Evolution of a Wrestling God!
July 8, 2006 - by Brad Dykens

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November 29, 1966: God created John Charles Layfield in Texas.

If you didn't know it already, you should first know that I am a HUGE fan of former WWE Champion and current SmackDown! announcer, John Bradshaw Layfield. Ever since his self-important attitude adjustment over two years ago, he has consistently performed as the WWE's second biggest heel (behind Triple H). A lot of people have been hard on JBL during his stint as a main event heel, but I think it's the first time in a long while that a WWE wrestler is hated for all the right reasons. We're talking about a guy who has paid his dues and perfected his craft.

The story of John Bradshaw Layfield started in the early 90s when he wrestled for a Dallas-based promotion known as the Global Wrestling Federation. The GWF was run by the generously proportioned Joe Pedicino and his beautiful blond wife Bonnie Blackstone. This promotion took the reigns of the Dallas market after the closure the beloved von Erich promotion known as World Class Championship Wrestling. The GWF ran out of the historic Dallas Sportatorium and proceeded to make a big splash on the national scene by securing a coveted television deal with ESPN. The promotion is remembered best for giving many future stars their first taste of success; from "The Patriot" Del Wilkes to "The Handsome Stranger" Marcus Bagwell, and Cactus Jack (Mick Foley), Scott Anthony (Raven), Barry Horrowitz, The Lightning Kid (Sean Waltman), Jerry Lynn and many others. But none compared to a young brash future World Heavyweight Champion known as John Hawk.

John Hawk received his first taste of championship gold while teaming with another young star known as Bobby Duncum Jr., who was the son of the legendary Bobby Duncum Sr.. Duncum Sr. was best known for his Madison Square Garden wars with Bruno Sammartino in the 70s and later becoming a part of the Heenan Family in Verne Gagne's AWA. Duncum Jr. was just starting out and the alliance with Hawk proved to be a good choice as they picked up the GWF World Tag Team titles in November of 1992 when they dethroned Black Bart & Johnny Mantell in the hallowed walls of the Sportatorium. Two months later the Texas Mustangs, as they were known, dropped their titles to another young tag team known as The Bad Breed, Ian and Axl Rotten. The Rottens would eventually move north to Philadelphia and help a small promotion called ECW become a cult phenomenon. John Hawk would later team up with former enemy Black Bart to pick up his second GWF World Tag Team championship. John Hawk would stay with the GWF until the middle of '94 when he set out to gain experience in different regions of the World.

John Hawk briefly worked for German promotion run by former AWA World Champion Otto Wanz called the Catch Wrestling Association. He and a wrestler named Cannonball Grizzly (known as P.N. News in WCW) captured the CWA Tag Team championship in November of '95 by defeating the European tandem of Ulf Hermann & August Smisl. Hawk captured his first singles title defeating the legendary Kevin von Erich for the NWA North American belt. A few months later he dropped that belt to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Hawk was then recruited by the biggest wrestling company in the world.

Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw debuted in the World Wrestling Federation with an aggressive cowboy gimmick with long blondish hair brandishing a bull-rope with a cow-bell attached -- characteristics most comparable to that of the legendary Stan "The Lariat" Hansen. He was accompanied by his bearded manager Uncle Zebekiah, who was played by Texas/Memphis legend "Dirty" Dutch Mantell. Bradshaw would quickly finish off his opponents and use a branding iron to unsympathetically mark the initials "JB" somewhere on his body.

After ploughing though the traditional throng of enhancement talent, Bradshaw was tested for the first time against ring-veteran known as Freddy Joe Floyd - If that name doesn't sound familiar you should know he gained the bulk of his experience wrestling under the name Tracy Smothers. The character was a strong force in the WWF, but lacked the power to jump to the main event, so writers decided it was time for a change.

Justin Bradshaw was convinced by Barry Windham to join forces and reprise the colossal 70s tag team known as The Blackjacks. After all, Windham was the son of the original Blackjack Mulligan and Bradshaw was the nephew of the original Blackjack Lanza - although I'm not 100% sure the later claim is legit. Regardless, this was reasonable justification to team up and beat the crap out of whoever was man enough to step into the ring with them.

Bradshaw & Windham both got haircuts and grew thick handlebar mustaches and dyed it all jet-black. They wore black trunks, black chaps, and a black vest, with their obligatory black cowboy hats; they certainly played the part. After numerous title shots, the Blackjacks failed to capture any championships and eventually split up. Windham left the WWF due to injuries and Bradshaw found a new tag team partner.

