If you’ve tuned in to Impact Wrestling since the beginning of the year, you’ve probably seen Eddie Edwards doing what he does best by proving that he’s “Mr. AIP”: 'anything is possible'. On the surface, Eddie doesn’t look like something special, especially when he’s compared to some of the more massive peers he works with.
That’s never mattered to him, though. As Eddie says, he likes to prove people wrong. He’s done that plenty of times during his more than decade-long career in professional wrestling. He’s worked with Pro Wrestling NOAH, Ring of Honor, WWE NXT, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and finally TNA where he’s found his home.
Eddie made his first huge mark on the business in Ring of Honor with Davey Richards as the tag team "The American Wolves". During his time in ROH, Edwards became the company’s first ever "triple crown" champion by winning the ROH Tag Team Championship, ROH Television Championship, and ROH World Championship.
In TNA, where he has come into his prime as a competitor, Edwards is a five-time Tag Team Champion (with Davey Richards), two-time X Division Champion, and former TNA World Heavyweight Champion. RealSport got to sit down this week with Eddie Edwards and talk about some of the unique aspects of TNA, his rivalry with Lashley, his thoughts on Kurt Angle, and much more!
What sets TNA apart from the rest?
Eddie Edwards joined TNA back in 2014, and over the last few years he’s gotten well acquainted with the company, but he also spoke about the transition from the independent scene to a more televised brand like Impact Wrestling.
“It was a pretty big difference just because Impact is the next level. It’s a step up from where I was. I was on the lower level, on the independent scene, and taking that next step [to TNA]. It’s a real TV show. It’s a real TV atmosphere. It’s bigger crowd, bigger matches, bigger wrestlers. It took a little bit of adjustment, but eventually you just click in. The chemistry clicks, and you just keep going from there. [In TNA] you just have to step up your game. It’s either sink or swim, especially in wrestling. You go to a show and you either survive or you don’t. I’ve survived for a little bit, so I’m still here.”
Aside from the step up in competition, the most commonly asked question about transitioning to TNA is what it’s like working inside a six-sided ring. TNA made a statement years ago when they introduced it and set themselves apart, and today it is a true symbol of Impact Wrestling. It was still different, and Eddie started with the obvious on the differences from working in a traditional four-sided ring.
“Well there’s two more ropes,” he quipped. “I mean at first it’s a bit daunting, because it just looks so different... especially if you’re in a four-sided ring the whole time. As long as you run in a straight line, you’ll be able to hit the rope, or if you aim for a corner you go for a corner. Sometimes you might get a little mixed up because the ropes are a lot shorter than in the bigger ring, the four-sided, but you kinda catch on to that and now I don’t even notice it, actually. Now, when I go back and do other shows in the four-sided ring, I really don’t even notice a difference.”
The Anthem era
A little while back, we reported on the changes in TNA since they were acquired by Anthem Sports & Entertainment. For as many rough times as TNA has had over the years, the transition to Anthem has been met with a universally positive reaction, and Eddie’s was no different.
“You know, I think it’s a good start. It started off for the new year, and I think it’s the perfect time. It’s a new year. It’s a new beginning. It’s truly a new era for Impact Wrestling under Anthem. The ownership, the guys in charge there, they truly believe in our product, and we believe in them. So I feel like this is a true time where the wrestlers, the production team, the office, the writers, everybody is on the same page. And as long as we’re on the same page, we’re all gonna go the same direction. You can especially tell by the guys in the ring, when we go into that ring people are going out there having the best matches they’ve had because we want - we truly believe in what we’re doing behind the scenes. If that wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t be risking their life in the ring.”
One of the other big things that’s happened since TNA was acquired by Anthem was the launch of their TNA Total Access App in the UK and Ireland. The app, which we covered in detail when it launched, provides a plethora of content for the fans. Edwards spoke on how big of a difference it’s made for the fans in the UK and Ireland.
“It’s awesome, because people love watching it as it happens, you know what I mean? They love being a part of that right away. So the fact that, as soon as we’re airing in the states, people can stream it over here, that’s a huge step up. They can be a part of it. Another great thing about the app is you can go back and watch old events, old matches. You can watch when I made my debut for Impact. You can watch my championship wins. You can go back and find matches that people have talked about in the history of TNA, like some of the best matches, you go back and you can find it. That’s a really cool thing about the app.”
There are two huge criticisms that you hear from wrestlers when it comes to the hassles of working in a huge company like WWE, and those flaws are areas where TNA and other companies tend to shine. The first is input into your character, which Eddie touched on first.
“They’ve been really nice, as far as - I like to portray my true self basically. What I really am. Because I feel that the fans, they can sense when you’re being true, when you’re being honest. They can connect with that more than trying to portray- I can’t be this big muscle-bound maniac, that’s not believable to people. I’m just chilled out, relaxed, backward hat. That’s who I am, and I feel like the fans notice that, and Impact’s been really cool with letting me go with that.”
Along with input in your actual character comes the ability to improvise. WWE is notorious about being too scripted to the point that sometimes what a performer says isn’t even believable. It sounds memorized rather than spontaneous. Eddie spoke on how that dynamic is in TNA.
“Yeah, it’s never just straight off a script. Maybe some bullet points and what direction you want it to go, but then just flip it up however you want to go.” He continued when asked if he thinks that is important, “definitely, because it helps people be comfortable. If [a script] tells me to do something a certain way, but I don’t like it, it’s gonna come off as just robotic or something.”
The other huge criticism of WWE tends to be the schedule. WWE runs a grueling year-round touring schedule, and stories from wrestlers over the years have emphasized a lack of time off and sheer grind to the schedule. Eddie spoke on how the schedule is in TNA and how that helps.
"It’s definitely lighter than WWE. I really enjoy the schedule that we have. We film for a few days in a month, and we have a few days off or a few weeks. Some guys work other places, smaller companies, independents and stuff, to fill up their time, but it’s not a hectic [schedule] where we’re only home for a couple of days or a day and then back on the road. Which I think is huge. It makes things a lot easier on your body, on your home life. It really does help to know that you’re going home for a few days. You can decompress. I really enjoy the schedule right now. You need down time, I believe that."
The connection to the fans
Since coming into his own as a singles competitor, Eddie Edwards has played a beloved character on Impact Wrestling. The fans have been able to connect with him and see something they like in “Mr. AIP.” Eddie spoke on how the adoration of the fans can help motivate him.
“It’s awesome to feel the crowd connection there. ‘Cause you know, I’m in the ring, but yet I can still connect with the fans. Some of them a pretty far away, but you can have that connection because they can feel what I’m going through. So when they cheer or they chant ‘Eddie,’ it just helps bring adrenaline. It helps bring the intensity...like in a 30-minute iron man match. If I’m beat up towards the end, but I can hear the crowd, that’s gonna will me to do something to get to Lashley. It’s just a compliment, really.”
If you’ve watched just about any match of Edwards’ recently in TNA, you’ve heard the fans chant for him. You’ve heard them bellow out the raucous “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” chants. If you’re a longtime fan like me, those chants are very familiar. They’re just like the ones that the late, great Eddie Guerrero received. Edwards got to comment on how it feels to have that connection.
“It’s awesome. Eddie Guerrero is one of my idols. I loved him and loved his style and everything, so being able to have the same name, Eddie, it’s pretty cool. I think that helps the fans chant it a bit, because they do associate it with Guerrero. But if anybody in that way feels that I can help live on with the Eddie legacy, I would be honored.”
Eddie Guerrero was a competitor who took a long time to find success in the WWE, carving out his career in ECW, WCW, and around the world. Lately, former TNA legends AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have had massive success in WWE. We asked Eddie what it is about TNA that helps develop performers to the point of being able to have that kind of success, even outside of Impact Wrestling.
“I’d say freedom. You get to be who you are [in TNA]. You get to wrestle how you want to wrestle. You get to work on the stuff you wanna work on. If there’s something you wanna try or something innovative you wanna do, you have the freedom to go out there and do that. Like I said, as far as the character stuff, it’s the same thing with being in the ring being physical. You have to be comfortable, and people can just sense it. If you have a job that you like to do, you enjoy doing it. But if not, people can tell.”
On the note of the connections between WWE and TNA, Kurt Angle was recently announced as an inductee this year into the WWE Hall of Fame. While most fans know him from his time in WWE, he actually spent more of his career in TNA. Angle is a decorated champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, and he’s already a member of the TNA Hall of Fame. Eddie spoke on his opinion of Angle as a professional and as a person.
“He’s amazing. Obviously, an amazing athlete. One of, if not the greatest wrestler of all time. As far as a person, he’s an amazing person as well. Because a cool thing about Kurt is, for all that he’s done, he could just rest on his laurels and be okay and not even worry about helping anyone else or worry about the business. No matter what show it was or what arena, he would get to the building, get in his gear, and watch the whole show. Watch all the matches. And he would help everybody. If you went up to him and asked him his opinion on something, he would give pointers and try to help out everyone.
“Kurt didn’t care just about himself, he cared about the wrestling in general. He cared about the business. He cares about the company. That’s the best type of mentor there is. You follow that guy. Just watching how he goes about his business. How he takes so much pride and passion in professional wrestling, it rubs off on you. An Olympic gold medalist, everything he’s done in pro wrestling. To still have that passion to do it... to work that hard outside the ring and work that hard inside the ring.”
A New England detour
While much of the interview with Eddie focused on his work in TNA, we also changed things up and asked him which professional sport (other than wrestling) he’d try, if given the chance. Unsurprisingly, the man from Boston, Massachusetts went with American football. As a native of Boston, and Patriots fan, Eddie wasn’t afraid to give his thoughts on Super Bowl 51.
“It was amazing. I’m still tired, exhausted from it. Emotionally drained. Physically drained. But it was a hell of a game. It was just awesome. First half, not so good. Second half was just out of this world. Historic.”
