New Jack: Memoir Of A Pro Wrestling Extremist
by New Jack and Jason Norman (McFarland & Co. Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina; 2020)
Oh. My. God.
This is a wrestling autobiography. But this is a New Jack wrestling autobiography. You know what you’re going to get. He does not care about anyone (well, not true – the book makes that clear) and this is not a sanitised for your ears version of history. This is as in your face as any autobiography I have ever read.
Now, I was not sure how to approach this. On the one hand, it is a short and incident-packed autobiography, filled with New Jack’s trademark openness. On the other hand, it almost feels exploitative. Having said that last caveat, I think if this was released in 2005 and the beginnings of ECWWE, then, yes, definitely exploiting things. But, instead it seems to come as New Jack is really heading towards lessening his in-ring work. Still… not sure.
Okay, look – I watched ECW via tape trading “back in the day”. I was not a huge fan, but I grew more used to it, especially as WCW suffered from nWoverload and the WWF Attitude Era just sucked (in general). 1998/1999 ECW was more interesting to me than either of the big 2. And that means I got to see a lot of New Jack. He was one of those weapons wrestlers I didn’t really get excited over. But his balcony dives were insane.
The thing was, every time there was an ECW documentary post WWE’s doco – and I watched a lot of them – New Jack seemed to be the most honest one there, and I looked forward to hearing his stories. His versions of events were fascinating and, as far as I could tell, probably much closer to the truth than anyone else. He didn’t care who he upset – he told the truth as he saw it.
That meant I was looking forward to this.
Clearly I was not the only one because it sold out! And I had to find it from a weird source and then wait for it to arrive. And it cost a lot.
As I said, I was not sure how to approach this. So I’ll give a run-down on the topics New Jack covers without too much editorialising. Then we’ll look at the book in general briefly. I think that will be the best way to go.
The book starts with a forward by the Blue Meanie – that is the last positive for a while. The actual introduction is in the aftermath of the Living Dangerously 2000 PPV https://insidepulse.com/2020/03/16/on-the-streeter-it-was-20-years-ago-march-2000/ when New Jack was almost killed by Vic Grimes.
We start the actual first chapter with Jerome Young as a child – his mother is shot and stabbed by his father, leading to further spousal abuse until his father dies of a heart attack. He loved his father, didn’t get on with his mother and learnt from his dad that he should carry a knife. 1 chapter, 4 pages, and already this is depressing the hell out of me. He was a good footballer, and did lots of sport. He also went to a lot of schools. College was a possibility, and he wanted it for the stability he would finally have.
But he went to prison as a youngster for armed robbery and assault, copping 2 years. He survived by going to the gym and keeping himself to himself. Upon release, he tried college and went back to football, but it didn’t do anything for him. Instead, he became a bounty hunter and was successful at that, a job he had for years. Despite rumours, he was only involved in one death during this time. He then combined bounty hunting with drug dealing. He kept on dealing drugs even after he became a wrestler, until too many people he knew went to prison for it and one convinced him to stop dealing.
Now he first gets into wrestling. Never being a fan, he found he enjoyed it, especially performing for a crowd. However, the over-riding theme is the racism seems to be prevalent in his life- -in the late 1980s! His time in the USWA didn’t last long. Jerry Jarrett was fine; Jerry Lawler was not. He talks about Lawler’s son dying and New Jack not caring, so much so that he went to Twitter to ask if Jerry could die as well. The first of the bad blood with others he mentions. Like I said, he’s being open and honest here.
Next, he’s off to Georgia. Now we start to get little quotes from other people as highlighted paragraphs, and they are rather illuminating. In Georgia he wins his first title, meets Mustafa Saed (his long-term tag partner in the Gangstas) and meets Jim Cornette, who invites him to Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He talks about his mic skills and how he got such heat the NAACP & Ku Klux Klan both picketed the Gangstas at the same time! We’re talking early 90s and the racism he describes is incredible for that era, especially from the police. Living half a world away, I thought that maybe it was a bit of a media beat up with the racist police and everything. Apparently not. Mind you, with his comments supporting OJ killing white people… yeah. He riled them all up good.
Al Snow gets the Gangstas to go to and give ECW a shot. They get there and make an impact straight away. They also have ring rats with sex on tap. Very brief discussion of his kids – their names and that’s it. He does not want to drag his kids into this.
There’s the drug culture. The drug scene described makes none of them look good, but the injecting of one another’s blood… even New Jack baulks at that. Drugs are clearly a big part of the wrestling lifestyle. Lots of people are mentioned as being involved. Many don’t come out of it well. But, then again, neither does New Jack.
He talks about kayfabe and in 2 ½ pages, explains the end of it quite well. He describes where the famed balcony dive came from. He also mentions titles don’t mean much to him, but action figures are the best thing for a wrestler. He talks about the ECW locker-room being mostly cool. Having said that, he has a back-stage brawl with Dances with Dudleys, gets suspended, then spends some time in jail on old drug charges. When he comes back, he is turned face… much to everyone’s surprise.
