There’s little question at this point that Jody Kristofferson deserves to be written about in his own right as a professional wrestler, without mentioning that his father is the legendary musician Kris Kristofferson.
But the parallel careers of life on the road are too tempting to ignore.
So, like the early days of Kris’ life, from a Texas upbringing to Oxford University, from serving his country in the Army Rangers to fame in Nashville and Hollywood, Jody Kristofferson has gone from California, to Florida and WWE’s NXT developmental centre, to China, and now, to his latest stop, a two-week tour of the Canadian Maritime provinces.
And despite no longer being under the WWE wing as a trainee, he couldn’t be more excited to be out and about.
Working for Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, run by Emile and Rene Dupre, is his first true extended tour — at least in North America.
“The more tours I work, the more fond I become of them, because getting to work on those tours and just going to different places, it just gives me that feeling that I’m a still a wrestler,” said Jody Kristofferson, who uses the Twitter handle @jodywarpig. “When I was in developmental, yes, we were training every day and we were working on the road, but it wasn’t the same thing. There’s so many people there and they’ve all got their own favourites and you don’t really get to work that much. Now, I’m working all the time.”
Like any business, who knows who means a lot. Solomon Crowe in NXT (who used to be Sami Callihan) spoke highly of Rene Dupre and encouraged Jody to give the Dupres a call.
“Right now at this point in my career, I want to be able to work for as many people and as many places as possible,” said Kristofferson. “I actually met Rene through Solomon Crowe, Sami Callihan. He told me he was good peoples, and I’ve always respected Rene. We got to talking. What better way to break into Canada than work for Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling?”
But again, his father inevitably comes into the conversation again. This is Jody’s second trip to Canada; he’d been to Toronto once when he was little “travelling with my dad.”
Based in Tampa, with security work to fill in the blanks when the wrestling schedule is light, Jody Kristofferson was out in Las Vegas in April at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Cauliflower Alley Club, and wrestled on a big show at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino.
In the audience that night was, you guessed it, his father, with a tiny little canine friend in his lap, sitting front row for the matches. Between bouts, the songwriter of immortal hits like “Me & Bobby McGee” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was asked to pose for photos.
Is there pressure performing in front of your father?
“I’m pretty well used to it now, but it just meant a lot to me to have my Dad there,” he said of the CAC show. “Having him there didn’t really put any pressure on, but it was just kind of humbling to have him there. My Dad’s 79 years old now, and it’s kind of hard to make him go anywhere unless he wants to. Just for him to come out in public, you know how it is when my Dad goes out in public, he gets harassed a lot — for good reason. Just being willing to come out there and support me meant a lot to me.”
Jody, now 30, began wrestling in late 2008, in California, and signed with WWE in early 2012. Assigned to NXT, he was renamed Garrett Dylan and formed a decent tag team with Scott Dawson. In August 2013, he was released from the WWE deal.
Looking back, Jody will say that the developmental plan WWE has running is a great idea, but you only get better working in front of a crowd — which is what he is trying to do.
“To their credit, they try to do that, but you can only get so many people on the card. When you’ve got so many guys — they’ve got over a hundred guys at the PC [Performance Center] — and when you’ve got so many guys, it’s hard to get them all exposure, the way you do on the independents.”
All in all, it was a good experience, he said. “I’ve had my ups and downs about it, but I still do have a positive outlook on it, because that gave me the opportunity to be able to do tours like this. Before I signed with WWE, I never went on any tours. Now, look what happened; two years after I worked for the company, I worked in China, now I’m working in Canada. It can only go up from here.”
The handful of shows in China fell under the umbrella of the WWN Live promotion, which has a hand in EVOLVE, FIP and the women’s promotion SHINE too.
Though he hasn’t worked Japan yet — offers welcome! — Kristofferson was told that the Chinese audience acted much like a Japanese audience.
“They were really respectful and just really proud. It didn’t really seem like they wanted to give up a cheer without a fight,” he said. “When Tim Thatcher and myself went out there and just started beating the crap out of each other, they went nuts. It was a really surreal experience, because I had never worked in front of that many people before. To hear them to go off like they did, I was expecting them not to cheer at all, and they were really into everything because they had never seen it before. To them, it was kind of like animal fighting. That’s what we love to do, we entertain, we love to give the people something new.”
That begs the simple question, what’s next?
“Whatever comes, comes. I know I’m lined up to do some stuff for FIP, and I hope to work for EVOLVE in the future again as well.,” he said. “I hope to go back to China. There’s nothing set in stone there, but I’d love to work there again. Right now, for the future for me is, like I told you before, I want to keep working anywhere and everywhere. If I can go to Europe from here, if I can go to Japan, it will only take off from there.”
He likes to think the door is still open for a WWE return, once his experience level is ramped up. “I’m not stupid. I know the WWE is the best place to be when it comes to financial aspects, but when it comes to experience, and when it actually comes to being a hardcore worker, I definitely recommend going out on tours like this, just getting yourself out there and working in different places and meeting different people, that’s how you’re going to get better.”
There is another option, he said … also like his father. “I’m also looking for more freelance work. Some people have recommended, because I was never one of the quote/unquote ‘over’ guys in NXT, but they said I was a great entertainer and that I should try to get into acting. I’ve had acting experience in college, so that’s also a possibility.”
But the immediate focus is definitely within the squared circle.
“For the time being, I’m a wrestler. That’s what I love to do, that’s my passion, and that’s what I’m going to try to stick to.”