The passing of Dynamite Kid hits many wrestling fans hard. As a fan of all things old school, Steve Cook gives you his thoughts on the impact made by Tom Billington.
Having started watching professional wrestling in 1990, I barely missed seeing Dynamite Kid as an active performer on the biggest stages of the artform. Like many of you, I’ve seen the compilation tapes & DVDs of many of his Japan matches. I’ve watched whatever British Bulldogs matches I could find on WWE DVDs & the WWE Network. What he did as part of a tag team with Davey Boy Smith, and as a singles competitor against the likes of Tiger Mask & Bret Hart, stands the test of time from where I sit. As much as some like to say that wrestlers have never been more athletic & the workrate has never been better, I believe that Dynamite Kid in his prime would stand out even among this pack.
His book is part of my wrestling library. Unfortunately he doesn’t come off like a particularly good person in his own book. There are plenty of online legends that back up the idea that Dynamite Kid was a bit of a jerk. His later years held a lot of physical suffering, and there weren’t too many among his peers that felt sorry for him.
The only wrestler I could think of that spoke highly of the Dynamite Kid before he passed was Mick Foley, and the Hardcore Legend was too busy trying to get over with WWE-contracted women on Twitter to note Dynamite’s passing. I mean, that is Vintage Foley, but it means something. Some random wrestling folks did offer their condolences, but it’s not like they were putting Dynamite over beforehand.
The Dynamite Kid has a complicated legacy. I feel his death makes it more likely that he & his longtime tag team partner will get into the WWE Hall of Fame. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll see it at the 2019 ceremony. It’s well-deserved, and there’s little chance we would have seen it before Dynamite’s passing.
There are some complicated aspects to the legacy of the Dynamite Kid. As much as some of us Internet fans may have loved his work & consider him one of the all-time GOATs, those who lived through experiences with him may feel otherwise.
Two of the most famous jokesters in wrestling history are part of the same family through marriage. Owen Hart is fondly remembered by all of his peers as a ribber of the highest order. He & Davey Boy often teamed up to pull jokes on other wrestlers during their time together, and they were typically of the fun nature. Nobody got mad at them. If they did, it didn’t last long because Owen & Davey were lovable scamps.
Dynamite was also prone to pulling pranks on his fellow wrestlers. Davey would join in, as it was always his nature. But people reacted differently to the Bulldogs’ pranks than those that Davey would pull with Owen in the 90s. The Bulldogs’ jokes were more mean-spirited. They were cruel. Some of them weren’t even jokes. Dynamite was so hard on Jacques Rougeau that some kind of retribution was in order, and it turned out that Jacques had some friends in high places in certain parts of Canada, so Dynamite was kinda screwed once he went too far. Jacques probably shouldn’t have knocked some of Dynamite’s teeth out, but the Kid had pushed him to a breaking point.
There was also an incident with Honky Tonk Man that Dynamite tells in his book that I thought might have been a misunderstanding. Dynamite got mad at HTM due to something he heard from Randy Savage where Honky was waving his check around in a car & saying “I bet the King wishes he had this.” See, Harley Race was the King in the WWF at the time, but I always wondered if Honky was actually talking about his cousin, Jerry “The King” Lawler. Would have made more sense for Honky to be poking fun at Lawler than Race. Especially in front of Randy Savage, who was in the car & decided to relate the tale to Dynamite. Maybe Honky was talking about Harley, but his open disdain for Lawler at the time I read the book for the first time always made me wonder.
His Biggest Fan
One of the things that hurts Dynamite’s legacy is the fact of who his biggest fan happened to be. There was one man in particular that took Dynamite’s career to heart. Dynamite Kid inspired this man to be a professional wrestler. He even looked like the Kid to a degree. His snap suplexes were right on par with Dynamite’s, as were his diving headbutts. He never figured out how to cut that money promo, but neither did Dynamite.
Chris Benoit was Dynamite Kid Version 2.0. There’s no denying that. He idolized Dynamite & worked his ass off to do what his idol did…but even better. Dynamite was stuck in a tag team in the WWF, but Benoit had no such shackles. He could be a singles star, and could rise to the point where the company had no choice but to push him on top for a period of time. Benoit’s success in WWE was proof that the Dynamite Kid was way ahead of his time. If Prime Dynamite was in the 2000s WWE, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have held the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. It absolutely would have happened.
The ending to Benoit’s career & life leaves an irreparable mark on his legacy. As great as his matches may have been, as much as some of us enjoyed watching his career for many years, there’s always the fact that he murdered his family & killed himself. We can speculate as to why, but the most likely answer is due to the irreparable brain damage he inflicted on himself during his wrestling career. Due to his desire to be like the Dynamite Kid. One wonders how much Benoit’s case weighed on Dynamite in the years afterward.
There were more successful cases
There was one wrestler that came after Benoit that idolized both the Rabid Wolverine & the Dynamite Kid. I saw him come to the forefront in Ring of Honor, and he was one of those guys that inspired diverse reactions. Some people loved his work, and some people thought it was too much. I just hoped he came out of it alive.
Through your work you taught us, inspired us, and set the bar for us.
Like many others, I did my best to pay tribute to you. But like all the others, I could not measure up. I could not measure up because there is only one, and will always only be one Dynamite Kid. #puredynamite pic.twitter.com/pDYCBM746m
— 🐺 (@RichardsWesley) December 5, 2018
I’d heard the rumblings that Davey Richards wanted to be an EMT for years. He ended up in the wrestling business because he grew up on it, but being an EMT was always the endgame for him. He had an interesting career in wrestling where he managed to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but he seems to have ended up where he wanted to.
As you’ve likely noticed, the average professional wrestler is shorter than they were thirty years ago. A lot of this is due to the fact that bigger athletes can make more money at things like football & basketball. Folks like Wahoo McDaniel & Ernie Ladd ended up in wrestling because they could make more money at that than football. That isn’t the case now. Somebody the size of Hulk Hogan is trying to become a football player now instead of a pro wrestler.
The people that are wrestlers now grew up watching comp tapes of people like the Dynamite Kid. They watch him doing things & think “If somebody his size can do that, so can I!” They don’t have the size to be in the NFL or any other sports league, but via wrestling training they can end up doing amazing things.
Dynamite Paved The Way
Without the Dynamite Kid going out there and having those amazing matches with Tiger Mask & forming that incredible tag team with Davey Boy Smith, I doubt that wrestling promoters would have taken notice of men that weren’t 6’5 & 300 pounds. It certainly would have taken a longer time. Somebody like Daniel Bryan might still be working as a referee because somebody his size never could have wrestled.
Was Dynamite Kid an asshole? Probably! But like other famous men that have passed away recently, you have to take the good with the bad. You can recognize that Dynamite Kid was a tremendous asshole and most of his peers hated him. You also have to respect the fact that a generation of junior heavyweights watched his matches & followed in his footsteps.
If you judge a wrestler based on how many people he inspired to join the profession, Dynamite Kid would be among the top guys that ever performed the craft.