Many fans have pointed out that AEW wrestlers are much smaller when compared to their WWE brethren, so that makes someone like Wardlow stand out. He stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 270 pounds and has been the muscle for MJF since debuting in late 2019.
Wardlow comes from an athletic background as he trained in boxing, jujutsu and weight training while younger. He was asked when he then knew he wanted to be a pro wrestler in an interview on Busted Open.
“At some point in elementary school. I was very young and it’s a unique thing because I have so many friends that say, ‘I never have a dream. I don’t know what it’s like to do what I want to do.’ I’ve known that this is what I wanted since I was a child, since I can remember,” said Wardlow.
Born in 1988, Wardlow became a wrestling fan during the 1990s so it comes as no coincidence he recalled many 90s luminaries when asked which wrestlers were his favorites while growing up.
“The first one for me that truly captured me was Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart,” stated Wardlow. “Just his confidence, his believability – for some reason, he was the first one that truly captured me and made me fall in love with professional wrestling.
“Then, around that time as a child, there was also the likes of Mr. Perfect. I was crazy about Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, characters as them.”
AEW has many veterans in its locker room and working backstage whether they’re producers or coaches. From Dustin Rhodes to Billy Gunn to Arn Anderson to Dean Malenko, there are no shortage of valuable minds in AEW in addition to a host of others.
Wardlow was asked which veterans he goes to for advice and which ones have helped him the most in his wrestling journey.
“I’ve kind of ran through them all a little bit. Billy and I talked probably the most when I first started. Billy gave me an incredible amount of feedback and was always tweaking things and telling me how to adjust little things that I do or don’t do. So, Billy Gunn really took me under his wing,” said Wardlow.
“I’ve had a lot of great conversations with Jerry Lynn, who’s just an incredible person to begin with, but he’s very helpful. Dean Malenko was great. A lot of Cody and QT that helped me a lot as well, but I guess the answer would be the person I most talked to was Billy Gunn.”
Wardlow’s debut match with AEW was one to remember as it was a steel cage match vs. Cody on Dynamite. But Cody had come across Wardlow before as he saw some of his work on the indie scene where he competed against future AEW stars such as Brian Cage and Brian Pillman Jr.
Wardlow recalled his first meeting with Cody where the AEW VP sold him on the prospects of joining a burgeoning promotion.
“Going back to that first meeting I had with Cody, when he explained their vision, what they were going to do and what they were trying to accomplish, somehow, I just knew it was going to blow up. I knew it was going to be a success,” said Wardlow. “I guess I couldn’t have predicted that we would be crushing NXT every week and having all of these crazy ratings, demo numbers.
“I knew it was going to be big. I didn’t necessarily know it was going to be this big, but I knew it was going to be something special. I wanted to be a part of that and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
He mentioned AEW beating NXT in ratings on Wednesdays in what’s been dubbed the Wednesday Night Wars. As someone who grew up during the Monday Night Wars, Wardlow welcomes the competition but admits he didn’t see AEW and NXT going head-to-head this soon.
“No, never really expected that, at least not this soon,” Wardlow said of the Wednesday Night Wars. “I assumed it over the years that it would get to that point. So, to have a taste of it now, it’s very exciting, because obviously, it was such an exciting time in professional wrestling. When it was the Monday Night Wars, everyone was at the top of their game. It was so entertaining and as a teenager, that was the most fun in wrestling,” recalled Wardlow.
“The competition as we all know; we make each other better. If you don’t have anybody to compete with, you’re going to be stale. I loved the fact that both brands are upping their game and I believe both brands are getting better because of each other and wrestling needs that.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open w/Bully Ray with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.