25th September 2002.
His wrestling moniker isn’t the only thing that has
changed for Brian James since his heyday in World
Wrestling Entertainment as the Road Dogg. After being
fired in December 2000 on a drug-related issue, James
has struggled with substance abuse problems but hopes
he is on track for a recovery. James returned to wrestling
September 18 for the National Wrestling Alliance/Total
Nonstop Action promotion, which promotes weekly Wednesday
night pay-per-view shows. In the following interview,
James discusses his return to wrestling, his drug problems
in WWE, regrets about coining the phrase “suck it” while
wrestling as the Road Dogg, and optimism about overcoming
his addiction issues after a six-month stint in a rehabilitation
facility near his home in Milton, Fla.
Q: How good did it feel to be back in the ring last Wednesday?
James: "Well, to tell you the truth, I was a bit anxious about
getting back in the ring. I wanted do it because I've loved the
business since my birth. But I was a bit antsy. Because Nashville
is Jeff Jarrett's hometown, I was interested to see whether people
would buy me over him. I'm grateful people did remember who I was.
We live in an MTV society. If you're out of sight for any period
of time, they forget about you. Fortunately, they didn't forget.
It felt great being back in the ring and back as a fan favorite.
Not to sound cocky, but it seem likes the fans dug that big time."
Q: What had you been doing in time away from mainstream?
James: "I spent six months in drug rehab. I'd been battling with
this pretty much since high school when I started doing drugs. I
joined the military and had a little time off of drugs. I was still
an addict. Ever since I broke into the business in 1993, I was
taking a bunch of drugs. I'm not proud of that. I hope somebody can
be helped by hearing it. I was in a Christian-based, bible-based
rehab center. For six months, I was a shut in where I had to live
there at the place. I was not in lockdown, and I was not locked up
(in jail) like I was before I was in the program. I am grateful I
went in there. I haven't overcome my demons, because I don't know
whether I ever can. But I do have them at bay. I'm back together
with my wife. When I was separated from my children, I started to
think about things. I'm 33. It's time to start thinking about
what's important in life, not waking up every morning to see when
or how I could get high. Instead, it was time to start thinking about
how I was going to pay the bills and raising my children right.
Wrestling was crazy enough as it is, not withstanding trying to get
high every day. I've put it behind me because I need to focus on
what's important in life. I hope I can tell young kids that. With
DX, I felt I not only demoralized myself but a bunch of people. They
thought it was cool to get up and say raunchy and rancid things. I
was doing it all in good fun, but there's so much more to life than
that. The things that happened on 9-11 last year proved that. When
it's your time, you want to be doing the right thing."
Q: So are you saying that you regret the Road Dogg character in WWE?
James: "I'm proud of the fact I was with a group that did
revolutionize wrestling. I'm proud of my spot there and the fact
that we did what we did with pro wrestling. But I'm not proud of
a lot of things I did. I was doped up all the time. I didn't event
think what I was doing was affecting kids at home watching. Little
kids all around the world would give me those two words (i.e. suck it).
They were three or four years old. They could barely say 10 words, yet
they knew what those two words were. It was borderline sad that people
would not only let their kids watch that but then urge them to say it
to me at an autograph session. I know that's the society we live in,
but it's not how I've got to live my life. But I am proud of the fact
that with DX helped win the ratings war between (Ted) Turner and
(Vince) McMahon. We turned the table on (WCW) and got people to
start watching us."
Q: When did you come to this revelation?
James: "Probably about six months ago, not long after I joined the
bible-based program. I'm not trying to come across as a Jesus freak,
but I kind of am one now I just think about whether you believe in
God or not, there's a right way and wrong way to live. I was living
the wrong way. I want to put all my focus on living the right way
and teaching that to my children."
Q: What specific drug problem did you have while in WWE?
James: "It wasn't a particular drug. It was my whole way of life.
Every day I got up and thought, 'I've got some money. What drug do
I have access to? It was drugs in general. I was living the
rock-and-roll lifestyle. At the time, I was ok with life like that
because it was my gimmick. The Road Dogg gimmick was wild and crazy.
