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"I wasn't an employee" - Ex-WWE veteran talks about his 15-year 'handshake deal' with Vince McMahon 

Vince McMahon.
Vince McMahon.
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 28 Apr 2021
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WWE has released several veteran talents and employees over the past few years, but news of Jim Johnston's WWE departure in 2017 turned quite a few heads as the iconic composer worked with the company for almost 32 years.

However, Jim Johnston was not even an official WWE employee for his first 15 years in the promotion. The creator of some of the most memorable WWE theme songs appeared on a recent episode of "Insight with Chris Van Vliet," and he opened up about his "handshake deal" with Vince McMahon.

Johnston noted that he and Vince McMahon abided by a 'handshake deal' until WWE became a publicly traded company. The change in WWE's business model and the arrival of lawyers and risk assessment experts changed how the company looked at its employees.

So then I got a contract: Jim Johnston on why WWE finally signed him after 15 years

Jim Johnston wasn't under a WWE contract, and he could have just joined any other major organization at the drop of a hat. WWE quickly signed him to a long-term deal. However, Johnston stated that he would have been pleased to work on a handshake deal until his final day in the WWE.

"For the first 15 years, maybe longer, Vince and I just had a handshake agreement," Johnston stated. "I wasn't an employee. It wasn't like he didn't want me as an employee or I didn't want to be; it's just we were fine with the way things were. It wasn't until the company went public and it was, 'bring on the lawyers.' They come in and do risk assessments. They are like, 'This guy can just walk out and work for the NFL tomorrow; that wouldn't be a good thing.' So then I got a contract and became an employee. In my admiration for Vince, I think we would have worked until my last day with a handshake, and both be perfectly happy."

Jim Johnston is inarguably the greatest composer when it comes to theme songs in professional wrestling, and the WWE firing was quite a shocking development considering his body of work.

The veteran also spoke about whether he was in touch with AEW, his final WWE song, a potential Hall of Fame induction, and much more during the latest Chris Van Vliet interview, which you can view above in its entirety.

Published 28 Apr 2021
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