When speaking of the WWE Hall of Fame’s glaring omissions through the years one name almost guaranteed to be brought up was that of Davey Boy Smith. Frankly, it was baffling to many fans that one of the United Kingdom’s all-time greats hadn’t been recognized by this point. His impact on the industry was immeasurable, whether for his influence on an entire generation of British wrestling or as a friend to too many inside the industry to count.
Surprisingly, it was an honour that Smith himself was hesitant to believe would come to pass. In a 1998 interview with SLAM Wrestling, Smith stated his belief that not only would he not get into the Hall of Fame, but no members of the Hart Foundation. “I don’t think so,” he replied to a fan question inquiring as to the Foundation’s Hall of Fame potential. “Not after what happened at the Survivor Series.”
Of course, both Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation’s inductions eventually came to pass. Bafflingly, however, even as recently as early 2020, Davey Boy was yet to be confirmed as a Hall of Famer by the WWE. Despite fan petitions and the efforts put forth by his children, Georgia, Harry, and wife Diana Hart-Smith, the British Bulldog and his legions of fans were denied what many felt should have been an easy decision in honouring one of the United Kingdom’s all-time greats.
Finally, on March 12, 2020, Davey Boy Smith was announced as a part of that year’s Hall of Fame class. Of course, that year’s ceremony was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic: naturally, one of the most anticipated inductions ever would be delayed even upon finally being announced! Finally, last Tuesday, 23 years after the SLAM interview’s release – 22 if you count the 2020 announcement – Smith will finally be enshrined in what marks professional wrestling’s greatest accomplishment. Though some have their issues with the Hall of Fame – and, in all fairness, some rightfully so – it still marks a major career accomplishment and, in the case of the British Bulldog, an opportunity for an industry to reminisce on one of its all-time greats as many close to the Bulldog were gracious enough to share.
“Davey Boy Smith was a very influential figure in my wrestling career,” stated Steve Rivers, a nearly 30-year veteran of Alberta’s independent scene and one of the British Bulldogs’ trainees. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think people understand how much Davey (and Dynamite Kid) influenced the kids from my generation, especially in the Calgary/Western Canada area. Not only did they set the new standards for tag team wrestling in WWF but they were homegrown heroes!”
“That’s just the ultimate icing on the cake,” stated Brian Pillman Jr when we chatted last year just after the induction’s announcement. “To me, he’s so deserving of that honour and I could never imagine a world where he doesn’t get that award. To me, it’d be unreal for him to not receive that, and it’s just the absolute, utmost honour that you can frickin’ have. To be in the WWE Hall of Fame, I mean, that’s what people dream of after lifelong careers, and for that guy to have passed away the way he did and what it meant to his son to still carry on his legacy – like, his son rescued Bret Hart!”
“What does it mean to me that Davey Boy Smith is getting into the Hall Of Fame? It’s amazing, but I’m not amazed,” commented Duke Durrango, who spent time learning under Smith in the Hart Dungeon. “I could go on all day about Davey. To watch his start in Calgary, like so many others, and see the heights he reached was astonishing. It was really the first time I’d seen a “local guy” so to speak make it to the top.”
“My dad had a really big heart,” reminisced Smith’s and Hart’s daughter, Georgia, in a recent conversation with Love Wrestling. “He was really generous [and] really funny. He was actually pretty quiet. He was a man of few words, but he got talking and stuff. He was very shy. When he was home, he mostly just wanted to relax and sleep and just chill. He was just a very chill guy. Pretty easy going, going with the flow.
“He was a great dad. Just overall, just an amazing person.”
Alberta, Stampede, and the Love of his Life
Smith’s career as a professional wrestler officially began on September 2, 1978, with a match against Bernie Wright for England’s Joint Promotions. Just 15 years old at the time, the then-Dave Boy Smith was certainly not the behemoth we came to know in Stampede and the WWF, but it wasn’t long before Smith’s talents became evident. Just over a year later, Smith was on his way to Calgary, joining his real-life cousin “The Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington in Stu Hart’s legendary Stampede Wrestling promotion.
“Stampede Wrestling was probably some of the happiest days of my life,” Smith reminisced in an interview with SLAM Wrestling. “Really. We did lots of driving no matter what the weather conditions were like. Twelve guys in a van and just set off to Vancouver or Regina every Tuesday or Lethbridge. There were funny jokes played on all of the wrestlers. I was living with Bret at the time. I used to live with Bret in a little house in Calgary. I was going out with Diana. I was just really happy.”
“It was a really good territory to be in,” he remarked on Stampede Wrestling. “It was really booming at that time. In the early eighties, no matter where you went, Edmonton or Lethbridge, Red Deer or Calgary, it was sold out no matter what. I was just glad that they gave me the opportunity to come over and wrestle for them.”
