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TNA Champion EC3 and challenger Drew Galloway are Bound for Glory

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TNA Champion EC3 and challenger Drew Galloway are Bound for Glory

Posted on 03 October 2015 by Jonathan Williams

Drew GallowayBound for Glory is Total Nonstop Action Wrestling‘s biggest pay-per-view of the year, and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship is the company’s grandest prize. Taking place at Cabarrus Arena in Concord, N.C. Oct. 4, this year’s Bound for Glory is headlined by Ethan Carter III defending his Championship against Drew Galloway. Wrestling with Pop Culture recently got to take part in a conference call with Carter and Galloway, prior to last Wednesday’s airing of Impact Wrestling, where it was revealed that Matt Hardy will also be involved in the match and Jeff Hardy will be the special guest referee. As both competitors prepare for what could become the biggest match of their careers, here are highlights from that call.

Bound for Glory is the biggest show of the year for TNA and the spotlight will be on each of you to set the stage going into 2016. If you’re able to get people talking about the wrestling in the ring as opposed to the extraneous stuff outside of your control, it could be a positive thing for TNA moving forward. What kind of pressure does that put on each of you personally and professionally? Is it pressure you welcome?

Carter: Well, seeing as I am the World Heavyweight Champion, I feel no pressure because I am completely confident in my abilities and the abilities of my opponent to deliver a match for the ages. It’s our opportunity. It’s our company now and we’re at the forefront. We’re the guys that want it the most and the guys that are going to do it the best. I feel nothing but confidence.

Galloway: That was a heck of an answer from the champ, but I pretty much feel exactly the same. You’ve got a couple of guys that love this business. When I was gone from WWE, I ran out of the gates on the independent scene, made my way to TNA and was given an opportunity. That’s what we want. We don’t feel pressure, we feel opportunity. Trust me, we’ll both deliver. We’re excited about it and fired up. This is the match of our lifetime and it’s a big match for TNA.

One of Carter’s first title defenses after winning the title from Kurt Angle was against Galloway. What have you learned about each other as opponents and how to plan on being victorious on Sunday.

Galloway: What I learned in my first opportunity at the World title, as well as one of EC3’s first defenses, is that not only is he a complete entertainer, but in the ring he can get it done as well. You don’t know what somebody can truly do in the ring until you get in there with them. You can watch, you can assume and you can guess, especially if you’re a performer yourself. But until you’re in the ring with somebody, you don’t know what somebody can bring. He can bring it just as well in the ring as he can outside the ring.

EC3 vs. Drew GallowayComing into this match, I’ve been training hard. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been in Australia, the U.K., darting all over the place having some hard-hitting matches and it’s all in preparation for the biggest match of my life. I’m coming in ready and I know he’s coming in ready. We guarantee one hell of a fight, never mind a wrestling match.

Carter: I’ve been working really hard myself preparing for this match. I’ve been taking a lot of naps, getting a lot of massages and just focusing on keeping my body in shape. As far as the hard-hitting matches, maybe not so much across the world like Drew’s doing, but that’s because I don’t need to do that. I am the World Heavyweight Champion. Last time I faced Drew Galloway, I’ll be honest, I caught a break with the interference of Eli Drake. But this is a different story, this is a different show. This is Bound for Glory and this is the biggest match of the year for TNA and there will be no shenanigans of that nature. This will be hard hitting, this will be an epic contest and I always deliver when the lights are the brightest.

Do you expect Sunday’s match to be a mat classic, an all-out brawl or maybe a little bit of both?

Carter: I see it being both. I can see us feeling each other out and a mat classic developing. I can see the over aggressiveness in a mistake-prone Drew Galloway trying to take advantage by making it a brawl. I can see myself retaining the title with one of my many finishers, whether it’s the one percenter, the schoolboy or the sunset flip.

Galloway: After 30 years of aggression, 15 years as a wrestler, I think forward is the right direction for my aggression. I can predict we’re going to go out there and give you a little bit of everything, all the best parts of professional wrestling. There’s going to be a little bit of comedy, there’s going to be aggression, there’s going to be some big near falls and there’s going to be a big finish. I guarantee it’s going to incorporate every single thing everybody loves about professional wrestling. We’re going all out and we’re leaving it all out there. Expect some very bad bumps, as well.

Carter: You’re hard pressed in this industry to find a more aggressive guy than Drew. It’s going to be physical and I’m prepared for it. I’m Teflon, I’m indestructible, I’m unpinnable, unbreakable, unbeatable, undefeated, undisputed. So, either way – mat classic, all-out fight – it’s going to be great.

Was there a feeling of vindication when you won the World Heavyweight Championship and received such a positive response when that show aired?

Carter: There was an immediate sense of vindication. But that sense of vindication immediately left me because I knew that now the hard work begins. Being chased is harder than the chase. Yes, there was vindication. But I could only rest on that success for a short time before I moved on to the next thing, and that’s becoming the greatest TNA Champion of all time.

TNA has been in a rebuilding period since you came to the company. What has that experience been like for you?

Drew GallowayGalloway: I had no goals of being back on American television so quickly. I had been gone from WWE for six or seven months and was really making a name for myself on the underground. I was happy and didn’t want to be back on TV just yet. Then I spoke with Big [John Gaburick, executive vice president of creative & talent relations] and he made it clear to me they were going in a different direction and going to give some younger guys an opportunity to rebuild and we want you to be part of that. I knew it was a good bunch of guys and when I came in and saw how dedicated, how passionate and how good everybody was, I knew there was no way this was not going to work. It was a great environment, a great television show, the backstage staff was great, the bosses were great, the boys were amazing and everybody gets it done in the ring. To be the focal point of that with EC3, somebody I’ve known for so many years, is a very cool thing to be a part of.

Earlier this year you said you wanted to emulate Ric Flair and be a traveling champion. Have you discussed with Dixie taking that title and touring across the world?

Galloway: I’ve not discussed it with management, but I’ve certainly discussed it with myself over the past year now. I’ve always had this clear plan in my head of being a professional wrestler who is able to travel the world, wrestle as myself, talk as myself. I’ve been able to do it everywhere, especially in TNA. I’ve had the opportunity to compete for all these titles and have been fortunate enough to win the ICW title, the SWA title, the Danish title, the Australian title, the Evolve title, the Dragon Gate title… But the ultimate goal has been the TNA title and my goal is to be the first traveling champion since Ric Flair. If I’m able to win that TNA title and take it across the world, I’m pretty sure that’s as close as it’s going to come to emulating somebody like Flair.

Carter: What Drew is saying is good in theory, but it’s also something I’m currently doing as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. I don’t know if people realize I am traveling to all sorts of illustrious places worldwide like Boise, Idaho, Detroit, Michigan and Omaha, Nebraska. I’m defending the World title there against some of the best competition those local podunk promotions have. I’m also a traveling World Champion.

Speaking of Ric Flair, Bound for Glory is being held in what is commonly known to wrestling fans as Flair Country. What role do you think the location and audience will play in your match, being that Charlotte is so rich in wrestling history?

Galloway: There are a few places in America with rich wrestling history and Charlotte is one of them. Everybody remembers, or for the younger kids watching today their parents and grandparents are telling them, that they appreciate wrestling. This is going to be a show. Don’t expect much talking, don’t expect many segments being dragged out, just expect 100 percent wrestling, especially from our match. This is a place that expects the best you can possibly give in the ring, the highest quality. And we’re going to give them every single possible thing we can give.

Carter: Being in Flair Country, I’ll be throwing a lot of chops, I’ll be poking a lot of eyes, I’ll be raking a lot of backs and I guaran-damn-tee I’ll go to that top rope and attempt a double ax handle. But I will not get thrown off. I will hit it because I am the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and I always hit my double ax handle.

