Jeff Jarrett Crosses The Line
TNA's Slammiversary Pay Per View is headed your way this Sunday, June 21. It features Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, A. J. Styles and Mick Foley in a "King of the Mountain" Match for the TNA World Title. Other matches include Sting vs. Matt Morgan and Christopher Daniels vs. Shane Douglas.
If Jeff Jarrett were one of those cartoonish shadowy watch salesmen in trench coats that you were always told were roaming around the streets of Times Square, he'd have golden wrestling title belts inside his jacket instead of Rolex knockoffs. During his squared-circle tenure, Jarrett's held the NWA Title, the WCW World Title, the Intercontinental Title and countless more. Oh, and back in 2002, not soon after WCW got swallowed into the gaping maw of the WWE, Jarrett went out and founded a little wrestling company called TNA.
I had a chance to talk to Jeff Jarrett this week about the Slammiversary Pay Per View - but first I had to tell him that I'd been watching him on TV since the early '90s, when I would catch the USWA on cable. Once I got all my gushing out of the way, I settled down enough and got into "interviewin'."
IGN TV: I just have to add, before I get into it here, that as a city boy, The Moondogs scared the hell outta me.
Jeff Jarrett: Woo. Hey. They scared the hell outta me sometimes too. They were crazy.
IGN: I really liked what I saw from the USWA back then, because you guys had blood and big open arena brawls. You would hit each other with real solid trashcans. It was brutal.
Jarrett: Cool. Before ECW was even thought of we were doing the hardcore stuff.
IGN: No, it's true. You started out as alternative programming for me, for the WWF. And now, you're back at it again. I have to know, when you created TNA back in 2002, did you ever think it would stick around this long, and climb as high as it's gotten?
Jarrett: In an interview I did years and years back, and found by our production team, I said, "It started as a dream, the dream became a reality and the reality is becoming a phenomenon." For me to say that I knew it would grow to where it is now…I always had very high aspirations and expectations that one day we would get there, but for me to say that I knew we'd be here after seven years, I'm not too sure I could say that. Just from all aspects of our business. How we've not just become a domestic or even a North American company, but we're truly an international presence. With all of our great licensees and the fan base that we've built, it's nothing short of a phenomenon.
IGN: Going through your wrestling career, working for the WWE and WCW, did you always have an "itch" to run things? Being the son of a promoter, did you always have ideas about bookings and such?
Jarrett: Well, I'm third generation. My grandmother actually, my father's mother, she didn't wrestle but she did everything in a wrestling organization except wrestle. Being third generation, I've always, from day one, looked at this business not just through a wrestler's eyes. First and foremost, I'm a wrestling fan. From a very young age, I can remember going out and watching the matches and watching my dad wrestle. I've always just been a big fan. And then as time went on and I worked for the regional promotions for the first seven years of my career, from Japan to Puerto Rico, to my home base of Tennessee, to Texas – I always looked at it, again, not just through a wrestler's eyes, but through a businessman's eyes. I went to the WWF in October of '93 and I went back and forth between the WWF and WCW through 2001, when Vince acquired his competition, I've always looked at it from a production standpoint, a wrestler's standpoint, a business stand point – basically a bottom line standpoint. I wouldn't say I had the "itch," I just knew that one day I'd be more involved and take it one step further than just being a performer.
IGN: TNA's motto these days is "Cross the Line." What does that mean to you? What does that say about TNA?
Jarrett: "Cross the Line" has several meanings. I guess the first one that comes to my head is a fan crossing the line to take a view at our product. We're a different wrestling organization from top to bottom and all throughout. We like to be innovative. We don't like to sit back and do things that they've been doing, whether it's last year, five years ago, ten or twenty years ago. Our business is built on the fundamentals of professional wrestling, but we've always tried to be innovative and we want the viewer to know that. That we're gonna do things differently. That we're gonna surprise you at times. We're gonna do things more creatively. But cross the line, first and foremost, means you the viewer giving us an opportunity. And once you sit down and watch a little bit of TNA, you won't be able to get enough of TNA.
IGN: Speaking of innovation, TNA is known for coming up with new types of matches. What are some of your favorites over the years?
