Billington as part of The British Bulldogs
|Birth name||Thomas Billington|
|Born||5 December 1958|
Golborne, Lancashire, England
|Died||5 December 2018 (aged 60)|
Wigan, Greater Manchester, England
(m. 1982; div. 1991)
(m. 1997; died 2018)
Hart (by marriage)
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Dynamite Kid|
|Billed height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Billed weight||103.5 kg (228 lb)|
|Billed from||Liverpool, England|
|Trained by||Ted Betley|
|Debut||24 December 1975|
|Retired||10 October 1996|
Thomas Billington (5 December 1958 – 5 December 2018), best known by the ring name the Dynamite Kid, was a British professional wrestler. Trained by former wrestler "Dr Death" Ted Betley, he competed in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Stampede Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), and New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) in the mid-to-late-1980s. With his cousin Davey Boy Smith, he is also known for having been one half of the tag team The British Bulldogs. He also had notable feuds with Tiger Mask in Japan and Bret Hart in Canada.
Billington is considered by many, including Bret Hart and Dave Meltzer, to have been one of wrestling's most influential in-ring performers, having increased the level of athleticism involved in the art, bringing together styles from Britain, Mexico, Canada and Japan.
Billington has the distinction of being a performer (along with "Tiger Mask" Satoru Sayama) in the first five star rated match by Dave Meltzer, for their NJPW Sumo Hall Show 1983 match. This is thought of very highly in the industry.
Billington was born in Golborne, Lancashire, England. He has two sisters and a younger brother named Mark. His father Bill and uncle Eric Billington were boxers in their youth and his grandfather Joe Billington was a bare-knuckle boxer. He was a member of the Billington family. One of his ancestors James Billington was also a wrestler.
Academic work was not a priority to him, but he was drawn to sports at his comprehensive school; his adherence to it, particularly wrestling and gymnastics, helped him develop a relatively small but powerful and agile shape. In addition, he had also received training in boxing during his formative years, which helped instill toughness in him before his career.
His father, the brother of Davey Boy Smith's mother, was a miner and itinerant labourer who often took the young Billington to see wrestling matches in Wigan, well known for its wrestling tradition. It was during a home visit that he caught the attention of Ted Betley, who had been running a professional wrestling school in his home; it was here that Billington began his training, as a way of avoiding the back-breaking work of the coal mines.
Professional wrestling career
Early years (1975–1984)
Billington was trained by former wrestler "Dr Death" Ted Betley after a meeting at his fathers work introduced the two. Dynamite Kid made his debut working in 1975 for Max Crabtree. Kid's first match filmed for TV was taped 30 June 1976 in Lincoln (and transmitted 30 October by which time another match against Pete Meredith had been filmed and screened) saw him lose by technical knockout to veteran heel "Strongman" Alan Dennison after injuring his throat on the top ring rope. However, Dennison was so impressed by the technical skill of his young opponent that he refused the win and consequently changed his ways and became a blue-eye and a friend of Kid.
During his early days, he won the British Lightweight title on 23 April 1977, and the Welterweight title on 25 January 1978. He was also instrumental in starting the career of then-Judo star Chris Adams while still competing in the UK, was scouted and moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1978.
Dynamite made a big impact in his matches for Stampede Wrestling with the increasingly popular Bruce Hart, and rookie Bret Hart. Despite differences between them due to comments Dynamite Kid made about Stu Hart in his autobiography, Bret still regards him as "pound-for-pound, the greatest wrestler who ever lived". Dynamite Kid began taking steroids in 1979 when Big Daddy Ritter, aka the Junkyard Dog, introduced Billington to the anabolic steroid Dianabol. Billington was also introduced to speed during his stay in Canada by Jake Roberts.
