The Wrestle News Hub Magazine

Friday, 22 December 2017

Ring of Honor's Flip Gordon discusses his early success, wrestling on the independent scene and who he'd match up best with in the promotion.

Flip Gordon may just be the most exciting wrestler on the independent scene today. If you disagree with that statement, just look at the opportunities that have been presented to him, not to mention his desire to improve both inside and out of the ring. Over the past year, Gordon has earned notoriety while competing in Ring of Honor and Chaotic Wrestling. One of the most notable in ring qualities that Gordon possess is his versatility, and his ability to move around with the greatest of ease. He is blessed with a wide range of acrobatic skills stemming from a background in gymnastics. He possesses a variety of interesting and exciting moves and the ability to perform high flying maneuvers with the greatest of ease.

His future is bright as he has engaged in a number of exchanges with the Bullet Club in ROH recently. In this interview, he enlightened me about a number of his past experiences, where he has been and where he ultimately hopes to be. He also discusses how his ability to adapt to his environment, regardless of where he is in the world, is crucial for success. As a world traveled competitor, he learns from those experiences and applies them to his craft. He also has a military background and uses the skills and qualities from that experience to become a disciplined performer in the ring.

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Fans can communicate with him on various social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, where he can be reached @theflipgordon

Before getting involved in pro wrestling talent, are often inspired by others that came before them. Who would you say are your influences and what was it about them that influenced you either stylistically, or just enticed you to pursue this as a profession?

The main two guys were Eddie Guerrero and John Cena. Those are the two guys that really drew me in. They made me fall in love with professional wrestling. But I also loved high fliers like Rey Mysterio, Super Crazy, Paul London. I was always attracted to the high-flying the most. That was the style I wanted to do.

In regard to John Cena, I think it was just the relatability, and he came in at the right time and he was one of the best in the ring? He was so entertaining that you just wanted to watch.

Describe your early training under Brian Fury and how his early fundamentals remained with you.

He was really tough. I had moved across the entire country (United States), away from my friends and family. I had family here that I didn't know as well, but I didn't know them, and I moved over here for training. But the hardest thing was just always being away from home in the beginning, and then when I started training it was really different because Brian Fury had a different training style than most. He's very tough on people because he wants them to be the absolute best, and he always pushes you and he'll always find something that is wrong to help make you better. You have to be very thick skinned because Brian Fury doesn't hold back. (laughs)

It's definitely tough love, but at the same time, he knows how to train people. For me, it was ‘Hey, we know you can do flips, but can we teach you everything else? Let's teach you how to tell a good story. Let's teach you how to work on your footwork.' All the other basic stuff that is going to make me a better wrestler. He has said, ‘You already know how to flip, I don't need to teach you that, let me teach you the stuff that is in between.'

Your first match was against Biff Busick, who now competes as Oney Lorcan in NXT. Describe any thoughts feelings or anything notable that you can recall from the match and what gained from the experience.

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That is correct, on May 6th, 2015. He was one of the best on the indies that I wrestled against. It was only a couple of months before he was picked up. It was crazy, and I think about this match like it was yesterday. I can't remember everything that happened in the match, but I do remember I learned so much from that one match with him because of how much of a professional he was. I had no business being in the ring with him. He definitely took care of me and taught me so much that I still remember to this day. There are little things from that match that I still learn from because of him. It was really cool. He taught me things from a selling point and listening to the crowd.

For example, I slipped on something, and he was able to catch it and fix it, he knew what was going on and stopped me from panicking, with me being the new or ‘green' guy. Afterward, he was so nice, and even though something got messed up it didn't matter, he was so patient with me. He took his time explaining to me what happened and what needs to happen next time. He was always the constant professional, and that was one of the coolest things about working with him.

Cody Rhodes puts the championship around Gordon's waist.

Chaotic Wrestling and ROH appear to be two promotions very near and dear to you. What is it about these two promotions that stand out the most, and why do you remain as loyal as you are to them?

