OWW Wrestler of the Week: Jay Lethal

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon

OWW Wrestler of the Week: Jay Lethal

Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, takes a look at Black Machismo, who earned a tag title shot by claiming one of the briefcases in the Feast or Fired match at Final Resolution.

Jay Lethal joined 13 others to battle for four briefcases in the Feast or Fired match at Final Resolution. Jay captured one of the four cases. When he opened it, he found himself with a tag team title shot. Jay has been a key player in TNA for some time. His win was one of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing Pay-per-view. For winning the title shot and for being part of so many key storylines, Jay Lethal is this week’s OWW: Wrestler of the Week.

An honorable beginning

Jamar Shipman was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on April 21, 1985. He was a fan of wrestling during his youth and decided to give the profession a try. He was trained by legendary ECW superstar, Mikey Whipwreck and other trainers at the JAPW facility.

Shipman made his pro debut in Ring of Honor at their 2002 show, Final Battle. He worked a dark match against future TNA co-worker Homicide. Shipman returned on the next show with his character, Hydro. Hydro was a hip hop character who joined the heel faction known as Special K. Hydro worked primarily tag matches during the rest of 2002 and most of 2003. His first big singles match was a four-way battle at the 2003 Final Battle show.

Hydro would feud with various ROH stars, including C.M. Punk, Alex Shelley, Matt Stryker, Doug Williams and Samoa Joe. Joe convinced Hydro to leave the Special K stable and change his identity. Hydro disappeared and Jay Lethal was born.

Lethal began a feud with Alex Shelley. Lethal had rejected Shelley’s offer, on two occasions, to join Generation Next. Lethal went on a massive losing streak. His ROH career almost came to an end due to the losses. Lethal received one final chance to save his career with a battle against Matt Stryker. Lethal won the battle after numerous close calls.

Lethal became the protege of Samoa Joe and feuded with Low-ki (Senshi). Lethal often teamed with Joe. During this time, Lethal won the Pure Championship. Lethal’s reign would come to an end after a brutal attack by Homicide and Low-ki. Lethal took time off to recover from his injury.

Lethal returned and feuded with the men who attacked him. Lethal received an offer from TNA to join their ranks. Lethal thought long and hard before making his decision. While he was deciding, Lethal turned on his former mentor, Samoa Joe. Lethal took out Joe with a chair shot to the knee. They feuded briefly before Joe left ROH for TNA. Lethal soon followed.

Joining TNA

Jay worked for both TNA and ROH during the latter part of 2005 and early 2006. Jay continued his feud with Joe in TNA. Lethal lost to Joe on all occasions, as TNA was pushing Joe as undefeatable. Jay then went on to join the X-Division and battle all of it’s top stars. Jay would also get a shot at Jeff Jarrett’s World Title, which he lost. Jay also earned a spot on Team USA in the World X-Cup battles in 2006.

While working primarily in the X-Division, Lethal challenged for the X-Title, several times. He didn’t manage to win the title during the early attempts. He continued many of his ROH feuds during 2006 and 2007. Senshi (Low-ki), Alex Shelley, Homicide and others faced off against Lethal during this time. Lethal also ran afoul of Kevin Nash. Nash was not happy with the direction of the X-Division. He put most of the X-stars through a series of challenges, called the Paparazzi Championship Series. Nash gained a new respect for Lethal and Sonjay Dutt. He decided to give the two men a new look and identity.

The sincerest form of flattery

Nash took Lethal and Dutt aside and told them that they needed to add fire to their personalities. Lethal was able to do a fantastic imitation of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Nash took that and converted Lethal into a new version of Savage. Lethal began to use Savage’s Elbow Drop from the top rope as his finisher. The move, unofficially known as a Savage Elbow, was named the Lethal Elbow by TNA. Since the WWE did not own the rights to Pomp and Circumstance (Savage’s theme music), TNA created a hip hop variation of the song as Lethal’s entrance music. Lethal also began to wear outfits similar to Savage’s late 80s/early 90s fringe jackets and cowboy hats. He was re-christened Black Machismo by Nash, a name he uses to this day. Lethal got a monster push during this time. Dutt, on the other hand, rejected several gimmick, including OZ, Vinnie Vegas and Diesel take-offs. Dutt would eventually settle on a Guru gimmick. Dutt and Lethal were teamed up quite often. That team would dissolve, due to a girl and a belt.

