Posts Tagged ‘impact wrestling’

TNA’s Austin Aries on ‘Bound for Glory’ and Being a Vegan Pro Wrestler

October 16, 2013

Austin Aries (TNA)

A bad day at work for most people is getting in late, missing a deadline, or being yelled at by the boss.

For “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” Austin Aries, a bad day at work means falling 20 feet to the floor from atop TNA’s Ultimate X structure.

I spoke with “A Double” in the days leading up to TNA’s “Bound for Glory” event and had a chance to ask him about the dangers of the Ultimate X match, his journey to the top of TNA, and life as a vegan pro wrestler…

Gordon Holmes: TNA’s “Bound for Glory” is coming up, it’s TNA’s signature event. Do you approach it any differently?
Austin Aries: It’s the biggest show of the year, but I approach it no differently. I try to steal the show every time. And I plan on doing it again.
Holmes: You’ll be participating in the thrilling Ultimate X match which is a bout that is exclusive to TNA. For those who are unfamiliar with TNA, could you break down the rules?
Aries: Basically there are four trusses that extend from the corner posts of the ring about 20 feet up in the air. Attached to those trusses are two ring ropes in the shape of an X. And attached to the middle of that X is the X Division championship. Whoever can scale up and hook the belt and have it in their hands is the winner.
Holmes: Twenty feet in the air? Not for me. That sounds dangerous.
Aries: It’s very dangerous. There are increased risks for serious injury when you have to scale ropes that high above the ring. One slip or one missed step and bad things can happen. But, that adds to the excitement and the unpredictability.
Holmes: I did some research on you on the Internet…and I know that anything you find on the Internet is true.
Aries: Of course.
Holmes: It said that you’re not a huge fan of matches that involve ladders or this Ultimate X set-up.
Aries: It’s not my forte. I consider myself to be a professional wrestler. I’m not really much of a stunt man. Some of these high-wire acts, climbing ladders, that takes me out of my comfort zone a little bit. But, I’ve been in an Ultimate X match before and I won it. So, I’m undefeated. And I don’t have a choice in the matter, so I’m going to put my best foot forward and hopefully make it two in a row.

Holmes: You’ll be competing against Manik, Chris Sabin, and Jeff Hardy. (NOTE: Samoa Joe was added to the match after this interview took place.) Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this Jeff Hardy’s first-ever Ultimate X match?
Aries: This will be his first. That’s correct. But anyone who’s followed his career knows he’s no stranger to the daredevil style of wrestling. He takes high risks. I think he’ll be right in his element, probably more so than I am.
Holmes: Now, I don’t want you to tip your hand too much here, but what advice would you give to him as a first timer?
Aries: Oh, take lots of huge risks. The bigger the risk, the higher the reward. And hopefully I can capitalize if one of them doesn’t pay off for him. (Laughs)
Holmes: I think you might have some kind of ulterior motive there…
Aries: (Laughs) Me? Never.

Holmes: The main event of “Bound for Glory” will feature Bully Ray defending the TNA championship against AJ Styles. What are your thoughts on that bout?
Aries: Well, it’d be a lot better if Austin Aries was in there somewhere.
Holmes: Of course.
Aries: But, that’s not the case. There’s a lot at stake in that match. You have Bully Ray who’s had his hands on that title for quite some time. And you’ve got AJ Styles who’s at odds with the ownership here. It should be an interesting clash with a lot at stake. It’s really a toss up.
Holmes: AJ is having his differences with TNA owner Dixie Carter. She’s had a bit of an attitude change lately.
Aries: I’m all for it, personally. If it’s going to usher in an era of people being honest and open and being their true selves. Then I’ll fit in quite well. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’d love the opportunity to stand in the ring with the new Dixie Carter and clear the air.

Holmes: TNA seems to be undergoing somewhat of a shift lately with some big names leaving the company and other rumored problems. As a performer is it hard to block that out?
Aries: A lot of reports about problems with the company are from journalists who are trying to get clicks on their website. It seems like there’s a certain core of pundits who like to take any news with TNA and make it negative. The fact is, the things going on in TNA, whether you’re talking about talents that are coming and going, that’s all part of a growing business.
Holmes: So everything is business as usual?
Aries: I think there’s almost a certain group of people who root for the company to go out of business just so they can say, “I told you so.” Unfortunately for those people, I think TNA is going to be here for a long time to come.

