Thursday, September 22, 2016

Podcast Deep Dive: Talk Is Jericho, Ep, 283

From local talent to podcast guest with Jericho
Photo Credit:
Show: Talk Is Jericho
Episode: 283
Run Time: 1:10:11
Guest: James Ellsworth

On the first brand-split episode of RAW back in July, scary monster Braun Strowman faced "a local competitor" in one of the first legitimate squash matches the show had seen in quite some time. And even more strangely, that local competitor got a brief in-ring interview in which he looked utterly terrified, yet still declared his belief that "any man with two hands has a fighting chance."

That man was James Ellsworth. On that evening, he stood no chance as he was demolished in less than two minutes by Strowman. But where guys like him usually fade back into obscurity, Ellsworth generated a wealth of buzz among wrestling fans. If we're being totally honest as to why that happened, we have to admit that a big reason was because Ellsworth is one of the oddest-looking guys to ever step in the ring. He has no physique to speak of. He has an Offspring tattoo on his shoulder. And his chin, or lack thereof, is concerning. The fact that this guy was allowed to be on WWE television, and that he was given a chance to speak, seemed almost too bizarre to be true.

In his interview here with Chris Jericho, Ellsworth seems to understand exactly where his sudden fame came from. Jericho doesn't even avoid talking about his most noteworthy physical feature - he just says, "You're a chinless type of guy." Ellsworth says, "My parents were both chinless. So I thank them, because that's what got me over."

An indie guy for the last 14 years, Ellsworth has wrestled with many former greats and many total unknowns. He runs a small wrestling promotion. He can comfortably call himself an established indie worker, but he never thought he could appear on RAW in a significant role. Up until last July, the only two times he had made it on the show was as one of Adam Rose's Rosebuds (god, doesn't that feel like it was happening like 900 years ago?).

Apparently all it takes to get a tryout for working a WWE event is to go on and fill out a job application. You presumably don't have to include your previous jobs at Walgreen's and Wells Fargo (if you're me). You just send your picture and any references you might have, and you're lucky to get a call. That day in July, Ellsworth got a call and went to the arena. He hung around until Arn Anderson called him into the ring to throw some punches and take a bump. He did those things well, Arn liked his look, and suddenly he was thrust into his role that night.

The greatest characteristic that comes across in this interview is Ellsworth's humility. The day they recorded this episode, he would appear on that evening's Smackdown in a segment in which he was supposed to tag in the main event with AJ Styles, but got taken out by the Miz. To be asked to return to WWE almost solely because of the name recognition he gained from a previous appearance would be enough to give Ellsworth an ego, but he has none of it. He is quick to point out that his fame could be over in a heartbeat, and that he is completely at the mercy of WWE's decision-making. That decision-making is done by one man: Vince. And backstage, Vince has personally come up to Ellsworth to compliment him and say hello. Jericho is shocked by this, as he says Vince never does this for other guys at Ellsworth's level. And even being told that, Ellsworth maintains his "aww shucks" attitude and says he's just happy to be there.

This reminds me of what happened with Leva "Blue Pants" Bates. Last year, it looked for all the world as if she would be a sensation in NXT and help carry the Women's Division. And then she disappeared. If internet rumors are to be believed (and they largely are to be taken with a big shaker of salt, so we'll proceed carefully), she fell out of favor with WWE brass due to her arrogance at being so popular and to her unappreciative attitude. A few wrong things said, a few times being on her phone when she should have been watching a match, and her bright future with WWE was no more. And she can't be the only one to have suffered a similar fate.

A man like Ellsworth knows this. He has been around the block, talking to former WWE wrestlers and undoubtedly getting insight about the business. He knows that if he wants this unlikely gravy train to keep on rolling, then he needs to do whatever Vince McMahon says, smile and nod and go out there and get trucked by the Miz, and just wait until they call him again for something else. If he does anything more than this, well, then he just wants it a little too much. And we certainly wouldn't want someone who goes hard in an attempt to grab that "brass ring," now would we, Vince?