The shocking death of 39-year-old wrestler Shad Gaspard has hit the wrestling world hard as the former WWE Superstar was pulled into a riptide off the coast of Venice Beach.
Given the confluence of tragic wrestler deaths that have been the result of substance abuse and demons, Gaspard’s passing due to a swimming accident was heartbreaking in contrast. It’s especially heartbreaking given Gaspard’s own heroics of directing rescue efforts to his son prior to his death.
The entire wrestling world has paid tribute to an individual who was universally beloved across all walks of wrestling life. Gaspard was hardly the typical, homogenous mold of an undersized indie worker the likes of a Daniel Bryan or CM Punk, but he managed to command a similar amount of respect and adoration from even the most hardcore of wrestling communities in the way he lived his life.
WWE NXT aired a tribute graphic to Gaspard prior to its broadcast Wednesday night, while AEW announcer Jim Ross issued his own tribute during AEW Dynamite. WWE currently has a playlist of his greatest career moments on its YouTube channel. Longtime tag team partner JTG, of Cryme Tyme fame, tweeted a video of a Venice Beach vigil in honor of his fallen partner, scored appropriately by Puff Daddy’s I’ll be Missing You.
Everybody from Vince McMahon to Brian Pillman Jr. have weighed in with touching tributes and stories about Gaspard. WWE Hall of Famer and noted philanthropist Mick Foley has offered to help Gaspard’s wife Siliana develop her late husband’s Pinfall project, which was to be a series based on Gaspard’s life as a pro wrestler.
Gaspard’s wife posted the following statement through her Instagram account:
“Aryeh, myself and the Gaspard and Chittick families would like to take this time to thank everyone for their prayers and support, as we mourn the terrible loss of our beloved Shad,” she wrote.
“Shad was our whole world and we were his. There are not enough words to describe what he means to all of us. He was our heart, our soul, our protector, our warrior. He was a bright force of nature, who brought joy to many through his joyous and gracious nature.”
Despite being slotted as the roleplayer in typical clueless WWE booking of minority stars, Gaspard’s overwhelming impact on the wrestling community suggests he was far much more than a bit player in life.