On February 19th, 2018, after nearly two decades of being persona non grata in the Fed’, “Double J” Jeff Jarrett is once again affiliated with World Wrestling Entertainment. Not only is “The Chosen One” in the good graces of the McMahon-Empire, he is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
This sudden development has brought Jarrett’s incredible and mystifying career full circle. From debuting in the WWF in his early-20’s, to being publicly fired by Vince McMahon on an episode of RAW, to becoming the founder of the WWE’s most fierce competition in North America for the last fifteen years.
Jeff Jarrett is the smartest man in wrestling not named “Paul.”
The story of J-E-Double-F is a fascinating one. As a matter of fact, one of my goals in life is to write a complete biography of Jeff Jarrett, in the similar vein to The Death of WCW. Bryan Alvarez, eat your heart out (seriously though, I’m a big fan).
Today, I’m only going to focus on Jarrett’s contributions to WCW. He has the unique distinction of having TWO stints in both the WWF and WCW during the Monday Night War. Jarrett left the WWF for WCW in 1996, returned to Stamford in ’97, then headed back to Atlanta for his greatest run in 1999. Jeff’s contributions to the WWF are definitely important, but I think we can all agree that his greatest success came in WCW.
I’m doing a Top 10 list in an effort to keep this article from being a mini-series. But trust me, as big of a Jarrett-mark as I am, I could do a damn Top 50.
#10: Sting’s First Victim
Upon Sting’s ascent to the rafters in the fall of ’96, his in-ring career came to a sudden halt. Jarrett was actually one of the first men to call out the Stinger from the rafters. After weeks and weeks of bad mouthing and trash-talking, “The Icon” had enough.
On the November 11th edition of Nitro, during a match between Chris Benoit and Jeff Jarrett, Sting silently entered the ring while Jarrett was busy hot-dogging and grand-standing. Without warning, Sting grabbed Jarrett’s blonde locks from behind and nailed the Scorpion Death Drop.
To my knowledge, this was the first time Sting had ever hit the Scorpion Death Drop on TV. This is extremely historic, as that move became Sting’s prominent finishing move for the second half of his career.
I know it may seen a little odd to have one of Jarrett’s greatest moments be him getting attacked but considering the historical significance of this segment, it had to be mentioned.
#9: “Hey, Buff. I got your stroke…right here.”
September 1999 featured a major defection from the WWF to WCW. Vince Russo, the head writer of the WWF and one of the key men responsible for the “Attitude Era”, jumped ship to the sinking S.S WCW in an attempt to turn the company around. Between a lack of control, unsalvageable damage and Russo not being qualified for that duty… it didn’t work.
In the WWF, Russo had a few “pet projects” he oversaw. D’Lo Brown, Owen Hart, The Godfather and Mark Henry all received more attention from Russo than they had been given in the previous year. After the tragic passing of Owen Hart in May of ’99, the man whom received the most attention from Vinnie-Ru was BY FAR, Jeff Jarrett. Becoming the first man to hold BOTH the WWF Intercontinental Championship and the WWF European Championship at the same time, Jarrett was being groomed by Russo for a main event feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWF Championship.
The Jeff Jarrett and Debra pairing is peak Vince Russo goodness.
However, Steve Austin didn’t view Jarrett as a main event man. When Russo left in September, it only made sense for Jarrett to follow suit when his contract expired that next month. Problem was, at the time of his contract’s expiration, Jarrett was STILL the WWF Intercontinental Champion. After being asked to drop the title to Chyna, Jarrett demanded $350,000 worth of merchandise royalties from the WWF to perform at October’s No Mercy pay-per-view while not being under contract. This is what led to the heat between Jarrett and the WWE for the past near two decades.
On October 18th edition of Nitro, Jeff Jarrett ran down the aisle, slid in the ring, and parted Buff Bagwell’s hair with a guitar shot to the head, shocking the wrestling world.
Jarrett’s WCW return took place mere twenty-four hours after his final match in the WWF. It is tied with Lex Luger as being the fastest defection from one company to another throughout the entire Monday Night War.
Jarrett took the mic, commented on his appearance on WWF TV the night before, told Bagwell he had his stroke, “right here,” while tugging at his crotch. The popularity the WWF had at the time was infectious, and Jarrett immediately became one of the most over acts in all of WCW as a result.
