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Jeff Jarrett Speaks on GFW

What's his grand plan for the newest entrant to the global wrestling scene?

With Jeff Jarrett's latest baby, Global Force Wrestling (GFW), officially alive with the start of its Grand Slam Tour last week, he's been doing the media rounds to give some insight on the vision and purpose behind the promotion. He recently sat down with our buddies over at Rolling Stone to share some thoughts. And of course, like all good smarks, we at the Smark Henry offices have an opinion.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from his interview.


On what exactly the concept behind GFW is

Jeff says:
It is a professional wrestling organization that we'd like to think will be forward-thinking and innovative. We have formed alliances with other promotions around the world so we can share talent and bring in talent. Every wrestler has a story. They've started in some organization. Over the past 15 years, all the organizations have sort of sat on an island. They don't interact at all. We look at it differently. We want other organizations to thrive. We want them to do as well as they can. It's a win-win for wrestling if that's the case. Thirty years ago, it wasn't uncommon for different promotions to share talent. You would load up a big card with wrestlers from other territories. It is a professional wrestling organization, first and foremost.

We say: It's not surprising that he's being very deliberate on the use of "professional wrestling" rather than "sports entertainment" to describe what GFW will be doing. TNA in its infancy was excellent at this, showcasing the in-ring skills and talents of the likes of AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe to define their differentiating factor from the more story-driven WWE.

Remember when these three were tearing it up in TNA?

It's also interesting how he's being upfront about recognizing the history and heritage of the wrestling industry as a whole, as well as the individual talents who will be performing under the GFW. With wrestling fans as savvy as they are today, there's really no point in hiding from the things a semi-literate person could look up on Wikipedia.


On whether it would be fair to call GFW an "indie all-star league"

Jeff says
I wouldn't necessarily say that. We're going to have our core roster. We'll also have opportunities for wrestlers from around the world to come in and showcase their talents. They could be local stars, they could be regional stars, they could be international stars. We're going to give them an opportunity to get on the global stage. We'll have our core roster though. We'll have different matchups and different looks. As a wrestling fan, that excites me.
It is going to be different from the norm. A lot of people are having trouble understanding our mindset. It's exciting to me though. One big thing is that we're not really going to write stories, although that goes into professional wrestling. Instead, we're going to document stories. Like I said, every wrestler has a story. Why does he want to be in this business? What makes him tick as a human being? What is he competing for? The short answer is that he's competing to get the best bookings, he's competing to get the best matches. Maybe he's competing to sell the most T-shirts. There's a real competition in this business and we want to bring that to the forefront.

We say: Jarrett has personally witnessed from his time in WCW during its dying days how overblown drama and needlessly-bloated storytelling can sink a promotion, so we have to agree with his more realistic, humanized "less-is-more" approach. It seems that the underlying theme will be on slicing up "the spirit of competition" into all its possible facets, and that does strike us as compelling.

Will this be a promotion where fight purses, win-loss records, and match performance will actually be acknowledged as storytelling devices? We hope so.


On why GFW chose baseball stadiums to host their first tour.

Jeff says:
The biggest factor is that I'm a third-generation performer. I have a lot of experience, and my family has a lot of experience in this business. I know that in 2015, creating brand awareness takes time, patience, money and forethought. But when we come into these towns, we're leveraging the baseball teams and their social media platforms, their advertising platforms, their fans and their season ticket base. We are spreading the word and creating the awareness by having the events there. It's a great opportunity for Global Force to get into these communities and go with a real grassroots, traditional approach. The stadiums and the baseball teams are the center of entertainment in most of these towns that we're going to. It's great to be aligned with them. If you haven't been to a minor league stadium, you ought to go. There's never a bad seat in the house, it's outdoors, it's a great place to watch a professional wrestling show.

We say: We made it very clear that we absolutely hate the ballpark as a wrestling venue. It creates unnatural distance between fan and performer, it leaks volume and energy out, it makes the cheap seats suck.

GFW: The only wrestling promotion that keeps its fans behind nets.

We aren't sure if he's deliberately avoiding these hard-to-miss realities, but he does seem to think that the advantages of a built-in fanbase and existing advertising and social platforms outweigh the disadvantages. Let's give the boys a bit of time to gather more momentum, and circle back around to evaluate this again later on.