Galloway: You just told me your entire offense. Not very smart, Champ.

Looking past Bound for Glory, TNA has a few shows in Louisianna and Mississippi as part of the Hardcore Halloween Tour in late October and early November. Then you’re off to the United Kingdom for the Maximum Impact events in January. Given TNA’s popularity in the U.K., and the fact that these events will be your first opportunity to defend the TNA title outside the United States, what will it mean to you to be representing the company as the Champion at these shows?

Ethan Carter IIICarter: First of all, thanks for the plug for the Hardcore Halloween Tour. That is going to be a great series of live events that only TNA Impact Wrestling can bring to you live. As far as going to England as the World Heavyweight Champion, that is fully my intention to represent this brand globally and go to one of our hottest markets as the Champion. Last year was interesting because not only did I become the megastar that I am in that standout performance against Rockstar Spud, but Drew Galloway also debuted. Now here we are at Bound for Glory getting ready to lock horns and do battle to see who truly wants it the most. When we go over to England, I fully intend on still being the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and I fully intend on never losing the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

Galloway: It is coming up on a year in the making and both of us have made some huge strides. That’s my biggest goal is for Drew Galloway to come home as the Champion. The U.K. is my home market and one of our strongest markets, and it’s the wildest and best wrestling fans. I travel the world and see all the different scenes and the U.K. is on fire right now. Everybody always asks me, “What is it about the U.K. that makes [the fans] different?” I always explain to them that it’s like a soccer crowd. If you’ve ever been to a professional American sport, somebody will stand up and shout something and people will give him a look of disgust. In soccer back home, if you’re not standing up and shouting something you’re getting your ass kicked. You’ve got to be loud and crazy, making noise the entire show, doing chants the entire show, getting into and being passionate. That’s the kind of fans we’ve got coming to these shows. If I come home the Champion in front of all these wild, crazy maniacs it will be the greatest thing ever. If I don’t come home the Champion in front of these wild, crazy maniacs, they may just bottle me anyway.

Carter: I’m actually fearing my life going back now. Thank you for that, Drew.

Both of you had careers in WWE and have had bigger careers in TNA. How do you feel you’ve grown as wrestlers since coming to TNA?

Carter: Being a wrestler, going through the system, striving, trying, knocking on different doors, calling different people, trying to make things happen and it never really works out – when I came over to TNA, it all kind of came into place. They believed in my talents and let me develop as a character. I couldn’t be happier because without that forum, I’d just be a forgotten casualty in the wrestling business. Now I’m the World Heavyweight Champion and the hottest act going today.

Galloway: I’ve been wrestling since I was 15. I was just finishing university when I got signed to come to America. I honestly didn’t have a plan. I had a criminology degree and would have probably started a regular job. But I’ve never had a regular job. I’ve always been a wrestler. Luckily I got signed and came to America when I had just turned 22. I was right on TV, grew up here, developed here, learned the American style (it’s a very different style over in Europe) and grew as a person and as a wrestler. When I got the opportunities to showcase what I could do, perhaps I wasn’t so ready when I was younger. Thankfully, once I was away from WWE – they’re the reason I was able to get booked everywhere, I’ll never knock WWE or anybody there – it was up to me to reinvent myself because so many guys leave the company, like EC3 mentioned, and they’re forgotten about. We’re just not like that, we’re not built like everybody else. We’re the kind of guys that go out and say, “Screw that!” We’re going to kick the doors down, we’re going to make people notice us because we believe in ourselves, we believe in our talents, we’ve been taught the right way, learned the right way, we’ve listened and we’ve pushed past because of ourselves. Thankfully TNA has given us the platform to show the world what we’re both capable of.

Ethan, you debuted at Bound for Glory two years ago. Drew, you debuted in Glasgow on the U.K. tour earlier this year. How does it feel to be headlining TNA’s biggest show of the year within such a short timeframe?

Carter: For me, two years since my debut, this is exactly where I expected myself to be. As I said earlier, I feel a sense of vindication. But I also feel a sense of responsibility to deliver. I’ve been given this opportunity and I intend to live up to it every time I step into the ring. I intend to work the hardest, always deliver, be awesome, be EC3, be the Champ.

Galloway: For myself, it was a big deal for me to wrestle. That’s what was going to make me happy coming off the run I had. All I wanted to do was wrestle. I had the opportunity to be Drew Galloway – I would never have come in under any funny name or anything like that. I was always going to be Drew Galloway no matter where I go. If you let me wrestle and be myself, I don’t care where I am on the show. Inevitably, you want to work your way up. If what you’re doing is getting people’s attention and you know you are deserving of the opportunity, that’s very cool for me. This is my life’s work and all I want to do is be a professional wrestler. Getting this opportunity to do what I love…

Carter: This World Heavyweight title is my life’s work and I just want to commend Drew, before I defeat him. It’s outstanding what can happen when a talent is allowed to be himself and is given an opportunity to get by on his own merits and succeed. It’s commendable for Drew to come over here and do just that.

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Kurt Angle and EC3 discuss Slammiversary and “Bell to Bell” title match

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Kurt Angle and EC3 discuss Slammiversary and “Bell to Bell” title match

Posted on 28 June 2015 by Jonathan Williams

SlammiversaryTotal Nonstop Action Wrestling celebrates it’s 13th anniversary with its Slammiversary pay-per-view tonight, June 28, beginning at 8 p.m. EST. Aside from the buzz surrounding Jeff Jarrett’s return to the company last Wednesday, and the first King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary in six years, however, a majority of the TNA talk is about the World Heavyweight Championship match between Kurt Angle and Ethan Carter III that will air on Impact Wrestling: Bell to Bell on July 1. Despite the fact that Angle is featured on the Slammiversary poster with the championship belt over his shoulder, there is no advertised match for Angle or the title at Slammiversary. And considering that the Bell to Bell title match was recorded prior to Slammiversary, it’s probably better not to spoil the outcome by having Angle wrestle on the PPV (though I don’t understand why the title match wasn’t the main event of Slammiversary in the first place). All that aside, Wrestling with Pop Culture took part in a TNA conference call with Angle and EC3 prior to Slammiversary and the Bell to Bell taping. During this call, the two combatants discussed their year-plus rivalry, their mutual respect for one another and other topics.

Slammiversary is known as an anniversary looking back. What is one moment you look back on and always remember? What are some things you expect in the next couple of months for TNA?

Ethan Carter IIIAngle: I’ve always enjoyed Slammiversary. It’s one of our biggest pay-per-views of the year. I can’t remember one in particular that I truly remember, but I’ve had some incredible matches at this pay-per-view.

Carter: If I could just ask for a moment of silence for the member of my barber shop quintet that was Angle slammed by Mr. Angle and had his back evaporated into dust.

Thank you very much. Slammiversary is a mecca of our business and a standard we all adhere to. My personal favorite Slammiversary moment would probably be my very first Slammiversary where I won a Texas death match against Bully Ray, handing him a solid defeat after months and months of antagonizing my friends and my family. Justice was served that night. As far as this Slammiversary, I’m very much looking forward to continuing to be undefeated at Slammiversary and in general.

To varying degrees and under very different circumstances, you’ve both had as much success, or more in Ethan’s Case, in WWE as you’ve had in TNA. What do each of you attribute that to?

