This story was updated at 12:45 PM EST.
After more than a year of dealing with significant health issues that included cancer and heart problems, Tracy Smothers passed away at 4:30 AM Wednesday morning at just 58 years old.
Late last year, Smothers disclosed on social media that he was undergoing chemo treatments for lymphoma and was told that he had suffered a heart attack without realizing it. Earlier this month, Les Thatcher said on social media that Smothers had to be hospitalized as both the cancer and heart issues had returned. Chris Hero started a GoFundMe in April to help pay Smothers’ medical expenses.
The Springfield, Tennessee, born Smothers wrestled for nearly 36 years. He started his career in Tennessee in 1984 as enhancement talent on Memphis television. With his size and look, he was pushed quickly as a good looking, young, athletic babyface, holding the Mid-American title in the promotion twice in 1986.
After eight years working in Southern promotions, he kicked off a string of short runs with WCW, WWF, ECW, USWA, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, none lasting more than three years each. He also famously wrestled an unmuzzled bear in his early years.
He and Steve Armstrong, the son of Bob, were a regular tag team from 1987-1992 as The Wild Eyed Southern Boys, and later, The Young Pistols. They wrestled throughout the Southern territories and their highest profile matches were with the Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) over the U.S. tag team titles with World Championship Wrestling in 1990. They also regularly wrestled against The Freebirds (Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin) before going heel.
Probably the most famous match of Smothers’ career was on July 7, 1990, at the Great American Bash from Baltimore where he and Armstrong challenged the Midnights for the titles, which many considered the best match in the U.S. of that year and placed highly in virtually every match of the year poll. It was considered one of the all-time classic tag team matches of the era.
The match placed third in the 1990 Wrestling Observer Match of the Year balloting behind Jushin Liger vs. Naoki Sano match and the all-time legendary Mitsuharu Misawa win over Jumbo Tsuruta, meaning it was considered the best match of that year in the U.S.
When Jim Cornette started Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Smothers was a fixture, often as the top babyface, and had a lengthy feud with the “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony, who was managed by area legend Ron Wright. Smothers was the right guy for that position at the time and would have probably been pushed more except he could make more money working in Japan. Thus, he was in and out of the territory for most of the company’s run.
He was a two-time SMW heavyweight champion, three time tag team champion, and after DWB’s babyface turn, they joined forces and held the tag team titles.
Smothers worked SMW and Japan, competing in W*ING, All Japan, and later IWA Japan, going back and forth from 1992-1995 and was a highly respected top worker during that period. In 1993, he was voted by readers of the Observer as the Most Improved Wrestler and at that point, he was considered one of the top level workers in the country while having to constantly shift styles from Southern in SMW to hardcore in W*ING and IWA Japan to the hard, solid wrestling of the heyday of All Japan.
He got his one significant run with WWF from 1996-1998 as Freddy Joe Floyd during a period when the company was looking for talented workers to do enhancement work on television. (This was a role that Chris Jericho was offered pre-WCW that he turned down, thinking it would negatively impact his career being a jobber on television each week.)
The name was a rib on the Brisco Brothers because Jack’s real name was Fred Joseph Brisco and Gerald’s real name was Floyd Gerald Brisco. He was billed from Blackwell, OK, where the Briscos actually grew up.
With the territories dying out, it was a steady job. But in those days, working as a television loser that was seen nationally diminished his marketability and also made it impossible for him to be pushed on top for any company of any significance.
When he became an ECW regular, he had to overcome that stigma to be accepted by that fan base. He did so by becoming a beloved comedy figure who would dance badly on purpose, which endeared himself to that crowd.
That led to a run as part of the FBI (Full Blooded Italians) where the gimmick was that besides Little Guido (James Maritato), none of the members were Italians. The group included former NWA champion Tommy Rich, and, at one point, J.T. Smith. Smothers was billed as from Nashville, Italy.
It was a pure mid-card comedy role that lasted through 1999, but did include one run with Guido as tag team champions.
After a final tour with Japan’s FMW in 2000 and doing occasional television jobs under his real name with the national companies, the rest of his career was spent doing independent shows. He was part of the 2005 nostalgia based Hardcore Homecoming group and was a regular with IWA Mid South for years.
Smothers continued to wrestle on independent shows through late-2019, even with health issues mounting. He had a quick temper, perhaps due to the concussions, and he believed he had suffered more than two dozen concussions during his career and suffered greatly from their effects.
But for the most part, he had a heart of gold and was extremely well-liked in the independent community and by younger talent on the shows he would work on. He was always good natured, always smiling, and a humble guy who had no airs of having a big star attitude at any point in his career.