It was in the midst of that first run with Stampede Wrestling that Smith met Diana Hart, the daughter of the legendary Stu Hart.
“Oh, gosh, where to begin,” laughed Diana Hart Smith when asked in a 2018 interview why she fell for Davey. “It really was love at first sight for me.”
“I met [Diana] when I first came to Calgary in 1981,” Smith said in 1998 of his first encounter with his future wife. “She saw my picture in the Stampede Wrestling Magazine and she asked who I was. I’d met Bruce [Hart] in 1977 in England when I was training to be a wrestler. Bruce said [to Diana] that I was Dynamite’s cousin and was coming over to wrestle for Stampede wrestling. She took my picture out of the magazine and put it in her high school binder.”
“Davey had been told by Dynamite about Stu’s daughter Diana,” Hart-Smith continued. “Dynamite was very complimentary; he just said ‘she’s a really pretty girl, but whatever you do, don’t get involved. She’s the apple of Stu’s eye,’ but I was not having that.”
“I came over and I met her. She came over to Bret’s house and was looking for someone to go to a movie with her and a friend. She was trying to call Owen, and I said I’ll go with you. I don’t mind.”
“We went to the movie together, and we’ve been together even since.”
“When I met Davey, it was love at first sight, and I’ll never forget that,” Hart-Smith closed. “His voice – that British accent – his face, his build. Then, when I saw him wrestle, I mean, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to marry him.”
Davey, the Trainer
Of course, it wasn’t only his relationship with Diana that continued to bring Davey around the Hart House, whether that be in his earliest days in Calgary or through his tenures with the WWF. Sunday dinners at the Hart House were not only as close to mandatory as a family dinner can be but as expected in an immediate family of 14 plus guests, a source of entertainment.
“It was really cool to be part of the Hart family and the Hart House,” Georgia Smith commented in our recent conversation. “When the whole Hart Foundation was going on in ’97, when I was 9, 10 years old, that was a pivotal memory. I was just looking at a picture of my grandpa’s kitchen in that time, my mom and my dad and I that just brought me all back to that.”
And then, of course, there was the Dungeon.
Whether it be working out or wrestling training, Smith’s work ethic was unmatched even among the best of the best the Dungeon had to offer. Of course, while training with the Harts was exhausting both physically and mentally, there have been few better training grounds for professional wrestlers and especially for those looking to establish themselves as technical perfectionists. That was certainly the case with Smith, stated Durrango.
“His neck spring is one of the crispest of all time. His vertical suplex is the stuff of legend,” he commented on Smith’s abilities as a wrestler. “He was so good. He doesn’t get credit for what an incredible athlete he was. People always talked about his power, which was obvious but to see him coming at you in a ring at 260lbs and moving as fast as I could at 215lbs was so awesome to see up close.”
Even upon returning to Calgary as a WWF star in the late ’90s, Davey was consistently perfecting not only his craft, but assisting others along the way.
“Davey was instrumental in my early development,” remarked Durrango on his early tutelage under the British Bulldog. “He used to so graciously give us his time on Wednesday nights when we first started in The Dungeon, his only full day at home.”
“Davey was one of my all-time favorite wrestlers as a kid,” recalled Steve Rivers fondly. “I never dreamed in a million years that I would at 17 years old end up in the Hart Dungeon with Davey giving his time as a teacher! I was living every kid’s dream! Being trained by one of the biggest wrestling stars of all time is a lot to take in when you’re 17!”
Davey’s influence on the next generation of Albertan stars wasn’t simply inside the squared circle, as both Rivers and Durrango came to find.
“Davey was also gracious enough to get me booked in my very first match [when] WWF came to Calgary and Edmonton in July 1991 for television tapings,” laughed the All-American. “I wrestled my first two matches EVER in the WWF and it was all because of Davey’s kindness! 30 years later, I’m still rockin’ and still admire everything Davey did for me and the wrestling business!”
“Guys like Davey Boy Smith are rare in the wrestling business, but that’s what makes them so special!”
Of course, it wasn’t long before Smith and his cousin made their way to the WWF, where the two quickly earned reputations as not only one of the top tag teams in the world, but incredible athletes in their own rights. At WrestleMania II, the pair were joined by Ozzy Osbourne and Captain Lou Albano at WrestleMania II and captured the promotion’s tag team championships, marking the biggest moment of the duo’s career to that point.
However, it was far from the last classic moment that Davey Boy Smith would experience in the WWF. While Smith bounced between the WWF, WCW, and Stampede Wrestling at points throughout the ’90s, one thing that remained consistent was his ability to deliver classic moments on a regular basis.
