Chris "Masters" Mordetzky recently spoke with Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com about his start in the business, his WWE runs, drugs in wrestling, TNA, Ring Ka King and much more. Here is part one of the interview, make sure to check back tomorrow for part two where Mordetzky talks about his release from WWE, returning to WWE and being released again, TNA, Ring Ka King and much more.
WrestlingINC.com: It sounds like you've been keeping busy as you've been traveling a lot and doing Ring Ka King. Would you say this is the busiest you've been?
Masters: With the independent scene I'm busy, but when you go from my last year in WWE, even though I was being used on Superstars for the most part, I was still booked on the road all the time for the house shows. So it's a transition when you go out of WWE because [in WWE] you are basically traveling all the time. You get home and you have about two and a half days at home and you're back on the road again. Eventually for me, I submitted to the lifestyle. It was just like, you just find a way to enjoy it. So I am staying busy for the independent scene, it's just one of those things... you know there are weeks where you have Monday through Friday off and you are just working the weekends.
So you've got to think of ways, which is what I am doing now, in order to occupy that time and be productive in between the time and in between bookings. Some weeks you'll have no shows and then some weeks you'll have like you said… I went to India twice and went to the Philippines and Nashville all within a month and a half. That's pretty busy for the indy's I'd say, but if I lived in the Northeast I'm sure I'd be booked probably every single weekend - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - because they just have a lot more going on there.
WrestlingINC.com: You started wrestling at a really early age, were you 16?
Masters: Yeah, I started at 16 with UPW here in California under Rick Bassman, which coincidentally was the same day John Cena started. I did a leap frog and injured my ankle and fractured it about two months into my training. I ended up having to have surgery and just realizing I was too young and it wasn't the right time to be going into wrestling school yet, so I just put it on the shelf for a couple of years and I focused on body building as a hobby. I know a lot of people think I was a body builder turned wrestler, no, I just took it up as a hobby because I saw what they were looking for when I was 16. I saw Cena and all the guys... Just like the guys I had grown up with, like the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, very muscular guys, so I concentrated on that and then came back at 19 and got signed within about a year.
WrestlingINC.com: And you were a big wrestling fan growing up, right?
Masters: Oh yeah. I loved it my whole life and it just came to the point when I was 15 years old. One day it just dawned on me. I don't know, I just had that conversation that people have with themselves, "what am I going to do with my life?" I don't know what sparked it, but I loved wrestling, and like most people who love it, there were a couple of years where I fell out of it for whatever reason and then I got hooked back into it and then there was no looking back. And then 15 rolls around and I'm like, "what do I love? What's my passion?" Everything just pointed to wrestling since I was so obsessed with it and I figured I might have a shot... I have some height, I was a real skinny guy but I just figured what else do I really love? And it was wrestling.
WrestlingINC.com: Who are some of the guys you looked up to growing up?
Masters: The Ultimate Warrior initially attracted me to wrestling. I saw him, and you know as a kid the characters are so crazy and things like that, so he really kind of brought me into the business. There are still a lot of things I can appreciate about him. As he was in and out, I kind of lost investment in him since he was coming in and out.
I kind of started watching The Rockers, and when Shawn turned heel and did his own thing, it was the first time I ever like a bad guy and I thought his whole thing was kind of cool. And then as I got older I started to just kind of recognize the work ethic of some of the guys. I liked my Ultimate Warriors' and Hulk Hogans' but you get to a point to where you can see the guys that stand out and can really make a comeback and bounce around and put on an awesome performance. So I really started taking a liking to Shawn that's kind of carried out through all of my adulthood. It even got me back into watching wrestling because I fell for the whole concussion angle when he did the whole Syracuse thing. I was just flipping through TV and I saw that and I was like, "I liked this guy back in the day, what's up?" Then I was hooked again from that point on and there was no turning back.
WrestlingINC.com: It seems like a lot of people lost interest during the period you are talking about, when you had Doink the Clown and a lot of those cartoony gimmick wrestlers. So basically right at the start of the Monday night wars you started watching again?
Masters: I think it was... was it competitive at that point? I think it was starting to get competitive because I know they brought Hogan in before that, and then the Luger thing happened and he went over there. I really didn't know. I knew WCW was around, but I was always a WWF guy. I guess the first point where I really saw the Monday night war thing kind of take shape, not even when Madusa did her thing, but more when Diesel and Razor [Ramon came in]. They were such a big part of the WWF show at the time that it gave me incentive to actually want to watch WCW. It then became a thing for me where I was still a WWF guy, but I would flip back and forth just because it was captivating television. You see these two products battling for ratings and they were really pushing the envelope. That was just the time of the business. I think anybody that was watching or is a life long fan would attest to that.
WrestlingINC.com: So you started with OVW in 2003 and you actually weren't there that long. What was your time like in OVW?
Masters: It was great, it was like college. I hadn't finished, I didn't graduate, I kinda left early for a job. I didn't grow up with the most money or anything like that so I had to pay my way, so in a way I guess that's paying your dues in a different way. For the most part I got a pretty easy ride into the OVW because of my physique, you know which leads to a lot of the criticism. I still had to sacrifice a lot. I dropped out of school.
I got signed and I was in OVW by the time I was 19 and it was like my college, we really had a good group, the kind of group that stuck together. I didn't know many people outside of our group, to be honest. Various girls I dated when I was in Louisville I guess, mainly, the only people I knew was the guys. There was a lot of guys and it was cool because I got two different… you know my first half was Rip Rogers, who basically taught old school fundamentals - head locks, take over routines, a lot of throw back wrestling. It was kind of a good core foundation to have that but eventually, Rip... I don't know what happened with Rip, but he ended up getting fired or released or whatever and then they brought Lance Storm.
Lance Storm was great because he was much more up to date than Rip Rogers, so we had the fundamentals of what Rip Rogers sort of gave us and then Lance Storm kind of broke it down. Instead of having us do four hour practices, he had us save our bodies a little more and he had us focus on what we would actually be doing in WWE, which for the most part aren't those long matches that Rip was kind of training us for. It's more like 4 or 5 minutes, sometimes 10 if you're lucky and you gotta hit your time cues, so we focused a lot more on the current pro-wrestling product and what we needed to deliver. Then with Bill Demott it was more like boot camp, he just beat the hell out of us. That was kind of their two rules, we would have a week with Lance and then a week with Bill. Some of the best memories of my career were with OVW… a lot of fun, I was just a kid and you know I learned a lot of lessons. Life lessons and a lot of pro-wrestling etiquette lessons.
WrestlingINC.com: Did you feel you were ready when you got called up to the main roster?
Masters: Definitely not, but you know I could have… I wasn't ready, but if I didn't make some of the mistakes I made - like I fell off the wagon with the Wellness Policy violations and what not - I think if I would have had my head on straight and I was really focused like I was with the second run that I just had, which was a lot easier for me, I think I would have been able to adapt and get better and really take it in. You know it was my first… I don't know, I think I just fell into some problems and I wasn't appreciating it the way I should have.
I eventually felt like I think everything just kind of came to me to easily and I started to make mistakes, like I said the violations and falling into prescription pills, and it stops your growth as a person and in turn it stopped my growth as a wrestler. You know I was working with great guys like Shawn Michaels, and you know eventually Shawn was letting me call of our matches and I was at a point to make great progression and probably rise to the top of the business, but kind of around that time I started making my mistakes and I messed up and eventually I got sent to rehab. Those are roadblocks in life… you know, I couldn't have seen it back then, but looking back I really kind of derailed my career right there and it's been a rocky up and down slope every since.
WrestlingINC.com: So when you say you weren't ready then, you say more you mentally weren't ready as opposed to in the ring?
Masters: My wrestling wasn't 100% ready either, but then again, a lot of guys they bring up aren't ready. There are a ton of guys up there right now who aren't ready. It's like different nowadays... everything is so rushed. You don't have the time, to like back when you could have a guy like Shawn Michaels rise from a tag title contender to a world champion. There's not a lot of patience for that anymore and we are losing a lot of guys with equity. It's just a weird place to be for the business.
WrestlingINC.com: Especially for a lot of the guys with really impressive physiques, it seems like they get brought up way too quickly and then are demoted down because they aren't ready, then they get moved to Superstars and it's hard to work back up the ranks.
Masters: I was having the best matches of my career over the last year, granted they were all on Superstars. It takes time to really learn this business. This is going way back, but obviously we were talking about back in the day when they had the territories that really helped guys get ready. For me, I started in WWE, I started on the main stage. Now I am ten years in, not from WWE debut, but from my starting of training. It takes time to get the business and it's kind of disheartening, but I started at 21 - not necessarily ready in ring wise, not ready maturity wise, not ready in a lot of different aspects - and now you fast forward, I'm 29 now. I was 28 and having the best matches of my career and was healthy I didn't have any distractions. No girlfriend, no wife... basically married to WWE, which is kind of what you needed to be to be successful with that company. I mean that's the disheartening part.
Now I feel like I am in the peak of my career, but now I'm not with them and that's fine, I'll do my own thing and I am actually enjoying it. Same thing like last time when I was released, some of the most fun I have had has been on the independent wrestling scene. It has its upsides.
WrestlingINC.com: Back to your first WWE run, how did the "Masterpiece" nickname come about?
Masters: It was like a process, I got out there and my real name is Chris Mordesky, obviously. One one day I came in and Dr. Tom Prichard told me I am no longer Chris Mordesky, I am Chris Masters, and I didn't question it. And then I remember one day I was sitting around with Mickie James, Matt Morgan... maybe a couple of others, we were just sitting around hanging out and I don't even know how we led into it, but Matt Morgan came up with "Masterpiece." So Matt Morgan, and I always give him credit for it even though he says I don't, Matt Morgan came up with the "Masterpiece" and it just clicked because I was already getting the perception of being a body guy. So we brought it to Jim Cornette the next day and he was all over it right away, pumping me as the "Masterpiece" Chris Masters. Eventually when I got called up, the Masterlock was the next addition to the whole thing so it all kind of tied together. That's kind of how it happened for me.
WrestlingINC.com: And when you first… as far as the whole gimmick… a lot of people thought it was based on the whole Lex Luger "Narcissist" character, but then I was also heard you were told to pattern Paul Orndorff more.
WrestlingINC.com: So was it based on Luger's gimmick at all, or were there just similarities?
Masters: I never liked the comparison… nothing personal against Lex, I just met him about a month ago for the first time, but he wasn't one of my guys growing up. It's not a comparison I want, but I hopefully had… I was 21 at the time and I came off as kind of a cocky kid 'cause I was putting up a front. A lot of it was… everything was happening. I didn't like the comparison, but I knew it was the body thing. I figure of course they can make that comparison, but I can still make it mine and some other things about it was cool, like the entrance. Eventually when I got it right, throwing off the robe or the cape and hitting the poses to the dongs and all that.
But yeah, definitely Paul Orndorff. I guess Vince said I remind him of Paul Orndorff, or I did at the time, so they really wanted me to take a look at him and actually had him work with me a little bit in order to pick up his style a little bit, and to take some things of his. You look at certain guys, I was looking at Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude... not necessarily Lex Luger, you can add him to a list of guys and what can I take from these guys that I like and make mine - not necessarily steal from them - but you know, that is what people do, you take it and you make it yours.
WrestlingINC.com: During that first run you were talking about how Shawn Michaels was one of your favorites growing up and you got to work with him. What was that like, working with one of your idols?
Masters: Oh, it was like a dream come true! It was like winning the world title basically, just 'cause you know I'm under the impression that he is probably - and I think a lot of people would agree - that he is probably the greatest in ring performer ever. And I had watched his whole career, probably like a lot of people who are reading this interview, and I get to watch this amazing career that started as a tag wrestler and progressively to where you get to work up to where you are the world champion. You know, for me to actually get to break into the business and work with him on a pay-per-view before he retired, I mean that's a rare thing for any kid to be able to do. Any kid who looks up to a childhood hero, you know to watch like Kobe Bryant and then get to take him in a basketball game. You know, that's very rare and it was really cool experience for me. I mean, we said a prayer before the match… Shawn was really good to me, especially when I first came in, he did a lot to help me and he always took credit for making the Masterpiece… until I messed it up.
WrestlingINC.com: When the failure happened, did they ask you to go to rehab and you just chose not to or…
Masters: It was an intervention and uh… no, I didn't want to go. I was at a place, you know where most addicts are early on, where you don't really think you're an addict. It takes a long time for some to people to really get that through their head, and looking back on it, I mean… you're like, "you don't see this?" For instance, like with the Matt Hardy thing, for me I was just wondering what accident, what situation is it going to take for him to finally realize it for himself to actually get better.
To go back to your question, yeah, it was an intervention and you know eventually I just realized I had to do it. But I did it more to appease the company, I still wasn't under the impression that I had a problem. But you know, I did quit and I gave in to the process and I learned a lot. It was an interesting place that they sent me to, it was like in the outskirts of Tennessee on a ranch… so it really was like this hippie holistic rehab center and it was cool. You know, there were a lot of guys my age, it was like a fraternity without the booze and drugs. It didn't work, because I still eventually relapsed, because again, deep in my mind I still didn't believe I had a problem… and you know that eventually led to my release later on.
WrestlingINC.com: When you had come back from that first stint and Triple H made a dig at you about coming back slimmer, was that something you knew ahead of time that he was going to say? Was that scripted, or was that an off-the-cuff remark?
Masters: No, that was a scripted interview. People always ask me about that and some people think it was a cheap shot. I am more under of the impression... first of all, I remember the way Hunter looked at the time... I don't know. I didn't really treat it much as an insult as a lot of people jumped on it like it was that big of a deal, but I was still thinking to myself, you know, you [Triple H] take off your shirt and stand next to me and we'll see who looks better? I mean, you know, he wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer either, he is a little pudgy. So, in his defense, Hunter is a ball buster and is an equal opportunity ball buster, so you know, it might have been a cheap shot. I mean, you seen the way him and Shawn are, that's just the way he is, he's a ball buster. So it was probably like not the most appropriate thing to do, especially where the business is and the message they were trying to convey. But you know, it was said and I'm sure if they could take it back - considering the controversy it raised - I am sure they would. But they don't live in the past, so they don't even think about it.
WrestlingINC.com: I think what upset a lot of people is that he is taking over the company at some point and to be mocking someone's physique, especially during that time when you had the death of Eddie Guerrero and everything... I think it was just kind of tone deaf.
Masters: The surprising thing to me, everybody thought that my whole suspension and everything was over steroids and they equated that to me losing weight when I came back. That wasn't the truth. The truth was my issue was prescription pain killers and the only reason I lost the amount of weight I did was because I would - basically every morning - I woke up and ran two miles as part of my own personal therapy. I wasn't doing as much weight training so, I mean, going for that morning jog five days a week, every week, made me slim down a lot more than I even realized. Because you know, I was off in seclusion, off in the middle of bum f--king Tennessee! I hadn't seen anybody in forever, so I came out of there and people were like, "Oh my god, you lost a lot of weight!" If I would have known it would've created such a stir, I would have probably put on maybe 10 lbs. back on before I came back.
WrestlingINC.com: Do you think painkillers are... because with the wellness policy painkillers are allowed with a prescription, but you know, a lot of say that prescription painkillers are way more dangerous than the banned drugs that are on that list. Do you agree with that?
Masters: Oh yeah, prescription pills are the worst. I mean Whitney Houston is, and all these celebrities are the proof. I mean it's a huge issue in the whole country. I mean WWE does have the thing where they are constantly monitoring a prescription and making sure it is up to date and check with the doctor, so it's like you don't just get a free pass. I mean, these things only stay in your system so long, if you don't take it for a day or whatever you can get by, but I would honestly say through being with the company that the pill problem has been cleaned up quite immensely.
I can't think of anybody, except for Matt Hardy, and the only reason I say it is because everybody knows it, being the last guy to really kind of have an issue up there. Obviously you know he didn't last. It definitely has accomplished its goal as far as cleaning up the guys and stuff, some of it might be a little aggressive as far as what they are doing now what with the synthetic cannabis and all that, you know what I mean? But you know, what it comes down to with me is we see what's happening, you know? The government can tell us one thing or whatever, but with filling people prescription pills, it's what's killing people and that's what gets pushed to all the consumers, including not just wrestlers, but celebrities and regular people.
WrestlingINC.com: Speaking of that, do you think marijuana should be on the banned list?
Masters: I am conflicted on this because I can understand the importance of the company not having their entertainers being caught with marijuana because of it being a public image issue. In terms of with marijuana, if it is truly a wellness policy and we are trying to keep our performers well, I don't think marijuana really has any negative effect. It has never killed anybody, you know? Cigarettes kill people, alcohol kills people, but we're allowed to do that. That goes to a bigger picture, that's our country. Just looking at the policy itself, I don't think it should be banned. But then again, it's not even banned at this point, it is a fine. It's an aggressive fine I would say, I would definitely say that.
WrestlingINC.com: Do you think if marijuana wasn't banned that it would lead to less people using painkillers? Or do you think it would not make much of a difference on that front?
Masters: Oh, I think it would help immensely just because it's... prescription painkillers, they're again, they're a killer. And people can use cannabis for useful matters, like pain. It's a painkiller but it's not, you're not getting chemically addicted to marijuana. I think it is definitely a route that the country as a whole should look to as far as treating patients for different things, different ailments or disease or whatever they have, you know what I mean?
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Christopher Mordetzky, where he talks about his release from WWE, returning to WWE, not being used, being released again, TNA, Ring Ka King and much more.