15th March 2001.
Jeff Kohl: Brian Armstrong, thanks for joining me on Live Audio Wrestling.
Brian James: Thanks for having me Jeff. I appreciate it.
Jeff Kohl: Now, as everybody knows, you're the artist formerly known as the Road
Dogg from the World Wrestling Federation where you made quite a name for
yourself during your time there. However, what people don't really seem to know
is the story behind you recently being let go by the company. I want to start
off by getting your side of the story as to why the WWF decided to let you go.
What exactly happened?
Brian James: What exactly happened was… my drug addiction is no secret. It's
just like anybody else’s; I have good days and I have bad days -- it's a
constant battle. One night, I got messed up before a match and I went on and did
the match anyway, which was filmed on television for Sunday Night Heat and I
knew I was messed up and I could feel it in the ring. I went to Vince McMahon
that night and he said, "Please, tomorrow. I'm busy." So, I met with
Bruce Prichard in the lobby of the hotel and I told him "I'm going through
a pretty bitter divorce right now" and I told him that I was at a time in
my life where I really needed something to happen right now. The next day I
talked to Jim Ross and Bruce Prichard and they told me that I would be suspended
indefinitely and that I should go home, get my life in order, and get back home
with my kids and everything. That's exactly what I did. I took off right then
and they had me on the next plane out -- they were on the ball with it. I
thought of it as a good thing and that I was getting my life back together. Then,
after they suspended me indefinitely, they called and released me. There's a lot
of things that my wife said she had something to do with but she's going through
a rough time too and I don't know if that's true or not. They released me and I
haven't spoken to them since. It wasn't a real bitter thing but I just haven't
spoken to them since. I got a fat cheque in the mail today from them so I can't
have too sour feelings. They did make me a star.
Jeff Kohl: Now, do you personally feel that your letting go from the company was
Brian James: No, I don't feel it was justified. Well, I'm stepping on my tongue
there because he's taken chances with me before; he's paid for my rehabilitation
before on two occasions. He's given me chances. Maybe it's the old three strikes
and you're out kind of thing. It wasn't a release, it was a suspension they put
me on and I felt "Oh, at least I'm on the talent roster and am still one of
the boys. I'm just going to go home and unscrew my relationship with my wife and
my personal battles." Then, right after the told me that, they called me
and released me and said "We have no longer any use for the Road Dogg."
Jeff Kohl: Did they ever give you a chance to explain yourself before they
decided to officially send you your release papers?
Brian James: No. I just got the papers and I got a phone call from Jim Ross and
I talked to him for a second and he said, "Vince just wants to wash his
hands of it." So, obviously I had given him too much trouble for him to put
up with. Like I said, I can't be too sour. They really did things for me and
gave me the opportunity. I'm not saying that they made the Road Dogg because I
made the Road Dogg. They handed the ball off but I ran it for a touchdown and
that's honestly how I feel in my heart. I don't know if I'll ever make big money
in the wrestling game again. If I don't, I've been on top of the world -- it was
a long fall down of the top of that mountain but I landed on my feet. I'm in my
backyard playing with my pit bull puppies and I’m having a good time just
trying to take it day-by-day. Like I said, I'm in a bitter divorce right now and
it takes its tool on me because I haven't seen my children in two months. It's
wacky, wacky stuff there.
Jeff Kohl: Now that you've had time to reflect on the situation and analyze
what's gone down, who do you personally hold responsible for your termination
from the WWF? Is there anyone particular that you hold accountable?
Brian James: Yeah, there's one person in particular and it's Vince. Nobody fires
nobody without Vince saying "He's fired." I don't hold him responsible,
I hold myself responsible because I know I'm not supposed to go out there and
endanger other peoples lives as well as my own. I knew better than to do that.
Maybe it was a stiff slap on the wrist... Yeah, it was a real stiff slap on the
wrist to tell you the truth. Maybe I took him for granted -- he was good to me
and I always thought he'd be that good to me. He's a businessman and he's made a
lot of money in this business but he knows what he's doing and I knew what I was
doing. Like I said, he handed me the ball and I scored. I was with
Degeneration-X and the New Age Outlaws (man, I got a belt right here that I'm
looking at in my house next to my iguana tank) and I won the tag title seven
times. If you're looking at it from a fans standpoint, you've got to think,
"Damn, that guy was good" or "That tag team was good" and
that's what it's all about -- if they think we were good (and I know we were
good). I was on top of the world and it was great. Every cookie crumbles and
they all crumble in a different direction.
Jeff Kohl: Do you still keep in contact with any of the boys from the WWF?
