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Shad Gaspard: WWE Hero
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17 days ago
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Shad Gaspard, a former WWE wrestler known for his time in the tag team Cryme Tyme, tragically died in 2020 at the age of 39 while heroically saving his son from drowning in a rip current at Venice Beach, California. Gaspard's life was marked by athletic achievements, a successful career in professional wrestling and acting, and ultimately, an act of selfless bravery as a father.

Early Life and Background

Shad Gaspard was born into a family of fighters on January 13, 1981, in Brooklyn, New York City. His father was a former enforcer for street gangs who later became a professional boxer, while his mother was a skilled kickboxer trained in Muay Thai. Growing up in this environment, Gaspard was exposed to combat sports from a young age. At just five years old, he began training in boxing under his father's guidance, and by age eight, he was learning a variety of martial arts, including judo, kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, and Muay Thai. This early immersion in the world of fighting would shape Gaspard's future career choices. As a teenager, he competed in prize fights for promoter Hardbody Harrison, participating in boxing, kickboxing, MMA, and tough man competitions, often against much older opponents. Gaspard's athletic prowess extended beyond combat sports, as he excelled in wrestling, track, and basketball during his high school years. His upbringing and natural abilities laid the foundation for his eventual success in the world of professional wrestling and entertainment.
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Professional Wrestling Career

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Shad Gaspard's professional wrestling career began in 2003 when he signed with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) after impressing talent scouts, despite failing to make it through the company's Tough Enough competition. He was assigned to WWE's developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), where he initially performed under the ring name "Da Beast." In OVW, Gaspard formed a successful tag team with JTG, and together they captured the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship on two occasions. In 2006, Gaspard and JTG, now known as Cryme Tyme, were promoted to WWE's main roster. Their gimmick, which played on racial stereotypes, involved the duo "robbing" people in the arena and engaging in other petty crimes. While controversial, the Cryme Tyme gimmick made Gaspard and JTG popular with fans. Though they had several opportunities at the WWE Tag Team Championships, they never managed to capture the titles. After being released from WWE in 2007, Cryme Tyme returned to the company in 2008 and had notable feuds with the likes of John Morrison and The Miz, as well as Jeri-Show (Chris Jericho and Big Show). In 2010, Gaspard turned heel and attacked JTG, disbanding Cryme Tyme. He was released from WWE later that year. Throughout his WWE career, Gaspard's charisma, athleticism, and imposing presence made him a memorable figure in the tag team division. His work as part of Cryme Tyme left a lasting impact on fans, cementing his legacy in the world of professional wrestling.
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Notable Acting Roles

After his wrestling career, Shad Gaspard transitioned into acting, appearing in several films and TV shows. Some of his notable acting roles included:
  • Gaspard played the role of Shatter in the 2015 film "Get Hard" starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.
  • He appeared in an episode of the TV series "From Dusk Till Dawn" in 2014.
  • Gaspard had a role in the 2012 film "Think Like a Man" based on the book by Steve Harvey.
  • He acted in the 2011 film "Petunia" alongside Thora Birch and Christine Lahti.
  • Gaspard played a bodyguard in the 2008 film "Bolden!" about jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.
In addition to his film and television work, Gaspard also did motion capture and voice acting for the video game "WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010". His acting career allowed him to showcase his versatility and charisma in roles outside the wrestling ring.
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Television and Streaming Roles

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In addition to his film roles, Shad Gaspard also appeared in several American television shows throughout his acting career. Some of his notable television appearances included:
  • Gaspard had a recurring role as Tony in the Fox Television comedy series "In the Cut" in 2017-2018. The show aired on Bounce TV, a network owned by Fox Television Stations.
  • He appeared as a bodyguard in an episode of the horror comedy series "Dead House" in 2017. The show streamed on CryptTV, an online horror network.
  • Gaspard played the role of Muhammad Ali in the 2018 Syfy television movie "The Last Sharknado: It's About Time", part of the Sharknado film series. Syfy is owned by NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.
  • He had a guest role as Dean Whitman in a 2019 episode of the comedy series "School for Boys" on the streaming service Dropout TV.
While Gaspard did not have a major role in a reality television program, his appearances on various scripted shows demonstrate his range as an actor and his ability to work with different networks and production companies, including Fox Television Stations and NBCUniversal properties. These roles allowed him to showcase his talents to a wide television audience.
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Navigating Racial Stereotypes

