411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2008: The British Bulldogs
The British Bulldogs revolutionized tag team wrestling in the WWF during the 1980’s.
It’s such a broad and sweeping statement really and not without a sense of hubris either but if we’re talking about broad statements and sweeping exclamations how about this one…The British Bulldogs revolutionized tag team wrestling in the 1980’s and they weren’t even half the team they could and should have been. Seriously, they were that fucking good.
For those who don’t know, the Bulldogs were made up of Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid, born in England, legends in Japan and Canada and superstars all over the world. Real life cousins, the elder Tom Billington (aka The Dynamite Kid) got his start first, always incredibly talented but too small to really make a significant mark on the wrestling world, he turned to steroids to add muscle and size and became a revolutionary in the cruiserweight division coming to redefine what wrestling was and could be, most notably with Tiger Mask (S Sayama) where they set the benchmark for the division that has never been bettered to this day.
Below is a highlights package of their feud
Dynamite would bounce around the wrestling world for years before settling in Canada in the Stampede area where he eventually brought in his younger cousin David Smith. Davey had already been working as a pro since he was 15, so when he got to Stampede he was already a prospect and a fast developing worker. Coupled with his cousins influence Davey added a much needed edge to his work and had a good chemistry together and were naturally paired off to feud together leading to an angle where Dynamite revealed Davey was a test tube baby…..
However, things came good when they started teaming as The British Bulldogs. They went together like milk and honey. Coupling Dynamites speed and bona fide mean streak with Davey’s power and earthy charm, they blended high impact moves with a solid mat wrestling plan that not only appealed to fans but made people sit up and take note of the skills they showed. Or in other words, in an era that had The Rockers, The Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Rougeau’s, The Killer Bee’s and The Brain Busters as their WWF contemparies, these guys were considered pretty much head and shoulders above everyone. Check out this beauty of a match from Japan where they square off against Ted Dibiase and Stan Hansen….
…they were just so smooth in the ring. They sold like champs no matter what offence you threw up against them and when it was there turn to take control they served up moves that were silkily smooth, believable and thoroughly enjoyable. They balanced the flash with the basics making a simple wristlock look as convincing as Dynamites patented diving head butt from the top rope.
But what about me saying they were half the team they could and should have been. Well I’m glad you asked!
By the time the Bulldogs hit the WWE a few things were apparent a) Davey and Dynamite had been hitting the steroids hard since they come from Stampede Wrestling making a guy like Dynamite carry WAY to much muscle on his relatively small frame thus making him prone to injury. B) That Dynamite, after years of tearing through opponents with scant regard for his body coupled with his over-muscled frame, he was breaking down before our eyes and yet he was a million times better than most in the ring, C) Davey, while as big, strong and talented as he was, he was still was working out his style. Trying to be more of a high flyer than his impressive frame suggested he should be he eventually added more muscle and became an athletic power wrestler that could hang with the big boys.
So we had a team of the grizzled and fast decaying veteran and the young upstart but they just ruled whenever they were in the ring. Demolition’s muscle? Here’s Davey to throw his weight around. You want to mat wrestling clinic with Bret Hart? Well how about Dynamite, one of the greatest mat wrestlers ever. Want to take The Rockers on at highflying double teams? Shit, they can do that too. They showed the way forward for most teams that followed by proving you could get over with pure wrestling and adapt your style to the match at hand. He’s a match against King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd that illustrates my point.
This is perhaps one of my favorite Bulldogs matches. It goes barely five minutes and it isn’t what you called good, in fact it would barely break * on the star-scale. So why do I like it? I like how they worked to their opponents instead of trying to work in signature spots. Although they were the champs they were the massive underdogs against the mass of John Studd and King Kong Bundy. They could only do damage with hit-and-run double teams but when it was just one, they were out matched. They served their opponents offence by selling hard and therefore creating a psychology that was at once simple yet effective…the sign of the truly great workers. My only gripe is that it should have been given another ten minutes and a finish because it could have been a fantastic match, which is something you don’t hear often when Studd and Bundy are mentioned. For shits and giggles, here’s a superstars squash match for 1989 in their final months in the WWF just to show how ridiculously slick they were in the ring…
But alas, they were gone after the Survivor Series of 1988. By this time Dynamite was barely holding his body together and Davey was really bulking up on the juice. They hit the Indy circuit and had a dream match with The Rock n’ Roll Express that failed to live up to expectation. Instead of a fast paced, high impact classic we got this….
…it’s not that bad just not what it could have been.
They eventually wound back up in the Stampede territory again and were primed to have a big feud that had heel Dynamite vs. face Davey Boy but fate stepped in when Davey was involved in a car crash that put him on the shelf and Dynamite pretty much retired as his body finally gave out. They tried to get it back together again but Davey went back to the WWF to become a singles star while Tom, bitter about the business and his plight never spoke to his cousin again.
A sad end to a team that provided so much entertainment and innovation during their relatively short time together. Today, Dynamite is confined to a wheelchair. After years of abuse his body and more specifically his back, just gave out. Davey, as I mentioned, went back to the WWE and became a huge singles star in the 90’s and one half of another fantastic tag team with brother-in-law Own Hart. Sadly, Davey died under mysterious circumstances, likely from complications from his steroid and drug abuse over the previous two decades. His son Harry Smith is currently getting started in the WWE on RAW.
So in the end, the Bulldogs were denied a chance to really establish themselves as THE great team of all time and have to settle for just being one of the greatest. If Dynamite could have stayed fit and healthy they could have had a huge run in the NWA where The Road Warriors, The Fantastics and the Midnight Express would have been waiting for some classic matches. However, we only had them for a short time but their innovation, skill and charisma carried them far enough to impact tag team wrestling forever.
Here’s a rarely seen ‘Dogs versus The Dream Team match to remember them by….