Professional Wrestling can be fickle thing. In fact, you would struggle to find a profession better suited to the saying: here today, gone tomorrow. While loyalty is a trait that is naturally encouraged, there are only a handful of men and women that can claim to have devoted their entire career to the sport.
Jeremy Borash has been a part of TNA Wrestling since day one. In March 2002, he became the second person handed a contract by the company, and over the course of the last twelve years he has become one of their most influential members of staff.
The 37-year-old currently serves as the backstage interviewer for TNA’s flagship broadcast – Impact Wrestling – as well as being a member of the company’s creative team, and the host of TNA Xplosion. As such, he has seen a huge array of wrestlers, staff and company officials come and go during his time.
He however, has remained. Few know more about the true workings of pro wrestling, and the TNA franchise, than Minneapolis-born Borash, who recently spoke to GiveMeSport about the company he has served so dependably for well over a decade.
“It’s been a constant evolution,” said Borash, when asked how the company he helped create has changed since its humble origins, as a hopeful competitor for the dominant conglomerate that is WWE.
“We are trying different things. Being the David vs Goliath situation that the wrestling world is right now, I think wrestling fans really pull for us. We’re not that big monster that’s almost too big to appeal to people on a smaller level.
“You can look at a promotion and think they’re really trying to reach me, or they’re really trying to reach a whole bunch of people. Our competition might be too big to have a local connection, to the point where people don’t really feel like they’re a part of what’s happening.”
It is common knowledge that the TNA promotion has always had its doubters. Internet rumourmongers are quick to jump on the metaphorical bandwagon representing the company’s supposed downfall, and while J.B. is quick to admit that not all criticism can be discounted, he remains positive in the face of such discouragement.
“What’s worse than criticism?” he reasoned with a smile. “Nothing at all – the worst thing would be having no discussion – if I had a dime for every tweet that I’ve got saying I’m never watching your show again, and a week later they’re commenting on it and tweeting on it again…
“We put out a video last week where Dixie Carter and Spud had a bit of a re-enactment of the Jay-Z video in the elevator. I thought that video was very creative, funny, and harmless to the people that got it. You read the comments, half your audience are saying ‘that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen’, while half are saying ‘that’s stupid’. That’s fine, because at least you’re talking about it.”
The latest project that the play-by-play commentator, announcer, ring announcer, booker, interviewer, producer and website designer has turned his hand to, is a family-friendly version of Xplosion, which is coming soon to Challenge TV.
An all-new version of the programme will air weekly on the British free-view channel from Saturday 31st May at 9am. The show has been reformatted with families in mind, and features a mix of new matches, classic bouts and the hilarious ‘Spin Cycle’ panel debates.
“I think it’s all about taking certain elements of our show and featuring them more,” said Borash. “There’s going to be a strong X Division focus. The kids are going to see the action, the stars of the division: your Manik’s, your Tigre Uno’s, your Spud’s – characters that have tested really well with youngsters.
“It’s not a departure from what we’re doing; we’re just emphasising different parts of our show. I think if I’m a parent, and I’ve got kids, I would much rather watch Xplosion than some of the other stuff that’s on Saturday mornings which isn’t going to appeal to me at all. If I want to spend time with my kids, I want something that I want to watch as much as they do.”
One of the most popular segments of the show is the Spin Cycle, a panel-show style piece that offers viewers the chance to see TNA superstars come out of their comfort zone and often break character. The show has become incredibly popular in recent months, and has been enjoying plenty of success on the company’s YouTube channel. That success is in no small part down to its panel – Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud and the Bro Mans.
“We don’t keep a straight face at all,” Borash admitted. “In the US, there’s a show called Saturday Night Live, which has been huge for 40 years. The biggest moments on those shows tend to be when people break character a little bit and start cracking up or can’t keep their composure. That is happening to us almost every episode. Sometimes we cut it out, sometimes we leave it in.
“They’re the funniest guys on our roster. It’s goofy but it’s also just really fun because you get to see the guys in ways you’ve never seen them before, and they love doing it. EC3 texts me new ideas for the show every day, because it’s his favourite thing he gets to do. When you have the talent really into it, it shows. We usually shoot two or three episodes at a time and just roll, and try not to stop for any reason.”
In recent weeks, the Spin Cycle has been dominated by an unlikely source – Japanese superstar Sanada. The 26-year-old, on loan to TNA from the Wrestle-1 promotion based in his homeland, speaks minimal English, and seemingly has very little idea what’s going on. However, his unique streak has only served to buoy the show’s cult following.
“Well he’s got a streak; he’s undefeated on spin cycle, which is the new longest streak in wrestling,” joked Borash. “He’s ten episodes in and he’s won everything. Everybody loves him, and it just seemed like a natural thing for him to come in and outsmart everybody and end up winning in the end. We’ll see what happens out of it, it’s a bit of fun."
The launch of the new version of Xplosion is scheduled to take place in the UK before anywhere else in the world, and offers a big statement of intent from TNA in its quest to conquer the British market. Xplosion will be Britain’s first ever free-to-air Wrestling show on a Saturday morning, a traditional time slot for the sport in America.
