In Defense Of… Jeff Jarrett
A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com
Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!
Some dame walked into my office and said…
Our story begins a long, long time ago with a man named JS:
My case is Jeff Jarrett.
I have been a huge fan of his ever since we started calling him J-E- Double F, J-A- Double R-E — — Double T! Yet, it seems that every so-called smart fan on the net has it in for him. He seems to be the most hated guy this side of Triple H. And all I want to know is WHY? What has he ever done? He has always been the blueprint for a cocky heel, good on the mic, excellent in the ring, and could carry any feud.
And I know a lot of the complaints are about how he is dominating TNA, but even when the WWF didn’t pick up his contract during the [InVasion], no one shed a tear for him. So my question is, can you defend him? Or at least tell me why he’s such a bad guy.
Next up was 411mania’s (sort of) own John Dee with:
I’m telling you now though dude, if you ever want to lose a case, take on the one I dared you to do — defending… Jarrett’s never ending title runs. I don’t think it could be done.
After that is was Mark Radulich with:
In Defense of Jeff Jarrett — TNA Champion (I actually know what the complaints are and I think these people are full of crap, I’d love to see man defended).
But that wasn’t enough for Rick Cobos:
Jeff Jarrett: TNA’s constant “main attraction” regardless of who the TNA champ is.
Still with more was Jon Foye and this synopsis:
I have a case I would love to see. Everyone in the IWC seems to knock Jeff Jarrett; saying he does not deserve the NWA title, that he uses his backstage stroke to regain the belt at the expense of others, and that he is not a great wrestler. This comes despite the fact that the man is a consummate professional, has been in the business ALL HIS LIFE, and is great at manipulating a crowd.
And then Aaron Dorman had to add this:
Defend Jeff Jarrett. All folks ever do is crap on him, but ignore the fact that Austin held him down and how over he was in his last WWF run, not to mention that he was really the last great star of the territories.
But what about Jason from Brooklyn, NY? What did he say:
I think you should do an in defense of Jeff Jarrett, he’s probably the most hated man in wrestling today, due to supposedly keepin’ himself on top, which is part of what I think makes him an effective heel.
Daniel Norman has less loving reasons for me to defend Jarrett:
I’d love to see and try you defend Jeff Jarrett.
The guy is only a multiple time world champion because during WCW’s demise they threw the belt at anyone (see: Russo, Vince and Arquette, David) and his daddy owns TNA. Even when he is not the NWA champion in TNA he is always trying to turn the focus to him. I might watch TNA more often if Jarrett wasn’t pulling a HHH times 10. The stroke is a crappy finisher and he is not the wrestling god he seems to think he is, that’s JBL’s role!
Plus there was… what? Oh, that’s all Stenographer found on a quick search. But the Jarrett comments have been everywhere, which makes him a perfect candidate for In Defense Of…!
Jeff Jarrett. There are few people today more vilified by the IWC crowd than this man. TNA, whose audience his heavily hardcore internet wrestling fans, is faced with the dilemma of their hometown audience pelting the ring with garbage at the site of him. Despite being on a much smaller stage, the hatred for Jeff Jarrett in many ways surpasses those of Triple H, a man despised for marring the boss’ daughter and always finding his way back to the championship when others seem more worthy.
Jeff Jarrett is the villain of the internet generation. He’s part owner of the organization that he is champion of. He is the center of storylines and television above the homegrown talent. He is highly paid in a land where few are making money. He is screamed at constantly to not appear on TV, yet there he is every week.
But does Jarrett deserve all this hatred from the internet crowd? What has he really done to deserve the enmity of so many? And is this opinion shared by the rest of the kayfabe world, or is this just another instance of the IWC thinking it is better than anyone else who watches wrestling?
We will explore the life and times of Jeff Jarrett and find out what really makes this guy tick. We’ll look at his record and accusations and find out if Jarrett is really a devastating force for professional wrestling, or a misunderstood hero who should be applauded for all he does and each and every day.
Where did we get this country bumpkin?
I liked the way Aaron Dorman described Jeff Jarrett above: “[H]e was really the last great star of the territories.” This could not more accurately describe the early life of Jeff Jarrett. To understand the character and the person, to begin to relate to his actions, we must first explore his past and truly delve into what made Jeff Jarrett into the person he is today.
That means that our story will begin on April 14, 1967 in a well-known town called Nashville, TN. Actually, it starts a little before that.
You see, to understand Jeff Jarrett, you first need to understand his father: Jerry Jarrett. From Wikipedia:
Born into poverty, Jerry Jarrett was exposed to the wrestling business at a very early age. His mother worked as a ticket vendor, and Jarrett began selling programs for a promotion owned by Roy Welch and Nick Gulas at the age of seven. After receiving his driving license at fourteen, he became a wrestling promoter, renting buildings, advertising shows, constructing the ring, selling tickets, and stocking refreshments. He worked as a promoter until he left Nashville to attend college. Upon graduating, Jarrett worked for Welch and Gulas as an office assistant, and became a referee by default after a referee no-showed. He soon returned to promoting, working his way up from local promotions to regional, then national promotions.
While working as a referee, Jarrett decided to become a wrestler, and was trained by his friend and future tag team partner Tojo Yamamoto and veteran wrestler Sailor Moran, and wrestled his first match in Haiti in 1965.
Jarrett became a successful wrestler in the South, particularly in his home state of [Tennessee], forming tag teams with Jackie Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto. At one point he participated in the extremely hazardous Scaffold Match.
Jarrett operated multiple wrestling promotions throughout his career, including Mid-Southern Wrestling, the Continental Wrestling Association, the United States Wrestling Association, World Class Championship Wrestling and, most recently, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Jarrett was often the business partner of Jerry Lawler. In the 1970s, Jarrett began televising his shows.
And that is what Jeff Jarrett grew up in as well. Unlike many second and third generation stars (The Rock, Shawn Stasiak, Randy Orton, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Villano IV, Villano V, Carlito, BG James, etc…), Jarrett was exposed to all facets of the business at an early age. He understood the needs of booking and storytelling, of selling tickets and captivating the crowd. While many of these others learned from their forbearers how to wrestle, they did not learn the secrets behind the business.
But Jarrett did. His education began behind the scenes. So when the question comes up (and it will later) what did Jeff ever know about running an organization, the answer is he was born into it. He was a part of his father’s organizations and learned from him. Of course, it was an old-school territory-based system, and Jeff knew he had to be different to succeed. But we’ll return to that later.
Anyway, much like his father, Jeff’s first steps into the ring were in the referee’s shoes. From Mathew Sforcina’s Evolution Schematic of Jeff Jarrett (Part 1):
Jeff started his career following his father’s footsteps directly, becoming a referee in the CWA, also known as the Mid-South Territory. But he quickly gave up being the law to become a wrestler.
This could also be pretty close to the story of Shane McMahon, who learned the business and actually was a referee in the early 1990s. But unlike Shane, he was neither content to sit backstage nor just help the wrestlers out. He wanted to be a part of the spectacle. He wanted to learn to be the best.
So in CWA Jarrett began to hone his craft. Much like the Guerreros, Mysterios, Harts, and the like before him, Jarrett had really been training to be a wrestler since he was quite young. That is why it is no surprise that Jarrett was able to capture his first title when he was just 19 years old. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett’s first title reign came in August ’86, when he teamed with Pat Tanaka to win the CWA International Tag-Team Titles from Akio Sato & Tarzan Goto. Sato & Goto won the belts back a week later. Jarrett, undeterred, found himself a new partner in Paul Diamond, and got the belts for the second time in November ’86. Once again, Sato & Goto won them back.
As a tag-team specialist, Jarrett then moved on to the AWA for a short while before making an appearance in the USWA Southern Title Tournament. Much like Larry Zbyszko before him, his mentors felt it best that he travel many territories to flesh out his ability. Although skilled in the ring and on the mic, and having a crucial understanding of the business behind the scenes, Jarrett was still young and in need of seasoning and experience. He accepted this advice and continued to try to build a path all his own. His work was recognized when in May 1987 he captured his first single’s title by defeating Moondog Spot to win the NWA Mid-American Heavyweight Championship.
Jarrett’s time soon was split between CWA, NWA, USWA, and WCWA (World Class in Texas with the Von Erichs). But times were changing. At this point, the WWF had become a huge national promotion and was destroying the territory system once and for all. JCP/WCW, the largest of the NWA territories, was losing money hand over fist despite being wildly more popular in the south than the cartoony WWF. That popularity made little difference in the effectiveness of running a promotion. The other territories knew they had to combine or die. So in 1989, the WCWA (where Jarrett was) was sold into USWA, and a new chapter was born.
Win a title, lose a title, win a title, lose a title…
During all this time, Jarrett was winning and losing titles on a regular basis. As was the Southern booking style at the time, a title reign of two months was considered a grand success. Jarrett had most of his wins in tag action, but also spent a good deal of time around mid-card singles titles. Also, you must know that Jarrett was a beloved babyface during most of this period. Not because he was forcing it on the fans or that his father was booking for him, but because the fans were cheering him and wanted him to win. Jarrett had many years as a face and experience at being one that made him believe he could do it again. While the argument can be made that he is much more effective as a heel, Jarrett’s own experience shows that he knows how to be a strong babyface and has the potential to be one again.
Anyway, with the 80’s moving into the 90’s, Jarrett found a new partner and mentor who also saw him as a future superstar: Jerry Lawler. From Accelerator3359:
In February ’91, Jarrett found the ultimate partner in Jerry “The King” Lawler, who basically ruled over the USWA. They beat the Fabulous Ones for the USWA World Tag-Team Titles in February ’91. But March turned out to be a bad month for Jarrett, as he would both lose the Southern Heavyweight Title to Tom Pritchard and fell to the Texas Hangmen (with Eddie Gilbert, recently returned, subbing for Lawler). As he always had done, Jarrett kept fighting, returning to beat Pritchard in a rematch for the Southern Heavyweight Title in April. The belt was held up a few days later, but Jarrett quickly won another rematch, getting the belt for a fifth time. He would finally lose the belt for the last time to Eric Embry in May ‘91.
Shortly thereafter, when Robert Fuller was turned on by his Studs, Jarrett remarkably came to his aid, forming a team with him. They quickly showed their skills by beating the Texas Hangmen for the USWA Tag-Team Titles. In June ’91, the two also defeated Samu & Judge Dredd, which allowed them to unify the USWA Tag-Team and Western States Tag-Team Titles. They later lost the belts to the Barroom Brawlers, only to come back and get them a week later (a common thread, if you hadn’t noticed). Two months later, the Brawlers, now known as the Texas Outlaws, retook the belts. Once again Jarrett & Fuller came back quickly and got the belts, for Jarrett’s 9th reign with the USWA World Tag-Team Titles. In November ’91, they lost the belts to Doug Masters & Bart Sawyer, and later broke up.
Jarrett later teamed up with Jerry “The King” Lawler again, beating Moondogs Spot & Spike to get the Tag-Team Titles in June ’92. After a week, Spot came back with Cujo as his partner, and stole the belts. It didn’t take long for Jarrett & Lawler to get them back, but a month later, the Moondogs struck again, taking them in August. A week later, Jarrett & Lawler, for the fourth time as a team, became USWA Tag-Team Champion. In October ’92, though, Lawler was forced to fight alone, when Jarrett reportedly had ‘car trouble’. Lawler was beaten by Moondogs Spot & Spike, ending the title reigns. The feud between Jarrett/Lawler & the Moondogs was later named Feud of the Year by PWI Magazine.
How times have changed, eh? A tag team feud in an organization that was really no bigger than ECW at its prime (original ECW, not the WWE version) was honored in such a way. When was the last time any tag team feud came close to that? Edge/Christian vs. Dudleys vs. Hardy Boyz? Maybe. But we are talking about a feud that really put butts in seats, that sold tickets and kept the USWA afloat.
After this time, Jarrett also had a feud with Brian Christopher. Better known today as “Grand Master Sexy”, Christopher was also son of the king of the USWA, Jerry Lawler. But during their feud, it was Jarrett who got the final dupe and most of the victories. That’s right, Lawler let his own son be used to prop Jarrett up, that is how much potential and upside he saw in Jeff.
Also during this period (and a little earlier), Jarrett was a nine-time holder of the Southern Heavyweight Championship. In one match he had the title was held up, and later he won the rematch. Jarrett’s opponent in this match would not forget this indignity, as he felt he was being held back in his young career. He would feel this way again in another organization that would lead to his firing, and he would have similar feelings later in the organization he had the most success in, and subsequently walked out on twice. That man’s name was Steve Austin. And we’ll get back to him later.
With time moving on, the power of the WWF began to wane as well. With Hulk Hogan leaving the WWF in 1993, the organization was in need of a new direction and fresh blood. They were aware of Jeff Jarrett because of an earlier inter-promotional feud that went nowhere. From Obsessed with Wrestling:
August 9, 1992: Jeff Jarrett participated in the first ever WWF/USWA [Inter-promotional] storyline.
~~~USWA wrestlers Jerry Lawler & Jeff Jarrett were seated in the front row at ringside at a WWF card.
~~~Jerry Lawler & Jeff Jarrett were upset that the WWF were running shows in their territory.
~~~During the card, Jeff Jarrett challenged Intercontinental Champion Bret Hart to a title match.
~~~Bret Hart replied that if he were to retain the IC title after Summerslam, then Jeff Jarrett would be next in line.
~~~The angle was dropped when Davey Boy Smith defeated Bret Hart for the Intercontinental title at Summerslam
Despite this story going nowhere, the WWF was incredibly impressed with Jarrett and decided they wanted him on the roster. They saw him as a possible future for the organization. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett continued to climb up the ladder, managing to pin Jerry “The King” Lawler during a Battle Royal to become the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion. Lawler soon came back to regain the belt, something he did many, many times in the USWA. With 1993 running out, Jarrett was given the chance to head out of Memphis to try on the world, as a major trade took place between the USWA and the World Wrestling Federation, who wanted to gain Jarrett’s services. They gave up a lot of their lower-ranked talent, including “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Papa Shango, & the Orient Express, to acquire Jarrett’s talent.
Did you read that? The WWF literally gave up four people just to get Jarrett. If that is not a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.
J-E-double F J-A-double R-E-double T. Double J, Jeff Jarrett
It was 1993. Jarrett had been wrestling for seven years and had found his way to the grandest stage of them all: the WWF. Although his father may have cursed Vince McMahon’s name for destroying his territory, Jeff was a man of his own and knew that this was one opportunity he could not refuse.
Now, one would think that because Jarrett was such a hot prospect that he would be allowed to continue to do what made him so successful is the USWA. Everyone from Eddie Gilbert to Jerry Lawler saw that Jarrett had the potential to be a great true to life character, a man of southern pride and tradition.
That’s not what Vince McMahon saw. Based on the evidence that Vince said he never saw in ECW show before One Night Stand, one can believe that he never saw Jeff Jarrett perform before he showed up in the WWF. Because of that, Vince heard “Southern” and thought “Country Singer”! Jeff Jarrett became “Double J” and was trying to use the WWF to launch his country music career. From the kayfabe friendly Evolution Schematic of Jeff Jarrett (Part 2):
[H]e started to tell the world who he was (“J-E-Double-F, J-A-Double-R-E-Double-T, Double-J, Jeff Jarrett”), and what he wanted to do (Use the WWF as a platform to launch his music career in a specialized music genre… this is sounding more and more normal). But while many people felt a little confused by this, it did give Jeff one key that would stick with him for the rest of his career.
No-one would blink twice when he walked down to ringside with a guitar.
Jeff began his WWF career earning the crowd’s ire, since he was such an asshole about his singing and wrestling talent. Plus his insistence on spelling out his name made people think he was insulting their intelligence.
Yet despite embracing the gimmick and being an important prospect, Jeff Jarrett seemed forgotten about. From Accelerator3359:
[A]lthough his gimmick attracted attention, Jarrett did not move quickly into WWF stardom. He competed in the 1994 Royal Rumble, but was quickly tossed over the top rope by “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Jarrett continued to work on his image for the next few months, building up a small reputation. He entered the ’94 King of the Ring Tournament, and made his first impact, surprisingly beating Lex Luger in the qualifying round. Unfortunately, he was defeated at the PPV in the first match by the 1–2–3 Kid (Sean Waltman).
Jarrett’s first major pay-per-view match occurred at Summerslam ’94, when he faced up against the heavyweight, Mabel (later known as Viscera). After five minutes of battling back and forth, Mabel went for a sit-down splash on Jarrett, but Double J dodged, then made the quick pin, scoring his first WWF PPV victory. Jarrett then went on as a member of the Teamsters at the ’94 Survivor Series. Teaming with Owen Hart, Diesel (Kevin Nash), “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, the Teamsters faced off against the Bad Guys, which consisted of Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, the 1–2–3 Kid (Waltman), and the Headshrinkers, Fatu (Rikishi) & Sionne (the Barbarian). Diesel proved to be a major force, eliminating Fatu, the 1–2–3 Kid, and Sionne. Later, Davey Boy Smith was counted out, making it 5-on-1. However, disputes among the ranks caused the Teamsters to all be counted out, giving the victory to Ramon.
This, though, would be very helpful as Jeff Jarrett would finally have a spotlight put on him… over a year after being recruited by the WWF…
Top of the top… nah, I’ve had enough
Finally the WWF was seeing Jarrett as Jarrett: a cocky southern wrestler with an attitude. Despite the long hair and funny singing, the fans were booing Jarrett and McMahons saw that they could actually use him. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett continued his battles with Ramon, signing a match to face him for his Intercontinental Title at the ’95 Royal Rumble. Ramon was injured, though, and during the match was tossed from the ring, where he was counted out. Jarrett got the win, but not the belt, and immediately began challenging Ramon’s courage. Ramon opted to come back to the ring despite the pain, and the match started again. In the end, Ramon fell while trying to execute his Razor’s Edge finisher, allowing Jarrett to get the pin and become the Intercontinental Champion. Ramon continued to challenge Jarrett in the next few months, but Jarrett enlisted the help of the Roadie (BG James) to help him stay the champion. At WrestleMania XI, Jarrett & Ramon faced in a rematch, which ended in a Disqualification loss for Jarrett due to the Roadie. However, this made sure that Jarrett retained the Intercontinental Title.
In April ’95, in a match against Bob “Sparkplug” Holly, Jarrett was surprisingly pinned, apparently losing the IC strap. However, video later showed that Jarrett’s foot was on the ropes in time, which put the belt [up] in the air. Later on that night, Jarrett & Holly fought again, this time with Jarrett getting the victory, regaining the Intercontinental Championship. Jarrett continued to feud with Ramon, and in May ’95, Ramon finally won the belt back over him. A few shows later, Jarrett won out again, getting the IC belt for the third time. Ramon finally challenged both Jarrett & the Roadie to a handicap match at In Your House I, where Ramon won out in the end despite the odds.
At first, things were going great for Jarrett. He was doing well, had an iron grip on the title (like many great IC champs before him), someone to follow him around, and wins over someone considered the top echelon of the business. He got to fight with a future legend in Shawn Michaels, and it seemed everyone was ready for him to continue working.
Yet despite doing everything he was told, despite strongly carrying a title, and despite getting the fans to hate him, someone in the WWF lost faith in him, and it all came crumbling down quickly. As if that handicap match loss wasn’t bad enough of a burial, he was quickly knocked out of the King of the Ring in decisive fashion and had the Roadie turn on him and reveal Jarrett’s singing ability was his. Jarrett realized that there may be nothing for him in the WWF and returned to the USWA for a period, defeating Ahmed Johnson for the USWA Unified Title in December 1995.
The WWF officials were impressed with the feud and copied it for WWF television with the two wrestlers. But after Royal Rumble 1996, Jarrett and the WWF got into a contract dispute (Jarrett obviously thinking he deserved more and should be pushed as a champion, the WWF thinking that they were losing so much money to WCW they didn’t know what to do), Jarrett returned to the USWA. He thought that perhaps he and Vince could work out a deal, but in the meanwhile he feuded with Lawler for the title and then drove Jesse James (BG James/ Roadie/ Road Dog) out of the USWA. That was a good enough run for Jarrett, and negotiations with Vince failed. So with that, there was only one really good place to go.
Where the Big Boys Play
Jarrett then signed a one-year deal with Eric Bischoff and WCW. This had to be a very surprising move, as everyone was signing multi-year deals for a lot of money. But Jarrett knew his greatest commodity was himself, and he wanted to make sure he was worth it. The WWF had robbed him of a lot of his shine towards the end of his run, and he knew that anything else like that could only diminish his value. His instincts from his territorial days took over, and he wanted to protect his image, trusting very few. But that distrust was unwarranted, as he was involved in a long storyline and very interesting program for the rest of 1996. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett appeared in WCW in October ’96, demanding to be a part of the [Four] Horsemen, who were currently battling against the nWo. To prove his seriousness, Jarrett challenged one of the most dominating wrestlers, the Giant (the Big Show). At Halloween Havoc ’96, the Giant dominated Jarrett, who still fought as hard as he could. In the end, though, the match was decided by Ric Flair, who attacked the Giant, causing the disqualification. Jarrett continued to challenge the Giant, while also insulting Sting, who he thought was cowardly for not fighting the nWo. At World War III ’96, Jarrett took on the Giant again, and Sting appeared, attacking Jarrett for his comments. This helped the Giant get the easy victory. Later that night, Jarrett was tossed out in the World War III Battle Royal. He also competed in the WCW United States Title Tournament in November, but fell in the first round to Diamond Dallas Page.
After various encounters with the [Four] Horsemen, Jarrett was finally given his chance. If he could defeat Chris Benoit at Starrcade ’96, he would be allowed into the Horsemen. During the match-up, Kevin Sullivan, Benoit’s major adversary, appeared, interfering in the match. Jarrett took advantage, getting the victory and finally getting what he wanted, a spot in the [Four] Horsemen. Jarrett then teamed up with Steve “Mongo” McMichael for a time, while he joined in the feud against the nWo, battling against Mr. Wallstreet.
Aside from the interesting storyline and wrestlers he was involved in, I want you to notice something else. Jarrett was a heel, trying to get into a face organization, to fight other heels. You see, Jarrett was in a true tweener storyline, where few had gone before. It wasn’t about the face/heel lines, it was about being true to his character. Wrestlers were given a lot more leeway in WCW, and Jarrett used this time to flesh out who he wanted to be. Ric Flair was equally impressed and allowed him to become a member of the Horsemen, seeing in Jarrett what other legends saw as well: championship material.
As 1996 moved into 1997, Jarrett would live on fast forward feuding with the nWo, Public Enemy, Dean Malenko, and former partners Steve McMichael and Chris Benoit. From Obsessed with Wrestling:
• Uncensored 1997: Jarrett/Piper/Benoit/McMichael vs Hogan/Nash/Hall/Savage vs Luger/Giant/Steiner — 3-WAY Elimination match.
• Spring Stampede 1997: Public Enemy defeated Jeff Jarrett & Steve McMichael.
• Slamboree 1997: Dean Malenko defeated Jeff Jarrett by Submission to retain the United States title.
• June 9, 1997 — Monday Nitro: Jeff Jarrett defeated Dean Malenko to win the United States title.
• Jeff Jarrett was kicked out of the [Four] Horsemen and started a feud with former partner Steve “Mongo” McMichael.
• Bash at the Beach 1997: Jeff Jarrett defeated Steve McMichael to retain the United States title when Debra turned on Mongo.
• Road Wild 1997: Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael defeated Jeff Jarrett & Dean Malenko in an Elimination match.
• August 21, 1997: Steve McMichael defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the United States title.
• Fall Brawl 1997: Jeff Jarrett defeated Dean Malenko.
