Recently I watched Jeff Jarrett’s DVD based on his career entitled “Jeff Jarrett: King of the Mountain” produced a few years ago by the good folks of TNA Wrestling. The DVD did an excellent job of going through the whole career of Jeff Jarrett, and it left me wondering exactly where his place is in the history of professional wrestling. To a lot of folks he is nothing more than a mid-carder who was never really seen as a main eventer by no one else outside of his immediate family and Vince Russo. Even Mike Graham had said “Jeff Jarrett may have broken 6000 guitars, never drew a dime” during his time in WCW. I don’t think that is true at all, and I will take this column right here and use it to give the man his props while also explaining his place in professional wrestling history.
Jeff Jarrett was never the guy with the most charisma or the best mic skills, and he was never what one would call a true main eventer in the vein of a Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin or a *sighs* John Cena. I had always looked at him as a guy who would be the top of the mid-card or even feuding with the World Champion. I also always felt that he was a good hand to have on any roster as he wrestled hard, and seemed to always give it his best no matter who he was up against. I remember when he first came to the WWF, and he was given a character whose gimmick was that of a country music singer who was somehow going to make it as a country music star though professional wrestling. I guess he figured that the WWF had more viewer than TNN! I remember booing at my TV once his vignettes were about to come onto my television because he was about to talk about how he was going to be a country music star. I was also very upset when he had defeated Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Title because Razor was so fucking cool! And who can forget when he had his hit song (well a hit according to the WWF) “With My Baby Tonight” only for it to be revealed that he was lip singing the whole time? Jarrett knew that there wasn’t much left for him in the WWF after that, so he went to WCW at during the Monday Night Wars where he would even become the US Champion. As quickly as he was in WCW, he was back in the WWF with what seemed to be a brand new attitude.
During his 2nd WWF stint, he was managed by Deborah McMichael. He would also smash guitars over the heads of his opponents drawing the type of heel heat that one would expect from a bad guy at the time. He would also win both the Intercontinental and European Title holding them simultaneously. His time in the WWF actually would end in controversy. When Jarrett’s contract was up, he was still the Intercontinental Champion! And while there are claims that he held up the WWF for more money to perform that night (and he did get the cash that was owed to him plus his stock options), he says that all he did was wanted to get the money that was due to him. He also said that the negotiations were cordial along with it. Jarrett would end up losing the Intercontinental title to Chyna that night, and went to WCW the next day. It’s also been said that Steve Austin (who was the man in the WWF at the time) didn’t like him because when he first returned to the WWF he had said that “Austin 3:16 was blasphemous” which Austin claimed hurt T-Shirt sales (also not true as Austin would remain their top merch seller). We will never know the true story there, but it’s what happened after his time in the WWF that is most important to his spot in wrestling history.
Upon returning to WCW, he would go on to be the top guy in the company winning the WCW Title Four times. And while it was during WCW’s dying days, someone had to stand out and keep a segment of the wrestling fan base coming back each and every week. He was their top player consistently during this time. When a lot of guys in WCW were simply showing up for a paycheck and phoning it in each and every week; he was still out there doing the best job that he could to entertain the fans. That final Nitro, Vince McMahon seemed to take delight in firing Jeff Jarrett on national television in one of his many megalomaniacal acts. Jeff Jarrett had said that night; he watched as a lot of his friends, whether it was wrestling on the roster or even folks in the production trucks, were going to be left without a job. The same night this man was fired on television, he was thinking about the future of other people he had worked with. He was one of the folks who had a contract with Time Warner, so he was lucky enough to be able to simply sit at home and collect a paycheck. Who wouldn’t want to get a bunch of money to sit at home, right? During this time he actually toured other countries wrestling for a group ran by Andrew McManus known as World Wrestling All-Stars where he took time to learn other parts to the wrestling business such as how to run a company and even production.
Then while going on a fishing trip that summer, he had a conversation with his father Jerry Jarrett and former WCW employee Bob Ryder. He had an idea to start another National wrestling promotion that would be available through weekly PPVs giving wrestling fans an alternative product from the WWE. This should go down as a very important part of wrestling history because when WCW had closed its doors, you didn’t really see WWE get ratings in the 6’s or 7’s afterwards, did you? No. they remained around the same before dropping and then plateauing after WWE itself saw its start begin to cool down and wrestling fans started leaving the product in droves. What this shows is that WCW did have its own set of fans out there despite how poor the product had gotten near the end. Those 2.1-2.6 is the equivalent to around 3 million viewers who were still watching WCW each and every week. 3 million wrestling viewers that pro wrestling hasn’t been able to get back since then if you think about it! While Bob Ryder and Jerry Jarrett took the conversation as simply fishing talk, Jeff Jarrett would actually go home and start getting things together to make the dream into a reality.
With TNA Wrestling, Jeff Jarrett created jobs for a group of folks who would have been forced to toll it out on the independent wrestling scene in front of 50-100 people for 25 dollars a night or battle for one of the jobs over in another country. And while TNA isn’t the greatest promotion in the World compared to the WWE machine, it still has a passionate fan base who want to it succeed in professional wrestling because the more jobs for the wrestling business, the better! From that first show in 2002, we have seen TNA going from being a company that marks and so-called experts said would be dead “any day now” to a company that is now recognized as the number 2 promotion in North America. A lot of folks will point to how Jeff Jarrett held the World title hostage during TNA’s early years, and I understand that backlash because I was one of those people. I am not saying what he did was right, but I understand why he did it. He did the same thing that guys like Eddie Graham, Jerry Lawler, Verne Gagne, and Fritz von Erich did as the owners of their companies; keep the title around their waist because you can only trust yourself, and you will never run out on your own company.
Sadly, it appears that with Jarrett no longer having a majority stake in the company that he founded that the goal is for guys like Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan to get rid of him completely. I truly hope that this doesn’t happen because as the founder, he should always have a place with that organization if nothing else. It will soon be 11 years since that first show, and the company that he started is still standing with a national TV deal, shows going from city to city, international presence and an excellent roster. If TNA were to one day fall apart, Jeff Jarrett definitely wouldn’t be the man to blame. Jarrett himself probably knows that TNA can do just fine without Hulk Hogan and still do the same ratings while saving a lot of money. Unfortunately, it is out of his hands at this point. In closing, I think that it’s time that we give this this Tennessean the props that he deserves for not only creating more jobs on the national wrestling scene, but for allowing more men and women in the wrestling world a chance to live out their dream of being on national television in front of a live audience. Let’s take a moment to give props to J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T! “Double J” “Slapnuts” “The King of the Mountain” Jeff Jarrett. Eleven-time World Champion and founder of TNA Wrestling.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @whosantcox, and I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time, wrestling fans!
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