I always did research and wanted to look into which promotions were doing the best, which companies were the hottest right now, and which have the most buzz because those are the companies that I work for. Don't get me wrong, I want to work everywhere and anywhere, but I also want to work in places that are going to help create buzz for me. If a company is hot and there is a lot of buzz about them, then why wouldn't I want to work with them? I want to be a part of them and create my own buzz as well. I want to get my name out there, I have to get the Flip Gordon name out there and build my brand, just like they are trying to build their brand.

With Chaotic Wrestling, it has a long history and tradition going back to Kofi Kingston, and Damien Sandow, and Sasha Banks. It has a long lineage of people that have gone to WWE. It's tied to Brian Fury's school, which used to be called the Chaotic Training Centre (CTC). Before that, it was the Killer Kowalski Wrestling Academy. It has a long lineage and tradition, and I think that's what is so cool about Chaotic Wrestling, the guys that come up within the system, in the pool. That is where you get your start. This is where you learn the ropes that is what I would say.

Competing all over North America is significant for you, as evidenced by your time in CMLL. What has the biggest difference been for you competing in the U.S and Canada and Mexico?

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That is also correct. It's really weird because every country is different. I have been to six countries this year, already, and each country's crowd is very different. It teaches you how to adjust and how to work on the fly, to get the crowd to interact. Each crowd is going to be different and each crowd wants to see something different, we just have to figure out what it is. That is one of the coolest things about wrestling, whether it's from one state over or from one country to another. That's what grows you as a performer, being able to perform in front of these different crowds.

I love Mexico so much. I love the tradition down there. My first few times down there were so good, and so was the reaction and the response I received. And then going down there for CMLL and being down there for the whole earthquake, I feel like I have such a respect and love because I was there and helped. I'll consider Mexico like a third home, I love it down there. The crowds are different, it's just so special.

With the tradition and how everything is so big down there, and them loving Lucha Libre, it is something special. Wrestlers still travel under masks there 100%. As soon as we pulled into town, masks are on, and if not there is something covering their face in order to walk from the bus to the venue and from the venue to the bus. They are very protective of their identities when we are at shows and when we are leaving shows.

Independent wrestling has come under criticism for having ‘too many spots and not enough storytelling'. What are your thoughts on the topic?

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My take on it is, you have to do a lot to get your name out there and get noticed. That is how you are getting booked more. If people don't know who you are, they aren't going to book you. You have to do something to get your name out there, and once you get your name out there then you start learning how to work. You start working with better guys, and that is when you are going to start learning how to work. Obviously, you are not going to know everything about how to work when you start wrestling. Talent just has to get the buzz around them, and that is what a lot of guys do, get their name out there and do crazy sh**, boom, boom, boom. A quick highlight reel so they can share it. That's what I do. For the first six months to a year, I did the craziest things I could think of to get me a lot of buzz. I put it in a highlight video to help build a lot of attention, and that helped me a lot when it came to bookings, and I started traveling.

I just think because the business has changed so much because the wrestling has changed and is much more fast-paced now. Whatever this ‘indy style' is, as it is being called, you have to go out and show fans ‘Look what I can do,' and as soon as they can see you for what you are doing, then that is when you start adding your character in there and start connecting with them, and show them who you are. If they don't care about you, then they aren't going to be interested in getting to know you, so you have to go out there and have them say ‘Oh that guy was really good' or ‘Oh that was awesome'.

Flip Gordon is rarely seen not in flight during his matches. To what do you attribute this particular style of wrestling? Was it an evolution of styles or something you always intended on doing?

I always wanted to be a full well-rounded wrestler. I have an amateur background from wrestling in high school. I did MMA and gymnastics, and I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I never wanted to be just a high flier. I always wanted to be more, I wanted to be the whole package. I wanted to be that main event type of wrestler that can do anything and everything.

Ring of Honor presents some of the biggest challenges for you. Who do you feel would be a challenge because your styles are much different from one another?

