Jonathan Coachman's original run with WWE lasted from 1999 to 2008. During that time he worked as a commentator, interviewer, authority figure, and more.
In 2003, WWE began hosting their Tribute to the Troops event. During a Q&A session on the AdFreeShows Patreon page, Coachman talked about the event and how everyone was told that they didn't have to go if they didn't want to.
"This is a story that I've never told. I actually did do it [stand up to Vince and say no] and I'm still a little pissed about it, to be honest with you. So here's what happened. Back in 2004/2005, the years are blurry, but that's when we were doing our shows in Afghanistan and it was supposed to be that if you didn't want to go you didn't have to. Supposed to be completely up to you because we're going into a war zone and they couldn't make you do it. That's what was told to us," Coachman shared.
With a child on the way and his wife concerned about him travelling to a war zone for the second year in a row, Coach opted out of the trip. Unfortunately for him, those within WWE didn't take him seriously. He added the following:
"So my first child was about to be born six months after that, so my wife at the time, she, and rightfully so, didn't want me going to the middle of a war zone. So I told the people who were setting it up at WWE, I said, ‘Listen, I'm not going.’ At that point, I had never said no to Vince once in my career, not for anything. So they thought I was joking. Well, to travel to Afghanistan you had to put your name on a list with the Pentagon and all the military and all that, you know, to get clearance, and so I showed up to the building the day that we were supposed to leave in Charleston, South Carolina, and they came out and asked for my bags. I said, ‘I told you I wasn't going.’ They said, ‘I thought you were kidding.’ I said, ‘I'm not kidding about that.’ So I thought it was cool. At the last minute, they were able to get someone because you can only take 18 people. That's why it was so important, you can only take 18, and 12 crew guys, 30 people total."
Coachman continued on to talk about WWE's culture of punishment and how he "got his ass kicked" for not going to Afghanistan.
"So the next week, I was down doing commentary and there's always been a culture of, I don't want to use the word hazing because I didn't get hazed. That wasn't this," he began. "Punishment, perhaps? But when the show was over, one of the referees, I can't remember who it was, Undertaker was ending the show, and he came over and said, ‘You need to go hit The Undertaker from behind.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He was just like, ‘That's just what they're telling me.’ So basically as punishment for not going to Afghanistan, I got beat up by the Undertaker. Then they hit Batista’s music and he came down and he finished the job. As I'm getting my ass kicked, I'm thinking, ‘Is this really worth it?’ I've done everything I could possibly do and I'm still getting my ass handed to me because I refuse to go to a warzone... for the second time! I went the year before. So it's not like I said no. I mean, it was just crazy."
Despite what happened, Coach does credit Vince McMahon for having a short memory and being able to move on from things fairly quickly.
"But the one thing about Vince that I have taken as a positive is that he has this incredible ability to forget what just happened the week before. So you can be in a knockdown drag-out screaming fight with him, that a lot of people have done, and then you think, ‘Oh my goodness, my job’s on the line or they're not gonna keep me or they're gonna fire me,’ whatever the case might be. Then you see him the next week and he’s like, ‘Hey pal, how you doing?’ That's kind of how he is," Coach shared.
As of 2020, WWE has hosted 17 Tribute to the Troops events.
Coach would leave WWE in 2008, going to ESPN. After making various appearances throughout the years, he returned to WWE in 2018 as part of the Raw commentary team alongside Michael Cole and Corey Graves. He would leave later that year though. You can read about why he left here.
He currently works for CBS Sports and more.
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