Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Jenni Grattan
1978, thirty years after their inauguration, Stampede Wrestling was
world-renowned for its star-studded roster. Part of Stampede’s roster
included mid-heavyweights (now more commonly referred to as
cruiserweights), such as Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart, who at the time was
only beginning his wrestling career. With their impressive slew of
mid-heavyweight competitors, it only made sense for Stu Hart to introduce
a new championship in order to accommodate the constantly growing roster
of Stampede Wrestling, which directed specifically at the mid-heavyweight
division. So, in 1978, Stampede Wrestling introduced the British
Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship to their promotion, which
accompanied the promotions two other titles: the North American
Heavyweight Title and the International Tag Team Titles.
Kid was an obvious choice for the first British Commonwealth Heavyweight
Title reign, as he was both a mid-heavyweight and British superstar. At
the time, Dynamite Kid was an exciting young wrestler who was quickly
making his way up the midcard ranks. Dynamite Kid only held the Title for
a short time, however, as Norman Frederich Charles III won the
Championship from him in September 1978, only two months after the
introduction of the Title. It wasn’t long before one of the Harts got in
to the Commonwealth Title chase, as Bret won the Title from Charles III in
November 1978. Bret and Dynamite Kid then took part in an eight-month
feud, during which the belt was exchanged three times.
Kid came out of his feud with Bret Hart as the Commonwealth Champion,
holding the belt three times in only twelve months. In 1979, Dynamite Kid
was quickly becoming an icon in Stampede Wrestling, and he found himself
holding the Commonwealth Title for an amazing eleven months before Dick
Steinborn foiled his extensive reign in June 1980. Steinborn only had the
opportunity to hold the Title for one month, however, as Keith Hart won
the Championship from him in July. There is some confusion in Title
history between 1980 and 1982, however the history once again becomes
certain at the time when Bruce Hart became Champion on January 12, 1982.
Hart’s Title reign was short, though, as Dynamite Kid defeated him a
short time after his win to become a four-time Commonwealth Champion.
Shortly after Dynamite Kid’s victory over Bruce Hart, however, a new
superstar reigned on Dynamite’s parade and won the Belt from him: Davey
Boy Smith, The British Bulldog. Bulldog’s Title reign was also brief, as
Bruce Hart the Commonwealth Title for a second time in August 1982. Danny
Davis won the Title from Bruce Hart in November 1982, only to have it
taken from him by Bruce on February 18, 1983. From 1983 to 1985, four new
stars emerged in the Commonwealth Title chase: The Cobra (George Takano),
Sonny Two Rivers (Junji Hirata), Ron Starr, and Gama Singh. These stars,
as well as Bruce Hart, all held the Championship during this time period.
April 19, 1985, Bruce Hart showed his staying power by capturing the
Commonwealth Title for a fifth time. Gama Singh defeated Bruce four months
later to win the Championship for the second time. On December 20, 1985,
The Cobra won the Commonwealth Championship from Singh, only to be
defeated the next night in the return match, losing the Title back to Gama
Singh. Bruce Hart regained the Championship in April 1986, only to vacate
the Title in June. A tournament was held in August of that year, with Gama
Singh defeating Johnny Smith in the final to regain the Championship.
Three news stars were introduced in to the Title picture in 1986: Johnny
Smith, Les Thorton, and Owen Hart. These three each held the Title for one
reign between August 1 and October 25, 1986, when Gama Singh captured the
Title for the fourth time, defeating Owen Hart in Calgary.
March 1988, Chris Benoit burst in to the Commonwealth Title picture,
defeating Singh for the Title. Benoit held the Title for three months
before Johnny Smith made a comeback in the Title chase by winning the
Championship for the first time in two years. This triggered a series of
exchanges between Chris Benoit and Johnny Smith, during which the Title
changed hands an unbelievable five times, with Benoit holding the Title
coming out of the feud in July 1989. Gama Singh won the Title from Benoit
a month later, only to lose the Title to Bruce Hart once more in October
Stampede Wrestling sold to Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling
Federation in 1989, the British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship
was also “shut down”. The Title had a brief comeback in 1999, only to
be unofficially retired again in 2000 after only two title reigns. With
any luck, the Commonwealth Title will soon be revived and used once again
as a stepping stone for the extraordinary mid-heavyweight talent of
We will look back at the Stampede Wrestling career of “Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington.