SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
This edition includes The Shoot from Jeff Hardy, the weekly top ten, the Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff, the “Road to Wrestle Kingdom” with Kushida, and Five Questions with Major League Baseball’s Adam Jones.
The Shoot: Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy is one half of the greatest tag team in the history of wrestling. He and his brother, “Broken” Matt Hardy, are unveiling Total Nonstop Deletion on December 15 on Pop TV, which promises to be appointment viewing for wrestling fans. In addition to raising his family, Hardy is also the driving force behind the new Jeff Hardy Brand. In his own words, Hardy details his wrestling career, ambition outside the ring, and his future.
Looking Back to Look Forward
Back when I was younger, I would have no fear climbing a ladder. I couldn’t wait to get to the top just so I could jump off.
Now I am married and raising my two daughters, and I’m not a kid in the WWE any more.
People ask me how I am so fearless on a ladder and how I have no fear in the ring. And the answer to that question is a bit complicated. I used to have no fear, but that is no longer true. With a wife and two girls at home, I’m more afraid now than ever.
My soul feeds off that adrenaline. I’ll do anything. That has proven problematic—you may remember my broken leg in a dirt bike accident—but that is also the ingredient that has allowed me to elevate myself in pro wrestling.
I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far in my career, but the finish line is nowhere in sight. Still, it’s fun to look back before we move forward.
There are so many great memories. One of the greatest spots of all time was in our TLC match at WrestleMania X-Seven with the ladder. Bully Ray was holding me by the bottom of the ladder, and I looked like a big old spider, and then he slung me into Edge off another huge ladder and into that spear. It’s from 2001, but it will never get old. That’s one of those spots that is immortal.
I also put Edge through the first ladder. We weren’t supposed to break any tables, so I asked, ‘Can I break a ladder?’ And that was the first ladder that had ever been broke. Edge is such a great guy. I also remember the WrestleMania 23 spot with Edge. For him, that had to kill—I landed directly on his chest. That only hurt my ass a little, but for him, it had to hurt like hell. That’s one of those memories we’ll always share.
Naturally, as I climb that ladder, there is still that adrenaline rush going straight through my body and into my head. The last example of that feeling—and I was so scared because I realize that there may come a time when I don’t get up—was during the finish of ‘The Great War’ at Bound for Glory this past October. I sprung over the ladder and put Crazzy Steve through two tables. That just knocked me silly. I didn’t even know if I hit him. Looking back at it, my legs made contact, but man, I hit hard. The adrenaline took over because I knew I needed to get the one-two-three.
I still look forward to doing things I’ve never done before. But the fear beforehand is always worse than the actual moment. Leading up to it, especially before the match, is when the butterflies are at their worst. But in the match, the creatures—my fans—fuel me. They’re a huge superpower for me and my survival.
When I was younger, I was on cloud nine to pull off something breathtaking. There was no better adrenaline rush than bringing a dream into reality in front of a WrestleMania crowd. Now I realize I am so lucky to get up from those falls, and I’m blessed to be able to still go like I do now. A big difference between ‘The Great War’ and those TLC matches is that there were so many cool entertaining things that didn’t hurt me at all during ‘The Great War.’ When an umbrella opens and then closes, and I appear as Willow, that’s just so cool and unique. My brother Matt and I are going to show off even more of our personalities on Total Nonstop Deletion on December 15, and I just can’t wait for everyone to see that. That will be the most fun wrestling show to watch, ever – believe me, people have never seen anything like it.
People always ask Matt and I if we’ll ever go back to WWE, but we are having such a good time with this creative liberty in TNA. We’re able to do what we want to do. The show is built around us, and that’s something that makes me really proud.
Up until I re-signed for another year in 2015, I had wanted to return to WWE. I wanted to wrestle Undertaker at a Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania.
‘Taker is just the man. He is the locker room leader that everybody looks up to in wrestling. If you watch the way he wrestles, you can learn so much. His entrance is just chilling.
Matt and I opened the doors for the King of the Ring in 1995. They put us in these jester outfits. It was so long ago—I’d just graduated and still had short blonde hair, and we were out there in these baggy-ass jester suits feeling quite embarrassed. They usually had these big jacked up guys, but we couldn’t even fill out the outfits. Matt actually got drilled in the head from someone in the crowd with a Big Gulp cup. We look back on that and laugh, but seeing The Undertaker that night was so chilling and unbelievable. It felt like being part of something supernatural.