• October 6, 1997 — Monday Nitro: Jeff Jarrett wrestled his last WCW match losing to Booker T.
Quite an eventful few months. Also note that it was in WCW that Jarrett and Debra teamed up, not in the WWF. Another idea that was originated elsewhere that was not the WWF’s or Vince’s doing. And also note that Jarrett left WCW the right way, losing a match and putting someone else over. This will become a recurring story for Jarrett.
After not re-signing with WCW, Jarrett quickly returned to the WWF, using the momentum of his WCW run to propel him to greater heights. You see, sometimes in life you can only get promoted or move up the ladder by jumping around. Jarrett understood this and realized he was only as valuable as where he last was, and intended to make himself worth more.
The WWF, too, was going through a major change, and upheaval was happening over and over again.
WWF… errr… NWA… no, I was right the first time
Jarrett began his new WWF career by continuing to show “attitude” before such a word existed. You see, the WCW/nWo feud had decimated the WWF and they were desperate to try anything. McMahon, though, was not yet ready to let the creative juices flow, but little cracks were forming. Jarrett actually had a sit-down shoot-style interview with JR where he bashed Eric Bischoff. And as was the (Vince Russo) style at the time, anything semi-shoot was made into a work. Jarrett also began to refuse his WWF matches as part of his gimmick.
After a battle with the Undertaker, though, Vince quickly gave up on this idea and Jarrett, too. Instead, Vince tried to copy WCW again and have an invasion by the NWA with Jarrett leading the fray. This, though, would never get much steam behind it because Vince refused to allow any other organization to look good inside his own, and he just could not get behind Jarrett. From the kayfabe friendly Evolution Schematic of Jeff Jarrett (Part 3) from 411mania’s own Mathew Sforcina:
Suffice to say, Cornette was trying to do an NWA invasion, or at least trying to bring the WWF back into the NWA fold. He first turned to Barry Windham, who had a great deal of affinity for NWA, as the guy to lead the charge. Cornette also brought in Tag Team Legends The Rock N Roll Express. But then when Jeff Jarrett pinned Windham to win the NWA North American Title on Dec 30th, 1997, Cornette dumped Windham and took on Jarrett as his main star and client.
Jarrett and Cornette made a decent team (they had to when the Rock N Roll Express were quickly fired from the company). They removed Owen Hart from the 98 Royal Rumble before he got to the ring, right?
Oh yeah, when Jarrett came in Owen ran back out and threw him out almost immediately.
But he could put a good showing on at the special event of ‘Raw Saturday Night’ right? That would get respect for the NWA and thus Jarrett, right?
Of course, few people would consider losing via pinfall to D’Lo Brown in under 2 minutes any sort of success.
And in his first title defense on WWF PPV (the first time in WWF history that an NWA title was defended on WWF PPV) he got DQed for using Cornette’s ever present tennis racket on Bradshaw, who at that point was just another Texas brawler and not a Wrestling God.
This disillusioned Jarrett so much that he dumped the NWA title, ditched Cornette and reverted back to the last mindset that was successful.
As you can see, Jarrett made a mistake. Unlike his short-term contract in WCW to protect his reputation, Jeff Jarrett signed on for a two-year tour of duty with the WWF. Not long by the standard contracts at the time (Mark Henry signed for ten years), but still long enough to do damage. Despite the end of the NWA angle, Jarrett was then given his old country music singer gimmick and was managed by Tennessee Lee. This, too, lead him to tagging with “Southern Justice”. It seemed like Jarrett was doomed to play one Southern stereotype after another if he stayed in the WWF. Yet, it seemed hope was around the corner. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett next feuded with X-Pac and his allies in DeGeneration-X, leading up to a signed “Hair vs. Hair” match at Summerslam ’98. Before the PPV, at Sunday Night Heat, Jarrett & Southern Justice attacked ring announcer Howard “The Fink” Finkle, shaving him bald, and promising to do the same to X-Pac. Due to this attack, however, Southern Justice was banned from ringside for the match-up. Both wrestlers fought hard for their long locks, but in the end, X-Pac was able to knock out Jarrett with his own guitar, scoring the victory. Afterwards, with Jarrett only semi-conscious, each member of Degeneration-X (including a one-night DX member, Finkle) took turns shaving off most of Jarrett’s long blond locks. Jarrett would later reform the hair style into a crew-cut, a style which he kept, rather than growing it long again. Jarrett & Southern Justice later faced X-Pac & the New Age Outlaws at Breakdown ’98, with the DeGeneration-X members again winning out.
In October ’98, Jarrett [began] a feud with Al Snow, which led to Snow costing Jarrett to lose in the first round of the WWF Intercontinental Title Tournament to X-Pac. Jarrett and Snow continued to feud for the next few weeks, leading up to the ’98 Survivor Series, where they faced each other in the first round of the WWF World Title Tournament. Unfortunately for Jarrett, Al Snow’s ‘teammate’ was also around: Head. Snow knocked out Jarrett with Head to get the pinfall victory, moving on in the tournament while Jarrett was forced to watch from the back, another title opportunity missed.
Again, Jarrett did everything for the company, and they even promoted him as the “new attitude” Jarrett. Yet, the WWF machine failed to take up the point that Jarrett needed real feuds and wins. It seemed like they were off to good start with the Undertaker, but forgot all that and continually pushed his way down the card.
Many people would just let this happen and find no way to bounce back. Val Venis comes to mind. Jarrett, though, just tried to push his way back up. And he looked to find it in a couple of new partners. From John Milner’s compilation of Jeff Jarrett for Slam! Sports:
Jarrett was reunited with Debra and, as 1999 began, to team with Owen Hart. On January 25th, 1999, Jarrett and Hart defeated the Big Boss Man and Ken Shamrock to win the WWF Tag [T]eam titles. Jarrett and Owen made a successful title [defense] at WrestleMania XV, defeating D-Lo Brown and Test but lost the titles to Kane and X-Pac on March 30th.
Still, things were looking up for Jarrett and people were noticing him, especially with Debra back at his side. But one must wonder if Jarrett was burnt out by this point, if he thought he should give up? Absolutely not. From John Powell’s interview with Jeff Jarrett in early 1999:
Q: When you first returned to the WWF, you were trying to form yourself into a “man of his word”, a “man of honor” and that kind of thing through the promos. What happened to that as direction goes. Was there a change of heart or something like that?
- John Powell (SLAM! Wrestling).
Jarrett: Well, it was the WWF’s change. If you look back at my first night back in the WWF and you look at my persona now; it’s exactly the same. I was pissed off at a lot of things and that’s how I am today. What’s happened between then and now is a lot of things the WWF regrets and I do too. But, it’s not a strong regret. It’s just we try things and you know, I don’t think that myself and Tennessee Lee were given the proper opportunities. We didn’t have title shots and I could go on and on about that but that’s where we are at right now. I’m enjoying the direction that I am going now.
You see, Jarrett was still all business. He never took what happened to him personally, though I have presented it so here. He kept an optimism and a passive understanding that you do not find in many wrestlers, especially one we will get back to later. But in the meantime, let’s look earlier in the interview to see what I mean:
Q: Does he [Jerry Jarrett, Jeff’s father] harbor any feelings towards Vince McMahon over what happened in the past?
- SLAM! Wrestling (John Powell).
Jarrett: Oh, absolutely not. Because when you get right down to it — and promoters know this better than anybody… even wrestlers — it’s strictly business. It’s not really on a personal basis. It is business and that’s how he looks at the past. There was some decisions at the time that I am sure he didn’t agree with or maybe still today he doesn’t agree with, but that still goes under the classification of business.
You see, as trained by his father, Jarrett understood business first. And we know there is no ill will as Jerry turned his back on TNA to sell someone’s contract to Vince, so their relationship remains the same as ever.
The point is, Jarrett always acted as a professional, and this is a point to keep later on. Others acted less professional to Jarrett than he to them.
With much momentum behind him, Debra, and Owen, the trio seemed destined for always something more. Unfortunately, tragedy struck at Over the Edge, 1999.