The Lethal-Dutt wars

Dutt began to show jealousy when Lethal got a shot at Chris Sabin’s X-Division title. The feelings festered for quite some time. At the 2007 edition of Sacrifice, the team imploded after losing to Chris Sabin. Kevin Nash came out to break up the brawl. During this time, someone claiming to be Randy Savage contacted Jay Lethal and gave his blessing for the imitation. There is some doubt as to whether it really was Savage, but Lethal took it that Savage did approve.

Lethal finally won the X-Division title from Chris Sabin at the 2007 Slammiversary event. Dutt continued to fume about not getting the belt. Lethal would drop the belt mere days later at an Impact taping. During a Match of Champions, Lethal lost the title to Samoa Joe.

Lethal and Dutt then seemed to mend fences and reunited to battle Christopher Daniels and Senshi. Jim Cornette set Lethal against Daniels to find the number one contender for the X-Division title. Lethal won that match and would go on to defeat Kurt Angle to win his second X-Division title. This would drive yet another wedge between Black Machismo and The Guru (Dutt). Lethal would lose his X-Division title to Petey Williams, after a sneak attack with Williams’ steel briefcase (which held the X-Division title contract).

After losing the X-title, Lethal shifted his focus to his on-screen girlfriend, SoCalVal. There is question as to whether the two had an off-screen relationship, as well. In an almost direct lift from the Miss Elizabeth/Randy Savage proposal of many years earlier, Val answered the proposal with an “Oh Yeah”. Dutt was shaken by the announcement of wedding plans. At Slammiversary, Dutt disrupted the marriage by professing his love for Val. Dutt and Lethal then engaged in a full scale war over the love of Val. The feud would continue at Hard Justice, where the two competed in a Black Tie and Chain match. At that show, Val rushed off because Jay wouldn’t stop beating on Dutt. Jay would later confront Val about her feelings. Val postponed the wedding until she could sort out her feelings. She made up her mind on September 14, 2008. Val turned on Jay and embraced Dutt as her one true love. The two would feud for a few more weeks.

Joining the Frontline

At Bound For Glory, Lethal won the Steel Asylum match (formally known as Terrordome) to become the number one contender to the X-Division title. Lethal would lose in his bid for the X-title against champion Sheik Abdul Bashir.

When Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Sharmell, and Sting united to form the Main Event Mafia, the TNA Loyalists also joined forces. Lethal stepped up to become a core member of what would come to be called The Frontline. Over the next few months, Lethal would battle various members of the Mafia. Lethal was joined in the war by A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Consequences Creed, Petey Williams, Eric Young, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley and ODB. These wars have been called both the Generations War and the Respect War. Lethal has teamed with Consequences Creed, most frequently. Since Lethal won the tag team title shot in the Feast or Fired match, it is likely that he will choose Creed to join him against Beer Money, Inc.

In conclusion

Lethal has been a cornerstone player in both ROH and TNA. He has moved beyond a simple imitation to create a whole new character based on the “Macho Man” persona. He has come close to winning the World title on many occasions. He has held the X-Division title, several times. He’s on the edge of winning the tag team titles. He will likely end up highly pushed in the Mafia v Frontline war. Regardless of where Jay’s career goes from here, he will be successful. His drive, work ethic and personality will keep him at the top of the mountain during his full career. On a personal note, Jay is my favorite modern-day wrestler. It is with a great deal of honor and respect that I award this week’s OWW: Wrestler of the Week title to “Black Machismo” Jay Lethal.

–Jay Shannon
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