By Chuck Carroll
More than a few wrestling fans are fed up with the status quo. The PG-era has been and will continue to leave a vanilla taste in their mouth when they want chocolate, strawberry or heck, even rocky road. That is why on Monday or Tuesday night, when you flip on WWE Raw or SmackDown Live!, you’ll see the crowd populated by Bullet Club t-shirts. The faction that originated in New Japan Pro Wrestling represents a growing wrestling counterculture.
Nick and Matt Jackson, better known as The Young Bucks, would know — they’re in it.
“The reason the Bullet Club became so popular is because a lot of that [18 to 30-year-old] demographic grew up watching the nWo, and we’re very similar to that act,” Matt Jackson said. “I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of that fan base because of it.”
Despite not having the push from the global leader in wrestling, all of the pieces are in place for the group to be just as red hot as when Hollywood Hogan did his cool air guitar strut to the ring. It goes back to fans wanting an alternative to WWE’s style. And that’s exactly what Ring of Honor prides itself on being. Company officials have repeatedly stated they are not in competition with WWE. They’re like 7Up to Coke — the un-cola. It just so happens that a lot of people are thirsty for 7Up right now.
“It’s crazy to see. In about 14 years of wrestling that we’ve been part of… we’ve never seen wrestling as hot on this level,” Matt said.
It’s not just the taste of fans that is evolving, it’s also the mindset of the wrestlers. The Young Bucks are among a growing contingent of wrestling elite who have become superstars in their own right without relying on a major corporate promotion to give them that title. The brothers, along with Cody Rhodes, Jay Lethal and others, are proving that you can gamble on yourself and win if you’re willing to think outside of the box. Now, WWE superstars are reaching out to them to gauge whether it’s time for them to take a leap of faith of their own.
I had a chance to catch up with The Young Bucks ahead of Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view in Las Vegas. We talked about the changing mindset of today’s wrestler, the inside story on Marty Scurll joining the Bullet Club, the Hardy Boyz battle for the “Broken Universe” gimmick from Global Force Wrestling and the advice they have for others in the wrestling business.
How have your goals changed since entering the business? I would guess they’re about 180 degrees different than what you originally planned.
Nick: Oh yeah … It seems like a lot of the guys these days in the WWE talk to us. They ask us questions and want to see how we’re doing, and they see that we’re doing well. So, I think that it opens up their mind like, “hey, there’s life after WWE.” If, for some reason, they get fired or they want to go away, they know there’s a place to go where they can make a good amount of money.
Matt: Back in the day you used to have WCW and even ECW to go to. Now, we don’t really have those options. I guess New Japan is a viable option, but nowadays it’s not necessarily one company. It’s betting on yourself and working for yourself and being independent. The fact that we’re two of the guys at the forefront, steering the ship, and telling the boys there are other options. If you’re unhappy then quit and make yourself happy and more valuable. Bet on yourself. A guy like Cody Rhodes is a great example, because he wasn’t happy the way they were using him, and he left. Now he’s more valuable and over doing what he’s doing now than when he was on TV every week.
You guys are big on branding and very protective of the characters you’ve created. Do you think you could ever find yourself in a Hardy-esque situation where you’re fighting with a wrestling promotion over intellectual property and the gimmicks you came up with? Who is in the right in this case?
Matt: That’s a tough situation. Of course, the Hardys are my boys, and I’m going to side with them. I kind of saw the whole movement taking place. I remember communicating with Matt throughout the whole thing and him telling us a lot of the stuff that was going to happen. It was his genius that put together the whole thing. We were actually supposed to do one of the matches in his backyard [at the Hardy Compound], but it didn’t work out. They were telling us everything that was going to happen three months ahead of time. I knew for sure that it was Matt’s brainchild. As an artist, I respect what he did, and I have to side with him because I know it was all his doing. It’s tough though, because I don’t know all of the technicalities, and I’d have to read the contracts and wording. It’s a really complicated situation. I don’t know legally who should own it, but I can’t say that I’m on a corporate company’s side because that’s not the type of person I am.
As far as whether Nick and I would ever find ourselves in a situation like that, I don’t think so. We’ve been The Young Bucks for so many years, and we’ve been Matt and Nick Jackson. I have those trademarked so I own those. I own the Super Kick Party trademark. A lot of the stuff we’ve actually legally backed ourselves up. I don’t think that Ring of Honor has the type of pettiness that they would come after us for certain things that we’ve done. We were doing Super Kick Parties long before Ring of Honor. I think we’re in a situation where we’d be okay.