Wrestling ‘Taker is still a dream match I would love to make happen—though I don’t know how his health is or if he’ll ever return to ‘Mania—and I was stuck on that for the longest time.
Now I’m open to the idea of being a part of something new rather than something old. The stuff Matt and I are doing is so creative and fun, and I want to continue this journey for as long as I can—and make TNA the best company it possibly can be.
I also have a new project: we just launched JeffHardyBrand.com.
There is original artwork available, and I’m also going to paint smaller paintings. We will air music videos on the site, too. So much of my soul is in my work, and I really want to share it with people.
I’m super excited about the new album, Spawn of Me. I am working on some of the darkest and most emotional songs I’ve ever written.
One of the songs is called “Irreversible”—and that is a song that means a lot to me. I wrote about my honest thoughts of fearing CTE, which is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered a severe blow or repeated blows to the head.
My worlds are completely different. Painting is a peaceful world, and it’s a different vibe than having a great match. You are able to look back at what you created when you finish. Recording music is an entirely different monster. When you finally write something, you do a demo and then you go into the studio. Doing the master version, that’s the best feeling ever – especially when you’re so proud of what you’ve written, and you can’t wait for people to hear it. That’s actually very similar to trying to tell a story in a wrestling match. Music is trying to tell a story, and I love the rock vibe. Hearing that finished product is almost the same high as having a killer wrestling match, you’re just doing it with a guitar instead of a partner in the ring.
Between my music, my art, and my wrestling—and having the Hardy girls and a great wife—my life is complete. I’m working a lot of indies, and that’s another cool thing about working in TNA as you can be your own boss and go out and do your own thing. I am still ambitious, and my goal is the same as always.
Be as unique and original as possible.
I have four or five wrestling personalities up my sleeve. I always want to deliver a great match, and my goal will forever be to continue to connect with the fans.
The last indie match I worked, there were no guardrails by the ring. After the match, the fans ran up to the ring. I stayed out there for thirty minutes, and there was this one girl in a wheelchair who I gave a hug and a kiss. I’d been watching her through the match, and I saved one of my armbands for her.
I made my way through all these kids, and finally made my way to the girl in the wheelchair.
As I gave her the armband, the look on her face made every sacrifice—being away from my wife, missing my daughters with all my heart—worthwhile.
I gave her the armband, and the look in her eyes filled my heart and soul. She made me human, and that’s one thing I’ve always want to be – a human with a different job. That’s the way I want people to see and remember me.
News of the Week
You may not be aware, but there is a WWE pay per view this Sunday.
The buildup to Tables, Ladders, and Chairs has slipped through the crevices, partially due to WWE’s promotion of the Survivor Series and early promotion of the Royal Rumble. Despite only two weeks in-between TLC and Survivor Series, the card for this Sunday is actually quite meaningful, especially when it comes to the main event of AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose.
Styles is the only must-see attraction who is working full time on WWE television. Although his title reign has slowly worked its way up to 80 days, the “Phenomenal One” is still missing a signature title defense.
Ambrose could also use a good showing. Despite a wonderfully successful 2016, his marquee singles matches with Triple H (Road Block), Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania 32), and Dolph Ziggler (SummerSlam) all fell short of their high expectations.
Even if he heels his way to victory, Styles must retain the championship in a manner that elevates himself, the title, and Ambrose. Fortunately for the WWE, they have the right man for the job.
In other news…
• For the third time, Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte for the WWE women’s championship on Raw. The match was highlighted by Charlotte’s moonsault off the announce table, and it will be interesting to see if WWE finally commits to a long-term title reign for Sasha Banks.
• The only fitting way to end the storyline between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens is to have Jericho defeat Owens for the Universal championship. Although this will have no connection to Triple H helping Owens win the title, that was a setup for Seth Rollins and Triple H to meet at WrestleMania.
• We are a few weeks away from Hanukkah, but Goldberg’s video from “The Man Show” with Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla – despite the adult language from Santa – should get everyone in the holiday spirit.
• Fascinating to watch as WWE creates original wrestling programming with 205 Live, which is the new Cruiserweight division show that debuted last night on the Network. I love the addition of Austin Aries to the broadcast booth (and Aries will add instant credibility once he is healthy to perform), though I wish there was more pomp and circumstance when Cruiserweight champion The Brian Kendrick was first introduced. Rich Swann defeated Kendrick in an extremely compelling main event, and the show did more to help enhance the division in only an hour last night than has for the last two months on Raw. Speaking of adding validity to the new program, would former WCW Cruiserweight champion Chris Jericho ever blur the lines of reality by bringing The Jericho Reel to the new 205 Live show?