Goodbye again, Owen
This sums it up best. From Accelerator3359:
When Val Venis began trying to flirt with Debra, Jarrett took offense, inspiring another feud, which featured Jarrett, Venis, Debra, and Venis’ friend, Nicole Bass. They finally scheduled a mixed tag-team match at Over The Edge ’99, for the two teams to settle their differences. This was the tragic night when Owen Hart fell to his death after trying to enter via a wire rig. After Hart was taken out of the arena, being rushed to the hospital with little hope of survival, Jarrett was forced to come out for the next match. He and Debra wrestled against Venis & Bass, in a match that could be loosely described as “disjointed”. Eventually, Venis & Bass got the win, and Jarrett headed to the back to learn of his friend’s fate. The next Raw, a special memorial show dedicated to Hart aired, with Jarrett faring prominently in telling stories of his former partner. Jarrett broke down, crying, during his segment, in one of the most moving moments in WWE history. Jarrett was then given the honor of taking on the Godfather [on the next week’s RAW], who was supposed to be Hart’s opponent at the pay-per-view. Jarrett defeated him, winning the Intercontinental Title that was supposed to be Owen’s.
These were Jarrett’s own words in that segment (via Wikiquote):
In this business, I guess you got a lot of acquaintances but very few friends. And Owen, he was one of those friends. He did a lot of funny stories, his personality, the things he used to do…. and I told my wife a bunch of times about the last couple months I’ve been with Owen on the road…. I see Owen more than I see her and my little girl. And he said the same thing. And now that he’s not here, it’s…. you look at it almost selfishly. Owen, my buddy, my friend, not with me anymore. I know Owen’s in a better place, life isn’t cutting up. But when you really think about Owen’s life, I think about integrity. Because in this business… it’s cold, it’s callous, it’s selfish, it’s self-serving, it’s unrealistic, it’s a fantasy world. But Owen was real. He was a man’s man. His wife and kids….. are 3 of the luckiest people in the world, because he loved them more than anything in the world. And that’s why he did what he did — to provide for them. And he did it with integrity, and integrity in this business is few and far between. That’s not a good thing to know, but it’s the truth. And outside all of the laughs…. because on the road, without the laughs, you know….. the fans get to see Owen 10–15 minutes a week, but when you see him 24 hours a day for 10 or 12 days at a time, he’s one of the guys that made it fun. Made coming to work entertaining off the camera, and that’s just as important as on the camera. Owen…….. I’ll make the promise to you. ’Cause you’ve got 2 little kids and I’ve got a little one of my own, as they grow older, the only thing that they might have to find out what their dad was like is wrestling films. But I’ll make the promise to myself… as the years go by, I’ll do my best to let Oje and Athena really know what a great man you were, Owen. That’s it… I can’t…. I don’t know….
Jarrett proved a lot to Vince and company over those two days and the following weeks. Despite his personal pain and devastation, he still went out there and did his job to the best of his ability. The WWF was impressed with Jarrett and finally understood him. No, he was not given a push because Owen died. He was finally seen for who he really was, the point he was trying to get across to the WWF since the beginning. He was a professional. He was a champion, and he wanted to do things the best way he could.
One last time
But the WWF quickly forgot this fact as well. From Slam! Sports:
A week later [after Owen’s death], Jarrett defeated the Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship, a title he would hold until July 24th, when he lost the belt to Edge at a Toronto house show. Jarrett regained the championship the next night, but lost it to European Champion D-Lo Brown on July 27th.
Jarrett and D-Lo Brown would meet again at SummerSlam 99 with both the Intercontinental and European Championship on the line. Mark Henry, Brown’s partner, turned on D-Lo, costing him the titles. In gratitude, Jarrett gave Henry the European title.
You would think that would be sign of things to come, that Jarrett had a future to move up the card. But the WWF had another fancy. From Accelerator3359:
He also brought out Miss Kitty to be Debra’s official valet. Later that night, Jarrett issued an open challenge to any wrestler in the back. However, when Chyna came out to accept, Jarrett, enraged at the thought of a woman fighting him for the belt, knocked her out with his guitar. Over the next few weeks, Jarrett & Chyna feuded. Jarrett also attacked other ladies, striving to prove that wrestling was a man’s game. He tried to injure older female wrestlers the Fabulous Moolah & Mae Young, as well as turning on Debra when they lost a mixed tag-team match to Stephanie McMahon & Test. At Unforgiven ’99, Jarrett was signed to face Chyna for the Intercontinental Title. During the match, both Moolah & Young tried to interfere, but Jarrett eventually fought his way back into it. Debra then came down to the ring, showing her knowledge of Jarrett’s moves by knocking him out with his own guitar. Chyna then got the pin and apparently won the match, but Tom Pritchard came to ringside and informed the referee of the interference. The ref reversed the decision, giving Jarrett the win via DQ, and allowing him to retain the IC gold.
Jarrett & Chyna continued to feud, with Jarrett’s views on where a woman should actually be forming the basis for their next match, a “Good Housekeeping” bout at No Mercy ’99. It was ruled that household items could be used as weapons in the fight. After much debating, Jarrett was able to convince the people in charge that his guitar actually was a household item, giving him a slight edge in the weapons department. During the match, Jarrett used his Intercontinental Title to knock Chyna out, apparently getting the win. But the ref then ruled that the IC belt wasn’t a ‘household item’, and the match was restarted. Chyna then used Jarrett’s own guitar on him, knocking him out and getting the pinfall victory. Jarrett lost the Intercontinental Title, and left the WWF after that night.
Surprisingly, it was not the woman-beater gimmick that made Jarrett not want to re-sign with the WWF: it was Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In interviews around the country, Jarrett had stated many times he would like to work with Austin, but the feeling was not mutual. You see, Austin was still upset from back in the USWA days when Jarrett defeated him in a rematch for the Southern Heavyweight Title, feeling Jarrett was holding him down and that Jerry Jarrett (who had influence in the USWA) would only favor his son. But that wasn’t the only reason he didn’t like the Jarretts. From Wikipedia:
According to industry insiders, Austin never forgot an incident that happened when he broke into the business and worked shows for Jeff’s father, Jerry Jarrett. The story goes that Austin was sitting in the locker room after a show looking at his paycheck, which he felt was very small, and Jeff made a sarcastic comment along the lines of “it’s not going to get any bigger by staring at it”.
Of course, Jarrett was not the only person Austin refused to work with. Billy Gunn was another man that Austin did not want to work with at all. Although Austin may have had a point in saying that his match with Brock Lesner should not be given away on free TV, he had no point for not wanting to feud with Jeff Jarrett except a personal vendetta.
Jeff Jarrett was all business and never took anything personal, as he stated above. Yet Austin took everything personally and actually refused to help elevate Jarrett.
Yes, Jarrett only reached an IC level in the WWF, but that was for a reason. The WWF was finally, finally willing to get behind him, but a top of the card person refused to work with him. Jarrett knew that there was no hope for him in the WWF if Austin was not willing to work with him, and he could not deal with that. He decided that he was not going to re-sign with the WWF and would instead go to the WCW. After all, his good friend Vince Russo had just taken creative control of the company, and he felt it was the best opportunity to prove himself once and for all. There was only one problem:
Jeff Jarrett was still Intercontinental Champion when his contract expired.
In one of the greatest blunders in WWF/Vince McMahon history, Jarrett was no longer a WWF contracted wrester yet held one of the biggest belts in the promotion.
So Vince and Jarrett worked out a deal for him to appear at the No Mercy PPV and drop the title to Chyna. And what is more professional than agreeing to work a show and losing to a woman, despite planning to be a champion at another promotion starting the next night? Jarrett could have seriously hurt his reputation with that loss, but he decided to do it anyway.
“But JP,” you’ll say, “didn’t Jarrett hold Vince up for a whole bunch of money?”
The answer is yes… and no. Vince would have you believe Jarrett made Vince pay him a bunch of unearned money or he would show up in WCW with the IC title and throw it in the trash. That is not what happened at all. Jarrett wanted all of the money that was owed to him for past PPVs (PPV bonuses are paid out months later), merchandise, and the current show. He asked for the few hundred thousand dollars of money he was owed and that was it.
