UK wrestler Dynamite Kid, one half of The British Bulldogs, has died aged 60
He will go down as a man who changed wrestling forever
British wrestler Thomas Billington, better known as the Dynamite Kid, has died on his 60th birthday.
Dynamite Kid had a storied career in the UK, North America and Japan, but he will be best remembered as one half of the 1980s WWF tag team The British Bulldogs, with his real-life cousin Davey Boy Smith.
A staple of the mid-80s ‘Hulkamania’ era that saw WWF become a worldwide phenomenon, the Bulldogs first formed in Japan, but soon came to prominence in the US. They most famously feuded with The Hart Foundation (who included Smith’s brother-in-law Bret Hart), and memorably had Ozzy Osbourne in their corner for their match against The Dream Team at Wrestlemania 2.
Towards the end of their run, they even had a real bulldog, named Matilda, who would accompany them to the ring (Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan once kidnapped her).
Following the team’s split, Davey Boy Smith would be pushed as a solo star under the singular name The British Bulldog.
It's with great sadness I have to inform you all that THE "DYNAMITE KID" TOMMY BILLINGTON ON HIS BIRTHDAY HAS PASSED AWAY.. A TRUE BRITISH AMBASSADOR FOR WRESTLING WORLDWIDE RIP "KID' CONDOLENCES TO MARK & HIS FAMILY MARTY JONES pic.twitter.com/TRYbBTpTgf
— Marty Jones (@martyleglockno1) December 5, 2018
Away from The Bulldogs however, Dynamite Kid is generally acknowledged to be one of the most influential wrestlers of all time.
Born in Lancaster, his first televised match in 1976 on ITV’s iconic World of Sport show. He would then be scouted and move to Canada, working alongside the legendary Hart family.
In the early 1980s he would have a series of matches with Japanese star Tiger Mask, which are regarded as some of the most important of all time. Their revolutionary light-heavyweight style was like nothing fans had ever seen, with both competitors doing innovative flips and aerial manoeuvres, working at a lightning pace. These matches remain a massive influence on the modern indie style of wrestling seen in promotions like Ring of Honor and WWE’s NXT, even today.
British wrestler Will Ospreay, who is currently a big name in Japan and wrestles in a high-flying, light-heavyweight style partially influenced by Billington, was one of the first to pay tribute.
Davey Boy Smith Jr, the son of the original British Bulldog, also tweeted calling Billington “an inspiration”.
It deeply saddens me to announce the passing of Tom Billington the “Dynamite Kid.” 😭😢🙏I was really happy and glad I got to see Dynamite one last time last June in the UK. 🇬🇧 ❤️🙏. Dynamite was certainly an inspiration to myself and many others and really revolutionized pic.twitter.com/req7CWTdxm
— Davey Boy Smith Jr. (@DBSmithjr) December 5, 2018
Dynamite Kid’s later life was marred by health problems, and from the late 1990s he was confined to a wheelchair. He also suffered a stroke in 2013.
He was also notorious for his animosity with his colleagues, and there are many tales of him coming to blows with other wrestlers outside of the ring.
He and Davey Boy Smith fell out in the early 1990s, and never reconciled before Smith's death in 2002.
Still, even though might not have been a household name, he will go down as a man who changed wrestling forever.