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Love him or hate him, John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) is one WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) professional wrestler you simply cannot ignore. With his outrageous JR Ewing persona, complete with all the trappings of success and the flaunting of such, his aggressive yet highly technical wrestling ability (he is an ex All-American wrestling champ) and his brash, cocky manner, Layfield is a cut above the average. And he would like it no other way.
"Bradshaw" is an accomplished wrestling star, as his multiple WWE titles - including that of current Intercontinental Champion, former Heavyweight Champion, 17-time Hardcore Champion and 3-time World Tag Team Champion - will attest. Layfield is, to fittingly underscore his ring manifestation, a best-selling author on financial planning and prominent business analyst (working for Fox News), proving that for every WWE character created there often lurks an element of truth.
From wrestling bears to hoisting The Big Show, Layfield's prodigious strength has often been put to the test, in one way or another. Making his pro wrestling debut in 1992 with the Texas Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), Layfield adopted the gimmick of Johnny Hawk and set about working his way up the rankings to that of legitimate superstar.
In 1995 this objective was further solidified with a WWF (World Wrestling Federation) - now WWE - signing, where he initially fought under the moniker Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, adopting a rough, tough cowboy persona. After defeating his opponent 'Bradshaw' would brand him with JB (in ink) and thus was born his villainous WWE reputation.
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John Bradshaw Layfield Is One WWE Professional
Wrestler You Simply Cannot Ignore.
With almost two decades of countless matches within the WWE under his belt, one could be forgiven for assuming Layfield had seen better days. This is not the case. Although he once bloated up to 330 pounds following a serious back injury sustained in the ring, he re-evaluated his training system - in particular his supplement regimen and nutrition plan - and is now back better than ever.
The new JBL is a better-conditioned athlete and his look belies his 42 years. He credits much of his newfound success to his supplement brand - Layfield Energy - and the state-of-the-art products he has manufactured.
The life of a professional wrestler is dichotomous to say the least. On one hand pro wrestlers must convey an illusionary persona when competing so as to engage the audience in a display of competition and theatrics while working within the parameters of a scripted storyline. On the other, with adjunct career opportunities and a higher public profile, they must be both professional and amiable. How can such a balance be maintained?
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Professional wrestling is also extremely strenuous. For more than 200 days of the year the pro wrestler must be ready to battle it out in the squared circle. And for those who believe the hits and moves in the ring are acted, it is worth noting that the WWE has a 100 percent injury rate.
All WWE wrestlers will incur damage and the knocks are, for the most part, real. Not convinced? Try being power-bombed by Batista onto a concrete floor or choke-slammed by The Undertaker with more than 300 pounds forcing you into the ground. How can a pro wrester endure such trauma day after day?
In the following interview John Layfield cuts through the mysticism and tells how it really is for a pro wrestler within the confines of the WWE ring, and in the public sphere. Forthright and candid and, belying his ring persona, amiable and personable, Layfield describes how he has lasted so long in what is arguably one of the world's most demanding and damaging professions.
[ Q ] During your long career as a professional wrestler, what have been some of your biggest rivalries? And have these gone beyond the ring, or are they limited to the wrestling environment?
They are very limited. The biggest rivalries I've had were with Eddie Guerrero and The Undertaker. I had long, long feuds with both of these men and both were groomsmen at my wedding.
In fact, I was wrestling The Undertaker the next day so we had to keep the wedding and the wedding pictures secret because I didn't want anybody to see that we were actually very close friends.
[ Q ] The public perception of professional wrestling rivalries is often that these cross over into the public sphere, but in your case obviously not.
Right, and Eddie Guerrero was a dear friend of mine. We had a very, very heated rivalry for a long time, and Eddie was a groomsman at my wedding and I spoke at his funeral when he passed away. We were very good friends. I was a good friend of his family as he was with my family as well.
[ Q ] It has been suggested that you will retire from the professional wrestling circuit very soon. Do you have a date set for this retirement?
It will be sooner rather than later. I have an idea in mind, but I'm not sure exactly when, but it's going to be sooner rather than later. I'm not going to be here another year, let me put it that way.