Holmes: In my notes here I wrote “Planning vs. Something Hot.” And by that I mean, a company knows well in advance what they want to build to. What they want to main event a big show like “Bound for Glory.” But, sometimes something catches fire that they don’t expect. I’m thinking specifically of last summer when you seemed to come out of nowhere and grab everyone’s attention.
Aries: Oh yeah.
Holmes: You were having phenomenal matches, the crowd was loving you. Now, my question is; where do you find the balance between building a story and seeing it through and catching lightning in a bottle when the opportunity arises?
Aries: I think if you catch something like that and something is organically happening like that and there’s an authenticity to it I think you have to run with it for as long as you can. I think I started to run a little bit and before I got going full steam things kind of came to a halt. You can’t foresee those kinds of things. If you have something unique like that you have to harness that and use it for all you can.
Holmes: Thursdays are a tough night to get me in front of a TV. But I was doing everything I could to catch Impact during that time. It’s a shame it ended the way it did.
Aries: You’re not the only one that feels that way. If you listened to the crowd reaction at “Bound for Glory,” a lot of people thought, “Well Jeff Hardy is the most popular guy in the company. There’s no way Austin is going to walk into Phoenix and have the same crowd response.” I strongly disagreed with those sentiments. The crowd was very pro-Austin Aries. I had overwhelming support. But people try to predict things that you can’t predict. I guess right now I’m on a mission to recapture that. And it’s on me to do that. I created it the first time. It was nothing that was given to me. It was something I earned with my work in the ring and my time in front of the camera. And you know what? Those are the things I can control.

Holmes: You’re a vegan?
Aries: Yes, I was a vegetarian since 2000 and went completely plant-based about two years ago.
Holmes: I’m always interested when someone makes that’s decision because there is such a wide variety of reasons why people decide to go that way. What inspired you?
Aries: Health reasons. I started to learn more about the food I eat and where it was coming from. I think at its core, eating living creatures isn’t very appetizing to me. I ask people, “Do you crave dogs or cats?” They’ll say, “That’s disgusting.” OK, then how are pigs and cows different? And as I started to learn more about the corporate industry that we’re surrounded by I became very passionate about speaking out about the kind of food that we’re being peddled. I think we’ve been very misled in this country. We haven’t been given the right information when it comes to the food we’re being told to put into our body.
Holmes: Pro wrestling is a very visual industry.
Aries: Sure.
Holmes: It helps to have a muscular physique. Do you have trouble maintaining your mass?
Aries: Nope. There are proteins in all kinds of foods. And actually plants, if you look percentage wise, are some of the highest protein foods. The idea that we need huge quantities of animal protein is something that was taught to us by the USDA and the FDA. And they’re the entities that sell us that and profit off of it.
Holmes: Now Mr. Aries, I don’t want to call you a hypocrite, but you just gave advice to Jeff Hardy that would actually be bad for him. Do you have a smidge in common with the FDA?
Aries: (Laughs) I suppose. But I’m not playing with people’s lives here.

Holmes: Alright, let’s talk to the people who’ve never seen TNA before. Let’s talk to people who might be on the fence. Why is “Bound for Glory” going to be worth their time?
Aries: We’re trying to bring pro wrestling back. We’re putting an emphasis on what happens in the ring while also having compelling characters and stories. “Bound for Glory” is our biggest show of the year. That’s where we’re going to pull out all the stops. If you haven’t given “Impact Wrestling” a try, I think as a wrestling fan it’s an absolute must. Give us a shot and you’ll see we have the most talented performers in the whole world.
Holmes: And we’re going to see a new X Division champion?
Aries: That the plan. I never go into a match expecting to lose.

Don’t miss TNA – ‘Bound for Glory’ this Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

Watch Full Episodes of ‘Impact Wrestling’ Online

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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TNA Wrestling Star Christopher Daniels: ‘”Bound for Glory” Is Our Super Bowl’

October 11, 2012

Christopher Daniels (TNA IMPACT WRESTLING/Lee South)

With their biggest show of the year, “Bound for Glory” a few short days away, it might be time to give TNA wrestling a second chance.

For years, the “other” wrestling organization has had trouble building stars, delivering satisfying payoffs, and defining its own identity.  But now, they seem to have found the right mix of rising talent, established stars, and recognizable legends.

Standing in the middle of TNA’s resurgence with a smirk on his face and an appletini in his hand is one half of the “World Tag Team Champions of the World,” Christopher Daniels.

