November 5, 2011
Gary Mehaffy
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An interview with Nigel McGuinness

How are things with you at the minute?
Theyíre pretty good. I canít complain. Iím very, very busy trying to sort out this retirement tour that Iím doing, starting November 11th running to, well, really as long my body holds up and I keep getting booked! At the moment Iíve got bookings until the middle of December, so thatís 6 weeks. Iíve got shows all over the states, some in England, some in Germany, Iím doing some seminars in various places as well, so itís all really exciting but just getting all that stuff sorted out is really stressful Ė getting all the flights, and all the details, making sure I can get from one place to the next and everything else, and carrying all of my stuff with me, ordering t-shirts for the tour, getting the website set up for the tourÖ.Iím working on getting a documentary (made), paying for the documentary as well, just so much stuff going on at the moment, itís kinda crazy.

What got you interested in pro wrestling?
Originally, I was just a fan the same as everybody else. I watched it on TV Ė I was a big fan of the British game before they took it off TV. Some of my friends got the video of SummerSlam 90, I think it was, that first got me back into it, and then my parents. I convinced them to get Sky TV and it was off and running! I was a full blown wrestling fan for a number of years and always had the dream of being a wrestler and through various inspirations along the way I just never grew up, never gave up!

I have heard and I have read Ė I think it was in PowerSlam a few years ago in an interview you had done with them Ė but some people might not know about how exactly you got into wrestling in the (United) States, the whole college thing. Can you give them a little bit of info on that?
Yea. The Readers Digest condensed version is that I was out there at Kent State studying for a degree and sending letters out to all the wrestling schools at the time. This was 1996 I think, and there werenít as many wrestling schools as there are now. This was right before the big popularity and the explosion due to The Rock and Steve Austin and Mick Foley, all those guys, so there wasnít much going on at the time. There were about 20 or 30 wrestling schools around the country, most of them werenít even running anymore. Actually, i wrote off to Lou Theszís wrestling school, but he wasnít running it anymore, but had forwarded all those letters to Les Thatcher at the HWA and he wrote back to me. I went down there to visit him Ė it wasnít far from Kent State, 4 hours Ė and I was the sold on the place. After I graduated, about a year and a half later, I came back to the States and went to Lesí place.

HWA had a relationship with WWE at the time. Were you hopeful of landing a contract there in the fullness of time?
Yea, that was definitely a big part of me going there. Les was a big supporter of mine and would tell me when I was in England to come back and be seen there, have an opportunity to get signed. At the time, now looking back in hindsight, I donít believe I was ready at that time. I didnít necessarily have the look and certainly didnít have the ability in the ring to excel. I learnt a lot from being there but I think, as I said, I wasnít really ready at the time.

Possibly a daft question Ė I assume you loved your original time in ROH?
Yea I did, I enjoyed a lot of it. Obviously the way it turned out in terms of the long title run I had there and a lot of the injuries that I sustained that have shortened my career, itís kind of bitter sweet in that regard. Iím very proud of the body of work that I had there, very grateful to have wrestled with a lot of the talent that were in the company and to work with a lot of guys like Gabe (Sapolsky), who really stood by me through thick and thin, Cary (Silkin) keeping the company going. It was a great, still is a great, family environment. Some new faces within the company now Ė itís certainly a different company now to the one I started out with Ė but Iím still very, very happy to be a part of it.

You mentioned some of the injuries that you had. Your matches were notoriously hard hitting, especially as champion. Do you think it was as a result of those particular matches?
Yea, absolutely. I think we Ė and I say we, I mean people of my ilk, of my generation, that grew up watching Japanese tapes idolising the, I donít want to say Ďstrongí style, itís kind of clichťd, but that style of wrestling is very real, very believable Ė in hindsight probably all look back and go ďYou know, we could have toned it down a little bit.Ē I remember watch most of Kenta Kobashiís title matches before I was champion and trying to replicate not the moves per se, but the notion of a world championship match. Obviously heís doing it in front of tens of thousands of people and for a significant amount of money, whereas for Ring Of Honor, obviously, the crowds were smaller and the money was obviously smaller than he was making, but again I didnít take it for granted. I was one of the top paid guys there and I appreciated the ability to make a living as a professional wrestler, not a lot of people get the chance to do that. Iím not complaining, but as you said that style, you can only do it for so long.