The Vince Russo Era of WCW is the most polarizing wrestling product of all time. That said, I think we can all agree that Jeff Jarrett, love him or hate him, was one of the highlights of WCW’s final eighteen months.
#8: “An ex-football player who can’t even do a lock-up…”
When Jeff Jarrett returned to the WWF in late 1997, his first appearance brought us one of wrestling’s first “worked shoot” promos in RAW history. In the promo, Double J talked about his reasons for leaving the WWF initally, leaving WCW and now returning to the WWF.
Yes, it was a very complicated time.
He buried Eric Bischoff, saying he was “held down” during his time in WCW. He complained about being booked with, “an ex-football player who can’t even lock up, and his wife, who gives new meaning to the phrase ‘dumb blonde’.”
This is, of course, referring to his feud with Steve “Mongo” McMichael. It’s also hilarious given that the “dumb blonde” he was talking about is Debra McMichael, who later managed him in the WWF.
Wrestling is great sometimes.
“***** CLASSIC” – Dave Meltzer (probably)
Jarrett also voiced his frustrations in working with a clown (Doink, the), a “drug addict” (that could have been anyone), and “a black man who can’t even speak the English language” (an alarmingly racist way to describe Ahmed Johnson).
The feud with Mongo is notable for many reasons, the primary of which being that it brought Jarrett his first reign as the WCW United States Heavyweight Champion.
Unfortunate for Jeff, he also had to lose it to Mongo.
#7: To Horsemen, or not to Horsemen…
Speaking of Mongo, let’s talk about Jarrett’s association with the Four Horsemen.
Jarrett debuted in WCW in late ’96 as a “free agent” to both the nWo and the Horsemen. After beating BOTH Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael at Starrcade (by cheating), Jarrett became an associate of the Horsemen. The reason he is classified as an associate rather than a full blown member is due to the fact he would have been the FIFTH Horseman. And holding up FIVE fingers just doesn’t look as cool as FOUR.
It’s safe to say Jarrett was an unwelcome edition to the group, especially for Mongo. In an interesting twist though, Jarrett seemed to bond with Ric Flair the most. That’s the power of the Fargo strut, I suppose.
This period from late ’96 to mid ’97 for the Horsemen is such a goddamn mess too. Arn Anderson wrestled his last match in February and retired that following August. Ric Flair was on the shelf for the majority of the year with a torn rotator cuff. All this Jarrett crap certainly didn’t help matters either.
However, the segments of Jarrett flirting with Debra, arguing with Mongo and having fun with Flair are pretty great. Double J kept things interesting in the crumbling foundation of the Horsemen at the time.
#6: “Beetlejuice, what’s up?”
Vince Russo and I have one thing in common; we’re both fans of Howard Stern. Where we are different in this regard is that I really don’t care for the “Wack-Pack” group that soared to mainstream popularity during the 90’s.
Crackhead Bob and Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf had previously appeared on WWF RAW is War in 1998, but Russo saved the best Wack-Packer for WCW.
On the October 2nd, 2000 (my third birthday) edition of Nitro, prior to fighting for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship in the San Francisco 49ers Match, Jeff Jarrett ran into Beetlejuice. Jarrett asked the Howard Stern regular what was up, but ‘Juice rudely responded by saying, “Hey, SlapNuts!”
After repeating the phrase a few times, Jarrett had heard enough and DESTROYED Beetlejuice in the back of the head with a guitar shot. Tony Schiavone then exclaimed, “DOWN GOES BEETLEJUICE!!!”
During Jarrett’s title match later on that night, Beetlejuice ended up costing him the WCW Championship by, according to Mark Madden, “using Jeff Jarrett’s testicles for punching bags.”
THIS IS A TRUE FUCKING STORY.
#5: Triple Cage Mayhem
In April of 2000, the greatest movie based on professional wrestling to not include Mickey Rourke, was released in theaters worldwide.
“You crushed my Butterfinger, baby!”
In an effort to promote the film while simultaneously bringing WCW some mainstream attention, Ready to Rumble star David Arquette was made a regular on WCW television. On the April 26th edition of WCW Thunder, it was proven without a shadow of a doubt that God had forsaken us as Arquette became the WCW champion.
