Former WWE manager and wrestler Armando Estrada was on a recent episode of the Busted Open podcast where he discussed all aspects of his WWE career. Estrada started out in WWE developmental in OVW where he met late WWE star Shad Gaspard. Estrada talked about the first time he met Gaspard.
“So, Shad and I started in OVW around the same time. He showed up a little before me and actually, at my first meeting with him, I was renting an apartment where all the boys would stay in Louisville, Kentucky,” Estrada recalled. “There was like two or three apartment complexes that everybody stayed at. I remember leaving the leasing office and jumping into a vehicle to probably drive back to Chicago to get back my belongings, and I see this gigantic black man walk up to my little Honda Accord.
“And he says, ‘Yo, you’re at OVW right?’ I guess he must’ve seen me earlier that day. And I said, ‘Yeah’, and he gets in my car and he says, ‘drive me to’ wherever he was going. And that’s how I met Shad Gaspard. He forced me to be his Uber driver day one, but that’s who he was. Shad was a very gigantic heart. I mean, he was just a great dude. He was one of the boys.”
Estrada talked about how Gaspard would help him get a job in the local Kentucky area. He talked about the kindness that Gaspard would show him during their time in OVW.
“He would always go to bat for you, and he got me a job before [Tommy] Dreamer got me a job, actually,” Estrada revealed. “Shad got me a job working at one of the bars in downtown Louisville when I just needed money. I needed to pay Danny Davis my tuition, and Shad got me a job and really hooked me up.
“And there might have been times I would be doing a house show in Eaton town or Hodgenville, Kentucky and Shad Gaspard would clock me in. And I would show up three hours later just so I can make that house show, because you needed to work but you also needed to go and do as many shows as you could to practice. So, he was a great dude.”
Estrada sent out his condolences to Gaspard’s family. He said that he’ll always be remembered for the person that he was.
“I got so many stories of him. I don’t know how much time I have,” Estrada said. “I can get into a couple of them where’d I see vehicles get totaled with him in them. We’ve ran out of gas on the side of the road and Shad Gaspard blamed me, even though he was driving when the car ran out of gas. But he was a great dude and my heart goes out to his family, wife, and his son, and he’ll always be remembered.”
Estrada was asked what his favorite WWE moment was. He named being part of the main event of WrestleMania 23 with Umaga. He talked about Umaga’s big run that led to the story that was told during that run.
“I’ll say it’s a toss-up between being a part of the main event of WrestleMania my very first year, and while I was not in the ring as a wrestler at that time, I believe that I was a strong part of the act of the Umaga – Armando Estrada act,” Estrada stated. “And if it wasn’t for my shenanigans, and my managerial duties, and everything that I did to get over, I don’t know if we are in that main event position.
“Just the whole undefeated streak and the booking of Umaga from the get-go as an unstoppable monster, running through all the babyfaces, including Triple H, including Shawn Michaels, including Kane, eventually getting to John Cena, and John Cena being the first guy to slay the dragon. But I got so many memories just from, believe it or not, house shows.”
Estrada spoke more about his experience on house shows. He also named performing in Canada as another memorable moment for him, praising the Canadian wrestling fans.
“I enjoyed house shows,” Estrada expressed. “A lot of the work I did on non-televised events probably, more so than TV. But if I had to pick one that people saw, I would say go watch the Unforgiven PPV in September of 2006. It was Umaga vs. Kane, it was their first televised meeting. I cut a lengthy promo, which I got heat for afterward… The audience was 100% with us as far as all the catchphrases, and I saw fans in the audience, Dave. This is what really told me I made it – I saw fans in that crowd that written out my entire catchphrase word for word on all of these signs, and had them in the audience.
“And it reminded me of when I would go to the live events in Allstate Arena and I would see fans with the Road Dogg Jesse James catchphrase written out. To me, that was a guy who was mega-over, and to fast forward eight years and people are doing that for me, so that was one of my fondest memories, is being able to perform in Canada. I always had an affinity for the Canadian audience. They’re very passionate, much like the Garden. Much like Philly, much like Chicago, and they made me feel as if I have truly made it and I was at the height of my career.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Busted Open with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.