Despite not working in front of the camera and in the ring every week, the Road Dogg Jesse James still knows how to entertain a WWE audience.
The charismatic member of the New Age Outlaws proved this during the “Old School” edition of WWE Raw on Monday, Jan. 6 when he and partner BA Billy Gunn served as backup for CM Punk against The Shield.
It was a change of pace for the veteran, who today serves as a producer/agent for the company. Much like a proud papa or older brother, Road Dogg, in his backstage duties, has a role in the success of those on the roster as they evolve. As a former multi-time tag team champion, he is especially happy to see the division get the attention it deserves.
“The credit goes to the stars themselves for sure," Road Dogg said. “I think it can also be attributed to the fact we focus a little more on the tag division. We have spent a little more energy and time in developing the tag team division. I think it was sorely missed when there weren’t prominent tag teams on the landscape.
“I think it’s been really appreciated now that their back. We got a lot of great teams that have stepped up in the last year and think will continue to step up this year. I think there are many things it can be attributed to, but just the fact that it’s thriving and successful is awesome, especially for me to watch, because I was a tag team wrestler and love tag team wrestling.”
The Road Dogg’s glory days in WWE was running with Gunn in D-Generation X. The fast life took a toll on his life, professionally and personally. After battling his demons, he got himself back on track. In 2011, he returned to the company and took on a behind the scenes role. He found the transition to be a smooth one.
“I was Blessed when I broke into this game like on a big scale when I was here,” Road Dogg said. “I learned a lot about camera angles and the television aspect of what we do. We produce a television show. That is what we do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night. It just so happens we knock each other down, when we are producing that television show. If we can make that television show the best product we can put out to our viewers, then we accomplished our goal.
“I think I bring that [television experience] to the table. When I talk to the young guys, I tell them to embrace the television aspect of what we do. Live events are a different animal, but as far as our television product, I think that is how I help out with the younger wrestlers.”
When it comes to lending his experience and giving advice, he isn’t scared to share pearls of wisdom.
“I tell them to not party too much, especially nowadays,” Road Dogg said. “You know, back when I was living life crazy, cell phones were just coming out. Now everybody has got one and is filming you. When you are on top of the world, there ain’t nowhere to go but down. So I tell them to keep their head on their shoulders. I say if they want to live a long life and be prosperous and reap what they sow and live off the rewards, then they have to keep a good head on their shoulders and be smart about it.
“It’s not just a party. This is a career. I wish I would have looked at it as such 15-20 years ago, but I’m looking at it that way now. That’s what I tell them, and I ain’t afraid to tell them. Don’t party too hard and think about this as your career. This is your job.”
Road Dogg takes pride in his work and watching the new superstars emerge. It’s a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.
“Because of the role I play now behind the scenes, I would like to think, and this may be braggadocios, that everybody who has stood out I had something to do with,” Road Dogg said. “It’s definitely not single-handedly. It’s a team effort, and we all get together, brainstorm and come up with this stuff. The individual talent or wrestler helps us out as well. The credit goes to them, but it’s a team effort behind the scenes of any of the guy’s success. I don’t want to say any names, but there are a couple of guys I’ve helped. Maybe it’s not helped them succeed but helped them along the way.”
In 2011, Road Dogg, the son of WWE Hall of Famer Bullet Bob Armstrong, made his first WWE onscreen appearance in almost a decade. Since then he has worked a Royal Rumble and had a few matches teaming again with Gunn. He enjoys getting in the ring with some of the young stars.
“That last Christmas we did an overseas tour where we got to work with The Shield like every night, 15 nights in a row. It was really a blast,” Road Dogg said. “We had a really good time. Those kids are really talented and good at what we do. It was fun to get in there -- maybe not hang with them on the speed level but maybe we taught them some things on how to slow down and make things mean more. So working with guys like that, who are up-and-comers and are going to be good is fun.
“I would love to work with the Wyatt Family. I know it would be painful, but I think it would be a good experience for both of us. The Usos I love. I know they are babyfaces and so are me and Billy, but they are high energy. I like that. I like their styles. I don’t know if we have a tag team I wouldn’t like to work with."
Today he sees the challenge for superstars to truly break out and connect with fans. A lot has been done already, making it harder to impress savvy fans.
“It’s definitely more difficult than back then,” Road Dogg. “I think just like the kids back then got into something that pushed the product. I think we can do that, too. We just got to fine that right guy and do that right thing. We don’t know what that is. If we could bottle that, I think I would give a bottle to every talent we have. So you wait for that Rocky Maivia to come along. You wait for that Bret Hart, that Shawn Michaels, that Steve Austin, that Undertaker. Then when you got them; you just handle with care."
Talent learns in Orlando.
The state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center is equipping WWE signees with all the tools to become successful in the industry. It’s about realizing potential and making the most of their opportunity. Road Dogg’s tag partner Gunn is a trainer for developmental.
“That Performance Center is an incredible facility,” Road Dogg said. “That’s the first thing you think. It’s like the NFL teams training facility. It’s just awesome. The technology has advanced so much where you can go into a room and cut promos, have them filmed and watch them back. It’s such a huge step forward. I was cutting promos in the mirror with a hairbrush in my hand. So to see these guys cutting promos and going back to watch it and listen to the verbiage, it’s just so technologically advanced. It’s having every advantage. We are just waiting for that next ‘Stone Cold’ to pop out of there.”
It has been a long road filled with obstacles, up-n-downs, twists and turns for Road Dogg during his lengthy career. He recalls his trip to Miami and WrestleMania 28 that put everything into perspective for him.
“When I came back to the company and WWE after a hiatus I did that WrestleMania that was down there. That was the first time I was appreciative of life in general,” Road Dogg said. “I was really appreciative how beautiful the city of Miami was. We just used to travel, and it all used to be a haze to me. I never took time to appreciate anything. It was just the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Nowadays I can walk around the city and look out the hotel window to appreciate the view. It’s awesome like that. However, because it’s a live event I probably won’t be there, but I wish they would book me on it working against The Shield.”
He is as optimistic as ever and thinks 2014 is going to be WWE’s year.
“The creative writing team is on point now,” Road Dogg said. “Everybody is working hard to get these guys to superstardom. I think you’ve seen 2013 look up. Business has picked up as J.R. [Jim Ross] would say. I just think 2014 is going to be on the upswing. I’m looking forward to it and think the WWE Universe will look forward to it as well.”
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• Tickets are now on sale for the WWE Live Road to WrestleMania show on Friday, Jan. 31 at the AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. It is a house show (no TV).
See Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio, John Cena, Big Show, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, The Real Americans, Sin Cara, Corporate Kane. Bell time is 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices $23-98. VIP Experience available which includes a meet-n-greet. Service fees may apply.