Jim Cornette Talks The Current State of Wrestling, NWA & All In’s Success

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Jim Cornette was this week’s guest on Talk is Jericho. The episode appears to have been recorded a few months ago, but it covers the year in wrestling. Interesting topics include All In, why Cornette worked the NWA 70th Anniversary Event, and more.

Transcription by WrestleZone.com Senior Editor Tyler Treese.

Why he did the NWA 70th Anniversary Event:

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t do anything if it doesn’t mean something to me. Either financially or personally. As a fan I saw my first NWA Heavyweight Championship match in 1974, Jerry Lawler and Jack Briscoe. As a photographer I covered my first NWA Heavyweight Championship match in 1977, Harley Race and Rocky “Soulman” Johnson. Then as I got into the business, the Midnight Express were NWA Tag Team Champions and we worked for Crockett in the 80s. In the 90s I was able to help with the resurgence after [WCW] when it was down to six promoters, two inactive. We had an affiliation with Dan Severn when he was NWA Champion down in Smoky Mountain Wrestling a few times. Then in WWF, we had Jeff Jarrett’s NWA invasion angle as the NWA International Champion. By the end of the 90s, we ended up with about 30-something promoters. That was 20 years ago, and things went sideways again, but now [it’s back again].

They called me about the NWA 70th Anniversary and it tugged on my heartstrings a little bit. I’m working on the bucket list stuff right now in my career. I did commentary on a pay-per-view with Jim Ross when I went to England a couple years ago, and crossed that one off. They said it was the Nashville fairgrounds, Jeff Jarrett is promoting the live event, and it’ll be a pay-per-view on FITE TV. I started working for Jeff’s grandmother every Saturday night in the Nashville fairgrounds in 1982. Also, Tony Schiavone is signed on to do the rematch contest, and I hadn’t done a show with him in 28 years, and it was close to home.

Plus, Dave Lagana showed me the “Ten Pounds of Gold” series he’s been doing and I didn’t know why nobody had sent me this rather than [the stupid stunts on indie shows]! It’s a documentary series on the life, trials and tribulations of the NWA Champion and who wants the title. Nick Aldis is dressed like a professional, he carries himself so well and is well spoken. He’s not some mush-mouthed buffoon. And then Cody obviously has everything, he’s a professional athlete that has got it in his genes. They’re treating the business seriously and they don’t wink at the audience for any reason. It’s a contest between two athletes that want something that means a lot to them. That’s why I agreed to it, and they had a heck of a World Heavyweight Championship match.

On why wrestling should be portrayed seriously:

I don’t think that is what wrestling is to me, I think that is what wrestling is because it’s born of a simulated conflict. You can do different things, and the problem I have is that movies is a performance. Everyone knows that all form of entertainment is a performance, people used to not know how much wrestling is a performance and how much is a sport. But when you wink at people with that, and it depends on how you do it, but it devalues [the product]. When guys take moves that used to be a hospitalization angle, and now they just pop up because it’ll pop the people who are there in that moment, but then it goes viral and it devalues the move. Or when guys basically have matches with themselves or take their own bumps for whatever reason, already we’ve gone from guys in the past 20 years having fairly long careers to guys having spinal fusions. Why do you want to illustrate to people that don’t know what a vertical suplex in a wrestling ring feels like? I even see people popping up from moves that I know hurt them because the spot was called. When you’re doing things that genuinely hurt you in what’s supposed to be simulated conflict [and acting like it didn’t] that makes my head explode.

On movie comparisons to wrestling:

I know John Wayne didn’t shoot all of those [Native Americans], but he didn’t help them up and say, “Nice bump,” on camera.

Why podcasts are so popular:

The people that like wrestling now are often more interested in the podcasts and the newsletters than the actual product because they know this shit is real! Sincerity is key, when you can fake that you have it made. If everything is presented real in wrestling, just like in magic, then you know there is trickery going on, but you don’t know where it begins and what part is what. That makes intrigue and gets people more interested. Behind the scenes stuff is real, they know these promotions don’t get along.

WWE’s TV deal with FOX:

Vince just got $2 billion for a TV deal. People are looking at All In, the resurgence of New Japan, and all that, but that’s going to be the most important thing. Now people with platforms are interested in wrestling again. There’s a lot of money in wrestling again. For a while ratings were meh, and they still are, but at the same point $2 billion, how can you argue with that? In 2011, when Sinclair Broadcasting bought Ring of Honor it instantly became the second most watched television program because it was on 60 local stations. That was still a wide gap from WWE, and IMPACT has gone in the other direction because of their platform. It doesn’t matter how good the wrestling is, how good the show is, or the wrestling style, now platforms are interested and it doesn’t have to all be Vince.

Why All In was a success:

For 20 years, WWE has trained the fans that the McMahons that own the company are the evil empire. Right or wrong, good or bad, and Vince is one of a kind since whenever he’s going to be on TV it’s going to be great, but the rest of the family can’t be that bad. People have been trained that they keep the favorite wrestlers under their thumb, and now 20 years later these guys are getting hot, and the fans are watching New Japan and seeing Cody and The Bucks. The internet makes it available now and they hit the brilliant idea of “the boys are running their own show.” I’m not saying they aren’t over, but no other show they performed on sold 10,000 people. It was an event, a happening. It was what Cody inherited from “The Dream,” making a big event. For once the wrestlers get the money, it’s like the humane society. It was a “hold my beer” moment.

Read the internet if you want to make yourself miserable. All the fans are not satisfied with the product. The WWE has become Johnny Cash when he was playing Vegas, then Rick Rubin stripped him down and told him, “You’re the badass ‘Man In Black’ and you’ve lived this incredible life that when you can hear in even when you sing other people’s songs, you hear that.” Then he made five recording albums and it was the greatest work of his life. It’s so big budget, slick, choreographed, controlled, it’s Vegas music for some wrestling fans. They want something else. Fans want different styles now. The hardcore thing is still around, which I can’t figure out, but there are a significant group of fans that think the WWE [is boring]. They want something that is grittier, something that has the underground cool, or they want athletic wrestling. They want something else than what they’ve been forced to watch for the past 20 years.

On Ring of Honor’s current situation:

They just got in Madison Square Garden. Sinclair Broadcasting, which is in the television business, and I haven’t talked to these people, but you can’t tell me that they didn’t notice that Vince got $2 billion for wrestling. Now they have a wrestling company, and I can tell you that they weren’t anxious about backing up the Brinks truck seven years ago, but now they can get MSG and fill it. They all need each other in my mind: Ring of Honor, New Japan, Cody and The Bucks, all the talent, as long as they’re working together then these opportunities will keep coming and they can keep capitalizing. Nobody is going to kick Vince’s ass, but if a bunch of people gang up on him then they can make some room to cross the street at least.

The first year Sinclair owned Ring of Honor, we didn’t own a broadcast quality camera. Now they just sold out Madison Square Garden thanks to Sinclair’s legal department. Things have happened that have made the people in power [get behind the product].

His thoughts on WALTER:

I’m a big fan of WALTER in Germany. He chops like Wahoo and he’s got these big hands. He looks like a German officer in a Tarantino movie. He just needs big show experience and a new gear to kick into.

On (kind of) getting over his fear of flights:

I have discovered if I Xanax myself to unconsciousness and my wife goes with me to lead me around by small rope then I never know about the takeoff or landing. Sometimes I don’t know about checking into the hotel. I wake up the next day and am like ‘We’re here!’ I only do it sparingly and for large amounts of money.

There’s plenty more in the excellent Talk is Jericho episode, so make sure to check it out.

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