Jonathan Coachman recently spoke about the decision to leave WWE for ESPN and more. Here are the highlights…
Did your time with WWE help you in ESPN?: It was a lot. Every time I sit on set on all the big shows I know, whether it’s on the 11PM Sports Center or the Sunday NFL show, everything I do, I find myself mentally referring back to the things I learned working with Vince McMahon and everybody in the WWE. People do not understand how difficult it is to entertain, act and make people believe, when most people don’t want to believe it is true. The one thing about working with the Rock, and I have people mentioning it every day to me, is about the skits that we did for so long. To see the evolution of our relationship going from him abusing me to him coming back and us doing things as we were at the same level, was awesome for me. The decision for me to get into the ring and get involved on a physical aspect was a difficult one for me. It was one I felt I needed to do because I had the size of 6’3 and 240lbs and it was something that would earn me the respect of the boys, while making me one of them. What I didn’t’t realize was what would happen and that I would learn to entertain on the highest level… the timing, how you say things, your facial expressions, you know all the little things I utilize today. I wish all of our anchors could go through all that training, knowing that Vince is watching your every move and he is ready to shred you and rip you apart. I lasted almost ten years in that environment, and because of that, it allowed me to be ahead of the game when I got here. I felt like I was working for Mr. Rodgers compared to Mr. McMahon. The different things I did over my career with WWE, has helped me when I am doing things at the highest level. ESPN is the highest level and that is not lost on me, and I do not forget that. Every single day when I come to work weather I am sick or I am healthy. I’m out to give it all I got because I want to improve, because I care. I love people who care and who show me that they want to give an effort in life, whatever it is, because you know you are gonna get my best effort.
Do you have any personal stories that you can share with us about working with Vince McMahon?: Vince McMahon is a very unique guy, and he does not trust a lot of people. He had trust in me and because of that, he wanted me around him a lot, whether I was hosting something or not. If he wanted to yell and couldn’t find someone that he couldn’t yell at, he would yell at me just to get it out of his system. Because of Vince having the ability to trust me, and the fact I did anything he needed me to do, the first time we went over to the middle east to Afghanistan, I was one of the 18 people who got to go to represent WWE because I was able to talk, and get in the ring if I needed to. I did get in the ring as I had a match with Ric Flair over there, and I lost to him via the figure four leg lock, and it is a highlight in my career. Some people call it the figure two, but it is what it is (laughs). While there, I got to see firsthand what life was like out in the desert. It was a scary, as we were in the line of the fire, and we went in places that nobody really got to see up close. Those are some the greatest experiences I will look back on because of that relationship I had with him. I will be indebted to him. We get along great to this day, and if there was an opportunity to be on Monday Night Raw and do sports Center at the same time I would that in a heartbeat.
How did it feel to do some of the same type of skits at ESPN with the Rock and John Cena? How was it crossing over from the WWE with ESPN?: It was very cool. To be honest with you, the people who were in charge at the time at ESPN, to be blunt they just were not high on anyone from wrestling being on there and I had to fight and claw ,and I had to stand up for my brand and what I believe in. I spent a full decade creating the Coach, and I have been the coach my whole life, since I was a kid, but I really became the Coach in WWE. I was not going to become Jonathan Coachman just because I was on ESPN. In order to be memorable or successful for people to understand you, you have to be true to your brand, and my brand is “The Coach”. Doing those things when Cena and Rock would show up, was validation for me, because everybody on campus wanted me to do it. We would do our skits, but then my bosses would be like “we can’t do this” but then, the reaction was so great. Over time those things helped me get to where I am today, like when I had my radio shows “Coach and Company” I was the coach, and whether I was on TV or on the radio people get it. Those interactions helped to keep my brand alive and helped to where I am today.
How did your family handle your schedule back then and now? Did it affect your decision to leave WWE?: Once I found out my daughter was on her way,that was what made the decision to leave. There was a lot thought that went into this decision, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be home with my children. I am lucky enough to have two children and I home everyday with them. Also, there were a lot of bad habits that I developed over the last decade, especially when I was in the ring. I knew if I wanted to survive and live a productive, healthy life, then I needed to get out that environment. The overriding feeling was that I really missed sports. I was craving sports. In my last three years in WWE I signed a deal knowing that I had three years to try and get out. I knew how difficult it would be to find a regular sports job after working in pro wrestling for so long. I spent a good portion of that three year contract working at MSG network in NY and CBS college sports. I was working almost every day creating a bridge, because I was not going to go from WWE to ESPN; it was not going to happen. The family aspect opened my eyes a bit, as the travel became difficult. I began dreading going to the airport and I don’t want to do something I would dread .I was burnt out.