At one point, IMPACT was becoming a running joke in the wrestling industry. The company seemed riddled with conflict and administrative issues, but now they’ve come out the other side after striking a deal with AXS TV.
TNA featured some of WWE’s biggest stars today once upon a time. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Robert Roode just to name a few, but out of the proverbial dark ages that followed, IMPACT have risen from the ashes with talents like Moose, Tessa Blachard and their world champion, Brian Cage.
talkSPORT chatted to Cage about all things IMPACT, his own career, being a part of the wrestling boom and much more.
Hi Brian! You had a spell with IMPACT back in 2012 that didn’t quite work out and then you returned a different man in 2018. What’s changed with you and what’s changed with IMPACT?
So much has changed. The channel, the talent, the office – tremendous change. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that there’s a lot of people trying to hate on it or doubting our success or our longevity. But, it’s still here, it’s still thriving and I feel it’s doing better than it’s ever done.
The first time, I was never under contract. I did a couple of dark matches and the Gut Check, which, myself, fans, the locker room, pretty much everybody feel I should have won, especially if you see the person who beat me [Jay Bradley]. End up getting released and then a few laters I’m back and their world champion! So maybe we should have picked Brian Cage instead of Jay. Regardless, I also did a Destination X taping which I thought would lead to me doing more with the company and it kind of fizzled out and I went to AAA and Lucha Underground instead. So the door was never open fully, but my end, I never closed it either. So to come kind of full circle and get the opportunity later on, I wasn’t opposed to it and to get on the proverbial boat and help turn the ship around was a really cool moment on top of that.
What’s the locker room like in IMPACT right now? Very hungry to prove some longstanding doubters wrong, I’d think?
I’ll agree. I wasn’t here during that time but there was certainly a good little chunk of time that IMPACT was not thriving and it was not doing too well amongst the fans or the wrestlers alike. I’m glad we’ve turned it around and we were able to and it’s been great, man. The locker room, I feel like it’s very similar to the Lucha Underground locker room, and that was one of the best as well. Not only talent-wise, but the camaraderie and also the joint desire to prove everyone wrong. No one is out there trying to politic or backstab or one-up somebody or whatever, I think we’re all trying to be more of a unit together to produce the best product rather than each individual person being the best individual they can be.
I’ve been hearing for around a year now that IMPACT is worth watching again and I’ve steadily given it a chance, have you felt the tide turn?
It’s probably been the most consistent TV product both match quality and storyline-wise that there is for the past year, especially given our pay-per-views. It’s just unfortunate that not only are there not enough eyes on it, but there’s not enough eyes that even have the ability to watch it. But hopefully now with the move to AXS, that will change dramatically and people will get to see what people have been missing.
What does the deal with AXS mean for IMPACT in simple terms?
Well, a lot of people have access to that channel and to be apart of it and a channel that already has New Japan on it with a tremendous fanbase, that will help increase it tremendously. Maybe that will open the door to do stuff with New Japan, who knows? That’s a rumour. We’ve been told throughout the year we were going to make the change and jump ship. Our TV deal then was just an in-between and it had taken longer than expected but at least we got there in the end. And I know we still have a big deal with Twitch, too. So I think moving forward we’re going to have a much better time slot, a better channel and that effects everything. So I’m really excited for what’s to come.
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You beat new WWE man John Morrison for the IMPACT world title at Rebellion earlier this year, how was it working with him and having him of all people dropping the belt to you? You two have a rich history.
John’s an incredible talent and great to work with. We worked a bunch of times together in AAA and we had a big program – maybe my favourite program in Lucha Underground – and then we had a long program in IMPACT. We built that thing for six-to-eight months and I felt like that really a lot of the payoff was because it was so gradual and it wasn’t overnight. The match at Rebellion was great because I won it, but I got injured that night too and that wasn’t so great [laughs]. It sucked.
I worked my whole life to be the world champion and now I would be the first to say my title reign has been lacklustre due to my injury. It’s not the way I want it to go down or the way I want to be remembered and now I’m back, full-time schedule. I’m looking forward to defending my title at Bound for Glory, stealing the show, having match of the night and then defending my title in great matches as much as possible. I’ve already told them that each and every episode, or as much as possible after Bound for Glory, I want to do an open challenge each and every week. Make up for lost time.
