I got a call from Mad Man Pondo just after 10 a.m. this morning. That’s when I found out Tracy Smothers had passed away. Pondo let me know that the word wasn’t officially out yet. They were still telling friends and family. Given that Pondo was telling me two hours after he found out, I couldn’t help but remember one of Tracy’s many famous lines.
“Tell a friend, telephone, tell a wrestler.”
Tracy was a funny man. He was a strong man, strong enough to fight three bears, survive riots at the ECW arena, escape bar fights in Southeast Asia, and even whip cancer. Sadly, cancer came back for the rematch, and the toll it took on his body in the first fight proved to be just too much for him to carry on with this fight.
I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss his phone calls when we talked about football and politics. I’m going to miss his texts and hearing him repeat some of his favorite stories. I’m really sad he won’t be around to see the Candido book in print because he’s the reason I started writing it.
I’m incredible grateful I got to know Tracy. I will be honest, I was afraid to approach him in my early years writing about the business. He was a legend, and I have a hard enough time approaching the future legends to say, “Hello, my name is…” It’s silly when I think about it because the biggest impression I took away from watching him at D1W in New Albany (outside his amazing dance steps, of course) was what he did during all the matches that preceded his on every show.
Tracy watched every match. Every single one. And as I later found out, he didn’t just watch. Any guy or girl who wanted feedback got it. It was positive. It was encouraging. It made them better.
Fans who know Tracy Smothers from his days with SMW, WCW, ECW, and the indies know what a remarkable legacy he built inside the ring, but the guys and ladies who worked the indies the last two decades will tell you his greatest legacy is one most fans don’t know. It’s the way he poured his heart into the aspiring wrestlers he met in the gyms, the warehouses, the skating rinks, and everywhere else he wrestled these last twenty years.
Tracy’s legacy is ladies like Jessie Belle, who many people to this day believe is his real daughter. (Sorry, didn’t mean to break kayfabe.) It’s in Mickie Knuckles, another Smothers daughter who earlier today described Tracy as the only true father figure she ever knew. It’s in Amazing Maria, Khloe Belle, and all the other Smothers daughters he took under his wing.
His legacy includes guys like CM Punk, who tweeted earlier about Tracy being the first legend he ever worked. It’s in Edge and Christian who found a caring mentor who poured himself into them when they first came to the States. It’s in Mr. Brickster. It’s in Corey Storm. It’s in every young guy and lady who worked in the locker room with him at ASW, AIW, IWA Mid-South, D1W, KZW, and other promotions too numerous to mention.
Tracy’s generosity extended far beyond the locker room. He was always available to anyone by phone, text, or Messenger. (He never had an email address that I know of.) He remembered the kids who wanted his counsel, and he kept tabs on them. He reached out when he saw them have a great match. He boosted their spirits when he heard they’d been hurt.
To fans he was Tracy. To the wrestlers he was “Pops.” He loved his kids more than he did wrestling, and when he left us this morning, he did so having left everything in the ring and the locker room.
Tracy’s impact will be felt for years to come in this business. He left a wonderful collection of matches for us to enjoy, but more than that, he left a piece of himself in every man and woman who ever asked him, “Hey, did you see my match?” You’re damn right he saw your match, and if you were willing to listen, Pops would encourage you, make you better, and keep tabs on you online and on the road.
I’m so sad that he’s gone. I’m going to miss him, but I know he loved the Lord, and I trust I will see him again one day. I’m happy he’s no longer suffering, and I’m excited to see all these Smothers kids carry on his legacy.
Until we meet again, rest in peace, my friend.
(Photo above by Jim Cornette.)