Having started his WWE tenure as a member of the writing team in April 2015, Jimmy Jacobs seems to have made a remarkable run in a often-combustible environment.
On Talk Is Jericho, the man who created the famous “List” Chris Jericho brought to life gave a lot of powerful insights into his 2-year stint with WWE.
Here are the highlights from his podcast appearance:
I know. Color all of us shocked.
Jimmy gives an example of how, in (I believe) 2006, some he was called up by Jamie Noble to come to RAW to audition as a manager, as Vince McMahon was complaining about a significant portion of the roster being unable to properly deliver promos.
Jacobs delivered a promo that impressed the brass, with Ray Lombardi (the agent better known as The Brooklyn Brawler) being name-dropped has giving Jacobs compliments on his well-documented talking ability.
As the day progressed, things were looking increasingly positive, as Jimmy remembers Noble telling him it was looking good and Johnny Ace (WWE’s VP of Talent Relations at the time) was made aware.
The next day, as Jacobs was asked to show up at the Smackdown tapings, he recollected it was like Monday had never happened. The positive feedback he had amassed had fizzled, through no fault of his own.
As he recalled, the sense of urgency brought on by Vince McMahon’s unhappiness with his roster’s promo delivery appeared gone, along with WWE’s enthusiasm in bringing Jacobs in.
Look at it like that “Slam of the Week” segment, only it’s Vince’s “Whim of the Week”.
An apparent unwritten rule in WWE Creative is that the writers can’t/shouldn’t pitch ideas for the physical side of the product. And Jimmy came across it his tenure as a WWE writer.
If I understood Jacobs’s explanation correctly, that means you can create an entire storyline, step by step, but you can’t establish or even suggest what kind of attacks, brawls and overall exchanges take place.
As someone who came from wrestling, and was a performer, he would never in a million years have been able to anticipate such a rule.
And, while that rule could be helpful in preventing writers with no pro wrestling background from booking “Judy Bagwell on a Pole” matches, WWE does a disservice to its product by not allowing creative people like Jimmy Jacobs from booking the physical aspect of a storyline.
In my opinion, this is quite evident when you analyze the Raw/Smackdown product vs. the NXT product.
NXT has always been entered in competition, despite its willingness to include flamboyant stars like Velveteen Dream and funny characters like Enzo Amore and Blue Pants.
The main rivalries are personal and/or rooted on the titles. Which is as “real” as wrestling gets.
The WWE product has become a twisted version of a variety show, and competition and personal rivalries will easily take a backseat to what the brass believes to be the most entertaining flavor for the week in question.
In my opinion, it’s always better to ground your stories in reality and then give some of your stories different flavors, from comedy, to the supernatural, to whatever your boss’s “Whim of The Week” is.
Instead of simply handing the wrestler he’s working with or Vince a piece of paper with the work on it, Jacobs always tried to pitch his ideas by performing them.
I could spend the rest of this article telling you how intelligent this is. Jacobs goes on to explain that by performing what he wrote, he can convey the delivery the promo should have because, as he himself notes, the words can be secondary to the way they are delivered.
If one merely looks at the words, it’s easy to get to hung up on words you don’t like and never grasp the writer’s original intent. This is stellar advice for any aspiring booker/writer.
I’ve actually experienced this firsthand multiple times in the past, to the point that I now build and pitch all promos by performing them.
Jimmy noted that 205 Live is in a rough spot to succeed, for multiple reasons:
Again, all true, and a tough spot for the show to be in, despite the pleasant surprises it has given us, like Drew Gulak.
Ever the flamboyant dresser, Jacobs was on the receiving end of some Vince McMahon “I Don’t Get It but I’ll Make Fun of It” routine.
What he highlighted from these moments was the high-school-like mentality that came with Vince’s mocking, as more people piled on and laughed along with Vince.
The way Jimmy describes this is meant, in my opinion, to illustrate that the sycophant count is high in WWE and that it’s often easier to use these moments to play along with the boss than to remind him that it’s 2017 and people can express themselves without a tight-ass throwing his weight around.
The reason WWE has so many sycophants may be explained by the next item:
Jacobs recalls hearing that Vince wanted to fire a colleague of his for what he described as a minor issue, that caused Jimmy to feel that his firing could come from something as mundane as his next promo not being up to par.
And, while Jacobs was later able to detach himself from the weight his WWE job had on his self-worth, he felt this fear at a time where we felt his wrestling career was validated and dependent upon a successful run as a WWE writer.
So it’s easier to laugh along when Vince mocks something.
Jacobs recalls a very positive and influential conversation he had with Eddie Guerrero, before he wrestled him in a enhancement match on Smackdown, during Eddie’s feud with Rey.
Jacobs remembers Eddie being very cordial, professional and gracious with him, to the point of:
This is how the wrestling business should work, day in and day out. Jacobs values that conversation to this day and took it as a model for how to behave in his own dealings.
How cool was Eddie Guerrero?
After a stint in rehab, Jacobs notes he no longer felt his success as a WWE writer was pivotal to his career and personal success.
At the same time, he started longing for the days where wasn’t a writer, but a performer. You can probably sense where this is going.
With Chris Jericho departing WWE – Jacobs was his “partner in crime” on the writing team, having devised the tremendously over “List of Jericho” – Jacobs seem to be feeling less and less tempted to continue on the WWE payroll.
This could – and should – explain his coy remark when asked about the Bullet Club selfie: he said he wasn’t trying to get fired… but that he also WASN’T trying NOT to get fired.
Perhaps, subconsciously, he knew it was a good way to be sent on his way. Maybe, it was an innocent gesture from a man who no longer feared not keeping his job. It could have been his need to get a practice run before doing another selfie in Ring of Honor:
However, as Jacobs himself noted: if you’re going to get fired, that’s the way to go.