Kurt AngleAngle: I had a tremendous career in WWE. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve had an even better career in TNA. I really believe that has a lot to do with the talent I’ve gotten to wrestle; AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Bobby Roode, Bobby Lashley. There are so many great athletes that I probably would not have wrestled if I had stayed in WWE. I was in my seventh year when I started in TNA and I think that’s when the lightbulb went off in my head and I just had better matches and a better career. That’s hard for me to say because I had a pretty damn good career in WWE. I just felt like I meshed with the talent a lot better in TNA. They had some tremendous talent when I got here and they continue to have improved talent with the likes of EC3, who I consider one of the best wrestlers today. He’s undefeated, he’s shown that he can hang with the big boys and I feel that someday he will be a champion. I just don’t think it’s going to be anytime soon.

Carter: I happen to wholeheartedly agree with just about every word that came out of Mr. Angle’s mouth, except for the fact that I won’t be a champion very soon. We’ll see about that at Bell to Bell on July 1. If you watched last week on Impact, the litany of names that Kurt Angle has defeated stemming from both WWE and Impact. He says I’m one of the best wrestlers going today. Well, he’s the best wrestler ever and his resume speaks for that. Whether it was with WWE or TNA, like he said, he has improved with time. As far as for myself, it’s a totally different scenario where one place didn’t give me as much of an opportunity as the other place. And you’re seeing the result of that now.

This match has been building up for almost two years. How much are you guys looking forward to facing each other one-on-one at Bell to Bell?

Angle: I think it’s built tremendously well. When I came back from my knee surgery, I never expected to win the title so suddenly. Watching EC3 go through the talent, knocking every person down and defeating them, I knew eventually he was going to be the guy for me to beat. We did have a match before, I had a knee injury at the time and EC3 did the right thing and took advantage of it. That’s the reason I had knee surgery. But now I’m 100 percent healthy. If it had occurred any sooner or any later, I don’t think it would have been the right time. This is the right time and I believe that EC3 and I can have the match of the year. We’re going to put on a great performance and we’re going to see who the best man is July 1 at Bell to Bell.

Ethan Carter IIICarter: Once again, I can’t help but agree with Kurt Angle. Spoken like a true poet. Like he said, the buildup has been phenomenal. I think it’s a rare occurrence in this industry to have the ability to let something naturally build and progress over enough time where people are really invested in it. I’m pretty fortunate and excited to be in this moment with Kurt. He did mention that we wrestled prior and I did take out his knee and I’ll tell you what, I can eat a little bit of humble pie here – Kurt Angle kicked my ass that entire match. I’m lucky to have escaped with the victory, if it wasn’t for circumstances like his knee tearing in the middle of the match. That was a year ago, though. I’m a year better, a year stronger, a year wiser, a year more handsome and I’m ready for this moment that will culminate July 1 at Bell to Bell.

Rumor has it that Destination America fully supports Kurt Angle as the Champion. EC3 has started this all-american political campaign. Is that a way for you to try and one up Kurt Angle and get Destination Behind you as Champion?

Kurt AngleAngle: Yeah, Destination America has done a tremendous job of supporting me as the Champion. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the red, white and blue, being an Olympic gold medalist and a former 12-time World Heavyweight Champion. I knew that they wanted me to become the Champion and carry the company when we started with Destination America. That made me feel really good. It’s a proud moment when a network wants to build around you. Then EC3 started this campaign and did a tremendous job with his campaign. I remember last year talking to the head of creative and saying, “We’re going to have to put the title on this kid sometime soon.” The time is coming. Whether or not it happens July 1, EC3 will eventually be the World Champion because he is that good. I think that Destination America will fully support EC3 when the day comes that he does become Champion. What I’m hoping is that he doesn’t become Champion while I’m the World Heavyweight Champion. I’d like to put him under the notch in my belt as one of the guys that I’ve beaten. He’s a great competitor and I’m looking forward to the match. As long as he stays healthy, he has a lot of potential to be one of the best wrestlers today and a future legend.

Carter: The way I look at it is if I was a television company and I was fantasy booking a wrestling show and I was about America, my number one draft pick would be the only Olympic gold medalist in wrestling history, Kurt Angle. So, I fully understand that burden to carry the company, to be the lead-off man, the guy to get us on base, get us started, hit a home run, even – to really make us noticed, not only to America, but to the world. So, you’ve got Kurt Angle, the ultimate American, the World Champion. As far as my political campaign, sometimes to get to the ring you need to maneuver a little bit. Let’s not be remiss and think that politics do not exist in wrestling. Wrestling is politics. Every top level guy has played politics at one point in his career. Despite the fact that I remain undefeated, unpinned and unsubmitted, I was never granted a title shot. So, I took a look at what the greats, like Kurt, have done. The campaign was a political move, yes, to put my name out there as someone who could carry the company to the future, and maybe even end Kurt Angle’s title reign.

Perhaps Kurt Angle’s biggest TNA rivalry was with Samoa Joe. What are your thoughts on his recent signing with WWE and appearance on NXT?

Angle: The sky’s the limit for Samoa Joe. I don’t think he’s going to stop in NXT. I really think he’s going to end up on the main roster. He has been a talent that, since the day I met him, I knew he could shine more than any other wrestler I know. He’s a tremendous in-ring performer, he can cut a promo just as good as, if not better than, anybody, except for maybe EC3. But I can tell you Samoa Joe really deserves this. If he didn’t want to continue his career in TNA, I’m happy he’s doing it in WWE. I really believe the sky’s the limit for him. I think he’s going to do tremendous things.

Slammiversary is always when the next TNA Hall of Famer is announced. Who would you like to see go into the TNA Hall of Fame next?

Angle: That’s tough. There are so many TNA originals that deserve it. We’ve had guys be inducted that have had success in other companies before they came to TNA: Sting, myself, Team 3D. It would be really nice to see somebody that was in TNA, that stayed in TNA for 10-12 years. I really wouldn’t doubt if it was somebody like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, guys like that that started from the beginning. There are guys that are still going strong that I know they’d love to induct, but they’re not even close to being retired. It’s kind of hard to pick some of these talents. It’s really tough to say. What I’d really like to see is a guy who was involved with the company from the get-go be inducted.

Ethan Carter IIICarter: Kurt mentioned names like Samoa Joe and AJ Styles and I think we’ll see them there in the future. I think this year a TNA original should be rewarded. I think a guy like Abyss deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Pay-per-views are traditionally where the more important matches take place. But with you guys having the World Championship match on July 1 and Slammiversary being this weekend, that’s not necessarily the case any more. What’s your opinion of the importance of pay-per-view versus television in 2015?

Angle: The way everything is structured with our company, it’s hard to connect pay-per-views with TV because we are taping TVs. What we are trying to do is have the best possible matches we can at the pay-per-views. Whether they’re storyline related or not, we’re trying to put in the best lineup to get the best possible match scenarios as we can. Fans who order the pay-per-view are going to get five-star matches. Right now, I know we’re not able to cohesively make the TVs and pay-per-views make sense. But what we are trying to do and what we are accomplishing is having the best possible matches we can for the fans at Slammiversary and the other pay-per-views.

Carter: Man, Kurt is smart. The way he said it is entirely true. This match has a build-to-a-pay-per-view feel, and I know some fans are upset that it didn’t take place on the pay-per-view. But we can only act in the circumstances we have and with us filming TV in advance I think it would be a disrespect to the fans to act like that didn’t happen, then have the pay-per-view. So I think you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. I know that at Slammiversay everybody in that locker room, regardless if it’s storyline conducive or if it’s just to have a great match, is going to bust their ass and give you every cent-worth of what you pay for it. We’re also in a different time in the business where the game has changed quite a bit, especially with the [WWE] Network coming on. We have to adapt and find a way to make it all work out. What will work out for everybody’s favor is that Slammiversary is going to be off the charts. Then July 1, Bell to Bell, Kurt Angle vs. EC3 is also going to be off the charts. And free on television. You’re welcome, world.