Nick: The only way I could see that happening is if we took Bullet Club to somewhere other than New Japan or ROH. But that would never happen.
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Do you think for a lot of people in the locker room this is an eye opener and they’re realizing they have to protect themselves a little better?
Matt: In my opinion, most of the boys don’t think ahead. They have tunnel vision. My opinion is that 99 percent of the boys just go, “okay, okay, whatever it takes to get to Vince [McMahon] to work for WWE. I don’t care what I have to do to get there, I don’t care if they change my name or own my name, I’ll sign anything over. I’ll even sign for the lowest figure as long as I have WWE’s logo on my check.” I think the boys are all marks for the Fed. That’s a problem, because when more and more marks sign with them for low wages then WWE knows they can sign anybody and give them anything. That makes it tougher for guys that want to negotiate with other companies.
So, you guys are no longer marks for the Fed, but I bet you mark out when you turn on the TV on Monday or Tuesday night and you see the front row just littered with Bullet Club t-shirts.
Nick: (chuckles) I don’t have time to watch any of it. The only way I follow the stuff that’s going on over there is my Twitter timeline. I swear every Monday and Tuesday or whenever NXT is shown, my timeline is flooded with pictures of Young Bucks t-shirts. That’s pretty cool. I remember thinking back in the day that if I saw one of my t-shirts on television I would feel like I made it. It happens on a weekly basis now, so that’s pretty cool.
Talk to me about the addition of Marty Scurll to the Bullet Club, heading into that ROH pay-per-view in New York a few months ago. Give me your thoughts about whether or not that angle would play. Was there any anxiety that the fans wouldn’t accept it?
Nick: As soon as he started with ROH he started riding with us. So we had a connection with him really quickly. We’d joke around it’d be great for him to join The Bullet Club without knowing what was coming in just a couple months. Finally, one day Marty said he got a call from Tiger Hattori saying they wanted him to join The Bullet Club and he told us right away. We thought, “oh man, this is perfect.” … It’s funny though because they just wanted to announce it on Twitter that he had joined The Bullet Club, and Matt and I right away said there’s no way that could be the case at all. We got a gameplan going. Us, Marty and Kenny [Omega] were in the UK at the time. So, we came up with that whole storyline that everyone saw come to life in New York. It was awesome.
Matt: I remember that day we were in the UK, and Marty was panicked because he was like, “we can’t just announce this on Twitter. This is a huge opportunity.” We agreed. So, Marty hit up Hunter Johnston who books for ROH, and he told him to talk to us to come up with something. That’s great because when the booker says to talk to The Bucks, it’s like we have all the creative freedom we want to execute this thing exactly how we wanted. That night knew we had to shoot some vignettes. We didn’t know if they would use them, but we were so dead set on making the angle we came up with work that we just shot it anyway and thought we’d present it to them when we pitched the idea. We were up at probably four in the morning shooting a vignette with Kenny that would later appear on the big screen. Then we did this quick zoom out, and it turns out that Marty has been standing there the whole time. I came up with the entire pitch on a really longwinded email, and I sent it to Ring of Honor. I said this is what we’re going to do, and we already have the promos to do it. I think it was so good they basically said, “yeah, we have to do this.”
We knew we had to take the focus off [Adam] Cole leaving, because a lot of people were going to get stuck on that. It was just a little over a year ago that they lost AJ Styles and Gallows and Anderson. We knew they had to capitalize on a guy like Marty coming over, because he was getting white hot. … Marty joining was almost a bigger story than Adam leaving.
In a recent Sports Illustrated interview, you referenced mental illness and wanting to let people know that there was help out there. What’s the connection?
Matt: I think it’s ever since we’ve started filming the Being Elite show. … I get a lot of really emotional tweets, people struggling with anxiety and depression and how our show helps them get through these things and cope with the mental pain and disorders they’re going through. I also have family members that have suffered some of the things. … It seems like a lot of fans in the wrestling community are going through this, or maybe they’re just more open about it. I just wanted to put that out there to show people that if you want someone to talk to, we’re always there.
One thing I think is a good recipe for putting this away about being sad or mad is laughter. That’s one big thing on Being Elite is that we try to make it a comedy. I feel like laughing is such good medicine for sadness, as obvious as that sounds. It puts you in a positive state of mind, and you just want to have a good time. … We just want to touch people in a positive way. I think that was the reason we got into the business in the first place. I think it took us 10 years to figure that out. You’re not just out there having wrestling matches to having wrestling matches. You’re actually touching people and helping them better their lives.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.