• “So, do you mind engaging me and stuff?” That was Rusev’s incredible proposal – inside a swimming pool – to Lana, which aired on Total Divas. The show is a unique blend of reality (Lana drops her accent, Renee Young discusses dating Dean Ambrose) while also remaining scripted. In a play off reality, Maryse also detailed her legitimate feud with the Bella twins.
• All signs point to Sheamus and Cesaro defeating The New Day… after the current tag champs surpass Demolition’s as WWE’s longest ever run as tag team champions. The New Day is set to break Demolition’s 478-day tag team title run on Wednesday, December 14.
• The unforgettable moment when Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ king cobra bit the “Macho Man” Randy Savage reached its twenty-fifth anniversary last week. Incredibly, the Savage-Roberts feud did not have its payoff at WrestleMania, but instead ended on a Saturday Night’s Main Event that aired on February 8, 1992.
“My favorite moment from my career was when that damn cobra chewed on his arm,” Roberts told SI.com. “We worked our asses off to build that storyline. The WWE rushed the whole thing because it was just too powerful. Sometimes Vince got in a hurry because he would try to get ready for something else, but sometimes something explodes that is so good that you could get many more months out of it. It didn’t fit their timeline, and that was stunning because we could have wrestled each other for years. It was supposed to lead into WrestleMania. But it didn’t, and that really pissed me off. I felt like I got robbed.”
• Am I the only one who finds the Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt pairing compelling? For those wondering how gold would look around the waist of Wyatt, a run with the tag titles will hopefully begin this Sunday when they face Smackdown tag team champions Heath Slater and Rhyno.
• The accordion cover of Bobby Roode’s “Glorious Domination” is, well, nothing short of glorious.
• Coming attractions: Sports Illustrated connects with WWE Hall of Famer Edge in a “Fact or Fiction?” article next week on SI.com in the Week in Wrestling.
Top Ten: Tweeting You Right
This edition of “The Weekly Top Ten” is provided by WWE Creative Humor, a parody Twitter account poking fun at WWE storylines written by former WWE writer Robert Karpeles.
“It’s one hundred percent me,” said Karpeles. “People think it’s a whole team producing the content, but I am a one-man shop.”
Karpeles began tweeting in December of 2010, expressing his creativity in a manner that parodies current events in wrestling.
“I grew up a huge fan of the business, and I worked for WWE for two years as a producer and a member of creative in 2005 and 2006,” said Karpeles. “Wrestling informed most of my professional decisions. It was what led me to study television production at the University of Florida when I was in college. One of my dreams was to work for WWE and, if possible, work in creative.”
The 33-year-old Karpeles graduated from college in December of 2004 and was hired by WWE in February of ’05.
“Once I was in creative, my impact was very limited,” admitted Karpeles. “I was 23 years old, and it was really tough to step up in a room full of people and say something. My first week there, I watched someone pitch something that was beyond a horrible idea. That pitch went so poorly, that person was gone by the next week.”
Despite a short stint on creative, Karpeles still managed to make a lasting impact.
“One of my most enduring contributions took place in a sub-meeting with the creative team for Smackdown, including Dusty Rhodes, who was an amazing person, and we were talking about how to make Mr. Kennedy more special,” said Karpeles. “Since I’d seen a lot of the MSG shows with 24/7, even prior to working full-time with them, I said, ‘What if they brought back the old Howard Finkel microphone that dropped from the ceiling?’ So my legacy in the wrestling industry was helping to develop Mr. Kennedy’s microphone.”
Karpeles then left creative and transitioned over to a production role, working on WWE 24/7, which ultimately became the WWE Network. He then left WWE at the end of 2006 to go to law school, and now serves as the in-house counsel for the Florida Panthers.
“I loved working at WWE,” said Karpeles. “Watching when I was in law school was a great escapism, but I missed the creative end of it. When I started this Twitter handle, I started completely anonymously. I wanted to see if I could get it over on my own. If I could get 100 followers, I was going to consider this a massive success.
“I view it as I’m writing content that needs to be good and funny on its own, regardless of the fact that it’s wrestling. It could be sports, entertainment, or politics, but the question I ask myself is, ‘Am I writing something that is good? Am I writing something I can be proud of?’ That’s what people responded to early on, including John Cena. Then I suddenly saw my followers jump from 100 to 1,000 overnight. Now it’s at 212,000 followers, which is beyond staggering.”
