This episode is titled “In The Shadow of Grizzly Smith”
“Decades later the Smith family finally face their haunted past in order to survive beyond the ring.”
Jake Roberts (real name Aurelian Smith Jr.) says of his family, “you would have never thought we were brothers and sisters that’s for sure”.
Rockin’ Robin (Robin Smith)…”We were always that way. We had just been kind of raised at a distance.”
Jim Cornette goes into some of the wrestling families like the Harts and Von Erichs and talks about how the families were the ones that could trust each other with the secrets of the business because it was in their blood and it was their livelihood. But the Smith family was different because there was no knowledge that Jake Roberts, Sam Houston and Rockin’ Robin were related because they were such different people inside and outside the ring and I’m assuming they didn’t congregate much. He said that Sam Houston was probably the best worker of the group.
We meet Sam Houston (Michael Smith) and he explains how he fits into the Smith family by saying “I’m one of them” and he was somebody’s father, somebody’s brother and somebody’s son. Jake was the oldest and then their brother Richard, then him and Robin. He calls Robin one of the best women’s champions ever and he’s honored she is his sister.
Robin and their other brother, Richard Nabors, are introduced. He shows some pictures of he and Jake. Richard said he didn’t want to get involved in wrestling because he didn’t like the travel or the lifestyle. He said Jake loved the fame and the attention, but the rat race wasn’t for him.
Cornette describes Jake as a wrestler by saying he wasn’t a wrestler with a great amateur background or great athleticism or the great physique, but he understood the psychology of wrestling and had tremendous verbal skills. Cornette said that Jake could make you believe he was a snake in the grass…”and there probably was some truth to that.”
(Fair to say Jake Roberts is the best promo ever? I mean we can list off the greats, but I always loved Jake for the voice, the menacingly low voice and the way he would pull out random poetry and quotes. If he wasn’t the best at it, I can say I don’t think anyone put more time in crafting a promo).
Jake talks about how his dad didn’t want him in wrestling and asked promoters to fire him in different places. He never got encouragement from his dad and Jake explained that his hatred for his dad drove him to succeed in wrestling. Jake admits that other wrestlers told him that his dad was proud of his success but he would never tell Jake himself.
Grizzly Smith was a large man and Richard says that his co-workers at this oil factory would pay him to punch him in the stomach in hopes of doubling him over in pain. Richard claims he would make more money doing that than working in the factory. That got him into wrestling.
Sam Houston says he was honored that his dad was in wrestling and he was a main event guy. Richard said his dad never smartened him up on watching the matches, so he would get emotional watching him get beat up and cut up.
Jake says his dad was a mean man and he would express how dangerous each match potentially was to scare the kids. Jake said he never taught them anything about his profession so they would be worried that he wouldn’t survive the night, despite Jake believing he should’ve known better since his dad was fighting the same guys each week. Cornette talks about being in a promotion and having the workers joke about Grizzly Smith’s dealings with young women as a joke, but it seemed less than funny.
Baby Doll (Nickla Roberts-Byrd) talks about meeting Sam Houston and getting married. Houston said she is the mother of his children and he will always love her. Baby Doll tells a story about riding with Grizzly and him picking up a teenage girl to join them for a few days seemingly with the blessings of the girl’s parents. She said so many things were right in front of her face and she never saw them.
Jake talks about the differences between his wrestling persona and who he really is. He said Aurelian Jr. hasn’t grown since he was 12-13 years old and he hasn’t been that person for over 40 years and doesn’t know if he will be again. His mother birthed him when she was 13 and his dad was a pedophile…a disgusting pedophile. He left the family when she was 17 and the kids were passed around. He said his sister Jo Lynn spent too much time with her father…”if you know what I mean”.
Jake lives with his grandmother until she passed and then he moved back in with his dad and his new wife, who was 16. She would sexually assault Jake and beat him if he told his dad. Robin said her dad was her monster. He would ignore her and make her feel like shit until one day her mom was gone and the sexual abuse began. She was 8 years old. She said it stripped her of everything that made her a child. The abuse continued until she was 14, when she told her mom and they left. Robin said she told her father that she would shoot him if he touched her again. She kind of gives her mom a pass on Jake’s claims of sexual abuse and believes that Grizzly might have put her up to it.
Robin talks about a day with her older sister Jo Lynn where it was clear that Jo Lynn had a good idea what Robin was going through, likely because she had went through the same things herself. Two weeks later Jo Lynn was kidnapped.
Robin continues and talks about about a trip with her brothers to go roller skating. They were called and summoned to the house where they find out Jo Lynn had been “kidnapped”. Richard said he lost it and wanted to find out who hurt his sister. She was living a quiet, happy life with her child and he wondered who would want to ruin that for her.
We meet former Carl “Buzz” Gage, the former Police Chief of Tatum, Texas. He has a tremendous mustache. Robin said that Jo Lynn was in her home with her child when she got abducted. Richard adds that Jo Lynn was a big woman, about 5-foot-10, 200 pounds and wasn’t going to get taken away without a fight. He doubts one person did the job alone. The baby was left behind. Eventually Gage notices some letters that Jo Lynn current husband said was from his ex-wife, who used to send threatening letters. The woman admits to the kidnapping, but says Jo Lynn escaped.
The search for Jo Lynn is extensive. Buzz even uses a psychic to help, but nothing comes up. To this date there hasn’t been a body. Fae Lynn, the ex-wife, is indicted on kidnapping. Jake said he didn’t go to the trial and he was “medicating” himself daily until he passed out. Fae Lynn was convicted on kidnapping charges and served seven years of a 33-year sentence. Richard says that he heard his Dad had manufactured a device from a piano string to snap her neck but she was shielded by law enforcement.