I had a chance to speak with the “Fallen Angel” in the days leading up to the big show to get his thoughts on his triple-threat title defense, TNA’s new recipe for success, and the Harlem Globetrotters…

Watch Full Episodes of “Impact Wrestling”

Gordon Holmes: It certainly seems like you and your partner Frankie Kazarian have your work cut out for you at “Bound for Glory” this Sunday. Now, I’m fuzzy on the rules of a triple-threat tag, could you give us a quick refresher?
Christopher Daniels: It’s two people in the ring at one time. It can be any two guys of the teams. And basically the first person to score a pinfall wins the match for his team. The problem for a champion in that position is you don’t have to be pinned to lose your title. So, we’re at a very strong disadvantage.
Holmes: That seems ridiculously unfair. Isn’t there someone in TNA management you can complain to?
Daniels: That’s the problem; we’ve been so dominant in the past couple of months that they’ve decided to stack the deck against us. We’ve made enemies in high places. Dixie Carter (the owner of TNA wrestling) has been upset with some of the things we’ve done on “Impact” national television. But, what she can’t deny is they we’re the better team. She can’t send two guys against us, she has to send four.

Holmes: OK, I’m not going to beat around the bush here; why are you so mean to AJ Styles?
Daniels: I’m as good or better than AJ Styles, but I’ve never been given my just due because AJ Styles has been Dixie Carter’s favorite. He’s been the face of TNA ever since the very first day. All I’ve ever said to anyone is, if you give us the same opportunity I’ll do better than AJ Styles. The problem is, he’s been handed things from the very beginning. He’s been give title shots, he’s been given endorsement deals. He’s the favorite son and I’m the stepchild. And that’s why I’m upset, and Frankie Kazarian feels the same way. We’re trying to show the world that AJ Styles is a dirtbag, he’s mean and evil, he’s a bully, and people don’t like to hear that.
Holmes: But c’mon, having Claire Lynch pretend to be pregnant with his child? That’s awful.
Daniels: Well, that whole thing was a ploy from Claire Lynch and her lawyer. Our names were brought into it inadvertently. Frankie and I really had nothing to do with that.
Holmes: Uh huh…
Daniels: History will prove that Frankie and I were nothing but bastions of the truth all along.
Holmes: A likely story, Mr. Daniels.

Holmes: My problem with TNA in the past has been that you’ve got this incredible roster of talented guys from Samoa Joe to AJ to Kurt Angle, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Sting, of course the World Tag Team Champions of the World and so on. TNA’s got all the pieces to put on an amazing show, and yet they always seem to come up short. I always felt like there were weird payoffs to the stories or things were dragged out too long. It just never clicked for me. But now, it seems like things are coming together. You’re making new stars, established guys like Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy are stepping up, the Austin Aries X Division storyline had an amazing payoff. Has TNA finally turned the corner?
Daniels: Absolutely. I think in the last year, especially since we’ve gone live, we’ve had a lot of things fall into place for us. We’ve got a great creative unit going on. And in the last nine months with the creative team, they’ve been very open to collaboration. In the past we’ve had guys who’ve never wrestled who tried to steer the ship and they didn’t seem to have a very good grasp on how to do wrestling. Now, this creative team has guys who’ve wrestled in the past and guys who have been writing wrestling for a very long time. And, they come to us and ask for collaboration. Now, every idea we give them isn’t used, but at least they’ve heard our voices. I personally feel like Frankie Kazarian and I have turned the corner as far as performers, as far as a tag team. I feel like we’re the best team going now, I feel like we have the most entertaining matches. When we’re on the microphone, when we’re on camera, I think we’re more entertaining than anyone else when it comes to tag teams.
Holmes: It seems like you two are having more fun. Which maybe seems weird in a form of entertainment that involves kicking people in the face, but I think that kind of chemistry helps the viewer have fun too. As far as collaboration, how much of the appletinis and whatnot came from you guys?
Daniels: That’s 1000% us, man. Everything you see, the little nuisances, the “World Tag Team Champions of the World,” the appletinis, the way we wear the belts, all that is stuff we decided to do because it made us laugh. One guy said something and it made the other guy laugh, then we said, “Well, let’s do that on television.” The creative team is basically letting us do what we think is entertaining.

Holmes: You’re having the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names this sport has ever produced. I turn on Spike TV and I see Christopher Daniels giving grief to Hulk Hogan. What’s it like to get to mix it up with someone you grew up watching?
Daniels: It’s awesome, man. That’s another thing, in the last couple of months they’ve given us an opportunity to be entertaining, not just in the ring but on the microphone. Dealing with guys like Sting, dealing with guys like Hulk Hogan and then behind the scenes dealing with guys like Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey who are very hands-on with the way they do their stuff. It’s been a big collaboration.

