Speaking to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on The Steve Austin Show, Buff Bagwell went over his recollection of the series of events that led to his release from WWE in 2001 — then known as the World Wrestling Federation.
This was shortly after Vince McMahon acquired WCW, and it was unclear which wrestlers from the former rival organization would stick around. As Bagwell tells it, he got into a spat backstage with Shane Helms, Helms cracked him over the back of the head with an ice bottle, and Bagwell needed to get stitches.
Bagwell says that he initially covered up the incident and told WWE higher-ups that he fell. He says he fought Booker T in a Raw main event, and acknowledges that they didn’t have a good match, and that he was called by Jim Ross later in the week and told to take a couple of un-televised house shows off before returning to Raw the following week. Bagwell says that when he got to Raw, he was told by Vince McMahon that he was being released from his contract (which was different from getting fired only in contractual semantics).
Bagwell was most upset by a story that Jim Ross told during an episode of Legends of Wrestling (an original series made specifically for WWE’s Classics on Demand service where “legends” have a roundtable discussion about specific topics, persons, or occurrences in the history of professional wrestling) in 2007, saying it’s untrue. According to Ross, Bagwell’s mother, Judy, called him to tell him that her son could not appear on those house shows [ostensibly because of the head injury].
Recalling the conversation, Ross said, “‘I’d also like to remind you, Mrs. Bagwell, that if you ever want to call here again and speak with me, I’ll be happy to speak with you about anything in the world but your son — because this is the last conversation you and I will ever have about your boy, because he’s a man. He should be calling me, not you.’”
On his own podcast this week, Ross responded to Bagwell’s allegations that he cost the wrestler his career in WWE.
“I haven’t heard the show,” Ross said. “I’m not interested in hearing me getting gut-and-quartered. My former job as head of WWE talent relations was oftentimes a thankless job. It wasn’t just poor me. It was everybody that had that job had a thankless job, but I knew that when I took it. I had the distinction of having to let people go, which is always the worst part of any job of that nature. Nonetheless, I will say it was great helping many wrestlers live their dreams, become wealthy, and I think that we helped facilitate them in establishing a great quality of life for their families.”
“However, when the word came down from up-top to terminate talents it fell on my shoulders to execute that piece of business, and I became the messenger of bad news,” Ross continued. “So I can assure you — anyone listening — that I never relished in firing people. Plus, it only makes sense that if a talent could help a company, that I wanted them to make it. We needed talents to make it big in the company. We were trying to create stars, not eliminate them. The bottom line is I’m sorry [Bagwell] feels like he does, I’m sure he believes what’s there is true, but I never went out of my way to cause him any misery. I just was the guy who had to deliver the bad news.”