[ Q ] Will your retirement be on your own terms or will it be scripted by the WWE into one of their upcoming events?
It will probably be worked into the storyline; I'm not totally sure how that will happen, but there is no sense in not making it part of the storyline because it will be quite a big event.
But as far as the WWE itself, the retirement will be very amicable; I'm very happy with those guys, I'm grateful to those guys for giving me a living for so many years and I think we will part on very good terms.
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[ Q ] Looking at your wrestling persona versus your real life persona, obviously there is a huge contrast in the way you act and present yourself. How difficult is it for you to deal these two different sets of personality traits 24/7?
To me it's not hard because I've been doing it for a long time. Back when I first started, if you were a bad guy you had to be a bad guy 24/7.
If you saw somebody at the airport you would be mean to them and wouldn't sign autographs, you barked at people all of the time. And it was tough in that respect.
Now it's changed. People understand that it's entertainment and I'm no different than Anthony Hopkins who played Hannibal Lector. What you do may or may not be true, but it's a character. So now that it's changed it makes things a lot easier.
[ Q ] So outside of the professional arena you show a different side to your personality?
Absolutely. That character is completely confined to the wrestling world.
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[ Q ] In developing your WWE JR character, how did you create such an interesting ring persona? And was it, in fact, your creation or that of the WWE?
It was my creation. I grew up a big fan of the JR Ewing character of the "Dallas" TV show and I grew up around people who were very similar to JR: they had come into a ton of money. And they loved to flaunt it and loved to drive fancy cars and wear the big cowboy hats and nice suits.
So this character is something I had seen both on the screen and in real life for many years and it is something I had wanted to do for years. How it worked was I really did move to New York and became involved in the financial arena and so a lot of it has basis in truth, but magnified obviously to a great degree.
[ Q ] In talking with wrestling fans from this side of the world (New Zealand) people are under the impression that you do, in fact, own much of the WWE and are very much like your ring persona. People not as close to the action tend to take a lot of what you do in the WWE literally.
Absolutely, and we try to blur that line to make it more real. [WWE CEO Vince] McMahon really is a billionaire and Stephanie McMahon really is his daughter. A lot of the stuff we use in the storylines is true so people look at that and are not sure where reality ends and fiction begins. And we do a lot of that on purpose.
It's not to fool people, it's mainly so they will enjoy the show more and they are intrigued and often wonder what will happen next - it's like watching a magician: did he really cut her in half or is it totally an illusion? Is there a chance she could get hurt or is it all illusion? We try to blur that line quite a bit.
[ Q ] In a sense you are keeping the fans guessing as to what will happen next and that creates a lot of excitement.
Absolutely and the fans want to be excited about it, they want to wonder and be entertained. If they care enough to watch us then we will do our best to entertain them.
They will be looking up and saying, "wait a minute, JBL really is on Fox News and really is on Wall Street - maybe he really is this character". And this adds to the depth of the character the fans are watching.
[ Q ] Although each wrestler has a different persona, each must do the same training and will undergo the same punishment night after night. So in that regard not a lot separates each man in terms of the preparation needed to wrestle.
No, the training is the same. In fact, I played pro
football for a few years and I would compare wrestling to pro football except for the fact we don't have an off-season (with pro wrestling); we are year-round.
And the beating you take night after night is pretty severe because there is no break. But as far as the training itself: it is very similar to what I experienced in pro football.
[ Q ] What would a typical training session by like for you today?
When I got hurt - I broke my back in a match in London, England - I had to retire and became just a commentator. I developed my other product that Bodybuilding.com carries called
Layfield's Energy Plus.
I developed that because of the fact that I couldn't move around very much. It took me about a year to develop it. I lost about 90 pounds while taking it and the energy shot took away the pain I had and gave me energy, and allowed me to have a normal training session again.
When I was younger I didn't do much
cardio and now I'm doing quite a bit. I'm doing cardio five days a week and will do anywhere from 30-minutes up to an hour each session, but never under 30 minutes. For lifting I do one body part per week and break it up into the five major body parts. I train arms - biceps and triceps - the same day.
