New Jack made a name for himself as one of the most dangerous and unpredictable wrestlers in ECW, a promotion known for its violence and unpredictability. He was the most violent in the land of violence. He was one of the last wrestlers that could draw genuine white heat and ire from the fans, the kind of heat where they wanted to inflict bodily harm upon him, or even death. We ask this, who can still do this today? Perhaps only a handful. New Jack exuded a dangerous vibe and callousness that is a dying art in today’s sports entertainment environment.
Warning: inevitably, some of the content you are about to read is of ‘colorful’ nature. Discretion, etc., is advised.
New Jack Being New Jack
Dangerous, sadistic, maniacal, unpredictable… are all words that describe the now-retired New Jack (real name Jerome Young). Ever since he was a child, violence was a part of his everyday life. Take, for instance, the time his father stabbed his mother many times in various parts of her body in front of him and his four older brothers. Told in his autobiography, New Jack: Memoir of a Pro Wrestling Extremist, "We all just sat there and watched, shaking our heads like it was no big deal. It was worse than we’d ever seen before, but not so much that we were taken aback." Living in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the mid to late ‘60s, he remembers "no one, not even the law (especially not the law) gave a shit about black-on-black crime. But go at a white person, and there was hell to pay."
Much later, he was trained to wrestle by Ray Candy in Atlanta, Georgia, adopting the name: New Jack. After working in the USWA and becoming the champion for the small North Georgia Wrestling Alliance, his first big break came in 1994 for Smokey Mountain Wrestling headed by Jim Cornette.
Jim Cornette admits that he was immediately impressed with the image New Jack portrayed. "To me, wrestling has always been: ‘Can you make me believe you are the person you are purported to be?’ And New Jack had that from the start." He continues, "There never should be any discernible difference between a guy’s gimmick and a guy in real life; just turn the volume up. I bet New Jack had to turn it down."
Did you know?: The name New Jack was inspired by the urban gangster movie New Jack City (1991) directed by Mario Van Peebles, starring Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, and Chris Rock. Wesley Snipes, who portrays a drug lord, turns a New York housing project into a crack factory.
New Jack, Mustafa Saed, D’Lo Brown, and Killer Kyle formed the black-militant heel faction called The New Jack Syndicate, later known as The Gangstas. They were billed from South Central Los Angeles or Oakland, California. They were often pitted against the veteran Southern babyface tag team, the Rock "n" Roll Express consisting of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Eventually, The Gangstas were more focused on New Jack and Saed and less on the other members, with New Jack quickly becoming the abrasive mouthpiece that instigated the fans of Smokey Mountain to a boiling point.
WATCH: New Jack and The Gangstas in one of their controversial promos
They became so controversial that they often found themselves being arrested by the police. Pickets of protest even formed outside of arenas, obligating the promotion to put disclaimers on the TV screen saying: "The views of the Gangstas are not those of Smokey Mountain Wrestling or this station." The NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) repudiated the Gangstas’ actions and wanted no part of them. New Jack confronted them and even cut a vicious promo and buried them. According to Tracey Smothers, the heat they generated was so strong in places like Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia, that the Gangstas were not welcome in many cities, and KKK clansmen who were also police officers wanted to stop their shows entirely.
"I just told him to go out there and piss white people off," says Cornette, who many felt were writing the promos for New Jack, "but in the small towns, it got all kinds of the wrong kind of heat. It was fuckin’ incredible television."
Once, he lent his Corvette to Balls Mahoney (Boo Bradley at the time) but was stopped by the cops. The Malcolm X license plate was a dead giveaway to them that it was New Jack’s car. They told him to get out of the vehicle and searched it along with him. New Jack then started driving to the shows in "a big rusty van… the tires didn’t match, the windows wouldn’t go up and down, it was just a piece of shit that people just spray-painted on it." This was done so they wouldn’t mess up his car. Sometimes they even had to be taken to the shows in cop cars for their safety.
"At first they drew very well, but then it started hurtin’," says Tracey Smothers. "It got to the point that people got so mad that they wouldn’t come to the shows, and that’s when they left to ECW."
WATCH: New Jack and The Gangstas take their title belts back to their hood, as promised.
“People didn’t want The Gangstas beaten. They wanted them dead.” – Bill Behrens, pro wrestling super agent, and former NWA Wildside owner.
New Jack and Mustafa Saed were designed to get under the skin of the largely working-class southern audience, and that they certainly did. But The Gangstas and especially New Jack’s reputation as one of the most dangerous and controversial men in wrestling was just commencing! He would accumulate a litany of bloodletting and barbarity in his two decades in and out of the ring.
Once New Jack was called to work for ECW, he explicitly told Paul Heyman and Todd Gordon that he would do whatever they wanted as far as inside of the ring, but that he wasn’t going to play the racist card because he didn’t want the trouble up north in ECW as he had experienced down south in SMW.
Part of the appeal was that you could never tell how much of New Jack’s act was really an act. "The Gangstas, I was scared of them," Bill Apter admits. "ECW had a lot of that scary energy. He and his tag-team partner were the scariest. When I was growing up, people were afraid of the bad guys. Today, with the bad guys, people laugh at them."
In ECW, The Gangstas’ entrance music by Ice Cube’s and Dr. Dre’s Natural Born Killaz would also play in a loop during their matches. New Jack says, "We always compared it to a fight scene in a movie." Jim Cornette readily admits that New Jack fought and didn’t wrestle, but what he did was 5-7 years before its time.
In an environment where the cultlike fans of ECW regularly brought kitchen appliances and household items for the wrestlers to use as weapons, it suited The Gangstas just fine.
New Jack and The ECW Mass Transit Incident
Certain matches and promos mark every wrestler’s career. But in New Jack’s case, they are more like "incidents" with police reports attached to them. In 1996, New Jack sliced open a 17-year-old Eric Kulas’ forehead with a surgical knife (hitting an artery in the process) and basically left him for dead in the middle of the ring covered with blood. It was a truly gruesome sight that looked more like a murder scene than a wrestling match. New Jack has said on numerous occasions that Kulas asked him to do it because he had never bladed before, but the outcome was simply gruesome.
New Jack roared into the microphone, "I hope this fat piece of shit bleeds to fucking death because I don’t give a fuck. I’m the wrong nigga to fuck with," as Kulas, who was going by the name Mass Transit, lay draped in blood and practically unconscious on the mat while his forehead continued to gush.
Kulas would later need 50 stitches to close the horrendous wound perpetuated by New Jack.
Nearly three years later, New Jack was tried on two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
In the later trial, witnesses said that people in the audience chanted "Blood! Blood! Blood!" and yelled at Kulas: "You fat fuck!"
The jury acquitted him, and the Kulas family’s civil lawsuit was subsequently thrown out. He even used a sign that read "Not Guilty" and placed it on the front of a grocery cart he wheeled out full of weapons to be used during a match.
Four months after the Mass Transit acquittal, filmmaker Barry Blaustein released the highly acclaimed documentary about professional wrestling called Beyond the Mat where New Jack turned in a star performance while looking at the camera and saying, "I’m a very violent person, and I’ll hurt you it’s no secret." He also recounts that he was a bounty hunter before wrestling and had "four justifiable homicides."
New Jack (who has admitted that he was often high on drugs, particularly cocaine, during his matches in ECW) when asked what was going through his mind during the match with Kulas, New Jack simply answered: "I was high. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter to me. The fans fucking loved it. I thought it was great."
You can read in more detail about the tragic ECW Mass Transit Incident here.
New Jack and the Beating of Veteran 69-year-old, Gypsy Joe
After ECW folded in 2001, New Jack found himself on the independent circuit in 2003 shooting on 69-year-old "Gypsy Joe" Gene Madrid, who at the time didn’t look it but was one of the pioneers of the hardcore-style of wrestling. Gypsy Joe had made a name for himself, mostly in Tennessee and the Southeastern region during the ‘70s and in Mexico, Japan, and Puerto Rico. On this occasion, it seems like New Jack didn’t believe Joe even belonged in the ring with him when he allegedly told New Jack, "I’ll teach you how to do hardcore, kid."
In an interview, New Jack described the veteran as "a midget with pink shit-stained tights" and had other disparaging comments for Joe as well.
"I’m known as one of the most hardcore, violent, [whatever, whatever] diving off balconies… in the history of this business, and you got this 97-year-old dude that was around when gas was 12-cents a gallon, and Jesus and Moses were tag-teaming." New Jack continues, "Then he thinks that he’s going to get in the ring and try and handle me?" New Jack asserts, "I almost killed Gypsy Joe. I got an aluminum baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and whooped his ass, bro."
