Q&A: Steven Bell, author of “Dynamite and Davey – The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs”

Steven Bell discusses his upcoming book covering the lives of Tom Billington & Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldogs.

When one is listing the most influential tag teams, The British Bulldogs – Tom Billington and Davey Boy Smith – are going to be named by most that you survey.

The tandem had an explosive approach to their craft that spanned the globe from Japan to Canada and the United States with their influence still felt among performers that grew up idolizing the two and their performances.

With the two finding their footing in the industry in Stampede Wrestling and eventually becoming stars in both NJPW & AJPW, and eventually with the WWF, the story of the two was hardly a fairy tale.

Their stories included highs and lows, drug use, pranks that bordered on the extreme, and a falling out that saw the two cease communication with one another.

In his upcoming book documenting the tandem, writer Steven Bell has attempted to cover all areas of their careers and lives to put the two in the proper context by speaking with those close to the Bulldogs on both personal and professional levels.

The book Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs will be released in the U.K. this April and later this summer worldwide. POST Wrestling spoke with Bell about the process of putting together such a daunting project and the handling of two complex legacies.

First off Steven, when there is already a lot out there regarding the careers of Tom Billington and Davey Boy Smith, what were your goals for this project?

Great question! Let me tell you John, when I first decided to embark on this project, in the old northern mining towns of England, it certainly felt to me like two of our greatest sporting exports had been unfairly forgotten. I’d actually signed a deal to deliver the book with my publisher just before announcements of Tom’s Dark Side of the Ring episode and Davey’s WWE Icons documentary. Their legacy seems so much more indelibly and unfairly linked to other parts of the world. As a sports and true-life storytelling writer, in conjunction with a UK Publisher, I feel we are bringing part of the legacy home with this book.

What are some of the challenges that come with deeply researching two subjects that are deceased?

One of the main threads I concentrate on throughout this book is their rollercoaster relationship as cousins, as friends, partners and, ultimately, estranged family members. Unfortunately, I believe the only way this could ever have been done in such a fair and balanced way was when both gentlemen had passed away. That did, of course, bring with it difficulties, but with the help of some people close to them at the time, and with reference to lots of written sources, interviews and easy-to-access video archives we have available at the click of a button these days, I was able to write a 384-page in-depth book on the Bulldogs.

What was were your initial memories of the two when you first discovered the British Bulldogs?

This plays such a big part in how I came to, ultimately, write this book! I was a WWF-obsessed child in the early 90s, therefore the braided-haired British Bulldog was my hero! When the Attitude era lured me back in as a teenager, I think Davey and Undertaker were the only two still around, who had transcended the two eras. I began curating a collection of videotapes of the PPVs going back all the way to the first Wrestlemania. When the Bulldogs appeared in those early events, my uneducated mind believed that they’d maybe just found a British wrestler to support Davey – I mean, he was the British Bulldog, right? Over time, probably beginning with Mick Foley’s book, I learned that the Dynamite Kid was anything but a supporting act! Davey’s sudden death hit me hard, and then I began to slowly learn that they were cousins and just how locally they originated from to me and our shared mining village heritage. Over the years, I’d gradually peel one more layer of the onion back and become more enamoured and intrigued by their story – and then I got a publishing deal and began writing sports books.

Specific to Billington, when he passed away, many looked at him as a tragic figure and was not one without significant flaws and difficult stories for fans to reconcile with. How do you approach that aspect of his legacy?

Context. Lots of it. I don’t shy away from the controversies; I don’t think that a book on the Bulldogs that began “Once upon a time in Golborne…’ and ends with ‘and everybody lived happily ever after’ would be very well received. Pride and loyalty are fundamentally great traits, and Tom had these in abundance – in fact, he had them in so much abundance that they actually extenuated his flaws. As the author, once I discovered all of this, I reconciled myself with Tom’s story and became friends with his daughter, Bronwyne. With her help, I’ve ensured everyone will need tissues at hand as they finish the book!

Billington released his own book, Pure Dynamite in 1999 and was an explosive book in an era where wrestling books were still new to the market space. Was this an impactful book when you first read it?

Yeah, I think it was an amazing snapshot into his thoughts and feelings at the time. What I took away from it more than anything was how higher he seemed to regard the wrestling industry in Japan over anywhere else; there was such a synergy between the Dynamite Kid and Japan, and that came out in those pages from Tom’s point of view, and we know how mutual that feeling is.

When you’re beginning a project of this magnitude, who were some of the key people that you felt were necessary for this book to be accurate?

Obviously the closer the better, and that starts with family. If someone had told me when I first envisaged this project that I’d have contributions from the people I have, I’d have been delirious! I asked Ross Hart and Bronwyne Billington to write the Foreword and Afterword respectively, because their level of contribution, support and eventual friendship meant that I felt that their names deserved to be on the cover with mine. Yet, being a perfectionist, I still can’t help but regret those I couldn’t convince to contribute.

I’ve tried so hard to find the right balance between integrity and dignity to make this a book that honours both men, whilst not shying away from negative aspects and controversies. It was always ambitious!

What stage is the book currently in and what are the emotions you go through in the weeks and months before such a huge amount of work is released to the public?

The book is going to print! I’m not going to lie – I’m very nervous this time around. It was pure excitement with my previous two books. I always knew it was an ambitious project and I knew what I wanted to deliver. It’s been such a long journey but I think I’ve got it right and all the early feedback would suggest I have, but I also know how heavily scrutinized it is going to be; fans are going to be wanting and expecting different things from this and I just hope most people love it and appreciate the effort.

Dynamite and Davey: The Explosive Lives of the British Bulldogs is scheduled to be released worldwide in July 2022 – for updates on the book, follow @BulldogsBook123.