A New Appreciation
January 8, 2006 by Langdon Beck
If I had been asked one year ago if I was a fan of Jamie Noble, I probably would have said 'I don't mind him ... he's alright, but he's nothing special.' If I was asked the same thing today, I would definitely say 'Hell yes, I'm a huge fan!' Over the past 12 months I've gained a great deal of respect and admiration for the Redneck Messiah, and I know I'm not the only one.
I never saw him in WCW, either as Jamie-San or as Jamie Knoble. I later heard that he'd been involved in some good matches against 3-Count, and I read all about his WCW career in an issue of an old RAW magazine, but I'd never seen the guy until he turned up on the June 6, 2002 episode of SmackDown! to help his girlfriend Nidia get revenge on - and the Cruiserweight Title belonging to - her ex-lover, The Hurricane. This was back in the days when the Cruiserweight division in WWE consisted of five guys - Hurricane, Tajiri, Chavo Guerrero, Funaki and Billy Kidman. There might have only been five of them, but there was a cruiserweight match on practically every edition of SmackDown! immediately following the brand split. Whether it was a triple threat, a tag team match or a fatal four way, you'd always see some cruiserweight action on a Thursday. So this new addition to the division was a big deal.
Noble's first match as a WWE Superstar was a #1 Contenders match against Billy Kidman. As I remember, the match was decent but nothing spectacular; Jamie won with a sick DDT from the top rope. He got his title shot against Hurricane at the final King of the Ring Pay-Per-View. It was a good match, but not particularly memorable; I can remember a top rope Neckbreaker, and Noble winning the belt (swiftly followed by my own annoyance that Hurricane was no longer champion) but not a whole lot else. That seemed to be the problem in becoming a Noble fan during his first time in WWE - he wasn't a bad wrestler by any means, but when it came to producing truly great moments and matches that would stick in your mind for weeks afterwards, he didn't rank highly. If I was to go back and watch the match again now, I'm sure it would seem a lot better.
Jamie was Cruiserweight Champion for five months. He lost it to Kidman at Survivor Series in what was actually a very enjoyable match - my favourite of his WWE career to date. However, on a night that featured the reunion of the Dudley Boyz, the debut of Scott Steiner and the Elimination Chamber, Brock Lesnar F5-ing Big Show, a great tag team title match and Shawn Michaels winning the World Heavyweight Title, there's a tendency to overlook the Noble/Kidman bout. The title loss was almost like the beginning of the end for Jamie. He began to lose matches, brought in his cousin Nunzio for an affiliation that lasted all of two weeks, and basically disappeared for six months until he inherited $127,000 dollars from his late Aunt Lucille.
This sudden wealth brought Jamie Noble back onto SmackDown! and into a feud with off-screen friend Billy Gunn (Noble, Gunn and Hardcore Holly traveled together) and Gunn's on-screen woman Torrie Wilson. Noble actually beat Gunn in an Indecent Proposal Match at Vengeance 2003, earning the right to sleep with Torrie (although that ended in a four way of the non-wrestling kind also involving Billy and Nidia). I enjoyed their matches, but it was more due to me being a fan of Gunn, and the fact that his wrestling Noble let him show off power moves like the Gunn Stinger and his Hip Toss into a Suplex.
As if the summer of 2003 hadn't brought enough bad storylines for Jamie... during an October match with Tajiri, the Buzzsaw spat black mist into Nidia's eyes. And she became blind. Noble became the good guy looking for revenge against Tajiri and his new henchmen, Akio and Sakoda; but the blinded Nidia kept coming to ringside and costing him matches, matches that could have been very good if given more time and better endings. This way of losing matches alternated with Jamie - who quickly became a heel again - using Nidia as a way to win matches, until January 2004 when Nidia revealed she was no longer blind. This led to a match between the two at No Way Out. With Noble blindfolded, of course. He won the match after taking off his blindfold, but when they took the match on the road for house shows, Nidia won every time. I guess it's true that just as a bad wrestler can become a success with good storylines, a good wrestler can nearly be ruined with bad ones. I guess it's also true that even if you're as great a wrestler as Jamie Noble, it's hard to let people know it when you're wrestling your girlfriend in blindfold matches.
Following No Way Out, Jamie got to perform at WrestleMania XX, and produced one of the highlights of the all-too-brief Cruiserweight Open with a Somersault Plancha from the top rope to the outside. In the following months he gained the nickname 'By God', began to wear wrestling trunks, and was randomly paired with Chavo Guerrero. They seemed poised to take the Tag Team Titles away from Paul London & Billy Kidman when a Kidman Shooting Star Press took out Chavo. The following week Noble confronted Kidman in the locker room, triggering the too-soon-but-hey-this-IS-WWE break up of the London/Kidman tandem, and that was the last we saw of him on SmackDown!. Why" Because on September 15th, 2004, Jamie Noble was released from WWE. I don't think it's unfair to say that not many people were upset by the news. After all, he was alright, but he was nothing special ... right"
By the beginning of 2005, he was back - wrestling in independent promotions under the name James Gibson. He made his debut for Ring Of Honor at Part 2 of their Third Anniversary Celebration in a match against another former WWE wrestler, Spanky. The following night, he wrestled indy up-and-comer Puma. And the hype began: James Gibson is actually a good wrestler. In fact, he isn't just good, he is a downright GREAT wrestler. And it wasn't just ROH where Gibson was earning rave reviews. He was being praised everywhere he wrestled, from FIP to IWA-MS to PWG. I admit, I wasn't convinced at first. I still remembered him as being 'nothing special', and you know what wrestling fans are like for hype; if it's not the worst thing ever then it's the best thing ever. But the hype kept coming, show after show after show. I got around to checking him out. And wouldn't you know it, the hype was justified - James Gibson WAS a great wrestler! I was converted.
