Interviews

Interview With . . . Jeff Jarrett

Jeff Jarrett

Not many wrestlers can say they’ve lived a fuller career than Jeff Jarrett. He’s done it all! From being a four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion to being one of the most iconic Intercontinental Champions in WWE, the Hall of Famer’s career inside the ring is matched by the impact he’s had outside of it. In a career spanning four decades, Jeff Jarrett’s work outside the ring birthed what we now know as IMPACT Wrestling, with the businessman, promoter and entrepreneur doing just about every role possible in the wrestling industry. With so much experience and so many tales to tell, adding “podcaster” to that list just makes sense.

Ahead of the launch of his new podcast, My World with Jeff Jarrett, which is available via AdFreeShows, Inside The Ropes’ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy tried to spoil the party and get some of those stories out of the WWE Hall of Famer ahead of airing, with the six-time Intercontinental Champion paying tribute to Steve McMichael and discussing ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage’s short spell in TNA among other topics.

Jeff Jarrett, thank you so much for taking the time! I can’t wait to hear My World, and I know our readers will be hearing about it a lot on Inside The Ropes, but I’m going to try and give them the best preview possible by attempting to spoil some of the stories you’ll be divulging in the coming weeks in this interview. The first place I want to start, though, before we get into Jeff Jarrett, is the sad news that broke recently that Steve McMichael, a guy you worked with a lot in WCW, has been diagnosed with ALS. I just wanted to ask a little bit about what your memories are of working with Steve McMichael because for me, I was a massive WCW fan, and I remember those battles fondly. Is it the same for you?

You know, it goes without saying…. Thank you, first off, Gary, for having me on. Looking forward to chatting. As I always tell you, please speak English during the interview. My Scottish is not as good as my English so…

All kidding aside, no, when I heard the news on Mongo and when I saw the video, it broke my heart. You know, what a man. He’s a man’s man. What an athlete! You know, I had some of his first matches in WCW and I would often tell folks and, you know, doing interviews like this and people would say, “Who’s the strongest guy?” Or just different stories of different talents I’ve been in the ring with and Scott Steiner is a guy who – he’s quick, but he’s deceptively fast. People, I don’t think… Everybody sees his muscles, but his speed was deceptively unreal.

But I have said this about Mongo many, many times. He may be, and I’m sure it’s from his football background and the ability to work inside the shoulders and just his skill set, but he’s certainly one of the strongest guys that I’ve ever been in the ring with. He’d rip your head off. But the thing that truly amazed me about Mongo and getting to know him, especially in those early days, is that here’s a Super Bowl winner, a legendary football player, comes from one of the greatest defensive, if not the greatest defenses of all time in NFL and he stepped into our industry with a passion for it, good old Texas boy and, man, you talk about coachable and teachable, and wanting to learn, and obviously had been in locker rooms his whole life – but incredible respect.

Same with Kevin Greene. Same with Reggie White. Those football players, they’re obviously all three of those guys were at the very top of their game and then stepped over into our world. But Mongo made a living at it! It was really, really incredible to get to know him and work with him and then I saw him later at TNA. He was the head football coach of the Chicago Arena team. But seeing the video, it’s just gut-wrenching. But, you know, I said a prayer for him as soon as I saw it, but it’s tough. That’s tough news to swallow but, you know, ALS, when you read about that, it’s just it was a really, really tough pill to swallow candidly.

I promise we won’t speak ALL about WCW during this interview, but one thing I really need to ask about was, as a kid, hearing certain promos – and even as a grown-up – they can be so close to the knuckle that you wince ever so slightly. Now, you said a fair few of those yourself, but one that really got me was Vince McMahon’s “G-double O-double N-double E” line on the RAW and Nitro simulcast. I assume you didn’t know about that line at all, so what were your thoughts the first time you heard it?

You know, with Bruce’s podcast, Something To Wrestle With, and Conrad as the co-host of Bruce’s podcast and now mine, we’re going to get into that because what’s really unique, Bruce was actually in Panama City, but obviously working for Vince and so there’s a really cool backstory to that and as you dig deeper into it, we’re going to cover that in one of the first few episodes of My World. So that’s something that… That’s been talked about. The match with Chyna… I mean, I could go down the list of stories, the Double J vignettes and being part of the Four Horsemen. We just mentioned Mongo McMichael. There’s so many different stories and peeling the story back and the different layers of onion.

It’s funny how people… We’re still talking about it today. That happened in 2001 and here we are 20 years later, 20 years and just over, the people are still sort of hanging on that and I’ve always often said that it’s… And again, I was a wrestling fan so I’m not pointing fingers at wrestling because I’m a wrestling fan, but some people say, “Oh, that’s real. Oh, that’s not real.” So what is real and what’s not real? We’re going to tell those kind of stories.

