Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

“A Love Letter to Arguably the Two Greatest British Wrestlers of All Time” – Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs (Review)

4 min read

If you grew up as a fan of professional wrestling in the UK in the 1980s or 1990s, you will undoubtedly have been familiar with The and , . As one of the most dynamic and unique tag teams of the time, and in their own rights, two of the biggest UK stars to reach a global audience, The Bulldogs achieved a legendary place in wrestling history. However, it wasn't all sunshine and roses, and Steven Bell's new book Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs goes in-depth on the rise and fall of both men, from humble roots in Golbourne, Lancashire to the heady heights of WWE (then -known as WWF) and back again.

The book is essentially divided into three sections. The first covers the early life and career of Dynamite Kid Tom Billington, chronicling his rise through ranks on the UK scene of the 1970s and early 1980s, including working as the tag team partner for , the move to Canada for Stampede, and Dynamite's growth into a huge star in Japan and his iconic, industry-defining series of matches with the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama. It can't be understated the role Dynamite played in creating the modern style of wrestling that fans see on TV today, without his sacrifices and his whirlwind career, things would have been tremendously different, and this first section follows his story as he reaches the peak of his powers. 

The second part of the book focuses on the arrival of Davey Boy Smith, Billington's cousin to Stampede, their success and dominance of Japan as a tag team (including a switch of promotions, which was very uncommon in puroresu at that time), their move to WWF and time on top as a team in the biggest wrestling company in the world. However, this also covers the downward spiral of Dynamite, his back injury, and their eventual break-up as Billington paid the price – physically, professionally, and emotionally – for his hard-hitting innovative in-ring style. 

The final portion of the book covers the singles career of Davey Boy Smith, his megastardom at the peak of WWF's popularity in the UK, SummerSlam 1992 at Wembley Stadium, as well as his career beyond that with stints in WCW and WWF, including multiple main event runs and huge matches against the biggest stars in the industry during the most successful period of all time for professional wrestling. Almost mirroring the downfall of his cousin, Davey Boy would also suffer from various drug issues, a court case that almost ruined his career, controversy surrounding the 1997 Survivor Series, and a back injury that almost killed him, all of which are covered in great detail.

Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs is incredible in terms of how much detail it goes into around the careers of both men. The in-ring matches, the backstage machinations, the personal relationships within the locker room and outside it, it's all given equal time and forms a really rich textured picture of the type of people Dynamite and Davey were, as well as the companies they worked within. While Davey and Dynamite are the focus here, it is also fascinating to read more about the Hart family, especially considering how closely linked they are to The Bulldogs, and Bell does a great job of providing enough background information around infamous stories from Dynamite and Davey's past to shed new light on well-trodden ground, which speaks to the level of research and authenticity that this book brings to the table. Those interpersonal relationships, as well as the bond between the two cousins built on respect, hard work, and a love of practical jokes really helps to immerse the reader into the surrounding of the 1980s wrestling scene and makes their eventual parting such a heartbreaking moment in the book. 

Tom Billington and Davey Boy Smith were beloved entertainers with a darker side to their personalities. This has been well documented over the years. Dynamite and Davey could have turned a critical, negative eye toward both men's behaviour, but their foibles and their actions are not used as an example to beat them with, nor are they brushed aside. They are presented in the most matter-of-fact way possible, with objectivity that runs throughout the book. This objectivity means that the reader gets the fullest possible picture of the two men, warts and all, and by doing so, Bell shows a deftness and a sense of tact that makes it feel like the reader is getting the bigger picture from a real authority on the careers of both Davey and Dynamite. 

Both men's careers and their lives were tragically cut short, and this could so easily have been a cautionary tale or a sad rumination on the damage both men did to their bodies and their minds, sacrificing everything for professional wrestling. While that side of their story is acknowledged at length, what Steven Bell has crafted is a love letter to arguably the two greatest British wrestlers of all time. A celebration of the redefining nature of Dynamite Kid's all-too-brief career, a spotlight on the superstardom Davey Boy Smith achieved, and a memorialisation of what they achieved as a duo. Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs is a must-read for any wrestling fan past or present.

Images courtesy of WWE

“Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs” is available from all good bookstores and online from April 11. Find out more about the author here. Read our interview with the author here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *