FLASHBACK: NIGEL MCGUINNESS INTERVIEW (MARCH 2008)
TO MARK THE release of The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, I am posting a series of interviews on powerslamonline.co.uk this week that were originally published in Power Slam, but have not been included in The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2 (or The Power Slam Interviews Volume 1).
Should you enjoy the interviews I am uploading here, I’m confident you would appreciate The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, which contains more than 20 vintage PS interviews — all of which come with a new introduction — along with five previously unpublished interviews and other original content. More information about the book, which is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo, can be found here: www.powerslamonline.co.uk/updates/285/The-Power-Slam-Interviews-Volume-2-Now-Available.htm
THE INTERVIEW YOU are about to read with Nigel McGuinness took place in the last week of March 2008. It was the second of five interviews I conducted with McGuinness for Power Slam from 2007-2013.
McGuinness was nearly six months into his Ring Of Honor heavyweight championship reign at the time of our chinwag. He had defended the ROH title against established names, such as Jay Briscoe, Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson, and rising stars, like Tyler Black.
McGuinness’ defence against Black was the first topic on the agenda for two reasons. Firstly, it had occurred on March 16, 2008, less than two weeks before we spoke for PS. Secondly, Nigel had earned glowing reviews for his performance in what had been a superlative match-up in which he had been rightly credited with putting the then-21-year-old Black on the wrestling map. Every fan knows Colby ‘Tyler Black’ Lopez today as Seth Rollins, of course. Things were quite different in March 2008: Lopez/Black had only made his ROH debut in September 2007.
Nigel and I talked about his ranking in The PS 50, published in December 2007, and the benefits of favourable press.
We poured over the injuries he had suffered in the prior five months, and the short- and long-term effects of those injuries, along with the demoralising and even maddening reaction from certain ROH fans to McGuinness’ injury-related withdrawal from matches. Injuries are a serious business, obviously, and this interview reflected that tone, as you shall see.
I also quizzed McGuinness about ROH’s entry to the pre-taped pay-per-view marketplace the previous year, his remaining goals in the company and more.
It was a frank and thought-provoking interview, I felt. But, then, all my interviews with McGuinness were candid and revealing, in my opinion.
The March 2008 McGuinness interview begins now . . .
IT IS MY understanding that you had an outstanding match with Tyler Black at Ring Of Honor’s Take No Prisoners taping on March 16, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I understand that too.”
That you were able to have such a well-received match with an up-and-comer like Black is a tremendous credit to Nigel McGuinness, the worker.
“Definitely. I was happy with it. [ROH booker] Gabe Sapolsky talked to me about the match a month or so beforehand and the ideas for it . . . I enjoy being in that situation where I have to try to make somebody else look good and bring them up to a certain level.”
Based on your superior in-ring performances throughout the year, we ranked you number two in our PS 50 in December 2007.
“Yeah . . . I heard.”
Do you appreciate the recognition?
“Course I do. People can talk about the nature of the business and different opinions and how much they’re worth. But Vince McMahon is very famous for saying, ‘Perception is reality.’ And to a lot of fans and people who promote shows, some of whom are just wrestling fans with a lot of money: if they see that in a magazine, then perception becomes reality to them and it has a direct impact on business.
“Looking at it from an ego standpoint, you think to yourself: ‘Yeah. Some people agree with me and think I’m fantastic’ [laughs]. Then, you look at it from a business standpoint. If there’s people out there who write in a magazine that I’m fantastic, then people will read it and I can get more bookings and make more money as a wrestler.”
So, it serves a dual purpose?
“Absolutely. This year, number one, please.”
You’ve suffered a multitude of injuries since you won the ROH title from Takeshi Morishima on October 6, 2007, the worst of which was a torn left biceps in a match in England.
“I tore the biceps clear off the bone the week after I won the title — although I didn’t find out about it until two weeks later because I went to the hospital in England and they told me it wasn’t torn.”
An NHS doctor incorrectly diagnosed the injury?
“That’s the NHS for you [laughs]. All they did was take a look at it and say, ‘Naaah! It’s probably not torn.’
“I took their advice and went back to the States and wrestled the next weekend in Las Vegas for ROH and was in agony. Then, I wrestled in San Francisco and was in more agony. So, I went to a hospital here in the States and had an MRI done, and they determined that the muscle had torn off the bone.
“As a result, I had to cancel a tour of Japan, and cancel other dates in different places. Between the money I had to pay out to the hospital for the MRI and the lost wages, that one injury cost me about $10,000. After all that, to receive the reaction I got from the fans . . . it added insult to injury.”
You’re referring to the uncaring, hostile response you received from many ROH fans at Glory By Honor VI on November 3, 2007 in New York City when you announced to them that you were unable to wrestle due to the injury. I remember that well: you were furious about it, and admonished a particularly vocal fan who had heckled you.
“Some fans have the idea that if you don’t wrestle for any reason whatsoever, then you’re a p——y. The feeling is, they’ve paid their money, and you should go out there, no matter what has happened. I chose not to go out there and wrestle that night because I didn’t want to aggravate the injury and possibly cause the biceps to roll all the way up the arm. If that had happened, surgery would have been unavoidable, and I would have been looking at six months out.
“As I said, I was out for two months, and it cost me 10 grand. Six months would have cost me a lot more than that. And it’s not just the money: it’s the momentum. Obviously, they would have been forced to take the ROH belt off me and everything else.”
You avoided surgery, slowly rehabbed the muscle with a combination of ice and exercise, and wrestled only one more match, against Silas Young on November 30 in Dayton, Ohio, before you tangled with Austin Aries at the Rising Above taping on December 29, back at the Manhattan Center in NYC.