I think Shane Taylor and I would have a good match. I think it would be different, and I think it would be more difficult, but I think it would be a good match. It would be a different kind of story that we would be telling in the ring. I am not going to be able to do all my moves on him. I would have to think differently. It just wouldn't be your typical Flip Gordon match. I think that it would be a cool story to tell because it would be different. I also think it would give me an opportunity to show people that I am not just a high flier that I am well-rounded in the ring.

Being a member of the National Guard could be compared to being a pro wrestler as the sacrifices involved in both are evident. What other similarities can you attribute to doing both?

They are both very disciplined in their respective jobs, we need to have the discipline to do it. It isn't just going to happen overnight. We have to be patient, and you are constantly working to get better and improve your craft. It didn't happen overnight. It took me two years of working 80+ hours a week in order to get to where I am. So it isn't going to be easy, but it's definitely going to be possible.

If there was one person past or present you'd love to face, who would it be and why?

Eddie Guerrero. Hands down, no questions asked. In my opinion, he was the best performer to ever step inside a squared circle. He got better as he got older, 100%. I think he would have continued to get better as he got older as well. His ability to create emotions in the fans during his matches was incredible.

As 2017 draws to a close, what aspirations does Flip Gordon has for 2018 and beyond?

A big goal of mine for 2018 is I would love to go to NJPW. That is where you go to solidify yourself as a top guy in the indies, or a top guy in professional wrestling outside of WWE. So that is where I would love to go next. I would love to just keep traveling around the world and learning from as many people as I can. I love this business, and just want to help give back and make it as cool as I possibly can. It's as cool as it has been in a long time, but I think I can make it even cooler. I am very honored and proud to be a part of this generation of wrestling.

If fans wanted to connect with you how could they do so and where can they expect to see you in the new year?

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They can follow me on Instagram and Twitter, both @theflipgordon. Next year I am very excited as I have some big things coming up. I am already booked up for a couple of international things. I don't want to give away too much just yet, especially since its still 2017. But if you give me a follow on Twitter and Instagram you'll find out what is coming up next year, for me

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Ring of Honor top prospect finalist, Skyler discusses his finals appearance, competing in the WWE and aspirations for the future.

Skyler is primed to take the wrestling world by storm one promotion at a time.

‘The Southern Savior' John Skyler may just be the hardest working wrestler on the independent scene. If you disagree with that statement, look no farther than the opportunities that have been presented to him, and his desire to improve both inside and out of the ring. Over the past year, Skyler earned notoriety while competing in Ring of Honor's top prospect tournament. One of the most notable in ring qualities that Skyler possesses is his versatility, and his ability to move around with the greatest of ease. He enlightened me about a number of his past experiences, where he has been and where he ultimately hopes to be.

He possesses a variety of technical moves and the ability to perform high flying maneuvers and came within an eyelash of winning ROH's top prospect tournament this past year. His future is bright. In this interview, Skyler discusses how his ability to adapt to his environment, regardless of where he is in the world, is crucial for success. As a world traveled competitor, he learns from those experiences and applies them to his craft. Already having cameo'd for WWE's NXT, Skyler knows what is asked of him either in front of the camera or in front of an independent crowd.

Fans can communicate with him on various social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, where he can be reached @thejohnskyler

Skyler aspires for greatness.

Where did your early exposure to wrestling come about, and was there a moment where you knew you were going to make this a commitment?

I grew up a huge fan, as a kid back in the day, of WCW. I'm from Columbia, South Carolina, grew up in a little town called Blightswood right outside of Columbia, and WCW used to come here quite often for live events and things of that nature. I used to go a lot as a kid to a place called the Township auditorium here in Columbia. I was like any kid, I would find things that I liked and I would find things that I eventually grew out. For example, I liked G.I Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and eventually pro wrestling, and pro wrestling was the thing that I never grew out of it.

