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Catching up with J.J. Dillon: Part 2
In 1997, World Championship Wrestling was the hottest promotion in the country and J.J. Dillon was holding a very visible role as the company's onscreen commissioner. Business was great, payouts were high and Dillon was miserable. (PHOTOS)
"[Eric] Bischoff had his agenda and I wasn't necessarily in sync with what he was doing," Dillon said of WCW's former President. "I was the one person who could expose him for somebody who knew absolutely nothing about the wrestling business. Instead of tapping into me as a resource, he went around me."
Although WCW had some profitable years in the late '90s, the longtime veteran could see issues with management that would present serious problems in the future.
"It's like I'm sitting on the Titanic and boy, what a beautiful ship this is, but I'm seeing that iceberg ahead," Dillon said. "I knew what was going to happen, but nobody wanted to listen. They looked at me like I was crazy."
Ultimately, the ship did hit an iceberg when WCW lost nearly $80 million in 2000. The following year, their parent company, AOL/Time Warner, sold the troubled promotion to Mr. McMahon, bringing an end to one of the most significant eras in wrestling history.
"After 40 some years in the wrestling business, it was over for me," Dillon admitted.
With few available options for him in sports-entertainment, Dillon took a job working in the construction business in Atlanta. He also started writing his autobiography.
"I walked away on camera at the end of 1998, so none of my kids really knew anything about what I did," Dillon said. "My motivating factor was to create a life story that I could hand down to my children."
The result was Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls. Penned with the aid of the extensive journals Dillon kept during his professional career, the book chronicles the New Jersey-native's 40-plus years in the wild world of professional wrestling.
"I thought there wasn't enough to my life to fill a book, but it's amazing the detail that comes to mind when you start writing," Dillon said.
The book, which is available on Dillon's website, received major acclaim for its detail and frank honesty.
Today, Dillon lives in Delaware where he works for the department of corrections as a corrections officer. Even in his 60s, he is still the hardest working man in a group of people half his age.
"I went through the whole nine weeks of training," he said. "I went through the fire school with the smoke, I went through the physical training and I ended up the top cadet in my class."
While J.J. spent years on television, he didn't use his celebrity to garner favoritism. It wasn't until Dillon's first trip to the prison that his superiors realized he was a wrestling legend.
"We were walking through and I hear an inmate yell, 'Hey, J.J.!'" he said, laughing.
While he enjoys his job, Dillon is most grateful for the health care the position has provided him after recently surviving a prostate cancer scare.
"They caught it very early so all my options were open," Dillon said. "I've had two blood tests and I'm cancer free."
Now 67, Dillon remains active in wrestling through his association with organizations like the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. In WWE, the Four Horsemen leader made a surprise appearance on Raw in 2008, paying tribute to his old friend, Ric Flair, during his retirement speech. He has also brought his extensive knowledge of sports-entertainment history to WWE 24/7's popular roundtable discussion show, Legends of Wrestling.
And while the long corridors of the correctional institution are a big change from the bright lights of the wrestling ring, Dillon is grateful for all of the experiences he has had through the years.
"I think every step of the way is an education," Dillon said. "That's what life is all about."
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