This year we will see more of Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling. Its creation follows a decade or so on from the formation of Total Non-stop Action (TNA) and it is how that company was created that is the focus of this piece.
It all started…innocently enough…on a fishing trip. A former WCW employee and website host Bob Ryder accompanied by the father and son team of Jerry and Jeff Jarrett sat in a boat and talked wrestling. Bob Ryder and Jeff Jarrett talked about their futures…as WCW was just bought out by the WWE. With no other alternatives…wrestling had become a one company show. Jerry Jarrett…..who was formerly a successful wrestler/promoter in the Memphis territory was happily retired.
The elder Jarrett was now out of the wrestling business and in construction and project development. He had offered his son Jeff a job in his business…but Jeff just wasn’t ready to hang up his tights. Instead, Jeff and Bob Ryder was dreaming of starting their own wrestling promotion. A promotion that would be the alternative to the WWE…a mantle once in place for WCW. The talk became more passionate and the idea began to blossom into a plan.
The only issue…was they needed Jerry Jarrett and his years of wrestling expertise to come on board. It took a lot of convincing…but once Jerry decided to join the idea and gather up financial backers…this once random idea on a fishing boat started to grow legs.
On May 10th, 2002…TNA wrestling aka Total Non Stop Action wrestling was born. It started…interestingly enough…as a pay per view only company at first. The reasons behind that concept were simple…after years of monster television ratings with the WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars……interest for the wrestling business began to dry up. June 19th, 2002…TNA held its first pay per view show with a team called the Flying Elvises Vs Jerry Lynn, Low Ki and Aj Styles as the first televised match.
As TNA wrestling was slowly growing a solid fan base…the power structure behind the scenes started to unravel. The concepts of what TNA should be and not be…became a source of tension. On one side, you had Jeff Jarrett who wanted the TNA brand to be young, hip and edgy. On the other side was Jeff’s father Jerry who wanted to keep TNA wrestling very traditional. The biggest sticking point was whose ideas and concepts would win out.
Enter Vince Russo…who as we all know…had some great success in the WWE’s ‘Attitude Era’ under the direction of Vince McMahon. He later defected to WCW to turn around that company with failed success. Russo and Jeff Jarrett were friends and in a lot of ways…felt loyal to Russo after Russo was loyal to him in both the WWE and WCW. Vince Russo was the antithesis of what Jerry Jarrett believed pro wrestling to be.
Russo was about sex and soap operish storylines, titles were just TV props and had no significant meaning to him as a creative writer. Jerry Jarrett believed in pro wrestling telling the story and where winning a title meant something special. It was obvious that this was a relationship that was destined to fail…and it did.
Jeff Jarrett had to make a decision…either Vince Russo goes or his father goes. Would he pick crash TV over a traditional wrestling product? In Jeff’s eyes…at least business wise…the decision was easy. He felt that wrestling needed to evolve and adapt to the ever changing times. Jeff believed Russo’s vision for TNA had a longer shelf life than that of his father Jerry’s. So with that, Vince Russo was in and Jerry Jarrett was out.
The decision…although strictly business…turned extremely personal. Jerry felt betrayed by his son and the two would have a bad falling out. The father and son would stop speaking to each other for the next 10 years or so. Not only did the rift have them stop communicating as a family…it also pushed the Jarretts into business rivals.
Jerry Jarrett had discovered a future wrestler by the name of Oleg Prudius. Oleg was a large man who stood 6’6 inches tall and weighed over 300 pounds. He had a background in martial arts and was very agile for his size. Instead of signing him to a TNA deal…Jerry took Oleg Prudius to the WWE. Prudius would later be known to WWE fans as Vladimir Kozlov.
It didn’t end there…the rift became so bad that when Jeff’s first wife Jill died of cancer….Jerry did not show up for the funeral. Birthdays were missed…Holidays spent apart…all because of a difference in wrestling philosophies and who should run the business of TNA.
As it turned out….Jeff Jarrett would sell a majority stake in his company to Dixie Carter and eventually was phased out of TNA’s plans in 2013. That led to Jarrett forming a new company called Global Force Wrestling. Jarrett and Dixie started a new partnership and that led to Jeff being inducted into TNA’s Hall of Fame. Thankfully, Jeff and Jerry began speaking to each other again in 2015 and have begun to repair a very strained relationship.
When Jerry Jarrett was asked if he had any regrets about the formation of TNA wrestling…Jerry was quick to respond with a “Yes.” I can’t say I blame him one bit.