So, I vividly remember the moment where I knew this was what I wanted to do. I was watching Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart for the WWE championship at WM XII, and this was the moment I said, I want to be a WWE wrestler when I grew up. So, I decided to get trained in 2008 and never really looked back since. It's funny, when I look back at 2008, I wasn't really sure. I knew that my dreams, goals, and aspirations were to be a WWE superstar, but you don't know how attainable those goals are. It's almost funny how things just fall into your lap in pro wrestling. I think I'm well on my way to reaching those dreams, and I am excited about the future.

Travelling the independents has its share of highs and lows. Share with us if you could what you have found to be some of the biggest challenges and some of the biggest rewards of competing all over North America?

Some of the highest of highs are I get to travel the world and all over North America. I believe you're based out of Canada; I've been all over Canada, the U.S, Europe and Asia, so that's one of the highest of highs, getting to travel all over the world and getting to see all these different places and meet different people and become multi-cultured. For instance, I've been to different places like Singapore and China and all over the United Kingdom, and that's not something I'd be able to say I did if I was working a 9-5 job at, say, McDonald's, or something like that. That is definitely a high, and just getting to wrestle and be in front of the people and string them along and play with their emotions, that's a high.

The lows are having to drive anywhere from 8 to 18 hours, and be beat up, and be away from your family and missing out on so many friends' events like weddings. So, missing out on what quote-unquote normal people get to experience. I started wrestling when I was in college, and I did get to graduate from the University of South Carolina. However, I didn't live life like a normal college kid, I didn't get to do what typical college kids were doing because I was already out and traveling the roads and wrestling. So, you do miss out on some stuff and that is the hardest part. The traveling and beating up aren't fun either, but you kinda know what you signed up for.

In all of your travels, wrestling all over the world, did you ever feel that you had to cater to certain crowds?

The ability to adapt is crucial for any wrestlers success, and Skyler shares his thoughts on this.
I remain the same guy no matter what. What you need to do is just be able to adapt, and that's the beautiful part of the independents. It's on the job training and it is a challenge. Last weekend, I was in North Carolina and tagged with Mr. #1, George South, who is a staple of the mid-Atlantic area. He was all over Crockett TV back in the day and did stuff with the WWE as well. He trained guys like Cedric Alexander and Tessa Blanchard and so many others. We had a certain style of match that catered towards children last week, and we were tagging and riling up the kids, and it was kind of an old-school mid-Atlantic type match. Something you may have seen on Memphis TV back in the 1980s.

That being said, this past year I also wrestled for Ring of Honor at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, and now I know the match George and I did last Saturday wouldn't go over well at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where fans are looking for more high spots and action and excitement. At the same time, you go to someplace like Singapore, those people over there don't really know what wrestling is, so there were a lot of times where I was teaming with Pete Dunne, the WWE United Kingdom champion right now. We formed a tag team over there, we're out there doing all this stuff and these people don't even know what we are doing, and they don't have an idea of what pro wrestling is and they are staring at us with these blank looks on their faces. All you have to do is peek your head out of the ropes as if you are about to go after them as a heel, and they'll run out in every which direction and scatter. Pete and I aren't the biggest guys in the world so you would have thought we were Bruiser Brody or something. People were running off in different directions.

That's the beautiful part of what we do is that you get thrown out there, and you learn on the job, and you learn to adapt if a crowd isn't buying what you're selling. I think that's what makes a worker a great worker, being able to cater to the crowd that they are in front of on that particular night. What you do in North Carolina isn't going to necessarily work in New York City, and that isn't going to work in Singapore or China. You have to learn how to adapt and change things on the fly.

If you can highlight one match where you felt that it all came together either in singles or tag team action, when would that be, who was involved and share what was going through your head at the time?

That's a good question. Thankfully here in the Carolinas, we have a little promotion called PWX which is gaining a lot of popularity on the Highspots network. I've had a wide variety of opponents, I've wrestled some of the local guys like Ethan Case, Jake Manning, Cedric Alexander before he was signed, Caleb Konley, and so many others. I also got to wrestle guys on the outside like Johnny Gargano and Timothy Thatcher and Zack Sabre Jr., people like that.

