A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Vince McMahon‘s promotion has always been a half jokingly referred to as “the land of the giants“. Quite simply, the bigger a person is, the better the chances of success. This was especially true in the wrestling boom of the 1980s. The main roster was filled with people who were not just physically big but were larger than life characters.
The tag team division was the exception — it seemed as if this was Vince’s attempt to show he cared about more than muscular showmen. Teams like the Hart Foundation and the Killer Bees put on nightly clinics. The teams and matches were so good, they were usually the matches that would end the house shows around the circuit.
One of the most exciting teams of the era was the British Bulldogs. A combination of high flying, innovative tag team moves, and power made the duo one of the most popular acts in the WWF. They had many great matches and eventually got a run with the WWF tag belts. Eventually, they were saddled with a silly mascot and the fans tired of them.
Dynamite Kid’s personal choices were also becoming an issue. His surly backstage attitude led to a number of confrontations, most infamously a fight with the Rougeaus that some claim led to his firing. Pound for pound, Dynamite Kid is one of the top wrestlers of all time. His legendary matches with the original Tiger Mask invented an entirely new style of wrestling. He helped set the template that made Rey Mysterio arguably the most influential wrestler of this era.
However, the fast-paced, high-impact style also wore his body down, leading to an addiction to painkillers and other drugs. By the time 1988 rolled around, Dynamite was a shell of his former self. After becoming persona non grata in the WWF, the Bulldogs returned to Stampede Wrestling. Stu Hart’s Stampede was where Davey Boy Smith and DK first got their big breaks. Dynamite was a vicious heel, while Davey Boy was the up-and-coming face. The two had a violent feud before teaming up and taking the promotion by storm.
The Bulldogs’ return to Stampede was met with great fanfare. The Apter mags covered it and made it seem like a resurgence in both men’s careers. The magazines also made it seem like the team’s breakup was inevitable. Dynamite was feuding with Davey Boy’s cousin Johnny Smith. He had also grown a heelish mustache that also seemed to foreshadow a turn.
Before long, the British Bulldogs were suddenly no more, Dynamite had given his lucky boots to Chris Benoit, and a new team comprised of DK and Johnny Smith named the British Bruisers was wreaking havoc in Calgary as heels. Something was obviously missing. It turns out that not only did the turn actually happen, it was during a televised match! The reason fans never saw the breakup was simple; the promotion didn’t want you to.
Dynamite and Johnny Smith met in a chain match. This was the ultimate feud ender in Stampede. Most of the match was shown on television, before being cut right before the end. The finish was briefly mentioned in a recap after the match. Fans never saw what happened in future episodes, though there was a locker room brawl in the next episode.
One theory is that Ed Whalen never wanted the breakup to happen. Whalen was the executive producer of the show, and he simply edited the breakup out of the airing. Another explanation floated around involves Giant Baba. All Japan had booked the Bulldogs for a tour. As the story goes, the team was very popular with Japanese fans and Stampede was shown in Japan. Baba felt a Bulldogs breakup would hurt ticket sales.
As with most cases in wrestling, the full truth will probably never be known. One thing is for certain, the British Bulldogs never returned to the heights of the previous years. Davey Boy Smith would go on to have a decent singles career. Dynamite Kid wound up in a wheelchair, though he is now remembered as one of the greatest workers of all time.
Next week: Why comedy never works in some promotions
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