How many names has Johnny Impact had in his long career? Nitro, Mundo, Morrison… The list may be long, but the fact is the man has never changed. Whatever the promotion he was wrestling with, may it be heel or face, he has stood up as a trailblazer on his own for nearly 2 decades. After more than a year on Impact Wrestling, Johnny Impact became World Champion at Bound of Glory, something many fans have been waiting for since his debut with the company. Johnny Impact is currently sitting on the top the world, but a ferocious opponent is already expecting him at Homecoming on January 6, 2019, in Brian Cage.
SteelChair Magazine had the chance to talk to the Champion a few weeks ago. He talked about his ride with Impact Wrestling, his current World Championship run, Homecoming and his upcoming match against Brian Cage, why 40 seems to be the new 20 in the wrestling business, and the sunshine of his life, Taya Valkyrie.
At “Bound for Glory”, more than a year after your debut with Impact Wrestling, you became the World Champion. It’s been a long road to finally reach the gold.
You can say it! The Impact World Championship is one of the coolest things that I’ve achieved since I’ve got into the business of professional wrestling. The roster right now on Impact is so competitive, everyone’s pushing each other to their limits and past their limits. So winning the Championship and representing Impact right now is a huge honour. There was a while when Impact had some negative connotations, a stigma about it that it wasn’t worth watching, but really over the last year especially since Slammiversary and Bound for Glory, I’ve felt like we completely shed all that stigma, all the negative opinions and now we’re rebuilding it. It’s really exciting to be a part of the roster and, in my opinion, it’s really cool to be a fan of something when it’s growing and on the upswing. With the talents we have, the Creatives and the people behind the scenes, I predict it’s going to surprise a lot of people over the next year.
Your first title defence was against Fénix on October 25. When I watched the match, I couldn’t help but think about your match against Rey Mysterio, on WWE SmackDown Live in September 2009, when you became a 3-time Intercontinental Champion. There was the same level of respect between 2 wrestlers that would do anything to do a great match, mostly when you helped him get up, the same way you did with Rey Mysterio.
This match against Rey Mysterio is one of my favourites of all time, I think about that match all the time and it’s cool that this match between me and Fénix reminded you of the one between me and Rey Mysterio. I have so much respect for Fénix, more than I could even articulate with words right now. He and his brother Pentagon have wrestled all over the world. Every time I wrestle Fénix, I get really excited because I know that, whatever I can think of, we can make it happen. I also know that Fénix is going to think of 10 different things that I probably never would have thought of in the first place (laughs). I feel like we push each other and it’s really cool to be in the ring when you feel like you’re doing your best work with somebody you respect. It’s an honour.
This match also proved you have never changed since your days in WWE. You worked with AAA, you’ve been working with Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling, and many more promotions, but the wrestler has never changed.
That’s an absolutely cool observation, thank you.
It’s pretty impressive to see how you’ve been able to reinvent yourself constantly and probably be right now the best that you have ever been as a wrestler. How do you manage to keep yourself fresh?
Like you’ve just said, I stay the same. I stay humble and open to learning from everybody. This is something really important in this business. As far as keeping my wrestling fresh, I keep myself in shape. It also has a lot to do with being ambitious, keeping an open mind, staying humble and working your ass off. So all the matches on Impact or Lucha Underground with Sami Callihan, Cage, Moose, Eddie Edwards, Pentagon, Fénix, LAX, these are the guys that motivate me to keep myself fresh, to keep coming up with new things, because I can see how much passion and how much fire that the roster has, and I like that. I also want to be a positive part, in addition to the fire and the pride, so keeping that passion and that desire is how I get myself so motivated to reinvent myself constantly.
Since “Bound for Glory”, many people have noticed this new level of aggressivity and something new in the way you are wrestling. People saw that again when you wrestled Killer Kross at “Final Hour” Special Event, you added some new weapons in your repertoire that we were not used to seeing from you before. Does this change come from you or from the wrestlers you had to compete against?
Both those things, in fact. One of the things that was the hardest for me, when I first started, was having a violent edge, being aggressive, because, when I first started, I was wrestling a lot of the guys that I was a big fan of, I was so excited to be there. To harness feelings like anger and aggression, and everyone’s got those things that are more difficult to them, for me that’s one of the things that has taken me the longest to intertwine into what I’m doing in the ring all the time. When I’m wrestling a man like Killer Kross, with him being aggressive, it pulls more aggression out of me than from when I was wrestling Fénix, for example, because I’m competing and trying as hard as I can to outdo him and to keep up with him, but the competitiveness and the fire that I have in that match is a little bit different. For example, I know that Fénix isn’t going to try to kick me in the back of the head (laughs). But, as you stated, Bound for Glory was a really special night. This match is one of the matches of my career that I’m going to be thinking about until the day that I pass on. Something in me changed that night and I’m really proud of that match.
You turned 39 a few weeks ago. Like I stated to Austin Aries recently, it seems like 40 is the new 20 in wrestling when you see what guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode or Austin Aries are able to do. They’re currently at their best.
