James Cardno met with WWE wrestler John “Bradshaw” Layfield in the middle of the Mania Pro Wrestling ring in Sandringham, Auckland. Bradshaw’s disarming honesty and warm, yet blunt, demeanour is in stark contradiction to his character of a dumb, beer-drinking wrestling hoss.
At the time of the interview, Bradshaw was best known for his runs in the WWE as Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, and in tag team circles with Farooq, as one half of former WWE Tag Team Champions, the APA (formerly “The Acolytes”).
Bradshaw also has had a successful singles career in the WWE, holding the WWE Hardcore Championship and capturing the WWE Championship in 2004.
At the time of this interview, Bradshaw was out of action with a bicep injury.
James Cardno: First time in New Zealand?
Bradshaw: Yes it is. I think we’re (the WWE) trying to come to New Zealand at the end of next year.
You’re here largely for the X-Box and WWF Raw. Do you have an X-Box, have you played the game?
No, but I’m gonna get one. I have played the game, love it, it’s great! It’s tremendous! You need to be an octopus to play it, you need 8 hands.
It’s the “Playstation Thumbs”, we’re building up these muscles, us younger guys [Flexes thumb muscle vigorously]
[Laughs] The game is unbelievable. The X-Box is fantastic.
Some of the younger guys like Shane “Hurricane” Helms haven’t really been in wrestling games before. Do you know how any of them feel about finally being in a wrestling game?
I’m sure they love it. Shane likes…
Computer games and comics?
[Laughs] Yeah, likes computer games and comics anyway. Booker T, Mark Henry, and Godfather are video game whizzes.
Oh, they’re unbelievable. All three of them. They really know how to play X-Box, any video game very well. I’m more of a Pac Man guy.
The game looks good? Runs smoothly?
Oh sure, they’ve got the big launch on it, and it’s going pretty well. The game, if you see it, is just fantastic. The different things you could do. It’s a new generation. It’s like comparing Orville Wright’s first plane to the space shuttle, it’s an amazing thing.
Have you seen much independent wrestling on your travels? What did you think?
No, not really. It’s hard to see independents in the United States, much less somewhere else. If they don’t have tapes, it’s impossible to see them.
Have you always wanted to wrestle?
Definitely. I grew up watching wrestling in Texas. We got the Von Erichs wrestling mainly, the Funks wrestling out of Amarillo. Football is huge in Texas, American Football, and I really wanted to play football and wrestle and I really thought I’d played football for long enough where I wouldn’t have a chance to professional wrestle, then I got hurt playing football after three years pro, and I couldn’t play football any longer, and that’s when I got into wrestling.
Why is Texas so great with wrestlers? You’ve got Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin…
It may just be because it’s just a big state. I’m not sure they do anything any different. One thing is, wrestling is huge in Texas, so people look at it, and more people want to get into wrestling, and because of the huge number of people, it just makes sense that you’d have a number of wrestlers come from Texas.
Jim Ross always goes on about the football heritage, the past of the talent. Is there a big link between gridiron and wrestling?
Sure. A lot of our guys played football at some level, either high-school, college or pro.
Is it just the body size thing…
… or mental attitude?
And the mentality. You know the mentality about the same. And, the competitiveness of the two sports is very similar
You went onto Abilene College, Christian, a bible college. There’s no problem with being a Christian and also being a wrestler?
I’m not some zealot, some religious fanatic or anything like that. I consider myself a Christian. What I do on TV, whether I’m a good guy or a bad guy, that’s the same as Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a role somewhere else.
You were criticised by some people for the September 11 comments that you made.
What’s your take on it now, a year on?
My take is pretty much the same. I believe, and I didn’t see all the criticism, I heard some of it, I believe the criticism I was given, I was taken out of context a little bit. I told the people that criticised us for putting on the show that they can go to hell, and that’s where I was misunderstood a lot. I wasn’t talking about the trepidation we had to put on the show, I wasn’t talking about whether we should have pulled the show, I was talking about the people who thought we were doing it to make money, and we weren’t. There were a lot of people who thought we were doing it as a publicity stunt. That’s the people I’m talking about.
Moving slightly lighter, the whole Wall Street, stockmarket thing?
I’ve got a book coming out next July…
Is it going to get the full WWF treatment with the book?
I wouldn’t dream of doing it on my own. The WWE [strong verbal emphasis] have backed it…
I’m sorry, I slip from time to time and still call it WWF…
[Laughs] That’s understandable, I do too.
The character of Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, Justin Bradshaw, Bradshaw, The Acolyte and you, John Layfield, as a person – how different are they really?
They’re not very different. Faarooq and I like to sit around and play cards, and drink beer, and tell stories.
Who do you reckon would be the biggest difference, the biggest surprise from character to personality that you know?
