On this week’s edition of the GFW conference call, we were joined by the hottest new signing in GFW, a triple champion in AAA and recent guest star of Netflix’s Original Series, GLOW, Johnny Impact.
What has been your experience in GFW so far?
Johnny Impact: Really happy with my experience so far at Impact. I’ve been blown away by the level of professionalism in the locker room and I’m really happy to work with some of my old friends like Bobby Lashley, Chris Masters, and EC3 and also some of the newer talent. I guess Low-Ki and Eddie Edwards aren’t new talents but they’re new friends of mine. It’s just so positive. Everyone in the locker room feels like they know what they’re there for and they feel like they have something to offer. I didn’t feel any negativity when I walked into the Impact Zone. I felt like I was coming to a high school reunion party and hanging out with a bunch of my old friends. Everyone is excited at the idea of what we’re about to create.
Is there anyone on the GFW roster at the moment that you really want to face?
JI: One of the most exciting things for me about going to a new promotion like GFW is exactly what this question is about. There’s a ton of people on the roster that I’ve never had the chance to wrestle. You’ve got X Division guys like Trevor Lee and Dezmond Xavier, both of whom I think are super talented but with whom I’ve never had the opportunity to work as Johnny Impact. Then there’s a guy like Bobby Lashley. He and I were real close when he came to OVW back in 2004 and we even rode together when I first started on the road, but we haven’t worked for the same company in over ten years now and he’s grown as a performer and developed his own specific style and I feel the same about myself. It’d be really interesting to me to see how we match up now. Clearly, the current champion Eli Drake. I think he’s been underrated for a long time, certainly not in his mind… he thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread but, in the eyes of the wrestling community, I think he’s been underrated. I would love the chance to have a true one-on-one matchup to put my skills to the test against him in the ring.
What do you think about GFW’s partnerships with other companies around the world?
JI: I think one of the most exciting things happening right now, in wrestling, is this partnership between GFW, AAA, and Noah. There’s gonna be a lot of talent exchanges because of this partnership. Eddie Edwards, for example, just won the NOAH title. We’ve got a bunch of AAA talent in GFW, Garza and LAX from Konnan’s promotion The Crash, and all these major companies are working together. To me, it’s really interesting. It’s like the sum of all these parts is greater than any one of these promotions by itself.
What does your signing with GFW mean for Lucha Underground?
JI: Lucha Underground is planning on doing a season four and I’m planning on continuing my relationship with Lucha Underground. The specific dates for the tapings have not yet been released and I’m hoping it’s ASAP because I can’t wait to get back to the Temple. In the meantime, that’s what’s so cool about GFW: the opportunity to have all these new matchups and potentially, now, have some crossover with Lucha Underground, fingers crossed for that in the future.
When will we see you across the pond in the UK and Ireland again?
JI: I’ve got a couple things that I’ve been talking about. A buddy of mine recently took over IPW and he’s making me come out in December to do a tag match. I’m still the champion of 5 Star Wrestling and I know they’ve announced a bunch of dates in 2018. Specifically, though, what dates and for what promotions, I don’t know but I love working in the UK and I’m planning to get back there before the end of this year.
You worked with Sexy Star in Lucha Underground. What are your honest feelings about what happened between Rosemary and Sexy Star at AAA TripleMania?
JI: During the match, I feel like there was friction between Sexy Star and the other girls – not necessarily Rosemary, it was her first time in Mexico – but the other women in the match. It looked like they had some issues that they decided to work out during the match, which is unprofessional in my opinion. The match suffered because of it. Tensions ran high and, in my opinion, because she was in a heightened state of aggravation or whatever she took that out on Rosemary for no reason.
Was now the better time to join GFW, as opposed to six years ago when you left WWE?
JI: Couldn’t be happier with the way that it worked out. The reason I didn’t come right away is that when I left WWE, I was planning on just taking a year off. I left ‘cos I wanted to do movies and to make that movie that ended up taking a lot longer than I thought. I talked to [David] Lagana, Tazz, Dixie [Carter] and Big John [Gaburick] several times back then but it just never really happened because I didn’t want to take myself out of Los Angeles. Then all that stuff happened and I ended up in a situation where I was working for Lucha Underground & AAA and there’s an opportunity to start having all these promotions work together; I could represent all three of these companies at the same time and still have enough control of my time to write movies, to audition, to do fun shorts and things, which is ultimately all I wanted when I left WWE – a little more creative autonomy. For me personally, this is the perfect time and secondary to that, professionally, physically (in the ring) and psychologically I’m the best I’ve ever been.