Kurt, you’ve said that this match at Bell to Bell could be a mat classic. How much pressure do you put yourself under to deliver one of those Angle classics that the fans expect each time you step into the ring? EC3 how much pressure do you feel you’re going to be under as you go in to win your first TNA World Heavyweight Championship?

Kurt Angle/Ethan Carter IIIAngle: I put quite a bit of pressure on myself, but I love it. I love going out there and having the best match of the night to steal the show. It’s challenging, especially at my age, 46. I’m still able to do it and I feel very blessed. If the match against EC3 isn’t good, then I can blame it on him. I really am looking forward to it. I really believe that we can have the match of the year. That’s hard for me to say with the matches I’ve had this year with Bobby Lashley, Austin Aries, Eric Young and Bobby Roode. But I really believe that EC3 and Kurt Angle is going to be the match of the year. Am I putting pressure on myself? Yeah. Am I putting pressure on EC3? Yes I am. But I really believe we will have the match of the year and it’s going to happen July 1.

Carter: The pressure is there because I’m going to be sharing the ring with a guy who has had great matches with everyone. So if our match isn’t good, then yes, he can blame it one me. But it will be awesome, I assure you. It will be a classic because one interesting thing about myself and TNA thus far, being here for two years and running through the roster unpinned, unsubmitted, is I have yet to really even show you what I can do. The character’s been genuine, the character’s been able to get by on things that are more than just in ring so much so that what I actually do in the ring is kind of shrouded in a little bit of mystery. And that’s what makes it so exciting because I know what I can do, I know what Kurt can do, I’ve had this match with Kurt Angle in my head for 13 years now, since I first saw him in WWE. I’ve had this match in my head 1,000 different times, 1,000 different ways with 1,000 different outcomes. Yes, there’s pressure as there damn well should be because if you can’t handle the pressure, get the hell out of the kitchen. I don’t think that’s a saying, but it might as well be. The pressure is good. I’m ready for the pressure. I am so thrilled and excited to eat this pressure, chew it up, digest it, regurgitate it, spit it out, get it all out there and show you exactly who I am.

What are your final thoughts on your upcoming World Heavyweight Championship?

Angle: At this point in my career, I consider myself an underdog every time I go in and wrestle. When you’re in the latter part of your career and you lose half a step from where you were before, you learn to be humble, you realize you’re fighting from underneath. I like that. I like being the underdog. I’ve always been the underdog my whole life. Knowing that EC3 is on top of his game and he is undefeated, most people would pick EC3 to win this match because he is in the prime of his career. He has been primed for this match, he’s been waiting for this match and this is his night. Whether he wins or loses, this is his night. This is his first World Heavyweight title shot. What I can do is give everything I have. As long as I give everything I have, I know I can win. Will I win? I can’t guarantee it. But I’m confident I will. I know against EC3, it’s going to be an incredible match. I’m looking forward to being the underdog, even though I’m the champion. And I’m looking forward to defeating EC3 and giving him his first loss. I think that would be retribution for what he did to me last year.

Ethan Carter IIICarter: There’s a saying, “You ain’t as good as you once was, but you’re as good as you’ll ever be.” When you look at a guy like Kurt Angle, that’s complete horse shit because he is at the top of his game. He is still the very best, he is the man and how do I, EC3, prepare for a match with a guy like Kurt Angle? Do I train my ass of? Yes. Do I study tape? Yes. Do I put myself in the situation as many times as I can mentally? Yes. But none of that is going to matter because until we’re actually in the ring we’re not going to know what’s going to happen. The resume this man has is so incredible and so stout. Me, being a newcomer, as somebody who’s always seen from the outside and never really been able to experience it fully, the only thing I can say is that the one thing that separates me from a lot of guys in this industry, maybe in this world, is that it’s not over until I win. I do not accept defeat at any time, any juncture, any moment. It is not over until I win. At Bell to Bell, July 1, Destination America, 9 p.m., it will not be over until I win.

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Georgia Wrestling Now welcomes Ethan Carter III

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Georgia Wrestling Now welcomes Ethan Carter III

Posted on 24 November 2014 by Jonathan Williams

Ethan Carter IIIHappy Thanksgiving week from Georgia Wrestling Now! Wrestling with Pop CultureGeorgia Wrestling History‘s Larry Goodman and “As Seen on TV” Nigel Sherrod have a lot to be thankful for as we are joined by Total Nonstop Action star Ethan Carter III. We discuss EC3’s upcoming seminar at Peachstate Wrestling Alliance‘s Thanksgiving Turmoil, the future of Impact Wrestling, his time with WWE and more. We also discuss recent and upcoming events in Anarchy Wrestling, Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment, Deep Southern Championship Wrestling and more, with additional commentary from NWA Georgia Champion Tyson Dean and “Chicken Hat” Charles. Listen live at www.blogtalkradio.com/psp every Monday at 7 p.m. and call 347-324-5735 for questions or comments.

Check Out Sports Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with PSP on BlogTalkRadio

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Rockstar Spud prepares for X Division Xtravaganza, British Boot Camp 2 and more

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Rockstar Spud prepares for X Division Xtravaganza, British Boot Camp 2 and more

Posted on 01 August 2014 by Jonathan Williams

After winning Total Nonstop Action Wrestling‘s British Boot Camp in 2012, the undersized Rockstar Spud has evolved from wrestling underdog to being a major part of Impact Wrestling each week as the Chief of Staff for TNA President Dixie Carter. Honing his skills in Ohio Valley Wrestling (where he is a former OVW Television Champion) last year, Spud was added to the main TNA roster late last year and remains a fixture on TV and pay-per-view. As part of the One Night Only pay-per-view X Division Xtravaganza debuting Aug. 1, as well as the upcoming British Boot Camp 2, Spud has plenty to talk about, as always. In a recent media conference call, here’s what Wrestling with Pop Culture and others had to ask the unlikely wrestling star.

You were the winner of the first British Boot Camp. What have the past two years been like for you since winning that competition?

Rockstar Spud and Ethan Carter IIIIt’s been an absolute whirlwind, to be honest, since I’ve been brought up to television. I’ve had two weeks off and I honestly don’t know what to do with myself. It’s been nonstop for me. I’m living the dream. British Boot Camp was absolutely everything that it promised to be. It was an amazing time for myself, Marty Scurll and The Blossom Twins and it’s one I’ll never forget. I recently saw the finale from the first season for some advertising they’re doing and it just brought back all the same emotions I had that day when they told me I was the winner. It’s amazing. It’s everything I dreamed it would be.

I was at OVW for a year just learning so many elements of professional wrestling, which was amazing. Then to be brought up to the roster and to be in the position I am, it’s just been amazing. I’m main eventing live events with Ethan Carter III, I’m main eventing television and I’m in main story lines on pay-per-views. I honestly couldn’t be happier with life right now.

British Boot Camp 2 is about to start and there’s a lot more competitors in this edition. What would your advice be to the wrestlers taking part in the new British Boot Camp?

I don’t envy any one of them because of the amount of talent there is in the country, and the talent that’s already been announced so far and how good they are. The person that wins this series is really going to be an absolute superstar to stand out above everybody in the country. I was against three other people on the show. These people have got an unlimited amount of people they can potentially be against. Just capture the camera and entertain and if you’re a character that people are interested in, a character that people find entertaining and a character people want to watch, your journey’s going to continue. I’m looking forward to watching the process and seeing who’s going to step up because they don’t realize what an amazing opportunity this is. It’s such a small window in the pro wrestling business for a company to even look at someone. It’s an amazing opportunity, especially in our country because we rarely have TNA come over and look at our talent. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure everyone in the U.K. is as well.

