Feel The Force - An Interview With Jim Force
by Dan Mardayl, Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine

Details
Name Jim Force
Real Name Kevin Peter Jefferson
Height 6'2
Weight 285lbs
Birthday 14th May 1974
Hometown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Trademark Moves Full Force, Flying Double Axe Handle
Major Titles SWF North American (2), USPW World (4), USPW National (2), USPW World Tag Team
Major Promotions SWF (1997-2000), DAVE (2001), USPW (2002-Present)

An Interview With Jim Force
With the recent takeover by Sam Strong, United States Pro Wrestling is one of the hottest promotions in the world right now. For the first time in a while, people are genuinely excited about the direction of the company, and interested in learning more about the stars who wrestle there. One of the most familiar faces on the roster is Jim Force, one of many USPW wrestlers who used to ply their trade with the Supreme Wrestling Federation, and a man who has been a cornerstone of the promotion for several years now. The former four-time USPW World champion recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine about his time in wrestling, the impact of Sam Strong's takeover on the USPW, and his plans for the future.

DM: Hi Jim, thanks for talking to us.

JF: Glad to be here, Dan.

DM: Well, let's start from the beginning! With you now approaching a decade as a pro wrestler, it's fair to say that you are something of a veteran of the sport, having seen and done it all. Your time with the SWF and USPW have meant that you've enjoyed quite a high profile during those ten years, but many fans might not be aware of how you first broke into the business. Can you tell us how a 23 year old with less than a year's training ended up making his debut on national TV with the biggest company around, the Supreme Wrestling Federation?

JF: It's really a case of being in the right place at the right time, Dan. I'd been into bodybuilding since my early teens, and once I turned eighteen I started doing it professionally, mainly in local competitions. Back then, and we're talking the mid-1990s here, there was still a strong connection between wrestling and bodybuilding, something that isn't really the case any more.

DM: That's because of the faster pace and more athletic style that matches have in modern times, right?

JF: Sure. Back then, you could get into wrestling - and have a good career - just on a good physique. Nowadays it'd be much harder to do that, as you would really need an athletic background of some sort to get yourself noticed. I mean, today, there's no way that a young Jim Force could get into the SWF, it just wouldn't happen.

DM: So there you were, doing well in the world of bodybulding...

JF: Right. Back then, Richard Eisen used to have people scout bodybuilding events for guys who might do well in wrestling, and that's how I got spotted. That'd be the summer of 1996, and I split my time between the two; three days a week I'd go over the SWF HQ and get some wrestling training, and then for the rest of the week I'd be doing my bodybuilding. That went on until about March or April the next year, just before my debut.

DM: Was less than one year's training less than you expected?

JF: It was actually less than anyone expected. The plan had been to continue that training plan for a full year, then go into full seven-days-a-week hard training for six months, then get prepared for a debut. That got cut short, and I ended up basically being debuted much earlier and was expected to learn as I went along from that point onwards.

DM: What triggered the change of plan?

JF: You know about the famous Cornell vs. Nemesis match they had?

DM: Sure, they had an absolute bloodbath, and Nemesis ended up getting fired.

JF: That was just the immediate effect. What also happened was that Richard [Eisen -ed] was forced to make the company a lot more conservative, as they needed to pacify all the angry sponsors. If they'd lost their sponsors, SWF would have been in big trouble financially, so there was really no choice. That meant a real change to who was getting hired.

DM: I think a lot of fans noticed that too. The SWF had moved away from being filled with huge muscular guys like they were in the 1980s, and by 1997 they had a lot of smaller, faster, more technical wrestlers working for them.

JF: Exactly. This new conservative direction meant that they looked back into the past, and decided to go with the safe style that had made them so successful during the 1980s. That's really where I come in. They needed to bring in new talent, and I happened to be a big muscular guy who worked at a slow pace, right at the time when they were looking for that type of wrestler. I'd worked a few evaluation matches on house shows for them, and Richard obviously felt I'd made another progress that I could survive on the main roster. So I got my training cut short, and got ready to debut.

DM: You debuted in May 1997, right?

JF: Actually May 14th 1997 - my birthday. That was my on-screen debut, but I'd actually worked several matches on house shows over the course of the previous two months, as the SWF creative team were trying to work out a way to use me.

