RollerJam

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WSL RollerJam logo.png

RollerJam is an American television series featuring roller derby that aired on The Nashville Network (TNN, now Spike) from 1999 to 2000.[1] It was the first attempt to bring roller derby to TV since RollerGames.

RollerJam was derived from the original roller derby, but newer skaters used inline skates to modernize the sport (several skaters, mostly older ones, used the traditional quad skates). The program was taped at Universal Studios Stage 21 in Orlando, Florida, known as RollerJam Arena and now the Impact Wrestling Zone, for the first and second seasons (1999 and 2000) and the former American Gladiators arena in the show's final season. The first few weeks of the show's second season, which ran from August to October 1999, were taped at the MGM Grand Las Vegas.

Creation[edit]

RollerJam was the brainchild of Knoxville, Tennessee-based television impresarios Ross K. Bagwell, Sr. and Stephen Land. Land, a fan of roller derby in boyhood, was inspired to bring the sport back to television by an obituary for roller derby legend Joan Weston that he had read in the New York Times in May 1997, and shared his idea with Bagwell, his mentor, who gave him a positive response.[2] Between January 1999 and January 2001,[3] Bagwell and Land, under the name Pageboy Entertainment, collaborated with CBS to stage this new televised revival of roller derby.

In May 1998, Bagwell and Land pitched their idea to The Nashville Network (TNN). The network agreed to air the show but wanted it ready by the new year, forcing Bagwell and Land to create a league, recruit skaters, build a track, design logos and uniforms, hire a television crew, and record the program all in a span of about seven months. In an attempt to build continuity between RollerJam and previous roller derby incarnations, Bagwell and Land hired Jerry Seltzer, the son of roller derby creator Leo Seltzer, to be commissioner of their new league. The first episode of the show was taped in November 1998, a week after Thanksgiving.[4]

Overview[edit]

RollerJam featured several teams of skaters competing in the fictional World Skating League (WSL). Jerry Seltzer served as on-screen WSL commissioner, although he only made a few appearances. The initial teams, each consisting of seven men and seven women, were the New York Enforcers, California Quakes, Florida Sundogs, Nevada Hot Dice, Texas Rustlers, and Illinois Riot (the original names of the latter three teams were the Las Vegas High Rollers, Texas Twisters, and Illinois Inferno; their names were changed prior to the start of the first season). Two notable veterans from Roller Games, "Rockin'" Ray Robles and "Latin Spitfire" Patsy Delgato, were featured in the second season of RollerJam. Despite strong funding and four seasons of broadcasts on TNN, the venture never became a "live" attraction. Fabricated storylines and characters in the mode of professional wrestling were being featured more than actual competitive skating, raising the ire of many skaters and fans of true roller derby.

Three of the most notable actors featured in RollerJam were veteran movie actor Tom Nowicki (who played WSL general manager Kenneth Loge III and Sundogs manager Leonard Loge III), Cindy Maranne (who played Amanda Hertz, the manager of the Nevada Hot Dice), former ESPN and current CBS Sports Network play-by-play commentator James Bates (who played "The Prophet", a character in Season 4 only who would interrupt games to make speeches, and later managed the Sundogs), and stage actress and former Mouseketeer Lindsey Alley (who played Lisa Seltzer, the "granddaughter" of Leo Seltzer). Other characters included Julie Amazon (a bodybuilding skater in Season 4), Canine and Disable (minions of The Prophet who skated for the Sundogs, and "captured" Lindsay Francis during the first game of Season 4), and Devo (a convict character who skated for the Hot Dice).

The most points ever scored in one jam was 28 in Period 3 of a game between the New York Enforcers and the Illinois Riot. The Riot came back from a 20+ point deficit to win 46-43 in the highest scoring game in RollerJam history. Roller Derby legend Ann Calvello, best known for her brutal feuds with Joan Weston, skated a match race with Kenneth Loge III in RollerJam's finale. She emerged victorious.

Ron Buffone, a producer for Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), called RollerJam "That stupid roller blading show".[5] Buffone believed that TNN treated ECW on TNN, which aired prior to RollerJam on Friday nights, as a lead-in for RollerJam rather than a show in its own right, despite the fact that the ECW broadcast generated the network's highest ratings. Nevertheless, some cross-promotion between the two programs did occur, notably when ECW wrestlers such as Axl Rotten and Tommy Dreamer appeared on RollerJam as "enforcers" for the Florida Sundogs against the New York Enforcers.

