Former TNA superstar Jesse Neal recently spoke with Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com about his time with TNA, his departure and his future in the business. Here is part two of the interview, click here to check out part one, where Neal talks about his time with TNA, his angle being dropped when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came in, the food stamps rumor and more.
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WrestlingINC.com: I think we were the first site to report that you asked for your release after you were asked to go to OVW. Is that accurate?
Jesse Neal: Yeah, I think you were. I believe so.
WrestlingINC.com: What was it about going that you didn’t want to do?
Jesse Neal: As a professional wrestler you never really put in your time, I believe. As long as I’m learning and taking a step forward I’m good in the business. Basically I was just spinning my wheels in TNA. With Shannon Moore, we were doing great and stuff like that. The next step was obviously the belts but they obviously didn’t see that in Ink Inc’s future. I called the company up; it took me a little bit but I got hold of them. I just wanted to know what my value was with the company. This was during the Mexican America run but I just wanted to do more. I wanted to be more and used more so I wanted to see what I could do to make myself more valuable to the company.
‘We’ve been talking about it and we’re going to let Shannon do his single run.’ I said, ‘OK, fine. That’s cool. I’m back from a serious injury. You can do a hell of a run, especially with Christina [Toxxin] with us now. We can do a really big run right now but you want to blow all that up, fine.’ I got off one sinking ship; I might as well get off another one. ‘That’s fine. What about me?’ That’s what anyone would say.
This is where I’m all weird about it because the next answer was weird. It was a shock. I’ve been on your TV for three years, I’ve never had a problem with your agents, nobody’s ever said anything, they’re saying I’m learning, I’m great, we got you on the house shows, that’s the way you take the next step. Then he [Bruce Prichard] says, ‘Well, we need you to go to OVW and train more.’ The three things he said is like a nightmare that haunts me. He said, ‘Unfortunately, Jesse, you don’t have a body, you don’t have a look and you can’t wrestle,’ or I need a lot more training in wrestling. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I know I need help and I know I need training; that’s obvious. Training takes time. That s–t just don’t happen overnight. It was definitely a shock to hear all of that. I’m like, ‘Well, I thought that’s what got me the job, my look. Alright, I take criticisms fine. I grow from it, cool. You want me to go to OVW but it’s in Kentucky and you want me to move there. It’s a big decision. How long do I have?’ ‘We kind of needed the answer yesterday.’
WrestlingINC.com: Who was it you were talking to?
Jesse Neal: Bruce Prichard. He was like, ‘I’ll give you a couple days,’ so that was cool of him. I talked it over with Christina and my lawyers and stuff like that. He also told me a price and it’s just not worth it to me. It’s like working 5-6 days a week training and 3 shows a week. I could make more money on the indy’s here in Florida than I could up there. That wasn’t even my decision maker.
My decision maker was my finances. I hear all this stuff, ‘Oh man, we would kill for the opportunity,’ but if you’re not paying your bills you wouldn’t be able to wrestle. If you can’t pay your light bill you’re going to find a way to pay your light bill and not show up to practice. I make sacrifices; I don’t live above my means what so ever. People should know that. We’re just trying to make a living, trying to do our dream also. It takes a lot more to be a TV personality than what everyone thinks out there. The price he gave me, it was way below the means of my bills and stuff like that.
I gave him a couple different options and they didn’t like. We went back and forth with these options for a week or two and then I go, ‘OK fine.’ I send in an email saying I’m respectfully requesting my release. I did it all professionally, no hard feelings and no burned bridges. It was all on good terms. They said, ‘OK fine, you want your release, we’ll give you your release.’ I said, ‘OK cool, no problem.’ It was all good. We weren’t arguing.
WrestlingINC.com: Do you think Hogan and Bischoff are helping the company at this point?
Jesse Neal: Yeah, I mean, I look at it this way. I basically wasn’t on their list so they did what they had to do with me, which is fine. Business is business at the end of the day. With Bischoff and Hogan being there, look at your Gunner’s and your Crimson’s and stuff like that. They’re getting one hell of a push there. They’re definitely trying to push these new guys. Of course, TNA is all about wrestling, wrestling, wrestling but it’s become more talking and talking.
