Harry Smith recently spoke with Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com about his start in the business, his WWE run and departure, wrestling for Resistance Pro, Ring Ka King and much more. Here is part one of the interview, make sure to check back tomorrow for part two where Smith discusses his Resistance Pro tenure, Natalya's current gimmick, MMA training, possibly going to TNA and much more.
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WrestlingINC.com: You made your actual WWE debut back in 1996, right?
Smith: I did do a match in October of 1996. I believe it was at a WWE house show in front of a live crowd to start off the show, but not an actual TV show. [Not a] TV debut, but yeah, that is true.
WrestlingINC.com: How old were you at that time?
Smith: I think it was in '96, so I was 10 or 11... I think I had just turned 11. So that's pretty crazy. [laughs]
WrestlingINC.com: Growing up around the business, was this something you always knew you wanted to do?
Smith: Oh yeah, certainly. I followed wrestling for as along as I can remember. Whatever wrestling it was, I would be interested in watching it. That was always the goal, to make that a career. With my family involved and everything, I guess that just sort of came naturally. But yeah, that was always sort of the goal.
WrestlingINC.com: Early in your career you teamed with your father, how was that experience?
Smith: Yeah, we teamed in May of 2002, it was right before he passed away and another time we teamed up in the year 2000 for one show up in Calgary. That was great, I was glad I got a chance to do that. He was part of… not only my father, but one half of one of the greatest tag teams of all times with Dynamite Kid. It's too bad we couldn't do more of that, but I'm glad I got to get in what I could.
WrestlingINC.com: Is he the one that mostly trained you when you were growing up?
Smith: No, well... you know, he was always busy traveling with a full time schedule with WWE, which before was totally insane. My schedule now is nothing like compared with those guys flying all over the place and doing two or three shows a day and stuff like that. So you know, he was always busy traveling, I did the majority of my training with my Uncle Bruce and my Uncle Ross. When my dad was in town and when it would work out, we would do work out sessions and he would watch a match of mine and critique it. So they did the majority and when I got a little older, about 17 or so, I started training with Tokyo Joe and he was a Japanese coach up in Calgary and he wound up being a scout for New Japan Pro Wrestling. When I was about 17 or so, I started training with him and it was a lot more conditioning stuff and a lot more… it was some pretty brutal training that he put us through, but he was just an awesome, awesome coach and I'm glad I got to train with him as well.
WrestlingINC.com: You did something that not many people do, when you turned down the first contract that WWE offered you in 2004.
Smith: That is correct.
WrestlingINC.com: Was that a hard decision to make?
Smith: Nope [laughs]. It was just one of those deals. I think I was like 18 at the time, I was just out of high school. I mean, that was just kind of initially the plan, to graduate high school and get an education and get picked up [by WWE]. They [WWE] wanted to do that, but I figured I'm 18 and I can continue to train with Tokyo Joe and try to go to New Japan and try to wrestle and get a lot more experience before going to WWE, rather than just straight going there with no other prior experience. I mean, not that I had no other prior wrestling experience, I was wrestling up in Calgary and doing some other independent shows, but what I really wanted to do was go full time and wrestle in Japan and I did it. And you know being 18, I didn't want to sign a developmental contract and move all alone all the way to Louisville, Kentucky or something like that and kind of be stuck there, you know what I mean? So that's why I was kind of like yeah… no.
They kept trying to hound me for like the next year or two, and obviously everybody wants to go in the WWE or aspired to if you are in the wrestling business, but I just didn't want to at that time so I toured around, did some tours with New Japan... I did a few tours with them, I got to go wrestle over in England, I got to wrestle in Germany and a few other places. And one night when I.. I think I was 20 and New Japan had been going through a big restructuring of their whole promotion with firing long time employees and hiring new ones and just changing everything around. And Tokyo Joe, who had sent me over there, unfortunately was one of the ones who was let go and so that was it for me as far as me and Japan. And then we kind of sniffed around at some other offices. But then WWE was sort of knocking down my door, so I decided in 2006 to sign with them.
WrestlingINC.com: When you finally did debut with them, you used the name DH Smith. Was that your idea to use that name or was that something the office came up with?
