Jeff Jarrett is a third-generation wrestling promoter as well as being a star in the ring. Growing up the son of legendary Memphis promoter Jerry Jarrett, Jeff saw firsthand the intricacies of the wrestling business and how talent was managed and paid. It was this knowledge that left Jarrett in two minds after some light payoffs in 1999.
Speaking on his My World podcast with co-host Conrad Thompson, Jeff Jarrett discussed his time in WWE in 1999, shortly before he made a return to WCW. According to Jarrett, finance was a worry for him during this time despite business booming for the company.
“Everybody was rolling, paydays were good. There were some paydays for house show runs in the summer and we’re gonna get to that. I knew something was up from the day they cut my downside [guarantee] down and so for the next calendar year, the financing part of my career was a huge issue. A huge issue. I didn’t vocalise it, it wasn’t something I talked about but in my head, it absolutely was an issue.”
“The houses were good and business was good, and just things were rolling along, and payoffs were good. It’s a dressing room full of guys – ‘hey man, that Kansas City payoff sure was good’ or ‘that Chicago payoff was great’ or ‘man I thought I’d get more’. [Money] has always been locker room talk when there’s payoff days. Now contractual or downside guarantees, that’s different. The business has evolved but in those days it was a subjective payoff system a hundred percent.”
Conrad Thompson then brought up his own conversations with Jim Ross where Ross revealed some talent complained of being ‘pencil f*cked’ if their payoff was light. Thompson asked Jarrett if he ever felt that way.
“A hundred percent. And it got to the point that – now you gotta remember I’m the son of a promoter. ‘Hey man, if you don’t like my payoffs son, leave’. It’s really that simple. […] So I always really had a problem to go against my nature and go complain about quote-unquote payoffs. But when the contract shift happened into that deal one year, I kinda knew the gloves were off in so many ways. I didn’t let it be known, I didn’t go in the dressing room and bitch and complain and moan about this. But that was a really hard pill to swallow because that was ‘here’s the deal, I’m gonna change it’. I said ‘ok’ because I don’t have a choice because you’re the boss but I don’t trust you. I don’t trust the hand that’s feeding me.”
“So getting to that summer, payoff after payoff. I can remember because I worked with Dustin Rhodes on a couple of loops and I heard him say something to another guy and I pulled him aside and asked him. I don’t wanna put it all on Dustin because there were different talent talking and when I started knowing my payoffs I’m like ‘woah.'”
Jarrett then confirmed that the discrepancy in pay between himself and Rhodes was so noticeable that he had to say something to management, twice:
“It was substantial enough to know that this amount of money every night, I’m a couple of grand short here. And now we’re gonna do two or three [loops], we’re getting up into five figures. […] There comes a point where they’re gonna lose respect for you if you don’t say something.”
Jarrett then confirmed he took the matter up with Head of Talent Relations, Jim Ross:
“It’s ‘hey JR you gotta minute?’ Now he’s dealing with Austin, Rock, The Undertaker. I was well aware looking through his lens enough to say that he ain’t got a lot of time. ‘Hey, you got a minute? I got my cheque, any way we can take another look at it?’ He’d literally take out his pen and paper [and say] ‘what house show run you talking about?’ Of course, I had it in my head, I was ready for the whole conversation and the whole conversation may last three minutes. Literally Jim would write the note, ‘I’ll see what I can do’ and the cheque would arrive in the mail. […] To this day I understood it and I understood it in ’99 but there came a point when I had to chirp a little.”
During the episode of Jarrett’s new podcast, the WWE Hall of Famer also addressed the rumours of Stone Cold Steve Austin refusing to work with him.