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January 15, 2011

Q&A with TNA star Jeff Jarrett

I conducted a phone interview earlier this week with TNA founder and star Jeff Jarrett, who is scheduled to face TNA world champion Mr. Anderson in the main event of two TNA house shows this weekend in Maryland – Saturday in Upper Marlboro and Sunday in Hagerstown.

Baltimore has a long tradition of being a wrestling town, and even though it's a traditional WWE market, Baltimore was a big city in the '80s and '90s for other promotions such as the Crocketts and WCW. Now that TNA is coming to Maryland, could we eventually see a TNA show — perhaps a pay-per-view event — in Baltimore in the future?

I've always looked at Baltimore — WCW and the Crocketts, as you know, had monster shows there — as one of those unique cities where both promotions [WWE and whatever its chief competitor was at the time] worked very, very well. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I've always wanted to bring a big event to Baltimore since TNA was founded, and I definitely think it's in the works. Is it going to come this year? Probably not. But I can't tell you how many tweets I've gotten and how many fans that come from Maryland to see us in Pennsylvania and Virginia say, “When are you going to come to Maryland?” The Maryland wrestling fan — there's a lot of them.


For fans who have never seen a TNA house show, how would you describe it and what makes it different from other wrestling companies' shows?

There are two things that make them stand out. We literally put on the very best live, in-ring wrestling show in the world — and I'm third-generation, as you know, and have probably been to more live shows than anybody my age [43], so I have a pretty good perspective. We offer four distinct styles — from X Division to tag team to Knockouts to heavyweight. Then at times we have a little touch of hard-core on the show. So our in-ring product is second to none. And something just as important — you know, fan-friendly has been used as a term a lot, but not only are we fan-friendly, but we are the most fan-interactive professional wrestling show that I have ever witnessed or been a part of. Back in the day we used to say, “What time does the show start?” Well at TNA, I like to promote the time that the doors open. And they open up an hour before showtime, and you have autographs and pictures from the time you come in the door. We'll have somebody at the [merchandise] stand — Don West — literally doing deals on the spot that are very unique. During intermission, we reward the loudest, rowdiest fans with backstage passes, so we have a meet-and-greet, and then at the end of the night we give all the fans an opportunity to actually get up in the ring and have their picture taken with a TNA star. So we're very, very fan interactive.

Without getting into specifics, is TNA profitable at this point?

Absolutely. We turned that corner four or five years ago. Like WWE or any other business, would we like to be making more money? Sure, but the reality is that the U.S. economy is still in a recession, and internationally we have different economies to deal with, but all in all, we're pleased.

Wrestling fans and people in the industry often get caught up in TV ratings and pay-per-view buy rates, and in those two areas TNA is far behind WWE. But there is certainly more that goes into having a successful wrestling company — other revenue streams, other things to consider. What are some aspects of company business that you're the most happy with?

[Toy manufacturer and licensee] Jakks Pacific comes to mind, and international television. That's probably the first two off the top, and then the [merchandise], and Don West is a huge part of that. He is so in tune and in touch with the TNA fan — what they like, what they don't like. He's an absolutely great salesman, great marketer — that's his background going back to the Shop at Home Network days. There's also the live events. We're not a huge touring company — we do between 80 and 100 shows a year, but we'll call it a lean, mean machine when we take it on the road, and they're very entertaining and they're profitable.

Do you have any specific goals for TNA in 2011?

We want to grow the brand globally. We've got a tour of Europe coming next week. We're looking at taking it potentially to a couple other sites overseas. We want to see the live events continue to grow, [merchandise] to grow. We just want to continue to grow on everything, and that's sort of a broad answer, but it's the truth.

It’s been a little over a year since Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came on board with TNA. Are you happy with where the company is at this point?

We have people in positions now more than ever to succeed. And I’m talking about behind the scenes and as far as our roster goes from top to bottom – Kurt Angle, X Division, the Hardys, RVD, Mr. Anderson. We’ve got an incredible roster. Short answer: Yes, I’m very pleased with where we’re headed.

I know that pretty much since the beginning of TNA that you wanted to one day see the company go head-to-head on Monday nights against Raw. That happened in 2010, but, obviously, it didn’t turn out well for TNA. Is that something that you would look to do again at some point in the future, or is it kind of “been there, done that, it didn’t really work so we’re going to stay where we are?”

We learned, just like the wrestling fans learned, that the world has changed. Back in the “Monday Night Wars,” that was before our good little friend called the DVR was around, and you had to flip back and forth. Nowadays, the viewing habits are just entirely different and we found that out. The landscape has changed, so we’ve planted our feet in our ground and we’re making it grow, and that’s our strategy right now. Had we not tried it, though, we would have never found out.

We know that you’re the TNA founder, but beyond being talent, what is your role at this point? Are you involved at all in business decisions or creative decisions?

Thank God, not in creative [laughs]. That is a thankless job, and if you do it right, the talent gets all the credit, and if you do it wrong, you get all the blame. But as far as my role, I’m very involved in the live events, the marketing, and the licensing program – I worked very, very closely with Jakks when that lifted off the ground. The live events business takes up an enormous amount of time, so those are the three hats that I would say that I wear the most.

You were out of the spotlight for a while as a performer. As a viewer, it looks to me like you’re rejuvenated and you’re really enjoying yourself out there. Is that an accurate assessment?

Absolutely, that’s a very accurate assessment. Every year, I sort of look at where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I’m coming up on my 25th year. Rejuvenated, I guess, is one way to look at it. I’m absolutely having a blast with what I’m doing. Performing in the ring has always been my first true love, so I’m very, very pleased with where I’m at. I think the more dimensions you have, the better performer you are, and I think this is an avenue that I’ve walked down that the viewer has really latched onto. It’s a win-win – a win for me and a win for the viewer.

