WWE Hall of Famer John “Bradshaw” Layfield was on the WWE After The Bell podcast where he opened up about his career, including his beginnings as part of The New Blackjacks with WWE Hall of Famer, Barry Windham. JBL said that original Blackjack Jack Lanza was fine with the idea of a new version of the team, but Blackjack Mulligan was not happy with establishing a newer version.
“I wanted to make sure it was OK with one member — Jack Lanza. Jack Lanza was the agent on the road,” JBL explained. “I have the utmost respect for Jack Lanza to this day. He’s still alive up in Minnesota. I still have so much respect for Lanza. I didn’t know Barry well, and I never met his dad, Blackjack [Mulligan]. Barry, you told me it was OK with him it; It apparently wasn’t OK with Blackjack Mulligan. It was a real problem there that he didn’t want me and Barry to be The New Blackjacks.
“Lanza was all for it. Lanza did the promos for us. They asked Lanza to be our manager and he refused — he just didn’t want to be on the road. He didn’t want to be in the ring anymore, and on television. He just wanted to in backstage. He’s probably the best agent I’ve ever seen, but yeah, I had a lot of trepidation being ‘The New’, especially because I didn’t want to insult Lanza.”
JBL spoke about Windham as well, saying that WWE did not see much in Windham at the time. He said he would see flashes of the classic Windham from the NWA, but said that creative ultimately had nothing for him.
“Yeah, I didn’t really give a s–t about Barry at the time,” JBL admitted. “He still could go, and I remember one time we were in Kansas City, and he had a big name in Kansas City because of Harley [Race] and the NWA. And all of a sudden, the old Barry Windham came out and it wasn’t like it was the old Barry Windham. Barry was still young enough to go. I’m sitting on an apron watching. I’m going, ‘oh my God, this is Windham that worked with [Ric] Flair. This is the guy that I copied so much of.’ It was amazing, and you would see flashes of that with Barry.
“Barry knew that creative, at the time, did not have much for him, and Barry had money — he was set. He didn’t really care. I love Barry; he’s one of my best friends, and Barry could have still gone at the time but he knew there was a ceiling put on him that was ridiculous. And I thought it was stupid at the time. I thought they could have done something with him.”
JBL would later team with WWE Hall of Famer Ron Simmons to form the iconic tag team: Acolyte Protection Agency (APA). He said that there was never a specific reason for WWE to put them together. He said that they were friends before teaming up, so it was a convenient fit.
“After Windham left, you knew he was going to leave. Creative just didn’t didn’t have anything for him,” JBL said. “They just didn’t see him as a viable main event guy anymore, and he could have been. It was a mistake, I think, to this day. When Barry left, I was just kind of there and just kind of Blackjack. I was Blackjack Bradshaw — they dropped the Justin Hawk. There are so many different iterations. Me and Ron Simmons rode together all the time on the road. We were best friends before we ever tagged.
“They said, ‘why don’t we just put Ron and John together? They’re both football players and they’re both big guys. They like each other anyway.’ There wasn’t a lot of thought to it. It wasn’t like, ‘hey, this is going to be some great tag team. It was just kind of like, ‘hey, we don’t have anything for Ron, the first Black heavyweight champion. He’s one of the greatest football players of all time, and this big kid who is his best friend, let’s just put them together because they got nothing else to do.’ That’s really what it was.”
JBL noted that mixed race tag teams were not typical back in the day. He said that Simmons did not want the team to be about race.
“You know, back in the day, there weren’t that many mixed race tag teams,” JBL noted. “I know you had Coco [B. Ware] and Owen [Hart] together, and you had a lot in some regional territories. You had the Dudley’s in ECW, but for the most part, you put cowboys with cowboys, you put natives with natives, you put Samoans with Samoans, Blacks and Blacks, Mexicans with Mexicans.
“You really didn’t have biracial teams at the time, so this was something quite new that they were trying, even though it had been done before for all those people out there who are going to fact check me on Twitter. But when they did it, they wanted to make something out of it and Ron absolutely refused.
“He said, ‘this is not about race. This is about two good friends going to the ring together.’ And Ron would never let it become about race, and since then, you’ve had a lot of biracial teams. The Dudleys helped also, but you had Booker [T] and Goldust — a fantastic team. But a lot of that came about later; we were one of the first.”
Corey Graves discussed the iconic moments of APA and how they were known for their hard-hitting style. JBL told a story about the origins of APA, starting with him drinking in a hotel that Vince McMahon was staying at.
“That was one of the things that Vince liked about it,” JBL revealed. “It was my birthday. We had wrestled up in Philadelphia. We’re down in Baltimore, we’re staying at the Old Red Roof by the airport and I wanted to go get something to drink. Godfather was riding me, Teddy Long, [and] Ron Simmons. It’s my birthday, so they’re feeding me everything that I can ingest.
“By the time we get to Baltimore, Ron says, ‘I’m going to bed.’ I said, ‘well, I’m going to the bar. It’s my birthday.’ So I went down to the TV hotel, which we never did, but I knew there was going to be people down there to talk to and have a few more drinks before I went to bed, and I ran into Vince and Shane and they bought me some drinks.
“They put me in their car and sent me back to the Red Roof. I get to the Red Roof and I open up the door. I’m stumbling around, and Ron said, ‘how’d you get back?’ I said ‘Vince’s limo.’ He goes, ‘we’re f–ked, we’re f–ked. You went to the TV hotel?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ He goes, ‘you still got connections in Japan?’
He continued recalling getting called into McMahon’s office and McMahon pitching the idea of APA to him. He said the pitch of just two guys sitting around and drinking beer was simple and appealing enough for himself and Simmons.
“Let me correct part of the story – he said, ‘see me early in the day with Ron.’ I’m out having some drinks and I went to the TV hotel by myself,” JBL recalled. “I got to correct part of that because Vince goes, ‘I want to see you next day at TV.’ I said, ‘OK,’ so went in there and I thought, ‘OK, this is it. He’s going to wring me out for being drunk at the TV hotel.’ And he goes, ‘I want to put that on television.’ ‘Put what on television?’ And I’m still so hungover.
“I’m seeing triple, and he goes, ‘you and Ron sitting around BS-ing and having beer.’ He goes, ‘that’s good stuff.’ He goes, ‘I like that. That’s just guys.’ You want me and Ron to sit down and drink beer on television? He goes, ‘yes.’ He goes, ‘I got it all figured out – The Acolyte Protection Agency – The APA. You’re going to beat people up for money.’ So, I go back and tell Ron.
“Ron goes, ‘yeah, when we going to Japan?’ I said, ‘Ron, Vince wants us to drink beer on television.’ Ron goes, ‘that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.’ That was it. That’s how the APA started, was Vince just seeing me and Ron sit around BS-ing, and he goes, ‘I just want to put that on television. You guys be you guys.’ He thought that was entertaining, and that’s how the APA, as far as the backstage, started.
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