You’ve been a teacher as well as a wrestler, is that something you find more fulfilling or is it just different?
I’ve been a teacher for a lot of years now and I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always said that I think my legacy in wrestling is probably going to be more the people that I’ve trained. And, you know, it means just as much to me as my own success when I see all of them succeeding.
You did it with the WWE [on Tough Enough] and you’ve done it with TNA with the UK one [British Boot Camp] as well.
Yeah I’ve done it with the TNA, we had a developmental system that I created and turned out Jessy Godderz and Spud and some of the others. And then prior to WWE I had my own school for several years and now I’ve got another academy here, in London actually, that I’ve opened up and worked again in association with TNA.
Are you opening up one here in Glasgow?
Possibly, we talked to a promotion up here about working together but I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re going to do at this time. We just literally opened up the actual physical academy in London at the end of April.
There seems to be massive demand for wrestling it seems to have grown and grown and it’s lots of smaller places that are getting the chance for much wider exposure.
True, true, and I think that is owed a lot to the fact that the WWE doesn’t have a Television or Physical presence in the UK right now and that has allowed the independent wrestling scene to flourish.
When the WWE comes it’s a massive spectacle but the smaller stuff is much more personal, you can actually get more involved and up close.
Yeah I agree and it’s better for an atmosphere, a little more intimate.
Is it the exact same process that you use or do you have to change it for a smaller audience?
No you don’t. It’s sometimes more of a challenge because, it’s called the psychology of anonymity, the bigger the audience the more anonymous an audience can be the easier it is to get them emotionally connected to what you are doing. When they’re not anonymous, when it’s a very small audience and they can see their neighbor across the ring they’re more self-conscious, it’s harder to get them to react. That’s why you turn the lights down in the building and etc, it’s to create that anonymity to allow the audience to emotionally express themselves.
Does that make it harder when matches spill out into the crowd, does that actually make it harder for you guys, as it’s reminding you of where you are rather than being in the ring where it’s a bit more abstract?
It’s preferable to always stay in the ring as that way the majority of the audience that’s in the building can see what’s happening. If you spill out a large portion of the audience can’t see what’s taking place, they kinda miss out and then that response gets diminished because so many people can’t watch it.
One of the things you are really well known for is the hardcore style, you were with ECW for a number of years. Is that style [of wrestling] still popular in the States or has it diminished at all?
I think that it still continues on, I think it’s maybe not as prevalent as it once was. It seems in general most of the wrestling promotions are now trying to direct their talent and their in ring performances to a more G or PG rated type of show. The hardcore stuff is a little more violent and goes beyond those boundaries.
I know one of the bigger ones [promotions] in Glasgow, ICW, they’ve still got a hardcore element to it but they deliberately go for the over 18 market. Where as if you are able to get the kids in it opens up a much bigger spread.
It certainly does, I mean there’s a far greater audience that have a family of 4 than the 18-49-year-old single audience.
Does it change the way you tell the stories or does it open up more things to do?
It’s all the same, it really is, it doesn’t change that much.
I’ve watched a lot of matches over the years and it always seems to be the same psychology of telling the story. It hasn’t changed much.
It hasn’t changed at all. The premise of every story is that it’s a competitive situation and you’re out there try to win and trying not to lose. You know, once that’s established it’s kind of difficult to alter that and I know that a lot of people try to claim Professional Wrestling’s changed and that it’s no longer what it was etc.
They tried, during the attitude era, to have kind of antiheroes that weren’t really heel or face but they’ve gone right back to heels and faces again, it seems that model works.
Well that’s because whether you tell a story in wrestling or you tell a story in a written for like a book or you tell a story as far as a screen play or you tell a story as far as a movie you’re still telling a story. So you need an antagonist, a protagonist, a challenge that the protagonist can overcome and a goal that both are working towards. Either the antagonist is working towards keeping the protagonist from achieving his goal and then protagonist has to do everything to achieve it, or the antagonist is also racing to get that same goal, and is doing everything they can to achieve the goal and make sure the protagonist doesn’t.
Is that something that when people come in to learn wrestling is a bit of a surprise to them? They expect to learn the movies and go through the pain zone but that bit being so important does that ever surprise people?
I think they’re more surprised by how physically demanding and emotionally demanding and mentally demanding Professional Wrestling is.
It always seems a bit ironic that people go on about wrestling being fake.
There’s only one thing that’s fake about professional wrestling, only one, everything else is 100% real and that is that it’s a competitive situation, the outcome is not predetermined. The only thing that’s fake.
Compared to any other industry the amount of injuries people pick up and the length of the working year, you guys are out 300 plus days a year.
Oh yeah, pretty much, pretty much. There’s no off season for us.
Are you planning to keep on with the TV appearances and wrestling?
Oh yeah, yeah. I’ll still be in the ring as much as I can for the time being until I eventually get to a physical point where, you know, I just can’t perform at a level that I think I should be.
Would you consider moving to a manager role where you are still on screen but not wrestling?
It just depends on the opportunities and what they want done.
Are you still open to the possibility of returning to the likes of the WWE at some point?
Certainly, yeah, if the opportunity were there and arose why not.
In the first WWE Tough Enough you were a big factor in making it a success. Is that something that would be of interest to do again?
If they were to offer it to me I certainly would not turn it down, I’d love to be involved in Tough Enough again, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It was interesting as it broke down the barriers and gave people the first real taste of how much hard work and commitment you guys put into it.
Yeah I think it was a great vehicle to allow wrestling fans to gain a better appreciation and respect for just what it took to be a professional wrestler. And I think it helped grow the audience. If you weren’t a wrestling fan you’d get intrigued and watch and get involved with the characters. And then it would pull you in to watching wrestling. And then it was a great talent scout, you know. A way to scout for new talent, it worked on so many fronts.
We saw you wrestling Grado just down the river from here in the Hydro, how does it feel to have inflicted Grado on the world?
Most times they would shoot people for things like that. I’m hoping that, you know, the world will find its way to forgive me for subjecting it to Grado. Especially the wrestling world, you guys can’t hold a grudge against me for this please! [laughs]
He is out the UK a lot more now, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing for us.
I don’t either. [laughs]
Thanks for your time today Al, it was very much appreciated.