2004 was an interesting year for World Wrestling Entertainment, in that they were developing new talent and really had no star truly ready to breakout.
Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were finally given their chances to carry the company at the top as the WWE and World Heavyweight Champion, respectively.
Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista and Shelton Benjamin were all being steadily built for bigger and better things but there was no real fresh option to step up and challenge either Benoit or Guerrero.
John Layfield was a career mid-carder who made a name for himself in the tag team ranks. A big, corn-fed Texan, he was a stiff brawler more recognized for the punishment he dished out rather than the quality of his matches.
Under the moniker "Bradshaw" and with Faarooq as his partner, the APA dished out beatings on a regular basis, exchanging their services for beer money.
In 2004, Faarooq (real name Ron Simmons) would be fired from the company, leaving Bradshaw alone. A very talented talker and highly successful in the financial world outside of wrestling, there was far more to Layfield than his character indicated.
They repackaged Bradshaw, renaming him "John Bradshaw Layfield" and retooled him to become a successful New York businessman. He was a loud, physical reputation of the Republican way of mind that, by 2004, most Americans had had their fill of.
He became the top heel on Smackdown and feuded with real-life friend Eddie Guerrero over the WWE Championship. At Judgment Day, the two men competed in one of the bloodiest battles in company history.
Then, at June's Great American Bash, the unthinkable happened.
Layfield defeated Guerrero in a Texas Bullrope match to become WWE Champion. He would hold the title until April of the following year, when he lost the strap to John Cena.
The last great wrestling heel, JBL far exceeded any of the expectations set for him and became one of the company's least likely, yet most entertaining, champions of all time.