On what will set GFW apart from the rest of the pack.

Jeff says:
The short answer is watch and see. I will say, though, that we want to truly focus on who these athletes are. The Bullet Club is legitimately the hottest faction in all of wrestling, and we'll talk about how they've come up through New Japan and continued to grow in popularity. Karl Anderson has a great story behind him, so does Doc Gallows, he's traveled the world. Chris Mordetzky is one of the youngest guys ever signed by the WWE. Quite frankly, he'll probably admit it; he wasn't ready for it at the time. Now he's spent three or four years overseas, and he's ready to step into a Global Force ring and compete. PJ Black, Lei'D Tapa, some wrestlers that maybe people haven't heard of. Guys like Andrew Everett and Chuck Taylor, I could go on and on. All these guys are chomping at the bit to get on this bigger stage.

We say: It quite scares us that he doesn't seem to have a clear articulation of how his vision will actually play out in real life. We get it—he'll be signing up great individual talent with great stories, whether they're veterans hunting for a second chance, or young up-and-coming talent looking to break out.

We won't say that isn't a sound plan, but it sounds more like an ordinary fundamental any good wrestling promoter would do. "Wait and see" seems like Jarrett's way of dodging the question.


On whether he will be wrestling

Jeff says:
No. I'm certainly not going to wrestle for the foreseeable future. I'm not going to say that I'm retired, but 99.9 percent of my time is going to be dedicated to promoting the brand and promoting the athletes of Global Force Wrestling.

We say: Jarrett has gotten his fair share of hate for his nepotistic run on top of TNA. Anyone remember his "King of the Mountain" and "Planet Jarrett" days? Those were pretty damn obvious metaphors for how he saw his place in the promotion's pecking order. But for all that, he was a decent performer and storyteller in the ring, and you could argue that his supposed lack of charisma wasn't as bad as people made it out to be.

Unfortunately, clear yellow Oakleys never made anyone look cool.

We also know that he never truly got to have a "proper" in-ring farewell for his North American fanbase, and as people like Terry Funk, Harley Race, and Mick Foley would tell you, it's hard to leave without a proper goodbye, so do expect an eventual farewell tour for Jeff somewhere down the line.


On what he's learned from TNA that he can apply to running GFW

Jeff says:
You can't just sit back and rest on your laurels. You have to be forward-thinking and ahead of the curve. My biggest goal is going to be thinking—not just short-term, but long-term—about how every wrestling fan can have as much access to this product we're creating. You have to be really business-savvy to figure out how to incorporate the fans into every aspect of your product.

We say: So the main pillars of the GFW business plan are becoming clear: Create global accessibility for every single fan out there, and ensure mechanisms to actively involve them in the product rather than treat them as passive audiences.

Those are great ambitions, but the WWE has pretty much established a massive head-start for the same things through the WWE Network which, in theory, reduces dependencies on local TV rights, and their excellent, highly-underrated social media infrastructure that consistently creates and pushes great content and is incredibly responsive and attentive to its various social platforms.

What could GFW do better? Allow fans to co-author storylines? Give them license to co-create characters? Present them with Choose-Your-Own-Adventure scenarios that will allow the popular vote to drive the company booking? It's an interesting challenge, and Jarrett certainly sounds committed to rising to it.


On how he will define success for GFW

Jeff says:
It's the same as any business, and you have to think about it this way: Success is defined by whether you're profitable or not. In the short-term though, we want to make strides to make brand awareness. We want to put up compelling content with compelling wrestlers, and that will be a barometer of success. We just want to be a positive influence within the wrestling industry.

We say: It's obvious how important profitability is for a wrestling company to survive. Paul Heyman had an amazing vision for ECW, but couldn't make the numbers work. Eric Bischoff was daring and ambitious in running WCW, but sunk too much money into aging veterans with big money deals to allow the company to stay afloat. Dixie Carter has been tight-lipped on money matters, but rumors of financial instability continue to hound TNA at every turn. We don't have any concrete evidence on Jarrett's skill as a businesman, but he certainly has enough case studies within the industry to analyze and learn from.


What do you think, fellow smarks? Does Jarrett sound like he knows what he's doing with GFW? Do you think they'll be flourishing five years from now? Drop us some thoughts, and let's have a conversation on this. 


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