I recently spoke with former TNA Superstar Joey Ryan. In the first part of the interview below, Ryan discussed getting his start in the business, being one of the founders of PWG, Daniel Bryan getting over, working for WWE as an enhancement talent, TNA inviting him on Gut Check and much more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Ryan discussed his time with TNA, if his heat with Taz was real, his career highlight, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan being in charge, teaming with Matt Morgan, his TNA release and much more.

You can follow him on Twitter @JoeyRyanOnline , and on Facebook at facebook.com/JoeyRyanOnline.

Wrestling Inc.: How long have you been a wrestling fan? Have you been a wrestling fan since you were a kid?

Ryan: Yeah I have. I have three older brothers, so some of my very earliest memories are watching wrestling with them. I remember vividly watching Wrestlemania 2, because when Jake the Snake's snake wrapped around the dude's neck and he started foaming at the mouth, I was like five years old at the time. That left kind of a lasting impression that sticks with you when you're that young. That's one of the earliest memories that I have.

Wrestling Inc.: Who were your favorites back then?

Ryan: I was definitely a Hulkamaniac. I liked a lot of the "good guys" like Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, the British Bulldogs. When you're a child, obviously you're going for the fan favorites. So those were the ones that really stuck out to me.

Wrestling Inc.: How'd you get your start in the business?

Ryan: I grew up with it with my older brothers and then I kind of fell out for a few years and wasn't really much of a fan. I didn't pay close attention to it. I got into high school and I got with a group of my friends there that were watching it and obviously that's when, it was like the 90s, the Monday Night Wars were going on and stuff. Wrestling was pretty hot. So, I started watching it with a group of friends and then we were in line for a WWE show in Anaheim and we got a flyer for an independent wrestling show. We didn't really know anything about it, actually we didn't even know independent wrestling existed at all. We went and checked it out and really, really liked them a lot. So we investigated further. We checked out the website and saw that they had classes and they were training wrestlers and stuff like that. So, a couple of us decided we were going to sign up for some classes and see how it went.

Wrestling Inc.: Were you just hooked basically right from the start?

Ryan: Yeah. It was really… I played a lot of sports growing up and stuff like that. The athleticism and the work out you would get during a wrestling training session just kind of reminded me of baseball or football practice when I was growing up. So, I was kind of used to that kind of punishment, the endurement that it takes when you train with a sport like that, any kind of athleticism like that. So yeah, when you get down to it, it was real fun right off the bat.

Wrestling Inc.: You also were one of the founders of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. What made you guys decide to start that?

Ryan: At the time So Cal wrestling was on the cusp of booming. It was getting a lot of attention with other companies like Rev Pro around. UPW was here. Companies were coming in and they were like, "We're going to change, put So Cal on the map." All these promoters with big money and they would want a show or two and they would be taking advantage of. Or, you know, they would surround themselves with yes men. They'd fall apart. We got kind of tired of dealing with promoters, so we were just like, "We have a pretty good idea of how this wrestling thing works by now."

The six of us started it had all been wrestling from three to six years each. So we had a pretty good grasp of how to work it. We had good relationships with wrestlers already, so we just decided we were going to run the show ourselves. We really didn't have any aspirations past the one show. If it was going to make enough money for us to run a second show, we were going to do that, and then so on. We made enough money to do a third show. We'd keep going as long as there was support from the fans and the audience for it. There was, obviously. We kept going with it. So really, it was out of being tired of dealing with promoters with big ideas and pockets spending money frivolously. We just wanted to take it from our own angle.

Wrestling Inc.: It's been ten years now, right? You're still one of the owners?

Ryan: Yeah, a little over ten years. I don't do much of the office side of it anymore. I do from time to time, but it's mostly Excalibur and Super Dragon now. I've kind of branched out and done things in my own career, so much more so. They obviously don't, neither of them wrestle anymore, so they've taken the more business aspect of PWG. But yeah, Scott Lost and Top Gun Talwar and Disco Machine don't wrestle, aren't even part of the wrestling world anymore. So it's kind of the three of us, more so the two of them running it. Technically you could still say I'm office because although I don't do a lot of the hands on decision making, I'm still in there.

