Former WWE Champion JBL was recently a guest on the “Prime Time with Sean Mooney” podcast. During the appearance, JBL talked about his WWE tryout, being part of a stacked WWE roster, and Vince McMahon buying up territories. Here are the highlights:
His WWE Tryout: “Somebody told me that Bruce Prichard wanted to talk to me. This was way before cell phones and I didn’t have a phone in my caravan, so I went down and waited by a pay phone. It was raining in Hanover, Germany. I thought, ‘This is crazy. Nobody’s gonna call me,’ and the damn phone rang and it was Bruce and Bruce said, ‘We want to hire you.
“Come on in on your way back and we’re gonna have a tryout match and see if we like you.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve gotten an offer from WCW, but I want to come and work for you guys,’ and he said, ‘Come see us first and we’ll see how it goes and if so, we’ll hire you on the spot.’ That’s how it happened. I went to the States, walked in the back, and Tony Garea said, ‘Are you on the card today?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not.
“I’m supposed to have a tryout match,’ and he threw me out. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I was excited about this job and I got thrown out the back. It was snowing like crazy and I went back to the airport and I couldn’t get a flight out. I thought, ‘Screw it. They don’t want me.’ I stayed and the next day they were in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
“There was a snow storm and only about 300 people there….it was the day Goldust debuted. The Ringmaster [Steve Austin] had just gotten there and I had a match with Savio Vega. The only reason I went is because I couldn’t get a flight out and after the match was over, Jerry Brisco pulled me aside and said, ‘We want to hire you,’ and I was still mad about them throwing me out the day before.
“I said, ‘I’m going to WCW this week.’ He said, ‘We don’t want you to go.’ I said, ‘OK, you promise me a contract and I won’t go.’ That’s how it happened.
Being Part Of A Stacked WWE Roster: “They did [push me right away]. That roster was so loaded. Business was terrible, but I think probably that was the most loaded roster in history. You can argue maybe the ‘80s, but that roster had everybody. It had the nWo before the nWo. It had Bret Hart and the whole Canadian contingent.
“It had Undertaker and all of his guys. It had Triple H. The Rock was coming in just a little bit later. Steve [Austin] was there as The Ringmaster. Kane was there as Isaac Yankem. That roster was loaded, but they used me. I worked the opening match for about a year straight with Bob Holly, most of the time. I worked with Savio Vega a bunch, but I got to be on almost every pay-per-view, not in big matches.
“I had a few gimmick matches, strap matches here and there, but they used me. At that time it was more of a slow build. Rarely did you have a guy come in straight on top…..I thought they took real good care of me. I didn’t have a ton of success as Justin Hawk Bradshaw, but it wasn’t a failure either. I got to be on almost pay-per-view and wrestle every house show that year.”
Vince McMahon Buying Up Territories:
“People bash Vince. I was in the territories back then when they were all bashing Vince. The bad guy from New York. They hated him because he was taking over, but he would go to these territories and say, ‘I’m gonna buy you out or I’m gonna crush you.’ He would give them an option of joining him or fighting him and most just told him where to go. It was an old school mentality.
“It was the boys running the business, which is the worst thing in the world. The boys are just as smart as everybody else, but you want boys that are businessmen, not boys that are workers just running the business and kinda having a good time doing it, which was a lot of the case in a lot of the territories. Vince just has an idea. When Crockett ran that first Thanksgiving show, Vince came along and ran a pay-per-view at the same time.
“He thought he could just two or three pay-per-views a year. He never thought there’d be 12-20 for one federation and he went in to pay-per-views and said, ‘Listen, we’re gonna run WrestleMania next year and it’s gonna be huge and if you carry Crockett, you’re not carrying us.’ It’s just business. He’s a predator and he happened to be better than Crockett, who was his biggest competition.
“Most of them were all trying to do the same thing. Even Fritz, later, who was dead set against it was trying to do the same thing. Gagne tried to do the same thing with ESPN later, but they were late to the table. Crockett was the only one that was even close to competing with Vince, but Crockett just wasn’t quite as good a businessman as Vince was.”
H/T WrestleZone for the transcriptions