When they debuted as a tag team in the WWE in 1984, not they, wrestling fans or even Vince McMahon himself could have guessed the impact The British Bulldogs would have on the world of professional wrestling.
Davey Boy Smith (David Smith) was the muscle and power of the Bulldogs while cousin The Dynamite Kid (Thomas Billington) was the speed and the agility. Together, they were perhaps the most well-balanced tag team of all-time, complimenting each other in every way inside the squared circle.
Discovered individually by Bruce Hart, the Bulldogs joined Stampede Wrestling and later New Japan Pro Wrestling which augmented and expanded their already unique wrestling style. The combination of the British, North American and Japanese styles of wrestling was something nobody had ever seen before. The sudden, crisp, nimble and energetic style full of snap-suplexes, running powerslams, diving head butts, delayed vertical suplexes, snap clotheslines stunned and excited fans. It was a style that would forever change the wrestling industry with superstars the world over adopting the Bulldogs’ moves and their techniques.
The introduction of the Bulldogs to the WWE sparked what in my mind was the greatest period of tag team wrestling to date, pushing the other teams in the WWE to up their game in the ring and that resulted in a roster and a division that has never been duplicated in the WWE since that time. Teams like The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation, The Killer Bees, Demolition, The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine), The Islanders, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, The Brain Busters, The Legion of Doom, The Powers of Pain, The Rockers, The Nasty Boys and others in the WWE shared the stage with any main event solo bout as tag team wrestling was not relegated to the undercard as it is today.
The greatest feud to come out of that era was without a doubt was The British Bulldogs versus The Hart Foundation. Their matches and feud were the pinnacle of tag team wrestling. Davey Boy and Dynamite, Hitman and The Anvil, were mirror images of each other and that translated to some of the greatest tag matches fans would ever see ushering the Bulldogs’ mascot Matilda and dastardly referee-turned-wrestler, Danny Davis.
During their time as a team, Davey Boy and Dynamite also had some spectacular solo matches. The Dynamite Kid would highlight the precursor to the King of the Ring — The WWE Wrestling Classic — in which he would wrestle Adrian Adonis and Randy Savage while Davey fought Ricky Steamboat. Dynamite would go on to have fantastic solo matches against Bret Hart, Brutus Beefcake but it was his earlier feud with Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) which would predominantly define his career.
Once Davey Boy Smith left the team he went onto a stellar solo career in the WWE and WCW against the likes of The Warlord, Vader, Shawn Michaels and others. It was highlighted by the unforgettable Intercontinental Title match against Bret Hart at SummerSlam ’92 in London, England.
As a team and as individuals, Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid continue to inspire future superstars in the wrestling dojos in Japan, the wannabe luchadors in Mexican training schools and any Canadian fan who adopted the pair as honorary countrymen due to their ties to the Hart family and Stampede Wrestling.
With both innovators now no longer with us, it is even more significant for veteran fans like myself to see Davey Boy Smith Jr. (Harry Smith) proudly carrying on the Bulldog legacy in NJPW. Not only has Smith’s partnership with Lance Archer in the Killer Elite Squad resulted in one of the best and entertaining tag teams in the business today but seeing Smith use moves like the running powerslam, the Hart Attack, delayed vertical suplexes, etc., as an homage to his father and one of the greatest tag teams to ever step into the ring is great to see. The Bulldogs left an indelible mark on the industry, evolving it and changing it, advancing it beyond what anyone thought was possible often at a high price to their own personal well-being and for that fans, superstars are eternally grateful.