After doing big business in Canada, Dynamite was booked on his first tour of Japan, working for International Pro Wrestling from 19–25 July 1979. Stu Hart and Stampede Wrestling switched their business relationship from IPW to New Japan Pro-Wrestling shortly after Dynamite's first tour, and he wrestled for New Japan from 4 January 1980 to 2 August 1984. Perhaps the most memorable matches that came out of Dynamite's run in New Japan were from his now legendary feud against Tiger Mask; Tiger Mask's debut was against Dynamite, in which Tiger Mask shocked the wrestling world by gaining the victory over Dynamite. The two would compete against one another several more times in a feud that is often credited as putting Junior Heavyweight wrestling on the map, as well as setting the standard for future generations. Both the NWA and WWF Junior Heavyweight titles were vacated after Tiger Mask was injured by Dynamite Kid in a tag match on 1 April 1983. Dynamite and Kuniaki Kobayashi competed for the vacant titles, but no winner was decided. On 21 April 1983, Dynamite and Tiger Mask met for the vacant WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship, but no winner was decided after the match ended up as a draw three consecutive times.
On 7 February 1984, Billington captured the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship by winning a tournament in New Japan Pro-Wrestling; although it was a WWF Title, it was primarily defended in Japan. He defeated Davey Boy Smith earlier in the tournament, and would go on to defeat The Cobra in the finals.
World Wrestling Federation (1984–1988)
Dynamite Kid made his WWF television debut on 29 August 1984, where he and Bret Hart defeated Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander in a match eventually shown on 15 September 1984, on the Maple Leaf Garden broadcast. Billington would end up teaming with Davey Boy Smith as the British Bulldogs, while Bret would turn heel and team with Jim Neidhart as The Hart Foundation, and it led to matches between the two teams that usually ended in No-Contests. On 7 April 1986, accompanied by Captain Lou Albano and Ozzy Osbourne, the British Bulldogs won the WWF World tag team title from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania II.
Dynamite Kid would suffer a serious injury in a tag team match that took place in December 1986 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada against Don Muraco and Bob Orton, Jr. and several wrestlers including Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog and Billy Jack Haynes would substitute for him when tag title defenses were made. While recovering in the hospital from back surgery, Billington would later recount that Bret Hart showed up and stated that Vince McMahon had sent him to get Dynamite's tag belt; Billington refused. Shortly after checking himself out of the hospital (against doctors' orders), Billington met with McMahon, who requested that the Bulldogs drop the tag titles to the team of The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff; Billington refused, saying that he would only drop the belts to The Hart Foundation.
McMahon acquiesced and at a TV taping on 26 January 1987, The British Bulldogs wrestled a match to drop the titles to The Hart Foundation; the match would air on 7 February edition of WWF Superstars of Wrestling. The match itself was an odd sight, as Dynamite could barely walk due to back surgery. Dynamite was knocked out by Jimmy Hart's megaphone early in the match, avoiding him having to wrestle much in the match for story purposes. From that point forward, the Bulldogs would not be a top-tier team anymore, and while they would not become straight jobbers, they would mostly wrestle to double disqualifications, double countouts or time-limit draws against the top teams in the WWF.
Billington was known for being a tough guy and for his stiffness as a worker. Mick Foley reported that, when he and Les Thornton (another British wrestler) wrestled the Bulldogs in a tag-team match early in Foley's career, Billington manhandled him so badly in the ring that he tore a ligament in Foley's jaw with his signature Hook Clothesline, preventing Foley from eating solid food until his recovery. Outside of the ring, WWF-champion Randy Savage once specifically asked for him to watch his back when he went drinking in a hotel bar frequented by NWA wrestlers, including Ric Flair. He was also involved in heated backstage fights with Jacques Rougeau, one of which led to Rougeau ambushing him with a fistful of quarters as he opened a door holding a lunch tray, knocking several of his teeth out. Billington claimed the Rougeau incident was not the final straw that drove him to leave the WWF, but rather a dispute with WWF management over the issuance of complimentary plane tickets, over which he resigned from the company on principle and which to his surprise in retrospect, Smith followed suit.
