AUGH!!! Those 80’s characters that Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard and Pat Patterson were coming up with in the mid-90’s, man. I hated them—all of them—TL Hopper, The Goon, Freddie Joe Floyd, Mantaur, “WHO” and yes, even Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw.
Now, at the time I completely understood why they were developing such cartoonish, campy and unbelievable characters—that’s all they knew. And, you can’t take away their success in the 80’s. They built an EMPIRE on the backs of wrestling “characters”. If I had to list them here it would be the rest of the entire article!
Unfortunately… that was then and this was now.
At the time of the birth of all these forgetful characters, society was changing, the world was changing. In other words—nobody was buying this !@#$%^& any more. This wrestling presentation at the time was borderline embarrassing. Something needed to change. I wonder what the next ‘wave’ could be. Hmmm…
Unfortunately at the time, John Layfield fell into this category. Now, if you knew John, you knew he was the real deal—strong, rugged, dangerous. Yeah, John Layfield could KICK YOUR ARSE!!! And, you’d think that would be enough to get the character over—no? No—not in the world of the “three-headed-gimmick”—McMahon, Patterson and Prichard.
In their minds, Layfield needed to be a gimmick. I’ve got it, let’s make him a bigger, stronger, “Yosemite Sam” and to do you even one better… let’s put ANOTHER “Yosemite Sam” with him! Thus, the birth of Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and Uncle Zebakiah.
I remember having to produce Bradshaw and Dutch. Man, here was the upsetting thing—they were both GREAT at delivering promos. Dutch Mantel is on an island of his own, nobody can even touch him. BUT—when Vince expects you to “gimmick” it up—you “gimmick” it up and thus become totally unbelievable.
So ol’ Justin and Zeb were NOT getting over—surprise, surprise, surprise, but again, just to be clear, NOT THEIR FAULT.
They were only doing what they were being told to do. So what’s next? I’ve got it, kill Zeb, have Barry Windham dye his hair jet black, marry Windham and Bradshaw and you have the “NEW BLACKJACKS”!
Needless to say—that sucked even more.
It was right about this time that I became more involved with the writing. And, I remember telling Vince that the “New Blackjacks” were never going to get over. And Vince said, “Well… you tell them.” And, I did… and I got heat.
I think Bradshaw and Windham took it as a sign of disrespect, which it wasn’t at all. I was just being HONEST. But, in wrestling HONESTY doesn’t work. It never has and it never will. You can’t be the one guy telling the truth in a locker room full of carnival barkers, con men, carnies, used car salesmen and workers.
So, Windham turned on Bradshaw and joined the NWA. That sucked too, but is another story for another time.
Needless to say, my relationship with Bradshaw wasn’t the greatest at the time. But, I have to say this, need to say this and want to say this—never at ANY TIME was I a victim of “bullying” by John Layfield. I knew he didn’t like me, but he never treated me disrespectfully—never. The truth is that he was a pro.
But, he was also cocky.
My most monumental moment with John Layfield came when he, myself and Kevin Kelly were having a conversation. Kevin was good friends with Layfield and the two were always hanging around together. The conversation turns to “if wrestling were real”. Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday.
John: “If this was real, I would kick everybody’s ass in a bar fight.”
Bro—you can’t say stuff like that in front of a writer. Especially a writer who needs NEW MATERIAL WEEKLY! Cause, if you say something like that in front of a writer he will USE IT!
So, I thought to myself, “Really? You really think so, John? I’m, not too sure, a lot of BIG, TOUGH MEN in that locker room. Wait a minute… I have an idea.”
The rest is history.