DM: Were you wrestling as Jim Force back then?

JF: No, not at all, there was no Jim Force, no face paint, nothing back then. My very first house show match was in March, and I was called Jack Royal, that was the first ring name they came up with. I wore a black singlet, had my hair tied back, and I was a heel. I wrestled like that for three matches, but the fans weren't into it at all. Then during April I wrestled a bunch of matches as Jake Johnson. There was still no face paint, but it was a lot closer to what people know me as now - my hair was down, I was in the proper red trunks, and I was wrestling as a babyface. That seemed to click, at least some fans seemed into it, so that was how they decided to go.

DM: What happened to the name?

JF: I was Jake Johnson up until about 20 minutes before my first televised appearance. We were having a final meeting, and Christian Faith happened to be hanging around, and he came up with the idea for calling me Jim Force. He hated Jake Johnson as a name, and he managed to persuade Richard to change it at the last minute. The only thing missing from the "classic" look was the face paint, that got added to the character a few weeks later. During my first few matches I was wrestling as a standard power wrestler, but after a few weeks Richard decided that he'd like me to play more of a super hero character; that's when he came up with the idea of the face paint, and that really stuck.

DM: The new look also marked the start of your first push.

JF: Yes. Up until then I'd been just another midcard wrestler, but because Richard really wanted to push the super hero aspect of the character, he arranged for me to go on a streak where I'd be beating opponents very quickly. That was also partly to hide my own weaknesses, as I was still a long way from being comfortable in the ring at that point.

DM: Three months after your debut, you had your first title run. How did that feel?

JF: Scary. (Laughs) I knew that I was far from ready, my performances sucked, but they were really keen to capitalise on my momentum. I talked to Chief Two Eagles about it, he was working closely with me as a road agent, and he said I should just run with it as best I could. His logic was that I was young and had only just debuted, so if the whole thing bombed, there was plenty of time to rebuild my character. So I went out there, beat Black Hat Bailey, and won the North American title.

DM: I can't imagine Black Hat was too pleased?!?

JF: Probably not. But he'd been one of the guys who was working with me to help me improve, so I guess he figured that at least if we had a long series of matches together, he could at least teach me at the same time as making some money. Bailey was always good with me, there was no issues with me being the one to beat him for the belt.

DM: Your reign lasted until February 1998, which was a heck of a run for a rookie. You lost to Enforcer Roberts, a guy who would become your main enemy during your SWF career.

JF: Right. He was another guy who had been helping me in the ring, Phil [Phil is Phillip "Enforcer" Roberts -ed] had really gone out of his way to teach me, and I always appreciated that. He was just getting his first big push, as he'd been stuck wrestling opening matches as plain old Phillip Roberts for ages before then, so I was happy to be able to help him get the new Enforcer Roberts character over by having him end my winning streak.

DM: History then repeated itself; you won the title for a second time, off Black Hat Bailey again, and then lost it to Enforcer Roberts too.

JF: It was a pretty good storyline. It was me basically going up against an alliance of Black Hat and Roberts on-and-off for my entire run. That works though, as a heroic good guy battling against superior odds is a classic story.

DM: There were breaks in the storyline though, as you got to have matches with quite a few other SWF stars.

JF: Absolutely. I probably wrestled 80% of my SWF matches with Phil or Bailey as my opponents, which is because the feud kept drawing decent money and keeping people interested. As much as I liked those two though, it was sometimes good to get out there and fight some other wrestlers. I had a few matches with Christian Faith that I thought came out pretty well, Sam Keith too. There were some tag matches with the Lords Of War that I liked a lot.

DM: Did you think your performances were improving?

JF: Yes. When you're regularly fighting real pro's like Black Hat Bailey and Enforcer Roberts, you have to improve, it's impossible not to. However, I wasn't under any illusions that I was a great wrestler by any means. I know that I was one of the weaker guys in terms of skill, so I tried to make up for it by being really good at interviews and interacting with the crowd. Faith [Christian -ed] once told me that it didn't matter how many holds you knew, the only one that was really important was having a hold on the crowd's attention. Once you could achieve that, you could make money. I took that advice to heart, and that helped a lot.