Jarrett: There's a few that come off the top of my head. Obviously, we're going into Slammiversary this weekend and that features the King of the Mountain Match. It's a reverse ladder match with a penalty box being a part of it. And it's a two stage match. You have to get a pinfall to qualify, and then you have to climb a ladder and hang the belt. It's a different-type of match. The Ultimate X and the Elevation X are two other types of matches that I think we've had success with. The Ultimate X match is basically a ladder match without a ladder and Elevation X is a new and improved version of the scaffold match from years gone by. And then the Steel Asylum, that's a good one too. Of the top of my head, those are some of my favorites. And the wrestlers, the talent that we have, they're the ones that truly make it unique and in the TNA style.
IGN: Now that the WWE has gone PG and has a family-friendly product, does this create more of an opportunity for you to perhaps win over some of the older, more hardcore viewers?
Jarrett: Well, it goes without saying that we always keep an eye on our competition. Without a doubt. Whether it's the WWE, or a much smaller organization. We keep an eye on everything that's going on out there. But we also keep our eye on the ball and we've always present a product where we might "cross the line" every now and then. But first a foremost, we are professional wrestling. Sports Entertainment is the fancy term for it now these days, but professional wrestling, dating back to the '50s has always been about drama and creating larger than life characters and the opportunities that we're trying to take advantage of have always been the same. We just keep driving and keep trying to win over fans one fan at a time.
IGN: On Impact last week, you had a segment with Mick Foley where he brought up some of you past in-ring "altercations" with celebrities. My personal favorite was when you put the figure four on Ben Stiller back in 1999, when he was on RAW promoting Mystery Men. In TNA, over the years you've had everyone from Toby Keith to Dennis Rodman get involved at some point? Are celebrities still the best way to get more media attention for wrestling?
Jarrett: Celebrity involvement in professional wrestling has always been around. Joe Louis was involved back in the '70s. Ali has done a stint here and there. The '80s and '90s are well chronicled, with the Wrestlemanias, and then in the '90s with the "attitude era." And in WCW, you had Rodman and then Leno. And, as of late, there have been several stunts going on. It always brings eyeballs. It's up to the wrestling promoter to keep those eyeballs. Celebrity involvement will always be a part of our business.
IGN: Slammiversary is coming up this Sunday. What can you tell me about this show? What is the theme or idea behind this Pay Per View?
Jarrett: Without a doubt, it's a time for celebration. This is our seventh year. Lucky seven. We had our critics, and we still have our critics, and we'll always have our critics – but a lot of guys said we wouldn't make it through our first year and here we are celebrating our seven year anniversary. That says a lot right there. It's about celebration. It's about the King of the Mountain – our annual marquee match. And this year's a little unique in that not only are we having one King of the Mountain match, but we're also having a King of the Mountain match for the X Division Title. And we've also got stars now, with us being in business for seven years, we have the opportunity to go back and revisit some of the stars who helped us get to where we are today. Raven. Shane Douglas. So, yes it's a time of reflection, but we're also not going to stray far from our theme of Total Nonstop Action.
IGN: Now I know this spans a lot, but what have been some of your career highlights as a performer? What have been some of your favorite matches?
Jarrett: That's a tough one. And I do get asked that often. I mean if you want to go back through my 20 year career…early in my career I had some of my favorite matches. I actually wrestled Nick Bockwinkel. I believe he was either 50 or 51, and I was 19. I wrestled Curt Hennig. Jerry Lawler. Those are some of my favorite matches. Back early early in my career, in the territory days, me and Shawn Michaels had some great matches. If you want to get into the WWF I had some great matches with Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels and those were some highlights. And then if you want to head over to WCW, there were some unique matches. Me and DDP had some good ones. Scott Steiner. There was a run there, when I was really working hard and there was a lot going on, I'll say off camera and backstage with a lot of politics. And I really kept my focus on going out there and performing. I was only going to do the things that I could control. I wanted to go out there every night and give my best effort. And then when you get into the TNA years…the first King of the Mountain match. Man, nobody knew how that was going to come off. And I can remember the people in the asylum that night. They were exhausted after the match and so were the performers, but it was a very special one. Me and Kevin Nash had a match in the Impact Zone on a Pay Per View a couple years ago that was really cool. Me and Jeff Hardy had a couple good matches and then there was the King of the Mountain match when I regained the title and the people rioted in the Impact Zone. There was some real raw emotion going on there. Those would all have to be some of my career highlights.