John Bradshaw Layfield, who retired in 2006 due to a severe back injury, hung up his headset and left the Smackdown announce table last month to return to the ring for a high-profile singles program with Chris Jericho on Raw.
On Sunday, JBL will be one of six wrestlers — along with Jericho, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy and Umaga — participating in an elimination chamber match at the No Way Out pay-per-view. The winner will wrestle for the WWE championship next month at WrestleMania XXIV.
I spoke with Layfield in a telephone interview yesterday.
From a physical standpoint, how does it feel to be back in the ring after such a long layoff, and how much did you miss being in the ring while you were out?
I missed it a ton. It's something that I thought I'd never get to do again. Ever since I was a kid, all I ever really wanted to be was a wrestler. To get to go back and do that again, it's just been phenomenal. Physically, I'm not there yet; I'm not even close. My body's not hardened up to taking the beating yet, so I'm coming out with an inordinate amount of bruises and bumps, but that over time is going to heal up. I really planned on coming back later in the year, and the deal with Jericho just happened, so I came back a lot earlier than I expected to. I still don't have the ring rust off yet and still don't have my body hard enough to do what I need to be doing. And, honestly, my mind is not where I need to be to be in a truly important singles program yet.
You said you came back earlier than you had planned. What made you decide that now was the time to do it?
It was just a matter of the opportunity with Jericho, and I'm not sure how that came about. I really planned on coming back later in the spring when I felt like I was in better shape, even though I've lost about 50 pounds, because I was real fat for a while. I'm still not in shape like I need to be, so I was thinking it was going to be later. But the opportunity came up with Jericho, and I've always been a fan of Chris' and a friend of his, and it was something that I just couldn't turn down.
I can't remember you and Jericho ever wrestling each other before this program. Had you ever met before in the ring?
Never in the ring. I've known Chris since back when he was Lionheart in Japan back in the early '90s. I've known Chris throughout our respective careers, but we've never even been in the ring with each other.
That's pretty amazing for two guys that have been around for as long as you both have.
Yeah, and we've both been in the same territories before, too. We both were in Japan together and we both were in WWE together, and for whatever reason, we just never met up.
What are your thoughts so far on your program with Jericho?
I think Chris is phenomenal. Working with Chris with me just coming back felt a lot like me working with Eddie [Guerrero]. I was just trying to uphold my part because I knew they would be there. I did that relatively well. Chris is a fantastic talent who probably covered up a lot of my inadequacies. I felt great out there with Chris. He's a guy that doesn't mind getting punched in the mouth and neither do I. It was the perfect guy to come back with.
It did look like you guys are working pretty snug in there.
We were. I'm not sure it's because we meant to work snug or we're both rusty. In fact, right now I've got a tooth that's missing because of Chris. He knocked it right out, and I just haven't had time to have it fixed because I've been traveling so much. It was initially knocked out by Finlay back in the early '90s in Europe. And it's not a fake tooth that's supposed to come out. Finlay knocked out a real tooth and I had it fixed, and then Jericho knocked it out again at the pay-per-view.
I thought that you and Michael Cole worked very well together. Do you miss doing commentary, and is that something you plan to do again when you do stop wrestling?
Yeah, I do miss it. I really enjoyed working with Michael Cole. I think he's a great play-by-play guy. He's a great setup guy and he checks his ego at the door, which is so important when you're doing commentary. I look at it now and I see Cole and I think, "Oh, I'd like to answer it like this." Someday, I'd love to go back to it. I really had a lot of fun. The art of commentary is something that is really interesting to me.
You are in the Raw elimination chamber match at No Way Out on Sunday. Since you haven't been in one of these matches before, will you do anything differently to prepare for it? I don't mean that in a kayfabe sense. Do you watch tapes of past chamber matches, for instance?
The thing about this structure is there's nothing that gives in this thing. You're going to get hurt in this thing and there's no doubt about it. There's really not much you can do physically to prepare for it, because you know going in you're going to get banged up. Mentally, yeah, I've watched all the old elimination chambers and we'll watch more before the match Sunday to try to get a better sense of what's going to go on in the match.
Who else on the Raw roster do you look forward to working with? Is there someone else who you haven't worked with much that you'd like to?
Yeah, Shawn Michaels I just think the world of. I would love the opportunity to be in a meaningful match with him. We've wrestled before, just a couple times. Once early when he was champion back in '96, and then right before I retired we wrestled about a 20-minute match in England on TV. But we've never really hooked up in any real meaningful sense. I just think the world of the guy and I think it would be great to be able to do that. The same with Triple H. Now, Triple H and I have wrestled many, many times, but never on a real meaningful stage. I would really enjoy that. There's quite a few guys on Raw that I haven't done that with. There's a lot of opportunity there where I can do stuff that I haven't done before.