The Bulldogs wrestled their last WWF match at the 1988 Survivor Series. Although their team would win the match after team captains The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord) eliminated the last remaining opponents The Conquistadores, the Bulldogs had earlier been eliminated when Billington had been pinned by Smash of the tag team champions Demolition.
Stampede Wrestling and Japan (1988–1996)
After leaving the WWF, the Bulldogs returned to Stampede Wrestling to win the International Tag Team Titles. The Bulldogs also competed frequently in All-Japan Pro Wrestling where they were paid $20,000 each by Giant Baba, along with the liberty of choosing which tours they wanted to participate in. Upon returning to Stampede, the Bulldogs were involved in a feud with Karachi Vice over the Stampede International Tag Team Championship. However, by February 1989, Dynamite became involved in a brutal feud with Johnny Smith after Johnny interfered and attacked the Dynamite Kid, before cutting his hair. In May 1989, the Bulldogs split up in Stampede, but remained a team in AJPW. Over in Stampede, the Bulldogs feuded with each other, with Dynamite forming The British Bruisers with Johnny Smith and Davey Boy Smith teaming with a young Chris Benoit.
In 1990, Davey Boy Smith abruptly withdrew the Bulldogs from AJPW's annual World's Strongest Tag Determination League by returning to the WWF, and fabricating a story to the All-Japan office that Billington was in a serious car accident and was unable to compete. Back home in the UK, from 1991 onward, he would regularly appear for local promotions All Star Wrestling and Orig Williams' BWF where, due to his WWF success, he was a headline attraction this time around. Since Davey Boy Smith had trademarked the term "The British Bulldog" during the Bulldogs' previous run in WWF, he decided to return to the WWF as The British Bulldog, and would send people to the United Kingdom to warn the promoter every time a flyer was distributed promoting Dynamite Kid as a "British Bulldog".
Johnny Smith would end up taking Davey Boy Smith's spot in the World's Strongest Tag Determination League, and the duo (known as the British Bruisers) continued to compete in All Japan Pro Wrestling. The duo managed to capture the All Asia Tag Team Championship, but the partnership was short lived; the years of steroid abuse (including an incident in which he used horse steroids), working a high impact style, and cocaine usage caught up with Billington as he suddenly announced his retirement on 6 December 1991, immediately after the Bruisers defeated Johnny Ace and Sunny Beach at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. He returned to Japan as a special guest with Lord James Blears on 28 February 1993, and claimed that he was going to send his 17-year-old brother to All Japan's Dojo, but it wasn't realized. He returned again for a tag team match with Johnny Smith on 28 July 1993, and was planning to promote an All-Japan show in his country in 1994, but it wasn't realised either.
Before embarking on another All-Japan tour, he visited Dan Spivey and stayed in his home in Florida for a week, while Spivey went on holiday. When Spivey came back, he and Billington took hits of LSD, which resulted in Billington coming close to death twice in one day, but he was revived with adrenaline shots by paramedics both times.
His final wrestling match took place on 10 October 1996, at a Michinoku Pro event called These Days. The match was promoted as a "Legends of High-Flying" six-man tag featuring Dynamite paired with Dos Caras and Kuniaki Kobayashi against The Great Sasuke, Mil Máscaras, and Tiger Mask. Dynamite's body had degenerated to the point where he was "practically skin and bones", as the bottom portion of his tights were very loose. In the end, Dynamite delivered his trademark tombstone piledriver on Great Sasuke, leading Dos Caras to powerbomb Sasuke for the pin. While at the airport to return home on the next day, Dynamite had a second seizure (the first one was in 1987) and was sent to the hospital immediately.
