TNA's Rockstar Spud gave an exclusive interview to the Royal Ramblings blog, his first since signing a new multi-year deal with the company. Here's what he had to say:
It has been just over a year since you left the UK as the winner of British TNA Boot camp. What have been the highlights of the last year?
Everything's been a highlight really and it just keeps getting better. OVW [TNA's Training School], believe it or not, was one of the best things I've ever done in my career. I don't regret one minute there. I advise anyone that's reading this - if you want to learn about the pro-wrestling business - get yourself there. With a bit of luck Al Snow will be back there but it was great to learn from Danny Davis and people of that caliber. Since I was brought up to television in November, it's been constant highlights. TNA seems to be really getting behind people like myself, EC3, Magnus and Samuel Shaw. I've signed an extended deal with the company, which I'm very happy with and I'm making good money. That was my dream and all that I've ever wanted in life - to do this as a job. Now Im doing it full time in a very wonderful country with great people and I couldn't be happier TNA give me creative freedom- they give me the ball and I have to run with it and it's great that they trust us so much.
In the 'Supermen' film you mention the attention your parents get. Has that changed now and what do you miss most about home?
I obviously miss friends and family but the UK fans as well - they're the most passionate bunch of supporters in the world! You can't appreciate how great your country is in comparison to others until you step outside. As for my parents, when I used to go to the pub, my dad and I would have normal quick chat. As the wrestling picked up people would say "oh, I saw your son in the paper or on the Telly" and now the situation is that when I walk in, he'll call out "SON, MY SON, COME OVER HERE!" I'm there for him to show off now! But bless him, he's proud. I wish he'd have been so proud when it was in the church halls in front of 20 people - ha!
What's it like to work with major talents like Bully Ray?
He doesn't know this (and I'd never tell Bully this because he'd laugh at me) but he was always someone I looked up to as a young wrestling fan. I always wanted to be a Dudley and anyone that knows me will know my email had 'Spudlyville' in it rather than 'Duddlyville'. I looked at Spike Dudley and thought "I could be a Dudley too" and if you look at my first matches in the industry, I even had the Dudley glasses. In my view, Bubba is the best heel in the business. He knows how to get genuine heat to the point that people are willing to risk getting arrested in order to attack him! But you also can't deny what a great babyface he is and so there's an argument to be made that he's one of the best workers in the business in total.
TNA seems so popular in the UK; sold out shows, the most watched wrestling show on TV- but in the US it seems to struggle what does the UK get that America doesn't?
It's hard to compare the UK and America given some of their states are three times the size of the UK. People lament ratings of years gone by but forget that there's 2-300 channels now and in today's economy it's incredibly difficult to lock a stable viewership - that goes for soaps, or anything. Look at the UK though - there's maybe 100 channels on free digital TV and people choose TNA all the time and that's why we're number one. People feel part of the characters and they can go and meet the wrestlers [at TNA's fan interaction]. Being away from the people doesn't make you look more like a superstar it makes you look impersonal. We don't eat without the fans and we like to give back here at TNA and I think it does wonders for the company.
What is the atmosphere in the dressing room like at the moment?
We have so much fun. We're all a team. I've never been a locker room - and this includes in the independents - where everyone's so supportive, offering advice and rooting for one another. The mind-set is simple. The better we do, the more people will want to watch each of us individually and we will benefit collectively for it. There's no jealousy. We have a common goal we're driving towards - to be number one.
Is that still the case with some high profile names leaving the company?
I believe so. Look, you agree on how much you want to be paid. You're in negotiations and you're an independent contractor. You don't feel that you're being paid what your worth, then obviously you state your case and if the promoter disagrees you have to call it a day. That's business and you look for opportunities down the line. Of course it's sad to see people go but it is part of the business, it really is. My business is Rockstar Spud. I've entered an agreement with TNA and we're going to work together to exploit my talents. That's the way the world works.
Do you think the launch of new wrestling promotions [GFW] is a threat to TNA?
I think TNA are just going to concentrate on what we're doing. Other promotions coming up is good for the industry. There are more places for people to work, do what they love to do and provide for their families. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing.
Who should we be looking out for in the coming months?
You should definitely be looking out for EC3. I believe WWE dropped the ball so badly with him - he's so entertaining and such a pro. Samuel Shaw - he's taken his character and run with it. Then there's always Kenny King and the Bro-Mans with Zema Ion. You want to watch out for them because they're going to do big things. These are the guys the company is backing for the long-term.
What has been the best 'rib' on you or have you seen on someone else since you joined the company?
I played one on Gunner recently. He was going into my bag and fishing out a bear that I was given when I left the UK which is a reminder of home. He's been taking pictures with the bear all over the locker room. He didn't think I'd get him back but when he wasn't looking I took his wrestling pants from his bag. He was in the main event of a house show and as he got into the car to leave, the lights came on, I had YMCA playing loudly and there's me in Gunners pants doing his full gimmick, running around the parking area. He didn't know what to do!
Has wrestling become too family friendly these days?
Absolutely not. I think some people miss the point now though -that goes for the wrestlers too - and it infuriates me. I watch it all the time and it riles me that no-one cheats. People get in the ring and wrestle but how can you find a negative quality in someone that doesn't cower or cheat? We don't draw money without love or hate. Without those two things people won't come through the door and won't want to pay to see the guy they hate loose or the guy they love win.
We recently highlighted the rising profile of British wrestling superstars - is British wrestling at its strongest ever point?
I think in terms of British performers on the national stage it is very much the best it's been for a while. Back in the day it was the Minimalistics, the Regals and the Davey Boy Smiths that were breaking out and who can forget people like Lord Alfred Hayes. It's great to see British talent doing really well and being appreciated. Personally I don't think there is anyone better from the UK right now than Magnus. He knows how to draw constant emotion from the fans and plays his role to perfection. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves because it takes knowledge of the industry to understand just how good he is. He had the body of Schwarzenegger at 21 and at 27 he was the first British champion in 108 years, that's crazy.
What role do the UK independent promotions have in helping to push the UK Talent into the major leagues?
I think there are positives and negatives. You can learn a lot from people in the indies but there is some delusion. Some people don't think for the good of the show but rather for their video camera. They focus on the reaction they get to something in their match but if the guys in the first match under or over-perform, all the energy can be sucked out of a main event. That's something I learned a while in but not everyone listens to advice.
What was it like returning to the UK in January with TNA and when are you next here?
Awesome! Dream come true! Especially the show in Birmingham because I used to work over the road and daydream by the office window! When I came out I had to prove myself because I was just a sniveling little weasel on TV but I got in the ring with 3 former world champions (Austin Aries, Ken Anderson and Bully Ray) and being on a level with those people felt amazing. We're next over in January so look out UK! Magnus was cheered one year and booed the next - so you never know what's going to happen!!
Any parting messages from the Chief of Staff to your UK fans?!
Keep watching impact wrestling every week on Challenge, Sundays at 9pm and support the live show too. Keep supporting British wrestling and wrestlers. Without you we wouldn't have got here and without you we won't stay here. We're here because of you, so thank-you.
You Can Watch Rockstar Spud and the stars of TNA IMPACT WRESTLING every Sunday night at 9pm on Challenge