DM: Shortly after you lost the belt in May 2000, you left the promotion. What happened?

JF: Creative differences, I think. By that point we'd done three years where I'd been mainly working with the same two guys over-and-over. There were really no more variations we could do. I think Richard Eisen knew that, but didn't really have anybody else at my level who could have matches of the quality that Bailey and Roberts could. The only way to do that would be to boost me up to work with the main eventers on a regular basis, and he didn't want to do that with me for whatever reason.

DM: That's a shame, I think a Christian Faith vs Jim Force feud would have drawn.

JF: Maybe, maybe. But to be honest, I was a little jaded with the business at that point, as the lack of variation in opponents was getting to me too, so I wasn't too down about leaving. I like to see it as being the start of a new chapter in my life.

DM: The next two years were pretty quiet for you, with the exception of one match...

JF: (Laughs) One INFAMOUS match (Laughs)

DM: ...infamous for sure. Before we get to that match though, we didn't hear a lot else from you during those two years. What happened?

JF: In wrestling terms, nothing. I needed a break, so I got involved in a lot of different projects, some bodybuilding stuff, some art, some music.

DM: So we should be expecting a Jim Force rap CD?

JF: ...

DM: I'll take that as a no. So onto the infamous match. Do you want to set the scene for the story?

JF: Sure. It was actually quite simple, really. It was July 2001, and Danger And Violence Extreme were enjoying a really good period, they were the darlings of the Internet at that point. They had Nemesis as their world champion, and he was a heel, and they were looking to put the belt on Johnny Martin, who was also a heel. They needed someone to come in and make Nemesis into a huge babyface, and so Phil Vibert got in touch with me.

DM: Had you had any contact with Phil before?

JF: No, I'd never met anyone in DAVE before. Nemesis I'd met a handful of times, back when he was with SWF and I was working dark matches, but he was of course gone by the time I came onto the full roster. I think that Vib [Vibert -ed] got the idea that if he wanted somebody to come in and make Nemesis a face, after all the bad things he'd done, they had to get someone that the fans would hate even more to come in and attack him, and that way Nemesis would become popular by default. At that point, the DAVE fans hated SWF with a passion, so bringing in a guy who was known as an "SWF guy" was the solution. I guess I was the only ex-SWF employee who hadn't jumped to TCW by that stage. (Laughs)

DM: That of course led to the famous moment where you ran in via the crowd and attacked Nemesis, drawing probably the loudest and most sustained heel heat in the entire history of DAVE.

JF: (Laughs) Yeah, good times. When Nemesis hit the ring, half the crowd wanted one of the DAVE babyfaces to come out and shut him up. When I hit the ring and started beating him down, there wasn't a single person in that arena who didn't want Nemesis to make the super human comeback and rip me limb from limb. Job done.

DM: And of course, Johnny Martin then came out and helped you continue the beating, making him the second most hated man in the building.

JF: It was great booking, you've got to give them credit for that. In one five minute segment they managed to make Johnny Martin absolutely reviled, more than ever before.

DM: Later that night you had your first match since leaving SWF, when you lost to Nemesis. I was actually there that night, and the heat for that match was simply insane. I've ever experienced anything like it.

JF: Me neither. People actually wanted to see me get killed! That's the only time I've worked a televised match as a heel, and I really enjoyed it. It achieved its goal too, as Nemesis was transformed into the company's main babyface with that match. Bear in mind that he was their biggest heel when the night began, before he felt the force. (Laughs)

DM: Was there any ever discussions about you staying with DAVE? Surely there must have been, after getting that much heat?

JF: There were some meetings, but DAVE were really running on a shoe-string budget back then, and they couldn't have gotten even close to the pay that I would have needed to be persuaded to stay for a long run. Remember, they were still pretty small back then, compared to the Big Two.

DM: It's a shame. Just under a year later though, you were back in the ring, this time working for the USPW. What changed?

JF: I had enjoyed my two year hiatus, but I was really missing the rush of being in front of a crowd. I phoned The Chief [Two Eagles -ed], but apparently SWF weren't interested, and TCW were out of the question as it would have meant relocating. USPW came in with a good offer though, and it seemed like a pretty good place to work so I said yes.

