Interview with Jerry Jarrett
October 27, 2004 -- by Alan Wojcik -- http://www.alanwokcik.com
JJ: I think the financing was the most difficult. Without it you have no chance. The talent roster is much more flexible. Of course you hope for the best talent available but no one or even several wrestlers are mandatory to success. Money is not replaceable.
JERRY JARRETT is a true living legend in wrestling having been a wrestler and promoter for over 35 years. He recently published a private journal he kept through 2002 called The Story of the Development of the NWA:TNA, A New Concept in Pay-Per-View Programming. After meeting Mr. Jarrett at the 10/15 Music City Memories event he agreed to the following email based interview:
Alan Wojcik: The first question I must ask is why did you decide to publish this journal? I know from the introduction you kept the journal for your families sake.
Jerry Jarrett: I had so many requests to tell the story of how TNA began. A book publisher approached me also. I then decided to just delete the construction business portion and the remainder of the journal was the day-to-day history of TNA in the first year.
AW: The February 8th entry concerned you rejecting Andrew McManus from being involved in TNA, do you reject that decision?
JJ: No, Andrew was out of his element. He is a very good rock promoter, but wrestling is very different.
AW: This question covers several entries, which was harder to do secure financing or a talent roster and why?
AW: In the March 6-7th entries you discuss your initial apprehensions about Jay Haussman. Was there any way you could have foreseen the damage he caused TNA?
JJ: No, I could not have imagined the damage. I should have heeded my gut feelings.
AW: In the March 17-22nd entries you talk about discussion with Jeff about Vince Russo. Do you wish you had insisted on Mr. Russo not being involved with TNA? Did you believe his statements that it would take a year to re-build Jeff's character?
JJ: Of course hindsight is 20/20. I wish I had made my stand in the beginning. And no, Russo has zero understanding of this business and it did not require a year to build Jeff's character. However, it may take 10 years for this business, both WWE and TNA to overcome the sleaze factor that Russo imprinted on this business.
AW: Over the March 28 & April 6 entries the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage dropped out of the promotion. How different do you feel TNA would be if they had signed on?
JJ: None. Both are good wrestlers, but I'm not of the opinion that any one or two wrestlers will change the direction of a company.
AW: On June 15th TNA held its initial event in Huntsville. Looking back is there anything you would have done differently? For those that have not read the book yet, why did you choose Nashville as home base instead of touring?
JJ: We discovered very quickly that we did not have the exposure to draw crowds at cities around the country. We came to Nashville because we lived here and it made the task of building a crowd much easier.
AW: During the July 10th entry you found out Jay Haussman wasn't on the level. Did you think any lawsuit brought against him would be won with no problems?
JJ: No, I've been in lawsuits and I know the risk. I also knew the cost factors.
AW: At the July 17th event Brian Lawler made shoot comments about his dad. Did you know before hand what he was going to say and would you have stopped him since, as you noted there could be no actual feud between the two?
JJ: Yes, I would have not allowed his comments. This was another example of bad Russo judgment.
AW: In the July 24th entry you discuss the reasons to move from the Nashville Municipal Auditorium to the State Fairgrounds and in the 8/15 one you got hit with Health South deciding to pull its money. Did at any point you and Jeff decide this is where we end?
JJ: No, Jeff and I were fighting for our lives at this point. Failure was never an option for us.
AW: Over several entries you speak on the battles of writing TNA shows with Vince Russo. Please explain where your philosophies differ and agree?
JJ: We are as different as any two people can be. Russo has stated that he hates this business and this business has been my life. At this point, I can't think of a single thing that I would agree on with Vince Russo.
AW: In the August 29th entry and subsequent ones Dixie Carter and her family's company Panda Energy came to be part of TNA Wrestling's life. How big were the financial issues you and Jeff faced before their involvement and if they don't become part of TNA are we talking about TNA Wrestling today?
JJ: At the time Panda joined our venture, we had very few options. However, there were options. I can't say if any of them would have developed had Panda not joined us. Fate is always a mystery. I believe firmly that forces greater than me or Jeff or Panda wanted us to survive. There were too many convergences that saved the project for it to be chance.
