Sometimes, you have to gamble on yourself. PJ Polaco -- better known as Justin Credible -- learned that after being a part of the "revolutionary force."
In 1997, Polaco's Aldo Montoya wasn't exactly setting the world on fire in WWF. He was rarely, if ever on TV, and never winning matches. The character had run its course almost immediately, then stretched out over two years. If you watched Raw, Superstars, Shotgun, even WWF on MSG Network, you were probably seeing Montoya lose.
He needed a change, and that change was WCW!
"What I remember happening -- and actually it’s funny I just had the conversation yesterday with Mikey Whipwreck -- it was 1997 and I had been Aldo Montoya for a couple of years. I’d had quite a few years on the road working full time. I was 23 years old, but working a full time schedule for three years coming into my own as a performer. So, I was like, “Vince, this character was great to start with, but it’s a joke. I feel like I can contribute.” Kevin [Nash] and Scott [Hall] just got started with the NWO and that was blowing up, and I had the opportunity to go down there (to WCW)," said Polaco.
That wasn't going to happen, though.
Ready to make a move, he asked to be cut from his contract. He met with head honcho Vince McMahon....who promptly denied his request for release. There was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on that rainy day, though.
"So, I literally schedule a meeting in Stamford with Vince. I was like, “Vince, can I please have my release?” He said “No, but what I can do is send you to USWA to train to be a heel, work down there with Jerry Lawler and then we’ll bring you back up and repackage you.” What happened in that short six / seven weeks was, that was when ECW was down there working the angle with Jerry Lawler and USWA. I reconnected with Chris Candido, who was there as Skip and Zip from the Bodydonnas, and he offered me a job. Vince basically signed my contract over to Paul Heyman and the rest is history," Polaco recalls.
That wasn't the last time you'd see Justin Credible in WWE, not even close. After ECW closed in 2001, then when it was reborn under the WWE umbrella in 2006, he had runs with the company. While they weren't the most creatively fruitful, Polaco says that McMahon was always accessible to him when he needed to talk.
"I just always reached out to the old man," said Polaco of any time he had an issue. "You gotta understand it’s not the way it is today. From what I hear nowadays if you wanna talk to Vince, it takes a couple of weeks. Back then Vince was very much on hand, like you could go up and talk to him personally. Well, when he offered me my job, he literally—we were at the War Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts—he said, and I was a jobber, “PJ, can I talk to you?” He took me outside on the balcony, and he gave me the speech of WWF, at the time, is the land of opportunity and we’re going to offer you an opportunity. So, I had that relationship. So, anytime I wanted, it was either Vince or Jim Ross. ‘Cause JR was still their Head of Talent Relations at the time. So, it was either of those two guys. But, now it’s very different."
Polaco was ready to hit the bricks and get out of WWF, and seemed sure of himself. Looking back, he remembers the meeting where he asked out of his contract to be much more nerve wracking than one would think based on his modern day demeanor.
"Honestly, it was so Mafioso style I thought he was either going to kill me or something, dude," said Polaco. "It’s intimidating. I’m a kid. He’s the most powerful man that I’ve watched for years and years growing up. One on one in a very remote, dark place in a side corner of an arena. It was very intimidating, very scary. Ultimately, Vince is very fair. He is who he is. But, what he expects from you is nothing more than what he’d expect from himself. He’s a nut. He works crazy hard and he expects you to do the same, and I respect that. I hold no resentments towards WWE, although creatively they could have done a lot better. But, nonetheless it was always a positive experience and I’ve always had a good relationship, and been very fortunate and blessed. To this day I still have a relationship with WWE in some capacities. It’s cool. They’re a great organization."
As mentioned, Polaco came back to WWE in 2006 as a part of an eventually failed ECW reboot. It wasn't the company that many knew and loved, and instead more resembled the developmental territories that would follow it. Polaco could tell while participating in the now-not-so-fondly dubbed "WWECW" that the original approach wasn't there.
"I thought that was always what ECW, especially in the later years, was supposed to be. Extreme didn’t necessarily mean blood and guts. At first it may have, but extreme meant extreme like work rate, high flying. Like, what we saw at the end of ECW, Tajiri or Super Crazy. So, if they took that approach, and made the ECW brand like a feeder NXT system to pass said torch to the guys coming up to the main roster I thought that would have been the right move. But, unfortunately that wasn’t the vision at the time."
Credible would only stick around for a couple of months that year, most notably taking on CM Punk in his main roster debut match, and would make some TNA appearances years later.
You can see our full interview with PJ Polaco, aka Justin Credible, at the top of the page.