Why" Well, the guy can do it all. Chain wrestling, high-flying (he doesn't fly often, but when he does, he REALLY does), hold-for-hold scientific wrestling, big moves like the Tiger Driver - he excelled at all of them. But more than any of that was the obvious love he had for wrestling; the fact he could wrestle the way he wanted with no limitations, and the little details he put into every match. Things like psychology - telling a story in the ring. Gibson did that so well, whether his match lasted ten minutes or forty minutes. Things like believability. If James Gibson looked like he was hurting, you believed he was hurting. If his opponent had worked on his arm or his back, then he'd clutch his arm or hold his back for the rest of the match, and afterwards. In one of his 'Secrets of the Ring' DVDs, Raven talked about what it takes to be a great babyface, and pointed out that nowadays, when a lot of wrestlers make a comeback in a match, they totally forget that they'd been selling an injury beforehand. I hadn't noticed this in matches before, but after Raven mentioned it, I looked out for it, and began to see that he was right; a lot of wrestlers do seem to forget they're supposed to be in pain when they're on an offensive comeback. James Gibson was not one of them. If an opponent was working on his arm during the match, and Gibson was making a comeback, hitting his opponent, in between shots he'd quickly grab his arm, showing he was still in pain. All these little details, combined with the other factors above, and more, meant that damn near every match Gibson wrestled in the indies was of the highest quality.
No matter who he wrestled, the fans were going to get their money's worth. There were the aforementioned matches with Spanky and Puma, as well as matches vs. Roderick Strong at 'Best of the American Super Juniors' and 'Unforgettable' (James' ROH farewell), vs. Austin Aries at 'Stalemate' and 'Nowhere To Run', vs. Bryan Danielson at 'Glory By Honor IV', and the four way match at 'Redemption'. Every one is a classic, and I'm not just saying that. If ROH chooses to put out a 'Best Of James Gibson', I know for damn sure I'll be buying it.
I'm by no means the only one whose respect and admiration for James grew after seeing what he was truly capable of. Below are two stories, one told by CM Punk, the other by Colt Cabana.
CM Punk -
"So James Gibson walks into the FIP locker room and he's all geared up to tear the house down. Only one problem: There's only about 12 people in attendance. On top of that, I'm the "memphis" in the "memphis-strongstyle" world of the FIP. Gibson apologizes to me for not being familiar with everything I do, but knows I throw a shining wizard, and keeps trying to put that in the match. I'm not one to take the night off, so I'm trying to assure him that's not what I'm trying to do. I tell him no wizards tonight. No trolls, no spooky witches, and no huge moves. I'm MEMPHIS tonight. He thinks I'm crazy, after all, this is the indies right"
We're supposed to dump each other on our heads a whole lot, then maybe punch each other in the face a couple dozen times. James Gibson is kind enough to let me call the match in the ring, like the heels always used to, and something great happens after. James Gibson walks in the back and tells ME, CM Punk, that I'm a hell of a worker.
I think back on that story a lot and smile. To me, I ain't nobody. He was Jamie Noble. I'm just some punk rock kid trying to tell stories. Instead of talking spots for two hours before our match, he talked about his kid, and I started to get to know the guy. I think he really loved that. Man he really loves that kid too. I thought it was the most bad ass thing in the world. He was really amped to work with me, and I like to think afterwards he had a totally different appreciation of who I was, and what I was capable of. In between asking me if I offend him because he likes drinking beer and telling stories about his kid, he thanks ME for taking care of him and making it fun again for him. Jamie Noble. James Gibson. Thanking ME.
... He helped ROH out more than I think he knows. In the grand scheme of things, he's been there for me in the short while I've known him, but I think back to that first day we met, and worked, and hung out...and I'm grateful that I can call James "by god" Gibson my friend. He's my little buddy, don't ya know!"
Colt Cabana -
"Saturday [October 1], I found myself watching the main event of Samoa Joe v. Kenta Kobashi...While watching the match, I couldn't help but hear James Gibson next to me going NUTS watching this match. He wasn't James Gibson, WWE Wrestlemania participant. He was James Gibson, ultra mega wrestling fan. It was so great to hear him cheer on Joe with such pride for his friend, country and most importantly his promotion.
Even though Jamie was in ROH for a short amount of time, he has earned the right to be one of the guys to call ROH his promotion. He was such an honor and a pleasure to have in our lockeroom, his lockeroom."
In October 2005, the Redneck Messiah, Jamie Noble, made his way to OVW. He was only there a couple of weeks (having a great match with Chris Cage in the process) and by December, he was back in WWE. His return match was against a local wrestler, and he won easily, showing off a few new moves like the double gutbuster and the Dragon Clutch. The match was short, but the message was clear; Jamie Noble was back, and he was better than he has ever been. That win has since been followed up with victories over Funaki and Paul London, two former Cruiserweight Champions and two great matches. In a WWE.com 'New Year's Resolution' video, Jamie made his intentions known - he would wear gold in 2006, and not necessarily in the cruiserweight division.
Jamie Noble a Heavyweight Champion" A year ago I wouldn't have been keen. After all, a year ago, Noble was alright, but he was nothing special. But now... now ... I, for one, would love to see it happen.
by Langdon Beck --- [View Langdon Beck's Column Index]..
Rob Scribner wrote:
I was never very fond of Jamie Noble either, but that is mainly because he has been placed in poor storylines that never showed his talent. After reading this article, I will be paying a great deal more attention to him and his matches. I'm crossing my fingers that he and Kid Kash get a chance to do battle. Thank you for opening my eyes up to him. I am sure I will not be disappointed based on your article and how well it was written. It was a great read.
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