David Arquette won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in a tag team match involving Diamond Dallas Page, Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett.
The story of David Arquette in WCW is well documented and not something I feel compelled to write about. I would like to mention that David Arquette accidentally followed me on Twitter once, when he was tagged in a tweet of me begging Brian Maxwell Mann to allow me to be on an episode of his WCW podcast, Keep It 2000.
Now as WCW Champion, Arquette had to defend the title. He did just that at Slamboree 2000, in a triple threat match involving DDP and our boy, “The Chosen One”. It wasn’t just any triple threat match however, as it took place inside of the TRIPLE CAGE, which had made its debut in Arquette’s film Ready to Rumble.
The first level of the cage surrounded the ringside area, similar to the Hell in a Cell. The second level was roughly a 10×10 room filled with weapons. The third and final cage was catered specifically to Jarrett, as the room was filled with a dozen or so guitars.
Gotta admit, this looks really cool
The match isn’t an outright classic, but it’s still really fun and enjoyable. The finish came when Arquette turned on his co-star turned friend Diamond Dallas Page and helped Jarrett win his second of four WCW World Championship reigns. Ahh, fun bollocks.
#4: New Blood
Every WCW fan knows the significance of April 10, 2000. In the final “reboot” in WCW’s history, Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff joined forces (both in storyline and real life) to restructure WCW and give it a new attitude. A good idea on paper, but it was ultimately unsuccessful because, well, Russo was involved.
The reboot brought about every title in WCW being vacated, and the roster being split into two factions. A group of older, established veterans, known as the Millionaire’s Club, led by Diamond Dallas Page versus a group of younger talent who felt they were being held down known as the New Blood, led by Jeff Jarrett.
Over the next few months, the Jarrett-led New Blood went through over TWO DOZEN title changes and were the focal point of every episode of Nitro and Thunder until their dissolution in August.
The New Blood storyline summed up in one image
While Jarrett was seen by more viewers in the WWF in ’99 and was a more important character in TNA during his title reigns there, this was the peak of Jeff Jarrett’s career. Even though WCW 2000 is often ridiculed now and was a far cry from WCW’s popularity a few years prior, WCW Monday Nitro was still viewed by 3 and a half to 4 million viewers each week on average. The WWE in 2018 would kill for those numbers.
So if you think about it, more people care about Jeff Jarrett than Brock Lesnar.
Yeah, let’s spread that around.
#3: A Stampede of Gold
Spring Stampede 2000 is a fucking whopper show. It contains every thing both good and bad about WCW 2000, Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff; hell, wrestling in general.
Taking place just six days after the reboot of WCW on April 10, Spring Stampede was the first big opportunity for Russo and Bischoff to flex their muscles and show fans what their version of WCW looked like on pay-per-view. While it was an improvement over the previous six-to-eight months of PPV offerings, it wasn’t the fully turned around product it hoped to be.
Regardless of that, Spring Stampede is significant to us as it holds the distinction of being the show where Jeff Jarrett was crowned WCW World Heavyweight Champion for the first time. The Chosen One, after nearly 15 years of honing his craft and holding up the legacy of his family’s name, had climbed to the top of the mountain. I guess you could say he was the…King of the Mountain.
What a sight.
In a bit of fitting irony, Jeff Jarrett won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Diamond Dallas Page. One year prior at Spring Stampede, DDP won his first of 3 WCW titles. It all comes full circle I suppose.
As I previously said, Jarrett was one of the highlights of WCW 2000 and was more than deserving of this accolade. The Chosen One, indeed.
#2: “THE BAND… is back together….”
Spring Stampede may have been the peak of quality in PPVs for the Russo Era WCW, but Starrcade 1999 was undoubtedly the low point.
There was, without exaggeration, ONE good thing on the show. More on that in a moment.
The main event between Goldberg and Bret Hart for the WCW title ended in a controversial way (shocking, I know). As a result, the WCW championship was declared vacant, and Hart and Goldberg competed the following night on Nitro to crown a new champion.
Just as it seemed Goldberg was going to claim his second world title, WCW Tag Team Champions Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and yes, U.S Champion Jeff Jarrett, assisted Bret Hart to win the gold. The four men laid waste to Goldberg, referee Billy Silverman and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
A lot of talent in the ring here and Kevin Nash.