DM: You debuted in May 2002, and the next month, in your second match back, you beat Giant Redwood to win the USPW World title. That was quite the impact, as you also ended Redwood's undefeated streak at the same time.

JF: Absolutely. They [he's referring to Danny Jillefski, the owner -ed] had been clear right from the start of negotiations that they wanted to put the belt on me, as they felt that I had so much name value from my time with the SWF that it would be a waste not to capitalize on it. Still, it was a shock to get it in only my second match!

DM: How did you find working with Giant Redwood? He's always had a reputation as being difficult to work with...

JF: I've never had an issue with him, personally, but then again he's always been able to make money by working with me, so he has no real reason to be difficult.

DM: Since then, you've been in more main events than any other USPW star, have had three more World title reign, two National title reigns, and a run with the Tag Team titles with Captain USA. I think it's fair to say you've been a success!

JF: I guess so.

DM: This of course brings us to the "new era" of USPW, which began when Sam Strong took over the promotion. Had you met Sam before he took over?

JF: Strangely, no. He was over in HGC \ TCW when I broke into the SWF, so our paths have never crossed.

DM: What have been your impressions of him so far?

JF: (Laughs) Well I'm hardly going to come out and insult my new boss, am I? (Laughs) No, seriously, Sam is great, he's got some good ideas for the future of the company, and he's really added a whole heap of momentum to the company. It's a good organisation to be part of right now.

DM: Does his ideas include a title shot for you? I'm sure a lot of fans would like to see Jim Force claim that fifth world title.

JF: Well, I'd certainly like a shot at trying to slam the big guy [Bruce The Giant, USPW World champion -ed], that's for sure. In all seriousness, I have no idea whether Sam wants me going after the World title right now. I think the current plan is that they'd like Bruce to help establish the promotion by having a lengthy run on top. For the time being, I'm happy doing my thing in the tag team division, and also defending the National title against anyone they put in front of me.

DM: Of course, when you mention the tag team division, you're talking about your team with Captain USA, The Forces Of America. You recently lost the tag team titles to the new team of Danny Rushmore and Mick Muscles, The Towers Of Powers. You'll be having a rematch with them, for the titles, at the next USPW event, "Stars, Stripes and Slams!".

JF: That's right, the opportunity for me to hold two titles at once, something I narrowly missed out on recently [In October, Jim won his second National title just one week after losing the tag team straps -ed].

DM: That actually kicks off a really strong line-up of four big matches for you in the coming weeks. After the tag team title bout, you then are scheduled to defend your National title against the monsterous T-Rex on the USPW American Wrestling TV show. You are then set to take part in a big twenty man battle royal the following week, and then a truly titanic match at the "Red, White and Blue!" show; as I understand it, you'll be taking on either the Lords Of War or the Demons Of Rage in a tag team cage match, with the titles on the line if you hold them?

JF: That's right. The main event at "Stars, Stripes and Slams!" is actually a really hugely exciting match, as it's going to be the first ever tag team encounter between the Lords Of War and the Demons Of Rage. It's sort of like a one-off war to decide the issue of which of of the two legendary teams is really the best, something that has been debated by fans for ages. It's a real dream bout. Whoever wins that match will get a shot at the tag team titles, in a steel cage match, at "Red, White and Blue!". The team that loses will face off against either myself and Captain USA, or The Towers Of Power, depending on who came out of our match with the tag belts.

DM: Sounds like a really big couple of months for the promotion. Sam Strong has said repeatedly that his ultimate goal is to make USPW as big as SWF and TCW, to make the Big Two into the Big Three. Do you think that's possible?

JF: Absolutely. There's certainly enough talent available outside of the SWF and TCW, that's for sure. With Sam's connections, some good marketing, and the right moves, there's no reason why USPW can't become much bigger than it is now.

DM: One final question...what does the future hold for Jim Force?

JF: Right now, I'm happy with what I'm doing. I like working for USPW, I'm healthy, and there's a lot of positive energy around the place. I'm 32 at the moment, so I reckon I've got at least another three or four years left in me. I'd really like to think that by then, we'll be taking on the Supreme Wrestling Federation and Total Championship Wrestling, giving Richard and Tommy a few headaches.

DM: Thanks for talking to me today Jim, it's been a pleasure.

JF: Take it easy.