Key players[edit]

Men[edit]

  • Sean Atkinson, men's captain of the California Quakes. Atkinson is the first third generation skater in roller derby history. His parents Buddy (Jr.) and Dru Atkinson and his grandparents Buddy (Sr.) and Bobbie Atkinson all skated for Leo Seltzer's original derby. He now manages the Orlando Thunder in the American Roller Skating Derby (San Francisco Bay Bombers' league). His younger brother, Seth, is also a skater and helps run the XSL (Xtreme Skating League), which is an independent hardcore roller derby promotion equivalent to the old ECW style of wrestling. Coincidentally, Seth is also a trained professional wrestler as well.
  • Bill Barker, who was traded to the Florida Sundogs for Richard Brown after skating one game for the Nevada Hot Dice. Nicknamed "Captain America".
  • Richard Brown, manager/skater for three teams: Florida Sundogs, Nevada Hot Dice, and Illinois Riot. Nicknamed "The King", he skated in the Los Angeles T-Birds' league in the 1970s and for the Maniacs on RollerGames in 1989.
  • Mark D'Amato, men's captain, leader, and later "owner" of the New York Enforcers. Known as the team's (and league's) main villain or "heel," paralleling characters and storylines from professional wrestling. In a storyline, he was revealed to be Sean Atkinson's brother. Later skated in the ARDL. Known as "The Quadfather" because he used old-school four wheeled skates, Mark started skating professionally on Roller Games in Los Angeles in the 1970s, which allowed him to be grandfathered under league rules. D'Amato died in March 2002 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Brian Gamble, a skater for the New York Enforcers, Texas Rustlers, and Illinois Riot. Nicknamed "The Blade", he is now a professional wrestler.
  • Micah Martin, a speed skating champion who competed for the Nevada Hot Dice, and brother of Sam Martin. Would colour his hair to match his team colours.
  • Sam Martin, a speed skating champion who skated for the Florida Sundogs and brother of Micah Martin of the Nevada Hot Dice. Nicknamed "The Flame" due to his bright red hair and speed.
  • Jason McDaniel, a skater for the Nevada Hot Dice who formed the "X-Men" duo with teammate Mark Weber. Now skates for the team "Your Mom Men's Roller Derby".
  • Ray Robles of the Illinois Riot, a 1970s Los Angeles T-Birds veteran who threw pepper into the faces of opposing skaters. Like Mark D'Amato, he wore the old "quad" skates instead of inline skates.
  • Pasi Schalin, a Finnish former professional ice hockey player who skated for the Florida Sundogs and California Quakes. His wife Susanne Schalin also skated for both teams.
  • Eric Slopey of the California Quakes, who was involved in the biggest crash in RollerJam history when he jumped from the inside of the track over the rail and landed into the scorers' table. Would do a dance called the "White Pony" when he was out alone on a breakaway, which earned him that same nickname.
  • Tim Washington, the "enforcer" of the Enforcers and formerly "Titan" of the American Gladiators. Nicknamed "Big Nasty". A cousin of professional boxer Marvin Hagler, both he and Brian "The Blade" Gamble are now professional wrestlers.
  • Mark Weber, who skated for the Nevada Hot Dice and formed a duo known as the "X-Men" with teammate Jason McDaniel. Now skates with the Cincinnati Battering Rams and coaches for the Cincinnati Rollergirls. Mark is also a member of the 2014 Men's Roller Derby Team USA. Team USA won the First ever Men's World Cup in Birmingham England in March 2014.

Women[edit]

  • Jannet Abraham of the New York Enforcers, the biggest, toughest female blocker in the league. She was essentially the female counterpart of Mark D'Amato on the Enforcers. Nicknamed the "Minister of Pain" in reference to her career as an ordained Christian minister.
  • Stacey Blitsch, women's captain of the California Quakes and leader of the "Bod Squad" faction, which would skate out onto the track together and do a dance called the "Quake Shake." Nicknamed "Malibu Stacy" She later skated in the American Roller Derby League for the Bay City Bombers.
  • Shay Brown, women's captain of the Nevada Hot Dice. A tall, powerful skater, she was the leader of the "Showgirls" faction on the Hot Dice. Nicknamed "The Warrior Princess"
  • Jaime Conemac, who played for the California Quakes and was a member of their "Bod Squad" faction. She played a ditzy blonde bimbo character and hosted a gossip segment on the show called "Chatty Chat with Conemac."
  • Amy Craig, played for the California Quakes and later the Illinois Riot as a member of the "Oral Authority". Arguably the fastest skater in RollerJam.
  • Lindsey Francis, a skater who skated twice for the Florida Sundogs and also had stints with the Texas Rustlers and New York Enforcers. Although she played a "good girl" character with the Sundogs, over time she became more and more cunning and manipulative, leading to her joining the Enforcers.
  • Heather Gunnin, the New York Enforcers' lead female jammer. She nicknamed herself "Leather" because of the type of clothing she preferred to wear.
  • Denise Loden, women's captain of the Florida Sundogs and Illinois Riot and leader of the Riot's "Oral Authority" faction. She gradually morphed into an assertive character who would wear revealing gold-coloured tops while with the Riot.
  • Karen L. Magnussen, first women's captain of the New York Enforcers and leader of the "Sisters of Suffering" faction. Later skated for the Nevada Hot Dice. Known as the most underrated skater in the league, as she preferred to stay out of the limelight in favour of focusing on the sport.
  • Telisa Miller, a skater for the New York Enforcers. Nicknamed "The Hellcat", she was one of the more violent skaters in the WSL, as she was more than willing to pull hair, scratch, claw, and get into fistfights on the banked track. Also skated for the Texas Rustlers and lost a match race to Lindsey Francis to determine who would stay on the Rustlers.
  • Susanne Schalin, a member of the Florida Sundogs and California Quakes along with her husband, Pasi Schalin.
  • Laura Weintraub, a former women's ice hockey player who skated for the Nevada Hot Dice and Illinois Riot. She was a member of the "Showgirls" with the former team and the "Oral Authority" with the latter. Along with Stacey Blitsch, she now skates for the American Roller Derby League's San Francisco Bay Bombers based in San Francisco.

