At Wrestling MediaCon, I got the chance to have an unplanned chat with WOS and NGW wrestlers, Justin Sysum and Nathan Cruz.
We talked weird places to wrestle, The Lion King, Marvel, and so much more.
Please note: As this was the first time I had ever conducted an interview (with no prep whatsoever), I had no plans of publishing the audio for this interview, but because the sound quality turned out better than expected, I’ve decided to include it along with a transcript. As I wasn’t planning on anybody hearing it, I may be stumbling my words in places so please forgive any mistakes. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.
HWF: I’d just like to start off by saying that we are sat in a bar made to look like the cantina from Star Wars. It’s a pretty weird place to do an interview -so what’s the weirdest place you’ve had a match?
Justin: I’d probably say at a wedding. We had a wrestling MC called Hank McCoy. He was getting married and for entertainment, we put on a wrestling show, and at the very end he came in and hit a stunner to assist with the victory. It was in a hotel garden, a pretty odd place to be.
HWF: Nathan, you’re gonna have to pull out a big one to beat that.
Nathan: Yeah, I don’t think I can… The weirdest place I wrestled was a horrible holiday campsite called Hallows. Basically, it’s on the Thames and at the end of a council estate. The venue was horrendous, it was the smallest venue I’ve ever wrestled in and was right next to the swimming pool as well. Ridiculously humid, we had to get changed behind the curtain which was about a metre or two for four wrestlers. The ceiling was so low we couldn’t do anything other than technical wrestling, and trying to entertain holiday makers with that was impossible.
HWF: Sometimes in wrestling you’re put in situations where you question why you love it, but one of the moments where it pays off was when you signed to WOS. When you got that call, how were you feeling?
Justin: Well, I missed the boat on the pilot. I was touring with Marvel Universe Live, and wasn’t allowed to work outside of my contract. I thought I’d missed my opportunity. I know it took a little while to go from the pilot to what we have now, but I think that worked out in my favour. I finished the Marvel tour, got back into wrestling, and had another year and a half or so under my belt before they came knocking again. I was ecstatic.
Nathan: Similar story, I missed the pilot because at the time I was supposed to be a part of the inaugural WWE UK Championship tournament. Unfortunately I failed the medical on an undiscovered blood pressure condition which I never knew I had, so I spent a lot of 2017, I dare say being depressed. I was just miserable, I couldn’t make sense of the situation. Id just missed out on my dream.
But then when WOS came around, it all made sense again. I’m a believer in faith and everything happening for a reason, and that happened to me because I was waiting for this. I’ve been wrestling 12 years now and when we’re doing long journeys, we fantasise about stuff like that, like wouldn’t it be cool if ITV brought World of Sport back? It was something we never thought would happen, but it has happened. To be a part of it and have a good storyline in it, I’ve been blown away by it all.
HWF: You’re no stranger to TV. You’ve been with NGW a long time, and you’re probably their biggest heel. Everywhere you go, Defiant, North and 3CW are places I’ve seen you, you always get booed. Why do you think people hate you so much (without being too rude)?
Nathan: I’d be offended if you said I’m not booable. I take a lot of time to look at things that can get under people’s skin. I watch certain films or certain people’s character traits and think, “Why do they annoy me?” I’ll analyse that and think about how I can use it as Nathan Cruz.
There’s a scene in the Lion King, I always use this as an example, it’s when Simba’s mum gets called up by Scar, and she has to walk through the hyenas. When she walks through, she has this really smug look on her face as she looks down on these hyenas. Even though she’s the baby face in that role, I remember watching that as a kid, it annoyed me how smug she was. When I got into wrestling, especially somewhere like PROGRESS, that was a real good example for me to think, “Nathan Cruz is someone that hates die-hard wrestling fans, he’s an elitist professional wrestler who thinks he’s above them,” so I am Simba’s mother. I am that lion walking past those hyenas thinking they’re scum. If I can register that on my face and make someone instantly hate me without saying a word, then I’ve developed that talent to make people hate me.
HWF: I think some Lion King merch is probably in the future at some point.
On the same vein of that, I’ve seen you before and after shows in the past, and you’re always suited up. That must not be the most comfortable thing to do after a match?
Nathan: I don’t mind it. When I first joined All Star Wrestling in 2010, I was 19, and at the time, I still had a real day job. One of the shows I had to go straight from work to the All Star show, so I still had my dress pants and shirt on. Drew McDonald made a point of telling me he was a fan of me turning up dressed smart, and he thought all the boys should dress like that because it makes them look important. That always stuck with me. Plus I’m immensely influenced by The Four Horsemen, Tully Blanchard in particular, and they were known for always wearing suits. For example today I’ve got a photoshoot to do, some of the boys will have to change into their gear, I’m fortunate enough that this suit is my gimmick so I don’t have to change.