Xplosion will also act as the ideal tool to further promote the popular UK Tours, the seventh of which was recently announced for 2015 – coming to Glasgow, Manchester and London. It fuels speculation that the TNA presence could grow in Britain, with even more events and more regular tour dates.
“Everything is supply and demand,” explained J.B. “If the fans demand more then we’ll do more. What we saw at the last live event tour was an increase in families, compared to when we first started touring here all those years ago when it was mostly guys in black t-shirts; Now it’s kids, it’s families, it’s wives, it’s everybody showing up, hence the new version of Xplosion – which hopefully everyone will be able to watch and enjoy together too.
“When we signed our new deal with Challenge we said that we were going to be doing more additional content and more exclusive content, so I think you’re going to see more stuff that is only shown here.
“I think that’s a pretty big deal,” he added. “For us to have a market like England, where we know that we have exclusive programming that doesn’t air anywhere else in the world but here. That’s pretty special, and that’s how seriously we take this market.”
Borash also acted as Executive Producer for British Boot Camp, which aired in the UK in early 2013, and produced one of TNA’s most popular comedy figures, Rockstar Spud. The programme followed “four of Britain’s most promising wrestlers” – who competed to win a contract from TNA – while receiving advice and guidance from the likes of Hulk Hogan and Rollerball Rocco. The programme’s success has been another encouraging sign for TNA.
“I think Spud’s success on TV bares itself well,” Borash explained. “If the winner of that show had gone on to do nothing people probably would have forgotten about Boot Camp, but that show produced a genuine television star. A year and a half ago he was working at a bank and now he’s living in a house bigger than mine! We really changed somebody’s life. That was the idea of the show and I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s all turned out.
“The show trended worldwide, which doesn’t often happen to a UK-only show. Every time Spud comes on camera and has a great segment I’m proud, because he came from that show that we created in the UK. If the fans want to see it, there’s more than enough talent here to do a second season.”
Borash added that while he always believed in Spud, who now acts as the storyline Chief of Staff to company President Dixie Carter, even he has been overwhelmed by his friend’s success: “After he won it, I thought he could be a huge star. But deep down you never know – you could have all the talent in the world, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be on TV every week.
“I knew we could put him in a position to succeed, and one of two things will happen at that point, either he’ll knock it out of the park and get the attention of the right person, or he’ll just live in obscurity. He went to OVW for eight months and I talked to him all the time. He was asking me – ‘is this ever going to happen’ – and I said, ‘I can’t guarantee it’.
“One of the first weeks he was on TV he had a couple of interactions with Sting, and just knowing him and knowing how big of a deal that was to him was just… I still cheer for him because I still think he’s that kid, he’s that wrestling fan in Birmingham that was always too small to make it. I’m always routing for him, even though he’s completely obnoxious!”
For Borash, British Boot Camp provided a welcome chance to hand someone an opportunity, just as he was handed an opportunity 16 years ago, in the summer of 1998. Working for a small-time Christian radio station in Minneapolis, Borash pitched the station’s general manager – a former AWA ring announcer – the idea for a wrestling show, filling a two hour gap usually taken up by local sports, which were at that point in the midst of their off-season.
It wasn’t long before J.B. was introduced to Bob Ryder, who at the time was working with WCW. He suggested a show called WCW Live, an internet streaming talk show, to Eric Bischoff, and by Match 1999 it was on the air. In an era with very few internet streaming shows and no YouTube, this was ground-breaking. Borash was on live every night for two hours on a brand new medium, with very little competition. By August Borash had moved to Atlanta and was writing the show, in less than six months he’d gone from a fan to a writer.
“It was life changing to say the least,” Borash admitted. “Financially and career-wise, it was great. I never would have thought it would be possible, I didn’t even fathom it. I never thought I could go into professional wrestling. I thought I was going to be doing radio mornings somewhere, maybe in a decent sized city in America – that was what my life was going to be. I completely believed that, and that was my goal.
“I think you’ll find that a lot of people that are not wrestlers fall into the business, they don’t set out to do it, sometimes it just kind of falls in their lap somehow. Unfortunately there are very few jobs in wrestling where people can work full-time and make a living. Part of my motivation for why I work as hard as I do is because I know that I’m very lucky to be able to do this. I’ve never lost track of that and I’ve always been very grateful.
“In terms of personal highlights, there isn’t one thing in TNA that particularly stands out. Looking back on it, the fact that we’re still here when nobody gave us a chance is amazing: I think back to 12 years ago when we were putting this whole thing together, and I wish I’d know then that we were still going to be doing this today. It would have taken a lot of stress off my shoulders!”
TNA fans are certainly grateful that the company is still here, because there’s plenty of exciting action to look forward to. The Slammiversary pay-per-view is a little over two weeks away on the 15th June, with World Heavyweight Champion Eric Young defending against MVP. Meanwhile, the new edition of Xplosion begins this Saturday at 9am on Challenge TV, with TNA making a welcome return to its X Division routes. TNA will also be visiting the UK in January and February next year, as part of the seventh annual tour, tickets for which are available now.
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