You wrestled for so many years before entering British Boot Camp. What did you get out of that experience and how did that help ease your transition into TNA in the United States?

Rockstar SpudWith regards to British Boot Camp, I had been wrestling for nine or ten years on the independent scene across the world. You pick things up as you go along, but it’s obviously a slow process because you’re not wrestling every day of the week; you have to go back to your normal job to pay the bills, then wrestle on weekends. But at the same time, you’re also wrestling people that are on the same experience level as you. So you’re not going to be picking up those intricacies as often as you would if you were wrestling more experienced talent, or being trained by more experienced talent. When I went to OVW, I was wrestling every day of the week, performing three or four times a week and it was constant wrestling. So it was able to sink into my mind as it was my job now and I was able to devote 24/7 to it. That was the real difference. Everything I learned at OVW after British Boot Camp, I really attribute to my success going into TNA.

Since making your debut on camera, you’re a natural on camera. Was there any initial intimidation with working with Dixie Carter, your boss, in front of the camera and off camera?

Absolutely not. The only times I’ve been nervous about being on camera with Dixie is when I’m going to save her from a near-death experience. At points like that I have to be here because I’m literally saving the woman’s life. I was born a hero and this is what I was born to do. There’s never any intimidation because I taught myself to be comfortable in front of a camera. That’s what pro wrestling’s about. It’s not about how great a technical wrestler you are or how great an athlete you are, if you can engage an audience to feel a certain way about you through the television screen where millions of viewers are. There was never any concerns with that. Like I said, any time Dixie’s in peril, that’s when I fear for my life because if I can’t save her I’m going to be in dire trouble and probably will lose my job.

Rockstar Spud and Dixie CarterYou’ve worked in many promotions around the world now and have had an amazing time in TNA. What does the future hold for Rockstar Spud? Are in the position you imagined, both creatively and as a talent in the company, or do you picture yourself taking a different route in the future?

I’m a professional wrestler, so my job is to turn up and do exactly as I’m told. When they tell me to do certain things, it will be done the way Rockstar Spud would do it. We did our shows in Florida, we did our shows in New York, we did our shows in Pennsylvania and every day I just want to work. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings and what they’ve got for me tomorrow. It’s a challenge every day and I just want to knock it out of the park. I want to be a guy the company can rely on and someone they can put absolutely anywhere and know I’ll be able to do a good job for them. I just want to be an asset, and I feel I’m going to be an asset, to this company going forward. With their constant faith in me, which is always greatly appreciated, I’ll continue doing this to the best of my ability.

What are your thoughts on working with Team 3D, Tommy Dreamer and Rhino as we saw last week on Impact?

Well, I didn’t come out of the match how I walked in. There was a lot of limping, a lot of pain. But I wouldn’t have changed a damn thing because that was one of the best moments of my career so far. Watching the people you grew up watching, seeing them walk down the aisle with you or against you, I’m very obliged to be in TNA and to be able to do these little things that my close friends at home who aren’t in the wrestling business will understand. While they were going out drinking and socializing, playing football and different kinds of sports, I was at home watching professional wrestling, emulating these people and admiring these people. So to be in the ring with them is a real honor. It’s even more of an honor to know I beat these people on national television.

How were you brought into your current role on TV as Dixie Carter’s right hand man instead of competing full time?

I was in OVW and they said, “We’re bringing you up to television. You ready to go?” I put the suit on, put the bow tie on and away we went. It’s been a whirlwind ever since. If you can see anybody else being Chief of Staff that’s not me, I would be very surprised because I feel that I’ve owned the job and it’s mine. No one will be taking the Chief of Staff away from me.

Physically you don’t fit the mold of the typical professional wrestler, so you were a bit of an underdog in the first British Boot Camp. You’ve clearly found success in OVW and on Impact Wrestling. Given that you’re not the biggest guy on the roster, what would you attribute your success to and what attracted you to pursue a career in professional wrestling?

Rockstar SpudI’m not going to give you the sympathetic bullshit story that everybody will give you. When I was growing up I identified with pro wrestling because I enjoyed the larger-than-life characters, the lights, glitz and glamor as everybody does. But I was also told at school that I was too short to do absolutely every spot that I loved. I was too small for football, cricket, rugby – you name it, I tried it and was too small. When I first started wrestling and was told, “You’re too small for this,” I actually was like, “No, I’m not.” I actually believed I could make a difference in pro wrestling being small. I’ve never shied away from my appearance. Obviously I have to look after myself athletically and cosmetically, but I never shied away from the fact that I am 5-foot-4, I am 150 pounds. There’s one thing you can never take away from me and that is that my personality is the personality of someone that should be 7 feet tall, 500 pounds. That was the one thing that I was like, “I just need someone to notice this.” And that’s what British Boot Camp was. The right time, the right people, the right opportunity and the right situation – it really was that case with British Boot Camp. You do judge a book by its cover with me. I’ve had many, many pro wrestlers that have been around the business for years that have said to me, “When I first saw you I didn’t see anything in you.” The more that they experienced watching me or being in the ring with me, they understood more and more, which is a complete blessing. It’s so nice to here that. So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and as long as people are watching and paying their money to see us, that’s all that matters to me. I just want people to come see TNA, come see Impact Wrestling, whether they want to cheer Rockstar Spud or they want to boo him, as long as they are paying money to see him that’s all that matters to me.

What will your role be in One Night Only: X Division Xtravaganza and British Boot Camp 2?

In the One Night Only pay-per-view I will be in the qualifiers for the Ultimate X match. I believe I will be facing Sonjay Dutt, who is a gentleman I’ve crossed paths with for many years in the U.K. and coming in and out of TNA. But I’ve never stepped in the ring with him, so we shall see. As it’s going to be Sonjay Dutt and Rockstar Spud, you’re guaranteed to be entertained.

In regards to the British Boot Camp process, I can’t actually say what my involvement will be or if there will be involvement from me. But I don’t think you can have British Boot Camp without having the original winner, Rockstar Spud.

The United Kingdom has produced a number of wrestling greats over the years. Did you watch footage of any of these people? Who did you grow up watching and possibly emulating later on as you became the pro wrestler you are today?

Rockstar SpudBelieve it or not, British wrestling had passed me by by the time I became a fan. I became a fan instantly when I first saw a picture of Hulk Hogan with the Hulkamania bandana and the American flag draped over him. That was when I became a fan of pro wrestling. I’ve watched World of Sport many a times. … They really, really made you believe it’s competition, with the rounds and everything like that. It’s something that was really ahead of its time. Because of the lack of channels back then, that’s why they drew millions and millions of viewers every time. As a student of pro wrestling, I watch World of Sport regularly just to look for little intricacies that I can pick up, maybe adapt my character, especially being diminutive like I am – there’s a lot of crawling through the legs, there’s a lot of haha. So there’s little things that you’ve probably never seen in the U.S. that I’ve incorporated into my character that you think’s revolutionary. As a student of wrestling and a student of entertainment, I just try and put little intricacies here and there.

The six-sided ring was recently brought back to TNA at the New York tapings. What has that been like for you?

Great! There’s more room. When I was watching TNA as a fan, I always thought the six-sided ring gave TNA an identity where as soon as you watch it you’re like, “Oh! That’s different. What’s over there? Let’s have a look.” That’s what always drove us to TNA because as fans you like what’s different. If something’s different you’re going to want to take a look at it and go, “We’re used to four sides.” Then you see the X Division jumping around like Mexican jumping beans and you’re like, “Wow!” It was just so impressive to watch. I think the six-sided ring brings an identity to our company and our company needs that identity. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve got no problem with it. In fact, I enjoy it and embrace it.