AW: In the September 23rd entry you addressed the office on the "dirt sheets." What is your current view on them and how the Internet seems to be fixated on the negative instead of the positive?
JJ: I finally realized that our company and the wrestling newsletters were at odds in purpose and that it was so fundamental as to never be reconcilable. Bad news sells and good news does not sell. Fans that watch our show for the entertainment value are not generally the fans that buy the newsletters. There are many reasons to be wrestling fans and the newsletters cater to one sector of those fans. Our goal is to protect the illusion and the newsletter's goal is to expose the illusion. This does not make them bad people and us good guys. It only means we have different agendas.
AW: On October 21st you sent a lengthy memo to Chris Sabol about how wrestling differs from all other business ventures. Why did you feel the memo went over his head?
JJ: I later discovered that he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer in other areas. He never responded directly about the memo and his actions led me to believe that he either did not read the memo or thought the logic was useless.
AW: Before the NWA meeting you contemplated quitting the promotion. How much did the feelings Jeff harbored from your divorce from his mother add to the stress lead you to the decision?
JJ: This was a very painful part of my life. I stayed because of the way Jeff felt. I really had no idea how deep the scars were with Jeff.
AW: There is an extensive email to Jeff dated November 10th about his initial title run and Mr. Russo's involvement. Do you regret waiting on putting the title on Jeff and were you happy with his initial run with the belt?
JJ: I think the timing was right for Jeff to win the title. I've tried to explain a number of times that wrestling ideas, when well founded in the basics of wrestling, are like ordering pizza or ice cream. One person may order one kind or flavor and everyone else will want something different. This doesn't mean one is right and all the others are wrong. It just means they are different. Jeff and I have different ideas about the business.
AW: Throughout 2003-04 TNA continued to add to its talent roster and find new ways to attract fans. What made TNA decide to sign former WWE stars like Syxx-Pac (Sean Waltman), BJ James (formerly Road Dogg), Raven, Mike Lockwood (Crash Holly) and D-Lo Brown?
JJ: We always wanted a good balance between veteran talent and new talent. We still do today.
AW: Sting made several appearances on PPV's but didn't stay around long term, what that his decision or TNA's?
JJ: TNA appreciates Sting's talent and ability. He is always welcome. Sting is very involved in his personal projects, so we have not been able to book Steve as often as we would like.
AW: Also in 2003 several former ECW talents like Danny Doring, Roadkill, Shane Douglas, Kid Kash, Justin Credible, Sandman, Balls Mahoney, Simon Diamond, Johnny Swinger and New Jack came through the promotion. Why did the promotion keep only Kash, Douglas, Diamond and Swinger on as long-term talent?
JJ: I was not writing during this time, so I can't answer the question.
AW: 2003 also saw new talent become nationally known. What led to Jeff losing the World title to AJ Styles?
JJ: Same answer as above.
AW: The X division emerged in 2003-04 with stars like Jerry Lynn, Sonjay Dutt, Alex Shelley, Michael Shane, Amazing Red, Petey Williams, Frankie Kazarian and Kid Kash. Was it your idea to go with the "It's not about weight limits, it's about no limits" concept and what do you think of some of the matches the division created?
JJ: The X Division was Jeff's idea and I think it is and has been an exciting part of TNA.
AW: One way to attract new fans seemed to be putting America's Most Wanted and XXX inside a steel cage to settle their feud. Another was putting Michael Shane, Chris Sabin and Frankie Kazarian in an Ultimate X match. Do you think these two matches helped take TNA to a new level?
JJ: I hope so.
AW: Some people say tag team wrestling is dead, but in TNA there have been several great teams like America's Most Wanted, XXX, 3 Live Kru, the NYC's and the Naturals. Please give some insight on the tag team situation in TNA Wrestling.
JJ: Tag team matches have always been a part of our concept. During the territory days, Memphis might have been the tag team capitol of the wrestling world. We think it is a formula for excitement.
AW: TNA Wrestling has gone through several commissioners/Directors of Authority including Bob Armstrong, Erik Watts, Don Callis as well as yourself. What led to Vince Russo being the DOA?
JJ: As I'm sure you're aware, this was not my idea.