Holmes: You’ve been in this business for almost twenty years now. What kind of advice do you give the new guys?
Daniels: The more that they can wrestle outside of their comfort zone, outside of their backyard…and I don’t mean literally their backyard. If they can get away from where they were trained and wrestle different wrestlers for different promoters. If they become so comfortable with themselves that they can go into a locker room and meet a wrestler for the first time and then two hours later wrestle an entertaining match with that person, that’s when they become a commodity to promoters around the world.
Holmes: If you could go back and give a young Christopher Daniels some advice, what would it be?
Daniels: That’s a good question, man. Just think more on the choices that you’re making. I feel like I did a lot right as far as working with all of the people that I did. I’m very proud that I never burnt a bridge. I never badmouthed a promoter even if I didn’t like what I did for them. I feel like I’ve conducted myself with an air of respectability that is important if you want to remain a commodity. I don’t know…don’t get hurt, maybe?
Holmes: Oh, you’ve jinxed him.
Daniels: Watch out for that flip. Don’t fall down so much.

Holmes: You worked as a character named Curry Man in Japan?
Daniels: Yes.
Holmes: For our readers who don’t know the legend of Curry Man, could you give us a quick synopsis?
Daniels: Curry Man is a character based on a Japanese comic book character named Curry Cook. And basically, the mask of Curry Man has a plate of curry and rice that sits atop his head. Now, Curry Man the character enjoys wrestling and he enjoys life. He loves to dance, he loves the women, he loves to make a spectacle of himself. He wears flashy colors. He calls himself the “King of Spice.” And he likes to say he’s hot, he’s spicy, and he tastes great. I myself don’t know how he tastes.
Holmes: Of course.
Daniels: But I’m sure if he was here he’d say that he tastes phenomenal.
Holmes: Now, that’s quite a departure from the Fallen Angel character you were doing in the States. What did playing such an outlandish character teach you?
Daniels: The time I spent as Curry Man taught me to not take myself so seriously and to have fun. Coming up when I did, I took wrestling very seriously. I knew it was a business and I knew the more I put into it the more I’d get out of it. Sometimes I think I took it too seriously. And once I started doing the Curry Man character and relaxing and having fun with it in terms of doing the dancing and doing the comedy of it, I learned that I could be entertaining and be a draw without taking it so seriously. It took a big burden off of my shoulders.
Holmes: You’re telling me that a masked man dancing with a plate of curry on his head can’t be serious?
Daniels: You’re not curing cancer. And if you’re having fun, the fans are having fun. It’s sort of infectious.
Holmes: That raises an interesting question in that one of the criticisms of the X Division style is that it’s more centered around amazing maneuvers than fun and storytelling. Did your time as Curry Man help you appreciate the more character-based side of the business?
Daniels: Yeah, but I think the X Division has its audience as well. The audience that appreciates athleticism and high-energy wrestling, that’s going to be their thing. For me, growing up watching guys in the NWA, guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors, I felt like those guys put wrestling first. They were still characters, but in the end when it came time to wrestle, they could go. Ric Flair was wrestling 90-minute matches against guys like Barry Windham. In the last couple of years I’ve paid more attention to how I was being outside the ring as far as the character, as far as entertainment-wise.
Holmes: Your Fallen Angel character has definitely enjoyed a few added dimensions recently. Was that a conscious decision to let a little more of yourself out?
Daniels: It was. When I first started doing the Fallen Angel character I thought it was going to touch a lot of people because most everybody has a strong sense of their place in religion. But in hindsight, it was more of a character I was playing versus a character that I actually was.  I thought that was the downfall of the Fallen Angel character, so to speak. Me being me now, being somewhat of a smart ass, that’s more of who I am. It’s me amplified.

Holmes: Who do you think will be the next big thing in TNA? And you can’t pick yourself or AJ or Aries or Kazarian. Who on the lower rung should we keep an eye out for?
Daniels: I think Kenny King is going to be somebody to see once the focus is back on the X Division. I feel like Kenny deserves the spotlight. I think Sonjay Dutt is finally going to get an opportunity to shine once he gets back from his shoulder injury. And he’s someone who has a lot of character, he just hasn’t been able to show it. And then Xema (Ion), of course. He’s a great character, he’s a great athlete. He’s very young, but he has a lot of experience. It’s a matter of giving him an opportunity to show that side of him.

