The Dynamite Kid was a pioneering performer but a controversial figure outside the ring.
Former pro wrestler Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington, best known for his time in the WWF and New Japan Pro Wrestling, died Wednesday on his 60th birthday, WWE announced.
Descended from a long line of fighters and executioners, Billington was born in England and made his wrestling debut in his native country in 1975. He moved to Canada three years later to train with the Hart family and got his first big break in NJPW working matches with Tiger mask.
Billington’s cousin was Davey Boy Smith, with whom he would form the British Bulldogs tag team and feud with the Hart Foundation’s Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart in one of the era’s best storylines.
It deeply saddens me to announce the passing of Tom Billington the “Dynamite Kid.” 😭😢🙏I was really happy and glad I got to see Dynamite one last time last June in the UK. 🇬🇧 ❤️🙏. Dynamite was certainly an inspiration to myself and many others and really revolutionized pic.twitter.com/req7CWTdxm— Davey Boy Smith Jr. (@DBSmithjr) December 5, 2018
Supposedly as a way of compensating for his small stature (5'9"), Billington was one of wrestling’s greatest risk takers. His high-flying style heavily featured the dangerous diving headbutt, but the years of treacherous work in the ring eventually caught up to Billington. In 1997, one year after wrestling his final match, he lost the use of his left leg and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He suffered a stroke in 2013 that further deteriorated his health.
Billington was widely respected as a performer but derided outside the ring by his colleagues. He was a heavy steroid user and his roid rage turned him into a massive backstage bully. In his 2008 book Ring of Hell, Matthew Randazzo writes that frequent injections of horse steroids left Billington’s buttocks so scarred that the skin was tough enough to bend a needle.
Billington was also abusive to his wife, once allegedly threatening her with a shotgun he later claimed was not loaded.