Bradshaw dropped all the other monikers and began wrestling simply as "Bradshaw" when he found contentment in a tag team with former WCW World champion Ron Simmons, who was now going by the name "Farooq". Farooq was coming off a storyline which had him pushing envelope by playing the racial card every chance he got. Farooq was the founder of the Nation of Domination, and had just gotten kicked out of the faction that he created! That was then, and this is now, and Bradshaw and Farooq discovered that they had a lot in common. First and foremost they shared a fondness for mercifully beating the living crap out of people, whether it was in the ring, backstage, in the parking lot, in the bathroom, and especially at the local bar. 'Nuff said. They became known as "The Acolytes".

The Acolytes became even more dark and mysterious when they joined a faction known as the Ministry of Darkness, which was led by The Undertaker. Farooq and Bradshaw became loyal followers of the Undertaker and did everything they were asked to do for over a year before the Ministry disbanded. They did, however, enjoy two separate reigns as WWF Tag Team champions during this time, defeating X-Pac & Kane in May of '99 and The Hardy Boyz in July of '99.

Sitting around backstage with nothing to do, the Acolytes took to organizing poker parties to swindle other WWF wrestlers out of their money so that they could buy more beer for themselves. They eventually realized that there was a lot of money to be made in the "security" field, so they promptly opened up the Acolytes Protection Agency, where they would supply protection for anybody who felt that was being threatened... for a price! Of course ever dollar made with this venture was also spent on beer and cigars. Week after week, the APA set up their office backstage, consisting of a home-made door standing in the middle of a warehouse with no walls around it - it's even more funny when you see it. They also became locker-room leaders by stepping up to the plate to lead Team WWF into battle when the WCW Invasion was going on. This included a victory over The Dudley Boyz on the same night that the Dudleyz defected to the Alliance, and thus capturing their 3rd WWF Tag Team Championship. It real life, Bradshaw was making a difference in the World by hosting special Make-A-Wish Foundation Golf tournaments in Tyler, Texas - an event which became an annual tradition

Unfortunately, Farooq was put out of action with an injury, but it gave Bradshaw a chance to go after a singles title. It didn't take him long before he pinned The Hurricane to capture the WWF European championship. It was a big victory for the Texas but he ended up dropping the title to Christian just ten days later.

Farooq returned to the WWF for a brief run with Bradshaw again as the APA before the team was split up as a result of the draft. The WWF had eradicated The Alliance and decided to split the company into two brands, RAW and SmackDown!. Bradshaw was drafted to RAW, and Farooq was drafted to SmackDown!, and they were forced to vacate the office of the APA in a very emotional moment as the APA said their good-byes.

Bradshaw had an obvious flare for singles competition, as he was thrust into a storyline with the invading new World order faction. Bradshaw let loose with this singles run and miraculously captured the WWF Hardcore title an incredible 18 times! On September 11, 2002, Bradshaw suffered a torn left bicep during the opening match on RAW, which resulted in surgery at the hands of Dr. James Andrews and forced to take six months off from action.

In March of 2003, The APA had a quiet reunion at the headquarters of Ohio Valley Wrestling. They made several appearances on OVW Television tuning up for their WWF-return. Farooq had all but retired from the ring and was making a comeback to team with his old buddy, Bradshaw. The APA actually captured the OVW Tag Team titles during their short stint, but ended up vacating the belts when they jumped back to the SmackDown! roster. The APA picked up right where they left off, breaking necks and cashing checks.

They organized chaotic bar-room brawls on PPV while taking on teams such as The Basham Brothers and Rikishi & Scotty Too Hotty. It was obvious that the APA was on its last legs, and Farooq was ready to retire permanently, so they did a storyline where Farooq was fired by SmackDown! general manager Paul Heyman. Farooq got his bags and said "Let's go Bradshaw," but instead up supporting his partner, Bradshaw chose to turn his back on his best friend and stay with SmackDown!, claiming that he couldn't just walk away because he had "financial obligations..... This was not behavior befitting of an Acolyte. Farooq was hurt by his partner's decision and left the building, never to return again.

Seven days later, fans were shocked by the transition Bradshaw made from a likable Texas brawler into an arrogant suit & tie wearing Texas millionaire. This new attitude was accompanied by a new name, John Bradshaw Layfield, an adaptation of his real name (John Layfield) and his stage name (Bradshaw). This was indeed a new era for JBL, who was now proclaiming his pride for his Texas routes but was sure to add that he was now a resident of New York City. The script played off of JBL's success in the stock market, as well as his real life employment as a financial analyst with CNBC as well as his own nationally-syndicated radio talk show. He also took advantage of the opportunity to plug a book he wrote two years prior entitled "Have More Money, Now." Is that enough to make you hate the guy? Well on top of all that he drove a white stretch limousine to the ring with a set of bull-horns attached to the hood. Okay you can boo now!

