wrestling / TV Reports

411’s Dark Side of The Ring Report: ‘In The Shadow of Grizzly Smith’

June 4, 2021 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
Dark Side of the Ring Jake Roberts In The Shadow Of Grizzly Smith

-Well, this is one going to live up to the Dark Side name of this series. If you watched ‘Beyond the Mat’ and Jake’s ‘Pick Your Poison’ WWE DVD release you have an idea how heavy this one is going to get. Buckle up and let’s get to it!

-As a reminder, Chris Jericho is your narrator for this season.

-The following appears on screen before the episode: “The Following Episode Features A Discussion About Incest and Sexual Abuse. Viewer Discretion Is Advised.”

-Jake “The Snake” Roberts is called one of the most authentic personalities in wrestling history. Unknown to fans for years, Sam Houston and Rockin Robin are brother and sister to Jake and their father is pro-wrestler, Grizzly Smith. The Smith children were scarred by a tough childhood which led to substance abuse. Yeah, this is going to be a rough one.

-Jake says there is no relationship with the family as there was no “I’m happy for you.” They show off various wrestling families as Cornette talks about The Harts and Von Erichs. Family was your blood and your success was their success. He tells us people in the industry knew The Smith family was all related but to fans they were all different people. He calls Sam Houston the best in ring performer in the family.

-We meet Michael Smith (Sam Houston) and he runs down the family history. He puts over his sister Robin as one best Women’s Champions of all time. Robin Smith (Rockin Robin) shows off the WWF Women’s Title that she has owned since the division was stopped in the late 80s. She tells us she is the sister of Jake Roberts and Sam Houston. She has another brother named Richard Nabors and he joins us as well. He tells us that Aurelian Smith Jr is Jake “The Snake” Roberts. His nickname as a child was Buster, but Jake is his wrestling name. Richard says he didn’t get involved in wrestling because of the travel.

-Cornette says that Jake had strengths and weaknesses. He didn’t have the physical tools but he had the mental and verbal game. Once he developed the persona he made people believe he was a snake in the grass. Robin mentions that Jake was in their dad’s shadow.

-Jake introduces himself and says with a name like Aurelian, you know why he went by Jake “The Snake.” He mentions his dad didn’t want him in wrestling and had several promoters fire him to get him out of there. His father would tell him he was embarrassed by him and that was the motivation he needed. He got into wrestling because he hated his father and wanted to shove it up his ass. He tells us his father never once told him, “I am proud of you.”

-Grizzly Smith was a big dude and guys would pay him $25 to punch him in the stomach to see if they could make him double over. He would make quite a bit of money doing that. He looked like he just came right out of the mountains. Sam (Michael) says he was honored to see his dad wrestle and calls him Superman. Richard talks about being horrified at seeing his dad bleeding during matches and questioned why he wanted to do something like that. He told his son, he had to make a living.

-Old interview with Grizzly Smith as he talks about how his father was tough and would whip you for lying, making mistakes, or when he thought you needed it. Jake calls his dad a mean man that tortured them psychologically. He didn’t let his kids in on that fact that wrestling was a work and Jake would cry himself to sleep thinking guys were going to kill his dad.

-Grizzly retired and got a job backstage as part of the office and he was often the butt of jokes about having sex with young girls. Cornette would hear the jokes and thought that was strange as he didn’t know the back story.

-Next is Nickla Roberts Byrd, otherwise known as wrestling manager, Baby Doll. Both her parents were wrestlers and she got into the Smith family by marrying Sam Houston. He says that Baby Doll is the mother of his children and he loves her dearly. Nickla talks about Grizzly and how they would pick up 15 year old girls during road trips and the parents of the girls would just wave to Grizzly as they left. Good Lord! She says it wasn’t until after Grizzly died that you got the entire story of what was going on. She says she was right there and never saw it.

-Commercials!