Holmes: Wrestling has been out of the closet as far as being entertainment for almost 30 years now. However, non-fans still feel the need to ask, “Is it fake?” I know wrestlers hate the term “fake” because pro wrestling really hurts. My question here is; why do you think people still feel the need to ask that question?
Daniels: I think it’s the same mentality as magic. I think people understand that magic and illusions are exactly that, they’re illusions. But until they know the trick, they’re not completely satisfied. And I think that’s the power of pro wrestling. Like you’ve said, people have known it’s entertainment for many years, but our power is if we can get people to question just for a moment. That’s where you lose yourself. It’s hard for people in this day and age to come into any form of entertainment and have that…what’s the word?
Holmes: Suspension of disbelief?
Daniels: Yes! Especially in this day and age with the internet, people want to be backstage and know the secrets. If we can just get people to forget and enjoy the show as it is, rather than try to pick it apart and analyze it, that’s the power. The best wrestlers in the world are the ones who get people to forget their preconceived notion of what wrestling is.
Holmes: It’s weird, because people never get on the Harlem Globetrotters for that.
Daniels: (Laughs) Yeah, they’re not trying to look up the Generals’ win/loss record.
Holmes: Nobody questions the refereeing when they get hit with a bucket of water.
Daniels: Why aren’t those guys being drafted?

Holmes: You’re a father…um…as you well know. What do your kids think of Dad going out and doing horrible things to AJ Styles?
Daniels: They worry sometimes. They understand what Daddy does and they understand with Uncle AJ and Uncle Frankie what our relationship is. I get yelled at for not winning all my matches, but I tell them that I’m doing my best. They get upset when Uncle AJ or Uncle Samoa Joe hit me too hard. These things happen. I try to make them understand that in the end it’s entertainment and in the end Daddy’s going to come home and be 100% as best he can. They haven’t really seen behind the curtains 100% yet. They have met a lot of the wrestlers; my daughter has met a lot of the Knockouts (TNA’s women’s division). She wants to be a Knockout when she grows up. I told her that’s not going to happen.
Holmes: (Laughs) Good dad.

Holmes: Alright, “Bound for Glory” is this Sunday. I will be planted on my couch in front of a TV watching it. Why should everyone else tune in?
Daniels: We have the hungriest locker room in the world. We’re still growing. We want people to know about us. We want people to know that we have the most talented locker room. And, this is our big event, “Bound for Glory” is our Super Bowl. We’ll lay it all on the line.
Holmes: Your main event is Austin Aries against Jeff Hardy…
Daniels: We’ve got a guy who has become a skyrocket in the last year as far as Austin Aries. He’s become the World champion out of nowhere, and he’s out to prove that he’s better than someone like Jeff Hardy who’s been to the dance, who’s done just about everything in professional wrestling.
Holmes: And the World Tag Team Title defense?
Daniels: You’ve got the best tag team in the world today, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian defending their titles against two of the best teams in the business. Kurt Angle and AJ Styles are two former World champions, a dream team and then Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez are two great wrestlers in their own right.
Holmes: Alright, I’m psyched. But I’ve got a favor to ask you.
Daniels: OK.
Holmes: You’ve got to go easy on my boy AJ.
Daniels: Well, there are three other guys I can beat up in that match, so I’m fine with that. I’ll spread it out evenly.

Watch TNA’s “Bound for Glory” this Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Pay Per View.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Impact Wrestling’s Rob Van Dam on ‘Bound for Glory,’ Hulk Hogan & Jeff Hardy

August 4, 2011

You know why wrestling’s the best? It isn’t the flashy costumes, the cool nicknames, or the amazing feats of athleticism.

It’s the ability to refer to yourself in the third person.

The Rock does it, the Hulkster does it, but I’d argue that nobody does it better than Rob Van Dam. I got a chance to hang out with Impact Wrestling’s “Whole F’n Show” (or as he’d refer to himself, “RVD”) backstage at a special invitation-only event held at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. While there we discussed what sets him apart from other high flyers, why he joined Impact Wrestling, and the possible return of Jeff Hardy.

Gordon Holmes: I know you’re a bit of a comic fan. Did you get a chance to wander out and see some of the sights?
Rob Van Dam:
Yeah, I walked the whole floor yesterday, this is I think my 8th or 9th year coming here. I’m a big comic fan and I’m always hunting and finding things. Not so this year, there’s nothing I want that I don’t already have.