Billy Gunn. No doubt about it. Billy Gunn’s a guy from Texas, rode bulls and now, he’s almost got married to Chuck, so…
Dustin Runnels must be the same as well?
Yes! Dustin’s a guy who wears cowboy boots. A cowboy hat. Plays Goldust.
Simple word association. When I say Vince McMahon, what do you think?
I think “terrific person”. Genius, people say that all the time. I know Vince well, and the stuff he’s done with me, the way he’s helped me and the things he’s done with me and my family over the years…. My father was a good man, but I had to choose another father, I’d choose Vince, he’s that good a man.
I don’t know Eric that well. Everything that I’ve done with Eric, he’s been very good, very professional. I’ve heard a mixture of views about him in the past, both good and bad, so I don’t know. Eric rose to the top in WCW and now he’s rising ot the top of WWE, so there’s gotta be something redeemable about him.
Very negative… I don’t go on the internet that much for that reason, because nearly everything that we do – and it’s been this way for years and years, before the smarks, there were the dirtsheets – and they don’t get readers by saying good things about us. They get readers by criticising and appearing smart and looking back at something and to my viewpoint they’re extremely negative.
Katie Vick and necrophilia?
I look at it like The Devil’s Advocate when Al Pacino’s kissing his own daughter. Certainly, he wasn’t advocating incest, and we’re not advocating necrophilia. It’s something we tried to do to promote reaction, it got a lot of reactions, a lot negative, some positive, but I think people have taken it to seriously. The same way as if you took Al Pacino to task – which no-body did – then you take Hunter Helmsley or Vince McMahon to task. It’s unfair to take us to task and say something like “What you do is real, what Al Pacino does is not real, so it’s ok”
Legend. Absolute legend. He’s 50 something, I think he’s in his early fifties right now, and he goes out every night, works extremely hard, I’ve got no idea how he does it. He’s been working for 30 something years, and he really is the Nature Boy.
If they reformed the Four Horsemen, surely you’d be a pretty strong bet to be one of them?
I’d love it. I’d love to be one of them. That was one of the greatest groups of all time with Windham and Blanchard and Arn Anderson.
Four Horsemen. Who would they be these days?
If Dustin Runnels was Dustin Runnels, he would be one of them. As Goldust he probably wouldn’t be. I’d like to be considered. And, uh
Austin would be a fairly good pick, but unfortunately he’s out
Austin would be a great pick for it. And, honestly, someone like Hunter Helmsley would be a good pick.
What do you think of Hunter? You know all the rumours, of course, on the Internet about him holding people down.
Hunter’s just the opposite. True story. Hunter is the one guy who generally always speaks up for the wrestlers in meetings. It’s just exactly the opposite of what they say about him. Hunter’s just a guy who’s worked, when you look at his body, he’s made such a dramatic change in his body over the years.
I mean, because when he used to be the Greenwich, blue-blood Hunter, he was really weedy, tiny, and now he’s fucking HUGE.
Sure, and he works extremely hard, and he’s worked extremely hard getting better in the ring. Hunter is the one guy who if Vince had something negative to say about a wrestler, Hunter is the one guy who would come up with something positive, and I’ve heard that from a lot of guys, so I know it’s true. As far as him holding someone down, he’s not that type of guy.
The Acolytes and crucifixion [Makes uncomfortable noise]
It didn’t take off with the people… I enjoyed being with the Undertaker, he’s a good friend of mine.
I liked the Brahma Bull. The Brahma Bull? That was good.
The crucifix… not so much
Every once in a while you try stuff and look back at it…
You’ve got to throw it against the wall to see what sticks
Well, that’s the thing about Vince – he’s willing to try anything, and he’s also willing to say, ok, it didn’t work. Most people that try something stick with it because of ego. Vince will try stuff and will then say ok, look, that was shit.
Are any of the guys really worried about the ratings at all?
Sure. But, it’s not as big a travesty as people reported. We’re still selling out most of our taped events and pay-per-views. We’re not as hot as we were obviously a couple of years ago.
But I mean the whole thing goes like… Just before Attitude, the Gang Wars were shit, and then it’s like, Attitude was good…
And it’s down a bit now…
Well, we need a strong character, and we don’t have one. Hunter and Undertaker, Angle… They’re all doing a good job, but they just haven’t reached the SUPER superstar level where the Rock and Steve were.
Next superstar you reckon? Who do you reckon it’s going to be?
They’re trying for Brock, and I think they might do it.
How big is Brock?
6’2… 6’3… I think Brock has got a good chance, he’s a smart guy, a real hard worker, a real good guy, and I think out of all the people we’ve got, Brock’s got the best chance to step up and be that megastar that we want.