On Monday, we had the opportunity to interview TNA's breakout star, Gunner. In the UK to promote TNA's forthcoming tour (for which roster details have just been announced - the tour poster follows this article), here is what he had to say:
The UK appears to be an increasingly important market for TNA. You've just released the roster details for your January 2015 tour and people queued to meet you at Wembley for hours. What's your take on the UK scene?
The TNA fan base in the UK appears to be growing which is great but not only that, my fan base seems to be growing too which is also great. TNA is finally giving me the opportunity to show what I can do. I think wrestling Magnus in Manchester was a real stepping stone for me as it gave UK fans the chance to see that I was the 'real deal' or that I can be the real deal. I wish we could come over here more than once I year, I think that would be great but it may yet happen. We're still a young company and that stuff takes a little time. The fans here are amazing, they always give us 110%. We feel like rock stars when we're here.
Every time you come to the UK, you add something to the tour. Impact TV filmings, Pay-Per-View events and this time you've added an 'Ultimate X' match to the London show. What else is their left to do?
We did a ladder match and a cage match over here already so it's going to have to be something big. It could be a match which continues a feud - like James Storm and I having an 'I Quit' match or it could be one of our big Pay-Per-Views. We did a 'One Night Only' Pay-Per-View in Birmingham but it would be really cool to do a live PPV here - it'll happen, it just takes a little time but that's something any fan would want to be a part of. I believe the fans will let us know what they want to see. They're finally going to get the X-Division match so they'll let us know.
You've talked before about your military background, is that something that prepares you well for wrestling?
Yes! Marine Corps Boot Camp is no joke. Its 13 weeks of brutal hell. Not only that but Parris Island, South Carolina is just a hot box. It's a swamp. It's miserable and I think mentally it prepared me for being able to work hard and never give up. There are a lot of days when you want to stop and quit but in reality you can't because where does that get you? I started wrestling in the independent scene in 2001 and I would often be living pay check-to-pay check or be broke and go unpaid at shows but I was paying my dues and whilst lots of others complain about that, I chose that path and it's obviously paid off but I think the Marine Corps taught me the required self-discipline and go-get-it attitude.
Do you listen to other wrestling podcasts and would you consider starting one?
Yeah, I've thought about it. There's so many out there now though so I'd like to think what I could do differently. Colt Cabana's been doing his for a long time and Jericho does something different - talking to rock stars and wrestlers and others. Stone Cold's is also different. Maybe one day. We do listen to other wrestlers, absolutely, especially Austin because a lot of guys respect him. It's a good time passer and you can learn about things outside the ring. For example, just listening to Jericho interviewing Scott Hall can help you learn about the psychology of wrestling.
You're a religious man. Are there things you might refuse to do in wrestling because of your faith?
There are certain things I wouldn't do - like demean or bash religion, I wouldn't ever do that. I'll do whatever's best for the product as long as I'm not degrading my religion, my beliefs or God. But TNA wouldn't ask me to do that and usually steer clear of religion in the storylines. They've been really professional, everyone backstage knows I'm a religious guy and I've never been asked to step outside of my beliefs. Some people call wrestling a religion. They travel for ages and spend money on us. At our 'Bound for Glory' Pay-Per-View, there were fans that had come from Japan to see us and have a good time. I don't know that it's necessarily a religion but it's something that makes them happy and creates a positive vibe. My faith has helped me but I never preach to anybody, I always tell them that whatever they believe in that makes them a positive person or gives them 'drive' is good. It's helped guide me through difficult times and it's what makes me a positive person.
We were told you were a philosopher of sorts. So what's your philosophy of wrestling?