The audience didn’t take kindly to New Jack brutalizing the local hero as they, according to his account, began yelling, "We’re gonna hang you, [n-word], we’re gonna shoot you, [n-word]," and threw stuff at him. A woman hit him with a purse, while others went searching for their firearms. The police were called, and promoter Mike Porter stopped the match for "excessive violence" while New Jack, for his safety, had to be taken out riding in the trunk of a friend’s car. New Jack says that he heard the [n-word] mentioned to him so many times that day in Columbus, Tennessee, that he almost started believing that was his name.
"I didn’t give a fuck if I would’ve killed him," is what New Jack said in a 2018 interview with Royal Ramble’s Brian Reznor about the incident with Gypsy Joe.
After Gypsy Joe gave New Jack a stiff headbutt to his nose and later a chop to his neck, something in New Jack, as he describes it, "snapped." He began pummeling the no-selling ornery veteran and threw a row of interconnected chairs on him before using Gypsy Joe’s head as a baseball.
New Jack and The Stabbing of William "Hunter" Lane
In 2004, Jacksonville, Florida, specifically the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel, was where a very inexperienced youngster called William "Hunter" Lane in front of a minuscule crowd of maybe 15 people learned that New Jack had a short fuse and paid dearly for it. New Jack says that he wasn’t even supposed to be on the show, but he was in town and helped a friend of his get his promotion off the ground.
He also states that Hunter Lane (going by the name Hunter Red) had no concept of the basic terminology anyone in the business would surely be familiar with. “Kayfabe,” “face,” and “heel” meant nothing to the unacquainted green worker hence indicating before even setting foot into the ring that he probably wasn’t a seasoned veteran.
Although New Jack claims that he quit cocaine in 1999 and didn’t even have to go into a program to do it when describing the circumstances around the stabbing of Hunter Lane, New Jack, while rubbing his face and eyes with his hands woefully said, "Once again cocaine played its part in the match."
As New Jack describes it, "Hunter Lane backs me up and punches me in the eye, and the second time he punches me on the nose. He tried to go under me and scoop me, and I hooked him (clenched him in a front facelock)… I went in my pocket, took out my knife, and started stabbing. I forgot this shit was on video… again." He continues, "So everybody got their camera phones, and video recorders and they were recording this shit, and I’m stabbing this motherfucker, nearly lost my goddamn mind."
New Jack admits that since ECW, he routinely carried a knife in his pocket because of the constant lingering threat of the rowdy ECW fans who were many times according to him drunk and would "kick them, throw spit on them… all kinds of nasty shit."
New Jack is eager to discredit reports that say he stabbed Lane 16 times proudly saying, "It was 9, I counted… alright?"
New Jack continues, "They called the cops, and the guy that called the cops didn’t say, ‘I’m at a professional wrestling match, and a guy just got stabbed in the ring.’ He said, ‘there’s a black guy with camo on who has a knife, and he just stabbed a white guy.’"
It isn’t easy to understand what goes on in the mind of New Jack and to try to analyze the rationale for his behavior. Case and point, when asked what was going through his mind while he was stabbing Lane, he simply answers, "Kill Him! I was trying to kill him."
“I wasn’t thinking about going to jail,” New Jack continued, “I was thinking about killing this motherfucker."
New Jack defends his action by saying that Lane wanted to be cut and further explains, "He wanted a brutal match, but they [the media] made it sound like I cut the motherfucker in the parking lot," adding, "They made me sound like Jeffrey Dahmer."
Duval County Assistant State Attorney Robert Lippelman wanted to put New Jack in prison for 15 years for aggravated battery calling the stabbing "one of the most egregiously violent things I’ve ever seen. To any reasonable person, it’s offensively violent."
When interviewing New Jack, Brian Reznor of Royal Ramble left no room for misinterpretation when trying to get into his thought process during all this by saying, "So this is the second time, in wrestling at least, that basically, you think that you’re killing a human being and you’re okay, completely okay with it."
With an eerie calmness and unflinching nerves, New Jack answers, "Yeah."
"Just making sure for the record," answers Reznor.
Perhaps trying to take the edge off the seriousness of the matter, New Jack then responds, "Yeah. I told ya cocaine is a hell of a drug!" The crowd attending the interview session proceeded to laugh uncomfortably.
