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Q&A: Jeff Jarrett Talks WWE, TNA, Future of GFW

Jeff Jarrett was born to be in the wrestling business. The third-generation wrestler has performed for pretty much every promotion, everywhere around the world at some point in is career.

His latest work is with Global Force Wrestling, which he co-founded with his wife Karen Jarrett in April of 2014. Today’s Knockout spoke with Jeff Jarrett leading up to GFW’s first live of events of 2016 on Jan. 22-23 in New York and New Jersey. Among the topics we discussed were his thoughts on TNA guys thriving in the WWE, his unique perspective on the Monday Night War, how his guitar gimmick started and what he does with his free time.

Today’s Knockout: To start things off, could you describe how Global Force Wrestling came to be and what the last year or so has been like for the company?

Jeff Jarrett: It’s no secret that in December of 2013 I left TNA. Resigned from my position there. That chapter of my life was over. So I took a couple months off and sat back and looked at the landscape of professional wrestling. I wasn’t gonna get out of the business. My family has been in the wrestling business for over 70 years. I looked at it and began to formulate a plan and April of 2014 was the day we named the company and came out publicly with it.

After weeks and months rolled along, I went out to different promotions I’ve got relationships with, New Japan, and AAA in Mexico, great promotions all through Europe and South Africa and Australia, and began to formulate a plan to have a professional wrestling brand in the marketplace that’s doing things a little different than they have been done. Create working relationships. Professionally help one another. WWE is the 8,000-pound gorilla in the marketplace. My philosophy is that we don’t have to do everything together, but certainly create working agreements with other promotions. I think it helps everyone.

We launched in January of this year with our first ever co-production with New Japan Pro Wrestling. We had the opportunity to bring Wrestle Kingdom 9 to North American wrestling fans as well as fans around the globe. It was a very successful night. Jim Ross on the board. I couldn’t have been happier. The wrestling fans were pretty happy. It was a great way to kick off 2015.

Then as we moved into the spring and summer months, we had the press conference at the Orleans Arena. Orleans are great partners. That’s where we shot our television shows July, August and October. We shot the very first episodes of Amped. We launched the GFW Grand Slam Tour in 2015. That’s where we partnered with minor league baseball teams across the country. It was a real grass roots initiative. We really began to spread the word and create that fan base. It doesn’t happen overnight. The Grand Slam Tour was very successful from a point of view of brand awareness. Certainly we didn’t sell out any of the stadiums, but we certainly created fans in each market and put on great shows.

TKO: What is different about GFW? Lucha Underground has a lucha libre style to it. ROH has an ECW vibe to it. What is unique about GFW?

JJ: When you see our footage, we got a saying within our studio: “We don’t write stories, we document stories.” We got a real authentic feel, whether it’s the Bullet Club, or the Killer Elite Squad. We have some great lucha libre action. We have the Bullet Club, which is strong style. We have Kongo Kong, which is obviously a monster-type billing. You got Nick Aldis, a British wrestler. So very diversified styles under one umbrella is definitely unique to Global Force Wrestling. Like you said, different brands stick to one style of wrestling. We want to have multiple styles of wrestling under one umbrella. When you come to our shows, that’s something people really took away from the Grand Slam Tour, just what they got from the experience. Just what they got from the interaction with the Global Force Wrestling stars.

TKO: How similar was founding GFW to when you co-founded TNA in 2002?

JJ: It’s a different world than 2002. Everyone knows in 2002 you didn’t have all the streaming services. Just came out this week, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. All those streaming shows are now up for awards. The world is completely different. If there’s one thing I learned, you certainly can’t rush a product to the market. It’s a real step-by-step, methodical set of circumstances.

In 2002, social media didn’t really exist. Now it’s enormous. The challenge is in the name. We are global. The challenge is we got the content to create a global launch event, both domestically and internationally on multiple platforms. The days of a brand just releasing content on one platform, whether it’s broadcast or cable or digital, those days are gone. You have to have a multi-tiered platform launch. That takes time.

TKO: Are you proud of what you were able to accomplish with TNA even if you’re no longer with the company?

JJ: I’ve said this numerous times, the days of TNA, I couldn’t be more proud of where we started and as we had things running and rolling through 2009, 2010. It was a lot of hard work. A lot of fun. A lot of ups and downs, but it’s something that I put my soul, heart, and body, everything I possibly could into that company. I’m absolutely proud of the successes we had while I was there.

TKO: What do you think of former TNA guys such as Samoa Joe, Sting and the Dudley Boyz thriving in the WWE?

JJ: As a promoter, not just as a promoter, but as a wrestler, it goes without saying, the cream will always rise to the top. Everybody that you just mentioned there are phenomenal talent that are successful and successful because they have passion and they love the business and they work hard at it.

TKO: Do you watch the WWE at all?

