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.
WWE is saddened to learn that The Dynamite Kid has passed away. https://t.co/r41WiVPrOb
— WWE (@WWE) December 5, 2018
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.
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
Every wrestler under 200lbs likely owes a debt of gratitude to The Dynamite Kid. He inspired so many and help change the sport. In the ring he was incredible. The only wrestling T Shirt I ever purchased was a British Bulldogs shirt, which I wore to WrestleMania IV #RIP
— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) December 5, 2018
EXCELLENT WORKER INSIDE THE RING. TOUGH MAN OUTSIDE. GOD BLESS THE DYNAMITE KID pic.twitter.com/WWObV2gKE0
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) December 5, 2018
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
One of the most important pioneers the wrestling world has ever had, a true worker who was years ahead of his time and someone who inspired so many wrestlers and will for generations to come. Rest In Peace Dynamite Kid. #DynamiteKid
— Ligero (@Ligero1) December 5, 2018
— PAIGE (@RealPaigeWWE) December 5, 2018
RIP Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington). One of my first favorites. One of the first to make me realize that amongst the larger than life “wrestling characters” in the 80’s, there were straight up incredibly athletic wrestlers. A true game changer in every sense of the word. God speed.
— Frankie Kazarian (@FrankieKazarian) December 5, 2018
Gutted to hear about the passing of one of my hero’s and biggest inspirations. RIP Dynamite Kid, Tommy Billington. pic.twitter.com/knQuwNOZKQ
— Tyler Bate (@Tyler_Bate) December 5, 2018
One of the most athletic, intense & spectacular wrestlers ever. Game-changer wrestler, LEGEND. #DynamiteKid RIP 🙏
— TAZ (@OfficialTAZ) December 5, 2018
RIP Dynamite Kid. One of the best to every come from these islands.
Everyone take seventeen minutes of your life to watch the man in action in his prime. https://t.co/Ob83Bqq9Lj
— Jim Smallman (@jimsmallman) December 5, 2018
— NWA (@nwa) December 5, 2018
Woke up to the news that the dynamite kid passed away today. He was such a big influence on me as I've spent countless hours studying him. Rest in peace dynamite! 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/h8AtdQVqAF
— Gursinder Singh (@GursinderImpact) December 5, 2018
One of the greatest professional wrestlers to come from 🇬🇧
Thoughts and prayers to his family
A personal favourite match of IPW management
Dynamite Kid vs @BretHart
— International Pro Wrestling (@IPWUK) December 5, 2018
Condolences to the friends and family of British wrestling legend Tommy Billington "The Dynamite Kid". https://t.co/IWPS8p4Syw
— WOS Wrestling (@WOSWrestling) December 5, 2018
Other than a brief meeting I didn’t know Tom Billington, but the Dynamite Kid was an absolute game changer in wrestling. Technically and mechanically he ranks as one of the best ever.
— Hurricane Helms (@ShaneHelmsCom) December 5, 2018
Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask made me want to be in New Japan when I was younger. Even more so than the WWF. My first ever real job in wrestling happened to be New Japan, as soon as i… https://t.co/jWQZLaeWCj
— 🇺🇸 TJ Perkins 🇵🇭 (@MegaTJP) December 5, 2018
Gutted to hear about the passing of ‘The Dynamite Kid’ .
I like many others, would try to emulate him…I failed obviously as there could only be one!
I’m proud to own one of the last pairs of boots worn by Tommy!
My thoughts go to Mark Billington and the family. #RIPDynamite pic.twitter.com/VOjoEztenl
— Johnny Moss (@Johnny_Moss) December 5, 2018
The Dynamite Kid was a before his time in ring wrestler
1982 I saw him vs Tiger Mask at @TheGarden & knew he was different#BritishBulldogs were 1 of my favorite tag teams as a kid pic.twitter.com/jX6WyQUxHh
— Tommy Dreamer (@THETOMMYDREAMER) December 5, 2018