In light of today's terrible news about Bison Smith passing, I wanted to share with you all a quick little story about Bison Smith, and more specifically about the night I got to know him a little better. I don't usually share stories about what happens outside of the ring, but this is one that has always been dear to me, and I wish to tell it now in memory of Bison Smith.
On December 18, 2009, in one of Steen/Generico's last matches together as a team, we faced Bison Smith & Erick Stevens in Manassas, VA for ROH. Bison had been with ROH for sometime, and while he came off friendly, I didn't really know much about him.
Steen and I arrived late to the building that night, due to a huge storm that had hit the area (the ROH show was named Eye of The Storm 2) We still had a very fun match with Bison & Erick, and seeing that we were early on in the card, we planned on hitting the road to NYC immediately after the match (Final Battle 09 was the next night). Bison was also concerned about getting stuck because of the storm, which was getting worse in a hurry, and asked to jump in with us. Yes, he had just pulverized us, but such is the nature of pro wrestling sometimes.
Normally, Manassas to NYC would be a 5 hour drive. Of course it was made longer by the storm, so we did it in about 8 hours, while the rest of the crew who left later made it in about 12 hours. I can't count the number of 8+ hour trips I've had in my wrestling career, but I can tell you the few that really stick out in my mind, and this was one of them. We got to know Bison really well and connected on a very personal level.
He told us a lot of funny stories about the trouble he would sometimes get into when he was younger if alcohol was involved, so he loved the fact that neither Kevin or I drank.
He also told us about how being such a big guy, young hotheaded guys would constantly try to step up to him at bars to prove themselves. Despite the fact that he was so large and intimidating, and could probably pulverize them with little effort, he was not confrontational at all and would often just reply with a genuine and bewildered, "Hey man, what's your problem?" Those words really made me laugh.
One memory that sticks out also from that drive is popping in a Mitch Hedberg CD, as I wanted to show Bison what this guy was all about. For those of you who don't know, Mitch Hedberg was a comedian with great jokes and a unique delivery. I was driving, and Bison was in the front seat next to me. I remember laughing a lot, and then kind of looking over to Bison to see if he was laughing too. His reaction was hard to gauge though, and I had no idea if he was actually enjoying it, as he would only occasionally chuckle to himself. Finally, about 15 minutes in, he just turns to me with a deadpan look and gave me his verdict, "This guy is a genius". From there on he was laughing really hard and really enjoying himself.
As is often the case with late overnight drives, the conversation got quite personal and deep. He spoke about some very personal things in his life, like his marriage, his newborn baby, and some of the difficulties he was facing in his life at the time. We exchanged a lot of stories and had some great laughs. We really connected on a human level and it was just great to get to know him.
The next day when we saw him in the hotel lobby, he thanked us again for giving him the ride. Of course it was no problem, and the pleasure was all ours. He then looked around sheepishly and said, "Hey, sorry if I was talking too much yesterday, I feel like I was letting too much out there, and maybe I got carried away..." I could tell he was almost a little embarrassed about it. I said "Ahhh, c'mon man! We are FRIENDS now!" as I jokingly leaned in on his shoulder and hugged his arm. He laughed and just smiled this amazing, teddy bear smile. It was so genuine and I could tell how much he appreciated being able to let his guard down. That smile is burnt into my memory and will forever be how I remember Bison Smith.
My good friend Colt Cabana was recently on tour with Bison in NOAH, and they recorded an 'Art of Wrestling' podcast together. They also had some other great interactions that Colt told me about that were really funny. So it seems like Bison's name had just been coming up a lot lately.
Colt told me that Bison had mentioned Kevin and myself, and in true Colt fashion, he said "Bison looooooves you guys". It turned out that Bison had recounted to Colt all about the night we rode together from Manassas to NYC together, and spoke very highly of us. To know that ride was a cherished memory for Bison, in the same way that it was for Kevin and I, meant a lot to me, and means even more to me in wake of his untimely passing. Thanks so much for the ride, Bison. I'll never forget it. Rest easy, my friend.
- EG WEB TRANSLATE