JBL Discusses His WWE Run, If His Singles Push Was Rushed, How Eddie Guerrero Helped His Career
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of our interview, where JBL discusses a potential return to the announcer's booth, appearing at RAW 1000, making amends with Tully Blanchard, more about the Seven Summits project and more.
WrestlingINC: You started in WWE back in 1996. So, you've been there a long time. You've seen all the crazy ups and downs. When you made your debut as Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, how did you see your career going your first year?
John Bradshaw Layfield: I didn't think I'd be there very long. I really thought I'd be there two or three years. That's about all people were around for at that time. People came and left a lot and I really figured I'd be there two or three years and I'd go back to Japan and maybe even going back to college and being a coach somewhere. I didn't expect to be there for 15 years or whatever. That was completely unexpected to be there that long.
WrestlingINC: After that, you were kind of put into the tag team scene with a couple different teams with Barry Windham and Ron Simmons. During that time with the APA, it seemed like you guys were really enjoying being a tag team. Was a singles career still on the back of your mind at that period?
Layfield: No, I really had no desire for one. I assumed that Ron would probably retire ahead of me, I didn't know that in fact. But, I was happy with the APA and I really would have been happy if my career ended with the APA. I really enjoyed being around Ron, we had a great time and a good gig there in WWE. I didn't really see a major singles run coming at the end of that.
I figured that I might have a chance for one because I knew Ron was going to retire in the next couple of years -- in that time frame -- so I thought I still might be yougn enough to have one. But, I didn't know that for sure.
WrestlingINC: When the WWE did let Simmons go, did you know in advance that you were being groomed for a gimmick and character change?
Layfield: No. In fact, I don't think anybody even expected it. The JBL character, I had had in mind for a long time, a character very similar. But they were very reticent to let me do that because I was doing a lot with the troops and they didn't need me. Then, all of a sudden at once, I think Big Show was hurt, Brock Lesnar had left the company. All of a sudden, you needed somebody immediately in that role and that's when they did the change. All of a sudden, just one day.
I don't think it was something thought about with a lot of forethought. Vince McMahon always said that he thought I could be a world champion and he was probably the only one in the entire company that thought that. [Laughs.] I have no idea why he thought that. But, when they came up with the JBL character, I knew this was going to be my last shot at it, so I was hoping it would work. It didn't work at all for the first few weeks and if it hadn't been for Eddie Guerrero, it probably wouldn't have worked. Thank goodness, I had the right opponent and a good friend of mine and it ended up working.
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