“I think so. My memory’s not the greatest. I got knocked out in the Aries match [on December 29]. I’ve had a lot of concussions as well. All joking aside, I really can’t remember the progression: I don’t remember which matches follow which matches. Sometimes, I can even watch a match from three or four months ago and have no recollection it happened at all. It’s like watching somebody else wrestle.”
That is very worrying.
“It is. And, again, it doesn’t really help when some people are yelling at you and calling you a p——y.”
You sustained further injuries in the ROH title defence against Aries when you were propelled into the guard rail.
“Yeah. He basically hit me in the back, and I wasn’t really prepared for it at the time. The next thing I remember was being on my knees with my head sort of implanted on the guard rail and blood pouring down my face. I was almost in shock. It was a scary moment.”
The cuts you suffered above your right eye and to the bridge of your nose from the collision with the guard rail looked really nasty. How many stitches did you need?
“We went straight to the hospital after the show, and I was there until about 5:00 in the morning. I had a fractured nose, but it wasn’t so serious that they had to rebreak and reset it. I had 20 stitches in total: I think I had three in my nose and 17 above my eye. They had to stitch the inside of the cut above my eye.”
When was the decision made that you would not defend the ROH title as scheduled at Final Battle on December 30?
“The decision was made when I was at the show that day. It was a big match that night, people had high expectations for it, and to do it would have put me in a very dangerous position. The decision was made that afternoon between me and the ROH office.”
Again, certain ROH fans did not respond with compassion to the news of your latest injury woes.
“I was backstage when it was announced that I would not be able to wrestle [at Final Battle], and there was a fairly large chorus of boos. You don’t like to hear that: it upsets you. While some fans did care and were respectful, a lot didn’t seem to give a damn [that I was seriously hurt].”
Partly based on these reactions at Glory By Honor VI and Final Battle 2007, you turned heel. It seemed like a natural progression.
“It was something that had been in the works, even before I won the belt. There were small groups of fans, especially in the Northeast, who didn’t really like me . . . Winning the belt changes things. When you’re trying to win the belt, you only have to live up to being a challenger. When you’re the champion, you have higher standards to live up to. Fans become more critical of you. In my case, after I won the belt, a lot of people became far more critical of me and turned on me — unfairly, I thought, after I suffered those injuries.
“The match I had with [Bryan Danielson at ROH Sixth Anniversary on February 23, 2008] was just a progression of that. We took what they gave us and ran with it, basically.”
In that match versus Danielson, back at the Manhattan Center, you suffered another hardway cut to the head.
“Yeah. It was on a Tower Of London from the apron to the floor. When we both made impact, the back of my head hit the front of his head and it busted me open again. I remember reaching round and feeling the blood and thinking to myself: ‘What do I have to do to survive a match in ROH without bleeding?’ . . .
“I still had my concerns about the head injury [I had suffered in the match with Aries on December 29]. That’s another issue in the wrestling business that is very serious . . . Chris Benoit and everything that happened with him. [Most believe the head trauma Benoit suffered during his wrestling career was a contributing factor in the double murder-suicide of June 2007]. That’s something everybody can appreciate and understand.”
Right. Multiple concussions can cause brain damage. Do you know how many concussions you have suffered in your wrestling career?
“Documented concussions? I haven’t had that many. At this level [in wrestling], you just carry on to the next town. You don’t see a doctor. You forget about it a lot of the time. If I forget about matches, I sure as hell am going to forget about the odd concussion . . .
“A lot of the wrestlers who I came up with [in the business] are in a terrible state due to concussions and head injuries and trauma. When that Extreme style was in vogue, and the more chair shots you took, the tougher you were . . . It [led] to a generation of wrestlers destroying their heads [to try to get over]. Being around these people, you see the [damage]: things like memory loss, and the Chris Nowinski effects of unending headaches and migraines and other emotional disturbances which are associated with concussions.
“I don’t know how many [concussions] I’ve had. I’ve definitely felt the effects of them. I remember after that match with Aries, I went back to England and went out for a bite to eat on New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t walk straight. I literally had to get someone to hold my hand because I couldn’t walk properly.”
Your relatives in England must have expressed concern when they saw you in that condition.
“Erm . . . Not so much [laughs]. It’s amusing to them, I think. They see [wrestling] as something silly that I do. Their attitude is that I chose to be a wrestler, and I’ve only got myself to blame [for the consequences]. It’s that British attitude.”
What’s the feeling in ROH about the pay-per-view experiment which began with Respect Is Earned, taped on May 12, 2007?
“It varies from one person to another. Everyone was very gung ho about it at the beginning: they thought it was an opportunity to be seen by a lot more people . . . It was a means to an end, to try to get more people to see the product, buy more tickets and buy more DVDs. It certainly hasn’t been a failure.
“People are now thinking that we need to get on TV and get some exposure to move to the next level. Down the line, I think TV is the direction ROH is going to have to go in. We just have to be careful that whatever deal we get doesn’t spell our demise.”
You signed a contract with ROH last spring. Was that a two-year deal?
“It was a two-year deal, so there is still a year remaining on it.”
What are your goals in wrestling?
“I’m under contract to ROH until May , and I’m really gung ho about making this title reign something spectacular. I’ve got big shoes to fill. I have to follow [Samoa] Joe, Danielson, [C.M.] Punk — the list goes on. I’m really hellbent on doing that. I’ve got a lot to prove still in Ring Of Honor, certainly as champion.
“Long-term? Well, that depends on what happens with ROH. If the company goes in the right direction and becomes very successful and profitable, it would be lovely not to have to go anywhere else to make enough money to save a bit and have a future. I hope I can help Ring Of Honor move to that level.”