Most times, it takes a village to develop and create a WWE ‘Superstar.’ From their gimmick, to their wardrobe, entrance music and scripted promos….a lot of work goes into making a seemingly bland wrestler to a larger than life star. In the case of the Road Dogg and ‘Bad Ass’ Billy Gunn, it didn’t exactly go down like that. It was more of a last ditch effort to salvage a couple of failed Vince McMahon projects. What developed, however, made sports entertainment magic for the World Wrestling Federation.
Before the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn formed a tag team, they were pushed as singles wrestlers in the WWF. The Road Dogg was known as ‘The Real Double J’ Jesse James and his gimmick was that of a singing babyface cowboy. The man who was behind the success of another former WWF star in Double J Jeff Jarrett. Billy Gunn, on the other hand, had found a good deal of success in another team known as The Smoking Gunns and won the tag titles three different times. After the Smoking Gunns split up….Gunn was repeatedly tried as a singles wrestler with varying degrees of success.
The last attempt to get Gunn over as a singles star was pairing him with The Honkytonk Man as his manager and be renamed ‘RockaBilly.’ It didn’t take long to see that both wrestlers gimmicks were not getting over with fans. It was during a house show where Rockabilly was wrestling Jesse James and Shawn Michaels randomly suggested that the two should team up. Mostly everybody laughed at the idea, but Vince Russo saw that as a potentially good idea. With both Gunn and James going nowhere, Russo pitched the tag team idea to Vince McMahon. Seeing no real potential with either wrestler as singles stars, McMahon agreed to throw the two together.
In October of 1997, on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night….Rockabilly lost a singles match and began to argue with his manager. Jesse James then came to the ring and advised Billy to ditch The Honkytonk Man and team together instead. Billy Gunn then took his guitar and smashed it over the head of Honky. The two from that point on became a sort of make shift tag team. According to Gunn, McMahon had little to no expectations that the new team would be successful. Thus, no matching outfits were created for them and they were given no new theme music.
The duo improvised their lack of wardrobe and music by making their own spray painted shirts and have Jesse James come out to the ring with a live mic and just talk. James’ gift of gab helped the team slowly get over with the fans. Most of what James was saying on the microphone was ad libbed. His now famous line, ” Your ass better call somebody” was an homage to ‘The Big Cat’ Ernie Ladd…who James was a fan of. Before long, fans began cheering more and more for the no name team…and because of that…were getting more screen time.
Both The Road Dogg ( Which was a take on his earlier Roadie name) and Billy Gunn attribute a lot of their early success to Vince Russo who was put in charge of writing for them. It was announcer Jim Ross who was well known to give wrestlers nicknames while calling their matches…the first one to refer to the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn as ‘A couple of outlaws.’ The name stuck and Russo gave it more of a hip name by adding ‘New Age’ to it.
The New Age Outlaws were now a certifiable team and McMahon took notice. He gave the okay for the Outlaws to win the WWF tag team titles by defeating The Legion of Doom. Despite getting the titles which was a big deal, Gunn says his fondest wrestling memory was when Vince Russo wrote the angle that had the New Age Outlaws push a dumpster off the stage that had both Cactus Jack and ‘Chainsaw Charlie’ aka Terry Funk in it. There was a no holds barred match between Jack and Charlie when the two ended up in a dumpster at the top of the stage. The New Age Outlaws then came out…shut the top of the dumpster and pushed it off the stage. Gunn and Road Dogg agree that that was the angle that really solidified the team as truly legitimate by the fans.
The New Age Outlaws would soon become one of the WWF’s top tag teams. The fans would cheer the team despite portraying heels and repeat all of their catchphrases. One of Shawn Michaels last suggestions before he left the company to recover from a serious back injury was to add them to Degeneration X which was now goig to be lead by Triple H. The pairing of the Outlaws with DX was indeed a match made in heaven for the company and all of the members of DX carers skyrocketed.
Ultimately, there were a lot of people behind the success of the New Age Outlaws. It all was made possible, however, because everybody gave up on the two of them and just let whatever happen….happen. Just in case, you didn’t know….