By Paul Stratoti, Contributing Writer
Leo Joseph Smith Jr. was just out of high school when he caught the wrestling bug and while working at the Battle Creek, Michigan VA Medical Center during the day Leapin’ Larry Chene began training him for his professional wrestling career. He debuted in 1956 and worked between Michigan and Arizone promotions. He portrayed a sadistic heel early on. During his career he was mostly known as Don Kent, but he was also known as Joe Smith, the Black Dragon, Ray Don Kent, Doug Kent, and Super Médico III.
He became a Fabulous Kangaroo in 1967, about 4 years before the following instamatic picture was taken at Cleveland Arena.
(Was Kangaroo Al Costello giving me the finger in this first year of me being a wrestling fan?)
A few years later in Akron I asked him for a pose and this is what he gave me:
In 2012 the wall of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum that lead up to the museum’s 2nd floor contained a photo of the very first front page of Ray Baka’s “Bulldog Bark” magazine showing a caricature of “Bulldog” Don Kent.
It was in this bulletin that I was able to have published my very first few set of interview questions (with Kent) for a well-known pro wrestler. During that time he told me that he didn’t want me to reference the Fabulous Kangaroos as that was his past personna but merely to focus on his newfound “Bulldog” persona. He suggested that in order to do so he would have liked me to say that Don was willing to have a dog-collar match and said, “Give me a can of dog food and stipulate that if I lost the match I would eat the dog food. Merely focus on my bulldog tenacity.”
The following 2 photos taken for and reproduced from the Bulldog Bark here were taken by WWE’s Ken M. Jugan
Don retired in 1986 and passed away in June 1993 after suffering a lengthy battle with Leukemia.
Article and photos taken by Stratman unless otherwise noted.