“When you look at his body of work and how long he was in the business, how many tickets did the Bulldogs vs Hart Foundation sell? How many tix did the Hart Foundation sell? How many guys have sold out Wembley Stadium?” remarked Durrango. “His match with Bret at SummerSlam is my go-to, hands down, bar none, perfection personified. It’s everything you want in a match. If that match is all Davey and Bret ever did, that alone should be enough to get in the Hall of Fame.”
Runs with the likes of Lex Luger, feuds with The Rock and his becoming the first European Champion in WWF history only served to solidify his status as a bona-fide legend.
“His legacy is untouchable,” Durrango concluded. “He held every title everywhere except the world titles and not a lot of people can say that.”
Harry & Georgia
It’s a legacy that’s continued to live on, both inside and outside of the wrestling ring. Smith’s son, Harry, has wrestled for nearly two decades as Davey Boy Smith Jr, honouring his father both in his Union Jack apparel and sheer brutality inside the ring. Like his father, Davey Boy Jr has become well-known as one of the greatest shoot wrestlers in the business today and an incredible pro in his own right.
Whether you believe it to be irony or fate, it’s incredible that the British Bulldog’s final two matches took place with his son as his tag-team partner in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“I’ve talked to Harry about it, and we also touch on that in the documentary,” Smith’s daughter, Georgia, recalled of the matches when we chatted. “It’s just crazy and ironic how it kind of [worked], like Davey’s last matches, were with Harry. You know, it was kind of sadly meant to be, and I’m glad that they got that experience. That’s something that Harry or my dad will [never] forget. So, yeah. Harry was, I think he was a bit nervous, because, you know, he was like, 17 at the time, or 16, going on 17. And he was like ‘oh boy,’ still kind of trying to figure out where he stood in wrestling and training and stuff. And, you know, having British Bulldog, you know, as your dad [and] your tag team partner, it’s pretty, it’s pretty cool. I think my dad helped him feel better.”
Georgia, too, has done an incredible job of honouring her father’s memory as the mind behind the British Bulldog’s website and social media pages, bringing Davey to both a new generation of pro wrestling fans and the thousands of supporters of her father throughout his career.
“I follow Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, and I follow Bruce Lee’s page, and I see like all the cool things she does on Bruce Lee and keeping his legacy alive. I thought that’s really cool. I wasn’t expecting anything: I just thought it was just a cool platform, or a platform for my dad, because I didn’t think there was anything really out there. There were some Facebook tribute pages, and I was just like, ‘well, I’ve got all the stuff,’ I thought I was the best person to do it. So I started it, and it was pretty therapeutic and fulfilling to every day see my dad post something. As you know, you follow, every day I post something about him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t post something.”
“I just feel like because I care and people see the love that I’ve got, and they just want to see Davey, in a nutshell.”
It’s a sentiment held by many. The British Bulldog’s social media channels have exploded over the past few years, with professional wrestling fans past and present still invested in one of the most talented and charismatic professional wrestlers of the ’80s and ’90s.
Of course, Davey tragically passed away on May 18th, 2002 as the result of a heart attack. The impact of his death was felt far beyond the wrestling world, with tributes pouring in from all corners of the world for the fallen Bulldog.
However, though still active in the wrestling scene at the time of his passing, Smith’s post-retirement plans showcased the incredible worth ethic and determination he applied to his pro wrestling career.
“He was actually, in the autumn of 2002, he was supposed to do a tour in England” Georgia commented on her father’s post-wrestling plans. “I think he was going to be gone for like a year, if not a little less. He was going to be doing that. I think he was going to be doing a lot of events, tours, whatever shows, because that’s all he wanted to do was wrestle. [He] definitely wanted to open up a like a gym or a wrestling school, and I remember he was looking at properties. He was actually looking in Inglewood in Calgary at some spots. I know he wanted to get into film. I think I posted his headshots and his media package that he had, but he really wanted to get into that or stunt work, because he was like, ‘I’ll take the pain. I don’t care!’ Those were the top things he wanted to do. I didn’t see him really becoming like an agent or anything with WWE. I didn’t, I but I think I would see him training the people at like the Performance Center.”
Great things are worth the wait, and while this writer can personally speak as to his desire to see a Stampede legend make his way into the Hall of Fame, the wait only added to the emotion behind Smith’s induction.
“Congratulations to Davey and the entire Smith and Hart families” Durrango closed his message. “Another of your own has been honored in a way so richly deserved.
“Congratulations Davey Boy Smith on finally being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame,” echoed Rivers to close. “You have always been in my Hall of Fame since I was a kid!