New York Times bestselling author and WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley has signed an exciting tribute to the late Dynamite Kid. The legend of the British Bulldogs team passed away on Wednesday, on their 60th birthday, after facing a number of significant health problems in their post-wrestling career. Foley attests that Dynamite Kid is in his personal Mount Rushmore of great fighters and promises to pay more respect to his enduring legacy by watching his classic games. Readers are also encouraged to go to Foley's Facebook to share their own favorite memories of the Dynamite Kid.
Just a week ago, I was asked about my Mount Rushmore professional wrestling. Almost everyone has one – and with so many incredible options to choose from, there is no right or wrong alignment. My personal Mount Rushmore probably changed a dozen times. But most of the time, as was the case last week in the UK, I had Tommy Billington, The Dynamite Kid, etched in stone on my mountain.
I believe I saw Tommy on television for the first time in 1984. I was not aware of the Stampede Wrestling territory in Calgary, much less any kind of crazy action going on in Japan. I knew this man was exciting and intense, and when announcer Vince McMahon followed a post-game slow-motion kip-up of Dynamite, with the words "that man is ready!", I wholeheartedly agreed. But it was not until 1986 when I was in my own wrestling practice that fellow trainee Brian Hildebrand (later known as Marc Curtis of WCW) suggested that I watch a video tape with a match between Bruiser Brody and Terry Funk, to work on my punches in the ring, which at the time, were simply terrible. That VCR tape was my entry into Japanese professional wrestling – and, in a sense, a window into a whole new world for me. Brody vs. Funk was all Brian promised it would be – the craziest fight I'd ever seen at the time. But I was equally paralyzed by a match between The Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask – a game involving athleticism that I had never conceived could be possible in a ring, and an intensity that gave the competition an impressive sense of legitimacy. It was the game I would show my friends who did not fight against wrestling – the cynics, the unbelievers – and never failed to open their eyes and knock their jaws down.
In 1986, driving the 700 miles round-trip to Dominic DeNucci's school, sleeping in my car every Friday night, barely making enough money for the ride, much less for the food, I had 6 feet and 220 pounds. Despite reading all of the day's bodybuilding magazines, and working diligently since I was 14, I barely had a suggestion or suggestion of muscle tone for my picture. I wanted to fight like Bruceer Brody, but I knew I was not physically imposing enough to do it. I wanted to fly like The Dynamite Kid, but I knew it was not a fraction of the athlete Tommy Billington was. But what if, I thought. And if I could combine these two styles, I was just as enamored-fighting like Brody, and using my own body as a weapon; throwing me the way Dynamite did. Maybe I was into something! Later, I would borrow liberally the entire Terry Funk catalog, and with the help of many people's guidance to tell, things would fit for me. But without this VCR tape, without Brody, without Tommy Billington, there's a good chance that no one knows my name.
Imagine how honored I was-not to mention terrified-to face Tommy in the second game of my career, a doubles league that pitted me and Briton Les Thornton against Tommy and Davey Boy Smith as the British Bulldogs. While it is true that I was worse off to wear after that match and could not eat solid food for about three weeks, it was a valuable lesson; an emphatic example of how high that bar was, and how hard I would have to work if I hoped to reach it. Witness the suffering here, if you dare! I had about 230 pounds by this point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez5YQUWPP7Y
I had the chance to work with Tommy again in 1991 on my first and only tour with All Japan Wrestling. He liked me and respected me, trained me and encouraged me, and having the belief of someone I admired so much helped me to believe in myself. Tommy was only 33 at the time, but he was already in chronic pain. Night after night I watched as he struggled to put on his socks and tie his boots-and then somehow he was inside to get out and topple the house. Every night.
In recent years, I've befriended Tommy's daughter, Bronwyne, and her ex-wife, Michelle, and I always hope to get together and share stories when I travel to Calgary. Today, as I prepared for this article, I watched a classic match between Tommy and Tiger Mask at Madison Square Garden in 1982, and smiled, thinking of Michelle noting that it was one of the few games Tommy wrestled in swimming shorts. Because he did not have his green card, and did not want to get stuck at the border, he had not traveled with his socks and boots – and therefore, before this historic match, he had to borrow a pair of boots and trunks from one of the other fighters .
When I get home on Monday, I'm going to put on my Dynamite Kid's T-shirt and spend some time watching some of his classic games. Today is easy – just enter his name on YouTube and watch. But there was a time when I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of new VHS tapes by mail, and then I tried to see some of the action amid the undulating lines of these old-fashioned cassettes, some of them 5th or 6th generation. It was worth it though. For while watching Dynamite Kid, I was watching the best and expanding the possibilities of what I might someday be able to do. Rest in peace, Tommy. His greatness is timeless and continues to inspire a new generation of athletes.
Please feel free to share your favorite game or memory of the Dynamite Kid.