1. First off Karl as a fan growing up, what was the wrestling you were watching that would eventually lead to you becoming a wrestler yourself?
I grew up in Western North Carolina, down south in a real country side of the state. The wrestling I watched was all NWA with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham & Lex Luger etc. My first memory of wrestling I remember my Dad put the channel on and it was Stan Hansen beating the shit out of some jabroni outside the ring. And I kept asking my Dad “Why won’t he let him in the ring?” And my Dad just kept saying “Cause Stan Hansen is a bad guy, man” And I thought Stan Hansen was so f’n cool by beating this guy so bad and never letting him in the ring.
2. So, you would go on to be trained by Les Thatcher in the HWA, memories of being in there etc.
Ya know, I was only with Les’s school for about 3 months. I got a concussion in my third month of training and it really fucked me up. Took 15 months off. Wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to shake the ‘dizziness’ that the concussion brought on. But I did and at the time I was healed Les’s school had lost it’s WCW developmental deal and I was getting info from another school that was in town so I decided to make the switch. And it ended up being the best decision of my life. I switched over to a guy by the name of Roger Ruffen. He was the referee at Wrestle Mania 8 for the Roddy Piper/Bret Hart match. He’s trained the likes of Abyss & Jillian Hall. He’s a good dude that really taught me the in’s and out of the wrestling business. Les Thatcher and I are friends now and I consult him about matches and we have lunch together occasionally. We’re cool, but at that time in 2002 Roger Ruffen was the best decision for me.
3. HWA was where Nigel McGuinness first got trained, was Nigel there the same time a yourself, if so, any memories of Nigel around that time?
I was only around Nigel very very limited in 2000 before I switched promotions. But the times I was able to get in there he was very cool. I remember him letting me, who had only trained for a month of so, give him a backdrop. This was also before Nigel had any kind of name. ROH didn’t even exist at that time. We went drinking a couple of times, myself, Nigel, Pepper Parks, Chet the Jet Jablonski. Nigel was real cool then..
4. In 2005 you got to train at the NJPW dojo in Los Angeles, must of been a big deal for you at the time again memories of the training there, I’m guessing quite a bit different from your time in HWA?
Yea I moved to Los Angeles January 5, 2006. I had worked independently in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, made a long ass trip to South Dakota, but I had no name. Nothing, I saw moving to LA as an opportunity to make something happen. I moved to LA with about 1200 bucks or so and said “it’s do or die time”. Training in the dojo was fucking hard, brutal, squats, running, push-ups, crazy cardio blow up drills. And THEN in ring training, it was tough, but it prepared me for what I was gonna see in the future when I finally ended up in NJPW.
5. In late 2007 you worked for PWG on and off until late 2009, anything standout from your time there in PWG?
PWG is a special place to me. I really love that promotion. And those fans are unbelievably responsive, which is the greatest thing we as wrestlers can ask for. When I moved to LA I had only worked the redneck ‘bad guy/good guy’ shows. PWG helped me branch out and learn how to get a response from that kinda crowd. There was a match with myself, Joey Ryan & Scott Lost vs. The Young Bucks & Paul London that was a lot of fun. It was Paul’s first match back after being released from WWE and the place was oversold with fans.
6. You first wrestled for ROH in 2007 working against Chris Hero & Adam Pearce in separate matches, thoughts of working for ROH at this time and your matches?
I was at a very different place in my career then. I was emailing brother Gabe all the time trying to get a spot in ROH. Working Chris and Adam was easy and fine, both guys are pro’s and both guys great wrestlers. I thought the matches were fine, but Gabe didn’t want to use me anymore. It didn’t bother me because it only helped me stay a free agent for when New Japan came calling things could work out. It’s crazy, one door shuts, another one opens. It’s all good. ROH was good to me then and gave me an opportunity and I thank them for that.
7. You made it to NJPW itself in 2008 as the NWA who you had been working with had an agreement with NJPW and you were drafted in as a replacement for Yuji Nagata vs Koji Kanemoto, so first off, thoughts on making it to NJPW, the culture change and your match experience with the excellent Koji Kanemoto?
I do have to say that I have heard that a lot about it being an NWA thing. And I think they had a very mild working relationship at that point, very mild. But NWA had NOTHING to do with me actually getting booked in New Japan. NWA was great to me then, particularly David Marquez who booked me and flew me all over the states and I ended up getting booked in Germany, Spain & Australia because of Dave. But I have to take credit for getting into New Japan myself. They saw my tape and they booked me, so I’m proud to say that.
The cultural change was big. From being around some Japanese guys at the LA dojo I somewhat had an idea, with the food and the training but nothing can really compare to actually being there. I would stay for 3 months at a time when I first signed there, and although it was awesome, I was fucking dying for a huge American fucking cheeseburger. Japanese food is awesome, and I really love it now, but sometimes you need some of your home country food or else you lose your mind.
Kanemoto was a gent, a top pro, cool as shit. I really looked up to him and when I had the opportunity to step in there against that brother in Nagoya, Japan it was fucking surreal. All I know is after that match, the office pulled me aside and offered me a one year deal. I said yes immediately by the way.
8. Following your performance, NJPW signed you to a one year deal, after a while you would go on to form Bad Intentions with Giant Bernard, after being unsuccessful in your attempt to take the IWGP heavyweight tag team titles you would go on to win them on June 19th 2010 in a three way elimination match against the teams of Seigigun (Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue) and No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi) so, thoughts on winning these prestigious titles and the match itself?
It was cool. Again, surreal. I’m not a big mark for titles at all, but I do want to be featured in some way. Win, lose or whatever, I don’t care I want to stand out. And winning those titles with Bernard, a guy who I looked up to before I even started wrestling, was just really fucking cool. I hate to say this now though but I don’t even remember the match, at all. Couldn’t even tell you the finish. To many headshots possibly? Or just too many matches. Don’t know, but no recollection at all! haha..
