JEFF JARRETT: TRADITION AND INNOVATION
Jeff Jarrett discusses the Global Force / Fite TV partnership, the NWA 70th Anniversary Show and the Superstars of Wrestling Fan Fest in this exclusive interview
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
The Gorilla Position has been a proud partner of the Superstars of Wrestling Fan Fest on September 22 in Rome, GA. As part of our efforts for that event, we were glad to speak with Jeff Jarrett about the Fan Fest as well as a variety of other topics:
Jeff Jarrett being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, class of 2018. Photo courtesy of Flickr Shared Account, used under Creative Commons license.
I went into my talk with Jeff Jarrett knowing he has had a rollercoaster year, personally and professionally. What strikes me, though, is how thankful and hopeful for the future he is after all the highs and lows.
“This calendar year has been absolutely fantastic,” Jarrett said to me during a recent interview. “I’ve been interviewed a lot since the Hall of Fame but it all started on the first Sunday of this year when I got the call [for the WWE Hall of Fame]. WWE made the announcement in February and the induction was in April. The appearances and different things going on and the announcement made for Fite TV – that entire deal has exploded. Becoming the [AAA] Mega Champion for the second time, the United Kingdom spoken word tour, StarrCast, MediaCon in the UK – it has been nothing but a fantastic year. No complaint whatsoever.”
Since the formation of the Global Force Entertainment brand in 2014, Jarrett seems to have the overarching goal of taking wrestling to the next step while keeping one foot firmly rooted in the sport’s history. Most, if not all, of what he has done going back to 2002 – the formation of a new company that honored and recognized the championships of one of the oldest governing bodies in wrestling, NWA TNA – follows this pattern as we talk about what he is up to currently. That pattern continues next month with the 70th Anniversary show for the National Wrestling Alliance.
The NWA 70th Anniversary show has taken on a life of its own since “All In” propelled a championship once regarded as a joke back into the limelight it has traditionally basked in. While the deal to air the show has been in the works for some time, Jarrett tells me that even he could not have expected the momentum those three letters and the title that represent them would have going into Nashville next month.
“I can’t say we had this master plan by any stretch,” Jarrett told me when asked about the Anniversary show next month. “Sometimes you just can’t write it – it just happens.”
Jarrett gives me more detail about how the show came about. “This goes several months back. Obviously Dave Lagana and I have a relationship – I’m the one who originally brought him into TNA back in the day. I’ve known Billy Corgan for years. Early this year when I signed the agreement with Fite, one thing led to another. They had their 70th Anniversary show and were potentially looking to do something with that. I’ve been rolling up my sleeves and getting a plan in place when it comes to professional wrestling and Fite. One thing after another, things started falling in place. We came to an agreement many months ago but then who would have thought we would that – we had no idea we would be getting the rematch from All In, and I mean the rematch from All In. So we’re super excited and it’s funny how things in this business just sort of evolve and happen.”
Jarrett expands on how much the NWA and the venue that will host the show mean to him – a convergence, once again, of what was and what is yet to be. “That building – the Asylum – when we launched TNA it was originally NWA TNA, so I obviously have a long history with the NWA and think fondly of the lineage of that title and the lineage of the promotion going back to 1948. As we got into the marketing – $70 for ringside seats since it’s the 70th anniversary. $19.48 for General Admission, the year it started. We’re starting at 6:05 pm [CDT], harkening back to the glory days of wrestling on TBS. There’s a lot of cool things we have going on – we’ll be rolling the VIP meet-and-greet opportunities. They’re crowning a new National Champion. It’s a super celebration of the NWA and I’m just glad we all got on the same page and that it’ll be at the Asylum.”
The “plan” Jarrett refers to with Fite TV began back in May when Jarrett’s Global Force Entertainment pivoted and inked a deal with the streaming platform to “[develop and acquire] wrestling events and ancillary wrestling programming for the FITE digital television platform. Additionally, GFE is working with Flipps Media Inc, (FITE’s parent company) to develop non-combat sports programming for a to-be-determined digital platform using the ‘best in class’ streaming technology developed by Flipps.”
The partnership began with StarrCast and the presentation of several of the panels at the convention carried by Fite TV that were produced by Global Force and continued with the recent MediaCon presentations from the United Kingdom (where the rematch between champion Cody Rhodes and Nick Aldis was set for next month).
Jarrett began innovating with Pay-per-view only shows 16 years ago and sees the potential to continue that innovation with Fite TV and the 70th Anniversary show. “Obviously back in 2002 [NWA TNA was] pay-per-view only,” Jarrett said.” Being a part of the conduit and getting Fite on board and the technology is spectacular. I’m obviously not a tech guy but I do know about the encryption and non-buffering and just the superior technology that it has. I’m just excited that the fans around the world – we’ve gotten pre-orders from four countries. Obviously, Nick [Aldis] being from the United Kingdom has something to do with that. But some have already pre-bought and the show is a month away, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Before the NWA’s next big event, however, Jarrett’s chance to give back to the fans is something he tells me he is looking forward to. Tomorrow at the Superstars of Wrestling Fan Fest in Rome, GA, Jarrett will be part of the festival to meet and greet fans along with some of the biggest names in wrestling from the past 30 years. Some of those names Jarrett himself is looking forward to catching up with.
When asked about who he is looking forward to seeing at the Superstars of Wrestling Fan Fest, Jarrett answers me with a question of his own. “Gosh, ‘Where do I start’ might be the easier question,” he laughed. “It goes without saying that me and Booker [T] have a long-running history. I saw the [Young] Bucks back at All In weekend and had a relationship with those guys over in Japan and even dating back to the TNA days. Those guys couldn’t be happier and they’re two great family men as well as obviously great performers and great talents. But man, the who’s who list – that’s what’s super cool about these conventions. If you’ve been a wrestling fan over the last 10 to 30 years, there’s someone for everybody at this convention. That, to me, is what makes these types of events so attractive and I’m just glad to be a part of it and wish the promoters absolutely nothing but the most success because if they’re successful that means there’ll be another one.”
Despite the bouts of tumult for Jarrett the past year, his personal demeanor as we talked kept in line with professional vision of hope for the future while remembering the past.
“Everywhere I’ve been this year, whether it’s a wrestling event, a convention, down in Mexico, the United Kingdom, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, going to comic cons, you run into the wrestling fan,” Jarrett explained. “They’re far and wide now. I’m very appreciative of all the opportunities I’ve gotten this year. It’s been overwhelming to say the least.”
Tomorrow, Jarrett is happy to share that appreciation with the visitors embarking down to the Fan Fest in Rome, GA. “[T]his Saturday, to me, is certainly one of the biggest [conventions] in the state of Georgia that I’ve ever heard or certainly been a part of. It all starts and ends with the support of the fans. I’ve said it many times – the wrestling fans have put groceries on the Jarrett’s table, so to speak, for over 70 years and I’m very appreciative because, without them, you literally have nothing.”