Whether it was as a manager carrying his trademark tennis racket or in a role backstage, Jim Cornette has worn pretty much every hat in pro wrestling over the course of more than 30 years.
The legendary figure’s contributions will be celebrated when Masters of Ring Entertainment present “Lasting Legacy: A Tribute to Jim Cornette” at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 7 at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington, N.C. Ted DiBiase, Harley Race, The Midnight Express, Dr. Tom Prichard, The Rock N’ Roll Express, Dan The Beast Severn and other greats are part of the all-star lineup.
Organizers are promoting the evening event as a tribute to Cornette. However, the guest of honor is looking at it differently.
“They wanted to do a tribute, and who wouldn’t want to be tributed,” Cornette said. “We haven’t done a fan fest in Wilmington really. With all the names attending, I felt we had to change the concept. I’m changing the concept because there are going to be so many stars like Harley Race, Ted DiBiase and Dan Severn. I can’t have all these people standing up there saying nice things about me while Harley Race is sitting there or Ted DiBiase or a UFC Hall of Famer. So I want to morph it into a tribute to all the great wrestling stars that are going to be there. Otherwise, people would be thinking, ‘Oh, Cornette is booking his own tributes now.’”
Ever since he was a kid growing up Louisville, Ky., the outspoken personality loved pro wrestling. For Cornette, gone are the days of the pro wrestling he really enjoyed when the territory system lived and WWE wasn’t the only big dog in the yard.
“There is a sports entertainment business,” he said. “The presentation has so completely changed. The flavor of the logic has completely changed that it’s not wrestling anymore. It is sports entertainment. For years I said there is no sports entertainment, now there is. Though nobody asks if you got your sports entertainment tickets, but they ask if you got your wrestling tickets. They can still call it wrestling, but it ain’t wrestling.
“It’s not that something shouldn’t have evolved whether it be the presentation of wrestling, television production or the evolution of talent, but the overall logic was that we are going to present a conflict, whether it’s simulated or not, you decide. We are going to present a conflict, a fight between two interesting personalities and you are going to get interested enough to go see it. Now it’s presenting an obviously scripted performance of athleticism that is designed to thrill you, but it’s not a contest. It’s entertainment for your viewing pleasure.”
Through his stints in the NWA, WCW, WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor and Smokey Mountain Wrestling, Cornette witnessed the industry’s evolution firsthand. When looking at recent monumental moment s, at the top of the list has to be WWE starting its own network. Never one to hold back, Cornette doesn’t believe the WWE Network is a positive.
“It hasn’t been the best idea,” he said. “It may turn out to be the best idea in the future for THEM. They set the price of their monthly price for everything they’ve done on PPV and everything that has ever been on tape for $9.99 a month. Now who can ever do another successful mainstream pay-per-view a month for $34.99 or $39.99 for three hours? Who is going to be buying DVDs from other wrestling companies, except for the niche market? It’s the fans that seek that type of thing out, bless them. However, who on a mainstream basis is going to buy a DVD for 15 bucks for two or three hours when everything is available on your computer for $9.99 a month?
“…It devalues everyone else’s product. If you can get the supposed best for this cheap, then why pay for other stuff. It forces anybody who has ever wanted to make money in the wrestling business at the regional level to have the same business model as WWE, which you can’t do from scratch anymore. I don’t yell about things that are not good, even if people think they are good without reason. Sometimes they’re good to look at, but they aren’t good for the business. I’ve been looking at things and the trends that were good for the business for the past 10 to 15 years. A lot of this s--- they’ve done may be good for somebody’s business, but it isn’t good for THE business.”
Despite his thoughts on the WWE Network, this doesn’t mean Cornette has strayed away from technology. He hosts a regular weekly podcast on MLW Radio and is interactive on Twitter. Through social media tweets were seen from fans using #GiveDivasAChance, a response from fans irate at the way WWE’s female performers are being used on television and the time they receive.