Watch Full Episodes of ‘Impact Wrestling’ on Your Computer

Holmes: I caught the match between you and Jerry Lynn a few weeks ago at “Destination X.” You two brought the house down. What were your thoughts on the match?
Van Dam:
I liked the match. It’s always a good match. My favorite match of my career was RVD vs. Jerry Lynn, for the reasons of the competitive spirit that comes out, the limits that we push each other to, and the chemistry that I don’t have with anyone else in the industry. I haven’t wrestled him since 2001, but we picked up right where we left off.
Holmes: I talked to Hulk Hogan a few days ago, he’s here promoting “Saints Row the Third.” He agreed that you and Lynn had a hell of a match. What does it mean to receive that kind of praise from someone with a background like Hulk Hogan?
Van Dam: It means a lot. I don’t even know if Hulk knows what a fan I am of his. But of course, I’m from a generation that grew up on Hulkamania, so he should know that. There’s only one Hulk. He might be the most recognizable person on the whole planet. I’m not even going to just limit it to athletes. He’s reached a phenomenal spot that I don’t think anybody else will. He’s also the reason that I came to TNA. I hadn’t planned on it even after talking to Dixie (Carter), Vince Russo, (Eric) Bischoff, and (Jason) Hervey. They wanted me to be excited and it wasn’t happening. I said, “When they’re serious, Hulk Hogan will call me.” And when he did I said, “Alright, let’s start talking.” By the way, RVD is also in “Saints Row.” I don’t think anybody knows that yet.
Holmes: What character are you playing?
Van Dam: I commentated during the wrestling. I don’t even know what my character’s name is, but I was reading the script, and ad-libbing and adding a lot to it. The game seems like it’s a lot of fun. One of the lines is, “Oh my God! He’s got a chainsaw!” It’s crazy.
Holmes: Are you a gamer at all?
Van Dam: Not at all. I appreciate games; I used to play them when I was young. But, I don’t spend any time on them.

Holmes: There are hundreds guys that can do flips and high-flying maneuvers. What is it about you that stands out?
Van Dam:
Well, for one, I’m the real deal. I am a bad ass. I am a tough guy, I’m not pretending to be. I went through martial arts. I went through kick boxing. I went through tough man competitions before I ever went to wrestling school. So, the confidence I have isn’t a part of a character. It’s me knowing that when I’m in that ring I feel safe giving my body up. And my style is a combination of martial arts and acrobatics. And, I had an old-school pro wrestling teacher, the original Sheik. That’s what’s missing in so many of the wrestlers these days. They have no link to the old school, they don’t understand the actual roots and the basics of what wrestling is and what it’s about. Some of them may have been trained by somebody who got trained by someone who trained themself. They may be good enough to get into the business, but the agents and the people watching know they’re missing something.
Holmes: As you said, you were trained by the original Sheik. He was a wild man. What did he say the first time he saw you hop up onto the top rope and deliver a split-legged moonsault?
Van Dam: He said, “Show me a headlock.” He didn’t want me getting on the top rope. Every time the guy I’m working out with, if his shoulders are on the mat? Cover him. Cover him. Cover him! That’s what Sheik was all about. Grab him, headlock, hammerlock.

Holmes: “Bound for Glory” is going to be held in my hometown and a place you have a lot of history with, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Is coming back to the home of the original ECW special to you?
Van Dam:
It totally is, cause I know I’ll feel some deep love from all the fans in Philly. They appreciate what I’ve done for the business. They appreciate what I do outside of the ring. And they’re really hardcore fans in Philly, so they know the difference. They may boo the guys that get cheered in other towns because that’s what they’re all about. They’re the most judgmental crowd on the planet. They watch you, they study you and wait for you to slip or your timing to be off so they can say “You (expletive deleted) up! You (expletive deleted) up!” That’s a lot of pressure when you’re out there.
Holmes: Yeah, but we mean that in the nicest possible way.
Van Dam: (Laughs) Hey man, the Philly fans’ standards are way up. It made me rise to the expectation. So, to be the number one guy was really flattering. I couldn’t have been the “Whole F’n Show” without those peoples’ guidance.

Holmes: We haven’t seen Jeff Hardy in a while. Do you think he’ll be able to turn it around and make a comeback?
Van Dam:
Yeah, I think so. I haven’t heard anything on the inside, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard from him soon.

Holmes: If I’m someone who hasn’t seen Impact Wrestling, what’s the best way to get me on board?
Van Dam:
There’s another show out there on your television other than that crap that you have to watch every week. I still get asked every week, “RVD, what happened? You quit wrestling?” I’m like, “You get Spike? Thursday nights at nine!” There’s a lot of potential, it’s going in the right direction, ratings are going up. We have more freedom as wrestlers to express ourselves. We’ve got Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam. This is where everybody wants to be. Everyone’s trying to come here. But it’s not that easy to get in now that the “Whole F’n Show” is here.

