If you grew up in Lancashire in the nineteen sixties there was really three things you could be in life of note. A minor, a Rugby League player or a professional wrestler. Lancashire was one of the hot beds of pro wrestling and as I got onto the internet in the mid nineties and started researching the things that I liked more closely it appeared to me there was three places down the years that always attracted the best practitioners and had the greatest reputations. As far as hookers where concerned the original place to learn your craft was The Business Man's Gym in Saint Louis Missouri, home of one Lou Thesz. As the shooter dominance shifted Lancashire began to take over that crown. Straight up shooters and hookers like Billy Robinson and Billy Joyce spread the reputation of Lancashire through the business. Trainers like Billy Riley and Ted Betley enhanced that reputation built on the grass roots of traditional Lancastrian amateur style, a need to wrestlers to protect themselves in a hostile environment and a willingness by the new trained workers to get away from the world of mining and Rugby League by putting the best matches on the card they could.
The Dynamite Kid Tommy Billington in my mind exemplifies that standard better than anyone else of that era. Tommy was small when he started and in the matches we will look at he wrestled first at lightweight and then at welterweight, very quickly becoming a star and a champion in both divisions. This early match also shows that he was destined for great things, not for its quality, though it has a kind of rustic charm, but for his tag team partners and the way he was billed.
Six man tags where rare on UK TV, they had to be kept in a glass cabinet marked "break only in the event of being desperate for a TV draw". Much could be said of the Royal Brothers at this point. Fine singles wrestlers in their own right, they where the biggest drawing card in the North of England as a tag team. The cool, calm and clinical Burt contrasted the happy go lucky but unstable anger management of Vic. They where essentially a scaled down Funk Brothers. For Bert read Dory Funk Jr. for Vic read Terry Funk. the matches they had though where phenomenal, they where lightning fast when quick tags where an anathema to UK wrestling. They where the money. So when Dynamite is introduced as their hand picked partner he is getting the biggest of all main event rubs.
On the heel side we have the colourful Tally Ho' Kaye whose gimmick was of a horsey hunting land owner type, which was cool and interesting but kind of came undone when he opened his mouth and came out with broad Yorkshire. Sadly I can not tell you a lot about Ken Hogan, I've never seen him before or since this bout so its pretty safe to say he wasn't going to the hall of fame. Finally the perhaps least successful British heel of all time Blackjack Mulligan. Of course as a completely uninspired gimmick as most copyists tend to be he was never going to be like the original Blackjack Mulligan and aided the theory that a cool name and a beard isn't everything. People have to care about you one way or another, sadly few people cared of Blackjack was in the match or not so long as he got beat up as usual. Here has the opportunity to hone that skill dropping the first fall of this best of five match (best of five in a 20 minute match are you mental?) in the first twenty seconds.
Ah but I promised you focus on Dynamite so we shall, he tags in and delivers the crispness that he was to become known for. Precisions throws and escapes and finally has the wind taken out of him with a posting that turns the match. However that gave off the other side of Dynamite, the bump machine that made his name, he makes Hogan look great before taking over again and taking the fall in smooth fashion. Of course the heels have to have their comeback and its Dynamite that will be on the receiving end, burying a bunch of guys three nil would be to high a price to pay especially on TV. Even Mulligan and Hogan could be useful somewhere.
So as the heels beat on poor Tommy they get more and more vicious to the point of Max Crabtree having to employ the beard pull to get Mulligan of the Kid. A tactic I'd like to see used on Daniel Bryan more often. What is impressive is Dynamites ability to sell everything often something over looked in UK rings. As I mentioned in the last Blog Steve Logan's underselling of the Riot Squads offence took something away from the match but everything Dynamite does makes sense and enhances the story, building to the hot tag. When Burt gets tagged in from the dramatic back-breaker submission its house cleaning time for both Royal's, a dropkick and a bodyslam seal the deal.
So this shows the rise of a young star, still having to make others look good but the top of the mountain was not that far away for Dynamite. In 1977 he would defeat perennial British Lightweight Champion Jim Breaks for the belt. Breaks moved up a weight to feud with Vic Faulkner over the British Welterweight title only to be beaten by Dynamite again who took home two belts. One of the few British wrestlers to hold titles at two weights at the same time. Then Calgary came calling. The Hart brothers in the eighties became frequent visitors to UK shores, the matches they had hear became part of their training and understanding as to what would work back home for Stampede wrestling. With the tight nature of promoters of the time, it also gave chance to meet up with New Japan alumni like Satourou Sayama and Akira Maeda. Bruce and Bret liked what they saw in Dynamite and offered him a job. Off he went on a short tour that was suppose to last a couple of months and wound up being fourteen years.
However he would come back from time to time to show us what he had learned. Next time we look at one of those matches from an era when British wrestling was the place to be (if you where under twenty stone).
Till next time grapple fans.