You mentioned your suits and bow ties earlier. Where did the idea for these suits come from? Is that your normal attire outside the ring or did you adopt that as part of your persona on TV? Where do you get them? Are the custom made?

I actually do dress like this 24/7 outside the ring, believe it or not. People know who I am whenever I walk through an airport. So there you go. The suits were not an idea put into my head. I’ve personally been given free reign, which I love about TNA, over the direction of my character in regards to the look, the way I present myself and the way I perform. This is me. I am a jerk in and out of the ring. I throw my weight around like I’m 7 feet tall whether I’m in or out of the ring. I have a place called OppoSuits that sends me them specifically because the know how the Chief of Staff likes to dress. And a place called Loudmouth Golf who’ve made clothing for numerous celebrities all over the world. They’ve sent me some little numbers as well to wear on Impact. It’s been great so far. I’ve got some special ones coming up for the New York tapings in August, so watch out for those. Every week on Impact you know it’s going to be something different for Rockstar Spud. You never know what I’m going to turn up wearing next.


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Bully Ray keeps us guessing as Bound for Glory approaches

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Bully Ray keeps us guessing as Bound for Glory approaches

Posted on 19 October 2013 by Jonathan Williams

Bully Ray



As one of the most decorated tag team wrestlers of all time, Bully Ray achieved his highest singles honor earlier this year by defeating old rival Jeff Hardy for the Total Nonstop Action World Heavyweight Championship. Since then, Bully Ray and his Aces & Eights have, for the most part, run rampant on the rest of the TNA roster. On Oct. 20 Bully Ray defends his title against AJ Styles in a no disqualification match at TNA’s biggest annual pay-per-view Bound for Glory. As he prepares for one of his biggest title defenses to date, Bully Ray talks to Wrestling with Pop Culture about his history with Styles, the current whereabouts of the rest of the Dudley Brothers and his transition from tag team to singles success.

You’ve had some intense matches with AJ Styles in the past, and he recently took your brother Devon out of the TNA picture for the time being. Given your history with him and his unpredictable behavior as of late, what are your expectations going into your title match at Bound for Glory?

My game plan is pretty obvious: go into Bound for Glory and retain my World Heavyweight Championship, tear the house down and give the people one of the most hard-hitting and exciting matches they can possibly expect. Every time I go into that ring – weather I’m talking, fighting or wrestling – I always go out there to steal the show. And if you’re going to steal the show, AJ Styles is a hell of a guy to have in there to fight. About two years ago, me and AJ had a last man standing match that people were talking about. He’s a hell of a competitor, he’s a great athlete, he’s a great wrestler, he can stand there and go toe-to-toe with you. So it’s going to be a great match. It’s going to be entertaining and hard hitting. But my goal is to come out of Bound for Glory the World Heavyweight Champion.

What have been some of the biggest challenges for you transitioning from a tag team wrestler to a singles competitor?

Bully RayI’m not trying to sound too pompous here, but there really  haven’t been too many challenges. I’ve enjoyed the transition. It’s not something I ever thought I was going to do and not something I ever really wanted to do. I got into pro wrestling to be a successful tag team wrestler. So I guess the biggest challenge was getting into the shape I’ve gotten myself into. I had never been in phenomenal shape – not that I’m in phenomenal shape now – but I’m in the best shape of my life. The other real challenge is being in the ring without a partner. When you wrestle all over the world for 15 years and you’re used to having somebody by your side, it’s a little different to turn around and look at that corner and there’s nobody there. But as far as real challenges are concerned, I’m pretty happy with the way everything has gone so far.

You’re currently a heel in pro wrestling, but you’ve also been a babyface in the past. Do you think there is still a place for a pure heel or babyface or do you think the lines are more blurred these days?

The world has had good guys and bad guys ever since Jesus Christ and Satan. You always need the black hat and you always need the white hat. There are a lot of guys who choose to go down the good guy path and there are guys who choose to go down the bad guy path. I have always said I’m not a good guy and I’m not a bad guy, I’m not a babyface and I’m not a heel. I’m me and I’ve always been me. I have been me from day one. The difference between me and a lot of other guys is I can be loved on Monday, hated on Tuesday and loved again on Wednesday. As a performer it is your duty to your art form to be able to take those people on an emotional roller coaster ride and get them to respond the way you want them to respond. That’s what I have been able to do. I do think there is plenty of room for good guys and bad guys, whether it’s in movies, sports or pro wrestling. You always need good and bad people. But I don’t choose any one path. I just go out there and I do Bully Ray.

We’ve seen a lot of behavioral changes and blurring of these lines as of late in TNA with AJ, Dixie Carter, Aces & Eights and others. Where do you think everyone fits into the grander picture with all these different dynamics at play?

Bully RayI can’t speak of anaybody else’s character and why they choose to do the things they do. I pat Dixie on the back. Why shouldn’t I? She’s such a nice lady. Everybody loves Dixie. It’s about time she stood up and told everybody to go to hell. When you talk about personalities, pro wrestling, even today, is entertainment and in entertainment such as soap operas or sitcoms or movies you need different types of characters. You can’t just have people that are loved, you can’t just have people that are hated. You need some middle-of-the-road people and you throw it all in a big pot and hopefully it works.

We recently saw Hulk Hogan quit TNA. If he is really gone for good, what do you think TNA will lose by losing Hulk Hogan?

No matter how I feel about Hulk Hogan and what’s been going on with me, him and his daughter, whether it’s been inside the ring or outside the ring, you’ve got to say this – it’s Hulk Hogan! He’s the Babe Ruth of the wrestling business. He’s the guy that put pro wrestling on the map back in the early ’80s. I do think there is a place for Hulk Hogan in TNA. You always want an icon like Hulk Hogan around. He brings credibility to your product, people love to see him, he can give advice to the younger guys, he’s definitely an asset. Plus I’d like to keep him around if I want to wrestle him because I’d like to kick his ass.

Given the success you’ve had both as a tag team and a singles wrestler, have you started to consider your retirement or maybe focusing more on your wrestling school?

I have no plans on retiring. I am fully invested in my wrestling school. I am there as much as I possibly can be to help train the stars of tomorrow. I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing. As far as going back to tag team wrestling, there’s not a damn thing left for me and Devon to do as a tag team. I don’t know why we would, why we should. We can’t top what we’ve done and I’m having a blast doing what I’m doing right now. It’s new, it’s enjoyable and it’s like having a brand new girlfriend. But I’m definitely not retiring. I’ve got too much left in me. You can’t stop rock ‘n’ roll and you can’t stop me.

Once your in-ring career comes to an end, do you think you’ll ever be involved in the creative side of wrestling?

When I eventually retire and no longer want to wrestle, I definitely plan on getting into some of the more creative end of pro wrestling. It’s actually one of the reasons me and Devon opened a wrestling school about six years ago to be able to help cultivate quality wrestlers and put them back into the system, wrestlers with respect for the industry and wrestlers who can go out there and earn a great living for themselves. Once I do finish wrestling I want to continue training wrestlers at the Team 3D Academy. I would also like to work with the company where we can help build wrestlers up, whether its in the ring as wrestlers or as characters – whatever it takes to help build the wrestlers of tomorrow.

The Dudleys used to be a large faction in the wrestling world. We know where some of them are today, but others are a bit of a mystery. How often do you talk to the rest of the Dudley family? Do you foresee any other Dudley reunions in the near future?

Bully RayActually, just a few weeks ago I saw my good friend and brother Sign Guy Dudley out in Vegas. We hadn’t seen each other in probably ten or 12 years, so we had a bit of a reunion. As far as the other guys are concerned, I’m not really sure where they are. I miss my brother Big Dick Dudley very much. He’s up there riding his motorcycle in heaven. That’s all the information I’ve got for you on that.