Brian James: You know what? I really haven't. As far as wrestling time goes, it
hasn't been a long time. Instead, I've been out. I've kept in touch with Mideon
-- he calls me or I call him every now and than. I've talked to X-Pac a few
times. To tell you the truth, that's about it. They're all my friends but they
were friends on the road [as opposed to the type that] I would call them and
talk to them.
Jeff Kohl: Now, in your opinion, do you think the door is still possibly open
for return for yourself in the WWF?
Brian James: I do feel it's open. I just think they're going to buy their time
and test me. I would imagine that they would randomly test me whenever I come
back, which is understandable because they want a clean atmosphere there because
somebody can get hurt and hurt bad. We see that when people are healthy they can
still get hurt. Steve Austin getting piledriven by Owen -- Owen was healthy at
the time and Owen, now, he's gone (God rest his heart) and he was a good friend
of mine. There are so many ups and downs on this damn roller coaster and it's
time to get off for a second. The door is definitely open and I feel it is.
Vince and I have always had a unique relationship but he's very approachable to
me. A lot of people are scared to death of him but I'm not. I'm scared to death
of him business-wise because I don't have a clue what he's talking about
business-wise because I'm not a businessman, I'm a wrestler. I'm a good wrestler
I think and I think he's smart enough to know that if I'm cleaned up and can
keep my head in the game than I think the door is always open for me. He's just
that kind of guy.
Jeff Kohl: At this time, are you 100% free of your WWF contract?
Brian James: Yes, I'm free and clear. Like I said, I just got a cheque from the
WWF today that I don't really know what it's for.
Jeff Kohl: [Laughing]
Brian James: This is the first time that a cheque has come to my hands. They
used to just go all to my wife and she'd handle them off. I pull this one out
and it's like $4,000 and I thought "Oh my lord! I'm rich!" I started
to think back to when Billy and me were making fat jack on some pay-per-view
pay-offs and I know Rocky and them are just making a heyday right now -- they're
just having a blast. I wish I was with them but I sure do like sitting here in
my backyard watching my puppies wrestle. I'm in Florida, it's beautiful, I own
my house and don't have to pay rent, we just got a new computer today, and me
and my brother Steve are going to try and open up a training camp or something
in Milton, Florida.
Jeff Kohl: Is that what you've been up to since your release from the WWF?
Brian James: Yeah, pretty much. I've been doing some local appearances or some
local gigs with Independent stuff. You get back to the grass roots of things.
The Independent circuit makes you go "This is why I loved it. I fell in
love with wrestling right here." When you spend 280 days on the road, you
fall out of love with wrestling real quick especially when I had a family (key
word there is had). I think it was the business and it feels good to kickback
every now and than. Going back to the door thing, I think the door is open for
me in both WCW and WWF. I think both companies want to see me take a step in the
right direction for myself but they don't know where I'm coming from. I think
the door is always going to be open for me. Just like I said, me and Vince had a
unique relationship and he's that kind of guy who will give you opportunities as
long as you can keep up your end of the bargain and I didn't keep up my end of
the bargain. I walked to the ring screwed up and so here I sit broken-hearted.
Jeff Kohl: Now Brian, speaking of WCW, I was hearing some rumours that you were
recently contacted by Johnny Ace of WCW.
Brian James: Yeah, that's true. He's the only one I've ever talked to, which is
Johnny Ace. I've met him a few times throughout his career and mine and he was
real big over in Japan in Baba's company so they love him over there. He's a
good dude and I've talked to him a few times and the first was a good
conversation and the second was a better conversation but I haven't heard from
him since and that was about two weeks ago. They were talking about getting me
up to talk to Eric. From what I can understand, they're under a bunch of
re-structuring and the last thing that they can afford to do is hire somebody
that might be trouble. So, you know, if I can hang out down here and let them
get their feet wet with the new owners, than I think there might be a door open
with the new owners over there. It seems like it's open now but they just don't
want to jump on nothing quickly. They also told me that if I went to them, they
would test me very early. I'm doing fine in my personal battles and the hardest
thing is not getting to see my kids. I won't get to see them until next month
when the divorce is final and the courts give me visitation rights on the
weekend or something. That's my biggest problem right now and I try not even to
think about wrestling. I've done some Indy shows getting me back to my grass
roots so it's all going to be all right. I'm talking myself into some tears here.
Jeff Kohl: Oh boy.
Brian James: No, I'm just kidding, it's all good. Like I said, it's just hard
for me because I love my kids for everything and I travelled so much that that
stopped on ice and I came home and my wife files for a divorce and won't let me
see my kids. Then I get fired from my job. It's like a country song. [Laughing]
Jeff Kohl: Something the Real JJ would write.
Brian James: Playing with my pit bull. [Laughing]
Jeff Kohl: Would you say that there's any good chance that we could see Brian
Armstrong pop up on WCW television anytime in the near future?