What’s it like working in a story line with your wife and her ex-husband, Kurt Angle?

Well, story line is a word that doesn’t quite actually apply if you know what I mean. Me and Kurt – on a personal note, we’re good; on a professional note, I don’t think we’ll ever be on the same page. But it’s very unique, real, raw emotions. He’ll say his piece, and I’ll say my piece, and probably more importantly, Karen’s going to say her piece. It’s going to be very, very interesting.

I have to ask you about Jeff Hardy’s legal situation. Did that play a part in the decision to take the TNA world title off him? Is his legal situation a concern at all for TNA?

Respectfully, no comment.

Another think I need to ask – and this is sort of old news – but there was so much talk over the summer about Paul Heyman coming to TNA. Was that ever close to happening?

Paul brings a unique skill set to the table, but I don’t think it ever really got serious, to be honest with you. That’s a difficult question, because obviously there are two sides – his side and TNA’s side – but it never really developed into anything serious.

Photo courtesy of TNA Wrestling

Posted by Kevin Eck at 2:13 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Q&As


Good interview. Good questions. Well done, Kev.

Excellent interview. I have always been a fan of JJ and the few times I have met him he has always been real personable.

RESPONSE FROM KE: I got back with Jeff to the WCW days 10-11 years ago. Always a class act.

Great interview Kevin. I'm glad you asked him about Jeff Hardy. His answer would make one think Jeff isn't going to get some very good news in a few more days but I guess we'll find out.

TNA is very fortunate to have a person such as Don West working at their live events and behind the scenes. His infectious personality and vast experience in sales makes him a tremendous asset any business would envy.

Hogan, Flair, Bischoff, Hardy and co. have not been successful for TNA.

Their PPV buys and TV ratings are the exact same, if not lower than ever and their costs are way higher.

Wasn't Jarrett the genius who brought Russo into TNA?

Nice stuff. If I lived on the East Coast or was closer to anywhere they go for house shows, I'd check them out.

Jarrett has a great mind for the business side of wrestling. He's an insightful, articulate and a knowledgable person.

With his historical understanding of and experience in all aspects of the wrestling business, his diligence and determination, he's been an asset to TNA. Along with others there, he has helped provide fans with an viable alternative source of entertainment to the WWE.

As an in ring performer, I've always thought he was average -- with not a lot of charisma and an adequate but not a great worker. He was, and is, however, an interesting character, whose in ring persona seems to include a lot of his own personality.

However, that itself may pose difficult issues, because not all real life family or personal situations may be suitable for incorporation into wrestling storylines. It may make for good television and ratings to trade off of the associated "raw emotions" that he mentions in your interview. But there may be complicated and significant real life implications of doing that, which should be carefully considered, particularly when there are likely to be many peoples' feelings involved.

Thanks Kevin, great interview. Kevin, do you believe him when he said TNA is profitable?

RESPONSE FROM KE: I'll take him at is word.

Jeff Jarrett has the heritage to be useful behind the scenes and perhaps he does more than meets the eye, but as a wrestler or "performer".......he NEVER drew a dime and never will.

I went tot he Upper Marlboro show ans was really impress with the fan interaction. It is a very interactive show witha lot of opportunities to meet the stars. Some of these will cost a litte extra ( $20 in ring picture with the champ and $50 backstage pass). There was a lot of free signing offer too. I thought it was a whole lot better then any WWE experiance that I had. I don't know what they do at house shows but this onw was good. The advertise meet and greet that was part of your $50 ticket was kind of dissappointing but that was due to snafu with the advertisement which was explain and handle well. I hope they come again. There didn't seem a like a lot of people was ther. The floor seats were sold out but the rest was visibly empty. The next tiem I go, I will take my kids. Very family firendly which was also surprising .

what i dont understand is, if the demand for TNA is strong in this case, Maryland, well why doesnt TNA run a big show in this city?? They tour in places 1/2 across the US several times a year for attendance of 500-1500 tops, yet go to NYC once and draw over 5000.

I dont believe for a minute the company turned a profit in 2010 but if you ask Bischoff about that, he'll call you a mark or an idiot who doesnt know shit....

why didn't you ask about wcw and his wwf run besides that its good

RESPONSE FROM KE: Only had 15 minutes and I wanted to keep it on current topics.

"I dont believe for a minute the company turned a profit in 2010...."


Neither do I. If their attendance is usually the previously mentioned 500-1500, and their pay-per-view buy rate averages only several thousand, how much money can they possibly give their talent while staying in the black? Unless they pay the roster with peanuts and old Hulkster merchandise, I don't see how the company can be profitable.

seems a little light, but i guess it's better than nothing

Such hard hitting questions...not. I would have grilled more on the Jeff Hardy situation and on why they only do 80-100 shows a year? Also, all these big names have come in to the company and rating have gone down, why? There is a good question.

Why didn't you ask Jeff more hard hitting questions? And why do you believe Jeff when he said TNA are in profit?

Anybody with any insider knowledge knows that TNA are not in profit or have been for the last few years.

RESPONSE FROM KE: Who are these people with "insider knowledge?" Just as you don't believe Jarrett, you also shouldn't believe everything so-called insiders state as fact. The truth is: I don't know if TNA is profitable or not and neither do you. They are a private company and do not have to disclose that information.

Interesting stuff.I wonder why Jeff Jarett didn't mention TNA's financial struggles.TNA have spent a ton of money in the past year,bringing in Hogan,Flair,Hardy,Anderson,etc,etc.However,their ratings haven't improved.Kev,great job on the interview,but we would have liked some tougher questions to J.J.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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