Listen, when you leave a job, you get all the money you are owed. You cannot have a company owe you anything in the long term because there are too many legal ramifications. Worse yet, Jarrett was going to work for Vince’s competitor, and because of that Jarrett could never, ever guarantee that Vince would pay him. Jarrett may have been a professional, but he no longer saw Vince as one. Since Vince let Austin tell him how to run his company, Jarrett had lost faith in Vince’s power as head of the company. With that, he wanted to make sure he was given everything that was owed him and leave no loose ends.
That is just business, people. It doesn’t matter what company you work for, you do not walk out the last day with money owed to you. That’s not the way business is done, and that is not what Jarrett was about to do. It was quite a chunk of change, and Jarrett was not prepared to work for free.
It was simply a smart and safe move. Yes, Vince made a big mistake by letting Jarrett hold on to the IC title past the end of his contract, but Jarrett would have made the same request anyway.
With the loss behind him and the money in his pocket, Jarrett was set for his last run in the big leagues (for now).
Now it’s time to be chosen
All right, in Mathew Sforcina’s Evolution Schematic for Jeff Jarrett (Part 3):
Jarrett ran out and [in] his first act back in WCW broke a trademarked guitar over Buff Bagwell’s head, seconds after Bagwell had lost to La Parka. Jarrett’s second act was to talk about how much he hated the WWF and certain people there. His third act, perhaps, was to lay out Elizabeth with a guitar. It’s hard to say if he did that or not, he left his Women Hating days behind him at the WWF. But his first major act was to confirm that he was The Chosen One of the Powers That Be, and that he would be the PTB (Vince Russo)’s main man. He would continue to get up in Bagwell’s grill (i.e. hit him over the head with his guitar as often as possible) leading into the World Title Tournament to crown a new champ after Hogan, Goldberg and Sting had controversy and stuff. Really, any excuse to hold a tourney. Everyone loves a tourney.
Jarrett had a tough, but successful run to the semis of the tourney, getting past Booker T (impressive), Curt Hennig (expected) and Bagwell (thankfully). But then at Mayhem in the [semi-final] against Chris Benoit, Creative Control (Russo’s hired goons, [aka] The Harris Twins) came out and screwed up, allowing Benoit to grab Jarrett’s guitar and use it on Jeff to advance to the finals. Jarrett took his anger out on Disco Inferno as he headed to the back.
Jarrett then was convinced by Russo to leave the World title for now. Jarrett was OK with this, since Russo promised him success without the belt, and that’s all he wanted. At Starrcade, Jarrett won the Bunkhouse match against PTB enemy Dustin Rhodes with help from Hennig. He then helped Nash beat Sid with (what else?) a guitar shot. However, third time was not a charm, as when Jarrett replaced an injured Scott Hall in the US title ladder match against Benoit, Benoit had little trouble beating the tired Jarrett to win the title.
Jarrett’s new WCW career was off to a start, but not as much of a start as the re-writers of history would like us to believe. You see, despite being friends with Russo and being the Chosen One, Jarrett was not immediately just thrust into the top of the card. Although heavily profiled, this was mostly because WCW was going in a new direction under Russo, a creative direction WCW had never been in before. Russo, like many of the promoters and wrestlers in the past that we’ve covered, saw Jarrett as someone who could be built as a huge star.
Jarrett was 32 at this time, still young enough to build the future around (as Russo had a penchant for younger wrestlers [see: Billy Kidman vs. Hulk Hogan]), but had 13 years of in-ring experience that made him a veteran. Of course, that did not even come close to including his true experience from growing up the son of a regional wrestling promoter.
But WCW was in an incredibly turbulent phase. Vince Russo was pushing the buttons of everyone, money was beginning to be lost, and the departure of Bischoff left the company without a true head. Although Russo was in charge of storylines, he was not in charge of the business. In reality, nobody truly was, as temporary heads from Turner Sports and TBS would make their presence known.
Meanwhile, Jarrett managed to capture the US title from Chris Benoit with much shenanigans. But what happened later that night was more important as Jarrett joined with Bret Hart, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to form nWo 2000 (Black & Silver). This, though, again did not lead to success. From Accelerator3359:
Jarrett feuded with Benoit for the next few weeks, as well as joining Nash in his fight against the Commissioner, Terry Funk. Because of this, Funk put Jarrett into three matches during a Monday Nitro, against Funk’s old friends. Jarrett lost all three, falling to George “The Animal” Steele, Tito Santana, & “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. During the final match, which was fought in a steel cage, Snuka jumped off the top and tried a splash, but accidentally hit Jarrett in the head with his knee, giving him a concussion. Due to the injury, Jarrett was forced to vacate the US belt, and did not have his scheduled “Triple Theatre” match with Benoit at Souled Out ‘00.
Despite being plugged into the most important group in WCW and being best friends with the booker, Jarrett was still going out and doing his job. He did not make demands or have his friend give him huge wins. He went out there and lost to three non-regulars (and particular ones that were way past the use by date). The injury was a setback, but he was able to come back and regain the US title when then Commissioner Kevin Nash (having won the right from Terry Funk) gave the belt back to Jarrett.
But then more interesting things happened. Vince Russo was ousted from WCW and WCW was without a creative head, nonetheless a business head. This, as you can imagine, led to some levels of insanity in WCW storylines, and Jarrett was no exception. From the Accelerator:
Jarrett then added the Harris Brothers to the nWo, making them his personal allies in his battles to retain the belt. When Nash was injured, he handed over the responsibilities of the Commissionership to Jarrett, who used the power to battle against the current World Champion, Sid Vicious. But Jarrett & the Harris Brothers had trouble combating Sid, and when Nash returned a few weeks later, he stripped Jarrett of the power, taking it back for himself.
This caused friction between Jarrett & Nash, especially after Nash made a #1 Contenders match for the World Title shot between his ‘friends’ Jarrett and Hall, which ended in a Double Disqualification. Nash then opted to make the match at Superbrawl X a Triangle match between Jarrett, Hall, and the World Champion, Sid Vicious. He also announced that the Harris Brothers were barred from ringside, which was too much for Jarrett, who bashed Nash with his guitar, putting Big Sexy out of action and causing even more heat between Jarrett and Hall.
At Superbrawl X, Jarrett made things better for himself, as he took over the Commissioner spot once again. He changed the ruling, allowing the Harris Brothers at ringside, giving him an edge against the other two opponents. During the fight, many referees were taken out, usually by Jarrett. It soon became [apparent] that Jarrett had been doing it on purpose, as Jarrett’s personal referee, Mark Johnson, came out and took over, making Jarrett a serious favorite to win the belt. However, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper then reappeared, wearing a referee’s shirt, and took out Johnson, taking over the match. Jarrett was then taken out by Vicious’ Powerbomb, ending the match and causing a loss for Jarrett.
In the next month, a furious Jarrett, still carrying the powers of the Commissionership, continued to go after Vicious at every opportunity, bringing the Harris Brothers with him. He assigned himself a rematch at Uncensored ’00, where he again faced off against Vicious for the World Title. During the match, the referee was once again taken out, bringing Johnson to the ring, who began to make fast counts for Jarrett. Hulk Hogan then came out, however, stopping the counts and tossing Johnson to the wind. He then attacked Jarrett, beating on him, which allowed Vicious to come back and get the Powerbomb. Once again, due to outside interference, Jarrett had missed his chance to be the World Champion.
But then something amazing happened! Russo was back, and he was with Bischoff. After a week off, WCW “reset” and all the champions were stripped of their titles. It was an incredibly refreshing time in WCW, one filled with great excitement. Unfortunately, Bischoff was mostly just a consultant and on-air character, nobody was really in charge of WCW, and Russo was making rash decisions because his choices were being changed on him. From John Milner at Slam! Sports:
At Spring Stampede 2000, Jarrett defeated Diamond Dallas Page in the finals of a tournament to win the vacant World Heavyweight title. Page would, in turn, defeat Jarrett on April 24, 2000 to end Jarrett’s title reign but a second title reign would begin when Jarrett defeated Page and David Arquette in a “Ready to Rumble” match.
