Grizzly Smith

Class of 2008






Remembering Mat Giant Grizzly Smith

by Mike Mooneyham

Charleston Post & Courier

June 20, 2010



Member of  the Hall of Heroes Class of 2008




Accepting for his father who was unable to attend:



Inducting Grizzly Smith into the Class of 2008:



Magnum T.A. inducted Grizzly Smith, one-half of the famed Kentuckians tag team from the 1960s and a front office figure in the Mid-South promotion and in WCW. "He ended up being a mentor of mine in many ways as I started my career," Magnum said.

Smith, who is in declining health and living with relatives in Amarillo, Texas, could not make the trip, but Sam Houston, a.k.a. his son Mike, said his dad would be pleased with the honor. "My dad really wanted to be here but it wasn't one of his better days," Houston said. "My dad's got fond memories of you all, all the boys."

- Steve Johnson

Excerpt from "Legends Abound at Charlotte Fanfest"

Canoe SLAM! Wrestling


Modern-day fans probably think of Grizzly Smith mostly because of his children ― Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Sam Houston, and “Rockin’ Robin Smith, accomplished wrestlers all. But in his day, Smith was one-half of the country’s most-beloved and well-traveled tag teams, the Kentuckians. Through the 1960s, the pair sold out everywhere they wrestled with a down-to-earth, simple folk appeal. “These boys are admittedly ‘a-feared of nuthin,’ ” wrestling writer Steven Tischler explained in 1964, calling them “by far one of the most colorful tag teams.”

At about 6-8 and 350 pounds, Smith was a giant by the standards of his era. Born in 1932 in Grayson County, Texas, he was wrestling part-time and working in the Texas oilfields when he got to know another big guy, Luke Brown, aka Carl Dennis Campbell Sr. Later, when Smith headed to Oklahoma, Brown called him, looking for bookings, and Smith got the idea for a team. “We hit it off real good,” the soft-spoken Smith said. “My brother died when he was four years old and I had two sisters. Luke was the closest thing I had to a brother.” Using a bearhug finisher, Smith wrestled as Tiny Anderson in the Mid-Atlantic since promoters said strong memories of “brothers” John and Al Smith from the 1950s might perplex fans. But he soon became more known as Tiny Smith or Grizzly Smith. And don’t forget one of his great innovations ― a cowhorn that one of the team members would sound to rally the audience to the cause. “He used the big club, the big boot,” said “Beautiful” Bruce Swayze, one of his foes from the Texas-Louisiana-Oklahoma territory. “He wasn’t a big bump-taker, but he got over. The people liked him because he had that hillbilly gimmick.”

The Kentuckians’ greatest feud was with Bolo and the Great Bolo, later known as the Assassins, a battle they carried from the Carolinas to Florida to California. Joe Hamilton of the Assassins, who first got to know Smith on the Oklahoma circuit, was instrumental in the multi-territory war. According to Hamilton, the Kentuckians hadn’t made much of an impact in a swing through the Carolinas in the early ‘60s because they were being employed as typical, run-of-the-mill mat wrestlers. Hamilton and partner Tom Renesto turned their opponents into veritable Paul Bunyans. “We never took them off their feet. Never!” Hamilton explained in his 2006 autobiography. “They were the hottest team of babyfaces in the entire country at the time. That was the biggest, consistent business the Carolinas had ever done —has ever done.” In fact, a reported 3,500 fans were turned away from one sellout in Charlotte. Never mind that Smith regularly acknowledged to his legion of followers that his roots were in Texas, not the Bluegrass State. “They’d say, ‘No, you’re not. You’re from Kentucky.’ What could I do?” he shrugged.

Smith, known as “Pops” to colleagues, also demonstrated a good ear for the audience as a singles star. One night in Dallas, he improvised in the ring by turning his planned squash of Dusty Rhodes into an unexpected victory for the “Dream,” based on the crowd was reacting to Rhodes. “That’s why Pops, to this day what he did for me … anything that I ever did for me couldn’t pay him back,” Rhodes recalled. Smith eventually moved behind the curtain as a promoter, booker for Bill Watts’ Louisiana promotion and a road agent for World Championship Wrestling. He and son Sam lost a lot of what they had to Hurricane Katrina, when high waters struck their home near New Orleans, and Smith’s health has been declining in recent years. He’s with a son in Amarillo, Texas right now. “It’s just age. He’s got good days and bad days,” Robin explained. “As far as traveling, that’s pretty much out, much as he’d like to … Wrestling was his life for a long, long time.”

- Steve Johnson

Photos by Blake Arledge

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