HWF: Maybe you are the smartest person in the room.
So Justin, back to you. You’ve done some work with Marvel, some stunt work too, what gets you more starstruck – meeting wrestling heroes or being a part of this huge superhero world?
Justin: I might sound like a bit of a villain here in that nothing really phases me. I want to be that person that somebody freaks out when they meet. It’d be weird and uncomfortable when that happens, but I’d rather be that than someone who doesn’t think they can aspire to be that person. Obviously I’ve got a lot of respect for everyone that’s come before me, both in film and wrestling, but like Nathan I want to be a professional. I’m there to do a job, we’re working together, nobody’s above anybody in that moment, obviously I’ll pay my respects but I wanna be on a level playing field. It’s like dressing for the job you want not what you have.
HWF: I think something you’re most known for is your physique and insane athleticism. When did you realise you were basically the real life Thor?
Justin: I was originally a hammer thrower before going into American Football and then eventually wrestling, so in my very first match, I didn’t have a gimmick name. The person who put on the show decided to call me Justin Hammer, which is actually a bad guy in the Ironman comics. But I had long hair, a similar physique to Thor, so it all just started meshing together. Then I got a cape and really started to play that character.
The things I do in the ring I’ve started to adapt to how I look. I do a running spear from the outside to the inside of the ring through the ropes – not many people are able to do it and it goes with the whole flying superhero thing. I do a Spinning Polish Hammer called Miolna (sorry if that’s spelt wrong), but now that’s Thor’s Hammer. So everything’s starting to tie-in with the comic book side of things, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with wrestling.
I think there’s a big crossover between wrestling and comic book fans. I’m sure Nathan will tell you himself that he likes to sit at home on a Saturday and watch superhero cartoons. He’s got a room in his house dedicated to Marvel stuff. When we were at Comic Con the other week, we were doing a panel, Nathan started talking about it and the crowd’s eyes lit up and smiles grew on their faces.
HWF: As much as I’d like to know about your Marvel collection, Nathan, I’m afraid it will make you too likeable. On the same vein of being a bad guy, how do you feel about certain fans that will cheer for a heel because they’re appreciative of how good their work is, when the heel is looking to be booed for their work?
Nathan: I think if you’re smart enough to the wrestling industry, which most of those type of fans tend to be, you should know to boo. At the end of the day, as much as I appreciate others appreciating my hard work, you’re now making my job more difficult, like a hell of a lot more difficult. My duty is to go in and get that babyface over, and I will do everything in my power to do that. Look at my moveset, I don’t do anything too extravagant because I want to make sure my opponent looks good, I just use my character traits to make myself hated.
I get that appreciation for bad guys like when I had when I was just a fan, I mean I’m still a fan, but at the same time, I always got that I’m supposed to boo them. I understand you should never take someone’s freedom of expression away, it is their choice, but if you do consider yourself a smart fan, then go along with the show.
HWF: Last question – what’s the one biggest reason why people love pro wrestling? Or why you are a part of pro wrestling?
Justin: We do a lot of shows at holiday resorts, and after the show, we go out and do meet and greets, and the kids are just endlessly saying, “You’re my favourite!” They probably say that to everybody, and they might have just seen you that night, but all of a sudden they realise that what you see on TV you can see live. I love that emotional rollercoaster we take those kids on, I always play to that child-like audience. The reaction we get when you throw the last person over the top rope in a rumble or getting the pin for the win, seeing kids jump to their feet, I can’t explain the feeling you get inside, it’s wonderful.
Nathan: I can’t point to anything else in the world that’s that form of entertainment. It ticks so many boxes, and to me as a kid, that’s why I was so interested. This was drama, I fell in love with it because of things like The Undertaker leading the Ministry of Darkness and sacrificing people, I thought that was fascinating. But at the same time, I get to see people have fights, but doing things that I might have seen in a Batman cartoon. It was everything I loved about sport, bodybuilding, everything.
There’s nothing on this planet that can come close to it, it’s its own unique form of entertainment. That alone is why people attach to it so much, whether they’re annoyed with it or they’re in love with it, they’ll always come back because of their unconditional love for something so unique. As Justin said, when we do things at campsites and we get those reactions from kids, when I’m on the opposite side of that positive reaction laid on the floor as the bad guy, it’s amazing. To me, it’s like an artist being able to look back and watch everybody appreciate their artwork. It’s such a remarkable feeling I can’t really express.
You can catch Nathan and Justin on the WOS Live Tour in 2019
Follow Nathan Cruz on Twitter @Nathan_Cruz90
Follow Justin Sysum on Twitter @JustinSysum
Follow me on Twitter @HairyWrestling