Brian James: You might see me pop up on their television. I probably won't be
called Brian Armstrong. Bischoff doesn't care too much for the Armstrong family
name. He doesn't have that southern [knowledge in him] -- he wasn't born in
Alabama and if you weren't, you pretty much haven't heard of the Armstrong's. I
don't think he likes any of my brothers or anything and he probably doesn't like
me. Me and Mideon used to do cruel things to him when he was one of the
announcers and we didn't think he'd ever be the boss but he is and we probably
wish we didn't be so mean. [Laughing] I could pop up on there but I just don't
think it would be Brian Armstrong. I've been running a bunch of things through
my head and if they ever give me a set day, I'd throw something at them. I think
I want to keep the dog persona and keep it close to that without getting sued by
Vince. Just as close as I can get without being sued and he'll sue them, not me,
because he knows he can get nothing from me. I'll be on one channel or another.
I firmly believe that when I get my head straight and they get their feet wet,
I'll go somewhere. It seems to me that Vince and them are already losing
momentum with their fad four they've got running all over the place now with
Hunter, Angle, Rock, and Austin. It just seems they're losing momentum because
they're using the same people and so the ratings are dropping a little bit and
WCW's making a little bit of a comeback. So, I wouldn't mind making a bit of a
comeback because it'd be a boost for me and for them. For two years, change the
playing field and go to an away game. Like we talked about, the door will be
open even then. Two years from now business may be bad but it will still be open.
You can't kill wrestling, wrestling's here to stay. [Laughing]
Jeff Kohl: Brian, switching gears, what do you think it was about the character
of the Road Dogg that made you so over with the fans?
Brian James: To be honest, I think it was just that I was simple. I get fancy
without getting fancy with just words and stuff. I think they relate to me
because I'm just Joe Shmo like them. I feel like I can touch them. A lot of guys
go out and work a match and never interact with the people at all but you've got
to include them in your formula. I think they related to me because I was like
them and was a poor, white trash boy that got his hair braded and danced and
wiggled his legs. It's just a combination of things but I think it's just
because they related to me. It sounds cocky but when you know me, you know
there's nobody better than me and nobody beneath me. We're all just trying to
get along in life and I think they relate to that by saying "He's just a
trailer park trash white boy." They're not all trailer trash -- we've got
doctors coming to our shows, which shows the diversity of wrestling. Like I said,
I think they related to the dog. I had fun with it too and I didn't hold back
with it so I had fun with it. I think Billy Gunn loses a lot because he doesn't
let loose with himself and my brother Brad is guilty of the same thing. He can
make you laugh until you cry but once that red light came on, he couldn't be
himself. I think that's very important. Let yourself show out there. The people
that relate to you will be your fans.
Jeff Kohl: What was it like working with Billy?
Brian James: We were the hottest thing going. We beat the Road Warriors -- I was
just thinking about that the other day and said, "Man, we beat the Road
Warriors" because that was awesome to me. At the time, I didn't know what
was going on. I was just some young kid hollering at Russo every night to put me
and Billy together because we were both losers. We were like the first match and
went four minutes every night. It was the Real JJ against Rockabilly every night.
Finally, we convinced him to put us together and do something. The chemistry was
there and the people came with us and did man did we take off. We went into
Wrestlemania with the dumpster match and there was a couple of key points early
in my WWF career that were great. Billy's a hell of an athlete. He got a
scholarship for riding bulls in Texas for Sam Houston University. He got a
scholarship for bull riding. Anyone who knows him knows he can play any sport.
He wasn't even a wrestling fan growing up so everything he's learned, he learned
in a month in wrestling school -- him and Bart both. They were sent right in the
game. They came around the hard way I feel and they've paid their duos. He's
been there for like nine years now. It doesn't seem that long ago that him and
Bart came up riding on those horses but it was. He's a heck of an athlete and we
had a great time working with each other. He's a screamer -- he would scream at
you if you weren’t doing exactly what he thought you should be doing. Later,
you would say "Hey man, don't scream at me like that. You're just hollering
at me" and he'd say "Hey man, you know I don't mean nothing by it"
but he sure hurt your feelings sometimes in the ring. Like I said, it was great
working with him. That was my peak and that's the way I'm going out. [Laughing]
Jeff Kohl: Were you as close off camera with Billy, Triple H, and X-Pac as you
appeared on television?
Brian James: To be quite honest, yeah. There for a while, we really were. There
for a while, we hung together, and we stayed together. At TVs, we were always
doing something. Me and Billy used to travel together and then when Paul Wight
came in, then he started to travel with Paul Wight and I was travelling with
X-Pac. Me and X-Pac kind of always travelled together though. We would usually
go to Billy's room or we'd see him. Chyna and Hunter kind of did their own thing
but me and X-Pac and Billy kind of hung together.