AW: Former wrestler and IWA-PR booker Dutch Mantel signed on in 2003 to be part of TNA. What did Mr. Mantel bring to TNA that you might feel was lacking?
JJ: Dutch is a wrestling writer/booker who believes in the traditional concept. I'm sure he contributes all he can to see that our shows remain traditional in concept.
AW: 2004 saw the creation of the America's X Cup series that featured teams from Japan, Mexico, Canada, England as well as from within TNA. Did you think it was a success with the PPV audience?
JJ: I don't know if it was a success as far as PPV. I know it was a success with our fans in Nashville.
AW: The promotion hasn't avoided controversy. One such event took place between CM Punk and then Team Canada member Teddy Hart. Whose decision was it to remove both men from the talent roster?
JJ: I don't know the answer to that question. I was not even aware of the problem until after the fact.
AW: Some TNA stars like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels worked for the Internet favorite promotion Ring of Honor. When that promotion had some issues with co-owner Rob Feinstein there seemed to be issues between TNA and ROH. Are you able to comment on that situation and did it lead to AJ Styles regaining the World title instead of "Wildcat" Chris Harris who seemed to be on his way to title glory?
JJ: The ROH problem was resolved finally. It was not resolved as soon as we would have liked because we could not get the assurances we required. AJ's title runs had nothing to do with those problems.
AW: Some people saw the emergence of Lex Luger in TNA as controversial. What led to him being brought in for some shows and were you and the office concerned about a potential backlash?
JJ: I contacted Lex and I was not concerned about a backlash.
AW: What factors led to the birth of the new TV show TNA Impact! and why film it at Universal Studios in Orlando as opposed to Nashville or a city closer to the Nashville fan base?
JJ: We got the Fox television deal and had to name the show. Our partners decided on the Orlando location.
AW: One new addition to TNA was the six-sided ring. Are you a fan of it and what did you think of the Six Sides of Steel match between the Naturals and AMW?
JJ: Yes, I like the new ring. I think it's innovative. The cage match with AMW and the Naturals was one of the best matches TNA has had.
AW: The biggest addition to TNA has been the "charismatic enigma" Jeff Hardy. What led to TNA signing to a deal and how do you think he has progressed in the ring over the last few months?
JJ: Some would argue who was the biggest addition to the TNA roster. I certainly think Jeff Hardy is among the top stars to come to TNA. Jeff was and is a great talent.
AW: What factors led to the September 8th event being the last weekly Nashville event and go to a monthly PPV?
JJ: Our partners felt that TNA had progressed to the point of having a fan base that would support a 3-hour full price PPV. This decision forced us to end the weekly PPV's.
AW: Do you feel TNA Wrestling will be regarded on an international stage like the WWE?
JJ: I certainly do. That has always been our goal.
AW: What is your current health status and did it lead you to step away from TNA and work with Bert Prentice's USA Championship wrestling promotion?
JJ: My doctors, who are among the best in the nation, say I'm much more likely to die from an automobile crash or cancer than a heart attack. I had triple by-pass surgery and recently a pace maker installed. My health had nothing to do with my association with Bert Prentice in Nashville. I've always loved the local wrestling business and when TNA moved from Nashville, I thought it presented a business opportunity that would also be fun.
AW: What do you hope the future holds for you in wrestling and in life?
JJ: I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. My life has exceeded my expectations since I began high school, so I just wake up everyday and prepare myself for the adventure. In 2002 when I began my journal, I was headed in one direction (with the construction business) and my life headed in the opposite direction (with the wrestling business). I get bad news one day and good news the next with both businesses that I'm involved. I once told Jerry Lawler that I felt like I was on a roller coaster without brakes. Jerry booked me in Memphis for his show on Oct. 30. I would have never guessed that I'd ever be offered, much less accept another booking. I'll leave the future to the fickle finger of fate. I'm just along for the ride.
Thanks to Mr. Jarrett for taking time out of hectic schedule to answer these questions. You can buy Mr. Jarrett's book, The Story of the Development of the NWA:TNA, A New Concept in Pay-Per-View Programming through www.highspots.com and other internet sites.
by Alan Wojcik --- For More Interviews, go to http://www.alanwokcik.com..
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