What are your thoughts on Eddie Edwards winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship in NOAH?
JI: I don’t know Eddie really well. I met him a couple times and then I got to work with him at GFW… always liked him and was super impressed with his ability and knowledge. Talk about someone who’s really earned it, man. He’s been around forever and wrestled all over the world. I know winning that Noah Championship meant a ton to him and it was one of those things I saw that put a huge smile on my face. Eddie’s a really good dude but also a really deserving, talented guy. Really happy for him, really happy to see that.
What would be your advice to young wrestlers breaking into the business?
JI: I used to hate when people said this when I was a young talent coming up but young talent is the future of the business. It’s not gonna be on my shoulders forever. At some point, it’s gonna be on the Dezmond Xaviers, the Ricochets, the Shane Stricklands… it’s gonna be on their shoulders and they’ll be passing down knowledge to the generation that’s after them. To young talent, the best advice from me is that wrestling is a crazy business and it drives a lot of people nuts because there’s such a lack of control. Learning to not worry about things you can’t control and only worry about things that are within your ability to control is one of the most important first lessons to learn. There’s a lot you can control, though: your in-ring ability, your physique, your promos, how you look, how you are, how you talk. That’s your job. You need to get as good at all of those things as possible. The things you can’t control depend on who’s running creative – somebody’s uncle, or a famous wrestler, do they know somebody? – you can’t worry about that. Ultimately, like Macho Man used to say, the cream of the crop rises to the top. In this business, people want to put their name on the most talented talent so being the best at every aspect of being a pro wrestler will result in you going the furthest in the business.
Do you have any interest in getting involved creatively in the wrestling business?
JI: I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about that several times. At some point, conceivably, yes. A lot of the stuff I think of when I’m not wrestling is, for some reason, comedy and instead of trying to fight that instinct, usually I just write what I’m thinking of because I enjoy it. I think if you don’t enjoy writing, it comes out when you’re reading someone’s stuff back. Also, anybody in the wrestling industry is involved, somewhat, in creative. I’m not involved in the creative department of any of the shows that I’m wrestling for currently but if I have ideas I can talk to Scott D’Amore, Sonjay, Big or Jeremy Borash. I can present ideas to them and we can discuss. Same thing with Lucha Underground, same thing with AAA and, ultimately, not everyone is in the same situation that I’m in where they can pick up the phone, make a call and have the creative department pick up. But even if you can’t call Sonjay at home at midnight, all those people that I just mentioned are looking for new ideas and looking for good ideas. Anybody that’s on the roster that has anything good will be heard. Wrestlers are usually in the creative department, whether they know it or not.
If you were competing for the GFW Global Championship at Bound for Glory, would you consider defending some of your AAA championships too?
JI: Oh yeah. I’d put anything on the line. When we get there, if I’m still tricampione of AAA, I’ll put all those things on the line. I’m that confident that I would leave Bound for Glory with Eli’s title, if he still has it by then. If we have a match. If I have my titles. I’m excited for Bound for Glory though, man. It’s one of the pay-per-views that’s the tentpoles of Impact. I remember watching it for the past 10 years and it’s gonna be a really cool thing to be a part of.
What’s it like going through the airports with three championship belts
JI: It’s a pain in the ass. I’ll be honest, it sucks. I’m old school, I always bring two bags. Fear bag, that you never check: that’s got the titles and your in case of emergency stuff but they always pull all three titles out. Sometimes if you have one you can sneak through but with three all the TSA people come over and they want pictures; it turns into a fiasco.
Is there a dream match you’d want to take part in?
JI: Any wrestler? Anywhere? It’d be awesome to wrestle Okada, I’ve been a big fan of the stuff that’s been going on with New Japan. Daniel Bryan would be another dream match. A lot of WWE guys. Right now, I’d put Bobby Lashley up as a dream match because it’s been fascinating to see how well he’s done in both MMA and pro wrestling. A true two sport athlete, that’s very rare. He’s also a good friend of mine. Macho Man was always my dream match growing up or a singles match against HBK but some of these, I think, are never gonna happen. The ones with potential are the first ones I mentioned.
Your former tag team partner, The Miz, has really reinvented himself in recent years. What are your thoughts on his resurgence?
