When I think about wrestlers who have the gift of gab, it doesn’t take too long before New Jack comes to mind. I watched his promos in ECW from 1995 to 2000, and every single time he spoke, I fully believed that this man wanted to put his opponent in the hospital, or worse. The distinction between real and kayfabe is sometimes too easy to spot with wrestlers when they speak. That was never the case with New Jack, who made it impossible to distinguish. Part of the reason why it was so easy to believe his promise of extreme violence is because there are multiple incidents where New Jack had to deal with the legal system as a result of assaulting or stabbing his opponents.
With that context in mind, I decided to check out the latest episode of Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring, a documentary titled The Life and Crimes of New Jack.
Early on they discuss his time in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling in 1994. Cornette put him in a tag team called The Gangstas, and tasked him with pissing off all the white people in the audience in Kentucky. New Jack basically played it there like he was completely surrounded by racists, and so he intentionally tried to push those buttons as far as possible. The O.J. Simpson murder trial was the biggest story in the news that summer, and at the end of a promo, New Jack dropped in this line:
“I’d like to send a special shout-out to my homeboy O.J. Simpson. Keep up the good work baby, two less we got to worry about.”
I was not familiar with this promo before watching the documentary, but now I’ll never forget it. My jaw dropped when I heard that line. I listened to it over and over again, just stunned that he went there. Smoky Mountain eventually ran an angle similar to the 1992 police beating of Rodney King, except in reverse. New Jack and the rest of The Gangstas used nightsticks to lay a vicious bloody beating on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. It got so much heat that New Jack and his partners needed a police escort out of there because a whole lot of people were waiting for them at the back door of the venue, with dangerous intentions.
D-Lo Brown was a member of The Gangstas, and he said it was very uncomfortable seeing how freely racial slurs were thrown around at them during this time. But it was pretty much their job to get that kind of reaction from the audience.
The documentary moves on to discussing some infamous incidents where New Jack almost went to jail because of what he did in the ring. The most well known example is the Mass Transit incident from late 1996 in ECW. New Jack ended up carving the head of a minor who lied about his age. His ring name was Mass Transit, and he was an untrained novice wrestler who apparently disrespected New Jack before the show. The match called for blood, and New Jack was happy to cut Mass Transit wide open:
“I ain’t try to kill him but I wanted to go close to death.”
Rather than using a trimmed razor blade to draw blood, which is a common gimmick in pro wrestling, New Jack used a surgical scalpel taped to a stick. The amount of blood pouring out of Mass Transit’s forehead was absolutely disgusting and sickening.
As Mass Transit lay there in the ring with paramedics at his side, New Jack grabbed the mic and said the following:
“I hope this fat piece of shit bleeds to fucking death because I don’t give a fuck!”
This incident resulted in New Jack being charged with assault and battery. He was found not guilty, and he partially credits Paul Heyman with that for expertly “working the shit” out of the judge, district attorney, and jurors while testifying on the witness stand. In general, it sounded like Paul Heyman enabled and amplified all of New Jack’s worst tendencies during his time in ECW.
There was another incident in March 2000 at ECW’s Living Dangerously pay-per-view, where New Jack’s skull was cracked open, his leg was broken, and his eyesight was permanently damaged as a result of a botched fall off some scaffolding, in a spot involving Vic Grimes. I attended this pay-per-view, and I assure you that a whole bunch of us there in attendance thought was just saw New Jack die when both men fell off the structure, and the 400 pound Grimes flipped over in mid air and came crashing down right on top of New Jack’s head, crushing it into the floor below.
New Jack blamed Grimes for what happened, and decided to get his revenge a year later in another promotion. New Jack brought a stun gun with him to the match. They climbed up to even higher scaffolding, where New Jack tased him multiple times and then threw Grimes’ limp body off the scaffold. When you see the throw, you will understand that this was not just another dangerous pro wrestling spot; it looked like New Jack was trying to murder this man. Grimes crashed through a table and bounced off the ring ropes. D-Lo Brown summarized it like this:
“Vic was a foot from missing the ring completely, which would have killed him.”
And New Jack followed up with:
“I wanted him to hit the floor, I just didn’t throw him hard enough. I was trying to throw his ass to the fucking floor.”
The documentary describes multiple other incidents where New Jack took things too far in a wrestling match. This includes legitimately beating the hell out of a 70+ year old wrestler with a barbed wire baseball bat, because the man was initially no-selling New Jack’s strikes. There was another incident where New Jack once again felt disrespected by a young wrestler backstage, and that wrestler then got way too rough in the ring with him. New Jack pulled out a “wolverine blade” during the match and stabbed him nine times, resulting in New Jack’s arrest. Here’s a chilling comment from New Jack about this stabbing:
“On the news they said 16. I said no it was nine. I counted, it was nine.”
If you have the stomach for it, I recommend checking out the full documentary here (with subscription) to see all the details that I left out. It includes several interviews with people who worked closely with New Jack such as Jim Cornette, The Sandman, D-Lo Brown, and ECW security. I knew that New Jack was always crossing the line just from his time in ECW, but I was still blown away by all of the stories that were told in this documentary.
It left me thinking, why would any wrestler ever agree to work a match with him?