JBL: My character is here to stay
TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
|JBL speaks at the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
John Layfield and Farooq were a helluva pair.
As the Acolytes Protection Agency, they raised hell for three years. They drank plenty of beer, smoked plenty of cigars, played some cards and brawled. They were "enforcers for hire."
But that was then, this is now. Seven years later, Layfield has morphed into John Bradshaw Layfield or JBL, a wealthy businessman, with plenty of swagger in and out of the wrestling ring. Farooq is Ron Simmons, occasionally seen in a backstage camera shot. "Damn!"
Layfield says as arrogant as he can appear in his JBL routine, he's still best buddies with Simmons.
"You're asking me if I really did that, if I really drank beer and played cards?" says Layfield with a laugh. "One hundred percent, yes. Ron Simmons and I did that all the time. That was us. He's my best friend. We have a lot of fun together.
"The rich businessman thing. That's a little too arrogant (to be me in real life). I'd wanted to do the J.R. Ewing character for years. I worked in Wall Street for a couple of years and I moved to New York. So it wasn't a big stretch. I didn't want it to be the old man J.R. thing. I wanted the Wall Street angle. I thought I understood that character.
"Am I like that? Some would tell you that the character's not as bad a jerk as I am in real life."
Realize that JBL's tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. He's not only got an innate business sense, he's got tremendous charisma ... enough to put him near the top of every wrestling fan's hate list.
"It's really easy for me to be JBL. It's natural," he says. "But it's gotten so much more complicated. Used to be, you said: 'You all suck,' and they booed you.
"It's morphed into telling them you're better than them. But you can't just say, 'I'm rich and you're poor.' You have to explain on some level why that's the case."
JBL says he's going to pitch a plan to the WWE powers-that-be that sets him up for a Wrestlemania 25 program. But he has some wrestlers in mind as future opponents.
"I'm going to get the opportunity to go against Shawn Michaels hopefully for the next couple of pay-per-views. I've never wrestled him on a major stage. I'd still like another run with The Undertaker. And there's Batista, Rey Mysterio. Also, I've never had a run with Triple H."
JBL is excited about next year's Wrestlemania, in Houston, with tickets going on sale today.
"Nothing is bigger to us," he says. "It's our Super Bowl, World Cup and World Series all rolled into one. If you've been there, you want to go back. I got to headline and there's no feeling like it."
As for financial advice, Layfield says the market could drop further. "In the long term, it'll be OK," he says. "I don't believe the recession is done fleshing itself out. Stay away from real estate, finance and cars."
Turning 42 next month, JBL doesn't plan to stray far from his current character as he heads into the sunset.
"I don't plan on doing another character," says JBL, who was the longest-reigning Smackdown! champ with a 280-day stranglehold on the championship belt. "I don't see me turning into a good guy. The essence of my character will be the same. I'm too old to create something different."
Old maybe. But still relevant ... and wealthy enough that he can buy his buddy Simmons a beer and a cigar. Or maybe that's how he got so rich, maybe Simmons buys the rounds.
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Tim Baines is the Ottawa Sun Sports Editor and writes a weekly wrestling column for Sun Media. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.