It’s great that you’ve pitched that. Are the office pretty open to pitches?
They’re pretty open to some suggestions. There’s a bunch of guys I want to work with that I’d like to happen. Tossing ideas around for RVD, who I’ve never worked with. There’s plenty of guys that I’ve never worked with here and I’m open to any and all.
With your injury, you’re of course talking about the Spanish Fly to the outside that just looks awful no matter how you watch it! What really went wrong and what damage was done?
I don’t think it was one thing that went wrong. Maybe I leaned a little too much to the right… but I don’t know, I shouldn’t have taken the move. In hindsight, I should have questioned it. But what didn’t help was the padding on the outside. It didn’t give me a bunch of protection as there was little cushion instead of the usual like padding on a gym room floor? So it really offers you no protection, the floor doesn’t crack as opposed to not cracking your back!
I thought I’d broken my back anyway during the match when my legs started to go numb. I had real bad bone bruising that went all the way to my hip, my lower back and that all swelled up causing my feet to go numb. I’m still rehabbing now – I had rehab this morning! They didn’t like fuse my back together or anything, but they made it super tight so there’s no flexibility or anything in my lower back. So it’s pulling on my shoulders and my hip flexors and that doesn’t give me much range or strength in my right leg or my hip. It’s a process. I’m back on a full-time wrestling schedule but I can’t really train the way I want to in the gym.
Do you think if you wasn’t the champion that you would properly go away and get it fixed?
I did take some time off when it flared up really bad after Slammiversary. Maybe if there was less obligation, I guess? But I love this business and I’ve worked through pretty much any injury I’ve ever had and this injury isn’t to the point where it’s setting me back when IO do perform – it doesn’t even hurt – it’s just not working, if that makes sense. It’s not preventing me from performing, I just can’t do everything I want to do at the highest level.
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One thing you’re known for is your seriously impressive physique. For example, Triple H was a bodybuilder before getting into the wrestling business, did you do it that way or the other way around?
It was completely the other way around. When I graduated, I was only 150lbs. Because I wanted to be a wrestler, that’s what sparked my interest into the weight room, bodybuilding and everything else. I wrestled for six years before I ever did a bodybuilding show.
It’s weird how the climate in wrestling has changed and smaller guys are working higher up the card than 20 years ago. Do you think if you started today you would still have gotten so muscular?
Yeah, I think so. Going back to high school, I was only 150lbs but compared to guys I knew that was 130lbs, I was the big guy! I honestly never thought I’d be this big and it was never my goal to be this big, I was just way too small and not really an athlete. I mean, I was athletic, I just didn’t look like a professional athlete. You can’t be on TV looking like you belong in the crowd… That was the one critique I always took pretty well. So I was like ‘I got to get in shape and look like I belong’.
I didn’t want to turn up to wrestling school looking like some skinny fan who was going to get his money taken and get taken advantage of. It took me a good 10-12 years to reach the physique that I have now.
One thing I learned after reading up about you today is that former WCW and WWE star Chris Kanyon helped you make your way in the business, is that right?
He opened up a lot of doors and he was a really good friend of mine and one of my top three that I wanted to face in the ring; I call them the three Chris’ – Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Chris Kanyon.
But Kanyon really had a hand in my style, my moveset, so much. I actually had the moniker the ‘multi-move paradon’ to play off his innovative offense moniker and the ‘who better’ is a homage to him, too. I started doing that after he passed. I have lots of tributes to him. I feel like he was wildly underrated and underused. He was so good. His style, especially if he would have been around now, he would have been appreciated a lot more.
Lastly, looking ahead to the future, what can we expect from IMPACT and Brian Cage?
For true, die-hard wrestling fans, there’s never been a better time for wrestling and at the same time, IMPACT is bigger and better than ever. It’s the perfect time for us. There’s just so much going on and I feel like IMPACT is doing great and more people are going to see the changes we’ve made with moving network. I’m personally thrilled at what I’ve been able to do with the company thus far and I feel like the future is extremely bright.
Wrestling fans in the UK can watch IMPACT Wrestling every week on Fight Network UK and 5Star