You may not have heard of him, but he has influenced the careers of many wrestlers as a trainer, booker, opponent and promoter. He took on great responsibility on the independent wrestling scene at a young age, ran a successful promotion, lost it all and redeemed himself. This is the story of Jesse Scott known to wrestling fans as JT Playa or Tiberious King.
As a boy Jesse Scott was a massive wrestling fan. The native of Fort Erie, Ontario, was enamoured with the sport after accidentally finding it on TV. “I fell in love with the over-the-top personalities and that whole thing,” said Scott. “It was something that made me smile and I loved it all the time. The more over the top the character was the better, especially back then it was a Saturday morning cartoon with good, good guys and bad, bad guys. I just loved it.”
Soon wrestling became an obsession. “I remember being a kid and pretending, there was a summertime where I believed I was Ric Flair or Mr. Perfect,” remembered Scott fondly. “There was this long path I had to walk down to go to summer camp and I had the music in my head pretending to be either Ric Flair or Mr. Perfect the whole way probably a five-minute walk.”
When Scott turned 18 he went to a wrestling school in Niagara Falls, Ontario, that was run by a less than honest trainer. When his first trainer left town with his students’ money, Scott and fellow trainee Jesse Friskey convinced “Dangerboy” Derek Wylde take over as coach.
“It was a weird sort of circumstances put me on a committee that would run the school from the business side of things when I was 18 years old,” said Scott. “Somehow myself and two other gentlemen became the committee that was running everything. Then one of the other guys ended up leaving and it ended up being me and Jesse Friskey running the gym.”
Soon he began to promote shows in Niagara Falls, under the banner of Neo Spirit Pro Wrestling. One of Neo’s most famous alumni is former TNA World heavyweight champion Eric Young.
“I was on the first Neo show… I met him through working shows and Derek Wylde,” said Young in a recent interview with SLAM! Wrestling. “They built their own brand and they weren’t under any delusions that they would be on TV. They just wanted good guys who could work on their craft and provide a good wrestling product for southern Ontario.”
A unique aspect of the fledgling promotion was the deliberate decision not to bring in former WWE stars. “They decided they were going to build their own guys,” said Young. “At the first show there were 150 to 200 people which for an independent show was pretty good. The next month it was 300 and then 400 and then 500. This went on for several years with the homegrown talent.”
Long-time Ontario Independent wrestler Primo Scordino has always been impressed with Scott’s promotional abilities. “He is by far the best promoter in the area,” said Scordino. “He knew what it took how to get people to a show and how to get them to come back.”
Looking back at his early career promoting wrestling as a 20-year-old, Scott was amused at what he accomplished. “At Neo Spirit Wrestling we would draw 800 people with no stars,” said Scott. “But, we were terrible at handling money and we just blew our money. I am a lot smarter now.”
Scott was not just the promoter, but he also wrestled on all of his shows as the creative JT Playa.
“When he first started discovering JT Playa it was unreal,” said Friskey. “It started as a total heel to a super hero cartoon character.”
JT Playa was a high-strung, low-grade pimp character who was oblivious to his own shortcomings. The fans loved his catch phrase “Looky hear,” which Scott borrowed from his father.
Eric Young had high praise for the ethos and camaraderie with which Scott infused his promotion. “It was my favourite place to wrestle independently in my career. If I could choose a place and a group of guys to wrestle with for the rest of our lives it would be then,” recalled Young fondly.
Scott and Friskey started off as the creative duo behind the promotion. “With Jesse Friskey, we would bounce ideas off of each other and he was my barometer,” said Scott. “He would come up with an idea for a guy or I would. We would put them together and we would fight, battle. He would be on one end of the spectrum, me on the other. We would get it down to such a fine point and we would meet in the middle every time. The way we turned it, I get chills just thinking about the process we had with it. Once we got to the middle there was this polished amazing idea. That is where the honest to god magic came from. We would meet at Burger King and talk for hours. It was a two-man crew.”
Young felt that the talent that was in Neo at that time was amazing and that came down to Scott. “Jesse was the main force guiding it and booking it and putting guys in the position to do it,” said Young. “A lot of those guys owe him a lot because he gave them a place to work, got excellent talent to work with. He was a guy you could trust. You honed your skills with him. I owe him a lot.”
The effect Scott had on Young’s career is immeasurable. At a time when Young needed the seasoning and experience of being a top guy for an independent company Scott firmly handed the ball to Young. The talent that worked there included future TNA stars Derek Wylde, Cody Deaner, Eric Young, Tyson Dux, Sinn, Crazy Steve and WWE/NXT talent Shawn Spears (Tye Dillinger). Don’t forget about the divas who wrestled for Neo including Beth Phoenix, Angelina Love (Angel Williams), Traci Brooks and Jennifer Blake.
“There is always going to be something [on the show] that people are going to be remembered,” said Young. “People still, from that show, tweet me all the time that they were there when I wrestled Dangerboy Derek Wylde in that crazy ladder match. There was a huge write up in PWI about that match. That catapulted me in the United States. Just being there as a worker and working with all of those guys was a huge boost for my confidence. It was there that I thought that I am pretty good at this.”