There was this one particular match against Johnny Gargano that I had in Charlotte, North Carolina for PWX, which was probably about two years ago now. It was kind of a cold match, there was no rivalry, he was coming in for one-time appearance and I was working my way up the system at the time, just getting hot. The bell rang and we stood there in our respective corners and the crowd was going ballistic. We hadn't done anything, we were just standing there and staring at each other from across the ring, and they were chanting “Johnny Wrestling, Skyler Sucks” and then it became a 50/50 thing where people were like chanting “Johnny Wrestling” “Let's go Skyler.” We took a couple steps closer to each other, we went nose to nose with one another, and then the crowd started chanting ‘This is awesome.' We had never touched each other! This was a cold match, and it was literally us just taking a moment to acknowledge the people and the people were acknowledging us. We were letting the people, in a certain way, dictate what we were going to do next, but they didn't have full control, we were still trying to figure things out. So, we were like, okay.

There is this misconception where guys are told all the time that less is more, less is more, and I don't think that's necessarily the case. I think it's about getting more out of less. I think that was a night where we were getting more out of less. We hadn't touched each other, and that wasn't anything we planned. It was us reacting to the crowd. It made for a special moment, definitely for me. I can't speak for Johnny, Johnny has probably had a ton of those moments in fact because the guy is great. It was really cool to experience that, and it was where the lightbulb went off and it was like ‘wrestling moves don't really matter.' I started thinking, we had these people wrapped up in emotion and we hadn't even touched. That is where the lightbulb went off in my head anyway. Okay, maybe it's not necessarily about the wrestling moves. I look back at that match with great fondness because I think it made me a better wrestler.

How have you found working in a tag team? Often there are challenges working as one-fourth of a match, and communication can be a challenge. Was there one match that stood out that everyone and everything worked out incredibly well?

There was a while where, at the time his name was Stephen Walters, but he now has gone on to be part of The Revival under the name Dash Wilder, we were a pretty successful team on the independents before he got signed. We went by the name the Love-Hate Machine. We had a series of matches against the Bravado Brothers, and one particular night we had a match against them at a bar show in, I think it was Columbia, South Carolina. So the people that show up to this bar show may not necessarily be wrestling fans. They may just be people that came to hang out at the bar and they heard wrestling was going to be there, so they probably just decided to come here and check it out. Like China or Singapore, they may not know what it's like to be a recipient of a hurricanrana or know what a 450 splash feels like, so they are going to be harder to hook at times. This beautiful match this night, we all got on the same page, and when we all got on the same page we started getting this flow going and it was this beautiful tag match, where at the end people were chanting ‘That is awesome.' I'm like, man, that's a pretty good reception for a bar crowd. We brought it back the next day at the same venue for like a 2 out of 3 falls tag match, and that would be the last time me and, I guess his name is Dash now, would have tagged together against the Bravados, where they beat us for the tag belts.
Before he was Dash Wilder of The Revival, Stephen 'The Fever' Walters along side Skyler.
It's really fun to go out there. Yes it's four guys and yes it's four sets of eyes trying to figure out what the vision of the match is going to be, you might butt heads on certain things, but at the end of the day, those were four pros that were in that match. Ask any one of us, all four of us had a lot of experience from all around the world. We have all done things on television. That's really what experience is. You can wrestle for 15 years and never really leave your backyard, and then you don't really have any experience. You just know how to work matches in your own backyard or your hometown. The four of us are complete pros, where we have this experience worldwide doing all these overseas tours and working on television. We can put a solid tag match together. It made sense, and the people liked it and we all had fun doing it. That's probably the most fun I've had doing tag matches in terms of getting everyone on the same page. Everyone may have a different vision, but it's about all of us going out there and getting on the same page and creating magic.

How would you say your character or personality developed from its inception, when you first began competing, to today, and where do you see it going?

