Wrestling Icon Jeff Jarrett On AEW All In, Longevity And Wanting To Face CM Punk

'Double J' sat down with The Sportsman to talk all things Wembley
07:00, 14 Aug 2023

Jeff Jarrett is, to put it simply, wrestling royalty. A six-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. A four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion. ‘Double J’ was part of the Four Horsemen, the New World Order and WWE’s feted Attitude Era. Jarrett founded what we know today as Impact Wrestling.

At the age of 56, he remains a weekly fixture as part of All Elite Wrestling. ‘The Last Outlaw’ has captured a new generation of fans as he battles rivals from his past as well as the stars of the future.

Jarrett will be part of yet another historic moment on August 27 at AEW All In. Wembley Stadium will be the site of what is being touted as ‘The Biggest Event in Wrestling History’. For the first time in over three decades, England’s national stadium will play host to professional wrestling. Jarrett, a beloved star of wrestling’s past who remains a vital part of its present, will be one of the star attractions as AEW chase attendance records.

The Sportsman sat down with this icon of the squared circle to find out about the rise of AEW and how he continues to reinvent himself in the 21st century.

It’s 31 years since WWE put on SummerSlam 92 at Wembley. Why do you think companies have stayed away from England’s national stadium during that time?

I think that's a pretty simple answer. I think it would just be the metrics of everything that goes with that. What does Wembley hold for… you folks call it football, I may call it soccer on this side. But what does a football game hold?

You're usually looking at about 90,000

So that's obviously with no fans on the pitch. So when you take that into account, it's a lot of seats to fill. The United Kingdom is full of great arenas. Taking a step into a stadium show is massive. But I just think the stars really aligned. You've got to tip your hat to [AEW founder] Tony Khan.

Wembley, the 100th anniversary, the stars really have aligned. With our great relationship with ITV, the (AEW) brand coming up on five years, never having a show in the market. With the Khan family's relationships, having been in the market for many years [with Fulham FC]. I just think all things pointed to stepping out in a big, bold way. The wrestling industry in essence… timing’s everything. Coming out of the pandemic you can just see the live event business not just in the wrestling industry, but in the music industry. People are out going to events. All signs pointed to go big. And Tony certainly did.

You had an altercation with Grado while you were over in the UK last week, hitting him with a guitar live on talkSPORT. Tell us what went down there.

It is no secret that I have been a fan of Grado since the first time I met him. I brought him here to America. He worked for me in TNA, he's been here to the house. Karen [Jarrett, wrestling personality and Jeff’s wife] has cooked for him with the kids. He's been a family friend as well as a co-worker. 

Obviously, I've shared the ring with him in ICW. So our personal relationship has paralleled our professional relationship. When he found out I was coming over, we were texting back and forth. Ironically, he said “Hey, man, I'm actually in London that day. What about if we go have dinner?” So that was on Sunday and then his schedule got mixed up. So we didn't actually get to link up till Monday at breakfast.

Look Grado is Grado, but I'll just say he kind of invited himself to hang out in my media day. He kind of did the hang-around there in between media stops and promos. When we walked in the talkSPORT offices, everybody knew him and actually the presenter knew him not from his wrestling work but from his television work. So one thing led to another and he wanted to do what Grado always does and take the spotlight. He's funny, and sometimes he pushes a little bit too far. 

But by that time of the day, it was three or four in the afternoon, candidly I had had enough. He wants to talk about a few things, namely my sobriety and he called me Auntie Jackie, which he just thought was funny. But that guitar was originally designed to go to the two presenters, but they got the guitar after the guitar shot was over. It's just broken, I still signed it for them.

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Is you and Grado potentially a match-up we could be seeing at Wembley?

That decision is not up to me. But look, if we leave it where it's at I think I've got the upper hand, so we'll just leave it at that. Grado still continues to send me WhatsApp messages. And as the kids say, I've ghosted him.

You’ve wrestled in the UK on countless occasions for multiple companies. Any standout memories of your time in British rings?

My very first tour was 1994, and I made some great relationships that have endured to this day. I've always felt at home in the country. I've been over there countless times and done conventions and wrestling shows and comic cons and business. 

During my time at TNA, it was a massively important market for us, we broke through on free-to-air with Challenge TV, multiple tours, super-successful. There was a time when the United Kingdom was just as important as the United States was for us at TNA. It was really, really important. 

So my memories are not just inside the ring, if that makes sense. If we want to talk inside the ring, going back to day one with Razor Ramon, also known as Scott Hall. The Wembley Arena match against Kurt Angle is up there as one of my all-time favourites in the country. My match with Grado up north in Scotland was one of those where there was an electricity in the arena, because he's a very charismatic human being. So I have lots of memories of myself wrestling in the UK.

You've been a master of reinvention over the years, whether it's the ‘My Baby Tonight’ era, through to the ‘Chosen One’ or ‘Double J MMA’. Now we're in the ‘Last Outlaw’ era. How have you managed to adapt to so many different eras in pro wrestling?

I have tried to be a real student of the game and listen to the audience. And the wrestling audience continues to evolve. The wrestling audience today is going to be different this time next year. That's just the reality of it. So you have to have a kind of ebb and flow. 

About two years ago, because I'd been an executive at WWE, and obviously an executive at other places, that was where my focus was. My in-ring career wasn't anywhere close to a priority like it is now. But I made up my mind coming out of the pandemic that I'm going to get in the very best shape of my life and see what happens. 

