In August, you made your GFW debut. What ultimately went into your decision to sign with the company and what was the signing process like?
"So I've been in talks with people from TNA and GFW for a long time. Big John Gaburick, Taz, Lagana, Jarrett, and really what it came down to was it was a great opportunity and it didn't feel like I was going to miss out or lose anything by signing with GFW. It's a deal that's been worked out with AAA where I'm still going to be on AAA and Lucha Underground and now I'm going to be on Impact and Pop TV every Thursday night too. So it seemed like a no-brainer. The circumstances under which I was approached prior to this time were not the same way. So right now it feels like I'm getting my cake and getting to eat it too. Maybe like a protein cake maybe with paleo ice cream on the side cause you know how I feel about carbs. I do have a sweet tooth. My saving grace is that I'm OCD about working out so if at night if I'm eating ice cream the next morning I'm doing cardio. That's only thing I've ever been addicted to which I guess in the grand scheme of things isn't so bad to be addicted to training."
There are seemingly a lot of question marks about the future of Lucha Underground and whether there's going to be another season. How, if at all, did that influence your decision to sign with Impact? And what would be your interest level in being part of another Lucha Underground season?
"I'm very confident that there's going to be another season of Lucha Underground. The factor that went into my decision in going to Impact was really that it felt like it was a great opportunity for me to get to do everything. Impact, Lucha, AAA, and it doesn't feel like I'm really given up anything. Lucha Underground was on hiatus for so long I haven't been doing any new wrestling for a TV show in over a year and I was starting to feel a little antsy in the pantsy to get out in the ring and do something in front of national audience. This opportunity with Impact came up and I felt like I needed to jump on it. Antsy in the pantsy? Ever see the movie Super Troopers? It comes from Super Troopers with the maple syrup and they get all syrupy and antsy in the pantsy, it's just a funny thing to say."
Throughout GFW's history, the company has made it a priority to feature top-tier talent as the face of the brand, such as AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, Sting and over the past few years with Bobby Lashley. When you signed with GFW, was any of that on your mind, that you would be leaned on as the guy to build GFW's brand for mainstream success?
"Yeah man, that's the reason I went. I feel like what I bring to the table for a company like GFW and Impact is my reputation. I never phone it in and I always leave it all out there. I have been trying to, no matter what or where I'm wrestling, to have a high quality match. I've been on TV with the WWE for almost 10 years, since then Lucha Underground and AAA, and I've been wrestling all over the world. I feel like someone like me is what the company really needed at the time that I signed which is really exciting to me because when I go somewhere I go to be the guy, the main event. It feels like I'm helping the company and that's really what I feel like I want to be spending my time on right now in this business."
After beating Low Ki to become No. 1 contender, you square off against Eli Drake for the GFW Championship next week. What should fans expect from the match and do you believe you'll walk out with the world title?
"Absolutely I feel like fans of GFW and Impact have seen a certain side of Eli Drake. In my opinion, the level of wrestling that he has done since I've gotten into Impact has escalated exponentially. He knows if he doesn't bring it, I'm just going to leave him in my dust. I would expect to see a hard-working, hard-hitting, desperate, Eli Drake at Victory Road. Then even further to see that hard-working Eli Drake outclassed by Johnny Impact, because he can work as hard as he wants, but the fact of the matter is I've worked for 15 years and there's no way he can catch up to what I've achieved and done in this business. What I've put in with my swag, my move set, and my psychology in this business. I would expect to see kick ass match and I wouldn't miss it."
Over the past several months of Lucha Underground programming you've been the champion and you've been "the guy" for the company. What has being Lucha Underground champion taught you, and how do you think it's prepared you for when you win the GFW title?