That's a great question because when I first got started in wrestling I went by ‘the New Sensation' John Skyler. I don't know if I wanted to be Michael Hayes, it changed from week to week, but at first, it was like a Freebird, Michael Hayes type guy, and also like Chris Jericho from WCW when he was doing the topnotch 1980s rockers stuff. I had no idea what I wanted to be. What I knew was that, eventually, ‘The New Sensation' isn't going to be new anymore, so what am I going to do after that? I did a lot of comedy stuff when I first started, and I finally realized that if I wanted to be taken seriously and make a lot of money in wrestling, comedy is only going to get me so far.

So, I need to be taken seriously about what I do, and it was inspired by two different people. It was first inspired by Tyler Durden from Fight Club, this guy that had this idea of Project Mayhem where he is going to go to destroy everything just to create something greater, and he is in his mind doing good things even though he is a dastardly human being. He inspired it, and in real life David Koresh, from Waco, Texas did as well. I'm not sure how many people maybe remember that, but he was a cult leader. These were the initial influences of the character. From day one that's what I envisioned it being, but as you evolve and grow you kind of need to realize as a performer there have to be certain aspects of this character that hit close to home, with whom you truly are. Austin really drinks beer and rides around in a pickup truck, that's who he is.

I needed to do something to where I needed to find who is John, as a real person? I started going to these different independent shows and started thinking about leaving a place greater than as it was before I found it. Whether it's for one show or one year, I want to make this place get better, so that's where the ‘Savior' name came from. As a babyface, you can come in and say ‘I'm going to change this place, and I'm going to do great things here and change it for the better.' As a heel, you can automatically claim that this place sucked before I got here, and now I'm going to make it better because I'm this huge TV star and I'm a huge star all over the world. You can definitely take it in two different directions. So, it's definitely evolved, especially the Ring of Honor stuff on TV. It helped me out, as I was able to cut promos, and you only have 30 seconds to cut a promo, so you go out there and hit everything. It's funny that at times I don't really know what the character is, I'm still trying to figure it out and I'm trying to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I guess that's the great thing again about being an independent wrestler. It's on the job training, and you are trying to figure things out. I have a better understanding of what and who I am now in 2017 than even in 2016.

One of the most prominent wrestlers today is Kyle O'Reilly. Discuss if you could how that experience was and what you walked away with after facing him.

We crossed paths only briefly, it was in the NWA Future Legends cup, I believe and that was about 7 years ago. He was still on the rise with Ring of Honor, but my experiences with him were great. He was such a mild-mannered, very nice young guy just like me and a lot of guys in that locker room, but I think we had both had matches earlier on in the day. It was a one-day tournament, and I wrestled Reid Flair earlier on in the show and he wrestled maybe Tony Kozina, I believe. I know we didn't have a lot of time to put a match together, and we didn't really know each other. So, we had to go out there, and again, feel it out in what I think was Carlton, Georgia, near Atlanta. We had to look at the type of crowd we had, and again, this is the sign of two pros going out there and getting it done. Kyle was always great, and he was a very polite and very professional guy. I'm glad to have worked with him the few times that I did.

A true professional inside and out of the ring, Skyler remembers fondly working with O'Reilly.
As a nine-year pro, how has the business changed in your time in the ring? Greater opportunities? Greater earning opportunity?

Absolutely. There has been a huge change in the business, in the favor of the independents, from where I broke in 2008. One of the reasons I said that I might not make WWE was because I am a 5'8, 5'9 guy, and not even 200 lbs, and in 2008 they wanted guys that were 6'2 at the minimum and 230 or 240 lbs at the minimum. I remember that was all they were looking for, you can't be smaller than this. This was the minimum because it was very much a big man's territory, and in a lot of ways, it still is. That is when guys like (CM) Punk started to come in and get noticed, and guys like Daniel Bryan hadn't even gotten a shot yet, and some guys had been there and have been phased out pretty quickly. For example, Low Ki, he didn't last there very long at all. I am sure there are others that I am skimming over. The idea of being an independent wrestler and going to WWE was a longshot, and the term independent wrestler was somewhat of a derogatory term. That is how it was looked at by the higher-ups for a long time. ‘Oh, if this guy is such a great indy guy, then what is so special about him?' That was the idea that was floating around.

