- Jeff Jarrett’s decision to cut his long hair during the Attitude Era was a key part of changing his image and fitting in with WWE’s edgier direction.
- The Hair Vs. Hair Match at SummerSlam 1998, where Jarrett lost, was a pivotal moment that sparked his edgier new character and desire for revenge.
- Jarrett’s catchphrase “Don’t piss off” was carefully chosen, but had to be toned down for merchandise and broadcast purposes, potentially impacting merchandising opportunities.
Nowadays, it might take a wrestling fan aback to look back at old footage of Jeff Jarrett and see him with long, flowing blond hair. For the first decade of his career, though, that was Double J’s signature look throughout his time in Memphis, his early days in WWE, and his first run in WCW. The Attitude Era saw him change things up, though, and in the episode of Jarrett’s My World podcast that dropped on November 21, he explained the reasoning behind the choice and surrounding factors in his career.
The WWE New Generation Era Was Out, The Attitude Era Was In
Jeff Jarrett discussed realizing that, with WWE’s edgier direction in the Attitude Era, his old persona as a country music singer or old school heel backed by Tennessee Lee just didn’t fit. Jarrett indicated that as far as he could remember, cutting his hair was his own idea and a key “piece of the puzzle to change the image.”
Jarrett suggested Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, and Ed Ferrera were all on board and helped figure out how they’d shift Jarrett’s persona. As an important step along the way, they decided if they were going to cut his then-famous long hair, then “let’s get some mileage out of it.” The result was Double J losing a Hair Vs. Hair Match at SummerSlam 1998.
As Jarrett described it, he was happy to put over and to continue feuding with X-Pac given how hot DX was at the time. Whereas Hair Vs. Hair Matches have a long history of blowing off feuds, this instance proved to be an inciting incident—sparking Jarrett’s edgier new character who was out for revenge.
Jeff Jarrett’s Catchphrase
Not long after his haircut, Jeff Jarrett allied with Southern Justice and espoused “Don’t piss off” as his catchphrase. This choice was deceptively complex, as Jarrett explained. When he recorded the podcast, he was even wearing a t-shirt from that period of his career, which read “Don’t tick me off!”
Jarrett discussed that for the purposes of action figures and some other merchandise, as well as his graphics that would display on broadcast television, the word “piss” crossed a line and wasn’t acceptable. On one hand, Jarrett recalled still wanting to use it during promos, because a more watered down version of that phrasing could be the kiss of death for his character in the Attitude Era. On the other hand, in hindsight, he acknowledged he probably left money on the table because there were more merchandising opportunities with the less controversial wording and aligning the promo language with that merchandise.
In the end, Jeff Jarrett’s reflection on updating his character in 1998 was demonstrative of his wealth of experience and deep thought related to the business of pro wrestling. It’s clear that the transformation was purposeful and met its objectives and reestablishing him as an upper mid-card fixture in a new era for WWE, en route to ultimately returning to WCW and winning his first world title.