One of the most prominent figures in indie wrestling over the past fifteen years, Low-Ki has seen it all. A true TNA original and five-time X Division Champion; the inaugural Ring of Honor Champion; three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion; and winner of season two of the original format WWE NXT - Low-Ki may be one of the most prominent independent wrestlers of his generation.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Low-Ki for an exclusive interview. Low-Ki discussed his wrestling past, his current stint with Impact Wrestling, and many other topics around the industry.
RealSport: What brought you back to Impact?
Low-Ki: What brought me back to Impact was a different conversation than it had been in the past. In the past it was a simple, “interested in having you back”, but that’s where it stopped. There was no further discussion based off of “oh we just want you here.” This time it was a little different because I’m far more experienced now, more or less I’m on the tail end of my career, so I bring a lot more to the table than I had in years past because the motivations are a little different now. I’ve accomplished everything in my career that I wanted to accomplish, and now it’s about leaving something better, and this conversation now, it’s, they want me to bring back The Hitman, they wanted me to bring back The Professional, that’s what I wanted to do, but in order for me to do things the way I see fit I have to lead by example, so that’s the reason.
RS: How different is the GFW era of Impact compared to other eras of Impact?
Low-Ki: The difference is now with Global Force is it’s a less conflictive environment, in the sense that the competitiveness is not between the individuals in the back, but the competitiveness is in the ring, in front of the camera. So it’s not the same toxicity as it was in years past, where it was a much more cut-throat environment, a much more unstable environment, a much more untrustworthy environment. That’s not to say that certain things don’t exist, because they’ll always exist, but it’s a much more welcoming environment than it had been in years past. In previous interviews, people had asked, and I compared it to the early stages of TNA, back in Nashville, back in Alabama, because it was an environment where it was a testing ground. We were trying to figure out what was going to happen, and it seems to be returning to that. The clear indication of that is by having Jeff [Jarrett] at the head.
RS: Many people feel the X Division had lost its way in the last few years under Dixie Carter. What do you think about its direction now?
Low-Ki: Well the emphasis now is on the talent, the emphasis now is on the performance of the men and women who are getting into the ring. So, that’s no different to an old-style mentality: quality is what’s going to bring people in, quality is what’s going to keep people interested. They’re going back to just the old methods, and it seems to be paying off.
RS: What are the challenges of the Ultimate X match?
Low-Ki: The difficulty with that is you’re dealing with an unnatural environment. We don’t train, we don’t get into pro wrestling to do that type of match. It’s a very difficult match, because the incentive is to climb and to make your way towards the center and take whatever the prize is out of the centre position. The risk that’s involved is amplified because of the height. We’re not trained traditionally for an environment like this. Now you amplify the impact of us hitting that mat from 20 feet up, it’s not as easy as it looks. That’s the reason why we’re called professionals. It’s quite difficult, it’s even more risky than normal, and the difficulty, I think the most difficult part about it is actually the gripping. We’re not meant to continually be gripping in that fashion. In the older Ultimate X matches, you can see guys wearing gloves, or I used to tape my hands. I would have tape around it because you would slice open your hands trying to advance towards the center. So it’s such a difficult match, but if it’s done well, and the competitors come to work, that’s when magic happens.
RS: Do you consider yourself the greatest X Division champion ever?
Low-Ki: No, I don’t consider myself the greatest X Division champion ever, the reason being I’m not limiting myself to a title. I have a career of accolades, and none of them really mean anything, only because it was based off of my work ethic. And my success is not mine. My success was the success of my mentors. They’re the ones who shared the information with me, I just applied it. And because I applied it, I excelled faster than everyone else around me. So as far as being the greatest X Division champion ever, or competitor ever? No, I think there will be plenty of guys who will surpass me, and I think there are guys who’ve already been there who’ve surpassed me, so I’m not worried about that.
RS: Is there a GFW world championship in your future?
Low-Ki: If you put them in front of me I will. It’s that simple. Because when I came into the company, I was very honest and said, “I want Lashley.” He’s never seen anything like me, nothing from my size, nothing from my style. I’m a completely different animal to anything he’s ever seen. I’m not Rey Mysterio, I’m not Evan Bourne or Matt Sydal. I’m none of those guys. I’m a completely different animal. For somebody as decorated as Lashley is, and for someone with the background that Lashley has, he’s never been matched up with someone of my size who will come at him with the ferocity of which I will. My goal is, I’m here. I’m not hanging out in the X Division. I’m not hanging out in the tag division. I want the top championship, I don’t care if it’s Alberto, I don’t care if it’s Lashley, it doesn’t matter. My style and my efficiency and my aggressiveness is what will carry me to victory. Whoever it is, it doesn’t matter. They’re going to have their hands full when they’re dealing with me.