-Jake endured a traumatic childhood that affected his entire life. Jake talks about the difference between Jake “The Snake” and Aurelian. He says he has not been Aurelian in 30-40 years because Aurelian remembers. He knows how dangerous Jake can be and he is comfortable with Jake. Aurelian is a kid still and hasn’t grown, so he had to leave Aurelian behind. Jake mentions his father was a pedophile and had sex and impregnated his mother when she was 13. They were forced to marry and were divorced by the time she was 17. He says his other siblings were passed around and mentions his one sister (Jo Lynn) spent too much time with his father if we know what he means. Jake says his mom was blind to a lot of this and she was a great and loving mother.

-Jake lived a good life with his grandma until she passed away. He was sent back to life with his father and his new wife (Robin and Sam’s mom). He thought it would be great, but his step mom was sexually abusive to him. He went to tell his father and she stopped him and beat him with a coat hanger and fly swatter. “It’s one thing to have sex, but it’s another thing to get beat for doing it.” It freaked him out and he didn’t know that his father was aware of it because he was doing the same thing to Jake’s sisters.

-Robin tells us she isn’t here to ruin her father’s legacy because he was great inside the ring, but to her he was a monster. She was 8-9 years old when he started manipulating and grooming her. He would walk around completely ignoring her and one day he called her in the back to tell her that daddy loved her. That gave her relief until he puts his hands on her for the first time. You have no way to process that as it stripped away everything that makes you a child. This went on from the time she was 8 until 14. She told her mother and she grabbed everything they had and left. She then told Grizzly if he tried again she would shoot him with his own gun. The producers bring up Jake’s confession that Robin’s mom sexually and physically abused him and Robin can only tell us that her mom wasn’t that type of person. She puts the blame on Grizzly if her mom did something as she thinks he forced her for his own sick pleasure.

-Robin and her half sister, Jo Lynn Rogers (Jake’s sister), went out and she asked Robin if she felt safe and comfortable. There is no doubt in her mind that the same things happened to Jo Lynn.

-Commercials!

-Robin tells the story of her, Mike and Richard being at a roller skating rink. They were paged to get home immediately and there was a note from their dad that their sister, Jo Lynn, had been kidnapped. Richard was very close to her and he couldn’t understand why someone would kidnap someone so sweet. She was very happy and had a child and was living a quiet life.

-Carl Gage, former Chief of Police in Tatum, TX, tells the story of the sister being kidnapped in a trailer park. She was removed from her home and Richard says she was 5’10” and 200 lbs and no way someone took her by themselves as they would wrestle and she was a fighter. The suspect is the ex-wife of the Jo Lynn’s husband. She confessed to the kidnapping, but told police Jo Lynn had escaped. The police had search parties out and never found the body which made murder charges impossible to file. Jake says that was the first time his father every missed a wrestling match. Jake didn’t go to the trial as he was self medicating to make himself pass out. The evidence was overwhelming, but without a body or someone seeing her kill the sister all she could get charged for was aggravated kidnapping which carried a 33 year sentence. She served 7 years of it and Richard tells us that Grizzly would carry around a piece of piano string attached to pieces of wood as he wanted to get close enough to strangle her. Four police officers surrounded her as Grizzly was a large man and they knew someone of his size hell bent on revenge would be hard to stop.

-The Sheriff believes the body was burned as the kidnapper worked at a place with an incinerator. That way there was no evidence and everything was gone. Robin questions if her dad had anything to do with it. Richard wanted to go to Unsolved Mysteries and Grizzly put his foot down about that. Richard says that is an interesting and wild thought and he doesn’t know. He does know he never saw his dad crying over the loss of his daughter. That is just wild and insanely horrific and sad.

-Commercials!

-We see the tombstone of Jo Lynn: Born June 7, 1959; Kidnapped Nov. 20, 1979. Gone But Not Forgotten! Jake says he used the hate from his father and what happened to him as a kid in his wrestling persona. Kids loved Jake “The Snake” because their parents would be scared of the snake he would dump in the ring.

-Rockin Robin was trained by Nelson Royal and was trained like the guys. She wanted the women to have matches just as exciting as the men. Grizzly got her a try-out with the WWE and Vince enjoyed the match she had with Sensational Sherri. Vince complimented her on being able to throw a punch like the boys. They have footage of Robin winning the Women’s Title from Sherri in Paris, France.