Buzz believes that Jo Lynn was taken to an incinerator and that’s where the murder took place. Robin believes that her father might have had something to do with it because she could expose him and cost him his career. Richard isn’t sure, but he did say he never saw his dad express sadness over Jo Lynn’s death.
Jake Roberts talks about how hate fueled his character and the gimmick allowed people to look at the snake bag and not him. Robin trained with Nelson Royal to get her career started. Sam said he trained Robin tough. Robin used Grizzly’s connections to get a tryout in the WWF and Vince McMahon was pleased with her efforts. There is a quick clip of Robin winning the women’s title against Sherri Martel in 1988. At one point all three of the Smith kids were in the WWF.
Cornette says Houston was very good in the ring, but he wasn’t physically impressive…painfully thin…and Cornette adds that probably held him back from being a bigger star. Richard said Sam was making good money and then got into drinking. Baby Doll said he had 32 (!!) Crown and cokes when he told Grizzly they were getting married. What. The. Fuck. She said there was nothing she could do about his drinking.
Robin says addictive personalities must run through their family.
(We have a winner!)
She talked about Grizzly visiting her once and bringing a young girl, around 9 years old, with him. He wants her to make the girl a daquiri, but she didn’t and he goes to bed. Robin starts asking the girl questions about Grizzly. The next day he left but Robin would not let the girl go with him. God I hope that’s a true story. I hope she didn’t let that poor girl go.
Cornette said Sam had the Texas record for most DUI offenses, but he was kept out of jail because of Grizzly’s connections. Baby Doll confirms this story and said hauntingly, “Grizzly knew everybody and knew something about everybody.”
Houston said he was always getting charged with first offenses and would get weak community service, like washing fire trucks. Eventually Grizzly can’t save Houston from himself forever and he ended up in prison. Cornette brilliantly says, “if they caught you doing something 20-something times, how many times have you really done it?”. Baby Doll said the MADD group found his record and went after him, rightfully. Houston got a 30-year sentence and was going to commit suicide, but failed because the knot broke.
Jake’s addictions are spiraling out of control. Cornette said he is like the Keith Richards of wrestling. Jake said he put cocaine about everything else in his life — money, family, sex…anything. Jake describes some of his extra curricular activities. Cornette brings up the debacle from the Heroes of Wrestling, which we have all heard about. Jake says he was a junkie, a liar and a thief. Seems about right.
Robin ends her career as the WWF ends women wrestling for a while. She got into alcohol abuse as well and says she drank better than she did everything else. She wanted to break out her addiction and said that her father ruined her childhood, but he wasn’t going to let him ruin the rest of her life.
Grizzly Smith dies in 2010 at the age of 77, which is about the only positive in this episode. Richard was his caretaker in his final years and despite the horrible man he was it’s clear that Richard still harbors some emotion to how things ended. Houston was in prison when he died. Jake thought that with Grizzly gone his mind would be clear, but the memories don’t go away that easily. Robin said Grizzly probably never thought he did anything wrong.
Sam said he talked with Robin about being abused and he can’t imagine how tough that was on her. He idolized his dad and doesn’t think Robin or their mom wanted to tarnish that image. Baby Doll says had Sam knew he probably would have blamed Robin because Grizzly knew how to manipulate Sam’s mind. Robin doesn’t blame anyone for the siblings not being close. That was Grizzly’s doing.
Richard shares some pictures of he and Grizzly. He says that by being put up for adoption that he was the lucky one of the group. Jake says he hopes that Robin and him could be friends and he loves her. Sam wants to be close with everybody but knows that they had different paths in life and doesn’t seem sure that a reconciliation is possible. Richard says he wants to try to open the lines of communication. Robin says she wanted to talk about this in hopes of finding some closure and says that if you are going through something tell somebody.
Jake says that there are millions of other kids going through what he went through and if you’re one of those kids…”run…run like the wind…go to the police, go to your pastor…just go…and if it’s already happened to you, you’ve got to get help.” He talks about his sobriety and he ends the documentary by saying to never give up.
The Bottom Line: Man there’s so much to unpack here. First and foremost Grizzly Smith was every bit the horrible man he was billed as. If hell exists he should’ve been a shoo in to arrive there the second after he took his last breath. The sexual abuse, the pedophilia…I can’t explain how much that disgusts me and my heart goes out to the many young girls that he abused and have had to live with that for however many years. No one on earth deserves that fate. I feel for Robin and Jake for going through that abuse.
It’s impossible not to have sympathy for the Smith kids. They have been hurting for a long time and have had to fight many demons whether it’s the addictions that Sam, Robin and Jake dealt with or Richard dealing with the psychological demons and memories of his favorite sibling being murdered. And he WAS the lucky one all things considered. I hope this documentary helps them come together for coffee, dinner…anything where the four of them can just express their support for each other.
You can have sympathy for the kids and still be critical of their choices. Sam, with his amount of DUIs, was not only a danger to himself, but a danger to others. Jake did many inappropriate things to tarnish his legacy. As adults they have to be accountable for their decisions and they seem to understand that now, so that’s appreciated. It’s a tough watch because it’s about a bad person doing a lot of bad things and there was no real hero to give him his just due at the end. If Robin saved one girl one time you can only imagine the dozens that she didn’t know about and couldn’t save. It’s frustrating to think about.
I remember saying there was nothing redeeming about New Jack and that was probably a little hyperbole. Most people have some redeeming qualities and enough people spoke well of New Jack for me to believe there was something redeeming in there.
There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about Grizzly Smith. If he were on fire I’d gleefully pour more gasoline on him.