The police arrived and drew their guns at the show, ordering New Jack to get on the ground and drop his knife. Even though Lane had taken the brunt of the damage, New Jack had cut his arm during the butchering, so both were taken to the hospital.
WATCH: New Jack reacting to his stabbing of William "Hunter" Lane. (viewer discretion is advised)
In the hospital, Lane was a couple of beds down from where New Jack was being attended, and he’d yell, asking, "New Jack, you alright?!"
To which New Jack would respond, "Yeah. You alright?"
In all this, the medic was running around and wondering what an odd situation this was; someone who had gotten stabbed 9 times was concerned over the well-being of his assailant!
He told New Jack, "You just stabbed this guy damned near to death, and he’s asking you if you’re alright??"
New Jack looked at the doctor and could only say, "It’s wrestling, you wouldn’t understand. You would have to see what we do!"
New Jack spent three weeks in jail and appeared in court, but the charges were dropped. In the end, he was out $8,000 on bail and attorney fees. Sources on this differ, but New Jack claims that he dropped the charges in exchange for him training Lane. Lane’s idea was to work all over Florida under the premise that he was trying to exact revenge on New Jack for what he had done. New Jack agreed but left Florida as soon as he could and didn’t hold to his end of the bargain. Interesting enough, two weeks after walking out of jail, New Jack’s face was on the cover of the new video game Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood for the PS2 and Xbox home consoles where he constantly mutters, "Not guilty!"
The Danbury Fall – Vic Grimes and New Jack in ECW
The violence, ferocious interviews, weapons, and balcony dives made New Jack a sensation in a company full of extremes. An essential part of New Jack’s repertoire was diving 20-30 feet off balconies and lighting towers onto his opponent, even for non-televised matches. His record jump is from 34 feet, but he snapped his leg when landing. He readily admits that he was usually high when doing these almost suicidal dives off balconies and that he could’ve done them while not being on drugs, but he wouldn’t have wanted to.
New Jack remembers his childhood and recalls the disturbing surprise he’d give his mother when she’d be coming back from work. "I thought it was funny to get on top of the house," he says. "She’d drive up into the driveway, and I’d dive off the top of the house right in front of her car. She’d get out and beat the shit out of me."
New Jack says that his dives off balconies many times overshadowed the match’s finish, and people didn’t remember who had won or lost. They would only remember that he had dived off 20-feet or higher onto an opponent lying on a table below.
WATCH: New Jack diving off balconies!
The Danbury Fall, as it has come to be known, occurred during ECW’s Living Dangerously pay-per-view on March 12th, 2000. It saw both New Jack and Vic Grimes teetering on top of a scaffold where both were supposed to take the fall together and land onto strategically placed tables on the concrete below. Instead, Grimes was allegedly having second thoughts, which lead to a disastrous bump by New Jack onto the floor below.
According to New Jack, the plan was for both to leap off the scaffold, take a double-bump onto the tables, and subsequently be carried out on stretchers.
New Jack tells how it went:
"When it was time to go, he said, ‘Jack, I can’t do it. I’m scared it’s too high!’"
This conversation was taking place 20-feet in the air on the pay-per-view.
"I told him, ‘Vic, on three. One, two, three.’ So I pulled him, and he pulled back."
In one of the worst bumps you’ll ever see still to this day, once both men were falling, the 300 lbs Grimes flipped over in the air and landed on New Jack’s head, which had also landed on the concrete.
"I slammed my head on the floor and cracked my skull. I had brain fluid coming out of my nose and ears, and I had nerve damage in my right eye," says New Jack. He adds, "I will never be able to see out of my right eye again in my life."
He continues, "That night changed me. It took a lot out of me. I’ve never been the same since that. I get headaches; it also affected my short-term memory. My eyes get bloodshot for no reason. I go for 3 or 4 days with no sleep. But hey, that’s part of New Jack being New Jack!"
WATCH: The Danbury Fall that nearly cost New Jack his life
Vic Grimes, who at the time had considerably less experience than New Jack, had this to say several years later: "Honestly, the only guy I can say that got hurt with me in the ring was New Jack on that pay-per-view. And it was the first and only time in all the career I’ve had… and I’ve done some crazy shit."
Because of the injuries, New Jack was out for over a year. With his career hanging in the balance, he says that Vic Grimes (who he feels was at fault for his injuries) never called him to see how he was recuperating.
