A Horrific Back Injury Ended Dynamite Kid’s Career


Hamish Woodward

Tom Billington AKA The Dynamite Kid (Credit: WWE)

The Dynamite Kid was one of the most influential wrestlers of all time, but his career ended prematurely after a horrific back injury suffered in 1986.

The Englishman had abused steroids for most of his career. Due to his small stature, he found other ways to compensate. Namely, he got as big as he could, worked as hard as he could, and abused those around him.

This style of wrestling, mixed with his huge size for his frame, caused Dynamite Kid to suffer a horrific back injury that ended his career and paralysed him for most of his life.

Dynamite Kid Injured His Back In A WWE House Show Match

The Dynamite Kid’s run as a top wrestler ended one night in 1986, during a WWE house show.

The British Bulldog’s were on top of the world. Recognised as two of the finest wrestlers on the planet, they were the top tag team in the WWE. The duo held the WWE Tag Team Championships, which they had held since WrestleMania II.

However, it came crashing down soon in late 1986. Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith battled Bob Orton and Don Muraco in a house show match on December 12th, 1986.

On that tour of North America, they had rotated opponents, facing either the aforementioned duo, or the Hart Foundation. The latter team helped put on some tremendous matches, which are among some of the finest tag matches in the company’s history.

Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid (Credit: WWE)
Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid (Credit: WWE)

However, years of hard living, steroid abuse and high-impact style took its toll that night in Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Fan footage, taken by someone in the crowd who snuck in a camera (no mean feat in 1986), shows the moment where Dynamite Kid’s back collapses in the ring.

After hitting the ropes and jumping slightly to leap over his opponent, the English simply collapsed on the other side of the ring. He clutched his back, as the other wrestlers in the match looked confused, and tried to continue.

“He dropped flat on his belly, so I had to jump over him to go to the other ropes” Dynamite Kid wrote in his controversial book, “Pure Dynamite”. “As I jumped, literally in my stride, I felt something go in my back.”

Davey Boy Smith finished the match, retaining the WWE tag team titles. However, the injury to Dynamite was much worse than anybody could have expected.

Doctor’s Warned Him Never To Wrestle Again, But Dynamite Kid Returned Just 6-Weeks Later

His back was completely shot. Dynamite Kid was rushed into surgery, with two disks removed from his back. He had ruptured both disks, although not specifically from the action in the ring that night.

The Englishman had simply pushed himself too far. Years of training too hard, working too ferociously and packing on too much muscle had taken its toll. His back (and later on, his heart) couldn’t take the strain any more. It simply gave out, and it was excruciating for the trailblazing wrestler.

He spoke about the injury in an interview with Powerslam. Dynamite Kid spoke about the two ripped disk, and how they had to be removed in surgery.

Dynamite Kid was in hospital for ten months recovering from his back injury, on-and-off. He was told by three different specialists that he had to retire, although obviously the then-tag team champion did not listen in the slightest. He was only 28-years-old, and his career was effectively over.

“It was at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. The discs, two of ‘em, ripped, and they had to put me on a stretcher and strap my legs down because the nerves were causing one of them to jump. So, they gave me an injection and took me to the hospital and later removed two of my discs.”

“[When asked how long he was in hospital for] On and off, about ten months. You see, I used to discharge myself from hospital, but I was in so much pain that they kept taking me back in. Three specialists told me to retire. While they were telling me this, I said – under my breath – “Bollocks.”

Dynamite Kid went against his doctor’s wishes, and returned to wrestling less than two months after his back injury. With the Bulldog’s still the reigning champion in the WWE, they had to drop the belts to the Hart Foundation as soon as possible

The British Bulldogs lost the titles to Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart at a TV taping on 26 January 1987. It aired on WWF Superstars of Wrestling, although Dynamite had very little part to play.

Before the cameras rolled, Davey Boy wheeled him to the ring in a wheelchair. His back was in such agony that the Englishman couldn’t even walk down the ramp, let alone wrestle.

As soon as the match began, he was knocked out by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. This took him out of the match, hiding his back injury and kept the Bulldog’s looking strong in defeat. He was paid just $25 for the match.

With money tight, he rushed back way before he was fit to wrestle. Filled to the brim with painkillers, he returned to touring in March 1985, desperate to get his WrestleMania III payday to help pay his mortgage.

“I went back to wrestling because I needed the money.” Dynamite Kid said, speaking to CNN for the documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling.

However, Dynamite Kid was a shell of his former self. The British Bulldog’s slowly fell down the pecking order in the WWE. The Wigan-born grappler could no longer work his signature style, the one that helped usher in a new style of wrestling.

The duo left the WWE in 1988. They returned to Stampede Wrestling in Canada, as well as the UK. However, after Davey Boy Smith lied to get the pair out of a tournament in Japan, he returned to the WWE without his partner, taking the British Bulldog name with him.

Dynamite Kid became a top draw in the withering British wrestling scene, before returning to Japan. He wrestled his last match in 1996, a sad end to a career that burned brightly and quickly.

His last match was just sad to watch, and the pale, emaciated man slowly trying to relive his glory days was light-years away from the Dynamite Kid. His back injury ruined his career, and prematurely took an all-time great wrestler off the shelf for good.

For the rest of his life, Dynamite Kid was resigned to a wheelchair. He lived in England, reuniting with his daughter before dying in 2018, on his 60th birthday.


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