Let’s Talk Pro Wrestling with John Hennigan/Johnny Impact

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He’s the IMPACT World Champion. Tough Enough alumni. Survivor contestant. And is a serious contender for the most surnames in wrestling history. Despite some scheduling issues and some technical difficulties, I managed to get a quick chat with the man of many names currently known as Johnny Impact.

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There’s a lot going on in professional wrestling right now. In 2019, what is IMPACT Wrestling’s place in the world of pro wrestling, and what is Johnny Impact’s role in there?

Oh, starting off with a doosey of a question…

The landscape of pro wrestling has been changing drastically over the last few years, the speed of those changes increasing exponentially recently due to the emergence of AEW and the strategies, signings and programming of WWE.

IMPACT Wrestling I think had one of the best years it’s ever had in 2018. I think we shed a lot of negative connotations that we had previously, and I think a lot of that is down to the roster. The roster right now is ridiculously talented.

One thing I think [people behind the scenes] did right, and it doesn’t seem like rocket science when I say it out loud but a lot of companies mess this up… it’s not a huge secret to have a good show: you need a good roster, and a lot of times you gotta get out of your roster’s way. Let Pentagon, Fenix, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan and Brian Cage do their thing because people like that know how to entertain crowds, they know how to be who they’re supposed to be in the ring. That’s what IMPACT’s been doing.

As for IMPACT’s place in 2019: I think this year is shaping up to be a fight for attention, a fight for who’s going to have the most entertaining matches and buzz between all the promotions out there. Right now, IMPACT is on the rise, but it’d be hard to say it’s a direct competition between IMPACT and companies like WWE. The amount of people watching and the amount of money they’re funnelling into their shows is a lot higher than IMPACT’s, but the pro of working here is because there’s less bureaucracy, it’s on the talent a lot more to take care of themselves and tell their stories. I think that’s why we saw what we saw [in IMPACT] in 2018.

The loosening of the reigns and letting the talent be themselves, partly by necessity, done wonders for what’s happening with IMPACT, and I think we’re going to gain momentum in 2019, even with the debut of AEW. I don’t think they’re really starting a regular TV show until the fall, and within that time, IMPACT is going to be fighting hard to put on the best show currently on the air.

 

Obviously you’re married to Taya Valkyrie who is killing it as Knockouts Champion at the moment. I imagine when two pro wrestlers get married, that must have led to a pretty interesting mix of wedding guests and maybe some pretty interesting moments too?

Weddings are always amazing, right? I mean, I’ve only had one but I’m guessing that’s how most people feel…

We had people from WWE like Ziggler, Ryder, Miz, Rey, RVD, Lucha Underground friends like Daga and Fenix, Carlito to [Taya’s] buddies.

Some of my favourite moments were seeing some of my cousins that I grew up with having a conversation with RVD, and my dad talking to Diamond Dallas Page. I think that’s one really cool about when you get married, you have this panel so to speak of people from your life all mixing and talking, and then you’re in this weird bubble because so many people wanna talk to you. That was probably the greatest night of my life.

 

What’s harder to deal with – the challenges on Survivor, or being in the presence of Austin Aries?

You know I guess when you frame it like that, I’d rather be freezing and starving on an island than have to sit there and listen to Austin Aries. I guess that’s as simple as it gets.

 

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If Boone the Bounty Hunter was a wrestler, what would his finisher be and what would it be called? (And you can’t choose Starship Pain)

Oh man, probably a toss-up between After Boone Delight or A-Boone-Amatata. Boone’s finish tends to be some sort of twisty senton, top rope corkscrew moonsault, or a spear.

I’ve wrestled a couple of times as Boone, I don’t know if you know that? (Sorry, John) The jist of a Boone the Bounty Hunter match is Boone usually tries to restrain his opponents and then search their tights for contraband. I’ve had 3 matches as Boone, and every time, my opponent has had some drugs up their butt. Boone finds the drugs, the opponent runs, and then crazy stuff happens.

 

How many puns per match are we working with here?

I’d say a solid ten. Sometimes Boone likes to repeat puns, so if we’re including repetition, we’re up a lot. There’s a couple of Boone puns that get repeated quite a bit.

 

You came to prominence thanks to the Tough Enough competition. What was the hardest thing about that whole process?

Getting on the show.

Tough Enough has an interesting correlation to what it’s like being a part of a roster on a TV show. When you’re on a show like that and someone’s getting cut every week, and you’re getting training from some of the best in the world, it’s an extremely high-pressure environment because you have to be learning how to be a professional wrestler and mastering everything that is being taught with a high level of retention. You have to be learning and improving faster than everyone else on the show. You’re constantly walking on eggshells because the trainers are messing with everyone, ribbing them all the time. It’s a pretty good reflection of joining a new roster for the first time.

 

IMPACT has partnered with many different companies over the last few years, and it was due to their partnership with AAA that a lot of people including yourself came over to IMPACT. Are there any companies around the world you’d love IMPACT to partner with so you could work there?

Absolutely. ROH, AEW, NJPW, WWE, I want us to partner with all the companies. That’s one of the things that attracted me to IMPACT when I first signed, their policy change of wanting their talents to being exclusive to wanting their talents to go out there and work for different promotions. This synergy creates good buzz.

I feel like that’s been a game changer for IMPACT. I think the current roster would be difficult to have if they expected everyone to be exclusive, but because of this encouragement to work other places, you’ve got a bunch of motivated wrestlers having different kinds of experiences all over the world and bringing those experiences to IMPACT.

 

Final question: What do you love most about professional wrestling?

I think the energy. The energy and the buzz I feel when I’m in front of a live crowd, there’s nothing else like it. There’s no other that encourages crowd interaction where the crowd is part of the conversation that’s going on. You know when you’re in the ring if what you’re doing is effective. If they’re having a good time, if they’re vocal or not, there’s no other type of entertainment like that.

Anything I’ve done with acting or improv comedy is fun in a different way, but the adrenaline and pressure, the combination of performance and athleticism, the amount of innovation, and the pace you create something that’s out there in existence is unique to pro wrestling, and that live exchange of energy between me and the people watching is the best. There’s really nothing else like it.

Follow John on Twitter – @TheRealMorrison

 

INTERVIEWS WITH IMPACT TALENT:

JORDYNNE GRACE

GAIL KIM

SAMI CALLIHAN

EDDIE EDWARDS

 

Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling

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