"Ultimately, the champion of a company is that company's brand ambassador. He or she is the guy or girl, you know what I mean it's 2017, that's going to be on the posters, that people are going to depend on to draw money. Ultimately, that's who becomes champion. Why am I prepared to do that for GFW Impact? Because I've done it for the past 15 years. I won Tough Enough 3 when I started. I got signed and there is a learning curve when you step into the business. It's not like you can just step in the professional wrestling and be excellent at it, wrestling is not easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. Over that time that I spent in this business and my career, I've continually evolved. I've pushed myself with regards to training martial arts and parkour and MMA into my style of professional wrestling which in my opinion is the way the business has evolved over the past 10 years. To be able to talk about Impact and talk about myself and having other things going on the side is why I am the perfect person to represent Impact. All I have to do now is take Eli Drake to Slam Town at Victory Road and all that stuff is going to start happening and you are going to see a lot of good things happening to Impact."
You and Taya do a fantastic job with Lucha Underground, but have come into GFW as separate acts. Do you prefer it that way or do you think it'll be difficult to avoid pairing you together on GFW TV?
"That's funny. I feel like it's got a similar answer to the way I feel about when people ask me if I prefer tag team or individual wrestling. A lot of times the grass is greener. I love working with Taya and obviously we have chemistry on and off screen as well as we are engaged but everyone knows that. As far as being separate acts with Impact and GFW, I'm really excited about it because it feels like she's really taking her queen thing with the music and made it her own. She's come into her own as a performer, she's got confidence, she believes in what she's doing, and it's fun for me to watch. I feel like this is the first time that she has really been out on her own and knocking it out of the park every week on Impact. It's a really cool thing. As far as where our paths are going to cross in the future, I don't know and it's hard to predict. It would be cool for me to see her do her own thing because I think she is doing such a good job. As far as I'm concerned, I like working with her. I get to work with her in Lucha Underground, I get to work with her in promotions like Wrestle Circus and in AAA. I feel like I get to do a little bit of everything and that's the way Johnny likes it."
As someone who has worked for many different companies during your career, how is the GFW locker room different than WWE, Lucha Underground or other promotions?
"I really like GFW locker room. It was so cool for me to see Chris Masters. He and I go way, way, way back. He and I went to the same elementary school in Los Angeles but we didn't even know each other back then. We were super bros in OVW when he got there in 2004. Then we got Trevor Lee and Moose who I became friends with doing independent wrestling for places like Pro-Wrestling Evolve. Then there is Bobby Lashley who is another super bro from OVW and then Jim Cornette comes back so it was like a weird flashback to 2005 at first. Lashley, Masters, and Eli Drake reminds me a lot of Rob Conway sometimes in the way that he talks and moves and performs. I got stuck with this weird sense of déjà vu a couple times. It was cool but as cool as it was, the one thing that I felt like Impact needed was a quick evolution because 2005 is 12 years ago. It's time to do things a little bit differently because a lot of the shows that I'm doing on the weekends, what I get from the crowd is that they want faster pace stuff, they want harder hitting stuff, and because people have consumed so much wrestling some the stuff that worked back then doesn't work the same now. You just need to update everything and I feel like that's what Impact needed when I got there was an update."
There's always a lot of speculation and rumors out there about GFW and what's going on behind the scenes. As a performer, how does it affect you, and how do you go about trying to block out all the whispers?
"Man some of the best advice I got in wrestling I got from Matt Cappotelli who's dealt so much stuff, so much hardship, adversity and always remained positive. His biggest advice to me was worry about the things you can control, don't worry about the things you can't because that will drive you crazy. So, I take that to me meaning I can control what I do in the ring, I can control how jacked I am, how tan I am, how my hair looks, how I talk, how I walk, but if the company is sold it's going to be on a different network or its going to go bankrupt. On some level, worrying about that takes energy and I don't want to put my energy into worrying about something that's ultimately not my decision anyways. So I've become good at just cutting that off and not worrying about it because it's either going to happen or it's not going to happen but regardless I know I am going to land on my feet because I'm focusing on the things that I can control. I'm a valuable asset to GFW, Lucha Underground, AAA, WWE and even Ring of Honor. Who knows, maybe Johnny Honor may make an impact too. By worrying about just me, it eliminates that worry."
Source: Ring Rust Radio