devon Storm. He returned for another three-month run in 1999, this time facing the likes of Rob Van Dam, Sabu, and Jerry Lynn, and twice challenging ECW World Champion Mike Awesome. In the early 2000s, he also faced Satoshi Kojima in a title match for the Major League Wrestling (MLW) World Heavyweight Championship as part of MLW Underground.

In 2003, Johnny Smith collapsed in the ring with All Japan, and though he made a recovery, the accumulated injuries had taken their toll. He was forced to retire from the industry. He remained in Canada, where he became a police officer in Calgary, and has remained largely outside of the wrestling world since his departure. While his exploits in North America are largely forgotten due to competing for smaller promotions, in Japan, he created a legacy that connected him to the other Bulldogs, his “brother” Davey Boy Smith and “cousin” Dynamite Kid.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Make sure to watch All Japan Pro Wrestling on AJPW.TV.

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