-All 3 kids were working in the WWE at the same time. Cornette says that Sam Houston was painfully thin and that is what held him back in the WWE and NWA. Richard talks about Sam being a drinker and Baby Doll says when Sam told her dad they were getting married he drank 32 Crown and Cokes. She didn’t see it as a problem as she figured her love could conquer all and it didn’t. She soon realized there was nothing she could do. Robin says addiction runs through their family and you need to find that self respect.

-Grizzly shows up to Robin’s house with a 9 year old girl (I don’t have the words) and Robin lost all color in her face. Grizzly wanted Robin to make her a daiquiri and when Grizzly went to sleep, she asked the little girl all kinds of questions. Grizzly wanted to leave the next morning and Robin told him he could leave, but the little girl was staying with her. Thank goodness!

-Commercials!

-Jake, Robin, and Sam all battle addiction as they get older. Cornette says Sam held the record for most DUIs in the state of Texas and only thanks to Grizzly that he didn’t end up in jail long term. Sam says that everything he was charged for was a first offense and it was usually a fine and community service. “Anytime I had community service, I gave it my all. I washed 7 fire trucks for a parade.” Finally the law catches up to him and Grizzly can’t save him this time. Cornette questions if you get caught 27 times how many times have you done it without getting caught. Sam was facing 30 years in prison and he tried to hang himself but the knot broke. He tells us he knows how to tie knots and yet they somehow broke.

-Next we cover Jake’s screw ups and Cornette calls him the Keith Richards of pro-wrestling. Jake says the most important thing in his life for 20 years was cocaine. When you do drugs your idea of a good time changes and things get freaky. Jake continues that at first it is one girl, then two girls, then three girls and then you add in a rabbit, and a dog. Just wow!

-Heroes of Wrestling: Cornette says this was story 747,000 of Jake showing up in no condition to perform. A lot of guys were old and past their prime, but Jake was on planet Neptune. They have some lowlights from the show and Jake was using his snake as a phallic symbol. Jake says he is a junkie and he destroyed all the mirrors in his house.

-Rockin Robin ends her career when the WWE ends the division. She became an alcoholic and realized that it wasn’t getting here anywhere. Her father ruined her childhood and she was going to make sure he didn’t ruin the rest of her life.

-Commercials! Next week it’s Dynamite Kid!

-Grizzly Smith died June 12, 2010 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. His son Richard, who was given up for adoption, was his only caretaker at the end. Richard breaks down talking about it. Sam was in prison and says it is the worst place you can be to hear news like that. You can definitely tell that Richard and Sam have a higher opinion of their father than Jake and Robin do. They show ‘Beyond The Mat’ footage of Grizzly telling the cameras Jake was born out of love and he still loved him. Jake says the memories don’t go away and that his father never tried to apologize.

-Sam says he talked to Robin about her abuse stories and he can’t imagine what she went through. He thinks his mom and sister never told him because to him, his dad was Superman. Baby Doll mentions Sam idolizes his dad and probably would have forgiven him instead of trying to help his sister. Damn! She knows Grizzly could make Sam believe it was Robin or Jake’s fault.

-Richard says Grizzly never apologized for giving him up for adoption, but he can’t complain as he feels he is the lucky one out of the bunch. Probably right with that one. Jake says it would be nice to have a sister and Sam would love to be closer with all of them. Richard would like to try to get together as well and maybe he needs to figure out a way to do that. Robin hopes this might bring them all closer. She wants people to know you can be successful and overcome it. She pleads for anyone out there to tell someone as there is help out there. Jake offers similar advice as he says if you are one of those kids like him, run to the police or your pastor, but run somewhere and get help. Jake says he isn’t as angry now and has been sober 10 years. He gets emotional as he repeats “10 years.” He says to never give up.

-That was something else! I mean, I know the stories they were going to share, but still is crazy. Thankfully there was a bit of a happy ending as they all seem to have turned their life around in some way and Jake being sober 10 years is amazing. The way each sibling spoke about their father was something else and I feel for all of them. I don’t even know how to rate this show as good or bad because of how horrific the subject matter was. I would definitely say give it a watch, but prepare to be horrified by the actions of Grizzly Smith. Thanks for reading!