WATERLOO, Ont. - If you were to see Lee Smith walk about his job at Peterbilt of Waterloo, chances are you wouldn't think anything out of the ordinary. By all accounts he looks like any other of his f...
WATERLOO, Ont. – If you were to see Lee Smith walk about his job at Peterbilt of Waterloo, chances are you wouldn’t think anything out of the ordinary. By all accounts he looks like any other of his fellow twenty-something co-workers: he’s polite, he’s helpful and he’s clean-cut. The only thing that might raise a few eyebrows would be the odd, “Hey, Buck Ten!” shouted out in Smith’s direction.
Now people get nicknames for a variety of reasons, and I’m not one to judge, but I admit if I were to hear that one the wheels would start turning: “Buck Ten? What’s up with that? Does this guy owe someone money? Does he enjoy riding bulls in his spare time? Did he bring down a deer with a 12-gauge during hunting season?”
In reality, the name originally comes from Smith’s former weight, a slender 110 lbs just a few short years ago. He adopted the pseudonym as his ringside alias on the independent wrestling circuit: mild-mannered receiver at Peterbilt by day, fist-popping, elbow-dropping wrestler by night.
“Everybody here at Peterbilt Waterloo knows I wrestle,” Smith says as he gears up for a photo shoot. “There’s a couple of people (from work) that have come to shows. For those that have come out, they have seen the other side of me. They have seen Buck Ten, and the difference between Les Smith and Buck Ten is quite significant, especially if I’m a bad guy for that particular night.”
The 29-year-old’s interest in wrestling has been lifelong. Growing up in the country on the East Coast of Canada meant cable TV wrestling, courtesy of the World Wrestling Federation, wasn’t an option. However, one day Smith’s father acquired a tape of the famed Wrestlemania V.
“It was my first WWF experience and to this day, it’s probably still the best one. They had me hooked right then.”
As the years went by, Smith eventually moved to Ontario, settling in North York when he was about 20. He contacted a local wrestling school via The Sports Network, but found out that a college education was vital to being considered for enrolment. So Smith packed up, went back East to New Brunswick and got himself a diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management. When he finished up, he got back into touch with the Hart Brothers/Von Erich School of Wrestling in Cambridge and the first person he spoke with was Smith Hart, eldest brother of the famed wrestlers, Brett and Owen. Smith was accepted right over the phone.
“I gave up a job, a fiancee, and moved here and learned how to wrestle,” he recalls.
Smith trained for a year, learning the ropes (no pun) at one of the only live-in wrestling schools in North America. The training was intensive for five days a week, as Smith learned the basic moves, how to give and take moves, but most importantly, how to do moves safely.
“If you do it wrong you can either hurt somebody or hurt yourself,” he says. “It’s just like any sport, like if you’re learning to be a figure skater, you don’t do triple lutzes right away; you’ve got to crawl before you can walk.”
In an industry where an opponent can be 6’8″ and in excess of 300 lbs, one might think the 5’8″, 110-lb Smith might have been intimidated. But right from the start, he was determined not to have his size be a factor.
“During my first couple days of training I tried to prove that while I may have a small frame, I can still take the punishment; not only take it, but dish it out as well,” he says.
The plan worked as Smith has been performing shows for over four years now. His main promoter is the Pure Wrestling Association or PWA, also based out of Cambridge, Ont. As the association continues to grow, so have ‘Buck Ten’s’ number of appearances, which now number between 60 and 100 a year.
On occasion former WWF stars will even pop in to PWA shows, including Hack Saw Jim Duggen who came by in March. Buck Ten himself was able to wrestle the infamous Doink the Clown in February 2005 – a match that Smith won.
“I actually got to beat the hell out of him out of the ring,” Smith beams. “It was kind of cool. I haven’t had the opportunity to beat up many former WWE stars, so that was probably one of my highlights.”
Crowds can range from 120 to 800 depending on the wrestlers on the evening’s card and the venue. For Smith and other independent wrestling fans, an association like the PWA can offer a show that sticks to the wrestling, with far less soap opera-ish drama than on televised wrestling.
“People tend to associate what they see on TV as what they’re going to see at an independent show, and it’s not even close to the same. Of course, the wrestling itself is basically the same, but what you don’t get is the soap opera-type of story lines that have nothing to do with wrestling,” he says. “All of our story lines are geared around the match itself, not something outside that has nothing to do with the sport of wrestling whatsoever.”
At present, Smith has no aspirations to take his wrestling beyond the independent level. He enjoys playing Buck Ten and doing his signature B.T.O. (Buck Ten Override) move – even though a name and persona change is in the works. At the suggestion of Truck West, ‘Buck Truck’ is thrown out as a possible new persona to suit Smith’s new job, but unfortunately for the industry, Smith likes to steer clear of superhero-type, gimmicky characters.
“The whole point of (Buck Ten) was a small guy taking on a bigger guy and also to show kids you don’t have to be 300 lbs to win a match against these guys,” he says. “It’s all about the crowd, the kids. It has nothing to do with wins and losses, it had nothing to do with the paycheque at the end of the night; it’s entertaining the crowd.”