Independent wrestling star James Ellsworth was the latest guest on the Chris Van Vilet show to talk about his time in WWE, most notably his debut squash match against Braun Strowman that actually ended up getting him a contract with the company. Highlights are below.
How he earned the match against Strowman
We get there, nobody knows what’s going on. They said, ‘Braun Strowman is debuting tonight and one of you is going to wrestle him on RAW.’ I am looking around and it’s six guys and two girls there,” recalled Ellsworth. “Arn Anderson comes up to us all, and he’s like, ‘Hey, whoever throws the best punch gets the spot.’ He pointed at me first and I threw one. Arn Anderson looks at me and goes, ‘I don’t need to see the rest of you guys. You got the spot. We get to the ring and he goes, ‘Let me see you throw one at Braun here.’ I throw a punch and [Arn] goes, ‘Good, you still threw the same punch. That wasn’t a fluke back there.’ He said we were doing this every week.
How right before he went out Sasha Banks won the Raw women’s championship:
Before the match, I was standing in Gorilla and Sasha Banks won her first ever RAW Women’s Title. I’m standing in Gorilla and they said, ‘Hey, before your match, you’ll go through the side steps of Gorilla, walk around through the crowd through the timekeeper’s position and into the ring.’ I’m a huge fan of Sasha Banks’ work. I think she’s amazing and among the top three wrestlers there. I’m nervous because I’ve never been on RAW in front of 10,000 people. Then, I’m watching her match, and Sasha wins. Then she comes to the Gorilla position with the title, and Stephanie McMahon’s hugging her, Triple H is hugging her. I’m enjoying this moment and they’re like, ‘You got to get out there!’ I completely forgot to go down to the steps and around to the crowd and into the ring.
Working with Jimmy Jacobs, coming up with his own promo, and how Braun hit him super hard:
The handy man with two hands line was a line I came up myself. I asked Jimmy Jacobs – who was the writer for that promo that day – I asked if I could say that line because I’m hitting him twice. He goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a good line. Say whatever.’ Jimmy Jacobs was awesome, by the way. So, I do the match. I say the promo and I thought I did a good job out there. When you’re on TV, the cameras raid up on you. There was a point in the match where he had me bent over and clubs me in the chest. To this day, that was the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life. He has to. It’s TV and it’s his debut. He had to make it look good and he did.
How Vince McMahon commended him for his work and told him he would call him:
We get through the match and the referee’s checking on me after the match. Again, I got to go the side of the ramp. So, I get backstage and Arn’s like, ‘Hey, kid, you did a great job. Vince wants to see you.’ So I’m scared, and I’m taking the slowest walk to Gorilla I could take. I get there and I see Vince coming down the steps in Gorilla. I almost apologized to him for walking down the ramp before I could say a word. I said, ‘Hey, sir,’ and he goes, ‘Hey, great job pal!’ He goes, ‘I’ll be in touch with you,’ and shakes my hand. Triple H goes, ‘He’s serious. He’ll be in touch with you.’ So, then I go to catering. I sit down and everybody’s telling me how good of a job I did. I’m just being cool about it, saying, thank you. I’m eating and Braun comes up and gives me a bear hug, saying, ‘Man, you did great. Thank you so much!’ I said, ‘No, thank you!’ I’m keeping my cool and wondering what is happening. Vince kept his word. He kept in touch with me and wound-up tuning everything he did.
(Thanks to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription)