WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
Mike Aldren wrote (June 14, 2010): Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith, the father of Jake Roberts, Sam Houston and Rockin’ Robin, passed away on Saturday. He had just turned 78. Smith started wrestling in Texas in the late 1950s and was one of wrestling’s top stars during the 1960s. He worked in various territories all over the country, most notably in a tag team with Luke Brown called The Kentuckians. Together they held the NWA version of the tag titles in the Tri-State territory, promoted by Leroy McGuirk. Smith also held tag titles with Don Leo Jonathan in Vancouver and Fritz Von Erich in Dallas. After his in-ring career ended, Smith promoted wrestling in Louisiana alongside Jack Curtis and later worked with Bill Watts in the Mid-South territory until he was fired reportedly due to a disagreement over money. He was a respected booker and was famous for his complex finishes. At various points during the 80s and 90s he also worked behind the scenes for WWE and WCW. Smith had a strained relationship with one of his sons. Jake Roberts has stated in numerous interviews over the years that this was partially the result of his father not informing him about the scripted nature of pro wrestling. Roberts has long told how his father convinced the family that his injuries in the ring were real and would often wear a neck brace at home to sell a storyline. Roberts also claimed that he was conceived when his father, who was dating Roberts’ grandmother, raped her 12 year-old daughter. He alleges that the two were forced to marry against their wishes and that the resulting emotional trauma is responsible for Roberts’ well documented substance abuse issues and another family tragedy. However, former World Class wrestling referee James Beard said the Grizzly Smith he knew was nothing like the man Roberts would talk about. “Grizz might have had his personal flaws, but I never experienced them or saw them. In fact, I saw him go out of his way in the times I knew him to help his boys, even when they didn’t really deserve the help. I’m sure Grizz wasn’t the perfect father, but personally, I think he got a raw deal from both his boys for the most part and I know for a fact a lot of the junk thrown about by one of them was mostly bull. He was always straight with me and always a level headed, easy going source of strength for those of us who worked closely with him. Grizz had a great mind for the business and a way about him that commanded the respect of the wrestlers who worked for him.” Beard added: “I had some good teachers in the wrestling business, between Johnny Valentine, Red Bastien and Grizzly Smith. It’s sad that another of them has gone on, but I will always remember Grizz for his gentle way of setting guys straight when it was needed and his dedication to doing things the right way.” In recent years, Smith shared a house with his son Michael (Sam Houston) and took a maintenance job in a cemetery near New Orleans’ French Quarter. They lost everything in the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At the time of his death Smith’s health had badly deteriorated, and he was living in a hospice battling Alzheimer’s disease in Amarillo, TX.