I spoke with Global Force Wrestling and TNA Wrestling founder Jeff Jarrett recently about GFW's upcoming live events, his time with TNA, his relationship with WWE and much more. You can check out the full interview below, or listen to it in the video player above.
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Tell us about the upcoming live events that Global Force Wrestling has planned.
"We couldn't be more excited to kick off 2016 with our two live events in the northeast. We had the Grand Slam Tour in the Summer and our Amped tapings, which were very successful. So then we were looking at where we'd run our next live events. The most feedback, tweets, facebooks, comments online from the (northeast) area. I have a history in Poughkipsee, I wrestled for the WWE there in the Hudson Civic Center. They reached out to us, as we were formulating the brand. We partnered with a great media group, and it all fell into place. I have a great relationship with Pro Wrestling Syndicate. We formed partnerships with wreslting promotions around the world, and Pro Wrestling Syndicate have a top notch independent wrestling promotion. That all fell into place as well. Tickets are on sale, we're in. "
How did the PWS partnership happen. Did you just approach Pat Buck and say you had a vision you wanted to make happen?
"In short, yes. I did a seminar for them a year and a half ago, so it's been ongoing. They have a great group of talent. The vision is sort of for the other promotions. Pat got on board, I got on board. The reception we got when we announced it was awesome. Not just from fans, but wrestlers. We're excited to move down this track. I said a long time ago that any relationship that isn't a win-win falls apart at the seams. I really think this is a win-win for GFW and PWS and in turn the wrestling fans."
I'm sure you've answered this a million times. Global Force and TV. Did you expect to be on TV by now?
"You're right, I have. It's a step-by-step process. One of the best things we did was go to Las Vegas in July, August and October and crown champions. We have 16 one hour episodes. We probably won't announce it this month, but in January we have some announcements with a major player in LA. We announced a deal with Boulder Creek International out of London. We're talking to broadcasters all over the world and it is a challenge. The name is Global Force Wrestling and we do want to launch a global brand. We need it not only here in America, but around the world. I didn't expect anything, to answer your question. It's a building block and you have to line things up. The way we consume our media has drastically changed with apps and streaming services. Who would have thought three years ago that every WWE PPV would be on an app for $9.99. That world of distribution has drastically changed. In the 70s, promotions had to worry about one hour on Saturdays, then cable came along, and TBS had shows Saturday nights, then USA got into business. Then Raw and Nitro. One hour to two, two to three, then Thunder came along. Now we're in the habit of 4-5 hours a week. You can see it changing rapidly. The method that we all consume is drastically changing. If you rush a product to market too soon, or an idea, and the audience isn't ready for it, you set yourself up for a lot of headaches. We're taking our time."
Both TNA and WWE have seen record low ratings lately. Do you think there's a demand to see more wrestling, or are those numbers reflecting what you just said?
"I had this conversation with an agent in Hollywood, who was chuckling at the feedback I was giving him, because when you say record low ratings, look at the big picture. There are so many broadcasters, producers, showrunners, they would die to have a show that gets 3 million viewers and hours, and Raw does that for three hours. Not 12 episodes, that's 52 weeks a year. When you put it in that context, the ratings downward trend doesn't seem so bad. Whether it's milennials, whatever you want to call them, there's DVR, streaming, different ways and barometers. You have to take a step back and think about the reality of the fact at how much programming is on. I can't wait to share with the world Amped. It's a professional wrestling product, but it has a different feel, a different vibe to it. I absolutely think there's a place for it, Raw, Smackdown, Lucha Underground, TNA, ROH, NXT, all of it."
I mentioned your time with TNA earlier. I really think that your return promo with Karen was the best promo of the year. Did that angle work how you were hoping?
"I'm coming up on my 30th year as an active wrestler. I probably shouldn't say that. There comes a time when a wrestler gets in the ring and they play from an extension of your own personality. There was so much authenticity and realness in that promo that night. Karen knew I was speaking from the heart, I knew she was speaking from the heart. Mike Tenay, we had a discussion. If you're a viewer, you'd say that was good stuff, and that's how it came across. The level of exposure we got was enormous. Not just in the United States, but around the world. It was very successful."
