On what to expect “more of” in AOW: Season 2 – “Well from the perspective of the stories and characters that’ve been churned out, you can actually expect lots of alliances. In story, with the domination of the Worthy Legion, the scare/influence of that happening again and all the hoops everyone had to go through to end them, you’ll actually be seeing a good wave of new tag teams, stables, and even trios. Sort of a genuine ‘evolution of war’ thing where whatever was the best weapon in the last battle is studied, copied, and adapted by every opposing side.
Plus, we have a situation similar to what we had going into the Trios Tournament this year. We’re getting a growing roster, but not growing airtime. The online stuff helps, but we can’t shove everyone on TV, and we want everyone to have something. The FX officials have been very generous, though.
You’ll probably also see as many rookie debuts as you did in the last season, although they might be better timed because now we have a better gauge of when and what to do those things. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback regarding some of the OVW guys we’ve been featuring. People want more of the young guns.”
Will there be any improvements? “I’d like to think we learned a lot from the opening act. There’s a reason the pawns go first and not everyone goes through breaking barriers coming out smelling like roses. So there’ll definitely be improvements in every area. We’ve got William Regal and Finlay back there every day now, Elix Skipper helping out more and more, and even when Lance [Storm] leaves, we’ve still got some great ‘tutors’, I guess, sticking around and giving these guys more things. So I think, inevitably, we’ll be improving whether we want to or not. Even off the wrestling side of things, our production crew is learning too, so from practice to presentation, I’d say the stock is rising.”
How are certain wrestlers dealing with the growth of AOW?
RVD: “Rob, he loves it. It’s great to see him somewhat motivated again. But what happened was that he was burnt out. He was burnt out because he intended to take it easy for a while after his WWE contract expired, but then he jumped right into AOW and didn’t have much of any time or energy to go full-force all the way. His angle with Finlay was to protect him, the title situation was to keep him up. Does he get title shots this season? I can’t let that go, but I will say this go ‘round, he certainly tries.
Christian: “What can I say? The guy has elevated his game tremendously. We gave him the ball and that Creepy Little Bastard just ran with it. Give Paul [Heyman] credit for working with Christian on that ‘Man on the Moon’ character a lot. He’s our guy right now. And I couldn’t be happier with that.”
Jericho: “Jericho’s main thing upon coming in was his credibility. Boy did he raise that stock with his run in the last season. Only had one loss, but it was huge, and he’s loved every second of the ‘Worthy Man’ character he played. He’s a huge guy backstage, always has been a great guy, and he’s part of the brainchild that got this thing up and running. To say that he’s happy with the way his baby is growing up would be pretty accurate.”
Michaels: “Oh, he’s been great. Between Jericho, Rey [Mysterio] and HBK, I think a lot of the younger guys have just been taken aback, especially the indy heavy talents. It blows their minds to be working with these three. And yeah, we’ve made a big deal out of Michaels’ backstage politicking and whatnot on-screen, off screen, it really couldn’t be further from the truth.
I actually remember before our first ever PPV went on, World Ablaze, it was Shawn who took [Bryan] Danielson and [Gregory] Helms aside and virtually begged them to steal the show. Those two have looked up to Shawn and his accomplishments and character and performing ability their entire careers, so to actually have him say that to them was a huge deal not just to them, but to us. And sure enough, at The Outer Limits, Shawn met with them again. On-screen he may be a little difficult to work around, but backstage, he’s invaluable.
The greatest thing about that was AOW itself. Michaels and Helms worked in the ‘E together, but wasn’t able to have as direct a hand in his development then as he does now. The WWE corporate side wouldn’t really let him, but here, it’s a different story. We reward guys partially based on workrate, and I don’t think anyone has much more workrate than those two guys who laid great groundwork for our cruiserweight division - which, by the way, to just toot my own horn for a moment, Jericho, Dean [Malenko], and I managed to convince Paul to finally include.”
The Antonio Banks/MVP lawsuit scenario and AOW finances: It’s not that I’m not supposed to talk about it, but even so, there’s still some foggy details. And I’m not going on about something I don’t completely know about. Obviously, there’s some ill sentiments between the companies. And it’s not just ‘oh, the WWE is just a conglomerate bully’, no, we’re in the wrong too. We knew what we were getting into and we jumped in the fire a little bit. So there’s faults on both sides.
As far as finances, we all kind of have to put our heads together. Paul’s the ‘one man show’ kind of booker and writer, but he greatly takes our input. But on the business aspect, Paul needs some help. And we’re all there, Bradshaw being a huge assist in that. So one of the things we’ve been doing lately is looking for perhaps another sponsor or so, which is getting a lot easier than it was this time last year considering we now have an established product to our merit. But don’t you or anyone else worry about AOW’s financial situation. That’s our problem, not the fans’.
Does AOW have strict, if any, drug/wellness policies? “After the tragic events of last summer, I think we kind of have to. I mean obviously, this is wrestling and not just any other sport where someone’s personal life doesn’t play so much into performances. We have sort of a policy, but there’s no ‘Three Strikes’ rule or anything like that in place. If what you’re doing gets in the way of things, then you’re gone. And these guys genuinely care for the well-being of one another, so there’s no real ‘enablers’, I suppose, running around. Everyone checks in and checks up on everyone. Makes things like that easier. But yeah, we do have a big push to keep all our guys healthy and able.”
Has there been anyone you’ve noticed that has changed before your very eyes? “Technically everyone, but that’s just what happens with a new company, I guess. Everyone and everything evolves and improves show to show. CM Punk is a kid who exemplifies that. Danielson is right after him, Brent Albright is constantly on the rise, and even Jericho was doing it. Looking at what’s happened to Rey the last few years, I’m surprised to see how much he still has left in the tank, too.
Couple guys stand out in particular – Low Ki, Carlito [Colon], Aero Star, and [Matt] Sydal. Ki and Matt have tremendous workrates, which goes to show that when grouped with Jamie Noble, Greg Helms and Danielson, the cruiserweights are the hardest working guys on the entire roster. Aero is just as hard a worker, but he has to work even more considering he’s never actually worked with American style before this past year, putting in lots of hours with Mysterio, Storm, and Dean Malenko and then Regal when he got here.
Carlito is one who surprised me. He got lots of heat in the other company for having a very laid-back attitude, thought he was bigger and better than what he was, was trying to ride his father’s name. I’m not sure what happened – maybe his dad got to him or maybe some things or someone backstage got to him, who knows, but in AOW, I haven’t seen that ‘coasting’ Carlito. He seems like he’s here to better himself legitimately.”
Favorite AOW match so far? “Uh, gonna go with the A.O.K.O. match here. If for no other reason than it was pitched by Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy himself *toothy grin and thumbs up*”
And the question everyone’s been waiting for…when will Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy compete in AOW? “Well, it’s pro wrestling, so never say never. But I can’t say in complete confidence that I will. Even so, you know there comes a time in guy’s careers that they start to consider stepping away from it all. The ones that start to see themselves as old and used-up.
I’m not one of those guys. BANG BANG!”