wrestling / Columns

Dynamite and Davey Is A Fascinating Look At The Explosive Lives Of The British Bulldogs

June 22, 2022 | Posted by Blake Lovell
Dynamite and Davey Image Credit: Pitch Publishing

“The more horrifying truth is, by their respective 40th birthdays, one was in a wheelchair and the other one was dead.”

That sentence stuck with me while reading Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of The British Bulldogs, a new book by Steven Bell that details the ups and downs of Tom Billington (aka The Dynamite Kid) and David Smith (aka Davey Boy Smith) throughout their wrestling careers.

It’s a story of cousins and tag team partners who once had it all, only to veer off in destructive directions before eventually suffering a similar fate.

Where did things go so wrong for the two of the most promising stars of the 80s?

In their prime, there were few like Billington and Smith. But the unforgiving grind to make it to the top came at a price.

That price – via an incredible amount of research from Bell – is on full display within the pages of Dynamite and Davey. From Billington’s unique’s in-ring style to his deteriorating physical condition, to Smith’s rise to stardom before his own addictions got the better of him, the book dives deep into the good and the bad of their worldwide journey in wrestling.

And that’s where Dynamite and Davey shines as a read. It pulls no punches and tells the full story, flaws and all. It navigates beyond the “he said, she said” road that some wrestling books travel, and instead, pieces together stories from previously heralded books from Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Heath McCoy’s Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling, and even Billington’s Pure Dynamite to create the definitive resource on The British Bulldogs.

It results in an emotional roller-coaster ride that reads like a novel thanks to Bell’s writing style.

The stories of Billington’s path are, as always, tough to read due to the impact his actions had on his physical well-being and the lives of those around him. To say his legacy as a professional wrestler is a complicated one would be an understatement. He was an innovative performer who put his drive to entertain fans above everything else, but the details of his intense pride, drug addiction, and crude behavior have for some overshadowed his accomplishments inside the ring.

Billington was a broken man – or a “broken machine” as Bret Hart put it – prior to his passing in 2018, and Bell’s extensive research documents exactly how things got to that point.

At 28, Billington was told by doctors to find a new profession after the wear and tear on his back resulted in a significant spinal surgery. He wouldn’t accept it, and as Bell notes, attempted his own rehabilitation plan of “a daily regimen of steroids, relentless gym work, painkillers and alcohol.”

The cost didn’t matter to continue doing what he loved. Billington would not quit, and his refusal to accept his own physical limitations proved to be his downfall.

Meanwhile, Smith, at 25, was reaching the height of his career just as Billington’s was spiraling – a fact that led to more destructive habits by the latter and a fractured relationship that unfortunately was never repaired. Smith’s star was shining brighter than ever, but again, it came at the expense of his physical health.

One of the quotes in the book that best illustrates that is from Bruce Prichard, who once stated that “by the time [Davey] was 25 he’d already put his body through more punishment than anyone should have to go through in a lifetime.”

Bell details Smith’s early days in the WWF in the mid-80s, his return in 1990, his career-defining victory over Bret Hart at Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Stadium, and the infamous “trap door” bump at WCW Fall Brawl 1998 that only furthered his need to manage his constant pain.

It’s sad to think that one of the biggest things The British Bulldogs – one of the best tag teams of their era – had in common was they were both seemingly always in pain.

The demands of the industry they worked in had a lot to do with that. For 300-plus-days per year, wrestlers traveled from town to town, sometimes working twice per day to meet the increasing demand for more professional wrestling. It never stopped, and the need to have a larger-than-life, superhero physique only fed the rampant steroid abuse that once ran wild in professional wrestling.

“It was a daily routine of travel (usually whilst having a few beers), workout (with speed and steroids), perform, go to the bar and party all night (more uppers, beers, and possibly even cocaine), then some Valium and Halcyon to ensure a few hours’ sleep before doing it all over again,” Bell notes in the book.

He also takes care to describe the impact that routine had on both men’s families.

Again, some of the Billington stories are particularly difficult to read since he had a well-documented dark side. The afterword of Dynamite and Davey is written by Bronwyne Billington, and the stories of her relationship with her father in his final years (and her an emotional letter to him) paint the portrait of a man who loved his children and acknowledged some of the mistakes and bad choices from his past.

It is worth noting that the Smith family did not contribute to the book. However, I don’t think it holds Dynamite and Davey back. Bell still does Smith’s legacy justice with the level of research provided on a variety of noteworthy events during his career.

The rest of the stories truly are explosive and range from Dynamite’s escalating tensions with The Rougeau Brothers, the Dogfight-of-the-Decade saga that was supposed to save Stampede Wrestling, their not-so-harmless pranks on co-workers, and the struggle of two men trying to stay on top in a physically unforgiving era in the industry.

Even if you’ve heard some of the stories before, Bell is able to tie it all together in a way that no other book has before on The British Bulldogs.

That makes Dynamite and Davey an invaluable resource for wrestling fans and historians alike.

Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of The British Bulldogs is currently available in the UK (Amazon) and is set to release in the US (Amazon) on July 1. For more information, visit Steven Bell’s official website and follow him on Twitter @BulldogsBook123.

Disclaimer: The author provided a review copy of this book.