In 1991, he was divorced from his first wife Michelle Smadu (the sister of Bret Hart's then-wife Julie), with whom Billington had one son and two daughters (Marek, Bronwyne and Amaris). Following the end of his marriage to Michelle, he moved from Canada back home to Golborne with his parents. There he married for a second time to a woman named Dot; with her he had three stepsons; John, Steven and Mark. Before his death Billington had two granddaughters, Maiami and Taya.
Altercations with other wrestlers
Billington had several violent interactions with fellow wrestlers. One such event was with Bruce Hart, in which Billington broke Hart's jaw. Another was while in WWF, where wrestler Jacques Rougeau Jr. felt that Billington had bullied him and punched Billington in the face with a fist holding rolled up quarters, knocking out Billington's front teeth.
In 1997, after having a great deal of complications he was experiencing with walking due to the large number of back and leg injuries he suffered during his career, Billington lost the use of his left leg. Relying on a wheelchair for mobility, he was cared for by his second wife, Dot. Billington was told he would never be able to walk again. Harley Race, the inventor of the diving headbutt (a move Chris Benoit also used frequently), has stated that he regrets ever inventing the move, because it appears to cause spinal problems as well as concussions, and may have contributed to Billington's disability. In addition to his paralysis, Billington also suffered from heart problems. In November 2013, Billington reportedly suffered a stroke.
In 2015, he was named in a lawsuit filed by WWE after the organization received a letter from him indicating that he intended to sue them for concussion-based injuries sustained during his affiliation with WWE. He was represented by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who is involved in several other lawsuits involving former WWE wrestlers. Billington's lawsuit was dismissed by US District Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant in September 2018.
Billington died on 5 December 2018, his 60th birthday. The exact cause of death remains unconfirmed, but the BBC report of his death placed it in the context of the above-mentioned health issues.
Billington's British training, combined with an aerial arsenal honed during numerous tours in Japan, influenced a generation of later wrestling stars, especially those normally associated with Stu Hart's "Dungeon". A follower was Chris Benoit, who idolized Billington while growing up and adopted a similar moveset that included the swandive headbutt and the Snap suplex.
In October 2014, Billington was presented with a lifetime achievement award at Gloucester Leisure Centre by Superstars of Wrestling UK.
Billington is featured in the 2016 documentary Nine Legends.
The playable character in the Mat Mania/Mania Challenge/Exciting Hour arcade games of the mid 1980s named "Dynamite Tommy" frequently is presumed to be modeled after Billington. In fact, the artwork for the game features the character wearing a championship belt which is almost exactly like the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship which Billington held.
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- All Asia Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Johnny Smith
- NWA International Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World's Strongest Tag Determination League Fighting Spirit Award (1984, 1985) – with Davey Boy Smith
- World's Strongest Tag Determination League Skills Award (1989) – with Davey Boy Smith
- World's Strongest Tag Determination League Fair Play Award (1990, 1991) – with Johnny Smith
- Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling
- AGPW International Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2001
- Joint Promotions
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pacific Northwest Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Stampede Wrestling
- Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship (5 times, inaugural)
- Stampede International Tag Team Championship (6 times) – with Sekigawa (1), Loch Ness Monster (1), Kasavudo (1), Duke Myers (1), Davey Boy Smith (2)
- Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Stampede World Mid-Heavyweight Championship (4 times)
- Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 1995)
- Tokyo Sports
- World Wrestling Federation
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Flying Wrestler (1984)
- Best Technical Wrestler (1984) - tied with Masa Saito
- Best Wrestling Maneuver (1984) Power clean dropkick
- Hardest Worker (1983)
- Match of the Year (1982) vs. Tiger Mask on 5 August, Tokyo, Japan
- Most Underrated (1983)
- Most Impressive Wrestler (1983-1985)
- Tag Team of The Year (1985) - with Davey Boy Smith
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
Luchas de Apuestas record
|Winner (wager)||Loser (wager)||Location||Event||Date||Notes|
|Bruce Hart (hair)||Dynamite Kid (hair)||Calgary, Alberta||Stampede||1980s[a]||[b]|
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