Shad Gaspard was a storybook hero whose legend will resonate forever
January 13th marks what would have been Shad Gaspard's 42nd birthday. The WWE Hall of Famer drowned in 2020 while attempting to save his young son
WWE Hall of Famer Shad Gaspard died in one of the most heroic ways possible, as a man who risked his own life to save his son. He tragically drowned off the coast of Venice Beach in May 2020, while attempting to rescue his child from a strong rip current.
Gaspard was 39 years old at the time of his passing.
While his story has been told a thousand times, it may as well be told one more. Especially considering today (January 13th) would have been Shad's 42nd birthday. All the books ever written seem to insist that heroes never really die, anyway. So, the legend of Gaspard's life should live on like a Shakespearean work or The Knight's Tale.
In many ways, Shad Gaspard made his journey through life as a noble warrior. Raised as a fighter, he began a career in professional boxing when he was just a teenager. After moving over to professional wrestling, he was spotted by the legendary Dr. Tom Prichard. He would train in WWE's developmental territory at the time, Ohio Valley Wrestling, under the watchful eye of veteran Al Snow.
Snow is now the co-owner of OVW, and he fondly remembered his time teaching the up-and-coming star.
"Shad was one of my kids and I will always love, care for, and miss him,"
Eventually, Gaspard graduated to the big time.
Or, should we say... the 'Cryme Tyme'
Gaspard and partner JTG were paired up in a gangsta gimmick for the ages, and one that got everyone's attention. To some, it was a little over the top. To others, it bordered on downright offensive.
However, the duo never really worried about the criticism and just kept doing their thing. Cryme Tyme was constantly pulling off crazy backstage stunts every week on RAW and Smackdown. All the while, they were gaining a ton of fans and followers - especially among the younger demographic.
Before long, Shad and JTG became loved for their hijinks. In fact? For every crime they committed, the audience likely would have gathered up bail money for the team to get them out of the clink. That's how over they were.
But like all great stories, this one had to come to an end, too. Cryme Time was released in 2007, ending their initial run with WWE. They would have an 'Act II' with the promotion a year later before the curtain came down on the team in 2010.
Shad and JTG would continue to work together on the independent circuit over the coming years, but they never reached that same level of fame again.
Gaspard stayed active throughout the following decade while also focusing on his family. As a husband and father, he knew where his priorities in life lay. And much like the courageous hero he often portrayed in the ring, he was the same away from it. Not just at home, but in society, as well.
He prevented an armed robbery in 2016, at a gas station in Florida when an intoxicated man with a gun tried robbing the business. Gaspard took control of the man and his weapon, then restrained him until the police arrived.
Like a knight in shining armor, Shad would slay the dragon and save the day. It was a perfect narrative for who he was: A powerful athlete in competition and entertainment, and a lionheart in life. A champion on so many levels.
Then, like every storybook ending that just couldn't be, tragedy would strike just a few years later. The details of Gaspard's death, while stunning, weren't that surprising. At least, not those who knew him and loved him.
Hearing his former partner, JTG, discuss Shad and their relationship - one that was like a brotherhood - is very illuminating. The affection in his voice is an indication of the kind of man that Gaspard was.
"I’ve never lost somebody this close to me where you engage with them every day, where you share the most intimate stories with them," JTG told Lillian Garcia on her Chasing Glory podcast in 2020, "I’ve lost family, I’ve lost distant uncles and grandparents. But you know they’re older, and it’s like, I don’t want them to be here and suffer, so when they transition you’re like, ‘Okay, they’re at peace'."
"I’ve lost co-workers. We’ve lost a lot of co-workers, but it never really hit home like this.”
Most epithets of luminaries read the same way. They are the epic tales of those who inspire us, the ones who dare us to be better than we are. Shad Gaspard was one of those people. He believed in his fellow man, and that they were worth sacrificing for. Even if it meant ultimately sacrificing himself.
On Earth and For Eternity, his story is one that should be repeated forever.
Not just for his valor... but for his values.
Happy Birthday, Shad.