Jeff Kohl: Near the end of your stay with the WWF, the very last angle that we
saw you a part of was your involvement with a tag team with K-Kwik. Prior to
your release from the WWF, did you have any ideas where the two of you were
expected to go as a tag team in terms of storylines that you can let us in on?
Brian James: To be quite honest, it had been very early in the makings. We
stopped at the office buildings and cut a CD in thirty minutes -- 'Get Rowdy'.
He's talented as well and I feel I am too in wrestling and I think that together,
we would have been really good not only as a tag team but I felt we could have
made money music-wise because the fan base that we have. All Vince has to do is
put it up for sale on Monday Night Raw... 1-900 so and so. Man, there's just so
much that he's not cashing in I feel when it comes to music and stuff. A lot of
guys have different talents. I try and stress the music but he's a wrestling
promoter -- he's not a musician, he's not a guy in the music industry, he's a
wrestling promoter. With me and Kwik, as far as the tag team belts go, I don't
know if we were going to go and get those back. I had no idea what was going to
happen wrestling-wise but to get him up there because he was under a
developmental contract in Memphis and Billy hurt his shoulder. A week later, I
went down and worked a show for Jerry Lawler in Memphis and saw him. He rapped
out to the ring and did his dance and Bruce Prichard was there and I said,
"Right there! That's my next partner." Eight months later, he was up
there and I don't know why they kept him down there so long because he was damn
good right then.
Jeff Kohl: Do you know if working with him was a short-term plan or if you guys
were going to be sticking it out together.
Brian James: Oh yeah, we were supposed to be sticking. It was like a thing and
they wanted us to do the musical part of it too. It was an understanding that
him and I were going to be married for a while. He was a heck of a guy and he
was the most modest guy you could ever meet in your life. He's got incredible
talents and if Vince can exploit them like I know he can, they're both going to
make a lot of money off of one another.
Jeff Kohl: Your character, the Road Dogg, obviously came quite some way in the
WWF as you've said with you originally being hooked up with the gimmick of the
Roadie and then ‘The Real JJ’ Jesse James. When did you originally break
into the WWF in the first place?
Brian James: To tell you the truth, I just got out of [wrestling school] about
three months prior to that. I had about 50-60 matches under my belt. Not a bunch
but enough under my belt so that I could do it. I was in a band then with Max
Pain, Nick Patrick (who is the head referee in WCW), and we had a drummer and a
bass player who weren't wrestlers but they were big freaks too. We had a band at
the time and Max got hired by the WWF and said, "Let me bring this kid up
and show you and let us sing a song in front of you." Me, Max, and a guitar
went into a building in Massachusetts, we walked down the bowels of a building
where Mankind [is seen] and sat in front of Shane, Vince, a Bruce Prichard and
sang one song. We sang one song and they put me in tights, had me work a match,
and I was on the road the next day. Max kind of got me my job up there and when
they put me on the road, they put me with Jeff Jarrett who I'd never met before
but I'd heard stuff about because he was a second generation southern wrestler
and the whole nine yards. We met and we really hit it off. Me and Jeff still
remain the best of friends of anybody that I've been friends with in the
business. We hit it off, our timing was good, we knew what to do, the Tennessee
angles were funny, and we hoped that they would get over. That was a really fun
time of my life and I missed out because I quit because of drugs again seven
months after I was hired. I ended up going to Germany and having my brains beat
out by the shooting Japanese guys and German guys. They called me back a year
later when my wife was pregnant with my second baby. They called back and said
"Do you want to come back for $100,000 a year?" and I said "Hell
yes!" I would have come back for $50,000 at the time. My baby was about to
come out and I needed money for diapers. They gave me a good deal and of course,
I made a lot more than that. That's just the minimum -- they'll give you a
minimum guarantee up there and if you produce, you make more than that. If
you're good, you get paid well. They always took care of me. WCW says,
"This is how much you get right here whether you're good or whether you're
bad. This is how much you're going to get." WWF is maybe a little more
incentive driven and it tries to get the incentive out of the guys to do well.
Pay them like they're doing so.
Jeff Kohl: Brian, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to open up
and talk to me. I know you haven't done too many interviews since you left the
Brian James: Yeah, I haven't. This is the second one I think.
Jeff Kohl: Is there anything else you want to say before I let you go?
Brian James: No, not really. I don't want to say good-bye to anyone because I
still think I have a foot in the grave... I mean game.
Jeff Kohl: [Laughing]
Brian James: I don't want to say bye to the fans. I just want to say that if you
didn't know, you'll see me on there one Monday night. I can promise you that.
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