“He’s about 140 now I think. So we have this same birthday and have always had this unique bond. I was really sad to see what happened to him, but I’m glad he is doing so well. It was a nice gesture for him to reach out before the show and give his blessing. Though I understand why he had a heart attack now, working with Michael Cole. Anyone could have a heart attack working with Cole.”
From the moment JBL rested his cowboy hat on the announce desk and put on the headset, it was evident the former SmackDown announcer was back in the saddle. He had done his research, providing nice background and insight on the superstars performing. Layfield was given a reasonable amount of freedom in his commentary.
“I’ve always had leeway with what I wanted to say,” Layfield said. “Hopefully, I won’t say anything offensive or stupid. I think they know I’m doing my best to put the product over, so I think have been given pretty creative reign. I know what they want and try to keep it that way. I’ve never had a problem in any respect like that.”
On Raw, the two-man team turned into three with legendary announcer Jim Ross joining in for the three hour show. For JBL, it was a memorable night.
“It was the first time we were at the same table,” Layfield said. “We were part of a pay-per-view before, but it was part of a three-team announce team. So I think it was the first time working with J.R., and I have always wanted to do that. I have a lot of respect for J.R., so it was a lot of fun. J.R. was one of the ones who hired me back in December of 1995.”
Layfield isn’t ruling out wearing the headset again. However, the adventurer’s focus is on Africa and climbing a mountain.
“I haven’t had many plans beyond that,” Layfield said. “They called me asking if I could fill in for Jerry, and I was very happy to do that. My program starts up in Bermuda when I get back, which is working with some great young men deemed at risk by society. I have a pretty busy fall, so I have no idea. They are trying to figure out right now if Jerry is okay and what they are going to do.
“Booker [T.] has been moved to general manager of SmackDown. I have no idea. I’m not privy to their conversations. I don’t know any more of the future than I’m climbing a mountain with hopes that I live and can come back to work on the program with our kids in Bermuda.”
The athlete has taken the challenge incredibly seriously with an intense regimen he juggles with his busy schedule. The hard work has already paid off.
“I train with a backpack probably four to five days a week,” Layfield said. “I train three to five hours at a time. As far as roadwork and hiking, I probably do 60 to 70 miles a week. I have a 12-mile track, an 18-mile track and a six-mile track. So it depends on how much time I have in the day where I will do one of those. What I learned before with Elbrus was I used a marathon training system, but the problem is you just don’t do one marathon. You do a marathon every single day. So you climb 12 hours one day, go to bed at altitude, and then you wake up and climb 12 hours again. So it’s repetitive.
“I’m changing my training a little bit this time. Instead of doing a long hike or run, taking a day off and doing it again like a lot of runners do, I’m just doing it every single day. I’m trying to harden up the joints in my back where they are in shape to do this stuff.”