He has bad things to say about Chad Austin and Brian Pillman. Really bad. The 1st ECW PPV approaches, but is delayed and New Jack takes the blame. Why?… Well…
It was the Mass Transit Incident, which cost ECW their PPV for months. This is almost glossed over. I have heard him talk more about it on documentaries and shoot interviews. I think there are 2 reasons for this. First, it has been done to death already. Second, he does not consider it that big a deal, despite the Kulas family constantly trying to get money out of him after lying about everything, and the father putting his son in that position. He has no regrets. Simple. But I did want more. This bit could easily have been double its length.
Mustafa leaves ECW quite suddenly, annoying New Jack. He further blames Kevin Nash for him not getting a shot in WCW and thinks there was something backstage that stopped him being in WWF/E. But that is for the best, in my opinion. Imagine how watered down they would have made him?
Then he gets to the chapter he says he found hardest to write – when he al most died because of drugs. There is fear. Did it stop him taking drugs? For a while. A while – not completely? Apparently not…
Mustafa comes back, but things are not good between them. He discusses his stapler and how well people sold it. Mike Awesome being terrified of it was funny. He discusses fans and then the film Beyond The Mat, and he says he was a crap actor. He also talks about the ECW video games.
Then we get to the incident which opened the book, and which seems to be the main thing in New Jack’s life that made an impact. And he describes it as well as he can considering the leaking brain fluid and permanent damage to his eyesight. Apparently Grimes lied about checking the scaffold. And, what I said in my review about it looking like Grimes tried to chicken out during the move… New Jack confirms that. And then Grimes didn’t even call to see how he was. Big no-no. Even I know that and I wrestled in Australia…
New Jack comes back from that, though. How? The guy is either tough or insane (or both). XPW tries to bignote themselves at an ECW show, and then get seen to outside while cops laugh. Then we look at the end of ECW and how Paul Heyman lied. New Jack in interviews has said how much he dislikes Paul, and here he states that again, but also says he is glad he worked for Paul in ECW.
Then New Jack goes to XPW! And he gets his revenge on Grimes. He throws him from a scaffold hard enough to miss most of the tables in the ring. It is state that if he hadn’t hit Grimes with a taser first, thus relaxing his body totally, Grimes would have died. That is not exaggeration. If you ever see it… yikes!
He wrestles an old guy named Gypsy Joe who he mutilates. He did not like having to wrestle a guy that old. He then goes to CZW, and he goes off on how these guys use too much hardcore style. He also almost kills a green kid. The he goes to TNA and even has fun tagging with Shark Boy. Then we look at the match where he stabbed a guy in Florida. He admits it – he did it. But only 9 times, he insists. He talks about his manager Bill Behrens in glowing terms. He goes to NWA Wildside and has fun but also a few incidents backstage.
Then he talks about the Benoit murders. Not a fan of Benoit beforehand, yet a friend of Nancy, he is upset that anyone could do that to his son and to Nancy, and that everyone refers to them as the son and wife, not Daniel and Nancy. He gets quite passionate here. He then says the only wrestler’s funeral he ever went to was for Kronus, and he was the only wrestler there. I find that actually quite sad.
Then we’re on the home stretch and he goes into semi-retirement (wrestling retirement, and he even comments on that), marries a woman named Jennifer after suffering another near death experience due to blood clots, and then he regales us with a discussion on injuries and we finish with an epilogue where he just ties things up.
That’s the book.
It is an intense read, though short (200 pages in paperback). So… what’s it like?
Well, it’s very good. The writing is concise, the honesty is stunning. This does not read as “look at me, I’m the greatest” sort of autobiography. There is a bit of that, sure – ego, after all, is a part of the wrestler’s make-up – but it does not dominate proceedings (and so many wrestling autobiographies have this as a big thing). I have read a lot of wrestling autobiographies and this is one of the better ones.
There are some negatives. It does lack some description in parts; yes, we are left in no doubt as to just what happened, but some extra detail, some internal dialogue stuff, would have helped give it perspective.
Another issue I have is that there are quite a few things I’ve heard New Jack say in shoot interviews, in documentaries and elsewhere that did not make it in here. I think Jason Norman should have gone through that and used it to add to the story; New Jack said it, it’s not like it’s anyone else’s take on the stories. Yeah, I reckon that was the biggest issue. It felt almost abbreviated.
I also could have done with a photograph section. I do understand this is not a WWE approved book, and they seem to own a lot of New Jack’s history, but surely some sort of agreement could have been reached, or fan photos could have been sourced. That was a big lack here.
However, it did sound like his voice. Reading it, I was hearing it in New Jack’s voice in my head. That is something that tells me he had a lot to do with this.
This is an intriguing read. It is really good and brutally honest. Maybe not for everyone, sure, but I recommend it.