The truth of the matter is, Vince does a lot of smart things over the years, incredibly gifted promoter, probably the greatest promoter of all forms of entertainment, of all time – but he’s also a showman and so I immediately thought, when I heard it that they could have picked 30… I don’t know, 30, 40 different guys. I’m the one that got featured.

The real details of the contract, you’ve got to be hired before you get fired and we’re going to get into all those kind of stories. But it was pretty cool and I’ll say this, and hats off to Bruce and Vince. They shot a vignette that was just sort of maybe off the cuff and we’re still talking about it 20 years later, so I think that’s a real unique side of all of it. But we’re going to get into that on My World for sure.

I can’t wait to hear that. You mentioned there about what’s real, what’s not and promos that blur the lines – there’s another one with you tearing Vince McMahon to bits verbally, he holds up the Scream mask, and all of that great stuff – but alongside great promos, when you mention “Jeff Jarrett”, I instantly think of the Intercontinental Championship. Arguably the most memorable for me, right alongside that Chyna match, was when you were inserted into a match for the title, just a few days after Owen Hart passed away, and you won the title. You had been working with Owen just before that, obviously had a close relationship with him, and replaced him in the match against The Godfather. I always remember that moment when you’re handed the title and just scream his name. It’s an incredible moment. I want to ask, what are your memories of that time? Do you have any or is that just a blur?

That was something that, you know, Conrad, very respectful co-host, I would have never sort of signed up just to hit around that. And it goes without saying, when I’ve been asked about Owen for the last 20 years, what kind of ribs or this story or that story.

One of the episodes is going to be about Owen because he, to this day, they just… They don’t make folks like Owen any more. Authentic, real, sincere, a family man. Incredible integrity. But there are some parts of during that time that, you know, from the time of the accident and then, like you just said, going through that and facing The Godfather and the timing, not just me, the entire company, on some levels, was still reeling from that.

So, you know, that exact moment, so to speak, was a fuelled, highly emotional situation, of course. But, yeah, that’s, again, something that we’re going to dive into but winning the Intercontinental Title, like you said, it’s a prestigious belt and always has been but each championship I won… I’m going to say the obvious is what I’m getting around to. That was a special moment for me personally because of the Owen factor, so to speak.

That, for me, is one of the most memorable Jeff Jarrett championship matches. Going back to WCW, there were a couple of others that were memorable for slightly different reasons… Bash at the Beach 2000, Hulk Hogan. You mentioned fans not knowing what’s real, what’s not real, and that day definitely blurred those lines. What are your memories of that day, of that happening? Did you know it was going to go down as badly as it did?

There was so much that went on obviously behind the scenes, not just the day of. The weeks and months leading up to that. Candidly, for many years after that, there were there was litigation, there were lawsuits going on. There was a lot of “he said, she said” – I never spoke on it. Ever. I had very, very little to say about it.

Conrad, he almost said, “We’re talking about that.” So we will. That’s coming up. But you layer in the factors of Brad Siegel and Hulk Hogan, and Vince Russo, and Booker T. You know, there was a lot of good that came out of that night. As bad as… There was A LOT of dysfunction.

To me, it was a perfect example of the microcosm that WCW was, that it was such a corporate entity that the buck didn’t stop with any one person. It stuck with Hogan on creative control, Vince was the head writer and then you had Eric’s role in it, and Brad Siegel, and you had the executives, and then obviously me as a talent, and then the timing of Booker stepping up to the plate. It’s a really fascinating story.

I can remember when the music hit for me to come out… If you go back and watch the original, I think my song played through at least once, maybe twice, because I wanted to wrap my head around what I knew, being third generation – my grandmother got into this business in 1946 – so knowing what was about to transpire, the uniqueness of the story and John Laurinaitis, who’s head of talent relations, you know him in the room with me, and me and Hogan talking about the full-on match – and we had a 20-25 minute match being discussed. There’s a lot of ins and outs of that story that, candidly, I’ve never told. So I’m excited to sort of dive into that.

Everybody remembers what a black mark that day was and I could not agree more. It was not good for the industry but the story behind it is pretty compelling.

So, I’m not only going to ask about low points and controversy, but I need to jump ahead to your time in TNA. I mean, you’ve started something which is still going to this day with a huge legacy, and legacies normally involve legends. You brought so many in, and one of those was ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. The best way to describe that time is probably “fleeting” – as he came in, confronted you, and left. The rumor was that there was a disagreement about creative and then he just left. What was it like working with Macho Man and how did that go down?

Look, Randy and my father, Randy and his brother Lanny, and his father, Angelo, they ran a promotion. back in those days, it was called Opposition, and then he came to work for my father, very successful program and huge box office, him and Lawler and then they had the loser leaves town and Randy went to the WWF from my family’s home promotion. So the Jarretts and the Poffos and the “Savages” so to speak, we go back to to the ’70s.