JBL made an instant impact in the WWE, finally getting his shot at main event status. He had certainly earned it with his years of service within the company. A lot of fans complained that Layfield did not belong in the main event, saying he was a life-long mid-carder who had no right to challenge for a World Heavyweight title any Pay Per View. JBL proved his critics wrong when he engaged in a feud with WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero.

The rivalry went back-and-forth and included each man getting the best of each other on an equal number of occasions. At Judgment Day, JBL actually defeated Guerrero by Disqualification which ensured JBL a rematch after he claimed that Guerrero got himself intentionally DQ'd. A few weeks later, the WWE was on tour in Germany and featured a main event tag team match with The Undertaker and Eddie Guerrero facing off against Layfield & Booker T. JBL made headlines all over the world when he arrogantly performed the goose step in the middle of the WWF ring while flashing Nazi hand signals to the enraged crowd. These gestures are prohibited by law in Germany and punishable by prison time. JBL escaped Germany with his life but was fired from his job as a financial analyst for CNBC after they investigated the incident.

Over the next few weeks, the Guerrero/JBL feud intensified with storylines on Television leading up to their epic Bull Rope match at the Great American Bash. Despite the embarrassment that Layfield had brought to the WWE several weeks later, John Bradshaw Layfield managed to defeat Eddie Guerrero and capture the WWE Championship in a thrilling match. I guess the WWF chose to view the incident as less of an embarrassment and more of a publicity stunt, and rewarded the goose stepping former CNBC employee for his loyalty. They followed up with a rematch on SmackDown! several weeks later which resulted in a masked luchador helping JBL win the match and retain the WWE title. The masked man turned out to be Kurt Angle.

John Layfield enjoyed an unfathomable nine month title reign as WWE Champion, although Paul Heyman argued at ECW One Night Stand that the only reason JBL was champion for that long was because Triple H didn't want to work on Tuesdays (the day SmackDown! is taped). Regardless of this claim, the nine month reign on top of SmackDown! was an impressive feat, seeing as though it hadn't been done since Kevin Nash (Diesel) almost a decade earlier. JBL played the part of the cowardly heel champion to perfection.

Week after week, month after month, Layfield somehow managed to escape an endless supply of top-notch challengers by the skin of his teeth. Fans were going crazy every time they thought their hero-of-the month was about to overthrow Layfield, but he always avoided that misfortune at all cost. JBL formed a faction known as The Cabinet to watch his back; This group consisted of an image consultant, former Diva Search reject Amy Weber, as well as Chief of Staff Orlando Jordan. JBL also hired the Basham Brothers as his personal security. Combined with his superior intelligence and powerful backup, JBL worked his way through high profile title defenses against The Undertaker, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, including a 4-WAY at Armageddon with all three of those challengers. Not to mention his surviving a 3-WAY at Royal Rumble against Kurt Angle and The Big Show, and then a hellacious barbed wire steel cage match with The Big Show at No Way Out. Layfield finally bit off more than he could chew at WrestleMania 21 when he was finally dethroned by the incomparable John Cena. JBL continued his feud with Cena leading up to a bloody "I Quit" match at Judgment Day ending with JBL screaming the words "I Quit", thus giving up his opportunity at winning the WWE title.

Since then, JBL has stayed at the top of his game, even using his influence to take part in the attempted crashing of the first ECW One Night Stand PPV. JBL engaged in a feud with cruiserweight phenomenon Rey Mysterio, before deciding to go after World Champion Batista (who had been drafted to SmackDown! - Cena was still WWE Champion but he sent to RAW). JBL's feud with Batista, just like his feud with Cena, solidified Batista as a capable Champion.

After a series of loses throughout the summer of 2005, including several to Rey Mysterio (which JBL considered a miserable failure), John Bradshaw Layfield became very insecure and decided to hire Jillian Hall to be his "fixer." Together, JBL & Jillian worked their way up the ladder again and even engaged in a lop-sided beer drinking contest with fan-favorite Stone Cold Steven Austin on Saturday Night's Main Event. Jillian Hall eventually helped lead JBL towards capturing the United States title from Chris Benoit at WrestleMania 22. Layfield considered the U.S. Championship an honor due to being a self-professed "True American Hero." Layfield even threw himself one of his trademark celebrations of excellence, which he considered half-hearted and promptly fired Jillian Hall!