Smith: Nope, that wasn't my idea [alughs]. I'm glad it wasn't my idea either. To be perfectly honest, I was never high on the DH Smith name. I liked David Hart Smith better, but I thought that David Hart Smith just sounded to awkward, I don't know. I always just thought, "what's wrong with Harry Smith, or even just Davey Smith or something like that?" I'd take David Hart over DH, but I didn't like DH. Whatever, Vince McMahon didn't see Harry as like a fighting name, which... okay, well whatever. Is Cody a fighting name, or is Randy a fighting name? I don't know… what is a fighting name? A Mike or a Joe? So, it wasn't my idea, I didn't like the DH name... whatever.
WrestlingINC.com: For a long time after you debuted there was talk about you joining Legacy. Randy Orton would talk about it and we would hear from guys backstage that it was like a done deal. Was that something you had heard too?
Smith: Yeah, I was kind of told about it. There was some rumors going around that I like demanded to be in Legacy, and was like pushing for it or something, which wasn't necessarily true. I just heard about it, and you know with the way WWE goes, it's like you don't believe anything until you see it. So I was like, if we are going to be in Legacy then great, and if it wasn't going to happen I was like, okay. I wasn't exactly betting on it to happen. In the pro wrestling business in general you can't believe anything until you see it or until it actually happens, and not only until it actually happens, but until it airs on TV because something they could do for SmackDown, which is filmed on Tuesdays, and then they could have an idea for something.. It's happened before where they have an idea that they filmed on Tuesday and then on Wednesday they are like, "aah, we're going to hold off on this," and then they cancel it. So until it actually airs on TV and happens, you don't know if it's going to happen.
So yeah, there were plans for that, but I don't know where that would ended up getting me. I think it was probably better that I ended up doing the thing with TJ [Wilson] and Nat, Tyson Kidd and Natalya. Legacy shortly after split up anyways, so I'm not sure where that would have left me [laughs].
WrestlingINC.com: When the Hart Dynasty was formed, it seemed that is was about time you were given something substantial to do and you guys got the push early on. What was that like, working with Tyson Kidd and Natalya?
Smith: It was great, I had known TJ since... I first met him when I was like 5 years old, he came over to my house to watch Royal Rumble '91 in Calgary. His debut match was with me tagging up against Teddy Hart and his brother Matthew who passed away, so I mean he was great and Nattie being my cousin and everything, it was great. I truly felt our first run on ECW that we had when we were given the push and given the opportunity and a little bit of something, that it probably my best run in WWE. The tag team title run was good too, but I felt that the ECW one was probably my favorite.
WrestlingINC.com: I thought, with you guys teaming together, it definitely brought back memories of the 80's tag teams where you would have the power guy and the high flyer. But WWE puts no interest in tag teams anymore.
Smith: Yeah, exactly [laughs].
WrestlingINC.com: Do you think the tag team division is just going through a lull? Do you see tag team wrestling being given much focus in the future?
Smith: You know, that's kind of up in the air because I have... since I left, I have had no interest in even watching the product. Who are the tag champions now, I don't even know?
WrestlingINC.com: Uh... It's... Epico and Primo. Sorry about that, it took me a second.
Smith: Part of that is because of, like you don't know who the tag team champs are, is because WWE doesn't care about them. It's not pushed, so nobody knows who the champions are right now anyways. It could be brought back, but the consensus is that Vince [McMahon] just doesn't care about them and it's just kind of like filler for the show.
I heard a story, this is what supposedly happened. Paul London and Spanky [Brian Kendrick] were tag team champions and they went to the Titan Towers there, and I think it's on the third floor they had like a cardboard cut out type thing of all the champions who were there at the time. Beth Phoenix is the divas champion, Randy Orton was the heavyweight champion... whoever was a champion had a cut out. So Spanky and Paul London, they go in and are looking around and they don't see their cut outs and they are tag team champions so they asked Shane McMahon, "Hey, where's our cut out?" He was like, "Oh, you didn't know?" And they were like, "Know what?" So he goes, "Oh, we haven't liked a tag team since LOD." They were like, "Okay, well that's not good."
So that's what Vince thinks of the tag team division, unfortunately. So whether or not it will come back, I don't know, but I certainly hope it will because it's a great element to wrestling. You can have so much fun with tag team matches, all sorts of saves and double team moves, people interacting, partners interacting with each other and everything like that. I hope so, but I don't know.
WrestlingINC.com: It did kind of look like they were going to give the tag titles a little bit of a push when you and Tyson Kidd won the unified titles. Did you think that might be the case? Or did you see it as no big deal?
Smith: No, I mean I was cool with it. I personally liked the other tag team titles better, just the way that they looked. The big shiny copper-like titles that they have now, I mean they are fine but I understand they wanted to unify it because - to make it more prestigious I guess. Combine the two shows, I think that maybe its just because of the lack of tag teams in general. Why have tag team champions on SmackDown when there is only one other tag team to feud with? What are you the champion of? One of two teams?
The copper belts are quite heavy, they are like as heavy as the unified titles, the two combined. You get hit with one of those and you are going to go down. It was cool, I'm glad to say we were the first ones to become unified tag champions. I remember Nat and Bret coming out to present them and everything, so it was great.
WrestlingINC.com: I think there's a lot of people who feel like at this point they should unify all the titles. Unify the World and WWE titles, unify the US and Intercontinental, just because the shows aren't really separate anymore.
Smith: Yeah, they could do that I suppose. I would like to see maybe two… well.. It would be interesting, anyway.
WrestlingINC.com: You had your last match with Zack Rider last April.
Smith: Yeah, that's right.
WrestlingINC.com: That match was in April and you weren't released until August, what was going on during that time?
Smith: Well, lot's of flying out to TV tapings and twiddling my thumbs and eating catering [laughs]. For, I would say April until June or so, which sucks because you don't want to fly out to TV tapings because you have to fly out the day before... I mean, don't get me wrong, it's like part of the job, you sign up for it.
But you leave Sunday, you have to pay for a rental car and hotel Sunday night and then Monday is TV where you do absolutely nothing but eat catering and wonder why you're not used and then the next day you fly home, but it's an early morning flight and you're kind of tired, so you got three days that are just kind of wasted because you go to TV's to do nothing. So I did that for... April, May, June, July. I think June they stopped bringing me out completely and then I just sat at home for another month or two until I got the release.
WrestlingINC.com: And when you got the release, I am guessing you were kind of expecting it at that point?
Smith: Well, yeah.. I was kind of expecting it… almost kind of hoping for it. It was just like kinda one of those things, I mean I tried to do the best that I could do for the company. Prior to my release, I had a sit down with John Laurinaitis and I tried to give him some ideas. This was right after the Royal Rumble that they didn't even have me on, which was kinda insulting that I wasn't in it, with so many other guys in it. [Laurinaitis] was like, "We don't know what to do with you so we are going to try and repackage you."
I don't know... I was sort of relieved, I could see it coming. I was just like, as long as they don't try to call me back, to try to stooge me out on TV a couple more times and then fire me, or ask me to go to FCW for awhile and then fire me. So I was just kind of glad, it was just kind of a relief to everybody. I think other people saw it coming, like my fans probably that didn't see me in awhile were wondering what, after the breakup of the Hart Dynasty, what were they going to do with me.
It was a good thing. I wanted to do my own schedule, I wanted to go back to Japan and wrestle. I wanted to train seriously with mixed martial arts and get some training time with Billy Robinson and Josh Barnett and wrestle, and start enjoying pro wrestling in general and not be wondering when WWE is finally going to give me a shot. Honestly, it was a good decision on their part and it was a mutual thing on my part. It wasn't like the world was going to come to an end. It was like, time to move on, leave the door open and maybe come back, maybe not, we'll see.
WrestlingINC.com: The week after you were released, CM Punk mentioned it during a promo, did you hear that?
Smith: Yeah, somebody texted me right away because, like I said, I don't watch WWE RAW, like ever. And I texted him later and said thanks. That was an on-the-fly thing, it wasn't in the script at all.
Punk and I were always good friends on the road, he's a hell of a workhorse in that ring. I mean, being a top guy in WWE, he's really busy too. So I thanked him for it. Punk's a good guy and I thought that was cool.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for part two of the interview, where Smith talks about MMA training, wrestling for Resistance Pro and Ring Ka King, Natalya's current gimmick, possibly going to TNA and much more.
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