So, at that time, we’d just gotten to Orlando or hadn’t been there long. Him and my father had multiple discussions. We were really not sure on either side what direction it was going to take place. It’s a fascinating story, again, of what went down because what was reported and what actually really transpired, and what the real forward moving plans… You’ve got to remember where Randy was at that time in his life, rap music and Superman movies and, you know, in-ring career was way in his rear-view mirror. So the wrestling fans, there was a lot of chatter around things that were never discussed. But when we get to My World and dive into it, I think even Conrad may be surprised on a few of these, that one in particular as well.

So, one of the rivalries for me that I wish we’d seen a bit more of was yourself and The Undertaker. In retrospect, you have one of the best creative minds in wrestling against one of the most respected in-ring performers of all time. Two guys who I can imagine are very vocal backstage. We always hear about how he’s the locker room leader. Did you guys ever butt heads or were you on the same page? What was that relationship like?

I mean, it goes without saying, Mark… We go back to the late ’80s at WCCW and the Von Erichs, and then he came and wrestled as Master of Pain in the USWA era but he arrived at the WWF two years before me, maybe a little bit longer than that. But I’ve got a lot of fond memories, his character development and persona, there’s a cool story that in… I want to say Memorial Day of ’95, Memorial Day of ’95. I can remember, this was back when we had answer machines, not cell phones but answering machines, that Memorial Day RAW popped a number. I wrestled The Undertaker. But what made that match so fun… It was a TV match but I don’t know eight, 10, 12 minutes – but a lot of action. And I mean, it was going. But what made it so fun and compelling and just a lot of moving parts was The Roadie was in my corner and obviously Paul bearer in his and they interacted and I can remember the magic moments.

When we came back to the dressing room, me and Mark both said, “Well, that was a lot of fun.” When you talk specifically about Undertaker, who has had a long a run as him, basically uninterrupted? Nobody. Nobody. I mean, he came on the scene in 1990-1991, I guess was first year and through this year at the very top.

I believe he has an unparalleled career and, yes, he gets a lot of credit – I still don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for what he’s done for the industry. The amount of tickets he’s sold or pay-per-view buy-rates he’s sold, how many other pieces of talent that he has truly, quote unquote, “given the rub” – whatever you want to call it, Mark may be the best in-ring businessman that the business has ever had and I sincerely mean that. His business acumen, as far as not only taking care of his character, but others as well. I don’t think he has a peer, candidly.

The last time we seen Jeff Jarrett in a WWE ring, we actually seen you wrestling a match with Elias! You returned at the Royal Rumble, had that little moment with Elias, both with the commonality of using guitars. You had a match against him on RAW only two years ago. What was it like working with Elias? Was it something that just needed to happen because of the guitars, and was anything else ever on the table?

You know, it was only the one time, and I was up for taking it around for live events or whatever it may be.

The persona that the Double J from the ’90s and Elias from 2019-20… It was a lot of fun and what was really cool was the people in the arena, it was a great vibe, great reactions. I mean, people were like, “I want to see this.” You can hear it, you can tell when there’s a rumble of people – just going to the ring that night, people were interested in seeing that. You just mentioned it. From Royal Rumble, and then me and Brian sang the song and did the guitar shot and everything that went with it.

I’ve got a lot of respect for him, but I think Elias is a talent that the sky could be the limit. He’s going to have to take the bull by the horns and go with it. But he’s got loads of talent.

One final question. Thanks for being so generous for your time and I know we’ll hear a lot of Jeff Jarrett stories on My World starting this Tuesday, but I want to ask about a current free agent. You’ve been the man in charge at many wrestling promotions, in charge of recruitment, etc. One man who was recently released from WWE is a man who you know very well from his time in TNA and IMPACT Wrestling. What are your thoughts on Samoa Joe – as a person, as a talent, as a wrestler?

You know, it goes without saying… I’ve sort of got a track record, I’d say. When we brought Joe in, I don’t think he lost a match for a year and a half – so that tells you what I think of him as a talent. Joe is a very unique talent, in and of itself. We called it the X-Division back then, but definitely high-flying, moving.

Joe has obviously promo skills, colour commentator, overall in-ring skills. He can be a protagonist or an antagonist, or you can call it a heel or a babyface, whatever you prefer to call it. Joe is an incredible talent and I’m excited for the world to see Joe’s next move, because his… There’s an enormous amount of gas left in that tank, and I’m very excited to see where he takes it.

Thank you to Jeff Jarrett for taking the time. You can catch the premiere episode of My World with Jeff Jarrett this Tuesday, May 4th, and every subsequent Tuesday by subscribing to AdFreeShows.