by Josh White
To many, Impact Wrestling is the place where turnouts go to live out a career where you tape once every three months, get a paycheck (or not) and go home. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With a new team of creative and management at the helm, Impact looks to soar back to the levels of popularity it once held before the collapse of the ill-forgotten Dixie Carter era.
It’s with this new change in the guard that has brought about new energy, new personas and new rivalries that have the world over talking. From record-breaking weeks of views on its YouTube channel to heated discussion over a certain ‘incident’, hype is most certainly returning to the Impact Zone. Written as we headed directly into Mania weekend, Impact was featured on the world renowned ‘Wrestlecon’ featuring Impact vs Lucha Underground, a clear sign of the changing times.
I had the opportunity to speak with the namer of dummies himself, Eli Drake. We spoke about his views on the monumental news that Impact will be returning to the UK since January 2016 this September, what creates a ‘moment’ in wrestling, and of course – his ever-expanding list of dummies…
With Wrestlemania weekend about to begin, all eyes have switched focus to the big easy, New Orleans. For Eli, being a part of the weekend with Impact working the world renowned ‘Wrestlecon’ event is something of a new experience and something to be looked forward to for new experiences gained.
“It’ll be my first time in New Orleans so I’m looking forward to that portion of it. Also, we’re going to be able to work in front of the Wrestlecon crowd; it’ll be great to meet all the fans so it’s going to be a good time. I’ll also be working out live on Twitch.tv on Friday before the event and then signing autographs at Wrestlecon. On Sunday I’ll be live back on Twitch.tv for something called ‘You’ve Got Game’ – I’ve got no idea what it is but we’ll all find out together! I haven’t got a match lined up for Impact vs Lucha as of yet, I know I’ll be there, but I don’t know in what capacity and who I’ll be wrestling – we’ll see…”
Speaking of the hyped Impact vs Lucha Underground show, Eli eluded to who he would like to face at the event. One name in particular would mean that the namer of all dummies would need a whole lot of CERO MIEDO…
“If you look around at Lucha Underground there’s a lot of talent there that I could pick up and go for. Of course, one of the ‘crossover’ guys would be Johnny Impact / Johnny Mundo – but I’ve been there, done that. There’s also the potential for Brian Cage, he and I have a lot of history. I’d even look at someone like Pentagon Jr. but he’s already taken. I don’t honestly know who I’d pick so we’ll see what comes to pass at the show.”
It’s not just Lucha Underground that Impact has taken the bold step to branching out and working with. Promotions up and down the United States and beyond now enjoy a working relationship with a company that is rebuilding its reputation, and more recently partnering with the ever-growing streaming service, Twitch. Of course, Eli wasn’t afraid to hold back on his opinion of what he feels it means for the business as a whole moving forward…
“It’s different from what we’re used to seeing nowadays (Impact’s partnerships), very much so. I think it’s a great move in the sense of bringing the business as a whole together, we’ve got all these small promotions that are floundering and we get strength in unity by working together. At the same time, the only knock I could say is that some of the smaller promotions don’t have the greatest production, sometimes it doesn’t look as crisp as it should – be it the lighting, camera work and so on. Other than that, I think the concept is phenomenal, and again it’s helping everyone to be able to move forward and work together. It also gives everyone in the business opportunities that they may not have otherwise had; you’re getting these local guys who get to work with the current roster of Impact. Who knows, they might even end up on Impact’s radar?”
Now as those of us native to the UK will know, we do love ourselves a bit of the graps don’t we? Impact has broken the news that for the first time since January 2016, they will be returning to our fabled shores this September as a part of ‘Wrestling MediaCon’ – working alongside UK Indy stalwarts Revolution Pro Wrestling. Obviously, as the independent graps fanatic that I am, the question had to be asked. We also briefly discussed one Chris Brookes of CCK fame during and suggested that he and Eli have a good old scrap once September comes around. Impact, you know what must be done…
“Man I gotta say that going to the UK back in 2016 was just an amazing experience. The way that the fans are with you, there’s such a passion over there in the UK actually. From just noticing all the people who showed up simply to watch our tour bus show up to the arenas to watch it leave, to people showing up at the hotels for photographs/autographs – that’s a whole lot of passion, I really like that. I’m very much looking forward to it. As far as the UK indy (Independent) scene goes, I’m so wrapped up in what I do it’s like I’ve got blinders on! I barely even know what people in the US Indy scene do let alone the UK scene!”
For the Los Angeles based grappler, it’s not just about what happens in the ring. It’s also about having that power and command on the mic when given the opportunity. One comparison that often comes up is that of The Rock, and it’s not without controversy.
“There’s mixed feelings about something like that. Of course, it’s a huge compliment in a lot of ways, but let me correct you on something there – I am the BEST mic man in the entire industry right now, nobody can touch me! There are no scripts, none of that when I’m talking; it’s all coming from me. The bottom line is that it’s a great comparison if I’m being compared to one of, if not the best stickman of all time. I can’t argue with that, but sometimes you hear people say that you’re doing an imitation of a Rock, Flair, so many different guys that come out of left field – I can’t even wrap my brain around it. For the most part, it just comes from social media, so I try not to pay attention to it. I just do what I do. It’s the way those guys presented themselves as just so larger than life with such confidence to the point where I don’t think even confidence tells what they’re presenting enough. That’s how I try to come across.”
Eli wasn’t afraid to continue on the trend of promo class, giving some somewhat contradictory thoughts on talent coming up through the ranks on today’s scene…
A lot of wrestlers don’t focus on their promo skills; that’s a sad state of affairs. Flippy moves in my opinion aren’t what going to bring in a casual audience.They’re getting lost in what’s actually important, instead trying to do cool moves rather than tell stories. At the end of the day, this is entertainment. They seem to be more interested in doing ‘comic book’ moves – they have their place but at some point, you have to tell me who you are, and you have to tell a story. You’ve got your hardcore wrestling fan that will love it, but let’s say someone hasn’t checked out wrestling since the Attitude Era – how do you re-capture those people? Not with cool moves. Those people were talking about moments, the really good character stuff. It’s a matter of entertaining the people, the moves are almost secondary. It’s really about who you are. Being able to have a character on top of that is key.
The ‘perpetual motion machine of badassery’ also had his take on what it would be like to have a moment with some of the greats in the business. Needless to say, Eli didn’t hold back on telling the world what his vision of going one on one with the great one or Hollywood’s finest heel would be like.
It would definitely be one of those guys (Rock/Austin/Hogan). Each one of those moments would be so huge, but so different. A moment with Austin would be completely different than it would be with The Rock, than it would be with Hogan. When I was a little kid, Hogan was the deal. Even when he went to the NwO, to go from being the biggest babyface to the biggest heel and being successful at it is just amazing. That speaks the truth to his character, his ability and his larger than life personality. Say what you want about him but he’s an amazing performer, he’s got crazy charisma. At the same time, I think the promos between The Rock or Austin and myself would be amazing, I think we could do some awesome business in the ring. They didn’t do super flashy moves but they had amazing psychology and that amazing snap and commitment to every move they did in the ring.
Now you thought we’d forgotten, but would any Eli Drake interview be complete without a compiled list of his current dummies? Of course, it wouldn’t.
To the surprise of nobody, a few familiar names pop up…
We’re gonna go:
Austin Aries, YEAH
Alberto El Patron, YEAH
Johnny Impact, right
And this new goof running around, Brian Cage…
All pics courtesy of Impact Wrestling