On May 26, 2006: JBL lost his U.S. title to up-and-comer Bobby Lashley, and then vowed if he could not defeat Rey Mysterio for the World title then he would QUIT wrestling forever. Layfield did indeed lose the match to Mysterio and thus quit SmackDown!, only to return several weeks later to replace Tazz as an announcer sitting next to Michael Cole. Rumor has it JBL had suffered a top-secret injury and needed this time out of the ring to have surgery and/or rest up for an eventual return. This is not confirmed but one has to know there must be a good reason for JBL to suddenly stop wrestling.

To put an exclamation point on this column, I would just like to say that John Bradshaw Layfield is one of my favorite wrestlers, and the business would be a whole lot better if there were more people like him who are willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the business. I know what you're all thinking; you're all wondering why I didn't mention JBL's asshole behavior as a so-called locker room general. You're also wondering why I didn't talk about all the "Internet reports" concerning JBL's treatment of rookies. And why I didn't expose the unfair hazing rituals which JBL seems to always be a part of. Well, I have two reasons. First reason is that I was not there so I don't know what really happened, and second, this is a column praising a great wrestler for the work that he does inside the ring, as opposed to outside of the ring. True, John Layfield might not be my favorite human being on the face of the planet, but as far as in ring performers, he's aces with me. I hope you enjoyed this article and if there is one JBL-hater out there whose opinion has changed then I consider my job here a success.

by Brad Dykens --- [View Brad Dykens's Column Index]..

zach blacke wrote:
I would like to tell you that jbl is also one of my favorites... Nice Column, and I agree with everything you say totally!
JK-47 wrote:
first i want to say great article, and second i just want to throw this out there. doesn't JBL's character make him the perfect heel to team with Vince and go against DX? and Doesn't Edge's character make him a great fit for DX?

How about this story . . . DX somehow gets a tag-title shot and wins causing the Spirit squad to break-up. Then Kenny forms a team with another great young wrestler, Randy Orton. They would make a great team because they are built the same way, they have similar characters being young cocky and talented, and because Kenny could learn alot about being a heel from Randy. They join with Vince and Shane, and then JBL joins those four later. to turn up the heat you put Edge in DX so he can feud with one of the best heels ever, JBL.

If i would see any of this happen I think my life would be complete!
Jon Rosaler wrote: Brad, you do know that JBL is considering to retire,right?

Jesse Lee wrote: All hail... King Brad!!
There was a time when I disliked Bradshaw. Way back as a mark in the 90s when he was a heel (before he became part of the New Blackjacks.) However, once he back into action as a top performer, which is about the time he "betrayed Farooq," I loved his character. As time went on, I could say I was one of the few on the internet who loved JBL throughout his entire reign and after. JBL is one of my favorite superstars from Smackdown and was one of the main reasons why I always tuned in during his reign.

Also, is it just me, or does Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw's face look a little like a blonde Sabu in that picture?
Andrew Murray wrote:
JBL as a character - a total waste of time. He discriminated, had the grace and speed of a dead rhino getting dragged behind a tank and is now officially obsolete in terms of marketing (and therefore profit) to the WWE.

But (and this is a big but), out of all the tributes to Eddie Guererro after his death...JBL stood out a mile. His few words were gracious, respecting - full of a love you would never have found in the ring. Even more remarkable how he somehow managed to retain some sort of in-ring character in such a hard time.

As a wrestler...i rate him about as high as i do the Coach. As a person...he's ok. Good luck to him.
Charles Lalonde wrote:
You left out the feud JBL had with the Boogeyman, He handed Bobby Lashley his first loss on Smackdown, He had numerous reigns as Hardcore Champion, He solidifies what hard working is all about, JBL does it all, whether it would be antagonize The Hispanics, or The Germans he would do it to achieve notoriety or to get cheap heat (I have heard what prisoners do in the american prison systems, but if JBL got jailed in Germany for doing the goose the words of The Undertaker he would be a DEAD MAN WALKING) I for one would not do the Goose walk in Germany'
Gus Patrick wrote: Good Job! Another Great Column!