On May 15th, 2000, Ric Flair would defeat Jarrett for the belt, but the title would be stripped from Flair and Jarrett would defeat Kevin Nash for the vacant belt a week later. This latest title reign would last only two days, as Nash would win a Three-Way Dance involving Jarrett and Scott Steiner but Jarrett would, of course, regain the title.
Four title reigns in two months? Something else! But if you were Jarrett, what could you do? Jarrett was doing everything possible to get over the New Blood and make WCW a fighting organization again. Was he to refuse the world title? No! He knew that he was the future of wrestling and wanted the chance to prove it. Unfortunately, no time with the title and quick decisions by Time Warner Corporate led to excessive demands being put on Russo for changes. And then came the Bash… at the Beach…
Chop it down with the side of my hand
In what can only be described as one of the most controversial moments in wrestling history, Jeff Jarrett laid down for Hulk Hogan in the middle of the ring, as covered in detail in the Hulk Hogan case.
You see, there was no controversy between Hogan and Jarrett. Hogan felt Jarrett was worthy of defeating him. If there were any hard feelings, then why would Hogan have agreed to let Jarrett hit him over the head with a guitar in Japan? Jarrett and Hogan were of the same mindset: it’s a business and they are the product. It was Russo’s relationship with Hogan that was strained, and Jarrett was just doing the company’s bidding. If Jarrett refused to go out there and lay down for Hogan, what would happen to him? He may have been friends with Russo, but he had already lost the title enough times to know that his reign was tenuous as best, as was all of WCW. Besides, he still lost the title to Booker T later in the night, as Russo and others wanted to work with the future King Booker and move him up the card as well.
This incident also led to Bischoff completely leaving WCW until the week before the Night of Champions (aka, the season finale of WCW). WCW spiraled out of control for the following months and into 2001, and Russo was ousted once and for all. Jeff Jarrett never regained the World Title, but he did put over the champion Booker T again as well as Scott Steiner when he had the title. WCW had a brief glimmer of hope when Eric Bischoff and Fusient Media Ventures looked to purchase WCW. But as soon as AOL-Time Warner corporate mysteriously cancelled their top-rated show, the deal was off and Vince McMahon and the WWF bought WCW.
On the final Nitro and during the RAW simulcast, Vince McMahon polled the audience on many members of the WCW roster and what the crowd through of them. But in a final humiliation, Vince let his feelings about Jarrett be known as he “fired” him over the air (in reality, just not picking up his contract).
Sure, Vince had the right to not want to do business with Jarrett nor absorb his contract. That is fine. But he purposely went out of his way to try to ruin a man’s career. And why? Because he was still vindictive over the thought that Jarrett had screwed him out of money when he left for WCW. As we covered earlier, Jarrett was just trying to recover what was owed him from his time in the WWF and did not want to leave the company without the money he had previously earned. He was just doing smart business. This is just another example of Vince’s hypocrisy with his policies and beliefs. I’m sure in a DVD review, Vince would say something (like he did in the Rise and Fall of ECW) that he is not sure why he (Vince) would do such actions, and that he should regret them. But Vince knows why, and the reasons are listed quite clearly here.
Jarrett, unlike many wrestlers, could actually get out of his contract in a rather short fashion, and did not turn to Vince McMahon for work. Instead, he helped the World Wrestling All-Stars get off the ground by joining the tour. From Slam!:
[Jarrett] joined the World Wrestling All-Stars on a tour of Australia, joining such stars as Buff Bagwell and Bret Hart. Jarrett’s tenure with the WWA was highlighted by being crowned the first WWA Champion, defeating his former roadie, the Road Dogg, in the finals of a tournament on October 26th, 2001.
Jarrett would retain the WWA Championship at several house shows before losing it to Nathan Jones during a four corners bout (that also featured Scott Steiner and “Grandmaster Sexay” Brian Christopher) on April 7th 2002.
It was a short time, but Jarrett enjoyed touring the world and working with many of his friends. But it also whet his appetite for something more.
It’s a big world
Over the spring and summer of 2002, Jarrett and his father, along with some other financial backers, got together to form Total Non-Stop Action Entertainment, an affiliate of the NWA. In a matter of months, they were able to secure a weekly two-hour PPV block, exclusive rights to the NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships, and a roster mixing old, new, and misused stars. In June 2002, NWA: TNA launched on PPV, changing wrestling in the twenty-first century forever.
And I cannot leave this part without stressing this huge point: Jarrett put up HIS OWN MONEY in order to help create TNA. Jarrett took a vast financial and personal gambit in order to get TNA off the ground and running. He didn’t have to do that. Jarrett had enough money to retire comfortably, and Jerry Jarrett had plenty of other side businesses that he did not need wrestling. Instead he risked it all for the possibility of creating a new business, for taking it to Vince McMahon, and to make sure there was another place for all his fellow wrestlers to work.
By this time, the InVasion had been a complete disaster and it was apparent that the WWF had no idea how to use former WCW stars (or did not want to use them). At that, without WCW a whole chunk of the wrestling audience had completely disappeared.
On the final Nitro, WCW scored a 3.0 rating and RAW a 4.6, thus a total audience of 7.6. This was far from the peak of a combined 11.0 seen just a year and half earlier, but there was still a much larger audience. But what did RAW Score in the following weeks?
Immediately, ratings dropped almost 2.0 points. That means that millions of people just stopped watching wrestling that night! And as the weeks went on, the audience continued to decline. Not everyone liked the WWF-style. There is a whole echelon of southern-style, catch-as-catch-can style, and free-base style wrestling fans out there that were not being serviced.
In this, Jarrett saw the opportunity. Once again, let us not forget that he had grown up in the territory days and understood what the business was like before a national company. Because of that, and his travels, he knew that there was a difference in the audiences, and an audience was not getting what they wanted. Jarrett was not looking to necessarily steal the WWE’s audience, but was looking to recapture all those wrestling fans that had been lost, seemingly forever.
Things got off to a rocky start as within a couple of months the other financial investors in TNA backed out. Since PPV revenues take upwards of 6 months to clear, TNA was about to go under. But did Jarrett give up? Absolutely not! Instead he found a new partner in Panda Energy, who became majority shareholder, corporate parent, and good friend. Because of that profound sacrifice by Jarrett — giving up control of his company — TNA was able to celebrate its fourth anniversary just a few months ago here in 2006.
Also during this time, Jarrett did not put himself at the top of the card, nor with the championship. The title went from Ken Shamrock to Ron Killings while Jarrett feuded with the likes of Bill Behrns, Bob Armstrong, and Apollo. This would all finally change in six months at a PPV in November. From Accelerator3359:
Having finally earned his World Title shot, Jarrett got his chance on the November 20th, 2002 PPV, to wrestle Ron Killings. In a bloody match that featured chairs, guitars, & tables, the two men fought it out for the belt. In the end, Mr. Wrestling III suddenly appeared and hit Killings with a guitar shot, allowing Jarrett to get the victory and become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion! The mystery man then unmasked to reveal former WCW booker Vince Russo. Jarrett defeated Killings in a rematch for the belt the next week, this time ignoring Russo’s attempt to help and instead beating Killings with 3 straight Strokes. For the rest of the year, the puzzle was whether Jarrett was joining Russo’s Sports Entertainment eXtreme, or S.E.X. On one December card, Jarrett [retained] the NWA World Champion over Curt Hennig, thanks to Russo’s interference. But on the final December ’02 PPV, Jarrett decided that he wouldn’t be joining Russo. This led to S.E.X. beating down Jarrett. Jarrett came back later in the night to attack S.E.X., but was surprised and beaten down by AJ Styles, who joined Russo’s team.
TNA was again going in a new direction, or just starting to find a direction. TNA did not know what it stood for yet, and so a lot of new things were being tried. One of those things was AJ Styles, who would go on to dethrone Jarrett not once, not twice, but three times, more than anyone else in TNA.
