Last week’s edition of Dark Side of the Ring took a deep, unsettling dive into the life of Grizzly Smith and his children. This week, the show shifted gears toward British professional wrestler Dynamite Kid. Many fans will best know him as one-half of The British Bulldogs alongside Davey Boy Smith. From Stampede Wrestling to All Japan Pro Wrestling to the World Wrestling Federation, the real-life Thomas Billington has been regarded as an innovator in wrestling. However, his personal life proved to be anything but inspiring. Here is what viewers learned from the episode aptly titled The Dynamite Kid.
Dynamite Kid was a trailblazer in wrestling.
Real name Thomas Billington, Dynamite Kid helped to usher in an era of faster-paced, harder-hitting wrestling. This would go on to be emulated by the likes of Lance Storm, who spoke on this episode of Dark Side of the Ring.
Dynamite Kid trained at The Snake Pit under Ted Betley.
It was here where he learned, undertaking serious punishment. Mick Foley believed this contributed to Dynamite’s approach. A young Mick Foley, who regarded Dynamite Kid as one of his heroes, faced the established British Bulldogs in a tag team contest. Foley recalled taking a serious hit from Dynamite. As a result, Foley’s jaw was dislocated and he couldn’t eat solid foods for 3 weeks.
Michelle Billington was married to Thomas Billington.
Michelle is the sister of Julie Hart, the ex-wife of Bret Hart. Julie was protective of Michelle, almost in a motherly way. Michelle first saw Thomas Billington in the ring with Hart. Thomas and Michelle would get to know one another, sparking a relationship. She was 18 when they were married. Thomas was scared to hold their eldest daughter, Bronwyne, seeing her as delicate. Their youngest child is their daughter, Amaris. Both daughters spoke on this episode.
By the 1980s, Dynamite Kid was a top performer.
In addition to Stampede Wrestling, he was a star in Japan, including All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In the latter, his work with the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama, was highly regarded, due to the quickness and execution of the matches. Mick Foley recalled discovering this work, as a young fan, on VHS. At his short stature and size, Dynamite Kid had to overperform, even at the risk of his own body.
In 1984, Dynamite Kid signed with the World Wrestling Federation.
He joined his extended family members, including Davey Boy Smith, in the company. During his time in the WWF, Dynamite became more muscular. He was a “pure muscle,” according to former professional wrestler Dan Spivey. Nonetheless, Dynamite Kid’s explosive offense made him a star. The episode covered steroid use as well. Scott McGhee recalled wrestlers giving each other steroid shots, with the needles being thrown at the wall like darts afterward.
Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith became The British Bulldogs.
Together, they brought a faster, harder style compared to other teams in the WWF. They earned a WWF Tag Team Championship match at WrestleMania II, where they won the titles.
His behavior outside of the ring became increasingly erratic, leading to personal conflicts.
Billington put sleeping pills in the drink of one wrestler, Mitch Snow. Billington believed Snow to be disrespectful. As the wrestler slept, Billington and Smith sneaked into the room. Billington defecated in his bag and shaved his eyebrows. Billington’s jokes were less playful and more aggressive.
During a non-televised match in 1986, a simple dropdown resulted in a back injury.
Billington was rushed to the hospital, where surgery was performed. Two discs were removed from his back. Roughly two weeks later, he was back in the ring, albeit in no condition to perform. The British Bulldogs would soon drop the titles. Billington was barely involved in the match, being struck from behind by Jimmy Hart‘s megaphone.
Months later, Billington returned to the ring, resulting in more personal conflicts.
One night, Michelle ordered tonic water. Billington drank and spat it out before angrily asking why she would order it. On the ride home, Billington argued with Michelle. As she was about to go to sleep, Billington ordered her out of bed. He shoved her in a closet and ordered her to stay there the rest of the night. She would soon give birth to their son, Marek. According to Michelle, Billington was more patient with Marek, perhaps out of guilt.
Dynamite Kid was involved in multiple backstage encounters with Jacques Rougeau.
The Fabulous Rougeaus once wrestled The British Bulldogs to a draw. While the Rougeaus were pleased with the result, Dynamite was not. Backstage, Jacques Rougeau was playing cards with Mr. Perfect. Suddenly, Rougeau was struck from behind by Dynamite, which was followed by a mounted assault, swelling Rougeau’s face. Injured and fearful for his life, Rougeau plotted revenge.