Watch ‘Impact Wrestling‘ on Spike TV, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.

Hulk Hogan on C.M. Punk, ‘Saints Row,’ and His Reconciliation with Randy Savage

July 27, 2011

He smashed attendance records and opponents in the world of professional wrestling. He body slammed the box office (and Sylvester Stallone) as he rampaged his way through Hollywood. Now he has set his sights on the video game industry.

He’s the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan.

I had a chance to go toe-to-toe with “The Hulkster” at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. While there we talked about overcoming the depression caused by his divorce and his son’s accident, C.M. Punk’s sudden rise in the WWE, and his video game alter-ego, Angel de la Muerte.

Gordon Holmes: How are you enjoying Comic Con?

Hulk Hogan: It’s cool. The energy is over the top. Anyone that’s into animation and these kinds of vicarious characterizations, they have this crazy imagination that runs wild. So to go in there and to get that energy and to be around them was really cool. I’ve been here a few times and realize how grateful I am that they still care about Hulk Hogan. A huge shot in the arm. The problem is 95% of the fans are men. The other 5% are good-looking women who don’t bring food.

Holmes: For all the ladies reading this, I understand that Hulk Hogan is a big fan of dark chocolate.

Hogan: You’d like to kill me? Then bring as much chocolate as you can, because I will eat every bit of it.

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Holmes: I’ve gotta admit, I’m still not used to you having tattoos.

Hogan: (Reading his tattoos) “I am that I am.” That’s the first time God talked to Moses. God said, “I am that I am.” (Pointing around the room) “I am that, I am that.” It just means that God is everywhere. I’m on this whole religious, crazy, spiritual, scientific trip that just changed my life.

Holmes: I read your book (“Hulk Hogan: My Life Outside the Ring”). It was particularly tough reading about the dark place you ended up emotionally after your divorce and your son’s accident. But seeing all those fans, you’ve gotta know that people care about you.

Hogan: People are good, man.

Holmes: I’m glad you made it through that.

Hogan: Thank you, brother. No, it’s cool. It all happened for a reason. The divorce, the wreck my son was in. My ego was always present, I thought it was the worst thing that’d ever happened. But as soon as my ego became dormant, and I had this God space that I function in that I call “The Sweet Spot,” I realized everything happened for a reason. That’s my Bible thumping for the day, brother!

Holmes: You’re doing a video game, “Saints Row the Third.” I’ve seen a video of it and it looks insane. You play Angel de la Muerte. What can you tell me about him?

Hogan: It’s pretty crazy because they’ve taken the best of the wrestling community and plugged it into some superhero character. We’ve got the standard good guy/bad guy story; his partner Killbane turned on him.

Holmes: Was it tough making the transition to a video game voice actor?

Hogan: When I got into the vocal booth I had a bunch of help from the people who created the game. And once I found that sweet spot where Angel should be, I think I beat it up pretty good. But I laugh because now these guys are going to have to keep using me. But the character is great, and there seems to be a ton of interest. He has the knee brace on the same knee that I hurt originally. These guys are the best of the best at what they do. I think they’re on to something.

Holmes: Your character Angel de la Muerta was turned on by his partner Killbane. That seems like Wrestling Feud 101.

Hogan: The conflict is pretty easy. It’s the storyline driven stuff that makes wrestling work. Some of the new writers and new breed of wrestlers try to make more out of it than what it is. They’ll elaborate on the storylines, but the people don’t remember that. All they remember is the good guys go like this (holds his fists up) and the bad guys go like that (cowers in fear). Good guys go forward, bad guys go backward.

Holmes: I know you have a history of partners turning on you with Paul Orndorff, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, “Macho Man” Randy Savage…

Hogan: I think the ultimate act of betrayal is when a friend or a partner turns on you. Even more so in real life, because I have had someone, who was a good friend, turn on me. Macho Man did. And thank God, right before he passed away we started talking again.

Holmes: How did that reconciliation take place?

Hogan: It was really cool because I was going on my seventh back surgery and I couldn’t pass an EKG because my body was so stressed out from all the anesthesia. The doctor was trying to see what I could do to get this back surgery, I was sitting there with my new wife Jennifer and all the sudden the door bangs open and we hear, (imitating the “Macho Man”) “Hey, what’s up, brother? Oh yeah!” And I thought, “Oh my God, it’s Randy.” And my wife Jennifer didn’t know who he was. But, just the fact that we got back together after all of that conflict and him turning on me…and he turned on me on a personal level. He thought I was responsible for his divorce and his business deals and stuff. He confided in me that he felt bad for all the things I went through with my problems. And he said, “I feel so bad that I was such a jackass.” And he was really cool and we talked.

