The wrestling world lost one of its true legends and most beloved workers on Wednesday when it was revealed that 38-year veteran Tracy Smothers had succumbed to his battle against lymphoma at the age of only 58. Wrestlers from territory days legends to current major stars to rising talents on the independents spent the day rehashing stories of how Smothers impacted not only their careers inside the ring, but personally as well.
WWE is saddened to learn that Tracy Smothers passed away today at the age of 58.
WWE extends its condolences to Smothers’ family and friends. https://t.co/wdclVdB1n0
— WWE (@WWE) October 28, 2020
A native of Springfield, Tennessee, Smothers was a standout amateur grappler, beginning with his time at Springfield High School, where he became the first student wrestler to ever go to the State Championship in the sport. He began professional wrestling in 1982 and by 1984 was a rising prospect in the Memphis territory, working for Jerry Jarrett and Jerry “The King” Lawler in Continental Wrestling Association (CWA). By 1986, he had risen from enhancement talent to a bonafide star, winning his first of three NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championships – he won all three that same year.
The following year, he paired with Steve Armstrong – son of legend “Bullet” Bob Armstrong and brother of Brad, Scott, and Brian (the latter is better known as “Road Dogg” Jesse James) – in the tag team The Wild Eyed Southern Boys, expanding from just CWA to include Championship Wrestling From Florida. Together they captured NWA Florida Tag Team Championship and the NWA Continental Tag Team Championship in another Tennessee promotion, Knoxville’s Continental Championship Wrestling run by Ron Fuller. In 1988, as simply The Southern Boys, they joined New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where they competed for nearly a year. Soon after returning from Japan, in 1990, they headed to World Championship Wrestling (WCW), where they feuded with the likes of The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane), Doom (Butch Reed & Ron Simmons), The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael PS Hayes & Jimmy Garvin), and more, capturing the WCW United States Tag Team Championships in 1991 (rebranding as The Young Pistols that same year).
In 1992, Smothers returned to Tennessee to join Smokey Mountain Wrestling (SMW) in Knoxville, where “The Wild Eyed Southern Boy” became one of the company’s top stars. He became a 2x SMW Heavyweight Champion during his three year run with SMW, before rejoining Lawler in Memphis with United States Wrestling Association (USWA) in 1995. He would capture the USWA Tag Team titles on two occasions, this time with former partner Steve Armstrong’s younger brother Brian (as Jesse James Armstrong). At one point, in 1997, he briefly joined the original incarnation of Nation of Domination in USWA under the name Shaquille Ali. While most of the NOD would head to WWF that year, including Smothers, he would not join WWF as part of the faction. Instead, he was repackaged under the name Freddie Joe Floyd and sadly became an enhancement talent for the bulk of his duration with the company over the next year.
After leaving WWF, he joined up with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and, back under his more familiar moniker of Tracy Smothers, he debuted at ECW Cyberslam 1997 in a loss to Taz. After initially briefly feuding with Full Blooded Italians (FBI) in his early days with ECW, he soon joined the squad and became an integral part of the faction – he continued to perform with the squad long after ECW folded, last appearing alongside Little Guido in Ohio with Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) last spring in 2019. In October of 1997, Guido and Smothers captured the ECW World Tag Team titles, defeating John Kronus & New Jack, bringing the FBI their first gold in ECW. As “The Big Don” of the FBI, he was billed from Nashville, Italy. He departed ECW in 1999, but made his returns to various ECW tribute shows, including being at ringside for Little Guido at the WWE-produced One Night Stand PPV in 2005.
Following his departure from ECW, Smothers headed back to the WWF, but once again, he was utilised only in enhancement, usually on shows like WWF Jakked and WWF Sunday Night Heat. He left in 2000 and headed to Japan for a tour with the hardcore company Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW). He immersed himself completely in the burgeoning US indies, particularly with the hardcore themed IWA Mid-South, where he became a mentor to many of the top young talents that were coming through in the early 2000s, such as CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Chris Hero and Tyler Black (aka Seth Rollins). He had been a part of IWA Mid-South since the mid-1990s (winning the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight title in 1997) and as the 2000s continued to see the US indies evolve and flourish (especially after the fall of ECW and WCW in 2001), Smothers would travel the country working dozens and dozens of independent promotions, becoming a mentor to many a wrestler, be it rising star or green rookie. He became a constant source of encouragement to wrestlers the nation over, offering constructive criticism as a battle-hardened veteran, a pep talk as a locker room friend and leader, and enthusiasm simply as a pro wrestling fan.
Smothers last competed in the fall of 2019 before announcing that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and spent 2020 battling his cancer. Sadly, it was announced on Wednesday that one of pro wrestling’s biggest cheerleaders had lost his valiant fight and passed away. Last Word on Pro Wrestling offers our collective condolences to the family of Tracy Smothers, as well as his friends, peers, and the hundreds of pro wrestlers who wouldn’t be where they are without the guidance or words of encouragement from Tracy Smothers.
Tracy was the first name I ever worked. He taught me so much just that first night, and continued to do so for years. He loved working shows full of young kids and always helped share his knowledge. Always asked if I was swimming and eating cans of tuna. 1/5
— player/coach (@CMPunk) October 28, 2020
Tracy Smothers took two young kids from Canada trying to “tour” the southern United States, with $1.50 a day to spend on food, saw a dilemma we put ourselves in to try and get experience, and took us under his wing. He knew we wanted it. Because of that, and his huge heart, 1/3
— Adam (Edge) Copeland (@EdgeRatedR) October 28, 2020
RIP Tracy Smother pic.twitter.com/mG3MiKruZX
— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) October 28, 2020
My great friend Tracy Smothers has passed, it is with a heavy heart that I share the news. Lots of great times with Tracy, I had just spoke with him last week RIP my friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Tracy's family and loved ones at this time. Ricky Morton pic.twitter.com/FMFYSTv1sw
— School of Morton (@RealRickyMorton) October 28, 2020
Tracy Smothers was a sweetheart in every interaction I’ve ever had with him
He’d always ask if I was keeping busy & doing well.
He truly loved wrestling but more importantly the wrestlers
My heart goes out to his family & friends …. trust me, he has a lot ❤️
R.I.P. Tracy pic.twitter.com/krC9MaSDx0
— Ethan Page played by Julian (@OfficialEGO) October 28, 2020
It didn’t matter where you were In your career… anytime you ran into Tracy, he put a smile on your face and gave you amazing advice. He was a friend, a mentor, and will be missed so much.
RIP Tracy Smothers. pic.twitter.com/W6pNA7rGxN
— ₮ⱧɆ ĐⱤ₳₩ (@TheSamiCallihan) October 28, 2020
RIP Tracy Smothers. He saw potential in me at a show and offered advice anytime I was around you. He vouched for me to get an opportunity at @IWAMidSouth when I was just a few months in and kept bothering Ian until he gave me a shot. I’ll never forget it.
— Heavyweight Hustle. (@CalvinTankman) October 28, 2020
Man, literally…. he had a hand in helping just about every single one of your favorite wrestlers. Tracy literally would go out of his way for you just cause he wanted to. That’s what kind of person he really was. This fucking sucks.
— Aj Gray (@RichHomieJuice) October 28, 2020
RIP Tracy pic.twitter.com/Sg2GqUKDil
— Eddie Kingston #BlackLivesMatter (@MadKing1981) October 28, 2020
— SUGE D (@SugarDunkerton) October 28, 2020