JI: We text back and forth all the time. Every time my IMDB meter is higher than his, I snap it and send it over to him, tell him that Boone: the Bounty Hunter is better than The Marine. He’s been killing it and I think it really comes down to the fact The Miz is always emphatically himself. He never changed who he was. Whether in the ring or in real life, he’s this loud, abrasive, confident guy. He’s a really good and loyal friend and, in smaller groups, really fun to hang out with. Because of those qualities, he’s remained consistent. He knows who he is, in the ring and out of the ring. I think that confident part of Mike Mizanin is what’s propelled him to the next level of success with wrestling. It’s been really cool to see. I’d put him on the dream match list, also. It might be more fun to tag with him than kick his ass, but each one would be interesting.
Do you still keep in contact with Matt Cappotelli and how’s he doing these days, if you do?
JI: I saw him a few months back. I did a show in Louisville, at OVW, and he and I hung out and caught up for a couple of days. It was awesome, actually. We talked about Tough Enough and how crazy it was that we both moved to Louisville together, back then. That was before he relapsed and they noticed anything. They found some more cancerous cells in his brain and he’s gonna have to go back to treatment, which sucks. The thing is about Matt Cappotelli, he is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. His run of injuries and cancer and bad luck has been harder than just about anyone I know and he’s always been positive. He’s actually someone I think about when I think I’m having a hard time or s**t day. I think about things that he’s dealt with how positive he’s remained throughout everything. I talk to him at least once a month, sometimes more.
How are things with your other half, Taya Valkyrie, working in GFW at the moment?
JI: She is so excited to be working with GFW. I have loved the entrance and her music. You guys need to tune in Thursday, I believe, to see her debut. She’s been loving it and has been really happy. You know what they say: when your girl is happy, you’re happy. That’s just part of why I’ve been loving GFW so much.
Could we see you back in WWE one day?
JI: It’s hard to say. I believe so but it’s ultimately not completely up to me. I will say that I’m really happy right now with my life and my career with GFW, Lucha, AAA, and everyone. I don’t even have enough time to wrestle all their shows on the dates those companies have. I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to pursue my own projects; to make Boone: the Bounty Hunter, basically. There are a ton of people on the WWE roster that I haven’t had a chance to work with. I’d love to work circles around Rollins and Reigns, I’d love matches with Finn Balor, Lesnar, Samoa Joe… all those are exciting matchups and would be great for me. There’s nothing to say though that those matches couldn’t happen in GFW, or Lucha Underground, ‘cos the business changes so quickly. So as far as WWE goes, sure it’s possible but I’m really happy with where I’m at right now.
Where can we buy the sunglasses that you wear?
JI: Probably, your best bet is to get them on Pro Wrestling Tees. I’ve got a couple of t-shirts up on that site for sale but you can also get the Mundo glasses there.
How do you balance work in the wrestling, film and television industry to make sure you’re always working at your best?
JI: Well, I’m sitting in my car right now in rush hour traffic on my way to an audition. It’s not easy. It’s about a lot of time management and prioritization. Entertainment in general, to me, boils down to making people feel something and whether it’s TV or film or pro wrestling, people watch to feel and [have] emotion. In any of those forms, the stories that we’re telling in the ring or on the TV show, or in a movie, is written and designed to convey that emotion. If it’s done well and people like it they can relate and they want more. Honing into that really is the core of entertainment; it was one of the first epiphanies that I had about entertainment in general and it was something that Vince McMahon always talked about. The point of wrestling is entertainment and he’d always say “Entertain my ass! I need to be entertained when you’re in the ring.” That’s the constant between any form of entertainment and making the transition back and forth because once you realize that the point of it is storytelling, the tools are different after that. In film and TV, your performances are more nuanced. You almost have to have your body and mind filled up with emotions but contain them so the camera can zoom in close to your face and pull what you’re thinking and feeling. Wrestling is different, there’s an arena full of people and what makes pro wrestling a performance art is the crowd. You’re feelings and actions need to be bigger so they can fire the crowd up, get rowdy, heckle and cheer. In short, I take everything one day at a time and know what the point of entertainment is; that’s how I balance it.
Can you talk to us about Boone: the Bounty Hunter?