[ Q ] Can you elaborate on your training regimen?
Sure. My training split is one body part a week incorporating back, legs, shoulders, chest and arms (both biceps and triceps). Abs are trained two to three times a week with neck being trained two to three times: I train neck because of having broke it and the only way it feels better is if I work it regularly.
I bought the Hammer Strength 4-way neck machine for my local gym. My actual training split varies, but I try to train legs in the middle of the week and I always train on Saturday and Sunday because those are my days off.
[ Q ] How much difference has increasing your cardio made?
I just feel so much better. When I was younger, guys just didn't do cardio; nobody did. I just feel better during my workouts. I don't feel that I have lost anything from it. In fact, it has enhanced my ability to train hard.
[ Q ] How do you structure your nutrition?
To keep my weight the same at around 240 (pounds) I eat five times a day incorporating high
protein and no late light meals.
[ Q ] As far as weight training goes are you as strong, or stronger than you were prior to your injury as a result of taking your supplements?
Yes, and let me clarify. The supplement (
Layfield's Energy Plus) is not just a weight loss product. It enables me to train normally and feel good because of the energy. So yeah, I take the thing religiously and I feel better now than when I was in my late 20's and I have had a lot of abuse since then. It has been quite remarkable; the weight loss has helped me as much as anything.
[ Q ] What are some of the other ways you deal with the ongoing trauma that is inflicted on your body day after day?
Stretching for me has been big. I was never into stretching before as it just wasn't big when I was younger.
So I'm doing more and more of that and that is keeping my weight down and has allowed me to extend my career quite along time. If I was still over 300 pounds there is no way I would still be wrestling.
[ Q ] So you got up to more than 300 pounds after your injury?
I was overweight when I got hurt and broke my back, I tried to wrestle for a while with it and I was compensating for the broken back. The
injury was a break to the T-1 in my upper back and I developed a herniated disk in the L-4 and L-5 (lower back) so I was slowly deteriorating in the ring and I was getting fatter and fatter.
But when I finally quit wrestling I didn't have the energy or the body to be able to workout so I just didn't do anything for months and that's when I bloated up to about 330 pounds.
[ Q ] There is a feeling that what happens in the pro wrestling ring is acting, but it is also said the knocks can be real? Exactly how hard is it being a pro wrestler? How much damage is inflicted? What percentage could we say is real and what percentage is scripted or acted?
It would be hard to put a percentage on it because it varies per match. Some guy will throw a punch and people will be thinking "oh my god he killed the guy", but it would have barely touched you.
Sometimes a guy will hit you and people will assume it is a fake shot, but the fact is he almost broke your jaw. It varies per night and per move.
I've had a broken back, a torn bicep and a herniated disk. I've had many injuries. When people say, "is it real or fake?" I think what they are really asking is, "is it scripted". Obviously what we do is scripted, but as far as being real I would say yes it's real.
But in saying that we are smoke and mirrors; we try not to hurt anybody, but we are going live so don't have the benefit of camera angles. We have fans sitting five feet from us, so we have to make it look good.
You don't want to hurt the guy you are fighting and you would love to not even touch him, but a lot of times a lot of punches and kicks land. If you are in the WWE you are going to be hurt sometime. We have a 100 percent injury rate. At some point you're going to get hurt.
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[ Q ] So again it comes back to the conveyance of the illusion of something that might, in fact, be different to what the fans might first think.
And that is a lot of what the fans are looking at. They don't know for sure and a lot of times when I'm watching a match I don't know for sure. They are intrigued with what is going on. Was that real? Did that hurt? When they're wondering that they are becoming engaged in what is happening. It adds to the experience of the fans.
[ Q ] What are some of the more damaging moves you have encountered over your career?
The broken back was pretty bad (laughs). I got hit pretty good. I also tore up my shoulder. You name it and I've had it. It's funny because I've done a lot of things: been choke-slammed through a limousine, Tombstoned on stairs, choke-slammed through a ring and power-bombed through a table.