Where now, wrestlers are starting to embrace it, as, like, the new regime there, they want to know where you have been and your accomplishments on the independents and where you have been, and they almost embrace that independent background, where they turned up their nose to it a couple of years ago. That's changed in a good way, and there are a number of guys making great livings on the independents outside the WWE. There is a world outside the WWE that people may think maybe a little bit untapped. There are people going out, and celebrities showing up at PWG shows in Rosita, California, and it's this hotspot where people want to go and see what is going on. I also liken what a number of the American fans will see on the independents to college football. They are playing for the love of the game, and aren't making millions of dollars yet, they haven't made it to the NFL yet. The NFL is like WWE, and people are doing it for the contracts or the money, and when they are playing college ball they are doing it for the love of the game. I think fans come out to independent shows and see that, we are making good money, but not necessarily WWE money. It isn't life-changing money, but we love performing and we love the business.

I know that when I first started doing extra work for the WWE back in 2011, the first thing I ever did was get killed by Ryback on TV or something. I remember thinking back then, I should be here, I am good enough to be here, and I always had that in my mind. Then, when I look back at some of my independent shows from back then in 2011 compared to now, I am 10,000 times the worker I am now than I was then. I have seen myself grow by leaps and bounds honestly, and if I would have been offered something back in 2011 I don't think I would have been ready to contribute like I am now. Not just WWE, but anywhere full-time, Ring of Honor, TNA, New Japan, anywhere. I don't think I would be able to contribute like I would right now. I am not trying to beat a dead horse about the independents, but I think that is where guys like AJ (Styles) and Samoa Joe have an advantage over everybody else because they spent so much time on the independents, they spent so much time getting worldwide experience to where you can throw something their way in WWE and none of it is unfamiliar territory because they have literally been there and done that. In every predicament, they can do anything needed if called upon by WWE.

Competing for prominent promotions and carving a niche for yourself lends itself for a very different experience. What have you found the biggest difference between competing for the likes of, say, NXT and the independent circuit?

Skyler with current WWE Smackdown Live superstar Chad Gable during Skyler's time in NXT.
There are definitely differences between working television and your local independent show. On TV you may have six minutes, but six minutes on TV is a lot of time. You have to hit your marks, camera angles, and get with your producer, and make the break spot on time, and get back from the break. You have to make sure you are getting the points across that you want to get across in the match. Also, you want to look aggressive, and each strike has to count. ‘Maximize your minutes,' that is one big thing they say if you have four minutes you need to make it the best four minutes you possibly can. However, on the independents, you may be given 8-10 (minutes), or 12, and there really isn't going to be any repercussions on the talent for going over. If you are working television and you go over, your ass is going to get chewed out, you are going to be told that other segments are going to have to be cut and stuff like that.

Also, the level of experience and professionalism on TV is just amazing. There are guys like Dean Malenko, William Regal, Steve Corino, Arn Anderson, Scott and Brian Armstrong, Robbie Brookside, Matt Bloom, Scotty 2 Hotty, Adam Pearce, who have seen and done everything. These are all producers there, and all these guys have 20-30 years of experience. You go to the independents and you may have some guy doing his third ever show, and he is going to tell you that he wants a certain style of match and get this point across for the next show, and you are like…'Okay, who are you? (laughs).' Again, it is fun having that blank canvas on the independents. Just last week I had a match on a small show here in Carolina, it was two babyface tag teams going at it, and for South Carolina that is not a good idea ever, to have two babyface tag teams working each other ever. We made something out of nothing and we created a pretty cool little story, and the crowd was pretty receptive to it.