Tell me about Mamajuana Energy, the new energy drink that your company, Layfield Energy, is putting out.
We've changed it to pronounce it like a drunk white Texan, so it's Mama-ju-ana. Mamajuana is the original product from the Caribbean. Dominicans made it. It's a legendary elixir. We took the name and changed it to Mamajuana Energy. We also had the formula changed completely. The Dominicans called their product liquid Viagra, and that's pretty much what we've developed. We've developed an all-natural, no-prescription needed, two-ounce shot that's got an energy and a virility component to it. It's not for Bob Dole and it's not for Rafael Palmeiro. It's for virile people who want their sex life to be better. It's a $5 billion market, and we really don't think there's an all-natural thing out there that is targeted to people who don't have to go to a doctor, they don't have to make an excuse, they don't have to go to a pharmacy. It's something you can pick up over the counter, or you can go to mamajuanaenergy.com. I want to make it clear that it's not for the erectile dysfunction market — that's Viagra, Cialis. They're great drugs and they go after a specific symptom. This is something that people will take because they want it, not because they need it.
Can you personally attest to its effectiveness?
My wife has banned it from our house. Let me tell you a story. I was working with this thing for over a year, and when I first got it, it tasted horrible. I couldn't give that to somebody else — what if something happens to them? So, I had to test the prototype on myself, even though we had a great [Research and Development] lab out in Long Beach, Calif., in Wellington Foods. I was testing all of them, and I think my wife got tired of me testing them [laughs], so she pretty much banned it from my house, which is possibly the greatest endorsement I've ever had. Actually, a few wives have banned it from the house because when I started getting the taste down, I starting giving it to other guys to try, and finally a bunch of the wives just told me, "Would you please quit giving that [stuff] to my husband?"
Since we're conducting this interview on Valentine's Day, it sounds like the perfect Valentine's Day gift for the wife, or maybe the husband.
I didn't have time because we just debuted it, but I was talking to some casinos down in Atlantic City, and they're the ones that brought up a Mamajuana Energy menu for Valentine's Day. We've got a lot of people making different Mamajuana Energy drinks, which I think is going to be a pretty good market for us.
Your company also is putting out T-Shot Energy, an energy drink designed specifically for golfers. What about the drink makes it good for golfers?
The main thing that makes it different is the anti-inflammatory. I noticed that a lot of golfers — and I love to golf — were taking an energy drink with Aleve, Advil or something like that, because most golfers have a bad something — bad back, bad shoulder, bad knees. So what we did was, we made it all into one shot. It's all natural, so you're not taking any drugs. It gives you five hours of energy for 18 holes of golf. It clears your head. It's got cognitive ingredients in it, so if you're hungover, you're tired, whatever, it makes you focus. But the main thing that differentiates us is the anti-inflammatory stuff in it. The product has just gotten great reviews from golfers, because they don't stove up on the back nine. Even if you're riding in a cart, you're doing a lot of walking. So it's specifically designed just for golfers, which makes it the only thing out there that's like that.
Are there any other business ventures that you want to talk about?
Just the mamajuanaenergy.com. We've got several things that we're going to come out with in the next few months. We're coming out with a ladies' version of Mamajuana Energy, which is going to be big. One thing about ladies is that either they have kids or they're working people, and they don't have the energy, they don't have the desire to have sex because they work all day. Every time we bring this out, women ask us, "Are you going to do anything for ladies?" and the answer is yes. We hope to have it out by summer, and we have several other products that we're going to bring out by summer as well. The main thing to us is just building this product. We've got fulfillment being set up in Canada, in the [European Union], in Mexico, so there's a lot of work ahead of us.
I can't let you go without asking you about the political scene. What do you make of what's gone on in the presidential race the past couple weeks?
I'll tell you what is just amazing to me. I saw Sen. Arlen Specter request Super Bowl tapes to see if [New England Patriots coach Bill] Belichick was cheating. And I saw that [Rep. Henry] Waxman had [Roger] Clemens and [Brian] McNamee on the stand about this he said, she said. With two wars going on and this economic mess, the mortgage mess going on — and that's Republicans and Democrats; being pathetic is not indigenous to just one party — they're spending time with Clemens and McNamee trying to find out who's lying, and they're spending time on Belichick. I just think it's a complete disservice to the American people. And there's this pork-laden stimulus package. I just look at politics and I'm actually offended by what these guys are doing. I think it's just pathetic. So when you're looking at [John] McCain and [Barack] Obama, the problem isn't who would make a better president — Obama's stance against big business is the only thing that worries me about the guy — but the Congress that they're going to have is so inept that I just don't have much faith in politics right now.
Photo credits: WWE.com