From Game Changer Wrestling to the NWA and WWE, the whole of 2022, Ric Flair’s last match. I looked at the landscape and looked at where I was in my career. I'm one of the very last guys that worked the territory system. So that takes in a lot of ground. I kind of looked at my home roots of Nashville, Tennessee and Memphis and that territory. ‘The Last Outlaw’ just fit. It certainly resonated in a lot of ways and stepping into the AEW rings at the end of 2022, things just felt really right.

Between yourself, Sting, Billy Gunn and Dustin Rhodes and others, AEW seems like an amazing place to work for veteran talent who can still go. Why do you think AEW is such a haven for legendary talent like yourself?

Opportunity. It goes without saying we've all been given an opportunity by AEW. Each of us individually have taken it upon ourselves to seize that opportunity. And I think the one thing that we all do have in common is we've got a passion for the industry. We love what we do. We have all been in it a long time.

Growing up, I've been in dressing rooms where the veterans were not really happy to be there. So I think all of us, I think the easiest way to sum it up is that we don't have to be there. We get to be there. So when you change that lens to that perspective. We can all go home and do what we want to do. But we are getting the opportunity to shine on a truly global stage. And I think all of us in our own way are making the most of our opportunities.

It was amazing to see you and Kenny Omega share a ring last week during a six-man tag team match. As someone who has been in with a lot of guys considered the best in the world, from Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels to AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, how does Kenny stack up?

I got a lot of texts. I'll say that on a real personal level. When the match came out…okay it's a six man tag, you're gonna be able to get in the ring with Kenny Omega. I was as excited to step into the ring as I've ever been. That takes in a lot of ground. I've always thrived off opportunity, and trying to seize the moment. When you look at Kenny's body of work, it stands up to any wrestler in any era. So just getting in the ring and having an opportunity to mix it up a little bit. I'm grateful. 

I would absolutely love to have a singles match with him. Kenny is a talent, when you talked about Shawn and Kurt and Bret, we could go on and on. I look at Jerry Lawler. You know, his psychology was so far above almost anybody I've ever watched or been in the ring with. I've been blessed to be in the ring with the greats of the greats. But Kenny, in 2023, he's that guy. 

The guy that has melded multiple styles. Obviously the Japanese [style] is a heavy influence in his career. Kenny has really cut his teeth there. But his style mixes Japanese, American, his match with Vikingo and the Lucha style. Kenny is well rounded. That's something that you know, is special. So stepping into the ring with him. Even if it was for a few short minutes, I would love a bigger and more lengthy opportunity. But man, he is the guy in 2023.

AEW has one of the most diverse and exciting rosters in the world. You’ve wrestled a lot of that talent since you’ve come in. But is there anyone in particular, apart from Kenny who we’ve spoken about, that you’re desperate to have a match with?

I let you guys answer that, I would rather hear your opinion than mine. But when you look at the depth of talent, I got to step in the ring with Sting, we have a long storied career. You can look at Chris Jericho and his body of work. It'd be interesting to step back in the ring with him. Our run of matches with The Acclaimed, I think those guys are just such a unique charismatic tag team. It was really cool to work with them. 

My match with Orange Cassidy. Like you said there's such a diverse range of talent I could go on and on. It is, to me, by far the most diverse athletic roster that I've ever been a part of. It's something that I think just shines forward and I think it's a big part of the Wembley Stadium ticket sales. It is a massive roster with so many stars to see. CM Punk is another one. I think of  Jeff Jarrett and CM Punk. You never know what would turn out with that.

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For those who might be watching their first AEW show at All In, who should they look out for?

Well, obviously they've seen MJF and he sits on the very top, he's the AEW champion. But  there's a lot of folks, not just hardcore fans, but tenured fans, fans since you grew up. Y'all never had the opportunity for the most part, unless you travelled to America, to see MJF live. He's incredible, you saw his Iron Man matches, his match with Bryan Danielson. He's an incredible in-ring performer. 

So coming to Wembley to watch the champ do his thing. If you don't think the creative juices, the adrenaline, everything, everything's gonna be flowing from everyone on that card. It's gonna be a show for the ages. I think there's an enormous amount of pressure on MJF just because of his position in so many aspects. So I think he's going to be a very special performer that night.

Are you surprised by the outpouring of love you’ve received since coming back? I’m thinking of things like the viral All In poster that went around where every wrestler on it was replaced by pictures of you. The fact the “bree woo” intro of your music has its own cult following. It feels like Jeff Jarrett is bigger than ever! How does that feel?

I can't stand it! (laughs) I want you to boo me, I want you to yell at me. There's always some good chants that may or may not be suitable for children. But that always warms my heart. I'm taking it one day, one match at a time, one television show at a time and making the most of it. 

But I wouldn't be sitting here today had it not been, I believe, for the chemistry of our group. People have referenced backstage and we're kind of throwing it out in the forefront now. Here comes heat, there goes heat. When you look at Sonjay Dutt, Jay Lethal, Satnam Singh and my wife, Karen, it's a very unique, diverse group. But the group clicks as a group coming down the aisle. You never ever know what to expect. 

I think we're just getting started in a lot of ways. Satnam's potential is just incredible. Jay Lethal has been a mainstay for so many years. He is so good in the ring. I think sometimes people overlook just how good he really is. Sonjay has never really had that opportunity to manage and to be in that role. My wife, Karen, she's always been a lightning rod of emotion. At Ric Flair’s last match, the people in the arena, they showed her as well as myself that they didn't care for us very much. But the group just clicks. I'm very blessed and grateful for that opportunity. Onward and upward, onward and upward at AEW.

Images: All Elite Wrestling

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