D: Dynamite Kid
Lightning Across Wigan
Among hundreds of good wrestlers and dozens of great ones only a select few can be described as ground breaking. Dynamite Kid was an original. When he initially appeared in the rings of northern England he was a sensation. Fans had never seen anything quite like this wrestler. Speed, athleticism and acrobatics were taken to a new level, but the boy showed the makings of a good wrestler as well, trained by veterans Ted Betley and Jack Fallon.
Born on December 5th, 1958 in Golborne, five miles out of Wigan, Tommy Billington came from wrestling country. Having taken up boxing as a youngster Tommy had no interest in wrestling until a chance meeting with a man called Ted Betley. Retired wrestler Betley taught Tommy how to wrestle, training the youngster each day after he’d finished school for three years. Ted then passed Tommy over to pro wrestler Jack Fallon who prepared him for life as a professional wrestler.
Sixteen year old Tommy, now re-named by Ted as the Dynamite Kid, made his professional debut in 1975, a match promoted by another old timer, Jack Atherton, at the Winter Gardens, Malvern. Almost immediately he was a topic of conversation by regular fans queuing up around northern England, eager questions of “Have you seen the Dynamite Kid?” He was a wrestler that made an impression. Wrestling Heritage member John M said: "I started watching wrestling in the summer of 1977 and the Dynamite Kid was one of the first wrestlers I saw and I could not believe how athletic he was. His bouts with Mark Rocco and Marty Jones are some of the best bouts I ever saw on World of Sport and I love watching his bouts in Japan with Tiger Mask and in the WWF as one of the British Bulldogs. I think he was probably the best British wrestler ever."
Max Crabtree had recently taken over management of much of the Joint Promotions organisation and used Dynamite Kid regularly on his bills soon after the youngster had turned professional. A mixture of novices like Pete Meredith, shooters John Naylor, technician Johnny Saint and experienced Alan Dennis gave the youngster a wealth of experience and learning in a short time. It was clear that Dynamite Kid was going far, and going there fast.
Max made the most of the youngster, a drawing card paid at novice rates. A television debut came at Castleford in October, 1976 an odd falls win over Pete Meredith. Within six weeks he was back on the small screen, this time wrestling much harder opponents. They were Alan Dennison and Peter Kaye, a couple of experienced professionals who could be relied on to bring out the best in the novice. We are told the match against Dennison had been recorded before the Meredith match.
During the following two years he travelled the country, learning new skills like any other novice. What made the Kid stand out was the way he fearlessly developed breathtaking new aerial moved previously unimaginable to fans and opponents alike.
In 1977 Dynamite Kid won the British lightweight championship, a fiercely contested division at the time. In January of 1978 he fastened the welterweight belt around his waist. Championship success in Britain did not equal material reward. Dynamite Kid may have appeared to have it all but he was, by his own account, disenchanted with the conditions and pay of Max Crabtree (1).
In April, 1978, Dynamite Kid left Britain and headed for Calgary, Canada, booked to work for Stu Hart’s Stampede Promotions. What was to follow could never have been planned, or even dreamed of. Success in Canada led to work in Japan the following year and into the 1980s. His rivalry with Tiger Mask became the stuff of legends.
In the United States Dynamite Kid worked for the WWF (which became WWE). It was here that he started tag wrestling with his cousin, Davey Boy Smith, as the British Bulldogs, winning the WWF World tag team championship.
The Bulldogs, along with their dog Matilda, were re-acquainted with British fans when ITV began broadcasting WWF wrestling in 1987. British fans were astounded in the physical change of both Tommy and Davey, now bulging heavyweights. Heritage member Paul, “I remember seeing him for the first time on WWF and was shocked at how much he had bulked up. I think his best matches were here in the u.k and in Japan where he worked a far more intense style.”
A fitting conclusion from Heritage’s SaxonWolf: “Definitely one of the best, up at the top, or near the top of the pile. Globally famous after his stints in Canada, Japan and the USA. He had a believable style, a good mix of classic British pro, high flying and the American punch/kick/clothesline brawling style. Thinking about it right now, I think Tom ‘Dynamite Kid’ Billington was the last of his kind, no one has come close since, which is why his matches are still so great to watch, light years ahead of his time.”
Tommy Billington died on 5th December, 2018. It was his sixtieth birthday; still timing to perfection.
(1) Coleman, Alison: Pure Dynamite – The Autobiography of Tom ‘Dynamite Kid’ Billington
Page reviewed: 1/10/2019