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Shad Gaspard's time in WWE as part of the tag team Cryme Tyme was marked by controversy due to the gimmick's reliance on racial stereotypes. Gaspard and his partner JTG portrayed characters that perpetuated negative perceptions of African Americans, dressing in oversized jeans, Timberland boots, and grillz while engaging in scripted petty crimes and speaking in exaggerated Ebonics. Many viewed Cryme Tyme as the epitome of racism in professional wrestling, a history that includes the use of blackface, Confederate flags, and the N-word. The duo's theme music and finishing moves, such as "Thugnificent" and "Da Shout Out," further reinforced these stereotypes. However, Gaspard remained unapologetic about his time as part of Cryme Tyme. In a 2016 interview, he acknowledged the "Yo, yo, homeboy" gimmick but emphasized that it was a balance he had to find between being a professional wrestler in WWE and representing his race on screen. Like many black wrestlers before him, Gaspard faced the challenge of succeeding in an industry that often relied on offensive racial stereotypes for character development. Despite the controversial nature of the Cryme Tyme gimmick, Gaspard's talent and charisma helped him connect with fans during his time in WWE. His experiences highlight the ongoing struggles that black wrestlers face in navigating an industry that has a history of racial insensitivity and stereotyping.
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Heroic Death: From Armed Robbery to Saving His Son

Shad Gaspard's heroism extended beyond the wrestling ring. In 2016, he stopped an armed robbery at a gas station in Florida, disarming the gunman and restraining him until police arrived.
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Tragically, in 2020, Gaspard made the ultimate sacrifice while saving his 10-year-old son from a dangerous rip current at Venice Beach. When lifeguards approached to rescue them, Gaspard selflessly directed them to help his son first. Moments later, a large wave crashed over him and he was swept out to sea.
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His final act was one of pure love and bravery, as he put his child's life above his own. Gaspard's heroic spirit, both in times of crisis and as a devoted father, will forever be remembered and celebrated.
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Honoring a Hero's Legacy

Shad Gaspard's warrior legacy lives on with his son - YouTube
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Shad Gaspard's heroic actions and untimely passing deeply impacted the wrestling community and beyond, leading to numerous tributes honoring his legacy. After his death, Gaspard was awarded the PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated readers, recognizing his selfless act of saving his son. Dave Meltzer, a renowned wrestling journalist, announced the creation of the "Shad Gaspard Award" to acknowledge contributions outside the ring for the betterment of society. In 2021, Meltzer established the Shad Gaspard/Jon Huber Memorial Award, named after Gaspard and fellow wrestler Jonathan Huber, who also passed away in 2020. WWE paid tribute to Gaspard with an emotional video package narrated by ESPN's Mark Kriegel, which aired during the 2022 Hall of Fame ceremony.
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The video highlighted Gaspard's career, his close relationship with his son Aryeh, and his final heroic act. WWE also posthumously honored Gaspard with the 2022 Warrior Award, which recognizes individuals who exhibit unwavering strength, perseverance, and live life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of The Ultimate Warrior. Gaspard's legacy extends beyond his contributions to the wrestling world, as his selfless actions and dedication to his family continue to inspire people from all walks of life. His memory lives on through the heartfelt tributes and awards bestowed upon him, ensuring that his impact will never be forgotten.
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Closing Thoughts

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Shad Gaspard's life and legacy serve as a testament to the power of heroism, sacrifice, and the unbreakable bond between a father and his child. His tragic passing in 2020 while saving his son from a dangerous rip current at Venice Beach, California, showcased his unwavering love and courage in the face of adversity. Gaspard's final act of directing lifeguards to rescue his son before he was swept out to sea exemplified the depths of his selflessness and the strength of his character. Beyond this ultimate sacrifice, Gaspard's heroism was evident throughout his life, from his early days growing up in a family of fighters to his success in the world of professional wrestling and acting. His ability to navigate the challenges of racial stereotyping in the wrestling industry, particularly during his time as part of the controversial Cryme Tyme tag team, highlighted his resilience and determination to succeed on his own terms. The outpouring of tributes and honors in the wake of Gaspard's passing, including the PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year award and the establishment of the Shad Gaspard/Jon Huber Memorial Award, serves as a testament to the profound impact he had on the wrestling community and beyond. His legacy as a devoted father, a talented entertainer, and a true hero will continue to inspire generations to come, reminding us all of the power of love, sacrifice, and the indomitable human spirit.
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