Monday, February 19, 2018

Jeff Jarrett's Grave Has Been Dug Up

Back from the dead
Photo Credit:
About 18 months ago or so, I received a TweetBag question about what would entail a "burial at sea" in wrestling, a burial so heinous that it could not be undone. The example I used was of Jeff Jarrett, who twice carnied the shit out of Vince McMahon to the point where the chairman of WWE called him a "Goonie" on the simulcast of RAW and the final episode of Monday Nitro. Jarrett jumped ship in 1995 while under contract, and somehow because of the climate, he was allowed back. He was going to jump ship again, but he had to drop the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna first, and well, he didn't wanna drop the title to a dang woman without some more money up front. McMahon told him to pound sand and was so offended that everyone assumed Jarrett was going to WWE what Uncle Ben Parker was to comics, the only person who'd stay dead. Anyway, burial at sea, this is what I wrote about it way back in July of 2015:

A burial is so bad in wrestling that no other term could do the act justice than one that correlates with death. But with a burial on land, you can still visit the gravesite. Even unmarked graves rarely change position; you just need to know where you buried the body. Most land burials still have markers on them. You can visit the deceased, and hey, if the zombie apocalypse comes, it can still rise up from its grave. Wrestling has a certain magic to it.

But a burial at sea? You just toss the body out into the water, and the waves and currents take it from there. You have no idea where the body will land, or if it will even rest on the ocean floor before either being rent asunder by aquatic scavengers. So in wrestling, a burial at sea is a burial so bad, so grotesque, so damaging that the person can never show his or her face in that territory or promotion again. For example, Sammy Guevara was buried on his way out of Inspire Pro Wrestling, but he could have and has returned. He's risen from his grave, because again, wrestling is magic. But it's not magic enough that it would ever allow Jeff Jarrett to step foot in a WWE ring while Vince McMahon still draws breath. That "G-Double O-Double N-Double E" speech on the final Nitro simulcast? That was a burial at sea, my friend. Sure, Jarrett may have had a career on his own outside WWE, but in terms of Titan Sports, Jeff Jarrett doesn't exist anymore, and no one knows where the body is, because quite frankly, no one there even cares where it dropped.
As it turns out, I was wrong, dead wrong. Maybe the writing was on the wall when Jarrett went to WWE-sponsored rehab for his alcoholism, but that's all just McMahon wanting good press. As his daughter so nimbly quoted Biz Stone, philanthropy grows brands. But then the big bomb dropped today on Twitter:

Jarrett committed the first cardinal sin against McMahon in that you don't try to out-carny a carny. You could murder your girlfriend in cold blood in an Allentown motel room, and McMahon would protect you if you didn't cost him any money. You could commit double-murder before hanging yourself, and McMahon would only banish you if he thought you were toxic to his brand. You could out yourself as an unrepentant racist on a sex tape that was leaked to the public, and as long as enough time passed for the right people to do PR on you, you could end up back in his good graces. But holding McMahon up for extra money, $300K at that, to do what you were supposed to be contracted to do and then go and start potential competition to you? Man, that bridge was thought to be nuked.

And yet, Jarrett is going to be celebrated at the biggest lovey-dovey festival of nostalgia that WWE holds every year, narrowly edging out whatever episode of RAW where a legend comes back to take a steaming dump on a current superstar. No beef stays unsquashed in wrestling, and the reason is money. McMahon thinks Jarrett's induction in the Hall can make him money, which is the only reason he does business with anyone. I'm not sure what new money Jarrett can make McMahon. Is the hardcore TNA fan going to come over to WWE if the wither and atrophy of that company hasn't done so already? If so, how many of those hardcore TNA fans (think, posters of the former Mecca) are even left to gain? Maybe he is somewhat sentimental in his old age, or maybe Paul Levesque just wants to thank the founder of his talent pipeline for NXT. I have no idea.

Still, it's the idea that Jarrett could be brought back that points to why arguments that wrestling is not an art right now are valid. If you can be perceived as a draw, then you will get a booking. It doesn't matter how much of a lowlife you are, how toxic you could seem. Look at Michael Elgin; not only was he welcomed back with open arms by Ian Rotten and IWA Mid-South, but Pro Wrestling REVOLVER and AAW booked him on the sly too. The former is promoted by accused domestic abuser Sami Callihan, and the latter claimed to have booked him because he was given such a "rousing ovation" by 200 people (ha!) at IWA-MS and because it pretty much "had to" because he was responsible for bringing Tetsuya Naito over on tour. The AAW crowd took a fat, steaming dump on Elgin when he came out, so now he won't be booked again there, at least for a few months.

Basically, no one has any reason to do anything but money, which makes wrestling at times no better a medium than advertising. Sure, a commercial can entertain you, but it cannot exist without the product it is trying to get you to consume. Other artistic media do have profit motivations, and yes, they harbor and promote peoples within them who have done or said awful things. Roman Polanski still being a viable filmmaker points to how scuzzy the movie business can be. However, people make films to win awards or to be lauded with praise. You can do an arthouse film for no money that makes no money and still be considered a filmmaker. If you set up a ring in your backyard and do shows for free with your friends, you get derided at least and at worst, scumbags like TJ Marconi invite you to wrestling shows so he can shoot on you and show you how big and bad the real wrestlers are. You're nothing if you can't prove potential to make someone money. The only ones who work for free are the newbies who are expected to do so to pay dues, and even then, they're doing so at the financial benefit of their ethically lax promoter.

So that's how burials at sea can never exist in wrestling. Everyone is trying to make a buck, and if someone with more pull in the business thinks you can make them one more penny over what they've already been making, well, you'll get at least a cursory phone call. Jeff Jarrett getting into the WWE Hall of Fame is proof positive of that maxim. Anyone can be dug up from their graves. Anyone can go do business with anyone else, no matter how much heat they've generated in the past.

And before you say anything, CM Punk is not buried at sea, because if he expressed interest to go back to WWE, both Levesque and especially McMahon would field that phone call in a heartbeat. That situation, hoo boy, that won't be resolved because of Punk, and honestly, the fact that so much power rests with the laborer and not the capital is actually refreshing.