It's been just over a month since the Earth-shattering news broke around the world that I, Jim Cornette, would be making my first-ever appearance in the United Kingdom in February 2014 when Wrestletalk TV presents the Jim Cornette Experience LIVE. This caused a stir amongst my worldwide fans and Twitter followers (@TheJimCornette for those so inclined), but an absolute uproar from personal friends and associates who know me well. Why? Because, believe it or not, after over 30 years in professional wrestling working for every major company both as a talent and behind the scenes, this trip will be the first time I have EVER appeared live outside the continental United States and Canada--not just in the UK, but ANYWHERE.
"How can this be?", you may ask yourself? Anticipating the question, I'll answer it for you. Don't think it's from a deep-seated hatred of the British, or a fanatical sense of American imperialism. The time I first achieved sufficient status in the sport where anyone would want to book me anywhere was with the Midnight Express in Mid-South Wrestling in late 1983. In the 80's, there weren't a tremendous amount of American wrestlers being booked in the UK to begin with, but lots of them went on tours of Japan. However, for the Express' entire run, from 1983 to late 1990, the answer is simply that we were never, for any period longer than a few weeks, not booked in a main event position for a major US promotion. Japan usually didn't book American managers to begin with, but the Express never went because the starting pay for American tag teams at the time for either Baba or Inoki was anywhere from $2500 to $5000 per week, often less and sometimes very little more than we were making at home. Plus, in those days, if you left the territory for a month, you often lost your spot. The Express' international matches were limited to periodic matches in Canada for US companies like Jim Crockett Promotions or WCW.
For the first half of the 90's, I was firmly entrenched in the Southeastern US operating Smoky Mountain Wrestling. While I DID start working for the WWF at this time, since my priority was SMW, I generally worked only PPV's and TV tapings, and never accompanied the crews on European tours, mostly for the reason that I couldn't be away from my business for more than 3 or 4 days at a time. Now I will admit, after moving to Connecticut to take an office position with WWF in 1996, I did have opportunities to travel abroad--but that's where another reason came into play.
I have never been a comfortable flyer, and I have spoken about this over the years numerous times. When the Express and I were on top for Crockett and WCW, we flew constantly--often every day for weeks or more, across the country and back. I never enjoyed it and over the years liked it less and less. I am claustrophobic, afraid of extreme heights, a control freak who doesn't even let other people drive the car I am in, a free perspirer, averse to crowds in tight places, pessimistic, short-tempered, and lacking in patience for other folks' rudeness--in short, the last person in the world that needs to be flying in today's society. In the WWF I still flew when necessary, but I pretty much told them if it came to flying over an ocean I might probably just go home instead. Of course, it didn't help that the first time my travelling overseas came up, they were planning a taping in KUWAIT! I could see the newspaper headlines--"Terrorist group kidnaps famed wrestling manager, locks him in closet and pisses on him", and decided I didn't get into wrestling to go to parts of the world where things often got blown up.
Shortly after moving back home to Louisville in 1999 to help establish Ohio Valley Wrestling, I cut WAY back on my flying--then came September 11, 2001 and I decided it was best for my health to avoid airplanes entirely. By then, on flights I would either xanax myself to sleep or be so tense that you could shove a lump of coal up my bum and come out with a 10 carat diamond, and I decided neither was all that healthy. If an incident ever DID take place on a plane I was on, I would die of a heart attack regardless of the resolution of the flight, and no terrorist has ever tried to plant a bomb on my Ford Expedition, so I began driving everywhere. When I worked for TNA, the first condition of my deal was that I would make all TV tapings and PPV's that it was physically possible to drive to, and I made a lot of 14 hour drives, but I would not be asked to fly anywhere.
"So why now?", chimes in my imaginary interrogator. I'll answer that too--as Abdullah the Butcher would say, "Timing is everything". I've been away from wrestling for over a year now and I'm considerably calmer and healthier, having no reason to believe a coronary is upcoming. I haven't been on an airplane in over 10 years, so for me to take just two flights now, if something happens I will go down in history as the guy with the shittiest luck in the world. I'm flattered I have so many fans in the UK and I'm looking forward to meeting them. I've always been a fan of British Wrestling and it's stars, and British culture in general, and I'd like to see all the places I've read about and seen on TV. I'm excited about this project and the plans for the shows and filming I will be taking part in. I'm enjoying working with my promoters, Alex Shane and James Dixon, and they made me a generous financial offer. And the other 95% of the reason is that my wife Stacey is infatuated with the UK, has always wanted me to take her there, and I have no more excuses in my arsenal--a horrible death in a fiery plane crash is NOTHING compared to Mrs. C when she's pissed!
Alex and James both contacted me independently a few months back with the same basic idea, and we all decided to work together. The initial plan even involved Stacey and I taking a round trip cruise, but figuring in time for work and vacation plus travel, we would have been gone for over a month. I had almost decided against the trip, but two things saved it--I got excited over the planning of the various events, and Mrs. C offered to administer my medications and lead me around by the hand through the entire airport experience there and back--not to mention saving me the expense of a divorce.
First let me say that on a personal level even if the journey may be challenging, I will have an absolute ball while I'm there. As a child of the 60's, I've been a fan of the "British Invasion" of US culture all my life--from the rock & roll of the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, and Floyd to the comedy of Monty Python to the coolness of James Bond and John Steed to the hotness of Mrs. Peel (my first crush was on Diana Rigg) to the history and architecture and so much more--and I can't wait to go shopping for items for my various collections. But I've been a longtime fan of British Wrestling as well.
From the time I saw Tony Charles grapple Les Thornton in the Atlanta Omni on the undercard of the 1976 Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammed Ali closed circuit fight, I've been a fan of the European and World of Sport styles. I had read so much about Billy Robinson in the magazines from his AWA exploits, but to later get to see him in the Memphis territory facing other great practitioners of the style like Charles, Bill Dundee, even Lou Thesz, was a thrill and an eye-opener. Putting the icing on the cake was getting to manage the Exotic Adrian Street and the lovely Miss Linda early in my career, and being regaled with tales of the "good old days" of the grapple game in Britain. I'm ready to have my picture taken in front of the Royal Albert Hall, the Madison Square Garden of England.
I do want to assure fans and readers alike that no "international incidents" like you sometimes hear about will take place with old JC. I plan to be in the country three days before my first show, so no worries there. I have an obsessive-compulsive fear of being late, so I will be at the venues early and all shows will be starting on time or you'll get to see the famous Cornette temper arise. There will be no shortchanging on show times, as with my Q&A's you get the wrestling equivalent of a Bruce Springsteen concert--long, emotional and covering all the hits. We are planning for the meet and greets to be special as well, and everyone will get their items autographed and plenty of personal time, if anything the officials will have to drag me away once I get wound up. No topics will be off limits and no bullshit will be allowed. In addition to the live shows in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff, I'm also especially looking forward to the VIP dinner in Nottingham (Chinese!) and my wrestling and booking seminars in conjunction with Wrestletalk TV, where I'll get the opportunity to find out how good the in-ring and behind-the-scenes talent in the UK really is--and I'll not be shy about expressing my opinions! Lastly, at press time due to demand, we are looking at adding an event in Scotland, so for all the up-to-date information on how you can be part of history, go to JimCornetteLive.co.uk and keep watching Wrestletalk TV.
In February 1964, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, started the British Invasion, and changed the culture of America forever. Fifty years later, I will return the favor. God HELP the Queen, it's time for A Corny in the UK!