I had a chance to interview former WWE tag team champion and one half of Cryme Time, JTG.
Born in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, he made it to the big stage in WWE when he was signed to a contract in 2006. He has plenty of stories to tell about his time in the company and while there are some things he wished could have played out differently, he clearly is not bitter about his time in the company. His new e-book was released this past week and from all accounts from fans online, the book is a must read. The forward at the beginning of the book is hilarious. Damn! Why Did I Write This Book is available now for just $1.33 at https://payhip.com/b/7E0j.
“For those that didn’t read the book already, the book is by an amazing person. You gotta get the book for the forward,” said JTG when I mentioned how great, and different the forward is from other books.
Cryme Tyme did get some criticism from some because some believed that the characters were playing into black stereotypes. You’d be surprised to hear that JTG wasn’t too thrilled at first about portraying the gimmick. I asked him about the origins of the characters and if some of it was inspired by the early 90s TV show “In Living Color.”
“There’s 2 aspects to Cryme Tyme. There was the look and then there was the characters. The characters were an accumulation of everything that Shad and I grew up on…”In Living Color” and different shows that we grew up on that we just loved and we just put them all in a pot and mixed them all together. The look of Cryme Time originated with my original tag team partner from the team Gang-Stars back in OVW and my original partners was (as the fans know him) Abraham Washington. He called me one day and he said, ‘hey J, we have an amateur show coming up and I want us to be tag team partners and I have this idea. We should put on jeans and have them sag, get some Tims, get some grills, get a bunch of chains, and rock our hats backwards, and get some bulletproof vests.’ I was totally against it. I thought it was very stereotypical. I just wanted to be a straightforward wrestler. I wanted to be a technician. He was like ‘man that’s not gonna sell tickets. We need to get a contract, we need to get ourselves on TV.’ I was like ‘alright, let’s give it a shot.’ We went up there and did our thing and we blew the roof off at the amateur thing and that’s how we got noticed.”
On WWE’s disclaimers that they put on the screen when Cryme Tyme debuted on WWE TV:
“They knew what they were getting themselves into. The majority of all of the characters in WWE are stereotypes that society laughs at and WWE capitalizes off of it.”
They did some skits with DX back in 2006. I asked him if that was supposed to be some sort of passing of the torch from DX. On DX passing the torch to Cryme Tyme:
“I thought that was the direction that we were going. I was told numerous times that we were like the urban DX. I heard that over and over again. I was hearing that so much that I thought we were actually gonna work with them. That would have been a great match (DX vs. Cryme Tyme). The fans would have loved that. That would have been a great passing of the torch and even if we didn’t win it would have been a great match for the fans to enjoy.”
Did you have to deal with racism in WWE or is that something that doesn’t exist backstage anymore?
“I’m not gonna say it doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t believe WWE is racist. Right now they have the tag team champions Kofi Kingston and Big E and Xavier Woods. I wouldn’t say that they’re [WWE] racist but there’s definitely a system in place, that I believe…this is my opinion, that African American, black Superstars, can go so far. That’s from what I’ve see and that’s my perception because as of right now to this day i’ve never seen a black WWE Champion. Not the title from WCW, I’m talking about the WWE Championship. I haven’t seen a black face of the company.”
I mentioned that the closest thing is The Rock but Rock is more ambiguous and his Samoan heritage is played up more.
“Don’t get me wrong, The Rock is African-American. He is black, but in mainstream Hollywood and in the media he’s exotic, he’s ambiguous, he identifies more to the Samoan heritage.”
On losing on Raw in his hometown and WWE oftentimes not letting wrestlers win in their hometown:
“It depends on who the talent is. Sometimes they let individuals win in their hometown like CM Punk. Sometimes it’s politics and sometimes it’s heat. Sometimes [WWE] just punishes talent. I remember one time it was Zack Ryder’s birthday and he jobbed out.”
On having heat in WWE:
“We had heat from the day we stepped foot into the WWE doors.” I asked if the heat was more on Shad’s end. “Man, there’s no such thing as Shad. That’s how it is in the wrestling business when you’re in a tag team. Even if you look up stories about The Rockers. Sometimes Marty Jannetty would get into trouble but The Rockers felt the brunt of it and it was the same thing with Shad. When Shad did something then Cryme Time felt it and vice versa. If I did something then Cryme Tyme felt it.”
Why he felt Cryme Time was released the first time:
“That chapter is in the book. I don’t want to give too much away. I describe all of the details on the match, the plan, and the characters responsible for the release of Shad and I. Everything’s in the book.”
On WWE bringing him back:
“We were only gone for 6 months and we were brought back on the day after WrestleMania in Florida.” He added, “We worked with Cena that following Summer around June or July. We worked with Cena and we did the memorable skit when we bashed in JBL’s limo.”
On whether working with Cena was supposed to lead to a renewed push for Cryme Tyme:
“I have no idea…maybe. I know two occasions when we were supposed to win the tag team titles. One of the first occasions I put in the book and the second one I put in the second installment of “Damn! Why Did I write this book 2.”
On reaction from people in the business that have read the book:
“From some of the talent that read the book I’m getting positive reaction. None of the Superstars that were actually in the book said anything to me or reached out to me. We’ll see how long that lasts.”
I asked him about his thoughts on some of the unwritten rules in wrestling that seem to get people in trouble. There’s one story in his book about The Miz getting heat for wearing shades indoors:
“Some of the stuff you get heat for is definitely really petty and I think it’s comical. Looking back at it i’m glad that it happened because now I have stories to share with the world and entertain them. If I can’t do it in the ring then i’ll do it on paper.”