Most of these things you will walk away from and feel just fine, but some you will be in so much pain you will hardly walk for a week. So it is hit or miss as far as the things that you are doing. We try to keep it as safe as possible, but when you have big bodies that are falling things just happen sometimes that are unexpected, unplanned and unwanted.
[ Q ] Has there been a particular move applied to you that has proven especially damaging and painful?
Yes, Batista power-bombed me on a set of stairs and that hurt (laughs). John Cena gave me one of his moves up on an iron stage one time on pay-per-view and that was pretty damaging. The Undertaker gave the Last Ride - which is a big power bomb - on a table and that was pretty shocking also.
[ Q ] So you have experienced it all.
Absolutely and if you stick around long enough and take some big moves like that you know they are going to hurt before they are done and, sure enough, they do (laughs). Then you are glad it's over.
[ Q ] It is said that your professional wrestling career began after you had wrestled a bear in a local bar. Can you tell me more about this?
Yes I did wrestle a bear in a bar in Abilene, Texas. I was an American-All-Collegiate and a bear was brought into town. And the match was touted as the All-American wrestling the bear. I did not do very well. I got destroyed in a matter of minutes.
[ Q ] How was this match controlled?
There were guys there. But the bear just went absolutely berserk. I realized that the bear wasn't wrestling as hard as I was - he was just playing.
I relaxed, he relaxed and I flipped him onto his side and if I were to flip him onto his back I would have gotten $1,500, which was a billion dollars to me back then.
I was young and had no money. So as I pushed him onto his side he just absolutely erupted and went berserk. He tore me up, tore up the bar. They had to hit him with a chain and get a choke strap on him. My college roommates tried to pull me off. It was quite a scene by the time they had gotten that bear off me.
[ Q ] What happened after this bout? Did you quit wrestling?
I went back to playing college
football (laughs). I did a few years pro and then got into pro wrestling.
[ Q ] So you went from wrestling bears to wrestling 300-pound men. I imagine this was an easy transition.
It was pretty easy but The Big Show (WWE wrestling star) is about as big as a bear (laughs). But it was a lot easier.
[ Q ] Who is the hardest wrestler you have ever been up against?
There have been a few. The Undertaker is one of the toughest guys I have ever been up against. The Big Show is probably the strongest guy I've ever faced.
There was Brock Lesnar who is now the MMA (UFC) World Champion: he was a freak of nature. And so was Kurt Angle: when he grabbed you felt it. It was quite a humbling experience.
[ Q ] Judging by your many and varied career paths you appear to be one busy man. Can you tell me about some of the major projects you are involved with these days John?
Yes, my latest project, of course, is
Layfield Energy, the company I formed about two years ago. This came out of me working on Wall Street.
I helped a company buy another small company and out of that came a partnership with one of those companies and I decided to start up my own functional beverage company. And through that came the products that I have developed.
[ Q ] And one of these products has been referred to as a very potent product. Sounds interesting. Can you tell me more about this beverage?
The back-story on this is phenomenal.
Mamajuana was made in the Caribbean since before the time of Columbus. There is a long and traditional history to this elixir.
What I wanted to do initially was to take this product and bring it to the rest of the world and I realized that so much had changed over the centuries that there was no set formula for it so what I did was start 100 percent from scratch.
It took me quite a while and I finally put together a natural
testosterone booster along with an energy shot. A lot of guys take it as a daily product which is what I think it essentially is: a natural testosterone booster and energy booster. Guys over 30 take the normal energy shot or something else so they can boost their testosterone levels and their energy.
[ Q ] Would you go as far as to say that Mamajuana Extreme is a natural testosterone booster?
Yes, it is a natural testosterone booster. I want to produce stuff that is natural that gives you the desired effect.
[ Q ] What kind of feedback have you received as a result of people taking Mamajuana?
It's been very good. What has surprised me is how many guys take it every day. What we have with Mamajuana is a natural testosterone booster; because of the Maca root in it and add to that the energy in it that is also all natural and you have a product that a guy can take every day.