When New Jack returned to ECW, he walked into the locker room in Buffalo, New York, and punched a surprised Vic Grimes right in the eye in front of everybody.
Eventually, with the tension between the two and Vic Grimes (according to New Jack) refusing to be close to him, Grimes left ECW. But after the company folded in early 2001, they faced each other again in the Los Angeles-based Xtreme Pro Wrestling.
New Jack’s Revenge and almost killing Vic Grimes in the Process
One thing that had angered New Jack is that word got to him that Vic Grimes had supposedly been running his mouth gloating that he had taken him out of commission.
On February 23rd, 2002, at XPW’s Freefall pay-per-view, New Jack was able to exact revenge on Vic Grimes, all the while feigning friendship with him beforehand and assuring both him and owner Rob Black that what had happened in ECW was all in the past.
"Besides them giving me a paycheck, the only reason I went to XPW is because I was going to get Vic’s ass back sooner or later."
The incident occurred during a scaffold match where beforehand, New Jack claims that he told XPW’s management that no matter who they decided would win the match, Grimes would be thrown off that scaffold and not him.
Unbeknownst to Grimes, New Jack had serious revenge on his mind and was not there just to work.
"Going over the match in the back, I told him to work as stiff as he could because I was going to bring it," New Jack says. Once again, reassuring him that the events from ECW’s Living Dangerously were forgiven.
It started when New Jack used a weapon a fan brought, which was barbed wire that sprouted into a wicked-looking horse tail or a whip. It wasn’t worked barbed wire sometimes used in matches, but real barbed wire.
New Jack had stopped at a pawn shop before heading to the match and picked up a 50,000-volt stun gun, which he proceeded to shock Grimes with when they were up on the scaffold. New Jack says that this was a shoot, and nobody had planned to use a stun gun during the match. Just imagine Grimes’ surprise!
"I then picked him up, and Vic told me, ‘I ain’t ready, I can’t feel my legs.'”
"Don’t worry; you won’t need ‘em."
Grimes was then thrown off the 40-foot-high scaffold and somehow missed 12 tables but grazed a couple. He hit the top rope with his back, where his body’s velocity caused him to bounce back into the ring.
WATCH: Vic Grimes almost doesn’t survive after being thrown off a 40-foot scaffold (viewer discretion is advised)
The shocked XPW crowd was yelling bloody murder, but it got a huge pop to end the show. Vic Grimes was taken out in an ambulance and only suffered rather minor injuries considering the horrendous fall he took.
Afterward, while people were attending to Grimes, New Jack got near him and told him right in his ear, "Now we’re even, motherfucker."
In the 2005 ECW documentary Forever Hardcore, New Jack says that the scaffold had been moved back five to six feet, and he had intended for Vic Grimes to land head first on one of the ring posts affirming, "I wanted him to die. I have no love for Vic, none. Because he’s a fucking idiot." He adds, "That was a cash register receipt (payback), the paper, the ink, the money up under the drawer… it was all of it, hahaha!"
Although fans usually criticize Vic Grimes for supposedly not wanting to take the bump that led to him falling on New Jack’s head and cracking his skull, he commented in an interview released in 2011, "Everything seems to be okay [between the two] according to him. "I love working with the guy. He’s definitely helped me in this business a far as giving me a little push; we both put each other over. But that night, shit went wrong."
But after The Danbury Fall, New Jack claims that he hasn’t heard from Vic Grimes since.
"[New Jack] was a guy who was unique and who probably could only rise to prominence in a crazy world like professional wrestling," says Jim Cornette while speaking with the producers of the television documentary series Dark Side of the Ring where in season 2, there is an episode about New Jack.
Some of New Jack’s former ECW colleagues went on to great success in WCW and WWE. Still, it’s impossible seeing New Jack fitting into any mainstream wrestling company today even if he was physically able to.
Since you’ve made it this far, you are invited to watch one more incident involving New Jack that is guaranteed to make you wonder: Why? Or simply say, “WTF?!”
WATCH: New Jack strikes again in 2010 (lots of blood, viewer discretion, as before, is advised)
New Jack can be followed on Twitter here.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles on our site:
- The ECW Mass Transit Incident
- Women of ECW – Beautifully Extreme
- Rob Van Dam – The Drug Charge That Changed His Career
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