Wrestling Inc.: During that time, you worked a lot of different independents. You worked ROH. What were some of your favorite opponents and matches on the Indy circuit?

Ryan: I've had so many. I've been wrestling for almost 14 years now. My experience with Ring of Honor was really fun. I liked being part of The Embassy. I got to work, I got to team with Claudio Castagnolio, who's obviously Antonio Cesaro now. I got to work with Bison Smith before he passed away. I got to have some good matches with Colt Cabana and Roderick Strong over there. Just traveling and getting to see the different areas of the world and see how wrestling exists in different areas and what the local talent is like. It's hard to sum up and just name a couple people, or name a couple moments, when it's been a dozen a different countries on five different continents. The independent circuit is great because you really get to travel and see how actually big independent wrestling is. It is kind of an underground thing, but there's places everywhere in the world that have it. So it's bigger than people realize.

Wrestling Inc.: You had also worked with Daniel Bryan at times throughout your career on the independent circuit. Did you ever see him getting to be where he's at?

Ryan: Yeah. He was always outstanding in the ring and that's what gets over. Daniel Bryan, he can talk and now he's gotten a lot better at that, but I think what it comes down to is if you're not believable in the ring, you're not going to get over and he was always very believable in the ring. He was always so solid in the ring that even when I was training with him in 2004, you just knew that he could entertain anybody just by wrestling without… he could engage an audience emotionally just with his wrestling. I think there's a lot of different theories about what gets over, but I think when it comes down to it, if you can't do it in the ring you can't get over. You always knew he had it in the ring.

Wrestling Inc.: You also worked for WWE for the first time back in 2005. You've wrestled several matches there. What was that experience like?

Ryan: It was really cool. My favorite time I ever worked with WWE was in 2005, my first time there, because it was just like it was everything that I ever dreamed it would be, as far as getting in front of the audience and being there. I know that it was an enhancement match or whatever and I wasn't a feature player in it, but just the spectacle and everything, it just was awesome. It's one of my most positive memories in wrestling.

Wrestling Inc.: And then you also went back there in 2011. What changes did you notice when you back there the second time and how did the second run end up happening?

Ryan: Well actually I was there several times in between that. Every time they come to southern California, they always call me up and ask me to come down and just be on hand as extra talent if they needed it. Even if I wasn't… I didn't always do stuff in the ring or I wasn't always on camera, [but] I was there a lot. I've done several dark matches for like, Velocity or Heat or even Smackdown matches over the years. An ECW match even.

Not many significant changes, I mean [there were] a lot different faces. A lot of new faces, a lot of new names over time. A lot of the guys I know pretty well. I'm good friends with them. I guess now as opposed to then is I was a little bit more walking on egg shells, a little nervous to be around that because I didn't know so many people, but now, it's just like a reunion when I go back there. It's like, oh hey, because I've known all those guys for years now.

Wrestling Inc.: When you worked with them, you didn't quite have your look and your persona down yet, right?

Ryan: Right, it's ever evolving.

Wrestling Inc.: You ended up catching TNA's eye. How did that end up happening?

Ryan: That was through David Lagana, who is a writer at TNA, because I worked with him in Ring of Honor and in Championship Wrestling From Hollywood here in LA. And then he got hired on to be a writer on the Ring Ka King project, which is like TNA's sister project in India, and they were looking for guys. He actually had an idea that he used a couple times in Championship Wrestling From Hollywood where teamed me and Nunzio up as kind of like a Hollywood and Broadway kind of thing, different coast kind of thing, the same kind of swarmy characters, so he brought that to the India show and I was able to wrestle in front of a lot of guys in the offices of TNA that had never seen me wrestle before and then when they were doing the Gut Check stuff at TNA they were looking at guys on the independents to bring in and do it. They already had footage of me that they owned from Ring Ka King and I think Al Snow got to watch it and Bruce Prichard got to watch it and they decided that they would use me on Gut Check.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Ryan discussed his time with TNA, if his heat with Taz was real, his career highlight, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan being in charge, teaming with Matt Morgan, his TNA release and much more.

You can follow him on Twitter @JoeyRyanOnline , and on Facebook at facebook.com/JoeyRyanOnline.

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