Interview: Jeff Jarrett talks about India tapings, former management, WCW, Slapnutz & more
The Executive Producer of Impact Wrestling spoke to us at length.
One day removed from the historic Impact Wrestling tapings in Mumbai, India, Jeff Jarrett seems like a very happy man indeed. Back in a promoter’s role, he is a man who believes in his product and realises the potential of the massive Indian market.
Sportskeeda Wrestling picked his brains about several topics, and Jarrett, a talkative man, was happy to indulge us all. He discussed a wide variety of subjects in this exclusive interview. Read on.
Q. Why India? How important is India as a market?
Jeff Jarrett: It’s very important. You know, we are here at The Westin, minutes away from Film City (site of the Impact Zone in Mumbai) and this isn’t my first time in India producing professional wrestling but it’s very obvious that over the last 120 days, Anthem Wrestling and the new ownership and the new regime...it’s a rebuilding of the brand and it’s a priority.
With the United States, it’s our home base but with the United Kingdom and India, both of them are our top priorities. Impact coming to India and producing content has been talked about for a long time and here we are.
My family’s been in the business for over 70 years, so to do something that is a first is very hard. And so producing Impact on Indian soil is truly history making. It’s something that no one takes lightly. We are very, very excited, from the production to the administration to the talent, every facet of our organisation is truly excited.
How ironic is it that we're producing 4 episodes of Impact that lead up to our fifteen year anniversary. In the States, Slammiversary coming up on July 2nd, is a pay-per-view. Around the world, it is premium content. We’ve been here two days and couldn’t be more excited.
Q. Will we ever see a pay-per-view being produced in India?
Jeff Jarrett: You know as a part of this rebuilding of the brand, you know you've to crawl first before you walk and then run. India is a big part of our priority in that we want to grow this. We currently produce 196 hours of original content a year, and so we’re about to produce 8 hours here in Mumbai.
I think that’s the starting point and we would love to not only produce Impact Episodes but also pay-per-views, live events and create merchandising and licensing. You know, our digital content has exploded all around the world, but India, with Google Analytics you can look at it from a market-to-market basis and India’s right there at the very top.
Q. Will you be stepping into the ring also, at Slammiversary?
Jeff Jarrett: I’ve got my promoter cap on. Firstly, my wife doesn't want me in the ring. Karen is like- ‘Stay out of it’. Obviously, being inside the ring and wrestling is my first love. It’s something I grew up dreaming about and then [I] got to step into the ring with all the greats.
Before I was a wrestler, and certainly before I was a promoter, I was a wrestling fan. It’s something I still love. You know, I’m just past my 31st year in the business...that does make me feel old...but no, my in-ring days are far behind me. [However, you can] Never say never in this business.
Q. How did the idea of introducing the GFW titles in Impact Wrestling come about, and which one would you say holds more prestige right now, the Impact Wrestling belts or the GFW belts?
Jeff Jarrett: It’s a real simple answer. In the month of January, I consulted for Impact as Anthem became the owners of Impact. It's no secret that in 2013, I resigned from, at that time, TNA Entertainment and started a new organisation called Global Force Wrestling.
We went to Vegas, produced content, continued to run live events and merch and everything that goes with that. As Impact and Anthem reached out to me, it became very clear that our goals were going to be aligned, and now actually, we’re in the final stages of merging.
What has more prestige? You know, me and my father...June 19th, 2002...I founded this organisation. It has a 15-year lineage. So it goes without saying that the Impact titles obviously have more prestige, whether it’s the Knockouts, or the Tag Team or the Heavyweight.
It's a no-brainer, but we're in the process of merging the two organisations, and it’s something we’re all very excited about.
Q. How did the idea of Slapnutz come about? How did the guitar become your thing?
Jeff Jarrett: Oh Slapnutz. That is a legendary term that, to this day, continues to garner quite a bit of interest. Whether it's Beetlejuice or Mae Young and Moolah, they’ve all been smacked on the head with a guitar and called a Slapnut.
I remember in the early days of Slapnutz, we were in Detroit, Michigan and I was working for WCW where I was pulled into a small room, and Standards and Practices looked at me and said:
‘Jeff, we want you to explain something to us. We really want to know what’s going on, because we have been called from the North Tower of the Turner Organization and asked what actually is a Slapnut, We feel this needs to be censored.’