I don't know who told you that! For me, wrestling was always an escape as a kid. Me and a buddy of mine grew up in high school together and loved professional wrestling. We watched it, a group of us were even known as 'Raven's flock' after the ECW wrestling stable. It was my past time, all I ever thought of. I worked and I wrestled. People always made fun of us because we liked the "Fake Stuff" but it was something that kept me out of trouble as a child. I didn't care about partying, it was just wrestling. My father knew that too. Once, when I got bad grades banned me from watching wrestling and it destroyed me! He taught me a lesson and I never got bad grades again! I don't know if that's a philosophy but that's how I look at it. People dive into being guitarists, into baseball but it keeps them out of trouble and gives them a drive in life and that's what wrestling was for me.
You've started using 'The Gun Rack' Submission manoeuvre as your finisher although you already had 'Hangar 18', what inspired the new move? Is there anyone you thought twice about lifting up?
I still do Hangar 18 but I always liked Lex Luger as a kid and it had been a long time since we'd seen a finisher like that. It was something that I thought I could use, given my size. It also looks impressive so I decided to add it to my arsenal. I once had to pick up Luke Gallows (known as Doc in TNA), he's a big guy and sometimes you think "that's bad on the back" because your compressing your spine. As for Hanger 18, I always give props to Brock Lesnar because that's his move and I use the F5 with the utmost respect but that move is rough on your back too.
What's your relationship like with new TNA Champion Eric Young, did he deserve his shot?
Absolutely! He and Samoa Joe have always been super cool to me since day 1. Eric's worked his tail off. He can entertain, get in the ring with guys from Kurt Angle to Bobby Roode to Robbie E - guys with different styles and wrestle them any night of the week and put on a 5-star match. So he deserves everything he's getting right now.
What's the atmosphere like in the dressing room at the moment? Rockstar Spud called it a family but online reports said Samoa Joe was giving you all pep talks after the UK tour. What's the truth?
Spud's right. Years ago, I did stuff in another company and it was like walking on egg shells backstage. One of the reasons why I re-signed with TNA is because I'm happy where I am. It is like a big family, everybody's there for one job and that is to put on a great show. As for the whole Joe pep talk thing, that was blown way out of proportion. It was the end of the tour and we'd all busted our tail for a week, filming various TV shows including an international PPV. Everybody was tired having hardly slept and worked long days but nobody had complained. The "pep talk" was Joe being a locker-room leader and telling us we'd done a hell of a job which showed on the TV product. Next thing we read that he gave us a pep talk! Joe doesn't speak up often but when he does, you listen and it means something.
TNA has recently signed a deal with UTA to help with marketing. How much have the talent been told about this and is it deemed to be positive?
We haven't heard a lot about it, just a few emails. For those of us that want to push the boundaries, get into acting etc its good. I think it's also good to branch out from the wrestling world. Other companies have been doing it for years and that's a positive thing. Wrestling is my number one love but acting is something I'd love to do. Acting's a hard business to break into. I've been going to a lot of auditions and trying to get my foot in the door and I've been doing some work with an anti-bullying campaign. [NB We'll be writing more about this in a future RR blog]
We recently spoke to Rockstar Spud who told us a great story about you. After you'd stolen his bear, he dressed up in your pants, put the YMCA on and started dancing in front of your car. Is this true?
It's very true, yeah! I'd have the video to show you but I think Ken (fellow TNA star Mr.) Anderson has it... It was very funny though. I just got in my seat, was looking at Spud and all of the sudden YMCA hits and he strips and one thing leads to another...I'll have to get Spud back for that one.
We'll be demanding a copy of that video..! Do you have any good rib stories you can tell us?
Well, me and Ken Anderson like to mess around with (fellow TNAers) Rockstar Spud and Samuel Shaw. We call them the 'Young Boys' which is what they call them in Japan. For instance, in the gym, Ken Anderson made Spud get on all fours and then laid on Spud's back and used him as a bench press! We also made Samuel Shaw do squats in front of a whole restaurant of people in the parking lot. We don't do anything bad and nothing crazy, we just like to have fun with these guys.
Any final message for the UK Fans?
I want to thank the UK fans for their support. Keep giving us all your energy and we'll feed off it. Thank-you guys.