9. Yourself & Bernard would go on a roll in NJPW demolishing many teams but eventually WWE came calling for Bernard and he returned back there, first off, was there any discussions between yourself and the WWE about going there and secondly, did Bernard discuss it with you before deciding to go?
There’s always discussions with every wrestling company in the World ya know. I’m under contract with NJPW and have been since 2008 but I am not scared to make a jump if a sweeter offer comes calling. I’ve got a really sweet deal in NJPW and it’s gonna take a whole hell of a lot for me to leave. I love, LOVE working there.
Bernard and I are really good friends. We talk all the time still. Yea I knew all about him going over there and I was happy for him. I had just signed a 2 year deal at the time he left so I wasn’t going anywhere. One night we went drinking in Osaka, Japan, he got bombed and then showed me an email of how much he was signing for to go back to WWE. Yeah, he definitely made the right decision..
10. Although you’re still a big part of NJPW any notable happenings you could tell us about your tenure there so far?
I’ve never been around a friend that is SO WANTED by women as Prince Devitt is, lucky prick, that’s the most notable.
But I’m really happy to see the growth that NJPW is going through. When I came in 2008 it was awesome, but each year I’ve seen bigger and bigger crowds. And now we basically wrestle in front of sold out crowds every where we go. I love the expansion to ippv so that people all over the World can see the best wrestling in the World.
11. You returned to ROH after 5 years in 2013, April 5th over Roderick Strong and the following night over Michael Elgin, for me personally I was pleased of your return after seeing you excel in New Japan but for you, how did you find ROH, as it was a totally different set up from the first time you was there and how did you find the matches with Strong & Elgin?
Yeah man, it was completely different. ROH is ROH. They have their style of wrestling and I love it. It’s a different place than it was in ’07 and there is totally different powers in charge now and I think it’s cool.
If for some reason I ever left NJPW I’d love to work full time for ROH. I’d be the champion in a couple of months for sure. Roddy is one of the best for sure, it was cool working with him in Hammerstein Ball room, that’s a sweet place to wrestle. Elgin, I didn’t know a whole lot about and I was blown away by how damn good this guy is. ROH is the real deal.
12. In July and August you returned once again this time to take part in the ROH world title tournament, after defeating ACH you faced Elgin for the second time, this time coming up short, thoughts on Elgin and the matches and would you like a third to settle it?
ACH is an athletic young dude, looks great, has a bright future. Like I said, Elgin is as good as it gets. He understands his spot in ROH and that’s as one of the top brothers there. I’d love a big rubber match against him. Show him who the real deal is.
13. Back to New Japan, you are part of The Bullet Club which is led by Prince Devitt, how was the idea proposed and the decision made as to who joined the group?
I always thought I was the leader until I saw on Wikipedia that he was. Ferg probably made that wikipedia anyway so whatever. I have to say that the name ‘Bullet Club’ was all Fergs doing. But with Ferg and I’s friendship we are very honest with each other, and if we don’t like something we say it, I liked it, and it stuck.
Who joins the group, man that’s up to the company ya know. We just do our jobs clock in clock out, steal the show and move on to the next town.
14. Part of The Bullet Club as of more recent times are The Young Bucks, they have been tearing up the tag team scene currently holding the IWGP Jr, PWG & ROH tag titles, you’ve known the guys for a while now, what’s it like working with the guys?
I LOVE the Young Bucks. The Bucks and myself were together on the Southern California indies together for a couple of years. Wrestled each other a hundred times, I knew they were the real deal a long time ago before anyone ever booked them. Working with them good brothers in a big time promotion like NJPW after working with each other in shitty little gymnasiums before, is awesome. I think we are all happy for each other that we are all getting our due.
15. Over the last month it was announced NJPW will be working with ROH for a couple of shows in Canada, yourself along with the top guys in NJ are involved, many of the fans are very excited at the prospect of seeing some of the worlds best wrestlers working on shows with ROH, I know you may not know your matches for that weekend yet, but if it was down to you, who would you like to work against from the ROH roster?
Man I got a lot of respect for Kevin Steen. I think he’s the fucking man, something about the brother man, he just draws people to him. He can work, he can talk and he doesn’t give a shit what people think about him. I’d love to wrestle him, or team with him, just do something with Kevin Steen, I think he’s the real deal.
16. So recently you’ve been booked to work here in the UK for Rev-Pro on June 15th along with Shinsuke Nakemura, as Devitt, Tanahashi & The Bucks had worked there previously had you spoken to them before accepting the booking?
Everyone loves working Rev-Pro. I’ve never heard a bad word about it. And when so many good brothers work the show you know it’s good. I spoke with all those guys as they are all my friends, Cabana too. I’m really pumped that Shin is on the show. Him and I are best friends from way back in 2006, we got drunk together in America, we got drunk together in Japan, and I fully expect us to get a sweet little buzz in England together.
17. Do you know much about the UK scene, if so what names are you familiar with?
I could lie and go google some names right now and tell you yes I am very familiar with the UK scene. But the fact is I’m not. No disrespect to any of them, cause they paved the way for brothers like me to come work there. But when I’m in Japan I just work. And when I’m go home I spend time with my family. So I’m a little out of the loop. But I hear great things from Ferg about what goes on over there and I’m beyond excited to see it.
OK Karl, thanks for your time today, I’d like to wish you continued success with your career and I look forward to seeing you in action in June, the floor is now yours for any final comments you wish to make and to plug anything you want.
Thanks for having me Stu. I’m as excited as any booking I’ve ever had to work Rev-Pro in June.
@machinegunka on twitter and that’s it man, thanks for the interview. Look forward to having a brew after the show June 15.