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    Thursday, May 21, 2020

    Shad Gaspard (1981-2020)


    The wrestling career of Shad Gaspard may not be the stuff that makes legends, or one that deserves a first-ballot nomination in the WWE Hall of Fame. But the man behind that career is one-of-a-kind: one that convinces us—and reinforces in us—that the kind things that we do in our lives have more impact than a finishing maneuver. Being remembered as a great professional wrestler is one thing, but there are more important things than titles, winning streaks, or legendary performances in the ring.

    Things like selflessness. Or determination. Or fatherhood.

    The body of Shad Gaspard—one-half of Cryme Tyme—was found at Venice Beach, California: days after he was reported missing on Sunday. While swimming with his 10-year-old son, Gaspard was caught in a rip current. Despite the strong waves, Gaspard told rescuers to save his son first; shortly after, the current finally caught Gaspard and swept him away, triggering a search that, soon after, awakened his friends and family—and the rest of wrestling fandom—to his tragic passing.

    Gaspard was 39.

    ***

    Gaspard began as a prizefighter, regularly winning bar fighting tournaments at the age of 16, on top of his sports accomplishments at school. He eventually served as a bodyguard for some high-profile celebrities like Puff Daddy and Britney Spears. After getting disqualified from Tough Enough 2, Gaspard continued his dogged pursuit of a professional wrestling career: eventually debuting in Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2003.

    In 2006, alongside Jayson Paul (then known as The Neighborhoodie, more popularly known as JTG), Gaspard formed the tag team known as Cryme Tyme. The duo was called up from the developmental territory in 2006 to debut on WWE RAW, defeating the Spirit Squad. In Cryme Tyme, Shad emerged as the duo's "enforcer" figure: an imposing presence who powered through his opponents with surprising bursts of athleticism that you would expect from a cruiserweight. Shad was also able to communicate well, breaking through the promo barriers usually associated with big men in the ring.

    Modern professional wrestling has relegated tag team wrestling to the background: filler content to singles action and storyline promos, with very little exposure given to a discipline rich in history and demanding exceptional chemistry. Cheering for tag teams is one thing, but it's always something baffling—and special—when tag teams reach mainstream popularity in the contemporary era. Despite playing into "fun" stereotypes of the black community, Cryme Tyme made the most of what they had and made it work: while Shad and JTG were not able to convert their crowd popularity into a WWE Tag Team Championship, the team was still able to shine front-and-center in some memorable moments at the wane of Ruthless Aggression: from teaming with John Cena, to humorous skits with King Booker.


    By the time Cryme Tyme has run its course—and Shad turned heel by attacking JTG—it was clear that the sun may have dawned on Shad's wrestling career. Cryme Tyme reunited in the independent scene in 2012 all the way until recent memory, with Shad parlaying his talents to pursuits like acting, art, the stage, and television. Shad even made local headlines in 2016, when he was able to foil an armed robbery in Florida.

    ***

    By now, many of you would have heard of Shad's heroic act: to save his son at the cost of his own life. In that sobering catalog of wrestling deaths - where old age, substance abuse, and macabre circumstances fill up entire pages—Shad's passing deserves to be spoken of with great respect. Not only for the passing of a wrestler but for the passing of a father.

    Shad may not have had the most stellar career in wrestling: one could argue at length of how he could have reached insane heights had he not been saddled with his gimmick. But he made the most of what he had, and that sense of fun and excitement was something that radiated from him so much that it endeared him to so many fans all around the globe. And his heroic act will be remembered for years to come, and his name will be revered by fans worldwide. We may all forget how Shad was one of the most overlooked athletic big men in the WWE roster during his time. We may all forget how Cryme Tyme could have been bigger than what it was. We may all forget what it would have been like if they shone the spotlight on Shad as a singles competitor.

    But what we will never forget is how in the moment of his death, Shad became the father that most of us can only hope to be. Not that we all morbidly dream of making supreme sacrifices for our children, but Shad did so with a love that all of us should remember and emulate.

    Shad may not have been a wrestling legend. He may not have had numerous titles. He may not be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But those things don't matter as much when you realize who Shad was in his passing: a father and a hero.

    Image sourced from SEScoops
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    Item Reviewed: Shad Gaspard (1981-2020) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Marck Rimorin
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