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Jarrett Looking For The Right Gimmick
An Article by Mike Mooneyham
(Published in 1998)

Few would argue that Jeff Jarrett is one of the most polished performers in the wrestling business. The grappler known to most fans as "Double J," however, is struggling to find an identity.

Jarrett, 31, a third-generation wrestler who was raised in the business and had his first pro match in 1986, feels he may be close to just the gimmick he's been looking for with his latest character.

Jarrett's new look first took shape when he rejoined the WWF last October after a one-year stint with WCW. He furthered the new image when he attacked Steve Blackman with nunchakus earlier this year at a pay-per-view on which he sang with country band Sawyer Brown. Jarrett's new "character with an attitude" continued to evolve through a brief alliance and subsequent break-up with a manager, Tennessee Lee (Robert Fuller), and the cutting of his long blond hair as a result of losing a stipulation match to X-Pac (Sean Waltman) at the Summer Slam pay-per-view on Aug. 30.

"Double J of '95 was great, but Double J of '98 has an attitude and I had to have that," says Jarrett, son of longtime Tennessee wrestler and promoter Jerry Jarrett and grandson of grappler-promoter Eddie Marlin.

"It's one of those things I don't want to take all the credit for, but neither can they (the WWF). When I hit Blackman with those nunchakus, I said that's what Double J has to have. I felt it going in." Jarrett says the character change wasn't immediate.

"We sort of flip-flopped around, and I had a lot of extenuating circumstances outside of everything, but I knew we had to head toward that direction. But when business is hot, they're not that worried about building characters. Vince (McMahon) agreed, though, that we had to do something. I suggested that we not do an overhaul, but just tweak it. And that's sort of where we're at now."

Jarrett, who going to keep his new, shorter hairstyle for the present time, says he's not completely abandoning the Double J gimmick.

"We're not hiding the fact of where I came from. It's just that I'm PO'd now," he jokes. "I've had such a positive feedback from everyone - not just the office, but from the guys in the gym to other wrestlers to on-line fans. I may try to keep pushing it, but I'm going to stay the course right now." P> Jarrett graduated from regional circuits like his dad's Memphis-based USWA when he joined the WWF during the early '90s and turned "Double J" into one of the company's most colorful characters. His first stint with the company ended in 1996 when he walked out on the promotion over creative differences with McMahon. The WWF owner retaliated by "exposing" Jarrett and showing that he merely lip-synched on his country music video, revealing that Jarrett's former sidekick, The Roadie (Brian James), did the actual singing.

Jarrett left WCW in October 1997 when his one-year contract expired and no agreement was reached on a new deal. Bischoff challenged Jarrett to get a better offer from the WWF.

"The basis of the whole conversation, which was about a 15-minute deal, was: `Jeff, if you think you can get a better deal, go for it.' It was that simple and that cut and dried. At that point he didn't think anyone was leaving his ship."

Jarrett did just that, and ripped Bischoff in his first interview back with the WWF that aired live on Raw. P> "I was one of the younger, most talented wrestlers that you had, Eric, but you let me drown in mediocrity just because my stroke wasn't strong enough," Jarrett said in the Raw interview. "Look who you put with me: an ex-football player who can't even lock up (Steve McMichael) and his ex-wife (Debra McMichael); she gives new meaning to the term `dumb blonde.'"

Jarrett then took aim at his new boss:

"You booked me with a clown (Doink), a drug addict (referring to Roadie), a black man who can't even speak the English language (Ahmed Johnson). Vince, you tried to bury me and kill me off, but you didn't get the job done. I guess you figured since you didn't put my dad out of business like you put every other promoter out of business in the '80s, you figured the next best thing would be to kill his son off. Well, Vince, not only did I survive, but I walked out on you and how ironic that is that we make a deal and get back together and you pay me a whole lot more money the second go-round."

Jarrett's first six months back with the WWF were rocky. His first interview ripped not only former boss Bischoff, but also drew "tremendous heat" when he railed against the company's biggest draw, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

"You're ripping off the Bible to put money in your pocket," Jarrett said of Austin. While Jarrett's comments that Austin's 3:16 gimmick was "blasphemous and offensive" were only meant to draw heel heat, Austin saw things otherwise and angrily confronted Jarrett backstage, contending that such remarks could damage his merchandising clout.

"That is a valid point, but I thought he knew me better than that," explains Jarrett. "When I was a babyface in this territory (Tennessee), I made my living off of merchandise. It damn sure wasn't off of payoffs. I loved it when a heel - Robert Fuller or any heel I was working with in the territory - would get one of my pictures, yank it out of somebody's hand, and get in the ring and rip it up. They'd run to that table to get more pictures to show it to them. That was my thought, that it's sitting right out there in front of everybody, and he is over like a son-of-a-gun, so I'm gonna knock him the old traditional way. If I knock him, they're going to hate me. He took it personal."

Jarrett says he's sorry it caused heat between the two.

"It was one of the last things I said in the interview, since I did it purposefully and wanted people to remember me by that. He didn't like it. I understand his point, and I've since dropped it. There's no problem. I thought that was benefiting him, but he didn't see it that way."

Much more wrenching for Jarrett was news from home that wife Jill had been diagnosed with cancer.

"I really learned how fortunate I was before. I never had to worry about things at home. Maybe just the little things, but nothing major like this. Her parents are close by, my parents are close by, she's got sisters close by, but still I'm not here. We've got a little girl. It was tough."

Jeff and Jill, though, weathered the storm.

"Jill finished the chemo in May, and all the surgeries are behind us," says Jarrett. "The way we look at it, it's all in the past. We just have to go to the doctors for check-ups. So everything is A-OK there. But it was a roller coaster for sure."

For his relatively young age, Jarrett has seen many changes in the industry. "It's instantaneous knowledge. We're in the computer age, and we have to change from week to week."

Jarrett chuckles when discussing the WWF's new direction.

"It's cutting edge to put it mildly. But when you sit back and look at `South Park' and the kind of movies with guys like Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino, those movies are cutting edge. It's the entertainment industry, not just wrestling."

Jarrett agrees that some of the content is not suitable for children. But he adds that as long as business is booming, the company isn't going to alter its direction. It's a matter of simple economics. "As long as we're in the black and not in the red, it's not going to be changed."

 

 


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