On his character makeover in 2012:
“The idea behind that was for me to have a reason to switch into my new gear. I was pitching ideas. I was throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. In my head I thought they were tired of the jeans and the Tims so I wanted to switch it up a little bit and see what would work and no matter what I did at that point I don’t think the creative or the powers that be had any interest in JTG. There were numerous attempts at character changes and looks and stables and there was no interest. They weren’t worried about JTG for some reason.”
I asked JTG about working with Slam Master J and whether he was supposed to be with Cryme Tyme:
“He was doing some backstage segments with us. The storyline was that he was trying to be a part of Cryme Tyme but I don’t know if that was ever supposed to be in stone.”
On his last match in the company with Santino:
“My last match with the company was on Superstars in September of 2013 with Santino Marella. He’s a great friend of mine, a great guy, and I wish him nothing but success.”
On whether he knew his time was ending:
“I had no idea it was my last match. I was on the road consistently with the company. You might not have seen me on TV but I was flown to TV every week and I would check to see if I was on the card and nope so I was like ‘alright, see you next week.’ I had the match with Santino on Superstars and I had no idea it was my last match but when you read the book I’m glad it was.”
JTG had more longevity than most people so even though he wasn’t necessarily pushed as a top guy, there was something that the company saw in him even if it was as a utility guy that they felt others guys could work with:
“When I first got there Vince really loved my personality and charisma and he saw something in me. He told me that during my first year on the road which really made me set out a vision. If the boss likes me then I could go a long way. Throughout the years, you know, there are some chapters in the book where I definitely changed his mind. You gotta get the book to see what path I took that definitely could have changed his mind the other way. I definitely lasted a lot longer than a lot of people who were there.”
On a WWE return:
“As of right now, I have no desire to go back on the road full time with WWE. I got that out of my system. I lived out a childhood dream. I’m focusing on other accomplishments and I’m working on other projects. I just did a movie that should be coming out in July called “Bad Nights.” I play a character that chases around these two high school girls that got themselves into trouble and I’m one of the bad guys. I also have some good lines in there too.”
JTG is living in L.A. now:
“I’m doing a lot of auditioning. I have another project that i can’t get into too much detail right now and it’s very promising. I’m still taking bookings but I’m not out there reaching out to promoters but if you contact me and the price is right then me and Shad will come out there.”
I asked him if Global Force Wrestling would be an option since they are running TV tapings from Vegas and he lives in Los Angeles:
“It might be convenient. Right now I’m a businessman. Before, when I came into WWE I was young. I was a fan and I just wanted to get into the business to get a contract. Now I’m more of a businessman. I’m looking at what’s gonna benefit me and what’s gonna benefit my family financially.”
On his favorite or least favorite people to work with in WWE:
“I mentioned that in the book. One of my favorite Superstars to work with was definitely Chris Jericho and you can find out why in the book. Chris Jericho is definitely on the top of my list. Definitely in the top 3.”
On Vince McMahon being out of touch and what he thinks can be done to improve the product:
“I don’t know what is going in the creative room or what’s going on in the writers room but I think..my opinion is that there needs to be a little bit more diversity and a little bit more people of different backgrounds that know exactly what’s going on and what’s in and maybe a younger generation. I doubt that Vince McMahon knows what Instagram is and what a meme is.”
His thoughts on Triple H and whether he would be a good fit to take over the company:
“In my opinion, if Triple H could put aside his ego and his dislike for a person and focus on business then I think it could probably be a lot better. For example, I don’t think he was a big fan of Zack Ryder. Zack Ryder did everything he could to get over and he got over and when he was in MSG [at Survivor Series 2011] and The Rock was there and they were chanting Zack Ryder’s name. I wasn’t in New York [at the time] but my buddy told me that he went to Survivor Series and he was on the train and they were chanting for Zack Ryder. That was the perfect time to take advantage and make some money off of Zack Ryder. That was the perfect underdog story and it was all thrown to the side because he wasn’t favored by Hunter.”
“When you see someone try so hard to get noticed..you know Zack Ryder busted his ass and he got a lot of respect backstage and from the boys in the locker room. He got so much respect for getting over on his own and not needing the machine to push him. He got a little push but they buried him. That put a black eye on the morale in the locker room. It was like damn, if he did all that it kind of make everybody not even wanna try.”
JTG is already working on another book. There is no release date yet for that book but he’s writing down chapters and has a whole bunch of stories to tell that are not in the first book. He hinted that there could even be a third book at some point.
Damn! Why Did I Write This Book is available now for just $1.33 at https://payhip.com/b/7E0j. After your purchase then you can read it on your mobile device or computer and you will have the option to send it to Kindle if you prefer. I’ve already checked out the book and it’s a very easy read and you can’t go wrong with the price. Click here to get your copy.
He noted that he put this book out this week to get the word out and he was confident that word would spread. He’s done a great job marketing the book this week. Next week the book will be available worldwide on Amazon for $2.99. He noted that there will be an extra chapter in the Amazon version.
Also, check out JTG on Earsaye. You can find him under the username Jtg#1. Earsaye allows you to send self destructive voice messages with sound effects. He will be doing a Q&A on ther with fans and will respond to some fans with messages and sounds. The Earsaye app is available in iTunes at this link.