If you want to know about wrestling, you need to know about the Dynamite Kid.
Unlike the other surveys I’ve done on William Regal and Finlay, I always considered myself an expert on the Dynamite Kid. As a young wrestling fan, I was the only one in my class who liked him. Other British Bulldog fans preferred Dynamite’s bigger, more affable partner, Davey Boy Smith. Dynamite was small. He had a war-torn, humourless face. His promos were short, intense, and usually featured the phrase, “I will beat you from pillar to post.” He was sincere about that.
I would record every British Bulldogs match on TV, and rent The British Bulldogs video from the store, and watch them over and over until I had the commentary memorized. Maybe all those viewings, coupled with the warped sense of time in one’s childhood, made it seem like I’d been watching the Dynamite Kid forever. Now I realize that I was witnessing the brief, untimely climax of his career.
On WWE.com, I was surprised to find Dynamite featured only in a couple of choppy videos. However, he is listed under 10 Superstars Who Were Ahead of Their Time. I guess the person who made that list must have been the only Dynamite Kid fan in his class too. His placement on that list shows that for all the wrestlers who imitate his moves, it was the Dynamite Kid who did it first.
Bret Hart, who had a volatile working and personal relationship with Dynamite, credits him as one of the best. He and Dynamite wrestled countless matches for Stampede, then in Japan and the WWF, giving smaller kids the desire to flip, flop, and fly. The Dynamite Kid commands reverence, always tempered by sadness.
Accolades in Japan
If you’ve watched Chris Benoit wrestle, you’ve seen the influence of the Dynamite Kid. Benoit’s trademark diving head butt, snap suplex, and short-arm clotheslines? All products of his idol. Benoit even followed in Dynamite’s footsteps from Stu Hart’s Dungeon to the prestigious rings of Japan. From the neck down, their physical resemblance was uncanny. Compact bundles of hard-won and ill-gotten muscle, destined to break down and becoming their undoings. Benoit, master of the Crippler Crossface, ended his life under the influence of concussion-induced dementia. His mentor Dynamite lives crippled by steroids, street drugs, and paralyzing ring injuries. While the Benoit family story is far more tragic, the wrestlers’ shared intensity has a haunting parallel. It seems like only a moment passed between the heights of their careers, and a tragic fate.
Rare photo of a young Chris Benoit and the Dynamite Kid
Without reviewing a single video, I can picture the way Dynamite would stretch out his arms, palms out, with the precision of a gymnast, and then fall forward with graceful purpose to head butt his opponent. It’s funny to write about a head butt being such a beautiful thing! His snap suplexes were probably my favourite of his moves: I had seen nothing else like them, and they seemed to defy physics. As soon as he executed one, he was back on his feet, likely as jarred and battered as his opponent.
His toughness may have led to his downfall, as he would tolerate at least as much pain as he gave out. As with many wrestlers of that era, he did not have an education to fall back on, nor any money saved for rehabilitation. It was a hard-hitting, fast-living existence. He didn’t mind throwing a true punch, or executing moves that put extreme impact on his own body. He prided himself on being real, sometimes to the dismay of his opponents. The Dynamite Kid’s aggression was not tempered by sober logic or corporate accountability. So aptly-named, Dynamite was quick and bright, a brilliance that could not last forever.
The British Bulldogs as WWF Tag Team Champions
Though British, the majority of Dynamite’s career was spent in Canada and Japan, where he took on all sizes and styles, often wrestling marathon 2/3 falls matches. His years in the WWF were marked by groundbreaking tag team bouts against the Hart Foundation, Valentine & Beefcake, Muraco & Orton, and the Sheik & Volkoff. However, they were also marked by a gruff manner in the locker room, and a debilitating back injury.
After undergoing back surgery in 1987, Dynamite was allegedly paid just $25 by Vince McMahon to fly to a TV taping and drop the tag titles to the Harts. He spent the entire match lying beside the ring, after being hit in the head by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. As a kid watching it live, I was devastated because he didn’t even wrestle, and they lost the belts so unfairly. This was the last time I’d see him on TV.
He did some wrestling in Canada and Japan thereafter, but his withered form was a jarring image to fans. I will never forget the day I saw a photo of Tom Billington in a wheelchair. People age, drugs and injuries take their toll, but I did not recognize even a glimmer of the Dynamite Kid. I don’t want to sensationalize his condition, but I decided to include this comparison because it is exactly how it went in my mind.
I hadn’t watched any of his matches for a long time, years probably. Now I’m suddenly nervous. Is the Dynamite Kid a classic that holds up over time? Sometimes the pioneers cannot be appreciated, once everyone else has caught up to their innovative techniques. Most recently, I have seen shades of the Dynamite Kid in Daniel Bryan - Daniel Bryan is even better. He has a wider variety of skills, and he wrestles with authenticity, without working stiff.
This is the second half of a match between the Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation, just a taste of why these two teams had such a great feud. Around the 2:20 mark you see Dynamite get the hot tag, and he showcases some of his best moves.
For a time, the WWF had a Junior Heavyweight belt, a category that many believed was the perfect niche for a strong speed demon such as Dynamite. Here he battles The Cobra in Japan in a tournament for the title. I’d forgotten how often piledrivers were used, and what a big deal it was to suplex off the ropes.
I should never be surprised to find anything on YouTube, but when I discovered the entire Coliseum Video of The British Bulldogs – the video I rented as a kid – I was so moved that I didn’t know how to react. Go to the 11:45 mark to see his match against Bret Hart. They must have been like Steamboat and Flair, wrestling so often and naturally together.
I hope that if you didn’t know much about the Dynamite Kid before, you’re able to see how he had an influence on his peers and the next generation. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how a wrestler made you feel, and I was worried that my perspective was more youthful whim than timeless truth. We watch (and remember) matches differently, and I will be curious to read everyone’s opinions. Some of you weren’t even born when Dynamite was in his prime, and others will remember him well.