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Going Ringside Ep. 57: Remembering Shad Gaspard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you take a moment and google the definition of hero, here’s what it will give you: “A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

In the world of pro wrestling, that definition could easily have an image attached to it. That would be the image of Shad Gaspard.

So, we’ll start Gaspard’s story at the end. When his tragic death made headlines across the globe.

It was May 17, 2020 when Gaspard, a former WWE star was swimming off the coast of Venice Beach in California with his son. The water was uneasy that day and a rip current was swirling. Gaspard and his young son were caught up in it. And as he tried to rescue his son, lifeguards came to the rescue. And in an ultimate act of sacrifice the 39-year old father, former wrestling star and aspiring actor gave his life to rescue his son.

The wrestling world was rocked by a tragedy unlike anything it had ever seen. One person who couldn’t believe the news was his longtime tag-team partner JTG (real name Jason Paul). He got the call and thought his close friend was playing a prank. “His wife called me at the time,” said JTG. “She told me that Shad is missing. Because of the nature of Shad and I’s relationship I immediately thought it was a joke. Like he’s messing with me.”

But he quickly found out this wasn’t a joke, it was very serious. So he immediately headed toward the beach to help in the search. “Six of us were on the beach. I don’t know what I’m looking for,” he said. “On the beach that’s when I was like… I accepted it.”

Tragically, Gaspard did not survive the Pacific Ocean that day. An outpouring of support came from the pro wrestling world where he had shined for years as one half of the tag team Cryme Tyme.

Gaspard was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2022 and awarded the company’s “Warrior Award” that year.

But that wasn’t the only time Gaspard’s heroism made headlines.

Four years prior to his death Gaspard foiled an armed robbery in Florida. He and JTG had pulled into a gas station when someone was trying to rob the business. Gaspard, who stood 6′7″ with a background in both pro wrestling and security wasn’t phased or nervous.

“That guy that night who decided to rob a gas station with a fake gun he chose the wrong gas station to go to,” said JTG who was sitting in their vehicle as this all quickly unfolded. “He didn’t know if it was a real gun or not. But he knew he was bigger than the guy. So he wasn’t scared. Shad had guns pointing to his face before doing bodyguard work and living in Brooklyn. So he wasn’t afraid of the gun. As soon as he saw opportunity, he struck fast and took the guy down.”

Shad Gaspard Memorial Cup Tournament coming to Jacksonville on April 20.

JTG only realized what was going on when this was happening as Gaspard held the guy down until police arrived.

JTG said this was par for the course for the protective friend who was always quick to jump into action. And JTG is one of the wrestlers who will be on hand in Jacksonville April 20th for the Shad Gaspard Memorial Cup Tournament.

The event is being organized by another friend of Gaspard’s, . Burke is a veteran wrestler from Jacksonville who started on the road to WWE with both Gaspard and JTG. The event is being held at the Murray Hill Baptist Church Gymnasium at 4300 Post Street. Doors open at 6 p.m., belltime is at 7 p.m.

There will be multiple wrestling stars at the event including JTG and “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry.

“We’re just honoring him and his contributions to the world of wrestling,” Said Burke. The money raised goes to Burke’s Love Alive charity which on its website describes itself as is “a 501(c)3 non-profit organization focused on providing humanitarian support to those in need.”