Rougeau was suggested, by his father, to get a roll of quarters. Hours before a TV taping, Rougeau used the roll of quarters and struck Dynamite across the face; it’s also been said he used brass knuckles or a knuckle duster instead. The impact caused blood, as well as four teeth, to fly from Dynamite’s mouth. Rougeau threatened that, next time, he would put Dynamite in a wheelchair. This encounter seemed to damage Dynamite’s reputation. Dynamite plotted revenge of his own. Unlike Rougeau, he wouldn’t be able to carry it out.
Dino Bravo gave Thomas Billington “a cautionary warning.”
Dino Bravo had ties to organized crime. In response to said warning, Billington presented Michelle with a gun. He informed his wife of potential mafia involvement. Billington spoke to Bravo, who said he saw an envelope with Billington’s name on it, as well as his family’s address and a picture of their house. Furthermore, he was told that if there was any retaliation on their end, the Billington family would be dead. This resulted in the family selling their house and moving.
Rougeau spoke about the potential mob involvement, too. He regarded Bravo as a “stooge” to The British Bulldogs; in other words, anything Rougeau said to Bravo would be brought to the Bulldogs. Rougeau wrote a fictitious name on a sheet of paper and presented it to Bravo, saying that if the person on the paper wasn’t called every night, “things will be taken care of.” Billington’s time in the WWF would end following the Survivor Series 1988 event.
Dynamite Kid would return to Japan, though in pain.
Despite the aforementioned pain, he continued to wrestle at a high level. During a tour in Japan, he complained about pain in his arm. It was discovered that there were torn ligaments in his arm. This intensified Dynamite’s rage, resulting in fights at home, in addition to becoming more involved with drugs and drinking. He would also watch matches from his past, including those with Tiger Mask, reminiscing on his best days in wrestling.
Michelle recalled a tumultuous New Year’s Eve and a breaking point moment.
Along with a group of friends, Billington came home at 10 PM. His shirt was covered with blood, his cheek was cut, and he was wearing sunglasses. He told young Bronwyne that he simply fell down.
Billington’s continued behavior impacted Michelle, who became suicidal. She gave him a one-way ticket to England. In response, Billington dragged Michelle, who was pregnant with Amaris by this time, by her hair. He pulled her across the floor and executed a chokehold. When Michelle refused to leave, Billington grabbed a gun, threatening her to leave, even putting the gun to her head. All the while, their children watched in hysterics. Michelle called the police, but ultimately, she took the children and left.
Billington moved back to England in 1991. During this time, Michelle gave birth to Amaris. Billington would soon reach out to Michelle, believing that he had a problem. He wrestled his retirement match in Japan.
Billington would soon become involved in bare-knuckle fights.
Five years following the aforementioned retirement match, he returned to Japan for a comeback. However, it showcased a shadow of the former Dynamite Kid. He became incredibly skinny, practically skin and bone, by this point. Not long after, he lost the use of his left leg, confining him to a wheelchair. He would never return to Canada to see his family.
Michelle was interviewed for a Chris Benoit documentary.
This documentary was created due to the media frenzy following the Benoit family tragedy in 2007. This particular documentary focused on domestic abuse at the hands of wrestlers. It was here where she spoke about Billington’s domestic abuse, in public, for the first time. The night prior, she revealed to her children the complicated truth of their father.
One day, Bronwyne decided to see her father without him knowing.
Amaris declined to do so. Bronwyne traveled to England for a surprise visit. When she saw his father confined to a wheelchair, after 15 years of separation, she broke down crying. Billington cried as well, apologizing to his daughter; this was the first time he apologized, for anything, to her. By this time, his health declined tremendously. He would also suffer a stroke in 2013.
Thomas Billington passed away on December 5, 2018.
Despite his past, he remains one of the most influential figures in professional wrestling. However, his story is one that can’t be told without a sad ending. Michelle understood that his legacy, as a wrestler, was what he wanted to give his children. Foley said that Dynamite Kid isn’t the first and won’t be the last to suffer for their art, paying for it each day for the rest of their life.
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. Catch Dark Side of the Ring on VICE, with new episodes airing each Thursday at 9 PM EST.
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