Congratulations on the birth of your son, that was September right? How has life as professional wrestlers been different since the birth of your child?
Yes, thank you. The main difference has been the social life element. We had a lifestyle that was very blessed compared to people who had to punch a clock every day. Most of the time we worked our own schedule, except when we had bookings, so it was an adjustment. Your number one priority is your baby, so it takes away certain elements. At the same time, we've adjusted very easily. We haven't really stopped doing anything outside of late night shenanigans. We've pretty much done the same and he's just come with us. I think that's one of the reasons he's such a good natured kid. He doesn't seem to be bothered by too much. He was exposed to everything at such a young age, tagging along with everything that we did.
TNA recently had a British tour, and then came back to Orlando. How would you compare wrestling in the UK to back here in the states?
It's plain to see when you see the product on television, but the audience over there is so responsive to everything we do. They react, but they don't just for the sake of reacting. I don't want to say they react the way that they're supposed to, because the audience is entitled to react whatever way they want, but we get the desired reactions. Some fans in some markets go against the grain and make it about them, and they want to be the best thing about the show. I think that's when you get the best television and you're firing on all cylinders, not when you're trying to tell the audience what they want.
TNA is really popular in the UK. What are your thoughts on trying to become more of a UK-centric promotion?
It's something I've brought up several times and has been discussed throughout the fabric of the company. I've come to the conclusion that if I was running things, I'd explore the idea of running a number of venues around 2,000-3,000 instead of two or three 10,000, and getting as much television in the can as we could. It's only a matter of time before other touring companies, including WWE, start to realize that there's more to UK than the major markets. The country has 75 million people and it's on a tiny island. There are still people in areas like where myself and Paige grew up like Norfolk. There are areas that are well populated that don't get touring shows. I think we'd get two to three months of TV with a red hot crowd in a crowd. They seem like they want to promote two or three shows instead of ten, and get as much out of each show as possible, but I think there's a compromise somewhere. Overall, the strategy is to get as much good tv in the can as possible.
You were also in Ring Ka King as their world champion. How was that, and do you see TNA expanding in to India more?
It was an amazing experience, and a great crew. It was a Jeff Jarrett project, and I owe a lot to Jeff and Dutch Mantell and the guys involved in that. They were the first people to give me the ball, so to speak and say they would show the regime running TNA what they were missing. That was definitely one of the things that opened eyes in TNA that I could be a world champion. It was an unbelievable experience, both good and bad. It's hard to even describe what a completely different world it is doing wrestling television in a virgin market. The first day I was going to wrestle Matt Morgan, and there were a couple of matches before us. The first match was sort of in the vain of the American market, and they sent out Jimmy Rave and Xema Ion to get the crowd pumped up with rolling and flying, and the crowd didn't understand it. I looked at Matt and said it might be time to put a few bumps on our bump card here. Sure enough we went out and did big tackles, and body slams and clotheslines, and sure enough they liked it. It was an absolute circus over there dealing with everything, from production who had zero experience even on independent shows. It was a struggle at times.
I was disappointed we didn't do more, but I think the network over there had visions for what they wanted for their Indian talent. I think they thought in a couple of weeks we could get these guys with no experience over and be huge superstars, and that's just not possible. I hope that we at TNA go over there and explore doing events over there. I'm sure that's part of the process of having Mahabali Shera, who was a Ring Ka King talent. Hopefully there's some plans there.
What was it like winning the TNA Championship at such an early age? You were 27, right?
Yeah, I had just turned 27. I think there have been younger champions, and I always set high standards for myself. In a lot of ways I was frustrated I did it as late as I did, even though guys that won it at that age were absolute anomalies in the business. Any time a promotion allows you to be their champion, regardless of what happens after or before, it's an honor and a stamp of approval. I was watching Kurt Angle and Bobby Lashley, and they said there's been however many TNA champions. When you think of it like that, it is pretty significant to think that I'm one of those. It's a who's who to who has been successful in TNA from Samoa Joe to AJ Styles to Kurt to Sting to Christian when he was there. It means something to me to be included.
What was the experience like working with Sting, and him having probably his last non-WWE match with you?
When you put it like that, it means a lot to me. The thing that means a lot more for me was wrestling him at Bound For Glory and him doing the honors for me by submission. I think that was the most significant thing for me and will always cherish. I'll always be grateful for him doing the honors to say it's ending in the middle of the ring by a submission. I could be wrong, but I believe there are only two people in history who have ever submitted him, and the other one is Bret Hart, so it means a lot to me.
Now you have a feud with Bram, who is a great talent. It's sort of a throwback in that it's easy to follow and the fans get behind it. The build has been slow, do you think has been missing in pro wrestling?
Yeah. Every now and then you stumble on something that just works. Clearly the thing with me and Bram just works. There's so much reality to it, that's the key thing. My number one priority when I'm coming up with things is to make it believable. There seems to be this counter-intuitive approach to wrestling, like everyone knows it's not real so we can gloss over details. I'm always the opposite of that. The people who are watching know it's entertainment and are ok with it, they don't want you to insult their intelligence, they want to suspend their disbelief and get into it. The fact that me and Bram have legitimately been friends and were for a long time, Mickie and I legitimately have a child and have been together a long time, it helps people suspend their disbelief when they see things. That doesn't take away from the performances of myself, Mickie or Bram. He's a great talent and I did actually speak up for him when things didn't work out for him in WWE. I said they missed the boat and we need to take a look at him.
Your fiance Mickie James returned to television to take part in the feud. How has that been for you?
It's been fun. I've always admired her as a performer and spoke highly of her work even before our relationship. Mickie doesn't hold herself to the standard that sometimes gets placed around women's wrestling. Sometimes it helps that you have different standards. She wants her matches to be held up against any man's match, and I think that's evidenced in her work. Her strikes, her selling, her movements, everything. There's a handful of girls like that, like Tara, Trish and Lita. Even going back to Madusa. Work is work, it doesn't matter if you're a guy or a girl. We've resisted doing stuff together in the past, really on my part because I wanted to establish myself first. As far as my TNA career, I've reached the highest point you can, which is being the champion, so after that happened I was okay with it when it was pitched to me. Now nobody can point to what I've accomplished and say it was only because I was associated with Mickie. I made a name on my own first.
Does having Mickie involved with the angle add any pressure internally?
Honestly, I knew it would take it to a different level. Either way, I knew it would be good. Believe me, the second it was brought up, we discussed it at length. We had to see where it was going and the pros and cons of this. At the end of the day we saw it as a way to take it from good to great. She was intrigued because it was a different kind of role for her, a way to show a different side as a performer and show off her acting chops. Just a sympathetic thing and to pay homage to her career, since she's not wrestling. You'll see more of that in the coming weeks as well.