Most veteran NFL players, when retiring from the gridiron, will try their hands at coaching, or go into media. Not many transition into other careers that take a huge physical toll on their body, but Quinn Ojinnaka did just that. When the former offensive tackle moved on from football, he took on a new identity as Moose, and immediately made his presence felt on the wrestling world.
We caught up with Moose to talk about his journey from football to wrestling, what it means to be Impact Wrestling's Grand Champion, his upcoming partner for his tag-team match at Slammiversary against Eli Drake and Chris Adonis, and much more.
Note: this interview took place on Wednesday 21st June, before the airing of that week's Impact.
RealSport: Impact is currently airing episodes from the recordings in India. What was that experience like?
Moose: It was a great experience - the crowd, the fans, I wasn’t expecting that. When you go to a foreign country that’s not the UK or Japan, you really don’t know how the fans take to wrestling. It’s kind of nerve-wracking, you don’t know if they’re gonna know who you are, or going to know how to react to things that you do, but it was great. The crowd in India was probably in the top three crowds I’ve been around, so that was definitely a good thing.
RS: You’ve performed in front of crowds all over the world – how do different audiences compare?
Moose: I think the UK is definitely, in my opinion, the best crowd. Then the States, then Japan. But they all have their gives and their takes. I mean there’s some stuff that I love about the UK crowd and there’s some stuff I don’t like about the UK crowd. It’s the same thing with the States. There’s some things I love about the fans in the States, and some things that sometimes irks you, you know? But I would say fans in the UK are probably the best.
RS: Speaking of the UK fans, Impact disappeared from British screens earlier this year, but now has a new home at Spike UK. How important is it for you that British Impact fans can now watch you again on TV every week?
Moose: It’s great. It’s real good. I know the UK is our biggest market and the wrestling here has been great for the last few years. I think it’s definitely a good thing that we’re back on TV here and it’s only going to make our project much bigger than what it is.
RS: While we’re talking about wrestling internationally, you were selected to represent Impact at Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Great Voyage earlier this year. How did it feel to represent the company at the event?
Moose: It was great, man. I love wrestling in Japan. I feel like Japan is a place where a bunch of young exciting wrestlers want to go and once they get there, they pretty much feel like they’ve made it. The crowd and the fans in Japan are amazing, quite different to other places but they’re still great, their reactions to things are awesome and I can’t wait to go back. I feel like us having all these different relationships with different wrestling organisations in the world is great for business.
From gridiron to grappling
RS: Slammiversary is just around the corner, and it’s been reported that you will be tagging with NFL player DeAngelo Williams for the event. How has he taken to training for the ring?
Moose: That’s the rumour right now! I can’t really confirm that yet but I do know DeAngelo is a real good friend of mine, and I was there when he was training for some odd reason, whatever it could be. But we were in winter together and he was training for an upcoming wrestling match that he’s trying to have. He’s great man, he’s an athlete like me. I think he’s going to be awesome, I can’t wait to see him in the ring.
RS: Having made that transition from football to wrestling yourself, what advice have you given DeAngelo?
Moose: Man, don’t over-think it. Football, you’re coming from a sport that in my opinion is much harder than wrestling, different, but definitely harder, more tolling on your body so you have that advantage coming in. Just be patient and have fun doing it throughout the process.
RS: How much do you need to change your training regime for wrestling compared to football?
Moose: I think it’s similar. Honestly, with DeAngelo still trying to play football (and I think he’s going to get picked up this year because he’s a phenomenal running back), just using him as an example, I believe that his cardio in the wrestling ring will be great just because of the hard work he puts into his training regimen for football.
RS: What made you personally decide to go into wrestling once you hung up your football cleats?
Moose: I was a big fan as a kid. Wrestling, as a kid, was something I always wanted to do since I was 8 years old, so it’s something that I knew I always wanted to do. I just took a long path at getting to it, obviously, because I played seven years in the NFL so it wasn’t something I could do right out of college. You know what? I think that’s a good thing I didn’t become a wrestler at an early age because I was definitely immature and I feel that is why I picked it up so much quicker, because of how mature I was once I got into it.