Wrestling is an art that I thought I understood everything about only 10 years ago. The longer you’re in it, the more you understand the psychology, the more you learn, and the better you can perform in the ring. The difficult thing is when you start going up there at age 35, 40 or 45, your physical training needs to become a top priority because, at some point, your style and your ideas are going to be more advanced than what you’re capable of physically. But, if you train yourself intelligently, 40 can be the new 20, like you’ve just said, like guys like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Bobby Roode or Bobby Lashley. There’s a time when someone is going to tell you, “hey guy, it’s time to retire,” which is something completely subjected to the wrestler. In my opinion, it’s up to the individual wrestler to maintain their game. As long as I can do that, I feel like I’m going to be able to be on top and continuing to outdo myself.
People don’t realize, when you started, to which extent you were a precursor to what we are able to see now, the way you were wrestling when you started with WWE, at that time it was like something completely different. Now it is the norm. The evolution of the business also comes from people who once tried something new, and that’s what you did.
I can inspire people the same way I was inspired by wrestlers like Psychosis, Super Crazy, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Macho Man Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels. They were all visionaries in their own way. They’re a big part of me liking wrestling, choosing this type of wrestling I wanted to do and my choices in general, throughout my whole career. Wrestling has evolved so much and it’s really cool to see how it’s changed.
When you and your wife Taya Valkyrie made your debut with Impact Wrestling, both of you were saying that you didn’t really want to work as a team, like you’ve been doing on Lucha Underground, do your career side by side but not together. But since “Bound for Glory”, it’s seemed like you’re now more or less a kind of team. You even did a mixed Tag Team match together against Moose and Tessa Blanchard recently. Is it something you wanted and, of course, is it something you’re appreciating?
Definitely. I remember some of the interviews that we did when we first started, we’ve been working together in Lucha Libre AAA and working together in Lucha Underground, and it felt like a cool fresh start for both of us, to be doing our own thing on Impact Wrestling because we’d worked together so frequently. Now we’ve been out of AAA and Lucha Underground’s been on hiatus, it seems like the perfect time for us to work together on Impact. It also feels cool that we waited until now because the Mixed Tag Match is very special. I mean obviously, I love Taya, I love working with Taya. As you said, it’s not just special to me because I get to work with my wife, the person that I love the most in the world, it’s also special to me because I really respect her wrestling psychology and what she does in the ring. When we work together, she’s also someone that forces me to level up and to be on point. I think it’s a win-win-win situation. When you’re completely in love with someone you respect and in the business you love, it’s just so great. I’m really excited to go forward on it on Impact right now.
Taya is so strong and such an amazing wrestler, she seems like not to be afraid of anything. I have tremendous respect for her because I think she’s a real example for women and, in many ways, a women’s revolution on her own.
She hasn’t had like a ton of lucky breaks in the wrestling business. She’s created her career and her spot in the business by moving to Mexico and learning Lucha Libre down there for over five years. From training with Lance Storm and for continuing to train every day, whether it’s in the ring of the gym or just watch some tapes, even now, the amount of work and passion she has for wrestling is on another level. When you say she’s a women’s evolution, pretty much all around by herself, I couldn’t agree more. It’s really cool to see what’s happening with wrestling, the women’s evolution and the stuff that WWE is doing. It’s also kind of cool for me to think that one of the first nationally-televised intergender matches was Taya versus Brian Cage on Lucha Underground. That made turn so many heads on intergender wrestling, the women’s evolution and the amount of stuff Taya is capable of doing. I think it’s fired a lot of people and fans. It’s really cool to hear that you noticed that.
I really think she’s an example for every woman in this world.
Taya is my favourite human being in the world. When someone like Taya, who’s fought for everything she’s achieved in wrestling so hard, is standing in the ring opposite someone who hasn’t been through what she’s been through, a lot of times it’s obvious to me when I’m watching, and I think it’s obvious to a lot of people that the fire that Taya has when she’s in the ring is ferocious. It’s crazy and it’s really fun for me to watch and I think that’s what you get when you fight that hard for everything. She doesn’t mess around when she’s in the ring, she worked so hard to get the position that she has now that there’s no off-night, she never phones it in. The look in her eyes is completely authentic when she’s fired up in the ring. I think it’s one of the things that I respect most about her wrestling.
Brian Cage cashed in his Option C, which means he has become your new #1 contender. You two will face off at “Homecoming”. What are your thoughts on him and the match?
First of all, he’s someone I respect in this business a ton and somebody I consider as a close friend, but he’s really scary (laughs). Option C means Brian cashed in his X-Division Championship for a shot at my Impact World Championship. That’s how bad he wants to win the World Championship, he gave up his X-Division title. For me, that means he’s not going to be messing around at Homecoming. I’ve heard him say he’s going to do whatever it takes, he doesn’t care for friends, he doesn’t care about what happens and will do whatever it takes to win the Impact World Championship. Unfortunately for Brian, I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep the Impact World Championship. It means that January 6th, Nashville, Homecoming, is a date that I’m going to be thinking about every day, between now and then, because I feel like my Impact World Championship run is just beginning. At Homecoming, wrestling Brian Cage is one of those nights where, if I’m not firing at 100 percent and I’m not completely on top of my game, my World Championship run could be over like a snap of the fingers, because Brian is so talented.
Follow Johnny Impact on Twitter @TheRealMorrison. All pics and screencaps courtesy of Impact Wrestling.