If you’re reading this, you’re obviously aware of the passing of former WWE superstar Shad Gaspard in a drowning accident earlier this week. Like many others, I had the good fortune of meeting Shad in Las Vegas during one of the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four annual conventions. I first met him in a group setting, but the next day I was hanging out by the pool with my son and a couple friends and he showed up with JTG, his tag team partner. Long story short, we got into a conversation that lasted about an hour and we talked very little about wrestling.
That conversation will stick with me for the rest of my life and it saddens me that I’ll never again be able to talk to him again. I think about what we talked about all the time and I’d like to share some of what we talked about because I think it’s very important.
My first question was about what he was doing at the time since he wasn’t working for WWE and if being out of the WWE affected him because he was still so young. He talked about how he was trying to get into acting and then talked about his young son. I mentioned my family and he started asking me questions. I’m talking to a celebrity, or at least someone I think of as one, and I just assumed at the time that if he’d worked for WWE and is still currently working to some extent in the industry and also trying to work as an actor, he must be rich. Without getting into specifics, that was anything but the case. There are certain intangible benefits that come with being a former “WWE Superstar” but at the end of the day you are who you are and the home you live in and the bed you sleep in are a product of what you’re doing and how successful you are personally and professionally.
When I described the home that I lived in and the children I have and the wife that I’d been married to for almost 25 years (at the time… almost 30 now), he was as impressed with what I was saying as I would be if he were talking about winning a big match at WrestleMania or starring in a big movie.
I mentioned to him how sometimes people think I worked in the industry because I have friends that do and also because my of my frame. There are medical reasons that I could never have done that, even though I wanted to, and I mentioned that it was a regret of mine that I never had. He told me that I shouldn’t regret that. I should be thankful for it. Because what I have is something that 90% of the people in either one of the industries he worked in would kill for, including him. That shocked me. But he was envious of me for living in a nice home, having lots of kids, and in a successful relationship.
He really helped me appreciate what I have and to think about what others are are going through, especially in pro wrestling and MMA. And I do believe that MMA fighters fall into this category as well. Maybe even worse off than the pro wrestlers in a lot of cases. So I will treasure that long conversation and I hope to see him again one day in the afterlife.
It’s so tragic that he’s gone, but he died a hero by having one of his last acts be to direct a rescue crew to rescue his son first and come back for him. Unfortunately that young man will grow up without his father but he can take solace in knowing his dad literally died for him. RIP Shad.