The former pro wrestler known as Dynamite Kid died Wednesday on his 60th birthday, according to an online announcement by WWE.
According to the announcement, Dynamite Kid — whose real name was Thomas Billington — was born in Golborne, Lancashire, England, and pursued a career in sports entertainment to avoid becoming a coal miner.
“Although somewhat undersized, he possessed a ferocity and determination that earned him the nickname The Dynamite Kid,” said the announcement, which did not state a cause of death.
Dynamite Kid was best-known for being one half of the British Bulldogs tandem along with his cousin, Davey Boy Smith. The duo went everywhere with their mascot, a British bulldog named Matilda, and during Wrestlemania 2 in 1986 won the World Tag Team Title against Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake.
Smith’s son, Davy Boy Junior, tweeted that Dynamite Kid was “an inspiration to myself and many others.”
Before he joined WWE in 1984, Dynamite Kid became known in Stampede Wrestling, based in Calgary, Alberta, as a singles competitor. He broke in with a style that the WWE announcement described as “both technically brilliant and wildly aggressive.”
Dynamite Kid had been in declining health for several years and had been using a wheelchair, The Washington Post reports. Fox News reports that his wife had set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical bills.
According to The Washington Post, he was told his career was over in 1986 after breaking his neck during an event at New York’s Madison Square Garden, but he continued to wrestle for five more years.
In 1997, he lost use of his left left. Before his death, he suffered a series of heart problems and suffered a stroke in 2013, the paper reports.
Research from academics at the University of Eastern Michigan who looked at the seemingly high mortality rates among wrestlers concluded that mortality rates for wrestlers between 45 and 54 were nearly three times that of the wider United States population, and that cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death.