I remember writing a piece in 2009 saying how great it was that both you and Bryan (Danielson) were going to sign with WWE, then you turned up in TNA. Are you able to go in to what led to the WWE contract falling through?
Well thereís a long story! (laughs) Itís probably one I donít really have time for, youíll have to read the book when it comes out! (laughs) Thatís a joke! It was kind of one of those situations where WWE is very cautious about who they sign nowadays. Ten years ago, the majority of the wrestlers that drew money for the company wouldnít have been signed, because of injuries and other issues that they had, but when WWE became a publicly traded company then they to a large extent had to cover their arse more. Theyíre far more cautious about hiring people who have any kind of medical issue whatsoever. Having said that, TNA came to me and made me an offer that was the right offer for me at the time. Dixie had been pulling for me for a long time, even when I had been under contract to Ring OF Honor, sheíd wanted to bring me in for a while and so I was happy to take it.

I always thought, even from when you came in at first with Kurt (Angle), that the TNA fans would have accepted you as heavyweight champion, but it never happened. Was there ever any talk of the possibility of it?
I wouldnít obviously be in booking meetings or anything like that, so I didnít know what the thought was on me when I first came in and did so well with Kurt, but they were very high on me and that was in no small part due to Kurt. It speaks volumes for what a talented wrestler he is. He gets good matches out of anybody, and great matches out of a lot of people. Kurt is a wonderful person. For someone with hat amount of talent, who took to wrestling like a duck to water Ė without a doubt, a fist pick hall of fame contender Ė heís a guy that is so humble and so polite and so nice, thereís no ego behind the scenes whatsoever. In my time in the wrestling business, everybody who Iíve really seen, at the end of the day, who were the most talented people, they were all without the ego, because they donít need to have an ego. He (Kurt) was very nice, very gracious, in putting me over behind the scenes. At some points he said to me that he felt I should be the next guy to be the champion there, but things changed! The winds of change blew through TNA at around about that sort of time and it didnít end up happening. Itís a shame, because like you said through Vince (Russo) booking me so strongly and Kurt putting me over so strongly in the matches and me holding up my end of the bargain, I really felt like we were rocking and rolling, we were ready to go when that New Year rolled around.

Itís almost ironic. Literally the next question I have is front of me is: Was there much resentment that the TNA youth movement was pretty much replaced by Hogan, etc in the last year or two?
It was aÖÖÖI think most people kind of withheld judgment at the time, obviously. And yes, I understand that when youíre working for a company you certainly donít bite the hand that feeds you. Youíre not going to go out there and bury anyone, irrespective of what you think about them. At the time I was excited, that the biggest name in professional wrestling was going to come and be a part of the company and hopefully the exposure and that sort of credibility to the product. As time went on, I think some of the guys that had proven themselves in the past, that didnít get the opportunity, arguably, to prove themselves again probably felt pretty bitter and you can understand that. Without mentioning names, there are certainly guys in that company that are the best wrestlers in the world and arguably wonít be used as such.

I had talked to you during the summer and you had hinted about stuff happening, and then all of a sudden you returned to ROH as a commentator. What led to that happening?
It was reallyÖÖ..I was still under contract to TNA , and they had a no compete (clause), so when I knew that Ring Of Honor were going on TV after Sinclair bought them out and I got the sense that I wasnít going to be used in TNA anymore I contacted them (ROH) and they said that that position would be open. They were looking for somebody to be the colour (commentator) on the TV shows and it was something that IĎd always wanted to do. Everybody wants to transition away from the ring at some point, and at some point you have to do that because the older you get the more the risk outweighs the reward. Itís like sitting at a poker table Ė you all get there at the beginning and you all have 1000 chips and you start playing hands, but if you keep gambling, if you keep waiting for that big spot to open up and it doesnít then youíre gonna run out of chips. Youíve got to be smart, youíve got to be prudent and I just feel that while Iíve still got a brain that functions reasonably well I should probably use it for something other than getting dropped on! (laughs)