JJ: I’m a wrestling fan, and I mean that. I watch it all. WWE Network, archived footage, I watch Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor, Raw, Smackdown, Impact, New Japan, YouTube wrestling. I watch it all. It’s obviously what I do, but it’s also something I’m a fan of.

TKO: What do you think of Samoa Joe headlining NXT Takeover in London? You did some great stuff with him in TNA.

JJ: I couldn’t be happier for Joe. He’s a fantastic talent. When he came into TNA and went on his streak, and when he went head up against Kurt [Angle], those were some really memorable moments. I’m happy for Joe.

TKO: Are you disappointed that the WWE has acted like Sting never wrestled in TNA? Sting was a big part of TNA for a long time.

JJ: Not at all. For me to be disappointed in that is so shortsighted. Vince McMahon, we don’t have time to talk about all the success he’s had in this business. If he believes that’s the best route to take, then hats off to him. I may or may not disagree with him, but it’s irrelevant what my thought is because WWE is his company and he’ll run it the way he wants to run it.

TKO: What was it like for you being on both sides of the Monday Night War? You had an interesting perspective.

JJ: What a time to be in the business. At WCW when the NWO exploded, you would hear about tickets going on sale at this market and it’d be sold out within days. Every Nitro we went to was sold out. The momentum, when I tell you it exploded is almost doing it a disservice. The business got red hot. Then the Attitude Era was lost and Vince and the Survivor Series situation. You go into how hot DX and the Rock, just loads and loads of talent and how red hot that was during that time period. It was a great time to be a wrestling fan. It’s a time that will never be recaptured, not because of creative, and not because of talent. It’s because the times were different. There weren’t DVRs. One program was on one channel and one was on the other, so two TVs are flipping back and forth. What a great time to be a wrestling fan.

TKO: How have you been able to get such good heat with wrestling fans throughout your career? It’s become a lost art of sorts these days.

JJ: You gotta want to do it. It’s literally that simple. I know that’s a real simplified answer, but you have to want to do that. If you don’t, the fans without question see right through it. You gotta be authentic. There are some phenomenal heels in the business today. When you look at New Japan, that group is really doing professional wrestling very well.

TKO: How did the guitar gimmick come to be? The gimmick has stuck with you throughout your career.

JJ: It was a pretty natural fit. When I went to the WWF at that time in ‘93, I had wrestled the territories in Texas, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and Japan, different places around the world, but that was the first time I’d really stood on a national stage. “I’m Jeff Jarrett, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee and I love country music.” It all just fit. It certainly has stuck.

TKO: Did you ever think you’d be in the business for this long and how long do you plan on staying?

JJ: I’m a lifer. It’s something I love and have more of a passion for today than I ever have because there’s so much opportunity. Basketball was my first love, but I found out real quick when I got into college that I wasn’t gonna make a career out of that for sure. But it’s something that I’ve always been fascinated with as a kid. Whether it’s selling coke or popcorn at a concessions stand or programs, or setting up rings, or helping to promote with my grandfather, just all facets of it. I’ve always been very fascinated with it. The television end, all aspects of it.

TKO: What is life outside of wrestling for you?

JJ: God comes first and my family comes second. Karen and my kids are my life. As a family we love to have spare time or free time. Fun time is going out on the water and spending the day out on the lake. All the kids are active in their sports, in their arts. Kyra playing the guitar, the girls playing ball, and Kody, he loves wrestling. So I’m a family man and a man of faith.

TKO: When will the GFW TV tapings become available and where can they be found? I know you have 16 tapings already, but fans haven’t been able to watch anything yet.

JJ: You stay tuned in 2016. The strategy we are going to roll out in the first quarter of 2016 is very exciting. Stay tuned.

TKO: Has it been difficult scheduling events for GFW? Most guys on the GFW roster belong to different promotions so I imagine it’s difficult getting everyone together at the same time.

JJ: Timing is everything in this business. That includes scheduling. It’s always a challenge, but it’s always been a challenge. You’re always gonna have challenges no matter what business you’re in. But the good thing is, over the last 16-18 months, we began to form our talent database. It got a few chuckles from people at the time, but it’s legit. You look at the depth of talent in the world today, and it puts a smile on a wrestling promoter’s face. That’s for sure.

TKO: To wrap things up, how will GFW be successful in the more distant future?

JJ: At the end of the day, a business is either a success or not based on the bottom line. As we go into the Grand Slam Tour of 2016, and we got other live events we’ll be announcing and other tapings. Our social media will continue to grow. Just all parameters that you can work in professional wrestling. We want to continue to grow our fanbase. At the end of the day, try and do things different… We got some unique opportunities that we’re discussing, as far as presenting different styles of wrestling in 2016. We got a bunch of unique different things that we’re looking forward to sharing.

 

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