Karpeles’ Twitter account is addicting, and is a necessary sidekick for many wrestling fans during Raw and Smackdown.
Here are my ten favorite tweets of his:
Karpeles is proud to announce that the Panthers will be holding a “Wrestling Night” during their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, January 14, and that he will also be part of WaleMania during this year’s WrestleMania weekend.
“There are a large number of superstars and people in the industry who get what I’m doing and love it,” added Karpeles. “It’s not just a joke to be mean. It’s almost parody in the way that Mel Brooks did ‘Blazing Saddles.’ He understood the Western genre and what made it work, and that’s how you can tweak it slightly and make it funny. Having worked and having followed it for many, many years, I can tweak it in a way where there is almost reverence to it. I’m never directly attacking a guy, though some guys have outright blocked me. Hogan blocked me after I tweeted that the sex tape ended with a big boot and a leg drop.”
Karpeles, who pushed for the Panthers to play Triple H’s “Time to Play the Game” theme at the start of every game, is grateful for the opportunity to connect every week with wrestling fans during Raw and Smackdown.
“WWE puts out a lot of content each week,” said Karpeles. “Three hours of Raw can be challenging, week in and week out, to watch. If my account is going to make fifteen or twenty people keep watching because they’re following along, then that means I’m keeping more fans. I’m not writing television, I’m not writing a novel, and I’m not making a major impact on culture, but I do take this very seriously.”
The Nitro Files: Miss Elizabeth
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff, WCW’s president during the company’s most successful years, hosts his weekly “Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast, which includes an interview this week with Kevin Nash, as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”
Elizabeth Hulette—better known as Miss Elizabeth—would have celebrated her 55th birthday on Nov. 19. Unfortunately, she passed away far too soon in 2003 as a result of accidental overdose.
“I carried her death around with me for a while,” said Bischoff. “I don’t usually carry a lot of baggage around with me, but I was pretty upset about the way that went down.”
Bischoff brought Elizabeth into WCW to manage ex-husband Randy Savage, but also developed a friendship with her outside of the ring.
“I had a partner at WCW, Janie Engle, and she became a close friend of my family,” explained Bischoff. “Elizabeth, Janie, and my wife developed their own relationship outside of wrestling, and my wife became very close with Elizabeth. She came out to our house in Wyoming and they called it ‘Girls’ Night Out West’ and they went trout fishing and hiking. Elizabeth became very close to us.”
Elizabeth was annointed the “First Lady of Wrestling” during the halcyon era of the 1980’s World Wrestling Federation, and Bischoff explained that she was just as dignified off-camera, as well as personable and warm.
“She was more animated away from television,” explained Bischoff. “She was a very lighthearted and fun person to be around. You got a little glimpse of it when she was in the NWO, but when I saw her away from the cameras and the arenas, she was a very joyful and lighthearted person.”
Her arrival in WCW in 1996, Bischoff admitted, was fairly spontaneous.
“Randy came over, and a lot of that had to do with Hulk Hogan,” said Bischoff. “Even though there was a lot of heat between Randy and Hulk, and they had their ups and downs, Hulk knew, intuitively, who he could draw money with. That person was Randy, and shortly after Randy, he thought Elizabeth could play a great role—and she did. She managed Randy, she separated from Randy as we played out their real life story in WCW/NWO version, so it all made sense.”
Bischoff still recalls the warm friendship Savage shared with Elizabeth.
“Even though they had been divorced, Randy still had a great affection for her,” said Bischoff. “He wasn’t in love with her, but he clearly loved her. He wasn’t overly protective, but he was obviously protective of her and didn’t want her to be exploited or their past to be exploited. Whatever it is we wanted to do, he wanted it to be handled respectfully, which I thought was very classy. That made me respect Randy even more.”
Professional wrestling is often over-the-top and outlandish, but Elizabeth personified through her performances that less can also mean more.
“You always hear ‘You’ve got to get yourself over’ in pro wrestling, but you don’t want something stuffed down your throat,” said Bischoff. “Liz was perfect. She knew her role, knew how to work a camera, and she could speak volumes with a look. That was her magic.
“She knew her character. She could emote so much energy, and you could read so much into her just from the way her eyes looked in the camera or the way she held her head. You see the little things she did more frequently in film than you do in television, especially in sports entertainment. Elizabeth was that understated character who could speak volumes with a look or a bat of her eyes and just the way she carried herself to the ring.”
Elizabeth, Bischoff explained, was a natural.
