Oklafan Looks Back At The Life Of Grizzly Smith
Oklafan was saddened to learn of the death of Grizzly Smith, who passed away Saturday at the age of 77 due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Smith was born in Grayson County, TX as Aurelian Smith and worked in the oil fields there. He began competing in 1958 in Texas and also made his way to Georgia, where he challenged Freddie Blassie for the Georgia version of the NWA World Title.
Smith entered TSW in 1961 and was booked in an angle where he was planted in the crowd and called out as an inexperienced challenger. He spent some of his early career as "Tiny Smith" and frequently teamed with Mike Clancy. But in 1962, he met Luke Brown and the pair formed a tag team known as The Kentuckians. Together, Smith and Brown would travel around the continent, collecting tag team championships together, including the AWA Midwest Tag Team Titles, the NWA Southern Tag Team Titles, the WWA Tag Team Titles and the TSW United States Tag Team Titles, which they won in April of 1971 from Waldo Von Erich & Karl Von Brauner. They replaced Bill Watts and Billy Red Lyons in a Best-of-5 series and were eventually stripped of the titles until they decisively defeated Von Erich and Brauner at a later date. The Kentuckians would hold the belts for a brief time until they lost them to the Spoilers.
For approximately a decade, the Kentuckians engaged in a feud in various territories around the nation with the Assassins. In one instance, the feud sold out the then-new Tulsa Convention Center. Smith would also feud in Canada with the Assassins and team with Don Leo Jonathon to defeat them for the NWA Canadian Tag Team Title while competing under the name Sky Hi Jones. But the Kentuckians' biggest win over the Assassins probably occurred out in California when the won the WWA Tag Team Titles in 1965. It was the only time that Smith & Brown defeated the masked competitors for a title and they held those belts proudly for several months before losing them to Gorilla Monsoon & Luke Graham.
Masked men seemed to cause all kind of trouble for Smith during his career. In 1968, he went to Texas and feud with The Spoiler over the NWA Texas Title, which he won in June. A month later, he teamed with Fritz Von Erich and won the NWA American Tag Team Title from The Spoiler and Gary Hart. By September, Smith would have lost both those titles back to the Spoiler.
After retiring from the ring in the late 1970s, Smith began promoting events in Louisiana with Jack Curtis. But for many Oklahoma fans in the 1980s, he was known as the matchmaker for Bill Watts in MSW. He worked with Watts for many years until being fired during a disagreement over wages. After that he went to Mississippi and worked with George Culkin. He also served as a backstage official in WWF and a road agent in WCW.
Smith's personal life remains the source of some controversy. He had 3 children who went on to be wrestlers themselves: Rockin' Robin, who won the WWF World Women's Title from the Fabulous Moolah, Sam Houston, who was a mid-card wrestler in the NWA and WWF as well as several territories, and Jake Roberts, who was perhaps the most successful of Smith's children in the business. Roberts documented his relationship with his father in Barry Blaustein's movie Beyond the Mat and also in the WWE DVD Pick Your Poison, According to Roberts, he was conceived when Smith raped his mother who was 12 years old at the time. Smith and Roberts' mother were then forced to marry against their wishes and Roberts blames his substance abuse problems on that situation. He also says that Smith did not inform his children of the scripted nature of professional wrestling and went so far as to wear a neck brace around the house once to sell an injury from a match. Sam Houston's ex-wife Baby Doll also said that Smith refused to acknowledge that his children had any personal problems, going so far as to use his connections with law enforcement to bail Houston out of jail and get potential jail time overturned on repeated drunk driving indictments.
When Smith retired completely from wrestling, he moved to Metairie, LA and shared a house with Houston, but the pair lost almost all their possessions during Hurricane Katrina. The day before the hurricane hit, Smith scraped his leg and was unable to get needed medical attention. As a result he nearly lost the leg due to a staph infection.
For several years Smith had been suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's. His physical condition also deteriorated. During the height of his wrestling career, Smith competed at 350 lbs. but at the time of his death, he reportedly weighed only 165 lbs.
Smith competed in Oklahoma from 1961 until 1977. He has 82 documented matches at the time of this writing, although he probably competed in more that we have yet to find. His earliest documented match occurred on April 10, 1961 where he teamed with Mike Clancy and defeated The Great Bolo 1st & Nelson Royal in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match. His final documented match in Oklahoma was on June 13, 1977 in Tulsa against Gene Lewis, although no result is known for that match.
Oklafan extends its condolences to Grizzly Smith's family and friends.