Jarrett rolled Goldberg onto his stomach, to expose his back to the world. He then grabbed a can of silver spray paint and wrote, “NWO” on the back of Bill Goldberg.
Kevin Nash grabbed a mic and said, “THE BAND… is back together,” as the four men celebrated with their titles.
The nWo was back.
The silver and black variant, also known as nWo 2000, was an interesting new take on the nWo formula. They were joined by Scott Steiner on the final Nitro of the 90’s.
Scott Swap 2000.
Sadly, the faction was snake-bit from the get-go.
Bret Hart was forced to relinquish the WCW Championship and subsequently retire a few weeks into January. Kevin Nash fractured his ankle after slipping on ice. Scott Hall left WCW in February for yet another stint in rehab and Double J was temporarily on the shelf with a concussion.
In spite of this, Jarrett was still the first to recover and subsequently became the leader of the nWo, as well as the WCW United States champion. Not too bad, I’d say.
Being the leader of the most culturally significant faction in wrestling history is nothing to sneeze at. And immediately after leading the nWo, he became the leader of the New Blood and WCW Champion.
Goddamn, what a year.
#1: “HE HIT HEIDI! HE HIT HEIDI! DOWN GOES HEIDI!!!”
One of the more forgotten bits of insanity from WCW is the “Fat Chick Thrilla'” persona that was portrayed by former ECW Champion, the late Mike Awesome.
The Mighty Heidi
On an episode of Nitro in August, Booker T was defending his WCW title against Lance Storm. Mike Awesome was on guest commentary for the match, and brought his plus-sized girlfriend, Heidi, along with him.
Toward the end of the match, Jeff Jarrett made his way down the aisle, guitar in hand. After a verbal debate with Mike Awesome (perhaps about the delicious Arby’s roast beef sandwiches Heidi was munching on), Jarrett pushed Awesome aside, and smashed poor, sweet Heidi in the head with his guitar. Prompting Mark Madden and Tony Schiavone to utter some of the best lines of their career.
“HE HIT HEIDI! HE HIT HEIDI!” – Mark Madden
“DOWN GOES HEIDI!!!!!” – Tony Schiavone
Nah, I’m just kidding. Here’s the real number one.
#1: Climbing the ladder of success….
Starrcade 1999, as I mentioned, is one of the worst pay-per-views in WCW history. It represents everything wrong with late 90’s sports entertainment, which is often heralded as wrestling’s peak.
However in the midst of the terrible absurdity that was Starrcade, came one of the more underrated matches in company history. And wouldn’t you know who was front and center?
Jeff Jarrett has the distinction of being one of the few men to have multiple matches on the same card at Starrcade. As was promoted on television for weeks, Jarrett took on Dustin Rhodes in an entertaining but not noteworthy Bunkhouse Brawl match. Later in the same show, Jarrett came down and issued and open challenge to anyone on the roster to battle him in a Ladder Match for the vacant WCW United States Heavyweight Championship.
Lucky for us, the man who accepted the match was Chris Benoit.
Jarrett and Benoit then embarked in fifteen minutes of hard hitting, punishing hell. Is it the greatest ladder match in history? No, probably not… BUT I honestly feel like it’s the best ladder match in WCW history.
The most significant aspect of this match is its importance to both men’s careers. This ladder match took both Jarrett and Benoit from being solid mid-card performers, to legitimate main event players.
Fast forward to mid-2004, when two of the top three world champions in North American professional wrestling were Chris Benoit and Jeff Jarrett. I think a lot of that can be traced back to this very match. And while Jarrett may have lost, this is still one of the absolute best matches of his career.
Benoit’s title run may have been *slightly* shorter than Double J’s of course….
Jeff Jarrett is on the most polarizing and important figures in sports entertainment history. Regardless of what you think of him as a performer, wrestler or business man, Double J has remained a vital part of North American professional wrestling for over three decades. His legacy, influence and tenure in this business is almost unmatched. I, for one, am ecstatic that “The Chosen One” is taking his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Jeff Jarrett, I salute you. And I thank you for your amazing, and sometimes hilarious, contributions to the final days of World Championship Wrestling.