You’ve always been confident in yourself, but what was it like for you when you became the World Heavyweight Champion and the top guy in the company?

I go out there and I know what I’m capable of doing. We did it in ECW, we did it in WWE, we’ve done it in Japan, we’ve done it all over the world. The only difference was now I was going to do it on my own. When I broke away from Devon and invented Bully Ray, I knew I could be successful. I knew there really wasn’t anything that could hold me back. I knew what worked in the past and I said to myself, “If I stick to the plan, if I reinvent myself, if I get into great shape and offer up a persona that is so disgusting and hated and gets under so many people’s skin with the tone of my voice and the venom that I spit – if I just do me – it’s going to work. And it has. And it really always has. I think TNA sat up and took notice and it gave me an opportunity to go out there and shine. So it’s all good and Bound for Glory is going to be a great show with a lot of great matches. As a student of pro wrestling, I’m always watching what’s going on. When I sit back and look at the TNA locker room I can honestly say it’s the best cross section of pro wrestlers, entertainers and athletes that is out there. You’ve got icons like Hogan and Sting; you’ve got guys who have been doing it at a top level for a long time like myself, Kurt [Angle] and Jeff Hardy; then you have the most important level, the workhorses of the company, the guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, [James] Storm, Kaz, [Christopher] Daniels, [Austin] Aries; you’ve got great X Division wrestlers; you’ve got some of the hottest girls out there – everything you could possibly want, need and ask for in a pro wrestling company, you can find in TNA.

How would you say the recent departures of Devon, Mr. Anderson and DOC have effected the Aces & Eights?

I look at the Aces & Eights as any other faction that wrestling has ever had. There’s the rise of a faction and there’s the fall of a faction. Right now the Aces & Eights, in your eyes and in the wrestling world’s eyes, is coming to an end. Things are not going so well. It looks like the Aces & Eights are being torn apart. It looks the Aces & Eights are about to self destruct. Maybe that’s just what I want you to believe. Maybe it’s all an elaborate plan. Maybe you’re going to see every single  member of my club back sooner than later. Or maybe I’m picking them apart one by one because I’m so much of an egomaniac I want more of the spotlight for myself. That’s the difference between me and everybody else; I can keep you guessing and I can pull the wool over your eyes as many times as I want. David Copperfield goes out there every single night and makes people believe that the elephant disappears. That’s because he’s so good at mental manipulation, and that’s what I’m good at. So if I was you I’d keep my eyes open because you think you’ve seen the last of the Aces & Eights. I’m not too sure about that.


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Win tickets to Impact Wrestling this Thursday and Friday

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Win tickets to Impact Wrestling this Thursday and Friday

Posted on 03 June 2013 by Jonathan Williams

Impact Wrestling is airing live from The Arena at Gwinnett Center on June 6, followed by a live TNA event at The Forum Civic Center in Rome on June 7. Wrestling with Pop Culture has tickets to both events and we’re making it easy to win. Simply comment below with which show you’d like to attend by 10 a.m. June 6. Winners will receive an email with instructions on how to claim their tickets. Good luck!

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Whether in a TNA ring or the country music world, Mickie James says “Somebody’s Gonna Pay”

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Whether in a TNA ring or the country music world, Mickie James says “Somebody’s Gonna Pay”

Posted on 02 May 2013 by Jonathan Williams



As the only person to ever hold the WWE Women’s Championship, WWE Divas Championship and Total Nonstop Action Knockouts Championship, Mickie James is one of the most talented women to ever step into a wrestling ring. Though she’s been out of the title picture for quite a while, and came up short against current Knockouts Champion Velvet Sky on Impact Wrestling last Thursday, James still has reason to celebrate. On this Thursday’s Impact she teams up with Taryn Terrell to take on longtime rivals Gail Kim and Tara. And next Tuesday sees the release of James‘ second album Somebody’s Gonna Pay, a rocking collection that includes her TNA entrance song “Hardcore Country”. Wrestling with Pop Culture talks to James about the upcoming TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view, her new album and her recent reunion with Trish Stratus.

You came up a little short in your Knockouts title match last Thursday, but that crowd sure was into your match against Velvet Sky.

It was insane. I could have sworn someone was starting the wave or there was a person running around going, “Hey, everybody yell” or a fight had broken out. All of a sudden it just started to rumble. It’s very rare that you get a feeling like that. I’ve had that feeling in England a few times and, obviously, at WrestleMania, but to have that crowd come alive like that is incredible. I don’t know if it was the match or if there was somebody streaking, but they were loud the whole time and it was awesome. They were really into it and it was almost a shock to both of us because we were like, “Whoa, wait. Is that for us? What’s happening?” They had been pretty hot all night, but it was a slow build and they really came alive for that match. It was awesome. As soon as the bell rang they just started to rumble.

It was clearly a great match, but it seemed like even you were a little surprised by the way it ended. Were you possibly in the ropes a little bit when Velvet rolled you up for the pin?

I think I was a bit tangled up in the ropes, but I’m blaming my loss on the fact that earlier that day I was at the airport and my flight was delayed. I was a little bit upset and in search of a plug because my cell phone was dying and I walked into my own bag and knocked my pinkie toenail completely off. I know Velvet has a knee injury, but oh, my God, it hurt so bad. So I think that threw my balance off. But I’m not really blaming it on that. I don’t know. It felt like I was a little tangled in the ropes, but ODB counted 1, 2, 3, so what can you do?

It had been a little while since you had been in the title picture. With Slammiversary coming up in about a month, do you know where last Thursday’s loss leaves you heading into that pay-per-view?

I don’t know where it leaves me. It obviously leaves me hungry and wanting more and I still want the championship. I feel like I pretty much dominated that whole match and she got lucky. I love Velvet to death and she’s my friend, but at the same time I know that I’m Mickie James, a kick-ass wrestler. I’m the champion of champions, for goodness’ sake. I can’t believe I lost! I don’t want to be a sore loser, but at the same time I do want that championship. If there’s a chance for me to get it or to go for it again, I certainly will take it. I don’t know where Slammiversary is headed, but I’m hopeful.

It was interesting to see three women in the ring (you, Velvet and ODB as referee) who all came up through the independent scene together and are now in one of the most competitive women’s divisions in wrestling. How does it feel for all of you to be at this level now?

It’s a good feeling. It’s good to see people who actually set out to make in this business, who have a true passion for this business, to all stand in the same ring with a crowd like that roaring underneath you and have that kind of emotion in the palm of your hands. It’s humbling to know how hard each of us has worked to get there. That’s the most rewarding thing is to know that your sacrifices have paid off. The indie wrestling scene, much like the indie rock scene or any type of indie scene, as you’re trying to come in and break through it’s never easy. You work for peanuts and hope for the best and hopefully catch a big break. We’ve all been fortunate enough to do so.

Speaking of indie rock, you have a new album out next week. I guess it’s more indie country, but it definitely has some rock flavor to it.

Yeah. I signed to eOne Music Nashville in September. It’s not traditional country. It’s more where Southern rock meets country. It’s got that kind of Randy Houser/Jason Aldean sound accept with a female feel to it.

Was music something you’ve always wanted to do or was that something you turned your attention to after you had success with wrestling?

