Evolution of a Wrestling God!

Evolution of a Wrestling God!
Originally published in 2006
Written by Darby Gatorade

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¬† 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 losses 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.

Written by Darby Gatorade (July 8, 2006)

The President of the United States
Originally published in 2007
Written by Darby Gatorade

In one of my last columns, “Evolution of a Wrestling God”, chronicled the career of one of my all-time favorite wrestlers — the Texas brawler known as John Bradshaw Layfield. When I first sat down to write that particular column, I intended it to be something completely different. It somehow morphed into a biographical piece that I ended up being quite proud of. I decided to go with the flow and post it anyway with the intention of writing a follow-up piece to express my original concept. I know every Internet geek and his dog (or Gerbil) has their opinions on what WWE should do and I am in no way telling the high-priced soap opera writers in Stamford how to do their jobs, but man, do I have a great idea for YOU!

The wrestling industry has tinkered with the idea of putting one of their own in the White House for a very long time. Nobody ever thought it was possible until Jesse “the Body” Ventura was voted into office and became the controversial Governor of Minnesota. That’s a long way from the presidency but after serving his term, political insiders were speculating that the ex-wrestler just might try to run for President in the future. He still might!

In 1996, former 2-time WWF World Champion Bob Backlund made a mockery of the idea by announcing his intentions to run for President of the United States of America on a live episode of RAW — or maybe it was one of those “taped” live episodes. It came off as a completely ridiculous storyline that nobody, much to the dismay of the media-starved WWF, took seriously. President Bob “campaigned” at local arenas around the country for several months and then the election came and went without a peep from Mr. Backlund. The ironic thing about it was that Bob would have been a reasonable candidate if it weren’t for being painted as a sophisticated lunatic!

In 1998, the legendary “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan was reaching for straws trying to keep his name alive and doing as little actual work as possible in the process. A storyline was conceived that included the “immortal one” announcing his intention to run for President of the United States of America. The ceremony conducted on a live Nitro was eerily similar to the one Bob Backlund gave on RAW several years prior. There was a much needed aura of legitimacy lent to this gimmick when The Hulkster confirmed his intentions on the set of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. At this point, the media picked up the story and WCW had quickly achieved what the WWF so desperately needed from the Backlund fiasco. However, the company known for flushing money and opportunity down the toilet with costly mistakes failed to capitalize on this and ended the idea with one flick of the finger. Hogan returned to wrestling on January 4, 1999 in the infamous one-finger victory over Kevin Nash to recapture the glorious WCW World Heavyweight title.

Since then, having a wrestler in the White House has been a laughable debate. People have joked about Vince McMahon running for office; God help us if THAT ever happens! I actually think Paul Heyman would make a good President. But there is one person who I think could pull off this publicity stunt and it would catapult the WWE towards astronomical proportions if they managed to pull it off………..

Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the esteemed President of these United States of America….. JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD! ——- I can sense your laughter. I can sense your horror. But after I explain myself I know that I will be sensing your interest.

There’s no doubt about it, John Layfield is a smart guy. He’s very knowledgeable and extremely well spoken about the issues plaguing the World today. If he were President he would aggressively sort out the issues and take action where needed. He is a supporter of the troops and cares very deeply for them, as well as the country they defend.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; I wrote this article about a year ago and got side-tracked and completely forgot about it until I found the Word file on my hard-drive today. Oops! Luckily it’s still somewhat relevant despite the fact that all of the candidates have declared their intentions to run for President, and the all-important debates have already begun. Can you imagine JBL standing up there on the podium burying all the other candidates with his quick witted rebuttals? JBL has the knowledge and the confidence to go toe-to-toe, in the intellectual arena, with anybody currently running for President. JBL could be the moral conscience that America so desperately needs!

Of course, JBL doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning the election and moving into the White House. However, that isn’t even the reason he would run in the first place. The purpose of JBL running for President would be to bring some much needed positive publicity towards the WWE to an enormous audience who has lost a lot of respect for the wrestling business over the past ten years. The Presidential election is the one thing that all Americans have in common. JBL could represent the WWE, and the entire wrestling industry as a whole, and prove once and for all that professional wrestlers are smart, well-groomed, intellectual and respectable citizens of the World.

Now in order for WWE to come out looking sensible at the end of this stunt, they have to be careful not to ruin it by injecting their idiotic twists into the story. JBL can occasionally appear on WWE television but he cannot do scripted angles. They can show video packages of JBL campaigning across the country. They could even run a one-of-a-kind WWE debate (hey if YouTube can do it, why can’t WWE?). JBL, who has to drop the “gimmick,” has to be treated as a dignitary and with the utmost respect and admiration.

All of this would cost Vince McMahon a lot of money, but we all know he has enough money to waste, and the benefits of such overwhelming publicity would be well worth the price tag.

So now I’m thinking about all the goofy movies that share this premise, but the story involved the candidate “accidentally” getting elected by the voters. Hey… it could happen!

Written by Darby Gatorade (August 28, 2007)

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