There’s a lot of stuff you don’t see in wrestling anymore. Guys that look different, guys with ring names that aren’t completely ridiculous, somebody wrestling a bear…wait, what?
Believe it or not, years ago, that was a thing.
My knowledge of bear match history isn’t very good. Being both a Canadian and a kid who grew up caring about all things wrestling rather than just Hulk Hogan like most of my friends, I knew who Dave McKigney was even though I don’t remember ever seeing any bear matches on TV or tape. In my world, they were crazy things you just heard about and couldn’t believe actually happened. Bear wrestling was little more than some scary stories about the bears killing folks or at least chewing on them.
The first man vs. bear battle I ever saw wasn’t until after McKigney was killed in the car accident that also killed Adrian Adonis. It took place in Continental Wrestling, which was the Alabama territory at the time. I’m not sure what the bear’s name was, but the man is Tracy Smothers, who some WWF fans from the mid 90’s might remember as Freddie Joe Floyd. Here’s a video, complete with some of the greatest commentary ever commentated courtesy of Gordon Solie. Yes, he really is putting over the basic grappling instincts of the bear and pointing out that it doesn’t know many of the more complicated holds.
When you’re done watching that, you can listen to Smothers talk about this and the other bear matches he’s had. No, this wasn’t the only one. According to Smothers, not only was it not the only one, but it wasn’t even the only one that weekend!
All of this makes me wonder what people are going to remember years down the road about modern day wrestling. Not only do we have nobody wrestling animals, some times we’re lucky to get much in the way of people wrestling each other. I’m not saying we need to put John Cena in the ring with a bear or anything like that, it’s probably best we leave that sort of thing in the past. But somehow wrestling needs to find it’s senses of fun, realism and danger again.