JI: I was a film major at UC Davis before I got into wrestling and I knew that I wanted to do action movies pretty much my whole life. When I left WWE in 2011, I knew I wanted to do a movie and I didn’t know it was going to be Boone: the Bounty Hunter at the time. I wrote a movie that was like a sci-fi/action thing that I just ended up throwing away because it wasn’t that good and then I started working on Boone with a buddy of mine. The idea of the movie first, conceptually, was that I wanted to do a movie where the action was combo of parkour, pro wrestling, and MMA – all the stuff that I’m best at. The character is this goofy, reluctant hero… kinda the everyman type of guy with a bullish arrogance. That’s fun because you get to say stupid things but also in an endearing way so to not alienate people. That was what we set out to write when we started Boone but then it evolved and it became about Boone and the reality show, Bounty Hunter. The gist of the plot of the movie that when the show was going to be canceled because of ratings, he decided to go to Mexico after a real criminal to save his show. Making movies is hard, let’s put it that way. From the time I started writing to the time we shot it was two and a half years, then it took another two years of post production and getting the distribution deal, then we get to now and it’s out on DVD everywhere and it’s on VOD, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and places like that. It took a really long time but Boone is the movie that I’ve done that I’m by far the most proud of and people that have seen it have responded really well to it. There’s a lot of people that really liked it and call me up with Boone quotes: Boone-voyage, a-Boone-a-matata… stuff like that. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
How was it working on GLOW and what were the girls like?
JI: The girls in GLOW were amazing. They are all very hard working and beautiful, obviously, but I think what really made that show work was the camaraderie between the girls on the cast. They had a really fun and tight relationship between themselves and, because they were so sure of themselves and their abilities, they were very welcoming to outsiders like me. I was a guest star on the first episode; I played Salty ‘The Sack’ Johnson, which is one of my favourite wrestling names ever. I really felt welcomed by all of the cast members – the girls – and also by Marc Maron (who’s one of the funniest dudes ever), Carly, Liz and all the writers and executive producers on the show; they really made it a positive environment. I think that’s the secret to a show’s success – positivity.
What was it like working with Jason David Frank, and others, on Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe?
JI: I’m really excited for Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe. The trailer, I believe, is going to be released this week. Jason David Frank, Derek Theler, Kevin Porter, Mike Rowe from Arrow, Ciera Foster – the cast of this digital series is, in my mind, 10/10. Everybody is uniquely them and perfect fits for their own specific characters. Outside of that, I feel like I’ve become legitimate bros with Jason David Frank, Derek and Mike which is one of my favourite things about working in a creative industry. When you’re working together with someone creatively, you really cut a lot of the superficial s**t quickly. You have to relate as your characters quickly and, sometimes, in highly emotional circumstances. Basically, it’s been great. I’m a big fan of Jason David Frank, he’s super talented and the rest of the cast is too. That goes also for Josh and Dinesh, the guys that run Valiant, as well as Aaron and Sean, the director and sound editor for Bat in the Sun. I think that when that trailer drops, people’s minds are going to be blown.
Does JDF have any interest in getting involved with pro wrestling in any capacity?
JI: Yep, he and I have talked about it. We’re looking at doing a tag match. He’s tight with Booker T, they both live in Houston, and they were thinking about doing something like me and him vs. two other guys; we haven’t gone too far down that path yet. It might even be something we could do on Impact, that’s GFW’s call. He’s a lifelong martial artist and I know how hard he works at karate and karate schools and training. He’s a fan of pro wrestling, he loves the business and he’d like to be a part of it. I don’t think he wants to be a full-time pro wrestler by any means but he’s an entertainer and thinks it would be fun to do a match.
Do you think Hollywood’s attitudes to pro wrestling has changed over the years?
JI: Wrestling right now is hot. Pro wrestling is a hot industry worldwide right now. That’s partly due to The Rock; he’s on the cover of GQ, one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood but not only that, one of the most prolific actor/producers alive today. That dude is everywhere, he busts his ass and because of that he’s got the respect of the entertainment community as well as the professional wrestling community. It’s because he’s hot that you’ve got guys like Dave Bautista who’s become a famous actor with the stuff that he’s done in Guardians of the Galaxy, which for me was really cool to watch. Dave’s a big teddy bear, he’s a super nice guy and I think that came out in his performance when he was doing Drax. John Cena stepped up his game, also. He carried it so well in Trainwreck that he’s getting more and more stuff. Stone Cold Steve Austin is another one; he’s part of pop culture. He’s hosting and Executive Producer of three different TV shows now, I think. All of that really does endorse guys like me. All I need is a little hole for me to kick the door open wide because I’m hungry right now to get further into that world.
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