“You’re never at your best on camera until you’re not really trying,” said Bischoff. “When you can deliver that character without trying so hard to be a character, that’s when you resonate with the audience. Otherwise, you’re overacting or trying too hard. Elizabeth was a master at knowing exactly how much to deliver to create the emotion that her character was meant to represent.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
The Road to Wrestle Kingdom: KUSHIDA
Kushida is the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion, and his match for January’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 (New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania, available on New Japan World) is set against the recently returned and renamed Hiromu Tanahashi.
New Japan breaks its wrestlers into UFC-like weight classes and Kushida has dominated the junior heavyweight division, currently in his fourth reign as champion. He defeated Kenny Omega last January at Wrestle Kingdom 10, but the paths taken since that match have seen Omega—who is scheduled to headline Wrestle Kingdom 11 against IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada—break into the heavyweight division while Kushida has remained the face of the juniors.
“Since those days we fought each other in junior heavyweight stage, it was well known among rosters that Kenny was really powerful and speedy like an Olympic athlete,” said Kushida. “He is even now getting stronger by the day. As for his mental part, I respect his total performance and creativeness in the ring. Through the matches with him, I think he is a real man of pro wrestling. He is mostly thinking about pro wrestling every day, all day long.”
Kushida dreamed of becoming a professional wrestler after watching the Ultimate Warrior defeat Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI, and he also envisioned himself in the main event—without any restriction on weight—just like his heroes.
“I’m positive that I will also rise to the heavyweights,” explained Kushida. “In 2016, I defended the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship five times and also got a victory of the Super J-Cup. I elevated myself and also the Junior Heavyweight title by wrestling in the main event of a main card.”
Kushida is positioned as a heavyweight in Ring of Honor, and he believes that he will earn the respect of his heavyweight peers in New Japan once he is given the opportunity.
“If I were in the G1 tournament, like the one Kenny Omega just won, I would be confident that I could defeat anyone by my submissions,” said Kushida. “I’m interested in challenging for the NEVER title since it is open-weight.”
Although WWE recently reintroduced its cruiserweight division, New Japan’s weight class remains unique. The vast majority of wrestling promotions in North America do not break their rosters into divisions by weight, and Kushida is actually looking toward fans in the United States for support.
“Ring of Honor’s Kyle O’Reilly is positioned like I’m positioned,” said Kushida. “He has also great techniques of submissions and martial arts. I guess both of us may have a chance to get to the next stage of challenges to the heavyweight rank in New Japan. I would like to ask American fans to promote both of us in order to get this kind of chance.”
Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson
Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard are set to deliver “The Rise and Fall of Sunny” on this Friday’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast this week. The pair just finished TNA: Part II last week, and Thompson still cannot believe some of the information they unearthed.
“Between Dixie Carter’s action figure and the TNA Hall of Fame, there was a lot of craziness in that episode,” said Thompson, who was amazed that used Rolex watches were given out to the Hall of Fame inductees. “TNA was the second most powerful wrestling company in North America, and I just find Dixie Carter’s whole personality—where she doesn’t know who she is or what she wants—so fascinating.”
This week’s podcast details Tammy Sytch’s run in WWE, who reached new heights of superstardom through her personality and beauty.
“We’re going to focus on the time Bruce was there in WWE with Sunny,” said Thompson. “So we’re going to focus on her time in the 90’s, and there is lots of—as Bruce likes to say on the show—rumors and innuendo. We’re going to set the record straight after when she was first signed from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, then worked with the Bodydonnas, then an on-air personality, lots of feuds and hijinks, and we’ll touch on her life since.”
Five Questions with… Adam Jones
The Baltimore Orioles’Adam Jones is a five-time MLB All Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger recipient, and also a passionate wrestling fan. He connected with the Week in Wrestling to share his feelings on the squared circle, as well as extend his respect for those who wrestle for a living.
SI.com: How long have you been a wrestling fan? Baseball has long, arduous seasons, but wrestling in the WWE is an even more taxing schedule. As a fellow professional athlete, do you hold wrestlers in high esteem for their work ethic and time on the road in constant pursuit of perfecting their craft?
Jones: Their season is long – as in, the whole year. They’re on the road 320 of 365 days of the year. I don’t know how their wives and kids necessarily like that. I have a wife and two kids. Being on the road during the earlier part of my career was great, and I loved seeing all the different cities. Now that I am a little bit older, I’m constantly missing my kids do this or their first time doing that, and that gets old pretty quick. I have a lot of respect for all of the guys grinding it out every night to get to the primetime lights.