I watched the WWE's production of the Owen Hart DVD this week. Did WWE approach you to be a part of that, and what's the relationship like with WWE?
"Yes. We just never could match things up. No hard feelings on my part or their part, we just never could match. I think it was June when they were producing it, and I had the Grand Slam shows. The schedules never worked out. I am glad they are putting the DVD out for Owen Hart fans. There's a whole generation that wasn't blessed to know Owen Hart."
You had a role in Spring Breakers, which was a really interesting James Franco film. How did you end up in that role?
"Wow. It's a cool story. The producer and writer of that movie is from Nashville. They were looking for a pastor, and Val Kilmer was originally going to do that role for the company, but got moved over to another production. The casting agent, ironically enough, they're LA based now, but is from Hendersonville, had been to the fairgrounds, and I was one of his favorites and all that. One thing led to another and he found my email and said 'would you like to be in this movie, being a youth pastor, blah blah blah'. Selena Gomez, James Franco, they had some big stars in that movie. I said sure. They told me to read for it. I read for it, sent it out, about thirty minutes later they sent it back and said they wanted me. It was cool. I'll have to say with full disclosure, I came back and told Karen and the kids that we were going to be shooting it before we went on spring break. They got to meet Selena Gomez, and that scene was very very clean. I really didn't know the full content of that film. Needless to say, the kids never did get to see that movie. It was a good experience. Obviously, Hollywood likes to do multiple takes. As you know in pro wreslting on live sets, there are no re-dos. The director came up and said 'you've done this same thing, and you've done it over and over, are you a trained actor?' I told him 'no, I'm a trained professional wrestler.' They got a kick out of that."
That's a good trait to have when you're looking to extend your on-screen career.
"When I broke in around 1986, we did live TV every Saturday morning at 10 in the morning. The Friday night before, we were anywhere from Memphis to 200 miles from Memphis. If performing live doesn't get you prepared, nothing will."
There were rumors a couple of years ago that you and Toby Keith were interested in buying TNA, but didn't due to the Carter Family wanting to keep Dixie on TV. Is there any truth to that?
"There are company agreements in place, and I have no comment on that. Legally, I will not comment on that, even if I wanted to."
You have Chael Sonnen on your announce team, has he expressed interest in stepping into the ring?
"Chael has one of the most magnetic, charismatic personalities backstage, then when he gets in the ring it's almost to a whole different level. I'm pretty sure he's happy with his MMA career, but he could go as far in this business as he wants to. I don't think there's a bigger Chael Sonnen fan as it pertains to pro wrestling than me. Very talented and has the skills to back it up in the ring. He's unique."
TNA recently did a tour of India looking for an Indian superstar. I look up and down your roster, and you have three champions of Indian descent. It seems like something you made an effort to do, to diversify your roster.
"It's very important. The world we live in, you have to be aware of the wrestling fanbases. A big wrestling fanbase exists in India, in Japan, in Germany, in Mexico, in the UK, South Africa. They all have their own fanbases and cheer for a little different style of wrestling. Even Puerto Rican shows have a different flavor than US shows. Before I wrestled and promoted, I was a wrestling fan. It really does appeal to me that we have diversity, because you're not seeing the same thing over and over in one night in 8 matches. It's healthy."
You had a situation recently where you had to do a title switch because PJ Black is going to Lucha Underground. What's it like to have to figure out things like that on the fly?
"I hate to sound like a broken record, but my family's been around a long time. In the territory days you had to deal with guys moving and going to another territory essentially overnight. You deal with it whether it's injuries, whether its contractual status. It's just a part of the business, always has been, always will be. WWE had to strategically figure things out when they knew that Cena was going off to film a television show."
How will you deal with companies poaching talent?
