Cheap Heat: Jeff Jarrett: TNA’s True Hall of Famer
By Jacob Fox
The TNA Hall of Fame is an odd fixture in a sport that has always been completely riddled in strangeness. Upon its introduction, it became yet another hall in professional wrestling, a sport completely saturated with Halls of Fame. Established only 10 years into the company’s history, it hardly gave its potential inductees time to reach company status that would be worthy of being in a hall of fame. Its most outstanding feature, though, seems to be that it is doing its best to snub its most deserving inductee, company founder Jeff Jarrett.
My devotion to Jeff Jarrett has always been a point of division between me and other wrestling fans. My best friend in high school, Tim, who watched all the pay per views and Raws with me, greatly disliked Jarrett’s wrestling style. In 2006, I wrote an article for this website in which I espoused the opinion that Jeff Jarrett was the perfect TNA champion. The backlash by readers on the website in addition to the personal emails I got telling me I was wrong or stupid or any number of color euphemisms, was surprising to me. In particular, I was insulted many times by people who were gravely offended that I dared compare Jeff Jarrett to Ric Flair, even though I am twenty times the Flair fan than I am a Jarrett fan.
Despite this negativity, I have never wavered as a fan of Jeff. I love watching his matches and I think his ring psychology is second only to Ric Flair. My respect for Jarrett is the main reason that I find it nearly impossible to watch TNA anymore. This is not because Jarrett does not wrestle there anymore, as I watch tons of wrestling that he is not involved with in any way. It is because that beginning in 2010 and continuing today, it has seemed to me that TNA has been on a mission to not only distance themselves from but also to disrespect their founder.
It is very important going forward to note that this column is completely and utterly my perception only. Neither the Online World of Wrestling, TNA, Jeff Jarrett or anyone other than me have said or done anything to specifically state this opinion of mine as true.
On October 13, 2012, TNA president Dixie Carter inducted Sting as the first member of TNA’s Hall of Fame. It was a valid choice. Sting had been with TNA for a long time and was easily the company’s most recognizable performer. After having made sporadic appearances from 2003 to 2005, Sting returned as a full time wrestler to TNA in 2006 and set his sights on then NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett. Sting not only captured the title, he would capture four additional TNA World Heavyweight titles.
A year later in 2013, TNA made another valid hall of fame choice when they chose Kurt Angle as their second inductee. Angle, however, not only storyline declined the honor, he specifically mentioned in interviews that he was surprised Jeff Jarrett had not been inducted first. This was a very noble sentiment by Angle, who, despite his declination, was one of the most deserving men in wrestling.
TNA’s 2014 induction, however, made it clear that Jeff Jarrett was not even being considered for the honor. That is not to say that Team 3D were not deserving of an induction, but deserving to enter the hall before Jarrett is a completely different matter. Bully Ray and Devon have been a great tag team for nearly two decades, but if the hall is based solely on TNA credentials, their success there cannot touch the founder’s.
In the ring, Jarrett was one of the most consistent performers in the early to middle years in TNA, Jeff held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship six times while it was the company’s top championship. This world title tally in TNA is matched only by Kurt Angle. Jarrett won two of his signature matches, the King of the Mountain match, twice capturing the NWA championship in the process. In addition, he was the major heel for over five years and during this time had matches with Sting, AJ Styles, Ron Killings, Christian Cage and countless others.
Behind the curtain, Jarrett had considerable influence in shaping TNA; influence that cannot be lessened due to the fact that he sold TNA within two months of its first production. While this did happen, the buyer, Panda Energy, was a family with absolutely no history in the wrestling industry. Dixie Carter was made president of TNA by her father and Jeff Jarrett was the vice president. It’s unfathomable to think that a complete novice in the industry took a company that was on the verge of failure and quickly made it into the second biggest professional wrestling company in the United States without considerable, if not the majority, of work coming from the Jarrett’s.
One doesn’t have to look too hard to see the differences in TNA from when Jarrett was in a position of influence to when his power was lessened. Early TNA featured a strong cruiserweight/aerial division in the X Division which never played second fiddle to the heavyweights. In 2007 and 2008, the Knockouts division rivaled the men with classic bouts between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong. The focus of the TNA shows was mainly on in ring performances, with regular interviews and few behind the scenes dramatic segments.
The arrival of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff in 2010 (both in backstage positions of power) further highlighted the differences in Jarrett’s influences. The six sided ring, considered beneficial for cruiserweight style wrestling, was destroyed on television. This was a not so subtle reference to the end of the Jeff Jarrett era and a complete change in the direction of the company.
Hogan’s TNA was completely different than Jarrett’s. Where early TNA had focused on match quality, the newer TNA added a stronger focus on backstage stories. Early TNA had working relationships with other promotions, such as Ring of Honor and New Japan. The newer TNA mostly required their talent to work solely for them. The women’s division and X Division began playing second fiddle to the heavyweight division. Homegrown TNA talent began to get overlooked when Hogan brought in friends such as the Nasty Boys and Bubba the Love Sponge. The biggest difference, though, is that early TNA never directly went after World Wrestling Entertainment, likely realizing the futility of such a move. The Bischoff and Hogan TNA immediately put Impact up against RAW in an asinine move which so severely damaged Impact’s ratings that Spike TV stepped in and moved the show back to its Thursday slot.
After Hogan and Bischoff left TNA, the company has tried to recapture some of its past attributes. They have brought back the six sided ring and have strengthened their Knockout and X Division roster. However, the band-aids have not mended the holes in the company. Spike TV dropped Impact from its lineup and its new home, Destination America, has added a competitor, Ring of Honor, into its lineup. In addition, there have been rumors of cancellations as well as reports of TNA not being able to pay their talent. Although this cannot be attributed to the absence of Jarrett, these are things that have definitely highlighted the difference in the company from its earlier days.
Recently with Jeff Jarrett’s interests lying solely in his development of his new promotion, Global Force Wrestling, it’s doubtful that he is paying much attention to the TNA Hall of Fame. If an offer of induction were made, it’s possible he would decline over a conflict of interest. However, working for a rival company did not prevent TNA from extending such an offer to AJ Styles.
AJ Styles’s recent declination of TNA’s offer to enter him into their hall of fame was hardly shocking for several reasons. Styles is currently competing full time for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor, so the obligatory induction ceremony and Slammiversary match would be a conflict of interest. Also although AJ has not indicated any hostile feelings towards TNA due to his departure, he made no secret that by July 2014 he had already made more money than he would have in TNA all year.
TNA has a chance now to do something that would go a long way towards mending some of the hard feelings that some early fans have with the current product. Reaching out to AJ Styles was a good start. Doing the same with Jeff Jarrett would be a good follow up. It’s a safe bet for TNA as well, as Jarrett would be unlikely to accept. They could then open the door to someone currently with the company. His declination would not really hurt the hall either, as it hardly has much of a reputation as it is.
My goodwill gesture is not going to happen though. With Styles understandably out of the picture for the hall, TNA needs to resume its hunt to induct someone else. It’s not terribly important who that person is, though. The point for TNA seems to be not that their inductee is deserving of the accolade but just that the person is not named Jeff Jarrett.
— Jacob Fox