Non-skaters[edit]

  • Jerry Seltzer, real-life son of roller derby creator Leo Seltzer and original commissioner of the league. He eventually quit RollerJam and was replaced by Kenneth Loge III.
  • Tom Nowicki, a professional actor who played WSL general manager Kenneth Loge III and his twin brother, Florida Sundogs manager Leonard Loge. Kenneth Loge was Jerry Seltzer's replacement as head of the WSL. He crusaded for morality in the sport and would not stand for outrageous behaviour on the track, actions which met obvious resistance from the skaters. His character was similar to the Cyrus character and Network stable in ECW. Nowicki is best remembered as a football coach opposite Denzel Washington in Remember The Titans.
  • Jason Bates, television sports commentator who portrayed The Prophet, lackey for Kenneth Loge III, who began preaching Loge's crusade for morality. He first appeared in the series' final season premiere sending his sidekicks "Canine" and "Disable" (known as the "Moral Authority") to kidnap newly acquired New York Enforcers female skater Lindsay Francis to make her "pure and wholesome" (similar to wrestler Molly Holly's storyline in the WWE). He would later acquire the Florida Sundogs and turn on Loge. Then would disappear with the league's new championship belt after the Enforcers defeated the Sundogs. Bates would later become announcer for ESPN and now serves as play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports Network.[6] He will trade off duties during Arena Football League telecasts.
  • Lindsey Alley, former Mouseketeer and current stage actress who played Lisa Seltzer, the "grand-daughter" of Leo Seltzer who tried to form an all-star team to travel overseas (storyline) selecting Jason McDaniel as men's captain and Stacey Blitsch as women's captain. (Storyline dissolved as the show was ending.)

Television Announcers[edit]

  • Ken Resnick (Play-By-Play Commentator, 1999; former commentator with the AWA and WWE)
  • Rory Markas (Host for international airings 1999;[7] Play-By-Play Commentator, 2000–2001; sports commentator for USC, now deceased)
  • Lee "Hawk" Reherman (Color Commentator, 1999–2000; formerly of American Gladiators)
  • Buddy Atkinson, Jr. (Analyst, 1999; former member of the Philadelphia Warriors and father of Sean Atkinson)
  • Marc Loyd (Color Commentator, 2001; later briefly with WWE)
  • Danny Wolf (Trackside Reporter, 1999–2001; now main commentator with the San Francisco Bay Bombers) and the voice of the Los Angeles Firebirds roller derby team.
  • Julie Lynch (Halftime Reporter, 2000)
  • Jennifer Gregory (Halftime Reporter, 2000)
  • Cindy Luce (Backstage Reporter, 2001)
  • DP Fitzgerald (Irish television presenter who hosted episodes of the series for Challenge in the United Kingdom[8])

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ imdb entry
  2. ^ Turczyn, Coury. "Blood on the Tracks". PopCult Magazine. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  3. ^ The RollerJam Episode List at TV.com confirms there were 100 episodes, comprising four seasons, that aired between January 1999 and January 2001, plus a preview/pilot episode in December 1998.
  4. ^ Turczyn, Coury. "Blood on the Tracks". PopCult Magazine. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  5. ^ The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, WWE Home Video
  6. ^ CBS Sports Network Bios
  7. ^ Rollerjam Florida Sundogs Vs California Quakes Part 1/5 on YouTube
  8. ^ Roller Jam
Bibliography
  • Brandan I Koerner. The Village Voice. New York: Jan 26, 1999. Vol. 44, Iss. 3; pg. 166. "This ain't no roller disco: The badass New York Enforcers aim to keep the wussy skaters in-line"

External links[edit]