Is there a worry now with ROH being on Sinclair, and all the TV theyíve got it onto, that TNA/WWE will be even more proactive to try to poach talent?
I donít think so, I really donít think so, because if you look at the wrestling business as a whole now weíre not in an upswing. Itís not like in 1997, 1998 where it was hot, it was water cooler talk, ĎWhoís going here, whoís going thereÖ.í Itís not the same business as it was back then, people arenít so eager to poach people from somewhere else. I think, and maybe IĎm wrong, but I think generally speaking that most of the companies are more than happy, for better or for worse, to just carry on with the current creative direction that theyíre going in and getting people from other promotions isnít their number one priority.

There was obviously a lot of talk about it over the summer time with (CM) Punk and Colt (Cabana) and all of that angle when Punk left WWE as champion, but obviously as of yet nothing has really materialised. Even Claudio (Castagnoli) and Chris (Hero) havenít rolled up yet onto the main roster.
Yea, theyíre not on the main roster. I think Claudio is down there in FCW at the moment and Chris should start there soon I believe, but thatís the nature of WWE in the sense that a generation ago theyíd see someone from a different place and theyíd like them and theyíd go ĎOh, weíll get themí and then theyíd do some vignettes and build them up on TV and boom, theyíre rocking and rolling, sink or swim. (laughs) Now if they like someone, they go ĎOk. Weíll run them through all the tests, make sure theyíre ok, bring them in, put them in developmental for about a year and a half and then weíll bring them up.í Itís really, really difficult. It has evolved to such an elaborate extent that itís really difficult to have the same degree of success bringing in new guys that they used to.

You can see that with, obviously, the trials and tribulations that Bryanís been through, and even the stuff with Low Ki, who made it onto NXT, and won, and then was summarily just shipped out the door.
Yea, thereís a lot of, I donít want to say politics, but there are a lot chiefs in the business, a lot of peoples opinions, and you know what they say about opinions at the end of the day! I canít speak for what happened within that company (WWE) because I have no idea what happened, but I know that I put Low Ki up there with anybody of my generation as being one of the best wrestlers in the world and obviously Dragon (Bryan Danielson) is exactly the same. Dragon will just take some time, and Iíd like to say that at the end of the day the cream always rises to the top, eventually. Take Bret Hart. When Bret Hart came in there it took him a while before he finally started getting a push and stuff, getting the sort of credibility that he got in the end. It took a while to build the changes within the company, a lot of the people on top had to go to other places before he was given that opportunity. Arguably the same thing is gonna have to happen with Bryan now. He has so much talent that itís almost impossible to see it (not happening) Ė whether you see him as the next world champion or whether you see him as somebody in the mid card who can have a good match with absolutely anybody Ė you cannot deny his talent. Well, maybe you can (laughs) but if you do youíre smoking crack!

You mentioned the retirement tour earlier on. How long do you think this is going to go on for? What sort of things are you going to be doing with it?
At the moment Iíve got dates up until around mid December and Iím going to get a website up and running, called nigelwrestling.com, it should be up in the next week or so. Iíve got a few shows all over the place, a lot of the smaller places that I used to work when I was breaking in and when I was developing my name in Ring Of Honor, against some of the guys I really enjoyed wrestling and some of my personal friends in the business. Itís kind of that nice nostalgia Ė what is it they say about going up and coming back down? Itís nice to be able to go out in a nice, sort of succinct, way. A lot of people kind of disappear for a while and then do a show here and there, and I never wanted to be one of those guys that is 45 years old and wrestling on the shows that will call you up. Not to say that Iíve got a tremendous legacy or anything within the business, but I donít want to ever go out there and embarrass myself or go out there if I canít live up to the standards that I had in the past, so itíll be nice ot go out and say goodbye to the fans who want to come out and see me. Weíve made a documentary about, like I said, if we can get it all out. As far as how long it goes? People have contacted me about stuff in January. Whether Iím gonna be able to do it or not, Iím not sure, Iím gonna see how my body feels. Itís been 15 months since I took a bump, so thatís something, and Iím no spring chicken anymore! So Iíll see how my body feels, Iíll see what shows are offered to me in January, and if I can get enough bookings in January to extend it, and itís against someone that I want to wrestle, then I may well do it. If not, then the end of the year will be the end of my career, at least in ring, and then I can move on to other things.