I’ve been liking wrestling ever since I can remember. My favorites when I was younger were the Ultimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, the original Undertaker. And I remember the fake Undertaker, I remember Kane when he was Dr. Isaac Yankem, D.D.S. I liked Ahmed Johnson, the Bushwhackers, the Nasty Boys, the Dudleys, Shawn Michaels, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and the list goes on and on for guys I enjoyed watching.
Then there was the “Attitude Era” with Stone Cold and The Rock that took my love for wrestling to a whole new level. We would talk about wrestling after Raw and Nitro every Tuesday morning. We had in-depth discussions every Tuesday morning. I’m a little removed from the product now—I don’t always have my Monday nights free during the baseball season—but I’m still able to go to some of the events, meet some of the guys, and keep up with what is going on. The relationship that has been built between myself and WWE—which was set up through one of the former writers, Kevin Eck—is great. Most of the guys are college athletes in their own right, and they come in putting their bodies on the line. Guys risk serious injury to do what they do in the ring, and I took a serious interest in the sport.
SI.com: Connecting wrestling to baseball, you play in the American League East division alongside the New York Yankees. If Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were the Rockers, who would be Shawn Michaels and who would be Marty Jannetty?
Jones: The Yankees team is Derek Jeter’s team. Numbers tell a great story, but that’s Jeter’s team. Jeter is the crème de la crème. He is The Undertaker. Jeter doesn’t speak too much—he leads. He doesn’t speak, he leads. People’s mouths have grown with the growth of social media—but The Undertaker’s mouth didn’t get bigger. Neither did Jeter’s.
A-Rod is a great player and he got his ring, but to me, he’s like Hollywood Hogan. People loved him early in his career, like Hulk Hogan, but he became Hollywood Hogan and became the villain. But to be connected with Hulk Hogan is a pretty good compliment.
SI.com: If Adam Jones were a wrestler, would you be a babyface or a heel?
Jones: I’m definitely a villain. I need the boos. I want to be like The Rock. Stone Cold was always loved, for the most part. He had his villain moments when he sided with Vince, but people loved his attitude. The Rock went both sides—they loved him and they hated him. The Rock and Stone Cold were the spearhead of the “Attitude Era,” along with The Undertaker. When Pete Rose got in there, or Dennis Rodman or Karl Malone—who is my mom’s favorite athlete ever, including me—or when Floyd Mayweather was in there, just look at the ratings—everybody loves wrestling. When [Houston Astros’] Josh Reddick and I play against each other, we say, “We need a title match or a TLC match.” We’re athletes, but at the end of the day, we’re big kids. We’re fortunate that we don’t have to work nine-to-five and be stressed about it, but at the end of the day, we watch the same shows that everyone else does. I’m not in a different room eating caviar—we do the same things as everybody else, but it is cool to be able to go to events like SummerSlam and get good seats. One of the coolest moments was meeting Farooq and having him say “Damn!”—I made sure to get that on tape.
SI.com: You have raised over $80,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Baltimore over the past four years. Why do you believe giving back is so important?
Jones: What I’ve done on the field has awarded me and then afforded me to be able to do special things, not just only for my family, but for other people, too. Using my name and celebrity for goodwill allows me to raise money for kids and impact lives. We just raised $50,000 in a matter of four weeks for the city of Baltimore.
I ask the people of Baltimore to give back to their city and give to the youth. I want to see that city thrive, and not just the good parts downtown and Inner Harbor, but the hood, point blank—I want to see those kids aspire to be something. Baltimore showed their asses at the fourth annual #StayHungry Purple tailgate, and that shows they care about their city. It’s not about me—I’m able to help bring the people together—but the people are the ones fighting and responding to my philanthropic endeavors, and I’m forever grateful for that. I’m now starting to do that in my hometown of San Diego.
SI.com: Can you equate this year’s World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians to a WrestleMania moment? Was Chicago winning the World Series for the first time since 1908 the equivalent of Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30?
Jones: Take it back to an old school match because it was two old schools with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, so I’m going to go with the Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind from the 1998 King of the Ring. They were battling on top of the cage—and that was just like the World Series with two franchises – one which ain’t won since ’48 and one ain’t won since 1908—trying to get out of hell. That’s how I would equate that. They both went back-to-back with blows, and it ended in game seven. Both teams gave every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears, and that’s what it takes to be in one of those matches.
Tweet of the Week
Just under five minutes of the early brilliance of Dean Ambrose.