Eddie’s love of Boston runs deep, and it isn’t exclusive to the sport of American football. Like any good Bostonian, Eddie was immediately able to comment on Paul Pierce’s recent retirement and his final moments in Boston.
“Paul Pierce was one of my idols, especially in Boston sports. I’m a big time Celtics fan, and I grew up watching him. So seeing him come back and have that moment, and I watched the video as soon as somebody posted it. The emotion in it was just awesome. The reaction the crowd gave him when he made that three-pointer. And I’m making sure, I think next year they’ll retire his jersey, and I’m gonna make sure I go to that game.”
Wrestlers don’t always get to show their sports love in what they wear in the ring, but his affection for the Celtics and Patriots came back up when he was asked if he had any pre-match rituals or superstitions he adheres to.
“I usually wear Boston Celtics socks or Tom Brady socks under my boots. I like to stretch out as well. I wear shorts over my long tights. I have gum and chapstick in my pockets. Gum. Chapstick. And I’m good to go.”
The saga of Eddie Edwards & Lashley
Since beginning to make his mark as a singles competitor, Eddie’s primary rival has been none other than Lashley. For those who don’t know, a lot of it stems back to the moment Eddie won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Lashley was offered the chance to pick his opponent, and he literally said he wanted Eddie because he was the easy win. We asked Eddie how that insult motivated him, and he may or may not have muttered “son of a bitch” under his breath as he was asked.
“You know, it’s kind of like how I’ve been all my life. I like to prove people wrong, really. He picked me because I’m the ‘easy way’? Oh, that’s fine. Because that got me my shot [at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship]. So I’m more than happy to be chosen...it’s because of that choice that I ended up winning the world title.”
Winning a world championship is always a landmark achievement in someone’s career, and Eddie’s comments about that moment definitely affirmed that.
“Oh it was amazing. It’s something that I’ve worked my whole career for. That’s why anybody gets into anything, to be the best at it. To be the best in pro wrestling, to be the best in Impact, you have to be the world champion, and I was able to do that. To beat a guy of his caliber, that caliber of an athlete. Most definitely my great [achievement] to date.”
As monumental as Eddie’s victory over Lashley was back in October, he recently came up short in defending the championship against Lashley. Eddie spoke on how it feels, after a lengthy title run, to no longer be that guy.
“It stings a bit, you know? But, especially a match like we had, the iron man match, it’s a match I feel I can learn from. I can use it going forward in my career. It helped push me, physically and mentally. Sure, I didn’t leave with the belt, but I’m gonna use that as a motivation to get it back. And going against Lashley in that match, he’s just a freak of an athlete. So to keep up with that, I felt like I kept up with him. I didn’t win, but next time I feel like it’ll be different.”
Eddie’s loss came in a 30-Minute Iron Man Match, and he wasn’t shy in saying that it’s the hardest match he’s had, so far.
“Yeah, thirty minutes long of just pure intensity too. It’s a title match, so you’re leaving everything out there. It’s the main event of the show. There’s a lot of self-added pressure, as well as pressure from the company. You’re being in the main event, and that’s what drives you. I’ve done that my whole career. Like you’re in a position where you get the belt and you’re champion, you put that pressure on yourself because you’ve gotta deliver.”
Around the wrestling world, there’s a pretty mixed opinion of Lashley. Some people say he’s really come into his own during his time in TNA, but there are still some people who like to say that Lashley is just a poor man’s Brock Lesnar. Having worked with him, Eddie was able to give some specific insight in response to that kind of comment.
“I’d say he’s a one of a kind, Bobby Lashley. Obviously, I’ve never wrestled Brock Lesnar, but Lashley is just one of a kind. The athleticism he has, the strength that he has, I’ve never seen anything like it. Him throwing me across the ring, I’ve never felt so light in my career. It’s insane. He’s just next level. And his cardio, you can’t get the man tired. Just go, go, go, go, go, go.”
For as much respect as Eddie clearly has for a high-caliber athlete, and the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion, he’s also got a challenge on the horizon. Tonight, on Impact Wrestling, Eddie gets his final chance at the TNA World Championship against Lashley. It’ll be another memorable clash between these two rivals, and we asked Eddie if there was anything he was doing to prepare for it.
“Well, you know, it’s my last shot against Lashley as World Champion. So I’m just gonna leave it all out there. Sure, I’ll be hurt. I’ll be beat up and bruised. That’s fine, but I’ll leave with that title, and that’s the end goal. So I’ll leave it all out there, but it’ll be worth it.”
Don’t miss Impact Wrestling on Pop TV tonight, and if you’re located in the U.K. & Ireland remember that, for only £4.99 a month, you can see Impact at the same time that it airs in the United States. Also, visit our Facebook for more exclusive segments from this exclusive interview. We hit Eddie with some quick fire questions that included his favorite weapon, ideal match, wrestling idol while growing up, and more!
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