So, Slapnutz was derived from my grandmother Christine Jarrett and she used to call people slappy. A slappy was someone who slapped their gums together. She would say, they know more and more about less and less every day.
Let that sink in. So you put that in 1999 language and you turn it into a slapnut, with a Z. It sort of just took off, sold a lot of t-shirts, had a lot of fun. It’s funny. Here we are in 2017, in Mumbai, India and you're asking me about Slapnutz. You're the crazy one (Laughs).
Q. How about the guitar?
Jeff Jarrett: You know, I’m from music city, which is Nashville, Tenessee. Obviously born and raised on country music. Have a lot of buddies, John Rich, Toby Keith...the list goes on and on. But you know the guitar...it fit, it’s a great equalizer, made for many entertaining moments whether it is Ben Stiller or Cindy Margolis or Mae Young or Beetlejuice, there's a lot of people who've been smacked over the head with a guitar and so, it just fit.
Q. The final days of WCW. Any memories of that era you'd like to share with us?
Jeff Jarrett: You know, a lot of people want to point fingers about the downfall, but when you step back and take a look at it, it was a series of, I don't even want to call them mistakes. A series of circumstances that led to the situation.
You know the AOL-Time merger was the beginning of the end regardless. Then you’ve got to put into account everything that goes with it- live events, licensing, everything. It’s obviously something that was very successful at the time and it actually went south pretty quick, when you look back at it.
That’s life. A lot of things could have happened out of that, but Vince McMahon at the end...you tip your hat to him. He bought it, pennies to the dollar and 3-4 years prior to that he was getting beaten weekly in ratings, live events, everything. He dug his heels in.
At the end of the day, he didn’t just win...he stood on top of the mountain, as the King of the Mountain, and he won big.
Q. There have been a lot of departures from Impact Wrestling? Will that affect the product and how will fresh blood coming in reinvigorate the product?
Jeff Jarrett: When one door closes, another always opens. In the reorganisation, the rebuilding of the brand, we had to make decisions, others made decisions for themselves. Yes, talent went out of the door. New talent came in.
It goes without saying, at the end of the day, that the prior regime lost the Spike Deal, they lost Destination America, they lost lots of talent- AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode. It is no secret that if it had not been for Anthem, specifically Len Asper, Ed Nordholm, and company...I wouldn't be sitting here in Mumbai talking about producing content the next day.
So they took the brand...it wasn’t just in the grave...it was in the graveyard with the coffin shut and they brought it out. Before they came on board, I won’t even call it a comedy of errors...in the financial world, they call it a ‘death spot’ and that’s what happened.
Anyone who was part of it, not from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out, knows that it wouldn't have existed. Talent, production...it goes down to the square footage of the office space...that was changed.
We’ve got opportunities around the world. Spike TV in the United Kingdom is a huge opportunity. World of Sport. We’ve got opportunities in Israel. We’ve got opportunities through Africa. United States and Canada.
Game Network and Fight Network...it's all a part of digging our heels in, doing work, but we’re all excited about it and I’m personally very thankful about the opportunity.
Q. What's your favourite match from your entire Impact career? Name just one.
Jeff Jarrett: That’s not going to be easy to answer because in the early days I had several matches with AJ Styles that I really, really remember. AJ...phenomenal is his moniker but that’s so true. I think of different matches. Mick Foley and Sting in Detroit. It’s still the biggest buy rate that the company ever did.
If I have to say one match, it’s probably in Cincinnati. The 2/3 falls cage match with Kurt Angle. At that stage of my career, I was training like crazy and really wanted to dive in and have the best possible match. I felt it, not for days but weeks. Yes, Lockdown in Cincinnati against Kurt Angle.
Q. If you had to return for another match against someone from the current roster, who would you pick?
Jeff Jarrett: (Thoughtfully) Who would I wrestle from the current roster? EC3. EC3 has a unique ability to evoke emotion and that’s what our business is about. He’s got the promo skills, he's got the in-ring skills and everything that goes with it. If you're going to hold me to it, I'd say EC3.
Q. Final question. Are you still a part of The Bullet Club?
Jeff Jarrett: Of course. Once you’re inducted you're always inducted. Just ask Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. (Laughs)
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