The Dynamite Kid is one of the most influential and controversial pro wrestlers of the 1980s, but is now confined to a wheelchair following the years of abuse his body took. Highspots.com recently travelled to Manchester, England, to conduct a shoot interview with Tom Billington, but came away with a different plan. If the funding can be put together, the company intends to complete a documentary on Dynamite’s life.
Michael Bochicchio is the owner of Highspots.com, and one of the video team that went to see Billington.
In an email interview, Bochicchio admitted that there are many challenges to the documentary plan, but that in the end, it would be the best way to feature the reclusive Billington.
“We felt that a person of Dynamite’s mystique deserved more than the normal ‘shoot interview’ treatment,” said Bochicchio. “He has an amazing story that wasn’t captured completely through his book or through the interview we did with him. Everybody that shared a locker room with him seems to have a Dynamite Kid story and we felt like he would make a good candidate to go outside the norm on this one. Additionally, his strong Wigan accent and notoriously short answers to a lot of questions don’t make him the best storyteller. He wasn’t known for his great interviews when he was a performer and he hasn’t turned into Ric Flair on the microphone since he left wrestling.”
Rather than deliver a disappointing, hard-to-decipher four-hour shoot interview, the crew thought bigger, and felt the former star in Stampede Wrestling, WWF and Japan deserved more.
“This man is an enigma, he is probably the most interesting and unique individual we’ve ever sat down with,” said Highspots.com video editor Jake Feuerbach in a press release pitching the project. “They say that in wrestling you meet the best people and the worst people and sometimes it’s the same person. Judging by our time with Dynamite Kid, he is definitely that.”
Bochicchio explained what Dynamite was like in person.
“He is still a very proud and somewhat intimidating individual. He’s got a very hard shell,” said Bochicchio. “We met him one day prior to the interview to try and develop more of a rapport with him and I told him at the end of the first day that my goal was to try and make him laugh one time during the interview. I may have gotten a smirk, but definitely not a full belly laugh out of him in four hours. Everybody asks if he is bitter and that is definitely not the word I would use to describe him. He has accepted his lot in life, he understands that he’s paid a tremendous price for how he pushed his body through injuries and extensive steroid use during a time where there was little understanding of their long-term effects. He still lives confined to a wheelchair without regrets and I’m not sure many other people would be that optimistic about their life if they had been the one confined to a wheelchair at age 39.”
Highspots already has interviewed Harley Race, Harry Smith, Slick, Bob Orton, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Hillbilly Jim, and Jimmy Hart for this project, and can rely on archival shoot interviews in its vault already from the likes of Jacques Rougeau and the late Bad News Allen. With the funding, another 25 or so people would be interviewed, including a trip to Calgary and collect stories from Japan, where Dynamite Kid’s revolutionary style changed the business.
The key man still to get is Bret Hart, said Bochicchio, adding that negotiations are almost complete.
“He has the ability to fill in a lot of the gaps both for incidents inside and outside the wrestling ring,” he said. “He is also one of the few guys that still keeps in touch with Dynamite and I think that is very relevant to the project. I’m not sure there is anybody in the world other than Bret Hart that can speak personally about Dynamite Kid both in 1980 and still in 2012.”
When Dynamite was asked about narrators, Hart, Race and Mick Foley were the three names he came back with.
Foley has interest, said Bochicchio. “I don’t think there is any better person that can relate to the aspect of how a person’s body simply can break down from the self-inflicted damage caused by wrestling more so than Mick Foley,” said Bochicchio. “Both guys literally are broken down today because of their desire to put on the best matches for the audience. Fortunately for Mick, he made some better decisions than Dynamite later in his career.”
The bigger challenge is raising the money to fund the documentary. Using the Kickstarter model, where people pledge money to get the project off the ground in return for bonuses down the road, Highspots is hoping that it comes together quickly. At the halfway point of the campaign, the Dynamite Kid Documentary on Kickstarter project is roughly halfway to the goal of $15,000.
Bochicchio admitted that he thought they would be further along by this point.
“I’m a little disappointed to be honest. For years our customers kept asking for two people – Randy Savage and Dynamite Kid. I thought the interest in Dynamite Kid would be overwhelming and we would have hit our target goal in mere days,” he explained. “The total cost on this project will probably be about $35,000, the $15,000 that we’re seeking is the additional costs we’d incur by turning this into a documentary rather than the straightforward shoot interview release that we typically utilize. We are not asking for fans to cover the money already spent on our trip to England or the considerable investment it took to get Dynamite Kid to agree to the project.
“Not to take anything away from other wrestling projects that were successfully funded on Kickstarter, but I think from both an original content and historical perspective, this project is much more important in scope than any of the others in the past few months that achieved their funding efforts. We know that Dynamite Kid’s reputation took a lot of hits from the Hart family book releases and the CNN documentary, but at the same time he was one of the most dynamic performers of his generation and arguably put Stampede Wrestling on a world map in the early ’80s.”
If the documentary wanted to be even bigger and more involved — and expensive — Bochicchio said they would go after liscencing video footage of Dynamite Kid, but that just isn’t feasible given the funds.
“We do have access to some great still photographs. Part of the fundraising effort is to purchase the use of these photos so it fills in some of the gaps that would normally be filled by video footage,” said Bochicchio. “Thankfully for fans, most of his footage is available on YouTube. Anybody that wants to see his amazing matches with Tiger Mask, footage from Stampede, the British Bulldogs in the WWF or Japan has immediate access to these matches. Obviously, we wish we were able to mix them into the finished product, but that just isn’t an option given our budget.”
Optimistic that it will all come together, Bochicchio can see a day when his Charlotte, North Carolina-based company tackles other documentary projects.
“We definitely would love to be able to go this route,” he said. “I don’t know if people understand the significant additional costs of moving from the traditional format to the documentary form. The editing costs alone are significantly higher, but you also have the additional costs related to all the ancillary participating talent, licensing on music/photos/video that we bypass normally. We have two or three ‘documentary’ projects that we’d love to tackle in the future and the success of this Dynamite Kid campaign certainly will impact whether we move in that direction or not.”
The Kickstarter campaign for the Dynamite Kid documentary ends on November 8th and the finished product, should the necessary funding be acquired, would be slated to be released in the first quarter of 2013.
“If we are not successful in our Kickstarter fundraising, we’re probably going to sit on this footage until there is a better time to release it,” concluded Bochicchio.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Full disclosure: The SLAM! Wrestling Store is operated by Highspots.com.