RS: At Slammiversary XV, you had what many people consider the match of the night. How important to you is it that you and Sonjay Dutt were able to go out there and steal the show?
Low-Ki: It’s quite important because many times the smaller wrestlers are not credited with quality performance, and this is a different era in time, because now you’re taking a vastly experience Low-Ki, and now you’re taking a world-experienced Sonjay Dutt. Sonjay now, is not the Sonjay from 10 years ago. He’s not doing the Jackass stuff. He’s not with the Motor City Machine Guns. He’s his own man, and he has to stand up on his own two feet, and the fact is, I’ve traveled with him, I’ve competed with him, I’ve seen what he’s gone through, I’ve seen him grow up in this industry because I’ve been doing it so long. It’s a different era. But to go out there and know that the competitor that I’m about to face is a world-class competitor, is not the same guy from ten years ago, he has a lot more experience, he’s got a lot more credibility, and he has a lot more maturity in coming to compete. Going in, especially in a 2 out of 3 falls which is way more demanding than your typical match, because you have to pace yourself a lot differently. If you notice the X Division matches are a lot faster than most other matches, and that’s based off the influence that we created in the past, and it’s a higher efficiency rate of performance. To go out to Slammiversary, this is 15 years in the company’s history, this is a new era in the company’s development, so we want to go out and seal it with a bang, and when you have two competitors of world experience and take pride in going on and performing at a high level, the outcome is what you get, so we were quite happy with that.
RS: Are you excited that Destination X is going to be continuing as a free live special on Pop TV rather than PPV?
Low-Ki: Of course, this is a different time. Pop TV, though it may not be as carried as other networks, it’s still a perfect form for us to keep advancing and to keep improving. There’s nothing bad about that. We want more people to keep eyes on us, because we’re in a development stage, and that’s the cool part. When people who can see where you were, watch you develop into what you will become, you have a much more intimate connection with your viewers. It’s not like some other companies who betray their viewers on a regular basis. It’s quite uplifting to know that we’re gaining support, we’re gaining more and more momentum moving forward, and it just seems that everything is accumulating in more of a positive direction than it had been in years past.
RS: What are the challenges of live TV compared to TV tapings?
Low-Ki: Well, you have to understand that live TV is as it happens. There is no second take. In live TV, you have to be at the highest level of efficiency that you can provide. That comes with experience, that comes with guidance, that comes with the circumstance you’re put in, the situation you’re presented with. It seems like now we have much more familiarity from the performers, than we had in years past. It’s not governed by the older generation of performers. There’s a lot more young influence going on, and you can see it. Again, everything is moving in a positive direction, so that’s all we’re working towards, we just want to keep building and we want to keep moving forwards, because that’s when everyone will win.
RS: After spending the early part of the year being unavailable on British TV, how do you feel knowing Impact has a British home at Spike UK?
Low-Ki: I think it's incredible. We’re advancing our market, we’re expanding our market, we just came from India, we expanded there. We’re reintroducing ourselves here, but again, we’re trying to go based off of quality… we’re trying to come in and earn our way in and it seems to be working, and that’s the good part.
RS: When you look at the Impact locker room, who stands out to you as the future of GFW?
Low-Ki: When I look at the locker room and I consider the future of Impact, I start off with Dezmond Xavier because he’s young, but he’s coachable and that’s what’s needed. In years past, there’s been a culture of coming in and you had to assert yourself and I understood that, but that was a lot of insecurity. Now, it’s with the level of competition that we have, the lineage that the company has, its identity is the X Division. That’s what set it apart in the past. That’s what sets it apart now and it’s because it’s a different quality of performer. It’s not better or worse, it’s just a different quality and with guys like Dezmond [Xavier], he’s elevating it to new heights because his physical ability is just incredible to watch and they’re very difficult to replicate and that’s something important for you to do. You have to be able to set yourself apart from everyone else, and I had done it in years past with my techniques. You see a lot of people doing foot stomps now, I just changed the technique to fit me and it caught fire and you can see it in a lot of different performers but who do they recognize when it’s done? They’re not being recognized for being them, they’re being recognized for being someone else. People like Dezmond Xavier.
Right now, we have Ishimori from NOAH coming in. I was with Ishimori back in ‘05 and ‘06, when he was with Pro Wrestling NOAH as a younger performer, younger wrestler, vastly different now and his in-ring skill and his ability to perform is extremely high and unusual for a Japanese wrestler so he’s another one. We have currently El Hijo del Fantasma, from Mexico, he’s very good and the reason I say he’s very good is because he has the mental capacity to understand how to do this well. He has the lineage by coming from Mexico and the foundation of Lucha Libre but he understands both worlds so he’s quite adaptable, so he’s another one who I think has a very, very big future. So, people like Dezmond Xavier, people like El Hijo del Fantasma, people like Ishimori, this is the future of the X Division and it looks good.