Obviously youíre doing the commentary stuff with ROH and youíve been involved in some writing and some comedy stuff. Are you hoping to move into that side of things once you pull out of the ring?
I donít know. You see, hereís the issue Ė as Iíve seen with wrestling, Iíve devoted my life to wrestling for the last 12 years of my life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was always in my head. Iíve had a modicum of success, certainly not the degree of success I would have liked to have had. If Iíd have done it part time, and not given it that much interest, then I donít think Iíd have had close to the success (that I had). That being the case, Iím now in the weird situation where I have a lot of interest. Iíve done some stand up comedy, Iím certainly interested in that. Iím a big amateur magician, so Iím big into that as well. Iíve been playing a ton of poker in the free poker tournaments around here and now through thinking about doing this documentary Iíve a big interest in editing and working in movies. And obviously being a professional wrestler Iíve got a big interest in acting as well. Going out to L.A. and trying my hand over there is also an interest, but you know thatís the reality Iím faced with at 35 years old. Itís not just so easy to say ĎOk, Iím gonna give another 5 or 10 years of my life and try and be an actor or try and be a stand up comic, or whatever else.í There are certain thins you want in your life, and certain things I want in my life, that I put off because of wrestling. Itís a good life, you get to travel and you get to learn great experiences, but at the same time you miss a lot of the stability and you miss a lot of the financial stability, I guess, for want of a better phrase. Not knowingÖÖ.In every single match you could get hurt, and if you get hurt then you donít get paid, and if you donít get paid then all of the money that you saved up disappears and youíre left with nothing. Yes, there are people laid off in regular jobs and there are extenuating circumstances, but generally speaking, for the average person, with some kind of qualification, training, whatever you want to call it, he has a lot more stability in his life and can feel more confident with buying things and living a certain standard of living than someone who is an aspiring professional wrestler, which is what Iíve been the majority of my life.

Do you have any words pf thanks or appreciation for your fans?
Absolutely! A lot of times when Iíve gone through all the tough times in my life, through wrestling or whatever else, hearing nice things from fans and sort of understanding that you have made a difference in peoples lives, albeit tiny, is a big deal. Thereís a girl in Chicago, my number one fan, called Mandy and she emails me 8 or 9 times every day. Itís nice to know, because when I started off doing this, probably 15 years ago, it wasnít just because I wanted to become rich or famous or any of those things. I always a weird, strange sense of, I donít know, destiny, in the sense that I wanted to prove that if you had a dream and you never gave up, you could achieve it. So when you hear from fans, and they say that in some way youíre inspiring to them, it makes you feel that maybe it was all worth it.

Thank you very much, I appreciate you giving me your time. In fact, itís quite funny. Iím the same age as you, 35, and Iím a primary school teacher. A couple of the kids in my class are really into wrestling, and I was chatting to one of them today who I knew watched TNA, and I said ďYouíll never guess who Iím talking to tonight?Ē and he was like ďI donít believe you, I donít believe you!Ē All afternoon he kept coming up saying ďAre you being serious? Are you actually being serious? Are you talking to Nigel tonight?Ē About 20 minutes later, he said ďNo, honestly, you can tell me, seriously you can tell me, you donít have to mess!Ē
Itís funny the difference, isnít it. The huge void between the average sort of wrestling fan and a professional wrestler, you donít realise. I remember when I was a fan, I remember going to SummerSlam 92 and seeing Bobby ĎThe Brainí Heenan standing by the ringside, and I couldnít believe it. It was like I was in a movie or something! He really exists! But thatís the thing, once you get in the business you realise that these people are just normal people! Theyíre just a normal person, just like you or I.

garymehaffy@hotmail.co.uk

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