The “Wrestling God” JBL joined Busted Open with Dave Lagreca and Doug Mortman. You can hear Busted Open from 2-4 ET on Sirius 94, XM 208, and Sportszone 860 on the internet.
On inducting Ron Simmons into the WWE Hall of Fame:
All of the speech came from the heart. As far as the structure of it, I thought “I’m just telling the truth about my best friend.” I thought this was going to be very easy, but then I started realizing how important the situation was. This was the first black heavyweight champion. This is a guy who was probably the best nose tackle of all-time in college football. I’m inducting a real legend, which sometimes I lose fact of because he is my very best friend. I had to take a step back and think “I’ve got a place in history here, doing something for somebody who’s done something really phenomenal.” The first guy to break through that color barrier in professional wrestling; this is an incredible individual. There was a little bit of planning because when I first thought about it, I thought I could do this off-the-cuff. And a lot of it did come off-the-cuff, but a lot of it was a bit of planning to make sure I represented Ron in the best way.
On the state of tag team wrestling:
To be honest, I don’t know a lot about it. It comes on so late in Bermuda that I’ve just started watching the shows again, TIVO’ing them, and what I’ve seen recently on the show is that you’re starting to see some tag teams, but things go in cycles. During [my] time period, I don’t think tag teams emerged because they wanted them to. They just emerged because the characters got together. They weren’t doing anything with Road Dogg and Billy Gunn. They were just mid-card guys kind of like me and Ron were being used, and all of a sudden you stick us together, and it meshes. You stick Billy Gunn and Road Dogg together, and it just clicked. Hunter and Shawn, same thing. They were obviously main event guys, but they were put together and all of a sudden, the chemistry clicked. Then you add a couple of guys who out of the blue, you couldn’t factor in. The Hardys and Edge and Christian, who come along at the same time period and all of a sudden, they take off like crazy. I don’t think you can plan that. That just happened. When you have something like Stone Cold, that just happened. The Rock just happened. I don’t think you can necessarily plan and say “OK, this year we’re going have a good tag team division.” I think you can say “This year, we’re going to try to emphasize the tag team division and hope someone steps up,” but I don’t think that’s something that consciously is a decision made by the WWE.
On whether or not you can plan who will be a top star, or if it happens organically:
Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn are by far the two best people probably in the history of our business from where they’ve taken this business to, and they have a great feeling for crowd psychology in terms of what’s going to get over and what’s not going to get over. With that being said, they love to use the expression “We give you the keys to the car, it’s up to you to drive it.” We hired 2 guys from WCW. We hired a guy who we thought was going to be the future of the company, and we hired a guy who was just going to be a good workhorse. We hired Marc Mero and Stone Cold. Marc Mero was the guy that we thought was going to carry the company, and he got the first guaranteed contract. We thought that guy was going to be everything. We hired Stone Cold Steve Austin at the time, and thought he was just going to be a good workhorse, and it turned out completely wrong on both.
On if he knew John Cena would be the face of the company following their matches at WrestleMania 21 and Judgment Day 2005:
No doubt about it. I told Vince at the time that John Cena was the guy. There was a little bit of doubt at the time; he was untested. It wasn’t because of John, there was just doubt at the time. Can this guy really carry the company? You can do an eight-minute match, that’s easy. You get out there it’s like a movie: The good guy shines, the good guy gets in peril, then you have the ending and it’s a set formula. But when you start going 20-40 minutes, that formula breaks up and you really have to start telling a story at that point, and some guys can never make that transition from eight minutes to 40 minutes. That’s tough to do, and I was the first guy that was with Cena that took him to half an hour in main event matches around the loop, and he was great. From the first minute that he did it, he was great. I was giving reports back to Vince and said “This guy’s got it.” He’s an absolute workaholic. He works really hard every single night, and I really think he’s your guy, but you never know. Remember, Vince made a couple mistakes. He was right with Stone Cold once he saw him, but he was wrong with Marc Mero once he saw him, so you don’t know until they get into that spot if they really going to be able to do it. I thought from the time I first wrestled John and met John, that he was going to be able to do it. He’s unbelievable. He’s a wonderful face of the company. Now could I see him going on and doing movies and carrying the company for a decade? Nobody could see that. But I did think he was the guy.
On helping other wrestlers when everyone is fighting for their own spot:
When I first broke in, it was all helping. But now, you have a set roster and people don’t necessarily want their spots being taken. I know you still have a lot of guys that do help. To give an example, we had a kid who got so much heat from a bunch of guys, one of the referees was about to beat him up. So I went to him and said “What can you do you to make amends for this?” He said “I used to be an old bartender,” and I said “Why don’t you just serve drinks on a charter flight? Bring all the booze and serve drinks for the guys, and then everything will be fine.” He did, landed, quit the company, and sued the company for several million dollars. I think he later dropped the suit, but that was a way you have of guys becoming part of it.
On transitioning from a tag team wrestler into the main event:
It was tough because it came later in my career, so the main event status was very well received. If I had it earlier in my career, I’m not sure I would’ve appreciated it nearly as much. I was towards the end of my career, I had had a torn bicep, and I really thought I was about to retire but I got lucky. Big Show was hurt, Under taker was hurt, Kurt Angle was hurt, Brock Lesnar had left to play football, and they needed somebody immediately to wrestle Eddie Guerrero after WrestleMania, so that’s how the whole role came about. I pitched this JBL character before, and they didn’t really want to do it because I was doing so much with the troops. All of a sudden, now they needed somebody and they said “Do you think you can do this?” and I said “Yeah, I think so.” It was terrible for a long time. We went weeks, and it was just crickets when I’d walk out. Nobody wanted to buy me as the main event guy and nobody wanted to buy me as the nemesis to Eddie Guerrero, but thank goodness it was Eddie. If it had been anybody else, the JBL character probably would’ve died that first pay-per-view. But because of Eddie, we did the heart attack angle with his mother in El Paso. We did so many different things with Eddie that I couldn’t have done with somebody that wasn’t a dear friend and somebody that wanted to see me succeed so badly. Eddie agreed that they should put the championship on me, and that’s really remarkable for a person. If it had been anybody else, that JBL character probably wouldn’t have happened.
On his match with Eddie Guerrero at Judgment Day 2004:
That match ended up being very good. I’ll tell you a funny backstage story of that match. Pat Patterson came to help us with that match, and Eddie was a guy that was 100 percent feel. Eddie looked at me and I said “What’s wrong?” and he said “I don’t feel any of that, I just don’t like it.” I told him Pat’s just trying to help, so we called Pat back in and I said “Eddie doesn’t like that.” Pat told us he was just trying to help and asked us what we wanted to do, and Eddie said “Can we get out there and just kind of feel it?” Pat said “If you think you can, go,” and we went out there in a pay-per-view, and we didn’t even have a finish. We had zero planned for that pay-per-view and that’s how Eddie was and I don’t know if that could happen nowadays. That’s how Eddie was, he was that special.
On the different reactions John Cena receives:
Everybody has a response. When Rocky Maivia first became The Rock, it was because he failed miserably, but at least people cared. We’ve had a lot of people who have failed miserably that nobody cared about. They go out there and they’re just not over. Rocky not only didn’t go over, but the fans were chanting “Rocky sucks!” They hated him as a good guy, but everybody had a feeling. With John Cena, everybody has a feeling. Whether you dislike his character a little bit or a lot, whether you love it a little bit or a lot, everybody has a feeling about Cena. When he comes in the arena, whether you’re sitting by someone who loves him or somebody who hates him, they’re going to be very vocal, and that’s what you want out of a champion and I think he’s done a wonderful job as far as tweaking his character. He has a great feel for where he’s going, and he’s got great insight in what he’s doing.
On his favorite memories from Raw:
There have been so many great things. The ECW Invasion was absolutely awesome. Because I’d been in Texas I never saw ECW, so I didn’t understand the passion the fans had. Going in that arena that night was one of the greatest things I ever did. That was incredible to watch, those fans with such great passion; I loved everything about it. The Mike Tyson angle was just awesome. The whole Attitude Era, when Steve is driving all these different trucks over everything, I’ll tell you a funny story about that. Steve was on top of an ambulance and he had to come to the ring, and he was going to hit I think either me or Ron with a chair. He’s drinking beer and it’s about to go to commercial and it’s gotten so slippery on top of the ambulance that he can’t get down. So Steve gets on his butt and he slides down and his butt goes all the way through the windshield and he comes to the ring mad. He’s just wailing on me and Ron with a chair. And I’m like, “You clumsy bastard! I didn’t do it, I had nothing to do with it!”
On Michael Cole:
He is one of the best prepared play-by-play guys I’ve ever seen. I could literally go out there with no notes, and just react off Cole, he really is that good. Working with that guy everyday gave me a great appreciation for what he does. I saw him on Monday night and he was awesome, just flat awesome. We never had a heel play-by-play guy. I mean, this guy is a middle-aged guy that doesn’t have the athletic ability to play checkers and he’s out there in the main event against John Cena and people are actually entertained by it. That’s the power of his character and shows you how good Michael Cole actually is. I’m telling you, the guy is phenomenal for what he does. I love Michael Cole’s character and the way it’s morphing.
On his favorite matches:
There’s been a couple. The I Quit match with Cena, because I knew he could do that kind of match. I knew he could be the hardcore guy, and I was really happy to be able to give John that format and to let him be him, and I was really proud of the way John stepped up that day. I think that put him in a different light not because of what I did, but because of what he did. But probably the best match I ever had was at No Mercy with Undertaker. It was the most physical thing I’ve ever been a part of. I broke my nose, I had all kinds of stitches. It was just brutal, but it was probably the most entertaining thing I ever did for a pure half hour. Eddie Guerrero and I had I thought some really good matches, so it’s hard to choose the best. But that one with Undertaker, I was really proud of that match. And I’ll tell you one just out of the blue that happened during that entire time. I had a match with Chris Benoit in Mexico and we went 45 minutes one night at a house show, and that was the best match I ever wrestled. We came through and for some reason, it clicked. We went out the next night and tried to do the same thing and it didn’t work, so I don’t know what happened that night. And there’s not one record of it anywhere, but that’s how it happens. What’s cool about it is you go out there and you’re not expecting it. Chris and I went out there and we were hoping to put on a good show, but all of a sudden everything worked that night. I still remember that with fond memory; that was really cool.