The former Cryme Tyme star – who teamed with Gaspard in WWE – recently made his debut in Billy Corgan’s promotion, and representing his late tag team partner in the ‘best light possible’ is his biggest inspiration.
Shad died aged 39 in May last year after he got caught under a strong rip current at Venice Beach, and urged lifeguards to save his 10-year-old son.
Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk about what’s driving him at this point in his career, JTG said: ‘Besides my passion, it would definitely be representing both Shad and myself.
‘I’m not just representing myself anymore. When people see JTG, Jay Tha Gawd, they automatically think of Shad.
‘I wanna make sure I represent the team and myself and him in the best light possible, and keep Cryme Tyme alive with whatever I do forwards.’
JTG, 36, admitted he had to ‘distance’ himself from wrestling immediately after his friend’s death, but he was helped and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Shad.
‘I had to distance myself for a few days. I feel like it took me a month or two to get back to my normal self. It took a while and a lot of alone time and meditation,’ he added.
‘To see it on social media, everybody sharing – it helped me a lot during my grieving, seeing all these things that people were writing about him, the videos, charity, all that good stuff.
‘It definitely helped me through the grieving process.’
Despite never winning the tag team titles during their team with WWE, Cryme Tyme are still remembered and beloved by fans around the world.
‘That was a lot of fun! I always wanted to shatter some glass, break a car door window. I had my opportunity to do it and get paid for it, it was great,’ he laughed.
‘Shad and I, that was our first time being in the main event scene and we didn’t see that happening for a long time.
‘Teaming up with John Cena definitely brought us to the main event spotlight and we had to step up to the plate and learn how to play with the big boys. Cena helped us a lot with that.’
Back to the current day, JTG is making waves in NWA and he’ll soon face the winner of Chris Adonis vs. Thom Latimer vs. Mike Parrow to crown a new National Champion.
One can’t help but wonder how Cryme Tyme would have fared in the company, with its welcome focus on storytelling and classic wrestling tropes.
‘I think we’d have adjusted pretty good. Shad is always big on telling stories too, so we would definitely have took some adjusting,’ he pondered.
‘When Cryme Tyme’s together we’re a bunch of entertainers, and you’d have had to definitely incorporate a lot of our entertaining tag team spots and the mischievous deeds we did into our story.’
The storytelling mentality is something JTG has always had instilled in him, and he revealed almost everyone in NWA is wired the same way.
‘I would say that a good 95% of the roster has that mindset,’ he said. ‘Everyone seems to be on the same page. We’re here to tell a story and bring old school wrestling back!’
*Watch NWA Powerrr every Wednesday night at 10.05pm on Fite TV.
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