“It was fun at first. A lot of fun,” said Scott. The support group of wrestlers who had made Neo such a fun place started to drift away and soon Scott learned the full responsibility of being a businessman in a tough business.
“We had a good time. I was one of the younger guys and the other guys who were helping out were in their late 20s and early 30s and you have to move on and raise a family and stuff like that so they slowly start to drift away,” said Scott.
Former partner Friskey recalled Scott as a man driven by his deep obsession with wrestling. “He had a passion about wrestling. He was hardcore. He would watch tapes of people I never heard of for hours,” said Friskey. “That was the difference. For us it was casual, but for him it was a love affair.”
“I was kinda left holding the bag, but they had to go on with life and make a decision,” said Scott with sadness many years later. “I understand that. I was there at the end holding things together. I was on my own trying to keep this thing going. There would be times when I would be driving around hanging up posters by myself in the winter and it just sapped the life out of me.”
The young promoter had enough. He was doing everything on his own and performing in the ring and it came to a crashing halt. “I had a lot of injuries. My shoulder dislocated over 18 times. I was physically breaking down,” said Scott.
“The mental thing of loss. Of failure with the company and I packed it in when I didn’t really want to, but I had to bite the bullet and the loss of that and a lot of guilt the way it ended the first time. We had a show scheduled, sold tickets and I couldn’t physically do the show. I just couldn’t move and do it. We had to tell the fans that the show wasn’t going to happen and give their money back, but I hid from that. With the guilt and the injuries I had to get away.”
Jesse Scott, in his mid-20s and full of wrestling potential walked away from the sport and moved to Nashville with Eric Young. While there he took the time to heal physically and mentally. A year and a half later Scott re-emerged on the Ontario wrestling scene.
With the help of a few partners Scott reopened his wrestling promotion and renamed it Neo Wrestling Federation. While the promotion only runs a few shows a year as opposed to the 12 to 14 shows he ran with the original incarnation, Scott is still passionate about his product. “I am such a perfectionist that I can be very hard to work with, but I think I put on some of the better shows. Everything had to look clean for me,” said Scott.
Scott’s second stint at promoting has been met with success over the past few years as he has put together a crew of solid wrestlers including himself as the hyper-positive good guy Tiberious King. Also, the storylines are easy to follow and the action is family friendly.
Not only does he run shows, but he still runs his wrestling school in Niagara Falls.
Jaxon Jarvis is a student of Scott’s who is currently turning heads on the independent scene. He spoke highly of his trainer. “Jesse trained me and still trains me to this day. I started about two and a half years ago now and it has been every day I learned something new from him,” said Jarvis. “His creativity is amazing. His creativity isn’t just limited to moves, he can put a story together in the ring. Anyone can get in there and teach someone how to take a body slam, but he teaches you how to think on your feet and be different in everything that you do. It has to be original and creative. There are few people on the Ontario indy scene that are as respected as Jesse.”
Wrestling contemporary Primo Scordino respects Scott for his integrity and passion for wrestling. “His legacy will be the quality of trainer he is,” said Scordino. “He is so meticulous in the way he does things. He wants to pull the best out of his students. He is an honest person in a scumbag industry. Jesse is a down to earth, honest, not a stab you in the back kind of person.”
Eric Young echoes Scordino’s sentiments. “He is a good guy first. He always treated everyone fairly,” said Young. “He was honest when honesty is something when you are the guy in that position calling the shots. [It] is tough especially when you are working with your friends because everyone who worked there were buddies. When I was there it was really like a brotherhood. I know it is still one of the better independents to work in North America. He is a great guy first, a talented guy and a really good friend.”
When asked how Scott helped him Scordino replied with amazement. “How didn’t he help me as a wrestler? We trained together, spent so much time together training, watching tape, being in the ring, talking about things we wanted to do. We travelled all over the place together. We learned from each other and fed off each other. Most of all we trusted each other.”
For Eric Young it was Scott’s mind that makes him special. “Creativity. He had this character and ability and his look could suck people in,” said Young. “He devoted time to each match on the show … every match meant something and that is how wrestling should be. Every match is designed to move the show foreword to the main event and the main event was the highlight of the show. He was the main part of the show as far as making decisions of who wrestles when, who is in the main event, who won, how the story unfolded, where they were going and he had a good vision for that. The creativity is the strong point.”
At 33 years old Scott, a sales consultant at Performance Mercedes Benz and recent college graduate, is now a grizzled veteran of the independent wrestling scene. He has done it all, but why does he still do it?
“This is the only thing that keeps me sane,” said Scott. “The daily grind, jobs, needing money for this and buying that, there is nothing better than getting in the ring and having a good time. Getting in the ring and having a good match and just being out there. In the ring that is the only thing that matters at that time. There are no bills — it is just entertaining. Even getting to the arena, there are these guys you have a relationship with even if you see them once every two months. It is like living in a dorm once you see those guys.”
Jesse Scott was a man who met challenges in wrestling at a young age and helped to inspire the careers of many including a world champion. He came into the wrestling business and saw the bad side of it. In his current role of caretaker of his sport and art, he continues to make wrestling better for those who come after him. Honesty, integrity, passion are all words used by his peers to describe Jesse Scott.