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Vice's 'New Jack' doc a bizarre tale of revulsion, not redemption


You have to be a little crazy if you're a professional wrestler.

Think about it. To want to dress up in tights, take loads of physical punishment in front of an audience who is ready to turn on you with a single botch, and to do it all for little to no money in the early years is 100% nuts. But, we love the people that do it anyway because, honestly, we’re a bit crazy too.

And then, there’s Jerome Young, aka New Jack, the subject of the second installment of Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring second season entitled “The Life and Crimes of New Jack”. He takes crazy to a completely different level and not necessarily a good one.

For those used to this series focusing on the more infamous stories in wrestling history (Bruiser Brody’s stabbing, Chris Benoit’s decline, the Montreal Screwjob), this is a bit of a diversion, focusing on someone who is singularly responsible for several infamous stories but is also still alive to tell his side of the story. Unlike other installments of the series, there isn’t any redemption story or anything close to a happy ending. Rather, like what appears to be in Young’s soul, there’s a big empty feeling when it's all said and done.

Helping tell the story are Young, Jim Cornette, The Sandman, and D-Lo Brown, who was part of The Gangstas when they worked in Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling. The defunct Tennessee-based group was essentially our intro into the documentary with Cornette explaining what he was looking for in pairing Young with Mustafa Saed (Jamal Mustafa) in 1994: protagonists to rile up their primarily Southern white fanbase and boy, did he get it.

Unfortunately, Saed wasn’t part of the documentary. Based on the pencil shavings story in the doc, that would have been a trip.

‘New Jack’ takes the viewer through the SMW days and how the team had to deal with being called the n-word on a regular basis, firing back through firey and reality-driven promos and angles that reflected what was happening in the mid-90’s that only incensed the fanbase more. Without a doubt, Young was (and is) a gifted communicator, able to convey emotion easily, something we don't get a lot of today.

The viewer eventually lands in Young’s ECW days and, primarily, the Mass Transit Incident, aka the time when Young got supposedly offended by something 17-year-old Erich Kulas (aka Mass Transit) said to him backstage and therefore took it out on him in the ring with a surgeon’s scalpel in a Revere, MA, tag match.

Unprofessional? Yes. Dangerous? Hell yes. One of the most well-known wrestling stories of the last twenty years? Yes, yes, and yes. Without it, I'm not typing 900 words about a New Jack documentary.

Unfortunately, we can’t hear from Kulas as he passed away in 2002 due to complications from gastric bypass surgery, nor his father who didn’t want to be involved. We also don't hear from D-Von Dudley, who was part of the match, nor ECW head Paul Heyman. That leaves us with a little person wrestler named Tiny The Terrible who worked with Kulas and accompanied him that night to the arena, Sandman, and Young himself to tell the story.

“What I’m going to do to him, people will talk about for 10 years. 20 years later, they are still talking about it,” Young says, showing zero remorse even when discussing Kulas’ death or the subsequent trial in which he was found innocent because of something Kulas’ father had to admit on the stand.

That begins a rapid and dangerous decline into hardcore matches and more “The (Insert Wrestler Name Here) Incident” type affairs, partially (mainly?) fueled by increased drug use which Young freely admits to.

There's The Vic Grimes Incidents, both of which would have set modern day Twitter ablaze if it was around then. In particular, an XPW rematch between the two features one of the nastiest bumps you will ever see, but miraculously, Grimes walked away with a dislocated ankle after being thrown off a scaffold seconds after being tased, somewhat hitting the ring ropes intead.

Young thinks the whole thing is funny and says simply wanted to even the score, but was actually trying to throw Grimes onto the ringside floor. It’s here when you start to really wonder why anyone would have booked him after this...but they did.

There’s The Gypsy Joe Incident (a 72-year-old wrestler Young beat up in front of around 50 fans because Joe no sold his offense) and the grand finale, The Hunter Red Incident. Young said he was incensed after Red blew him off as they were going through their match backstage. Then, after taking a few stiff shots in what essentially was an empty arena match, Young pulled out a blade and simply started stabbing Red in the back. 

And, in the most wrestling way possible, he got out of it after being jailed, the story of which brings us to the end of the documentary. When asked about how a movie about his life would end, he laughs and says he would want to be seen sitting in a wheelchair snorting coke, throwing up middle fingers, saying, "Thank you, bitches!"

Like I said, wrestling is crazy. 

You can watch 'The Life and Crimes of New Jack' on Vice TV on demand.