I mean, it’s the way of the business. It’s got its ups and downs. You don’t know what they got planned for the future, why they’re doing this, what they are doing this for. You can only tell by what the month has in store for you. It’s a lot of back and forth. Obviously January 4th, when Hogan came in, we had really good ratings and stuff like that. Honestly I haven’t even seen Hogan there the last two tapings. I was there and didn’t even see him there. He hasn’t been on TV lately either I think.
WrestlingINC.com: But even when they’re pushing new guys, they end up reverting back to the old guys.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, that’s what I see too. I see it too, definitely. That’s what I was trying to do, be different, and you do see a lot of the old stuff coming back up and basically regurgitated for the fans and the fans are noticing. The fans make the wrestling world go around. If we didn’t have the fans we would basically be sitting at home doing nothing because the fans are what makes the wrestling business. The fans notice; they’re not stupid. Some are. Jokes! – Just the ones with their stupid comments about me being selfish and ungrateful. I laugh at that.
Like I said, the fans are seeing and the fans are noticing and you got to make the fans happy because if you don’t your ratings are going to go down and your pocket’s not going to be fat with money.
WrestlingINC.com: I think with TNA, there are a lot of guys including yourself with a unique look that could be given the ball to see what you could do with them.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, I agree. There was one meeting where Vince Russo, himself, said, ‘If we give Jesse the ball he runs with it and he’s one of those new guys that’s willing to learn and willing to take whatever we throw at him and make it TV ready. We could throw him on camera and it’d be ready.’ You never know what happens backstage. Why is this person getting dropped? This person was supposed to be on TV but he’s not showing up. A lot of the reasons are sometimes they mess up. They’re getting a nice little run, they know it’s coming and they just mess up or something happens in their life where they can’t make it. Who know what happens?
Me and Shannon, we were on a great run – him being the vet and me being the new guy and then Christina came in. That was a hell of a story, a unique story with my real life story and what I’m trying to bring on camera and what we do out there. Honestly, I felt like I was being held back. Me and Shannon, we wanted to do some crazy s–t. We wanted to do some awesome stuff and I was just being held back.
Like I tell some people, they look at me on the indy scene and then they look at me on TV and they’re like, ‘You guys are two totally different guys. You do so much more on the indy scene.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not being held back.’ Of course that goes down to the segments and stuff like that and whoever has this amount of time and that amount of time. A 20 minute match has a three minute segment or something like that but that’s just business.
WrestlingINC.com: I feel the TNA needs to try new things and not just copy WWE.
Jesse Neal: I agree with that. If you want to be a better company – and it doesn’t matter what business you’re in – if you want to be a better company than that other company then you need to do different, you need to change it up, you need to not do the same things that you see on the other nights. That’s any episode or any show or any soap opera or anything. You’ve got to be different; you’ve got to change it up. You’ve got to shock the fans and make them want to tune in next week instead of the other channel.
WrestlingINC.com: You’re seeing this almost every night. Every show opens with a 15 minute promo. There isn’t much taken from real life.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, that was aggravating, especially when Osama bin Laden died I got to come in and do an interview, a promo on TV and they were supposed to open with it and they didn’t. I had everybody in that impact zone crying. There was not a dry eye in the house and that type of stuff has never even seen the light of day. That’s the different stuff people want to see, especially when it’s real.
With my story it’s real. Here’s a story on your table. You don’t have to create it. It is what it is. Just the type of segments they cut out that should be on there. There’s a lot of real stuff that got cut out of TNA. It would basically be pushing the envelope and that might be why they took it out. I’m not sure they have their reasons. We’re out there doing what we’re supposed to be doing and they’re doing what they’re doing. It might have pushed the envelope too far but it’s real and that’s what the fans need to see. They need to see how real wrestling can get.
WrestlingINC.com: Yeah, it was real life for you and they could have done something with it.
Jesse Neal: Excuse my French but that m———–r bombed my ship. It’s real for me. You have me on your roster and I’m talking real right now – how dumb can you be? Like I said, everybody has their reasons. I went through that and it’s the perfect opportunity to get my story out and that’s why I became a professional wrestler; it’s because of this and that was my failed opportunity and it hurts. It definitely hurts that that was my failed opportunity. Hopefully later down the line, with a different company, I can prevail with that. That’s all I want to do – get my story out there and keep the Cole and all the survivors alive and let people know there’s people fighting but they still have families back here. They’re real people; it’s not just something you see on the news and it’s make believe. It’s something real and they had the opportunity and it just flew out the window.
