John Bradshaw Layfield stood atop the highest mountains in WWE, but now the former world champion is climbing peaks of a literal kind for a good cause.
The Texan is looking to ascend the highest mountains on all seven continents to raise money for youth outreach programs such as the Beyond Rugby program through the Family Centre in Bermuda. The typical tourist destination has been home for Layfield for the better part of two years.
JBL started the Seven Summits Bermuda Challenge in June with Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest in Europe, and it will end in 2014 with Mount Everest, the highest in the world.
“I thought it was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Layfield said. “I’ve read a lot, my whole life, on mountain climbing. I understand how hard it is from reading. I was expecting it to be the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done. That it is what it was. I don’t know if you can prepare for being at a [high] altitude and being out of breath, already climbed eight hours and have eight hours to go. It’s something that is an unbelievable test.”
The football player turned WWE superstar had always wanted to climb Everest since he was a kid. This boyhood dream will soon become reality.
“I got hurt in football, and I had a bunch of injuries in wrestling,” Layfield said. “So when I was done, I thought that I couldn’t do anything. I had gotten better in the last several years, and it really started to occur to me that I really wanted to pursue my dream. I had run into Annabelle Bond, who is the fastest lady to climb the seven summits. She raised something over a million dollars for her charities. So I thought this was going to be a great idea to raise money for kids here and be an example for them.
“To say to them that if they want to accomplish something big, you have to work hard and have to have a plan. That’s what we tell them every day. They see me on the roads around the island with my backpack on training. They’ve seen me training and losing weight. They understand that the old coach is doing what he is telling them to do. So that’s a lot of it as well. The idea came about from Annabelle, and the fact that I started getting better and thinking now that physically I have a chance of doing this.”
His next step in this endeavor comes this weekend with Mount Kilimanjaro, which will involve more than a week of braving the elements. However, in the final days leading up to his flight to Africa he got a call from WWE. The company wanted him to fill in at the Night of Champions pay-per-view and Monday Night Raw the next night for Jerry The King Lawler, who had suffered a heart attack the week before. Layfield was honored to lend a hand.
“I really enjoyed doing commentary and doing it with Michael Cole,” Layfield said. “I think he is one of the best play-by-play guys that I certainly have ever seen. I was tongue tied. I was rusty and made a ton of mistakes, but it was a lot of fun to be back. It was really enjoyable. I have always enjoyed the art of the heel commentator. It’s just a lot of fun to be out there.”
The hours before the pay-per-view, Lawler tweeted the news himself and gave some words of encouragement to JBL.
“To get the blessing from Jerry was great,” Layfield said. “I’m not there to take Jerry’s spot. I’m there to fill in for Jerry’s seat. I hadn’t talked to Jerry, so I was glad he was aware of that. Jerry and I share a birthday (Nov. 29), but not the same year. He was born in the 1800s sometime, like 1891 or something.