Music has always been a massive part of my life. I grew up on a horse farm and trained with horses all my young life. But I also played the violin for five years and I used to record myself walking around my bedroom singing my heart out. It’s always been a passion of mine and I started writing when I was on the road. Instead of writing short stories or poetry, I would write lyrics to songs. It wasn’t to any melody or anything because I didn’t know anything about how to do that. After shows, we often have to drive 250 miles to the next town. That’s a lot of time in the car by yourself, so I started coming up with my own lyrics to songs that were playing on the radio. I took chorus in school a little bit, but I was always a little shy about being out there  in front of a crowd by myself with a microphone. But being an entertainer and a performer – I took modeling and acting classes – is something I always wanted to do, but was always so fearful of. Finally after I wrote about five or six songs, I was like, “I’m just going to go to Nashville and lay down these songs just so I can say that I did it. If this demo that I make only sits on my mom’s coffee table that’s fine with me.” So I went to Nashville and played my songs for about 20 different producers – anyone and everyone who would actually take a meeting with me and listen and consider it. I met with Kent Wells, who produced Dolly Parton‘s last album, and he was like, “I totally get it. This is awesome. I think we can take two or three of these songs that you wrote, vamp them up with some killer music and make an album. You’re a great singer, you have a unique story and you’re something country music’s never had. It needs something different.”

I’m not Carrie Underwood, where I can sing these massive beautiful ballads all day long. But I do have that rock edge to me where it is a little bit rough around the edges, because I’m a little bit rough around the edges. So I released the first album on my own and learned a lot. Then I went back into the studio to do a second album. At the time is was going to be a self-released EP, so I went in the studio with Jamie Lee Thurston, who is a killer guitarist, and wrote some songs with him and Porter Howell, who used to play with Little Texas. While we were recording, my management started talking to different labels and that’s where eOne came in. They took five of the songs Jamie did and sent me back in the studio with R.S. Field, who doesn’t do a lot of country but had just done that Uncle Lucius album. So I listened to it, met with R.S. and got a feel for how he wanted to round out the album. We added one more song that I wrote and put my entrance music on there as a bonus track. We got some more killer songs from some other killer songwriters like Bridgette Tatum, who wrote “She’s Country” for Jason Aldean. She wrote “A Good Time,” which is a good party song on my album. It’s ironic because “Somebody’s Gonna Pay,” the title track and lead single, is one of those songs that R.S. kicked out and I loved it. I loved the lyrics, I loved the song, but I didn’t know if I could sing it because it was very old, traditional country. I just didn’t know if I was capable of twanging it up that much and he was like, “No, we’re going to throw seven guitars on it and it’s going to be Southern rock and soul kind of stuff.” I just trusted him with everything. That song selection process is the hardest out of everything because you want to find not just the songs that you can sing and that are right for you, but also the ones you think your fans are going to connect to and that’re going to tell a story within the album. I probably listened to 1,000 or 2,000 songs just trying to pick these ten. And the fact that two of the songs I co-wrote made it onto the album alongside songs written by people who do nothing but write songs all day was awesome.

You also recently released a video “Somebody’s Gonna Pay” that kind of takes you back to where you got your first big break in wrestling with Trish Stratus. How did that come about?

I actually called her and was like, “Trish, would you consider being in my video?” They were looking for a tie-in to wrestling without being too hokey and cheesy about it. So it was a big favor I called in and she was like, “Oh, my God. Of course! I’d be honored to come down and do that.” So she came down from Canada and Nick Aldis (Magnus from TNA) came down, and we filled up the bar with all my friends from Nashville, my managers, fellow songwriters and singers. And obviously we hired some cute little models, who were precious. That was directed by Blake Judd, who just did a full-length about Shooter Jennings that won some awards. I met him when I did a cameo in Bucky Covington and Shooter’s “Drinking Side of Country” video, so it just worked out really well. Blake is a wrestling fan, so he’d talk to me about the old-school wrestling he watched growing up.

Given the obsession you had with Trish when you made your WWE debut, how did it feel to see your idol inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year?

It was really incredible. I couldn’t be happier for her. I think she completely deserved it and I was just disappointed that I couldn’t be there in person. Not only is she a genuine friend, but I really admire her for her strength and her ability to break outside of the mold of coming in as a fitness competitor and really growing within the business. Lita‘s incredible and I know that one day she’s going to be in there as well. She came up the same way I did, working her way up through the indie scene to become the star that she is. But Trish came in as a fitness model that a lot of people didn’t give a lot of credibility to. But she took the time and effort to not just learn, but to become one of the best. I was really fortunate to work with her when I first came in because there was a lot of stuff that I learned from her and a lot of stuff she learned from me. I didn’t know anything about which cameras to look at, but there were little intricacies about wrestling that she didn’t know. And to see a friend get such an accolade, and to know that she was going to announce the baby at the ceremony was such an honor.

WWE recently added a Mickie James page to the alumni section of its website. Do you know why you weren’t on there already or why you were recently added?

I didn’t even realize I was missing. But it’s cool of them to still recognize the people that were there and had a bit of history there. There were certainly some moments when I was there that I think people will remember forever, at least the fans of that era. So it’s cool to be recognized and remembered for that.

The end of your stint with WWE wasn’t the most flattering part of your career. Do you think you’ll ever return to WWE if for no other reason than to redeem yourself a little?

No, it was not the most flattering part of my career. You never know, do you? That is not the way that I wanted to go. It was heartbreaking for that to be my exit because I thought something different was going to come out of that. But things happen and I’ve grown a lot since then. I’m approaching life with a whole different attitude, so it’s just one of those things. I do feel that there were some awesome lessons learned from all of that. Bullying was such a major issue then, and still is now, so I felt like Michelle McCool, Layla and myself made that into something special. I just made the most of it and tried to make it amazing and make great television. You have to take whatever you’re given, own it and make it the best you can, and I think I did that. But it was an uncomfortable awesomeness.

You often perform concerts at nearby venues after TNA house shows. Now that Impact is on the road, do you still perform after the wrestling shows?

I’ve done a few afterparties. We may do a couple more. I just have to find the right deal and the right balance of what’s going to work the best. We did a handful of afterparties as a test run to see which cities were drawing, what the best format was and how we were going to do. It seemed to work pretty well, but people are so exhausted by the time the wrestling shows are over it’s almost working uphill to try to get them to come out to another place after they’ve already spent a lot of energy at the show itself. But, yes, we do plan on doing that again sometime soon. We’re looking at trying to line up some tour dates and shows around the release of this album.

You’ve shared the stage with some heavy hitters in the country music world. Were those festival performances or have you actually toured with some of these acts?

I’ve gotten to open for Gretchen Wilson, Montgomery Gentry, Randy Houser. I feel like my music is kind of similar to Randy Houser’s, so it was really cool to watch him perform and see how he works the crowd. They were all awesome shows and it’s cool to be part of things like that and just sit back and learn how they make their sets flow and all those little things that I’m still learning. I did a big country festival in Richmond with Gretchen and Montgomery Gentry as headliners. That was with my first album, so the local country radio stations knew who I was. I had been in there several times to do interviews for WWE, so they called me about that. The Randy Houser deal was in Richmond as well, so those people had seen me perform at that country festival. I was also supposed to open for Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish, but it didn’t stop thunderstorming until 7 o’clock and the whole thing got scrapped. I really wanted to meet him and watch his show, so that bummed me out a little bit. Hopefully with this second album I’ll get more opportunities like that.

You’ve also appeared at the Days of the Dead and Chiller Theatre. Do you have any such appearances coming up?

I’m not huge into horror films, so I was freaked out for at least a third of the time at Days of the Dead. When the It clown came by, I was hiding behind my chair. No, I actually took my picture with him and did the whole fangirl pics with people, walked around, met a few people and really marked out for Danny Trejo. Those things kind of come up if it works with my schedule, so I don’t know when I’ll be doing another convention like that.


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