Guys who take it every day tell me they are having the best workouts, among other things; it's really dialed back the clock to when they were a lot younger.
[ Q ] Did you develop the name Mamajuana?
The name has been around for so long that it is basically a generic name now. I trademarked the names Mamajuana Energy and Mamajuana Extreme.
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[ Q ] In developing this drink did you borrow anything from the original formula or was it all your own doing?
It is 100 percent from scratch. My original idea was to take the original formula, but that was impossible because the original formula has been changed so many times over the years - so I worked with it from my original concept to what it is now.
[ Q ] How did you transition from professional wrestler to your involvement in the supplement market?
It's been tough because of time. I travel 200 days a year, but I'm scaling back because I'm about to retire now. So it's been tough because I do so much. And I also work for
Fox News and
Fox Business so I have a lot of obligations.
[ Q ] I imagine the time on the road with the WWE is the hardest part for you.
Yes that's been the hardest part. I'm sitting in a hotel now; we have a TV show tonight. After this interview I have to head off to do the TV show so it's tough to balance it all.
[ Q ] So you are wrestling tonight.
Yes, I'm wrestling tonight. I'm the current WWE Intercontinental Champion, which means I've held more individual titles combined than anybody else in WWE history.
[ Q ] With yourself being an ex-amateur wrester do you find that your matches against other seasoned guys are better quality-wise?
Yes they are better. Anytime you are up there with somebody who knows what they are doing, the matches are better as compared to trying to walk some guy through a match who is green in the business and doesn't know what he is doing.
If you get somebody out there like The Undertaker, it is a lot easier but it is also a lot harder too. You can feel the difference and fans can as well.
[ Q ] To remain in the pro wrestling business for as long as the Undertaker, for example, how important is keeping in good shape?
Yes, and he is probably, right now, in the best shape he has ever been in. The reason he is still wrestling is probably because he is in such good shape.
When you are 25 or 30 you can get away with being young. When you get around 35 to 45 you have to be in shape to be able to compete at any level.
It becomes more important the older you get. You look at guys who have been around a while and they tend to get in better shape as they get older, because they realize how important it is.
[ Q ] Compared to when you were in your 20's and early 30's how do you feel now as far as your energy levels and strength in the ring go?
Physically I don't think anybody's as strong at age 42 as they were at 32. But
cardiovascular-wise I think I am better now than I've ever been because I train much harder, I've learned more about nutrition and more about training.
[ Q ] And you take Layfield's Energy supplements of course.
Layfield's Energy Plus and it helps me out tremendously. And at night I take a little relaxation shot -
Deuce all-natural two-ounce shot - to get over my jetlag. This shot will knock down a bull. And that combination together is the reason why I'm able to go a lot further than most people can.
[ Q ] How much do you weigh now and do you feel you have to compete much lighter to maintain more energy?
Yes I do. I'm at about 240 pounds right now and that is a pretty good weight for me. Years ago when I competed I was up to 280 to 300 pounds. I find now I can't carry the extra weight, but that's okay. I feel a lot better this way.
[ Q ] What has been the best moment in your professional wrestling career so far?
Probably my first pay-per-view that I was the main event at, wrestling Eddie Guerrero at the first big sold out pay-per-view that we had - the match went really well.
That was kind of a testing ground to see if I could really be a main event guy and it went really well. That was probably the biggest night of my life.
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That Was Kind Of A Testing Ground To
See If I Could Really Be A Main Event Guy.
[ Q ] What has been your biggest title defense?
Probably going into Wrestlemania as the World Heavyweight Champion, which was something I had always dreamed of as a kid and what every wrestler aspires to do.
There have been 24 Wrestlemanias so far and the 25th is coming soon. There are very few people who have walked into Wrestlemania as Heavyweight Champion and I had the opportunity to do that and that was a huge thrill for me.
[ Q ] You are wrestling tonight. Who will you be up against?
I think I will be going up against Rey Mysterio.
[ Q ] Well on that note you better get ready for this show. It was nice talking with you John. All the best for tonight.
Thank you David, the pleasure was mine.