RS: What did you find was the biggest challenge in transitioning from football to wrestling?
Moose: Honestly, I don’t think there was any challenge at all, because wrestling was something that I always wanted to do. So you’ve got to think, once you have the passion to do something, it usually comes easy, and because I had the passion to be a wrestler I think it came easy.
RS: You were teammates with James Laurinaitis, whose dad is wrestling legend Road Warrior Animal. Did he help you at all in your transition to wrestling?
Moose: Yes, definitely. St Louis was the last team I played for. James definitely helped me out. He helped me get my first WWE tryout fresh out of football which didn’t work out right, which I thank god for that because if it did have worked out, I wouldn’t be at Impact Wrestling right now, obviously, so I’m kind of happy with the way things happened. But to answer your question, James Laurinaitis did help me to get to where I am right now.
RS: Who were your big inspirations when watching wrestling growing up?
Moose: Ric Flair, Razor Ramon, Jeff Jarrett actually believe it or not was the guy that I watched. Honestly, as a heel I thought he was a piece of crap! And that’s a good thing, that’s a real good thing when a heel like Jeff Jarrett back in his heyday makes a kid like me dislike him, then his job has been done. I feel that’s like something now that a lot of heels of today’s generation don’t do. They’re too busy trying to get themselves over as wrestlers instead of getting heat from the fans like they should be doing, and I feel like that’s something Jeff Jarrett did when he was in the prime of his career. He was definitely a guy that was memorable too because of how much I hated the character, and in this business it’s a great thing.
RS: How did you feel when you learned that Jeff Jarrett was returning to Impact?
Moose: I thought it was fantastic news, I’d been good friends with Jeff for a while. I think I met him four years ago, and we stayed in contact and we became good friends. When I heard that he was signing and coming aboard to be our leader at Impact Wrestling I thought it was great. Think about it, this was the guy that made Impact Wrestling; When Impact was at the prime of the company, he was the reason for that. For him to come back to get us back to where that company used to be at, I think that’s great. And I think it’s going to work, I think it’s great, I mean you can look at how we have been since they came back and it’s the ratings have been up, the viewers have been up, so everything is going upwards right now.
RS: That relationship between Impact and NOAH we talked about earlier as one of many moves that the company has made since Impact took over. From your perspective as part of the Impact roster, how much has changed since Anthem came in?
Moose: A lot of changes and all for the good. I mean, we have a great ownership, we have a great leader in Jeff Jarrett that knows the wrestling business, and he’s been doing this for years. We have some great agents in Scott D’Amore, Abyss, Sonjay, and some of the other guys that’s there. We have some of the best talents there like Gail Kim, myself, EC3, Lashley, I mean I feel like Impact Wrestling is where it is at right now.
RS: One of the things that came with Jarrett was Global Force Wrestling. How do you feel the influx of wrestlers from Global Force has changed the locker room?
Moose: I think it’s a good thing. It adds more talent to the roster which we desperately needed and a lot of those guys from Global Force are good workers. You’ve got to understand, Jeff is a smart man, he knows exactly what he saw. At the end of the day the end result is going to be success.
RS: When you became a wrestling free agent in 2016, what made you choose Impact over other promotions?
Moose: For me, I feel like Impact helped me become a bigger brand. If you look at the year I’ve been at Impact, I think I’m a better and bigger brand than I was before I got to Impact, so that was a no-brainer for me.
RS: Speaking of the Moose brand, one of the things which you’re known for is your very distinct entrance. How does it feel when the fans chant your name and join in with your arm motion?
Moose: It’s still a surreal moment every time, especially when I was in India, not knowing how the fans would react to you. When you walk out there, you see a thousand, fifteen hundred people in a small building doing the arm motion and chanting your name, that’s just a surreal moment.
RS: Where did the arm motion come from?