The times that Jarrett did have the belt, he was always out touring. He went to the small independent shows, the WWAS tours, the international dates, always representing TNA and the NWA. Christian Cage made a few sporadic appearances outside of TNA TV and PPV with the title, but Jarrett had taken it around the world. Say what you will about his death grip on the title, but Jarrett had always gone the extra step to defend the title and represent TNA everywhere he went.
Meanwhile, TNA moved from having a weekly PPV to an odd spot on FSN (not available in all markets) along with some syndicated television. Jarrett then convinced the rest of the owners of TNA to let the deal expire and work to get a deal that was good for TNA over the summer. That eventually led the organization to Spike, but that was hardly the definitive outcome. WGN was a possibility for a while, and while they may have gotten a better timeslot than Saturday at 11pm, they would have been in far fewer homes. No, Jarrett helped take another risk because he wanted to make TNA succeed.
Does he have selfish reasons? Of course. He wanted to get his investment back. He wanted to make boatload of money. He wanted his legacy etched into stone forever. He wanted to stick it to Vince McMahon. He wanted everyone to see him as a genius on many levels.
But he also had many selfless motives, too.
Have you ever tried to protect a mountain?
Despite wanting to keep himself over, Jarrett did think highly of others on the TNA roster. From the TNA chat with Jeff Jarrett in 2003:
Submitted Question: Who is the best wrestler in TNA after you of course[?]
Jeff Jarrett: Well, you’ll have to get more specific if you want an exact answer.
Best Technical? In my opinion, Chris Daniels is very technically sound. A couple guys in X Division that are very technically sound but [if] you’re looking at a style and “the best wrestler” at displaying a persona? Monty Brown has unlimited potential. Abyss has the ability to work many different styles. Some would consider him to be the best in TNA.
Interesting choice of people, especially his comments on Abyss. And we know that these were people that had been featured on TNA television and surrounded around Jarrett for some time. He was trying to help bring them up, and he wanted their talent to make himself look better. And what is wrong with that? Remember: Jarrett has JUST turned 39 here in 2006. Despite being around for a very long time, he is still very young and has many more fruitful years to add to the product. He does not need to completely step away, just slightly change his role.
And who knows where this current title reign is going? It seems that this time it may be his last as a transition role. He was the champion for a while because he was the most recognizable name in TNA, and Spike TV wanted someone who they thought the audience would know. Once TNA earned a lot of trust with Spike, they were allowed to make more changes that they wanted.
When it comes to the audience at the iMPACT Zone, I do not find them a fair gauge. Yes, they chant derogatory remarks at Jarrett demanding his dropping of the title, but that audience is the second most smarky in the business (next to ROH, of course). There are over a million regular viewers of TNA every week at this time, and we cannot believe that 200 people represent the entire audience. As entertaining as that audience is, they also do things just to be a part of the antidisestablishmentarianism movement. There was a “heel section” that had to be broken up, if you want proof.
No, out of a million people, more see Jarrett as he is portrayed on TV than the dictator of TNA. Granted the audience of TNA is among the smart mark crowd, there is also a much wider base now. That base will continue to grow, and so too will the reactions of crowds change. Anyone who has seen Jarrett live knows how different the crowds in other parts of the country react to him.
But as conveyers of wrestling news and programming, we are apt to take the iMPACT zone reaction as dogma. This is not what is true reality, though it is hard to accept given what is seen on TNA iMPACT every week.
And what does Jarrett think about his time in TNA. From the chat:
Submitted Question: What’s it like wrestling for TNA? Do you have fun?
Jeff Jarrett: I absolutely have fun! It’s a 24/7 situation. I don’t like to call it a job because wrestling has always been my passion. My family’s been in the business for 3 generations. It’s in my blood. In early 2002 me and my family “hatched this idea” and it has been a dog fight every step of the way but makes the good times all the more rewarding
More importantly, what does Jarrett think of the belt he holds in his hands now?
Submitted Question: Hey Jeff what do you feel when you wrestle and held the NWA World Title belt here in TNA!
Jeff Jarrett: The World Title is something I always dreamed of attaining. Everyone knows this is a business first and foremost, but that being said, gaining the title you grew up watching is a great feeling.
Yes, Jarrett wanted to be a champion, but he was about the business first. He had and has a long-term interest in making sure TNA succeeds, and wants to see it go long beyond him. But he still has many years left in that ring, and is going to use them to cement his legacy and put over the next generation ready to take his place.
Swing that guitar
Jeff Jarrett is the last of the old school. His history is long and storied in this sport, and he was met with much resistance as he went. Nothing was easy for Jarrett, and he could have given up at any time. Instead, he worked hard to create a business of himself, setting up deals that no one thought were possible, moving on when he decided it was right. He never just let himself sell out for money or pushes, but always went where the opportunities would be the best. And when the opportunities were not in the existing companies, he dared to put everything on the line to start another organization. In that short time, he has dominated a promotion he is part owner of, but for good reason. He is still young and has much to offer. It is now the time that he can begin to move aside for the next generation, but not before establishing a platform for them to take.
Misunderstood? Yes. Needlessly berated? Yes. Turbulent history forgotten? Yes. True Champion? Most definitely.
The defense rests.
After the Trial
IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VS.JEFF JARRET, JEFF JARRETT HAS BEEN ACCUSED of being a no-talent wrestler who selfishly uses everyone else to just put himself over and never did anything to give back to the business or make anything beyond his own ego.
With a mere 57.1% of the vote, Jeff Jarrett was found:
Skin of my teeth people, skin of my teeth. There were times when the numbers were not in my favor, but never by much. It hung out in the 50% range the first few hours, then moved up to about 55–57% where is stayed around until the end of the voting. That was a tough one, because there were points even I was doubting what I was saying was making sense. But it did! Jarrett lives another day to rule TNA!
We’ll begin this one with the best way to sum up how those who voted “Guilty” came to their conclusion:
My Vote: “Guilty”
Okay… if you look at this from perspective you have presented… I would have to agree… “Not guilty.” Good amount of what you say I have to agree with… and on that note… I would have to agree that Jeff Jarrett is probably misunderstood on more than several things (I am not going to debate you there).
There was a lot more to this response, but I think the opening lines cover it quite well, in addition to what other guilty voters said. They agreed with the arguments but they just never liked Jarrett as a performer or were upset with how much control he had of TNA TV time and/or his grip on the title. So what can you do with that? “You are mostly right, but it does not matter because I cannot stand the guy anyway.” With a case like Goldberg we had the opposite problem where literally his fan club was flooding me with “Not Guilty” votes. Here, the anti-fan club of Jarrett’s flooded me with “Guilty” votes. Both cases are skewed in their results because of it.
He’s the heel every promoter could ever want. Hell, I’ll be going to Bound for Glory to see Double J get his ass beat and then somehow steal the win. Everyone on the internet who hates Jeff Jarrett is just a mark, because JJ is making them do exactly what he wants. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
That’s an interesting perspective. Since TNA fans were more of the “smark” variety who at the very least were internet knowledgeable, how does one get the audience to hate them? Was Jarrett actually working the IWC crowd and getting them react in the way he wanted by using classic tactics in a modern technology?
Since the nWo, heels have had a problem that if they are too hated then they will not sell merchandise. The late 2010’s made it even worse with the explosion of social media. Heels should probably not even have social media accounts, but instead they have ones with a “wink”, ruining the character. Having met many wrestlers in person during my career, I can tell you how much having a personal relationship with them ruins the character. There are performers I enjoy just because I like them personally and cannot get behind whatever evil machinations their characters are up to. Similarly, there are ones that I dislike and had poor interactions with that made me never be able to accept them as faces.
As such, perhaps Jarrett recognized that this condition was coming early on and was working us all with just how he ran the company and took up time on TV and with the belt? Could his actions be not self-serving in that he just wanted to dominate those things, but because he knew those things would get him heat?
All right, let’s wrap this up with what I love to see and hear most of all:
You reminded me how good JJ is and how much I used to like him before the internet changed me. Thanks for helping me find out what I really think about JJ and not what I think I should think of JJ.