Holmes: So there’s hope for Angel and Killbane to patch things up?

Hogan: I can’t wait for the day where he begs for forgiveness and repents. This is the artform of life, brother, and it works. And that’s why this game is going to work. And that’s why it’s always worked; good vs. evil.

Holmes: Does Angel de la Muerte bust out any of your classic moves?

Hogan: He uses everything, brother. They have the technology to make him drop legs, suplex Killbane off of the top of the cage like I did to the Big Bossman back in the day. He can do whatever he wants in there, brother, because he doesn’t have any injuries except for that weak knee.

Holmes: Who wins in a fight; Hulk Hogan or Angel de la Muerte?

Hogan: I’ll put him over (wrestling slang for letting someone win).

Holmes: That’s good for the game. Makes Angel look strong.

Hogan: That means we get to go again, right? It was a fluke, brother!

Holmes: You slipped on a banana peel.

Hogan: (Laughs) I slipped on a banana peel. The sun was in my eyes. I just need to know if you were better than me on that day. You’ve gotta put him over. That’s why I don’t understand the (John) Cena thing. The first one was free; two good guys, him and the Rock. You don’t have to turn him heel yet (wrestling slang for becoming a bad guy).

Holmes: Are you paying attention to what’s going on in the WWE?

Hogan: Yeah, man, they’re saying my name every week.

Holmes: What does it mean to you when you tune in and hear them talking about you?

Hogan: It’s a huge compliment for them to say my name. It’s a huge compliment that they’re open-minded. It makes me realize that I’m Terry Bollea and I’m very humble with how nice people are to me, but there’s really something to this Hulk Hogan character. That’s why I had “Immortal” tattooed on my back. The religious thing is that I’m going to live forever because I’ve accepted Christ as my savior, which is the main reason, along with the fact that the Hulk Hogan character is going to be a part of history. The character is going to be immortal. Just like TNA’s alive again, getting ready for the red and the yellow, it makes me realize that no matter what happens in the WWE Universe, I’m part of that history package. So, it’s really cool when they name drop me.

Holmes: There have been moments that have changed the modern era of the wrestling business. One was when you defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWE (then WWF) title.

Hogan: (Imitating the Iron Sheik) I can’t believe you, jabroni!

Holmes: (Laughs) Watch your language if you’re going to do a Sheik impersonation.

Hogan: (Laughs) I know, brother. I’m not going to mention Brian Blair.

Holmes: (Laughs) Other moments are the formation of the nWo and Steve Austin’s “Austin 3:16” speech. Some are saying C.M. Punk’s interview has this potential. Did you have a chance to catch the episode of “Raw” a few weeks ago where Punk vented about the state of the WWE?

Hogan: Yeah, as soon as Vince deregulated wrestling in the ‘80s and told everybody that it’s entertainment and the finishes are predetermined, he decided that it’s a better move not to insult the people’s intelligence. We’re not out there saying “It’s real, brother!” I mean, it’s not fake because of all of the injuries. So, even though Vince has deemed it entertainment, people still want to believe. And when C.M. Punk did his thing, I think people just want to believe. Even on my Twitter account, people are saying,  “Hey, are you going to hire C.M. Punk? If John Cena gets fired he says he’s coming to your company!” I think it is so cool that people, even if you tell them that it is predetermined, that the art form, when done correctly, people can still get sucked into it. They still want to live vicariously through the wrestlers. It makes me realize that wrestling will always be around.

Holmes: Do you think Punk has what it takes to be the next big thing?

Hogan: It depends. It’s not Punk’s decision, it’s Vince McMahon. When he was on TV the other night and said he could make ten John Cenas, that’s true. When Vince McMahon says he can make another Hulk Hogan, that’s true. Everybody’s replaceable. It’s the power of the TV, it’s not the power of the wrestlers. Now, if you’re given the football, you’ve got to be able to run with it. Cause a lot of guys were given the ball. The Rock ran with it a certain distance. Stone Cold ran with it a certain distance. Hulk Hogan ran with it a certain distance. We all have our run. But it’s really the power of the TV. TV is the star.

Impact Wrestling” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV.

“Saints Row the Third” will be released for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 on November 15, 2011.


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