"Over the years, I remember as a teenager, hearing my dad and Jerry Lawler talk. Lawler was a mainstay and never really left the area. Bill Dundee had a good run and Dutch did, too. Other than Lawler and a few others, there was a huge turnover in talent to keep it fresh. That's how this business operates. Over the past 15 years, back to the Monday night wars when a bunch of people jumped, it went to a whole different level. At one end, you're dealing with budgets, like we did from TNA. It prevents you from growing and having that fresh approach that I believe that you need. The production company, Ridgerock Entertainment, who are Hollywood guys involved with the Piper movie, they got online and looked at the website, the diversity, and picked my brain. A great Hollywood movie will have one or two A-listers and have to build their cast with maybe a legend, maybe a fresh up and comer, maybe a unique actor without a ton of work but has something special about him, and it makes a good movie. That's the nature of the beast."
You have a member of your roster, Lei'd Tapa, who's competing in a big MMA fight against Gabi Garcia. What did you think of that?
"I loved it. We'd been talking about it. She's a great athlete, all-state volleyball, and legendary stories of her football days, how she wreaked havoc on that field. When she was presented this opportunity, I couldn't be happier. It's another element I hope we keep in Global Force Wrestling, doing things a little differently than they've been done in the past. Lashley is going back and forth, it's been done from time to time, but Lei'd Tapa, I'll definitely be watching."
What do you think wrestling is lacking today?
"That's a good question, and I'll leave that one unanswered. I wouldn't say lacking, but taking more risks on certain levels. I'm not talking about high flying moves. I'm talking about production, or creative, or marketing. Don't rest on what's worked in the past."
We talked about TV and stuff, is there any plan to release content if a TV deal isn't reached.
"You can go to all of our social media platforms if you want content. Youtube and all of them are GFWWrestling. We're lining up, strategizing, in the US and internationally. The Amped episodes will be seen in 2016. The world will have their opportunity to watch Amped."
Do you all have your eyes on former TNA and WWE talent as well? We've seen quite a few names leave those companies this year. Can we expect to see some new names added to the GFW roster soon?
"You always have to. We were at WrestleCade a few weeks ago, and I made a point to watch a bit of each match. You have to do that. The database we have, sometimes people chuckle at that, but it's something I want to put together that I think is very useful. All of the talent out there that isn't contracted talent. You can look at them, all shapes, sizes, potential. As a promoter, you always have to be looking at talent. I would guarantee that Vince McMahon would agree with that. Not just with NXT, but the Performance Center. It's a breeding ground, and you have to have new talent that's going to step up and really take the bull by the horns."
You had great success promoting Wrestle Kingdom 9, were you surprised they didn't try traditional PPV again after having hiccups on New Japan World?
"They obviously had their reasons. No one specificially articulated it to me, but they are like WWE in that they want to build New Japan World, and I completely understand it. Just like we have, they have, we all have growing pains. I'm sure they sat down and said it's the route they're going. I can tell you what a great experience that was personally for me at that stage of my career to be able to wrestle on that card. It'll go down in history as one of the best events. Having Jim Ross leading the way, having a man of his stature, ability, drive, passion, leading the way was a great experience. I had a real good feeling going in this time last year, me and Jim were working every day on getting the word out. I talked to several wrestling journalists. The buzz, the feedback, the anticipation, it was truly a global event. It was really rewarding, and a special day in Global Force Wrestling history."
Finally, tell us about this Roddy Piper movie.
"The Masked Saint. It's something, they approached Global Force Wrestling to be a marketing arm, a consulting agreement to help them promote the movie to the wreslting audience. Over the past several months, it's turned into a passion project. It treats professional wrestling so well. It's got a great story, a true story, inspired by true events. It builds and builds to the big cage match. Roddy Piper as an evil wrestling promoter, so I'm sure he didn't have to stretch his acting skills (laughs). He did a great job, he did awesome in the movie. It's for all ages to see. It's about a pastor from Orlando, Florida who wants to get into professional wrestling. He has some issues with church and his own self and wasn't sure which way to go. It launches January 8 nationwide. We're going to the premiere January 7. If you're a wrestling fan or a Roddy Piper fan, you'll want to check this out."
Where can fans follow you and GFW on social media?