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Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom Paperback – October 1, 2001
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From the Back Cover
From Humble beginnings in England, to warm family atmosphere of the Hart Foundation in Calgary, Canada, to heights of success with the WWF, Tom Billington wrestled all the big names, including Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and Mick "Cactus Jack" Foley.
Now, scar tissue and memories are all he has to show for sixteen years in the game.
Pure Dynamite is a blow by blow account of Tom Billington's career, who wrestled solo as the Dynamite kid and with Davey Boy Smith as the world-champion tag team, the British Bulldogs. Confined to a wheel chair as a result of damage to his back and legs, years of steroid use have also done serious damage to Billington's heart and personal life. Pure Dynamite is as much a cautionary tale as it is a fairytale. Painfully candid, The Kid's story takes all the gloss off professional wrestling. The price you pay for wrestling stardom? Just as Tom Billington.
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When I started reading I wanted to call him the Trytowrite Kid as there are A LOT of typos--not so much misspelled words but extra words, as if the wording was going to be one way and it was changed but the extra word wasn't removed. Sentences like "you can see for yourself from the lads he that he trained" (5) and "we were sat in the bar after the matches" (66) are frequent. The editor must have been in a sleeper hold.
Dynamite doesn't share much about his personal life and views, he sticks mainly with his wrestling experiences and the pranks he pulled on fellow wrestlers. The book reads like Billington was going down memory lane while someone dictated. He'll discuss an experience and then jump into a prank he pulled as if he was just reminded of it as he was talking. I guess there is a charm to that style. His childhood as a fighting lad in a rough wrestling-based neighborhood in Wigan, Lancashire is briefly covered. The details begin with his training by Ted Betley in England, his move to Calgary to wrestle in Stu Hart's Stampede promotion, and his first of many tours to Japan.
He seems to be the most proud of his wrestling accomplishments in Japan where he respected the wrestling style and business more (although he was jilted everywhere) and where he had some of his best matches versus Tiger Mask. He gives his opinion on many wrestlers including the Harts (as well as the famous "Dungeon") and WWF stars, some of which he did not think much of which would eventually include his cousin and former tag partner, Davey Boy Smith. The WWF years were the most interesting to me because I was familiar with the names and some of the matches discussed. Some of the many names in the wrestling business he talks about include: Harley Race, all the Harts, Jim Neidhart, Terry Funk, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik, the Rougeaus (another favorite of mine--he couldn't stand them and Jacques let him have it), King Tonga, the Young Stallions Paul Roma & Jim Powers, Jesse Ventura, King Kong Bundy, Bob Orton, Ultimate Warrior, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Shawn Michaels, Sherri Martel, Elizabeth, Randy Savage, Paul Orndorff, Bam Bam Bigelow, Curt Hennig, Don Muraco, Nick Bockwinkel, Chris Benoit (who idolized Dynamite as a kid), Hercules Hernandez, Roddy Piper, Ted Dibiase, Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, the Honky Tonk Man, Mick Foley, Abdullah the Butcher, Kobashi, Stan Hansen, Danny Spivey, etc.
He is also proud of the many pranks he played. He states he never hurt anyone with the pranks but, giving someone ten laxative pills, putting hair remover on someone's head while they were passed out, slipping someone speed, injecting cousin Davey with milk while saying it's steroids, and setting someone on fire at a McDonald's seems pretty extreme to me--but maybe they were tame by the wrestling world standards. He is also candid about his steroid use and other drugs. He doesn't sound like he is sorry for himself that he is in a wheelchair now. He realizes that he made choices that affected his future and is grateful for the 13 years in wrestling he had. He doesn't discuss the ugly parts of his home life that his ex-wife Michelle explains and that he admits to in a video documentary I saw. He does say that steroids can make one aggressive, but that was as far as it went.
I'm not sure if I respect Dynamite more or less after reading this book. He may not have been the nicest person, but, as a wrestler, he worked hard and did everything he could to put on a good show for the fans. Davey Boy Smith was not painted in a good light at all. He was described as spineless who couldn't make decisions for himself and who was afraid of getting hurt in the ring so Dynamite had to take the pounding. Later he is shown as someone who wasn't there for his cousin during his worst times, tried to boost his own reputation by putting his cousin down to his family members, and attempting to take away Dynamite's use of the name "British Bulldog." The infighting negatively affected the Billington/Smith families. Of course, Davey Boy can no longer defend himself as the book came out just a few years before Davey Boy's sudden death in 2002, but Dynamite pulls no punches and the stories are probably true--at least from his perspective. The book includes a small section of b&w photos--some not the best of quality--several of Billington post-wrestling. It would have been nice if there were more photos with some of the people he mentioned the most in his book. There is not a single photo of him with Davey Boy which, based on the sour way their relationship ended up, is understandable. While "Pure Dynamite" is not one of the better written books out there, if you are interested in the behind-the-scenes wrestling life during the breakthrough years of the WWF as well as pranks and jokes by one of the most respected wrestlers in the business, I recommend it.
Were it not for the steroids, Billington might well be walking today, but he would not have had the impressive build, and, consequently, might never have made it to superstardom, especially in the WWF.
This book won't win Billington any fans among those in the wrestling business, especially among the Hart family and the Kid's own cousin, Davey Boy Smith (who emerges as the villain of the piece). However, it should win him new fans among wrestling addicts, who will surely appreciate the Kid's honest telling of his life's story.
Back then I didn't really know much about Dynamite except that he seemed like a nononsense type of wrestler with a rock-solid physique. Over the years as I became more educated about what really goes-on in a wrestlers life during his travels and leisure time I began to form a more complete picture of how complicated and troubled the lives of these wrestlers can be.
Dynamite is certainly the complicated sort who led a hard life both in and out of the ring. Dynamite paid a heavy price for his stardom and this book does a good job detailing all the dark and unpleasant moments during his legendary career.
I recommend this book for most pro-wrestling fans but especially for people who enjoyed wrestling during the 80's.