It didn't matter that I was messed up when I went to work. I don't
know if there was ever anything so bad in my life that I had to run
away from it, but I see now that it's ok to wake up and not have any
drugs. It's not only ok, it's kind of cool waking up with my children
and watching them do things that I had taken for granted so many
times. It's been five year since my baby girl was born and I've got
a son who's 11. The past six years while they were growing up, I
would miss games because I would stay home and sleep or miss a
school function because I was messed up and did not want to be
around people. It was little stuff you take for granted. I look
back at it now and I don't know what I was hiding from or running
from or what reason I thought I needed to be messed up for. It's
ok to remain sober. I used to not think like that."
Q: Do you think WWE was aware of this problem?
James: "They intervened a couple of times early, even before the DX
thing. That's why I have no harsh feelings about them. They did
try. They didn't want me to be a statistic like a lot of guys that
have passed away in this business (from drug overdoses) that were
great wrestlers and are people I loved and miss. They tried to
intervene the last time. I don't think they knew what was going on.
I'd try to keep it all a big secret. I was separated from my wife
and living by myself. I saw no reason to go home. Sometimes, I would
just stay and party in a city for a couple of days. My life was
really going downhill fast. I don't think (WWE) really knew how bad
it had gotten. When I went and told them, I think it shocked the
devil out of them. They thought everything was alright but it wasn't.
When I told them they told me to go home and that they would contact
me. When I got home, I got my release through a statement in the mail.
They didn't need that type of worry on their mind. In big business,
they can only help you so many times. Then again, I was not trying to
help myself. Maybe that's because that wasn't the actual rock bottom
that I hit."
Q: When was that and what happened?
James: "I went to jail with a DUI. That was pretty much bottom. I was
looking at spending a year in jail when I found (the rehab) program.
The beginning of it came when I was on probation then for a domestic
violence change. I was doped up. I knew my right from wrong, but I
didn't care. I violated my probation with a drug charge with dirty
urine (for a failed test). I was on house arrest for 30 days. I kind
of shook the cobwebs loose and stayed straight for a little while.
I did for 30 days, but the week after, I got trashed and tried driving.
I got a DUI, which is a second violation of my probation. They took me
straight to jail, where I sat for 21 days before my court date. That's
when the probation officer said they knew of a program. The state was
willing to let me do that. I was ok with that. Thank god, because it
helped me start to turn my life around. So far, it's early in the battle.
It would be overzealous to say I was cured. I don't think a person like
me is ever cured. It's a daily battle. It's hard, but I'm going to try
and not put myself back in that scenario. Working with NWA/TNA is one
day a week. Then I can come back home the rest of the time and be a dad
and husband and try to keep my focus."
Q: This reminds me of another interview I did with William Regal back
in 2000 when he was going through his rehabilitation period.
James: "Me and him were neck and neck. When he first got up (to WWE),
we would travel together and do the same stuff. It was the same kind
of drugs. We would hang out in the hotel room all day doped up then
try to shake the cobwebs loose and go to work for two hours, then start
to do it again. I'm proud of Regal. He's a really good guy and has
done a really good job (after rehab). I'm proud of him."
Q: There are some people in NWA/TNA who also have a history of drug
and/or alcohol abuse but are trying to straighten up. Is it a positive
or negative to be in that environment?
James: "It's a positive for me. I got up there last week and saw Scott
Hall. It empowers you to be able to talk to somebody about what is
wrong and they have the exact same wrong they've been living. They're
all trying get back on right track. It's definitely a positive thing
to be with X-Pac and Scott again. We all had our battles that we
continue daily, but we can talk as friends."
Q: It also must help to have your family around in NWA/TNA (i.e.
referee Scott Armstrong and official "Bullet" Bob Armstrong).
James: "Yeah, that helps a great deal. Scott has always been very
well grounded and a really down-to-earth guy. I've always looked up
to him a great deal growing up. Now, we're both grown up and he's
helping me. And my dad is real smart. He's wise to life, It definitely
helps to have two older members of the James Gang around."
Q: Finally, what are goals in the business at this point?
James: "To tell the truth, being part-time is where I'm at. When Jeff
called me and the opportunity arose, this was perfect for me. I don't
have to marry myself back to the business. I have things going on in my
life other than wrestling, but wrestling is a good means to pay the
bills. This is a perfect opportunity because it's only once a week."
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