Jim Cornette is one of the most well known and respected minds in the business. His 25-year career has taken him to the NWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, WCW, WWF, Ring of Honor, Ohio Valley Wrestling and now he is the new face of TNA management. Cornette has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind, and he has the ability to draw you into what he says whether on TV or on the telephone.
“If they wrote a report on me in school it would be ‘Does not play well with others.’ I tend to have my own opinion on things and fortunately they have been successful more often then not. I am not very diplomatic and don’t do committees well. Part of why TNA contacted me was because they wanted somebody who could go out and lay down the law on the wrestlers and tell the fans what is going on,” Cornette told media during a conference call with Spike TV to promote Sunday’s Victory Road pay per view. “I am going to be the liason between management, the fans and the wrestlers. If there is an announcement or ruling to be made the TNA management has the final say but I will give my recommendations. I will be saying who I think is money and who isn’t. What I said on TV is very much my role behind the scenes — I want people who can draw ratings, sell pay per views, and have great matches and I will do everything in my power to see that those people are featured.”
Cornette has found in TNA, as well as through his recent appearances in Ring of Honor, a love for the business that he thought he had lost.
“It’s no secret that I love wrestling, I have been a fan since I was nine years old and been in the business 25 years. It has hurt me so bad to see what has gone on with wrestling to the point where last summer I was just going to go home and say to heck with it. The WWE honestly is what a lot of people, because they have the tenure and the seniority, view as professional wrestling in this country these days. It’s a toss up as to whether they are going to insult your intelligence or your religion or your sexual preference. I’m not a religious person but I do have intelligence and a sexual preference and I would hate for them to be insulted. It has become a joke and a farce and almost a vanity promotion where the son-in-law, kids and whoever wants to kiss the proper butt cheek gets to do whatever it is they want to do. Good talent is being held down.”
It’s an entirely different landscape that Cornette has discovered since coming back.
“I really got re-nergized with TNA and Ring of Honor and some of the fan fests with the Midnight Express. When I came down to the tapings at TNA I got that old feel again. This is guys who want to present wrestling, aren’t ashamed of the word or to be involved with the business. For the past year when people recognized me in public I would say I was retired and had nothing to do with wrestling anymore because I was ashamed of what they perceived professional wrestling to be these days. I really had a good time with TNA and we got some good work accomplished. There are some breakthrough stars as well as guys who have been on top for a long time and can still go like Sting, who I am amazed at the condition he has kept himself in. I was pleased with the whole experience and I think that if more people can get the word out that there is professional wrestling on TV still that you don’t have to be ashamed of or run off from, I think TNA will gain in popularity just because it is an alternative to the dog and pony show that is being presented across the country these days.”
Cornette had met many of the superstars of TNA in Ring of Honor. Top performers like Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Homicide and A.J. Styles all are featured performers in ROH. Spending time with hungry talent helped influence his decision when TNA called.
“The only decision I had to make in coming to TNA wasn’t that I didn’t like the product or the people involved, it was a question of what level of involvement in wrestling at this point in time. As I started watching TNA on television I began to realize that this was something I really wanted to be involved with. I am not as young as I used to be and am not out there full time but I have had experience in management and television and hopefully pursuade some other wrestlers to come here based on my influence. I was the first guy to book Chris Candido, Glen “Kane” Jacobs, and Al Snow after a 13-year career in a major territory. In Smokey Mountain and OVW we have trained a lot of great talent that the other guys either didn’t want or didn’t know how to use. If I can use my credibility to help TNA I am more then happy to do it.”
While he has just started with TNA Cornette is already taking notice of the talent there.
“I have only just started with TNA and was on a self imposed wrestling exile. I did say one thing at the company meeting that unfortunately due to time was edited out. I made the point that AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels vs. America’s Most Wanted was one of the best tag team matches I have seen in America in a long time. The death sentence is kind of a revamped version of the Midnight Express finisher the spedge-o-matic and I thanked James Storm and Chris Harris for keeping it alive. They are a great team and have stayed together. Tag team wrestling has really taken a hit because when wrestlers are under contract to a company, they get teamed up for a few months and then split. Teams in the old days were together for a long time because they were good teams. You are getting state of the art tag team wrestling in this country today with teams like AJ & Daniels and AMW.”
Talent is knocking on TNA’s door hoping for their break.
“There is a lot of talent trying to get into TNA. I have talked to several wrestlers that are looking for a place to go, and they don’t want to go to a company where they are told what to do, say and who to be, they want to go to a company where they can show their talent and let the fans be the ones to decide whether they are stars themselves. That is the opportunity that TNA is providing. You can’t book everybody but with the talent in TNA and the people making overtures about coming, it is going to be really exciting. The cream always rises to the top, unfortunately sometimes so does the scum.”
That is what Cornette and many others feel is the difference between TNA and WWE. TNA promotes professional wrestling, WWE promotes Sports Entertainment.
“That is why I didn’t last longer in Stamford on the creative end of things. The WWE has deluded themselves into thinking they aren’t wrestling. Vince McMahon created the term sports entertainment in 1984 to lure big advertisers into thinking they weren’t buying into a low rent trailer trash form of entertainment; it was something new and revolutionary. For those of us who are old enough to remember, the per capita attendance and ratings have dropped over the last 20 years. Memphis Wrestling in 1974 drew 8,000 people to the Coliseum 50 times a year. Now WWE are lucky if they can draw that twice a year. What has happened is the new people who have been hired and heard this story and don’t have a wrestling background believe it, so when you say ‘the wrestling business is’ they say ‘We aren’t wrestling we are sports entertainment.’ Have you ever heard anybody say ‘Hey did you see the sports entertainment show last night? Did you get your ticket to the sports entertainment show on Tuesday night? Boy what a great sports entertainment match that was.'”
To back up his beliefs, Cornette shared an unbelievable story that he swears on his Mother’s grave is a direct quote from an interaction with Shane McMahon.
“I was in a conference room with Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, Jim Ross, Bruce Pritchard and a bunch of other people and Shane actually asked, and I quote ‘What should we call our talent?’ I said ‘How about wrestlers?’ He replied ‘We aren’t wrestling we are sports entertainment. What should we call them, entertainers?’ I said ‘Look, they wear wrestling boots and wrestling tights, they get in a wrestling ring and have wrestling matches. What do you want to call them, ballet dancers?’ They’ve deluded themselves — everyone up there are millionaires and billionaires because of the wrestling business and they won’t admit they are in it. I will work with you if you will just not insult me by acting like I am an idiot and don’t know what’s going on. If you want to call the lamp a table, I will call it that as long as we agree between you and me that I know it’s a lamp. Just don’t tell me it’s not a lamp because I am looking at it and it’s got a bulb and a shade.”
Cornette says the current state of the WWE provides more of a roadblock for rival promoters then their actual product.
“The damage that WWE does to TNA is not producing better TV or better shows. The damage they do to anyone trying to promote professional wrestling in this country is because they were here first; people think that is what pro wrestling looks like these days so they choose to either turn it off or they have created a new fanbase that thinks that is what wrestling is supposed to look like. In my opinion that keeps other wrestling promoters from drawing crowds because you can’t get credibility. If Joe wants to challenge for a championship then people will say ‘Well we looked at the WWE and nobody cares about titles because it’s all hogwash, the son-in-law has it and they just care about showing naked male midget asses so why should the wrestling match be important?’ That is the damage WWE has done isn’t by putting on a better product it is that they blow credibility out of the water for anybody that wants to provide a good one.”
On June 29th, Cornette debuted on Impact and laid down the law, firing referee Earl Hebner, putting Larry Zbyszko in a hair vs. hair match against Raven for this Sunday and setting up Jeff Jarrett to defend the NWA title against the winner of a match between Christian Cage, Scott Steiner, Sting and Samoa Joe.
“Jeff really disappointed me. A lot of people probably don’t know that his grandmother Christine was the local promoter in Louisville for years. Because of her this little teenage punk who would run around the wrestling matches was able to get a job selling programs and be an announcer and a photographer and finally get into wrestling. I’ve known Jeff since he was about 14 years old and everything that I said on Impact a couple of weeks ago was true. I know that is a shock to a lot of people that they told the truth on a wrestling show but that is what makes me different from a lot of people is I will say what I think. Jeff has all the talent in the world and it is in his genes, his father Jerry was also instrumental in my career. But Jeff is using to me his position, stature and reputation to try and hornswaggle and keeps control of that NWA title and shove himself down the fans’ throats. That is why I said he and I are going to butt heads because I think it is time somebody else had a shot and one way or another he cheats his way into getting back to the top spot. I’ve powerplayed with people before and I win some and lose some but they are going to find out my head is a lot harder then they think. It’s a shame because of the relationship I have had with his family but it’s time for people to get a fair opportunity. Jeff doesn’t want to get out of the way and sometimes you’ve got to push.”
Don’t look for Jim Cornette if you are flying to Orlando for a TNA event however. Cornette no longer flies.
“I never liked flying. I had to when I was on the road full time but now that I don’t need the money or the opportunities and since September 11th I haven’t done it. Going to the airport these days is like going to jail where they let you keep your belt. I have a nice Lincoln navigator with a DVD player and I throw my lovely better half in the car and we go on vacation. It used to be I worked seven nights a week, now I am gone seven days to make one shot.”
For many TNA fans Cornette is a new face. Despite his years in the business many may not know of his exploits managing such stars as Yokozuna, Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, and his most famous team The Midnight Express of Dennis Condrey, Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton. Cornette is content with his role in TNA.
“It hasn’t been because I do what I do regardless of the situation and people can decide whether they want to watch me or not. I have been involved with wrestling for so long I was at the point where I was consumed with it and it was going to run me crazy, especially working with the WWE because they will run anybody crazy. I am with TNA because I respect everybody involved in the company. I do what I do and I don’t expect to become The Rock or ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin — I am not looking to be a superstar or a person who sells tickets. That is why I have this position as the face of TNA because I want to facilitate the young hungry talent that wants to perform. I am the grease not the wheel.”