“It’s not just women’s wrestling, they ought to give everybody a chance,” Cornette said. “If you are going to have a match for 30 seconds, why do you have a f---in’ match? That’s what I don’t understand. …If you don’t want to give the girls a chance, then why bother? They’ve had numerous rotten girls wrestling matches in WWE in the past. Though, it’s not like they could have stunk the joint out more than it has been stunk up before. At least give them a chance to try for four minutes.
“There is some talent out there, but if you’re not going to give the talent time to do something meaningful than just wait until next week. I’d rather have something meaningful for five minutes every three weeks than 30 seconds every week. It’s not that hard. They should change the hash tag to why don’t you just give everyone a f---in’ chance. Although you know they ONLY have three hours and have to get to the important s---. There is no way we can’t get all this in three hours and only two more on Thursday, right.”
Cornette admittedly doesn’t watch WWE on a regular basis. However, he did catch a recent Raw.
“I got caught up that I watched that blizzard show to see what they did because it was the first time Vince McMahon put Mother Nature over,” he said. “I left a Raw taping one night in Allentown or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and didn’t get a mile away from the building in this snow storm with foot-and-a-half snowstorm before I was lost in this neighborhood trying to find my hotel. He never stopped a f----‘in show. So I had to see this. So I watched the Royal Rumble and the three-way. I also saw Dolphi Ziggler when I was sitting in a hotel room put in a stunning performance against The Miz a few months ago. I keep up with the main events, but I don’t tune in a lot.”
From the little he has seen of Roman Reigns, the manager of champions was impressed.
“He seems to have all the tools,” Cornette said. “He has a great look. He has great size. It’s in his genes. He is Samoan and has the pedigree. He seems to be intelligent and well-spoken. He can work. He is still green, but I think they shot him in the balls with the whole way they did the Rumble. Daniel Bryan shouldn’t have been in the Rumble. The evil empire of this champion rises through because of fan support and wins the big prize at WrestleMania and goes down to injury because of the beatings he took at their hands.
“He had to have surgery, and he is out. Finally, he comes back. Who do you think they are going to want to win the belt? People get three days notice of a hurricane or more, and they can get out of the way. They had like three week’s notice this was going to go down at the Rumble [with negative fan response] and didn’t even think about it.
“If Bryan hadn’t been in the rumble, I suggested they put out the word that Daniel Bryan may never wrestle again and then have Roman Reigns win the Rumble, then they confront each other afterward, and you go to the races. You buried the top babyface you wanted people to like. The Rock, I love and admire The Rock for what he has done. However, when he rose up Roman Reigns’ hand and rose the ‘People’s Eyebrow’ they booed the most popular man walking the face of the earth since Jesus. Now that takes a special talent to get The Rock booed out of the building. You can tell he didn’t know it was coming, and I don’t think he was happy.”
Fans and those in the industry respect Cornette’s strong views and creative mind. However, he says he will never join a creative team in Stanford unless they had him sitting at home writing up proposals. Most recently he gets joy in lending his abilities and experience to smaller promotions like Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville and Great American Wrestling in Knoxville, Tenn.
Readers can also find his columns in Fighting Spirit Magazine. Cornette is also working on a new book with historian and author Mark James chronicling the early years of Louisville wrestling when it became part of the Memphis territory in 1970.
- Check out “Lasting Legacy: A Tribute to Jim Cornette” at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 7 at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington, N.C.
Scheduled include The Midnight Express (Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton), The Rock N' Roll Express, Harley Race, Ted DiBiase, TNA’s Robbie E, former WCW Star The Stro, Dr. Tom Prichard, Dan The Beast Severn, Bill Apter and more.
There will also be a Pro Wrestling Fan Expo, running 10 a.m.-5 p.m., which includes a wrestling show.
Masters of Ring Entertainment is giving away 100 tickets to the military as a thank you for their service.
Fans also have a chance to win a trip to WrestleMania 31 in a special contest.
A “Creations of Cornette” art contest rounds out the activities where all art entry proceeds go to the North Carolina nonprofit, NourishNC.
Visit http://www.mastersofringentertainment.com for more information.
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