From the time he stepped into the squared circle, Davey Boy had, if nothing else, a definitive look about him. That’s not to say that he always looked the same, but that he always stood out, even at very beginning of his career when he was working with the likes of “Fit” Finlay as part of the UK’s World of Sport.
The match shows how much different his World of Sport style is and his look was before being introduced to Canadian wrestling and more importantly, American steroids, as well as how much of an actual “baby”face he had. It’s also indicative of the considerable physical gifts that would make him make him and Dynamite into one of the most influential tag teams of all time.
Of course, the catch-as-catch-can-mixed-with-stiff-strikes style of European wrestling could make anyone look good and dangerous, so the match feels exciting despite the rounds breaking up the action. But it wasn’t until he moved to his time Stampede that he was able to incorporate his preternatural strength in a way that didn’t just serve as a functional tool to tell a story but began becoming “the” story of many of his matches, like in this one from Calgary’s Stampede Wrestling against Bad News Allen.
He played perfectly the role of well-meaning good guy who may not quite know his own strength, acting as strong relief to the barely-below-the-surface arrogance with which his cousin approached his job, both legitimately and in kayfabe. While it would eventually lead to their — and especially Dynamite’s — downfall, the match between the Bulldogs vs the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers — just before the famous blow-up between the two teams — shows precisely how good the two could be, a time capsule example of the tail-end of the Golden Age of WWF Tag Teams.
Before real-life (financially fueled) animosity would cause a schism between the two, sending Davey Boy back to America and Tom back to England ( and on the dole) the pair would work matches throughout the world, like this gem from All Japan Pro in 1989. A super athletic match; it shows the potential Smith had to be a singles star.
Thankfully for Davey Boy, his athleticism and in-ring talent, coupled with his super ridiculous look allowed him to reach a level of success that his, well, “rough” promos never would have let him.
Despite his seemingly pathological inability to not sound completely ridiculous whenever he opened his mouth, he found himself as part of many high-level pushes. This included among other things, a surprisingly — which is to say “very” as opposed to “doesn’t totally want to make me rip my eyes out” — enjoyable match with the Warlord from WrestleMania (covered during Batista Week) including using his remarkable strength, athleticism and endurance to make him a continuous fixture to the Royal Rumble year after year.
This all culminated in “The” match. In front of a record-setting crowd in his native England, Davey Boy and his brother-in-law Bret Hart managed to blow the non-existent roof off of Wembley Stadium. But, as had been — and would continue to be — a problem through his career, his demons led him to get high on crack with Jim Neidhart for days before the match, requiring Bret to hold Davey’s hand throughout the match.
Following this, and more importantly, another drug-related falling out, he found himself in WCW, where he didn’t really make much noise other than time he was overheard saying “He fell flat on his fucking arse” during the single most infamous segment in wrestling history, the debut of THE SHOCKMASTER.
After an almost comically uneventful few years, where he bounced from tag team to tag team before eventually settling down with brother-in-law Owen as Tag Team champs, the Bulldog once again was pegged in a major singles push, this time working with Owen in the deciding match of the European title tournament. The match, remarkably for any number of things, including how much the European crowd LOVES Davey Boy is also a master class in the wonderfulness that was the relationship between Owen and (everybody, but especially) Davey Boy.
With their considerable in-ring chemistry to their fantastic real-life friendship, the pairing was one of the true highlights of the mostly forgotten “just before the Attitude” Era. “In that ring” and “on that mic”, they were entertainers of the highest order.
But, as drugs continued to run roughshod over Davey’s life, as well as many of the members of the roster, he became increasingly unstable, having his career essentially derailed when he lost the European title to Shawn Michaels simply because the Heartbreak Kid wanted it to happen.
After that match, and the (pardon the pun) heartbreak it caused — according to Bret Hart’s biography, Bulldog promised a child with cancer that he’d keep the title, only to have Michaels laugh in his face, which did its part in sending Smith off the deepend — Davey Boy hit rock bottom, leaving the WWF for WCW following the Montreal Screw Job before returning for an ill-fated title run and feud with Hardcore Holly over the Hardcore championship. The match, which is borderline unwatchable, illuminated the overwhelming sadness that came with how much a once great technical wrestler had been reduced to garbage
The legacy of Davey Boy will ultimately be as a pioneering international wrestler, as well as a consummate in-ring performer when he had his head on straight. But, because of the era he came up in, and the life he chose to lead, he’s not here to see the fruits of his labor, living on only in the memories of people who knew him and the lives he touched. Unfortunately, that’s not how he’ll be remembered by those outside that circle. however: Davey Boy’s death in 2002 serving as the bellwether impending storm that would ravage the wrestling industry for the better part of the decade.
But Davey deserved better, and so did the fans.