John wrote:
I have always been a fan of JBL. He brought excitement back to Smackdown, when he was the Champion and he was a great heel. His promos always riled up the fans. JBL is just a great superstar. I enjoyed this column alot. Thank you for giving the "Wrestling God" his due.
Eric D. wrote:
This is a nice mini bio on Bradshaw, he should get a DVD before he retires or at least be part of one. I'd like to see from where he started with Faarooq and all those entertaining and humorous segments they had over the years. Like the "Kiss Ass" one with Regal. It's good that you point it out, because it's true, people are often hard on JBL. I noticed an improvement in his wrestling since he was on Smackdown in 2003, and it just increased through his work with likes of Eddie and others. Something that was left off about Germany was the reports of people booing Eddie and the video of Bradshaw motioning for the people to cheer Eddie. Heels make more money with PPVs and stuff, so they have longer reigns. People want to see them lose, but unlike others, such as HHH who seems to rest on his laurels, JBL brought something different every month like when he went through the ring, beating Big Show in the barb-cage match. That whole thing was completely new, and that was just one of the examples. Another is his own brand ceremonies mentioned in the article
Stephen Y wrote:
JBL, JBL,JBL! The Self - Proclamed Wrestling God is my second best wrestler ever, behind Stone Cold. When I first saw JBL (as JBL). I instantly liked him because of his character. He was a selfish wrestler, who didn't care about anybody else, which I think is great in wrestling. He could get the crowd to boo him quite easily, and cheated to keep his title on many occasions. One of my favourite moments was at No Way Out 2005, when he rolled out of the ring in the Barbed Wire Steel Cage match, to the disappontment of the fans, as they fought Big Show had won. He has had many memorable moments, which I won't rwrite out because it would take too lonng. When he became the new 'Voice of SmackDown', I was unsure what it would be like, but he is like a breath of fresh air. He can put over the heel characters better than anybody I have ever heard, which actually isn't harrd these days, and he is very entertaining (would Tazz have ever stood up and said 'Long Live King Booker'). So stand up and chant his name. JBL, JBL, JBL!
Doug Kinsella wrote:
This was a well-written article, and I must say that I believe it. The points made as to why he is hated for the right reason were, well, right. I am a huge JBL fan, and people say he sucks as an announcer, but in my view he is the best they have. He rarely screws up his statements, and can put some personality into what he is saying. He is a very good wrestler for his size, and I can not wait until he is back in the ring. I hope he stays on the SmackDown! brand, however.
John A. wrote:
Ok, this was plain ridiculous. First of all, you forgot to mention couple things about this jacka** you call a wrestling god. He legitimately attacked Blue Meanie in ECW One Night Stand 2005, busting him up. He was also involved in that infamous planetrip where he caused disturbense among others. He was also reason wh ya young up and comer Palmer Canon quit. Great way for JBL to help young rookies. You mentioned the Nazi-salutes and goose stepping thing in Germany which he also got off without penalties. So it's easy to say that if this guy always keeps getting away for every sh*t he does, he only becomes more and more of an idiot than what he already is. "the business would be a whole lot better if there were more people like him". Yeah right.

Now to his in-ring abilities. What actually makes him an ace in the ring? He's slow, has few power moves, plain brawler. Nothing more. Punches, Shoulder block, Fallaway slam, Clothesline from hell...not many more moves. Sure, he may have some mic skills but he still sucks in the ring. You said he had a "hellacious" Barb wire steel cage match with Big Show. That's bullsh*t, since the only place where the barb wire was on the cage was at the top. They didn't even touch it during the match. It was a total bogus. Guys like Sabu, Terry Funk, Homicide, Steve Corino and some others might just laugh at JBL's face for even claiming to be in a barb wire match.

Your job isn't anything of a success on my case. I've never liked JBL and this column didn't change my oppinion at all. Stephen Y, I'd rather stand up and spit at JBL's face than rant his name. Fortunately I'm not stupid enough to spend my money on WWE shows. I'm also an atheist so there ain't no god, even less a wrestling god in my world. JBL to me is nothing but a slow brawler and just another big man hired by the "big man company".
Aaron Harwood wrote:
I just love it when all these "experts" write these articles, but get all the facts wrong. When the Blackjacks broke up, Windham didn't immediately leave the WWE, and Bradshaw didn't join Faarooq with the Acoyltes until late 1998. Windham turned on Bradshaw, and became apart of the NWA faction within the WWE lead by Jim Cornette. After that Bradshaw had a less then rememberable team with Taka Michinoku, and even teamed with Terry Funk, and Fully Loaded in 1998. Other than that he was being pushed as a typical tough texan feuding with Vader, and anyone else who wanted to fight with him. There may have been more errors, but I wasn't able to read anymore... Please if you're writing an article on something that happened before you were born, at least do more research!



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