Tom Billington - the ‘Dynamite Kid’ and former tag-team partner of Davey Boy Smith - has died on his 60th birthday.
Dynamite, who was born and lived in Golborne, became a worldwide wrestling star in the 1980s, when he and Davey Boy were among the top tag teams in the world.
Sadly, he was left wheelchair bound following his career, losing the feeling in his left leg, and had been battling a number of health issues in recent years.
Dynamite and Davey Boy held the WWF world tag team championship belts from April 1986 until January 1987.
Davey Boy’s son, Harry Smith, was first to pay tribute to his father’s cousin.
“It deeply saddens me to announce the passing of Tom Billington, the ‘Dynamite Kid’,” he tweeted.
“I was really happy and glad I got to see Dynamite one last time last June in the UK.
“Dynamite was certainly an inspiration to myself and many others and really revolutionised professional wrestling as we now it today.
“He flew high, and gave it his all every match. Thanks for everything and sad to have lost another family member. Rest In Peace Dyno.”
UK wrestling trainer Marty Jones added: “It’s with great sadness I have to inform you all that the ‘Dynamite Kid’ Tom Billington on his birthday has passed away.
“A true British ambassador for wrestling worldwide. RIP ‘Kid’ condolences to Mark & his family.”
Dynamite was a pioneer of the high-flying style of wrestling, which he mixed with pure technical ability.
As well as being a star in America, he was massive in Canada – where he starred with Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, inspiring the likes of Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, Owen ‘the Rocket’ Hart and Chris Benoit – Mexico and Japan.
Dynamite made his WWF television debut in 1984, when he and Bret Hart defeated Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander.
When Davey Boy arrived stateside, the British Bulldogs feuded with the ‘Hart Foundation’ – Bret and Jim ‘The Anvil Neidhart, who died earlier this year at the age of 63 – and became tag team champions at WrestleMania II in 1986.
They wrestled their last match for the WWF at the 1988 Survivor Series.
One of Dynamite’s ancestors, James Billington, was also a wrestler, while his father, uncle and grandfather were bare-knuckle boxers.
He’s survived by second wife, Dot, who had been caring for him.