John Smith (October 18, 1982) is an American professional wrestler. He is best known for his time in WWE under the ring name Simon Gotch. He performed on WWE NXT and held the NXT Tag Team Champion, along with Aiden English, who are collectively known as The Vaudevillains.
Professional wrestling career
Independent circuit (2002–2013)
Smith competed on the independent circuit, appearing for promotions such as All Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Chikara and Full Impact Pro. He most notably competed as Ryan Drago, a character reminiscent of early 20th-century grapplers such as George Hackenschmidt.
In June 2013, Smith signed a developmental contract with WWE and was assigned to their developmental territory WWE NXT, where he adopted the ring name Simon Gotch (a homage to Frank and Karl Gotch). In June 2014, Gotch formed a tag team with Aiden English known as The Vaudevillains, with the gimmick of a pair of old-timey vaudevillians. The Vaudevillains made their in-ring debut as a team on the June 19 episode of NXT, defeating Angelo Dawkins and Travis Tyler. In August, The Vaudevillains participated in a tournament to determine the number one contenders to the NXT Tag Team Championship, before losing to The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara and Kalisto) in the finals. On the October 30 episode of NXT, The Vaudevillains won a tag team battle royal to become the number one contenders to the NXT Tag Team Championship. They received their title match at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution against The Lucha Dragons, but were unsuccessful.
After some hiatus, The Vaudevillians returned on the June 3, 2015 episode of NXT, defeating Jason Jordan and Marcus Louis. On the July 8 episode of NXT, The Vaudevillians defeated Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to become the number one contenders to the NXT Tag Team Championship. The Vaudevillians received their title match on the July 29 episode of NXT, in which they were unsuccessful. The Vaudevillians with "Blue Pants", in their corner, would go on to defeat Blake and Murphy in a rematch at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn to win the NXT Tag Team Championship. On November 11 episode of NXT. the Vaudevillains lost the title to Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, ending their reign at 61 days. On the November 25 episode of NXT, the Vaudevillains challenged Dash and Dawson to a rematch for the title in a losing effort. On the December 23 episode of NXT, the Vaudevillains competed in a four-way tag team match against Blake and Murphy, The Hype Bros and Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, which was won by Gable and Jordan. On the March 16, 2016 episode of NXT, the Vaudevillains were defeated by Gable and Jordan, now known as American Alpha, in a number one contenders match for the NXT Tag Team Championship.
Main roster (2016–2017)
On the April 7, 2016 episode of SmackDown, the Vaudevillains made their main roster debut as heels, defeating The Lucha Dragons. On the April 11 episode of Raw, the Vaudevillains were announced as one of the teams to participate in the number one contenders tournament for the WWE Tag Team Championship, where they defeated Goldust and Fandango in the first round later that week on SmackDown and The Usos on the April 18 episode of Raw in the semi-finals. At Payback, the Vaudevillains faced Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady in the finals of the tournament. The match resulted in a no-contest due to a legit concussion by Amore, and the Vaudevillains were declared number one contenders. While the Vaudevillains lost to The New Day at Extreme Rules, they competed in a Fatal 4-way Tag Team match, also involving Enzo Amore and Big Cass and Gallows and Anderson, for the titles at Money in the Bank in a losing effort.
On July 19 at the 2016 WWE draft, the Vaudevillians were drafted to SmackDown in the tenth round of picks. In August, a tag team tournament for the newly created WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship was set up by SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan and SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon, where the winner of the tournament would be crowned the inaugural champions. On the August 30 episode of SmackDown, the Vaudevillians would compete in the first round match of the tournament, where they were defeated by The Hype Bros. On the November 8 episode of SmackDown, the Vaudevillians were defeated by Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) in a qualifying match for a spot in Team SmackDown at Survivor Series.
On the January 31, 2017 episode of SmackDown, the Vaudevillains, along with five other teams, answered an open challenge set by American Alpha, where a brawl between all six teams ensued before being broken up by referees and officials. At Elimination Chamber, the Vaudevillains competed in a tag team turmoil match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship, where they were eliminated by Heath Slater and Rhyno. At WrestleMania 33, the Vaudevillains competed in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which was won by Mojo Rawley.
On April 5, 2017, it was announced that Simon Gotch had been released from WWE.
Return to the independent circuit (2017–present)
After his release from WWE, Lesser returned to the independent circuit, adopting the ring name "Simon Grimm". On July 23, 2017, Grimm would win his first singles title when he defeated both Daisuke Sekimoto and Doug Williams for the vacant XWA Frontier Sports Championship in Colchester, England. Less than a week later, Lesser would wrestle for Pro Wrestling Pride defeating Doug Williams at PWP Live In Taunton and Ultimo Tiger at PWP Heroes & Legends 5. In September, Grimm teamed with Dasher Hatfield and Mark Angelosetti in Chikara's 2017 King of Trios tournament, where they made it to the first round, before losing to Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate in the quarter finals. Two weeks later, Grimm debuted in Black Label Pro where he defeated B-Boy and Kevin Lee Davidson and Space Monkey in a Four-Way match to advanced in the first round of the BLP Title Tournament to earn a place in a Six-Way Elimination match where he lost to Tom Lawlor while also wrestling opponents Darby Allin and Dasher Hatfield and Dominic Garrini. On October 8, Grimm successfully retained the XWA Frontier Sports Championship in a rematch against Doug Williams.
On November 11, Grimm returned to Ring of Honor at Elite in a Three-Way match against Jonathan Gresham and Josh Woods. The next night he teamed with Flip Gordon won by The Dawgs (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara). He finished out 2017 with a title match on December 16 against Silas Young for the World Television Championship but was unsuccessful in winning the title.
Grimm returned on January 14, 2018 debuting in Wrestling Has A Tomorrow (WHAT) in a match won by Ethan Page. On February 8, Grimm debuted in Major League Wrestling at MLW Road To The World Championship, where he teamed with Seth Petruzelli to defeat Jason Cade & Jimmy Yuta.
- Finishing moves
- With Aiden English
- "The Gentleman Bruiser"
- "The Steam-Powered Madman"
- Entrance themes
- "A Quicker Accomplishement" by Art Test Music (May 30, 2014 – September 25, 2014; used while teaming with Aiden English)
- "Voix de Ville" by CFO$ (October 2, 2014 – June 24, 2015; used while teaming with Aiden English)
- "Vau de Vire" by CFO$ (July 1, 2015 – present; used while teaming with Aiden English)
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #215 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2014