Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay For Wrestling Stardom

Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom

Pure Dynamite is the memoir of professional wrestler Tom “The Dynamite Kid” Billington.

In the years following the 1999 release of Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day, the marketplace for wrestler memoirs and biographies exploded.  While many of those books aren’t worth reading, Tom Billington’s memoir – originally released in 2001 – has long been considered one of the best.  Unfortunately, it’s long out-of-print, so the only copies you’re likely going to find are going to be from third-party sellers on the internet (which is how I got my copy).

Tom had an extraordinarily influential career that was tragically cut short as the injuries sustained during his hard-hitting matches caught up to him at a young age.  Because of this, I’ve frequently heard that he was a deeply bitter man who often lashed out and blamed others for much of his misfortune.  

That being said, in Pure Dynamite, I found Billington took ownership for all of the bad decisions he made during his career.  Perhaps people were turned off by his often cutting opinions of both the character of and in-ring talent of his peers, but I found his opinions refreshing.  Billington doesn’t pull punches when assessing the bell-to-bell performance of the likes of Hulk Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, the Hart Brothers (Bret & Owen excluded), Nikolai Volkoff, The Iron Sheik and many others.  It’s hard to blame his stringent assessments when Tom held himself to such an incredibly high standard that anyone who seemingly gave less than 100% in the ring would likely draw his ire.

The most shocking aspects of the book dealt with his drug and steroid abuse as well as how he handled his mounting injuries.  For example, after tearing ligaments in his shoulder during a match in Japan, rather than take time off, Tom began injecting himself with cortisone before heading to the ring.  Little did he know, habitual cortisone use would lead to deterioration of his ligaments, muscles and bones.  However, Tom said had he known that, he still likely wouldn’t have changed his behavior as it worked for him at the time.  

This is the key thread that runs through the bulk of the book.  Tom seemingly has no regrets.  Everything he did allowed him to be successful, so although his career was cut short, it’s hard to imagine him getting to the level he did in his era without the sacrifices he made.  This is such a departure from what I’ve read in many other wrestling books where performers are more focused on playing the victim and finding excuses rather than admitting fault.

The Dynamite Kid was a wrestler who seemingly stepped out of a time machine into the 1970s and 80s.  His in-ring work was far ahead of its time and I could only imagine the performances he would put on with today’s wrestler.  This is one of the most raw, honest and open wrestling memoirs you’re likely to read and it’s a shame it isn’t more widely available.

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