Vice’s highly acclaimed “Dark Side of the Ring” series is back with a second season slated to enlighten and educate the masses about more of professional wrestling’s most interesting and tragic stories.
Last week’s two-hour premiere episode explored the devastating details of the career and death of Chris Benoit, diving deeper into the possible motives of the “Canadian Crippler” and the impact of his actions than any previous documentary on the subject. After such an emotionally powerful start to the season and knowing some of the subjects that will be addressed in future episodes, many of us wondered where this amazing series planned on taking us next. Low and behold, the producers opted to throw us a “swerve”, transitioning from heart-wrenching tragedy to the story of one of pro wrestling’s most infamously violent figures.
As a fan of the highly controversial Extreme Championship Wrestling, I was more than familiar with the unique brand of lunacy and sheer brutality that openly flowed from the man known simply as “New Jack”. Similar to Abdullah the Butcher and Bruiser Brody, New Jack was notorious for inspiring legitimate fear in the fans watching as well as the men unfortunate enough to find themselves across the ring from him.
Although Jack’s murderous antics were well known to fans of Paul Heyman’s Philadelphia based promotion, it bares mentioning that a considerable amount of fans both young and old had no idea who New Jack was. To many, Tuesday night’s show served as an introduction to possibly one of the most provocative characters professional wrestling has ever seen. So, with that theme in mind, today’s article will be covering a few things we all learned about the “Life and Crimes” of hardcore wrestling’s most dangerous man.
Not since the Joker has there been a person with a less cohesive origin story than New Jack. Other than his birth name being “Jerome Young” and a few stories of a hyper abusive father that may or may not be true, Dark Side’s latest episode did little to shed light on the formative years of New Jack. In a near Christ-like manner, New Jack’s story goes from an extremely unsettling portrait of early childhood straight into his days as an adult working for Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Within the first minutes of this episode it became alarmingly clear that New Jack is of the old school wrestler breed hell-bent on keeping kayfabe alive by only telling people as much as they need to know. Although this in no way helps explain the creation of Young’s brash and brutal in-ring persona, it absolutely highlighted the undeniable mystique that continues to surround New Jack to this day.
Now, I’m fairly confident I wasn’t the only one who had no idea that the team of the Gangstas was created as a heel unit solely based off the colour of their skin. In would seem we have Jim Cornette’s Southern centric 90’s promotion to thank for the creation of Jack’s “take no prisoners” promo style. Forced to contend with the obligatory racism of the American south during the early nineties, New Jack adopted a confrontational approach on the mic designed to reflect the extreme hate he received right back at the audience. This segment gave us possibly the most revealing moment when Jack seemingly took a break from working everyone watching to briefly discuss his dislike for the over the top racism of SMW and how it was a determining factor in the Gangstas ultimately signing with ECW.
Right, so I’ll openly admit that I am in no way a chemist or scientist of any sort, but I’m pretty damn positive that smoking pencil shavings have no psychotropic effect! In an episode that dealt heavily in brutally bloody moments, this was a needed instance of comedy. Yes, it sounds completely insane, but as far as wrestling road stories go, this was pretty much par for the course. If we learned anything from this segment of the episode, it has to be that the guy that’s high on cocaine definitely trumps the one high on pencil shavings when it comes to being a mouthpiece.
It was inevitable that the meat of this episode would consist of the acts of utter savagery that earned New Jack his well-deserved status of infamy. These segments introduced the uninitiated fans to the version of New Jack that the ECW faithful are more than familiar with. The horrendous blading of 17-year-old Mass Transit, terrifying falls of Vic Grimes, and gangland-style beating of 72-year-old journeyman wrestler Gypsy Joe are some of the most atrocious events to ever take place within a wrestling ring. To think that all these heinous moments could be perpetrated by a single individual is mind-blowing! It’s this level of sheer barbarism that made New Jack the perfect candidate for the new season of Dark Side. Not all wrestling tragedies can be Macho and Elizabeth, some are just talent too devoted to a gimmick based in untethered rage.
Possibly the most valuable thing we learned from the latest episode of Dark Side is that no one is quite sure who the man behind the mask of New Jack truly is. Jack is one of the last remaining relics of a time where the lines of kayfabe and real life were almost indistinguishable from each other. This episode featured individuals speaking of Jack as a loving father seconds before showing him blatantly stabbing an opponent while wrestling in a Ramada Inn! The truth of the matter is that none of us will ever really know who Jerome Young is because Young only wants us to know New Jack. To the outside world, Jerome Young will be New Jack until he takes his final breath.
Jack’s legacy will forever be his monstrous actions while in the ring, and although he’s not the first wrestler to build a career on blood-soaked brawls, he’s definitely the first to show zero remorse when it comes to the damage he’s inflicted. At the end of the day, New Jack sleeps comfortably knowing that he inspired a level of unrivalled fear amongst an entire generation of professional wrestlers and pro wrestling fans.
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