Moose: I came up with the idea, but just like in wrestling, you get something from somebody else. I played seven years in the NFL, my first three years with the Falcons. I played with a guy called Lawyer Milloy, who was our free safety. That was his thing when they announced him during the starting lineup, so I decided to take that from him since he’s not a wrestler.
RS: Looking back at your first year in Impact, your most notable accomplishment is being the two-time Grand Champion. Were there any concerns that the fans may not take to the round-based format of the Grand Championship?
Moose: No, I feel like one thing about wrestling is the best thing about wrestling is new concepts. If you can make something fresh, it becomes something that attracts eyes. Don’t get me wrong, the concept isn’t new because that was the British thing back in the day, when they did wrestling in rounds. Repackaging the concept of the matches and doing something fresh with it, I think it’s good. I think at first it was kind of like nerve-wracking because it was hard to call in a match with a round system to it, but now I’m the Grand Champion, I’ve done it a bunch of times, I know how to work the matches. I think because of the way I’ve been working the matches, the fans are starting to like it, and it brings excitement and something different to the company.
RS: How important it is to you personally to be carrying that Grand Championship belt?
Moose: It means a lot to me. My goal is to make the Grand Championship just as important as the world title, and I think I’ve been doing a good job doing that because I’ve defended it all over the place, from the States to Mexico to Japan to the UK to Germany to Dublin. I carry that title all around the world to make it mean something and I think I’m doing a good job of doing it.
RS: If you could choose anyone from the wrestling world not currently signed to Impact, who would you want Anthem to go out and sign?
Moose: Oh man, I’ve been on a big binge to try and get Joe Coffey in Impact Wrestling. He’s definitely my favourite opponent in the UK. I have had some stellar matches with him and I’ve been tweeting him and posting on Instagram and Facebook about how bad I want to wrestle Joe Coffey in the Impact ring. Hopefully, either the bosses Jeff or Ed or Scott D’Amore or Sonjay or any of those guys upstairs see my tweets and give Joe Coffey a job. I think he’s a tremendous outside talent in the UK right now and I feel like he would be great for Impact Wrestling. I feel like Impact needs to do something with him ASAP before WWE or any of the other companies get him.
RS: Who would you say is the toughest person in the impact locker room?
Moose: Probably Bobby Lashley, I mean, he’s an MMA fighter, he’s a freaking beast, man.
RS: Who is the toughest opponent you’ve faced in the ring?
Moose: Oh man, that’s a lot of names. Toughest, for me, it depends on what you mean by “tough”. Bobby Lashley is definitely one of them. I’ve wrestled [Kazuchika] Okada, he’s definitely one of them, I’ve wrestled [Naomichi] Marufuji, [Tetsuya] Naito, Drew Galloway. I’ve wrestled some of the best wrestlers in the world. It all depends on what your definition of tough is.
RS: Fair enough, I’ll change the question slightly - which opponent that you’ve faced have you felt the most the following morning waking up?
Moose: Definitely Lashley
RS: Who’s the one person you’ve never tag teamed with who you would like to?
Moose: Bobby Lashley
RS: If you have to prop your dream match who your opponent be and what stipulation would you choose?
Moose: Oh man. This is a tough one. I might say Ric Flair.
RS: Of all your former football teammates, who do you think will make the best wrestler?
Moose: Honestly I think DeAngelo Williams. I mean I know he wasn’t my teammate but he was definitely my football brother. I think just training with him, he’s great, he’s athletic as hell, he was surprisingly getting every drill we did the first or second time we did it, and he can talk. Something you guys don’t know about DeAngelo, he talks a lot of crap *laugh*. I think DeAngelo will be a star. If DeAngelo decided he wanted to wrestle full time, I think he would definitely be a star.
RS: Final question - if you expect three accomplishments, you haven’t yet achieved in wrestling that you wanna make sure you tick off your list what would they be?
Moose: I don’t need three, I only have one – to be a world champion.
Impact Wrestling airs weekly on Spike UK at 9pm every Friday. Spike UK will be airing Slammiversary XV on July 3rd at 9pm.