Finding My Wheelchair


Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington at the height of his 16-year career

At the end of his autobiography, Pure Dynamite, Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington said:

“I’ll be honest, when I started out wrestling as the Dynamite Kid all those years ago, I had no idea things would end up the way they did. But I’d do it all again. I wouldn’t change a thing. Which I know sounds strange coming from a guy whose wrestling career put him in a wheelchair, but it’s true. Wrestling was my life, and I loved it. No regrets. I had a blast.”

The first time I read that, not only did it sound “strange”, as Tom put it, but to me, it sounded crazy. Who on earth would not regret ending up in a wheelchair?

For those of you not familiar with his work, Tom was an extraordinary innovator who could do things in the ring that no one else was capable of doing and that no one else had even thought of doing. In some circles, they speak about how he revolutionized pro wrestling.

He certainly seems to have lived his life along the lines of the credo: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “WOW! What a ride!”

Dr. Brene Brown has a great quote that I’ve been keeping in mind a lot, lately. It’s a really neat slant on the motivational speaker’s standard, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

Now, I’m sure that many motivational speakers have motivated a ton of people with that one, but I prefer Dr. Brown’s question:

“What’s worth doing even if you fail?”

For me, wrestling definitely fell into that category. So does writing. And surely, with a little introspection (okay, maybe with a LOT of introspection), there are other things that fall into that category for me, as well. Things that it doesn’t matter whether I fall flat on my face while doing them. Things that it feels like a greater risk to not do them. Things that most people put on a bucket list and forget.

Remember that movie, “The Bucket List”? I don’t think that the actuality of life is very far off that movie. Sure, most people don’t have the financing that Carter and Edward had but, studies have shown that the time that most people start to really live is when they are confronted with their own mortality. I really don’t want to wait until that point in my life. And I certainly don’t want to get to the end and wonder, “What if I had <fill in whatever activity you’d care to name>?” Nor do I think that, on my death bed, I’ll be filled with regret that I didn’t spend more time doing my job. I think, more often than not, what you regret in the end are those things you didn’t do.

“What’s worth doing even if you fail?”

I absolutely don’t regret wrestling for a second. I had my fair share of injuries — two broken ribs, bursitis in both elbows from bone chips, two deteriorating discs in my back and a third possibly herniated, sprained knees, banged up hips. Not as serious as some guys but bad enough. There are times when I have trouble going from seated to standing and usually the first few steps are stiff and awkward. And it’s only going to get worse as I get older.

“What’s worth doing even if you fail?”

That’s the thing — it’s not about the outcome. Actors don’t take a film role because they might win an Oscar. They take it because they love to act. Hockey players don’t play hockey because they might win the Stanley Cup. They play hockey because they love it. And I didn’t wrestle because I might win a big championship. I wrestled because I loved it.

I know that to a lot of people, “going for it” seems like a risky way to live and that most are content simply to endure or exist. But it seems to me that the only way to truly live is by going for it. Life isn’t about existing and it’s not a place to play it safe.

“What’s worth doing even if you fail?”

My mom asked me the other day, “If you had known all this before you started, would you still have gone into wrestling?” I absolutely, totally, and completely would have. No question about it. Not regretting ending up in a wheelchair makes perfect sense. Really, it’s the only way to be.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top