This day in wrestling history, like so many unfortunate others, is one where we remember the passing of one of the greats on May 18, 2002. Born in Golborne, Lancashire, Smith is best known from his time in the WWE as The British Bulldog, an adaptation from the tag team he was a part of with his cousin, the Dynamite Kid — The British Bulldogs.
While going by both names, he carved out a large niche for himself through his tag team and singles competitions, but he’s also known as being a member if the Hart family.
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18 years ago today we lost my dad. Another year… I not only think of my dad and the memories we had today, but I think of Davey everyday. How I wish he was with us during this time. Time helps heal, but my heart still hurts. We miss you Davey… My dads favorite song❤️ Thank you @yahiel_omar for making this video🙏🏼
In the beginning
Smith began by training with Ted Betley in Winwick, England before he moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There, he not only became one of Stu Hart’s proteges in the Hart Dungeon, he also met and eventually married the youngest Hart daughter, Diana, on October 7, 1984.
While wrestling for Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling and New Japan in February of 1984, he and the Dynamite Kid officially formed the British Bulldogs tag team. Later that year, they joined New Japan’s chief rival. All Japan Pro Wrestling, and gained the interest of Vince McMahon and the WWE after a solid showing in All Japan’s tag team tournament.
That same year Vince McMahon bought out Stampede Wrestling, and The British Bulldogs and Smith’s brothers-in-law Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, who would soon become known as the Hart Foundation, became solid blocks in McMahon’s efforts to build a reliable tag team division.
Over the years, they would have some memorable feuds with the Hart Foundation and the Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine), but would leave the WWE in 1988 following some backstage issues.
Long considered the powerhouse of the British Bulldogs, Smith returned to the WWE in 1990 bigger and more ripped than previously. This time, he was billed as the British Bulldog and have a solid run over then next decade as he came and left, winning various championships, including the European Championship. He wasn’t only the inaugural European champion, but he held the title for a record 206 days.
The end of an era
At the time of his death in 2002, Smith was training to resume his wrestling career. This included his final match, a six-man tag match where he teamed with his son, Harry Smith. He died of a heart attack while on vacation. The autopsy stated they believe anabolic steroid use was believed to be the cause.
In an interview with the Calgary Sun on May 24, 2002, Bret Hart shared his thoughts.
(Special thanks to @awreslinghistorian for the transcript.)
“The tragedy of life is not that we die, but what dies inside a man while he lives.
“Davey Boy had his share of demons and there are so many things that need to be said about how…and why he died. But now is not the time.
“Another dead brother.
“I’m so angry.
“Yet I’m more sad than anything else.
“I took Davey in to live with me when he first arrived here from England. I doted over him like a son, as did my girlfriend, Julie, who I later married.
“Back then Davey was just a skinny 17 year old kid with sparkling eyes and a dimpled smile. He was always naively innocent, but that was more of a good quality, one that he’d never lost.
“He had a gentle side and yet there was an unstoppable determination about him. He was a fierce fighter and I know from the countless times, when we were younger, and we had to fight back to back. I can tell you how great it was to have him on my side.
“He was a strong and quick, with amazing balance. I can remember him playing touch football up at my dad’s house with the Hart brothers. Nobody could take him off his feet. He was such a sweet kid then. Diana snared him fast and it was no surprise to any of us Harts that he was destined to join the family.
“So many memories.
“I remember being in Vancouver with Davey in a bar where he kept asking me with that shy innocence if I smelled something funny. I sniffed and said, “Something stinks…” A few minutes later, he pulled this soft marble out of one of the many pockets in his painter pants. Together we squinted at it in the dimply lit bar…until we saw it squinting back!
“Jim Neidhart had stuffed fish eyes in all of Davey’s pockets. . .
“It’s too sad for me to put into words. Brian Pillman. Owen. Now Davey. I loved them all…and I miss them every day.”
Like others we’ve lost over the years, Davey Boy Smith is one that still hurts. I doubt anyone could’ve said it better than Bret Hart.
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