WrestlingINC.com: That’s why I think people are watching MMA, for the real stories.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, like Dana White and all them guys, the UFC and everything – they’re smart. They bring real people and they’re not scared to show it. It’s real. You can’t make this s–t up. People attract to it. Everyone knows their attendances and stuff on their fights. That shows they want real people. Part of it is? whatever but the moves and stuff but there are real story lines in professional wrestling and people need to see.
WrestlingINC.com: I think TNA can learn a lot from that.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, it’s the way the business needs to go and that’s where the money is. The fans are obviously showing it. I’ll give you a good example – the Zack Ryder thing in WWE; look at that. The fans have spoken. That’s why the UFC makes so much money – the realism; they brought Zack in because they were listening to the fans and gave the fans what they wanted to see. They make money off that. It’s good business and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
WrestlingINC.com: It seems like you didn’t burn any bridges with TNA, and that your decision to leave was strictly financial.
Jesse Neal: Yeah, it was a financial decision on both ends. My release was a mutual decision. Yeah, I brought it to them about my release because that was the only option I had left because I couldn’t afford to move up there and there was no way I could afford the money they were going to give me weekly. It was a mutual decision, no bridges, burned, everybody’s happy. Hopefully, with 2012 I move on to bigger and better things.
WrestlingINC.com: What are you looking to do next?
Jesse Neal: Obviously everybody’s goal is the WWE and stuff and to make money. As long as I’m in that ring wrestling and as long as I’m entertaining the fans that’s all that matters. That’s what keeps me happy. Of course the money thing – we’re not doing it to go through the injuries for free and stuff. As long as the money’s there and everything’s good. I definitely bust my ass in that ring.
WrestlingINC.com: If WWE wanted you to go to FCW, is that something you’d be willing to do?
Jesse Neal: Oh, of course. It’s right there in Tampa. It’s literally 45 minutes, hour away from my house right now. I got friends and family over there and stuff like that. That wouldn’t be a hard move at all for me. It’d be very easy and I would get paid more.
WrestlingINC.com: Do you follow the WWE product?
Jesse Neal: Of course. Even when I was in TNA I’d always watch out, you know, you always want to watch out for the opposing team, keep up to date and stuff like that. I try to watch it now and then and keep up to date with the story lines and who the competition is and stuff.
WrestlingINC.com: Who do you like watching in WWE?
Jesse Neal: I like what they’re doing with John Cena. They’re either positive or negative about John Cena and I’m back and forth but I like what they’re doing with him. Depending on where you’re at the fans boo him or the fans cheer him. I like tuning in to see that. You never know what you’re going to get and you can’t write that. They can’t control the fans. It’s good to see different and unpredictability.
That’s what I like about the business, the unpredictability about it and how they’re bringing up new guys, like the Zack Ryder thing we talked about. You never know what you’re going to get. There are a lot of injuries on the roster. You never know who’s going to come back, like [Chris] Jericho is now coming back and he looks great. You never know what they’re going to do and this year especially with the new network they’re going to have a lot of new talent coming in. Hopefully that will be an opportunity for me; you never know. They’re the boss, basically.
WrestlingINC.com: Thanks for your time. Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Jesse Neal: I just want to tell them, hey, I got a long road ahead of me and stuff like that. I just can’t wait to get started. I’m tired of sitting at home. I’ve been sitting at home way too much. I can’t wait to get back out there and see what I can do. I even looked into Japan and I’d love to go over there for a little bit and see what I can do over there. Who knows where the road will take me in 2012. Hopefully I’ll be entertaining you, the fans, and stuff like that. We’ll see.
In case you missed it, click here to check out part one of the interview, where Neal talks about his time with TNA, his angle being dropped when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came in, the food stamps rumor and more. Also, bookings and appearances for Jesse Neal are now being accepted by contacting Stephanie Melvin via email at [email protected].