However, the idea of having a blank canvas and going out there and produce anything you want on the independents is really appealing, you can show who your true self is. When you have 8-10 minutes and a blank canvas, it's okay to say go out there and do your thing. That is sometimes hard to do that when you are hindered by 4-5 minutes and a segment on television. Sometimes you are not going to be the focal point on television, and you are there to try to get another guy over, and while you may be trying to get yourself over in the process it's not in the cards. At times it is going to be about the other guy, and sometimes that can be a little bit frustrating when you have only a few minutes and you are supposed to go out there and produce magic. You don't necessarily feel like you have the proper tools or elements to get yourself out there.

Ring of Honor's top prospect tournament has been a breeding ground for a number of today's stars. To even be a part of the tournament is often seen as a great opportunity to increase exposure. What did your time going through the tournament mean to you?

image via
First of all, when I found out that I was going to be in the tournament I was obviously thrilled and excited because I had been a fan of Ring of Honor ever since I got into professional wrestling. So it was a big notch in my belt to be a part of it, and I thought I was going to get a lot of eyes on me and stuff like that. Also, I went in being realistic. Having over 1000 matches in my career and competing for almost nine years, you learn to expect nothing, so you are pleasantly surprised when you go into a situation, as opposed to getting your hopes up, ‘This is going to be a great opportunity and I am going to win this thing,' and be let down or something like that. So, I went into the tournament expecting they are going to have me put somebody over in the first round or something. I didn't expect anything out of it, in a way. I get there for night one in Pittsburgh and I find out I was going over, I'm thinking..really? I am? I went over Sean Carr in the first round, which was perfect for me because he was the guy in the tournament that I matched up best with. I thought Sean Carr's style was what I would match up best with, and he was who I wanted to work within the first round. That was a best-case scenario for me, and to having a great match and going over was a blessing.

Then getting to wrestle in Hammerstein ballroom in the second round against Curt Stallion was a lot of fun because I was a big wrestling fan/nerd growing up and the lineage of the Hammerstein Ballroom, and ECW, and everything that entailed. Getting another win on television was another notch in the belt, and I joke with my friends saying I am undefeated in the Hammerstein Ballroom, being 1 and 0 (laughs). For the finals, I faced Josh Woods in Baltimore, and I have a lot of confidence now because I know I am killing it in the ring and in the promos. I feel like he was obviously the choice going forward, who they saw the biggest future in of all the prospects, but I think I turned a lot of heads. I will make no bones about it, I have said this to a lot of people, I was the best one in the tournament. That isn't me bragging or being an egomaniac if you go back and watch the matches that were on TV I don't think there was a better performer in that tournament than me.

So, it is a little bit heartbreaking to know I haven't been back since. That is part of the business, and maybe it isn't a no, but it's not right now. Maybe I am not what they are looking for. They often say wrestling is like being cast in a movie, and maybe I haven't been cast in the right role yet, maybe that will come soon, we never know. I will always say that things just happen. There isn't a rhyme or reason, and when I am asked why I haven't been back to Ring of Honor, trust me, folks, it's not my choice (laughs). I would be there in a heartbeat, and business there is up! They have a lot of eyes on them. It was a great experience overall, though. Again, it gave me a lot of confidence, making me aware of what I know I can do when given a platform on television. I can be an asset to ROH, TNA, and it has always been my dream to be a WWE superstar and be an asset to them, whether it's NXT or on their main roster. I have a lot of confidence now, and either way, it was a blessing.

As 2017 draws to a close, what are your aspirations for the coming year and in the future overall?

Honestly, it's hard to put a timetable on anything in pro wrestling because anything can happen. It is the craziest thrill ride of all time, and you never know what is going to happen. Just the other day, I put out promo packages with videos of matches and my resume, and I sent it to everybody that has a television deal, and I sent it out to a lot of independent companies with a lot of buzz like the EVOLVE's and WrestleCircuses, AAW in Chicago. I sent out my stuff to just about anybody and everybody like in Germany as well. My biggest goal is to get eyes on me and build my brand, the ‘Southern Savior' John Skyler, and make myself valuable and make myself an asset.

Skyler hopes to make 2018 even better than 2017.
By the end of 2018, I want to be where I am not having to reach out to people, but people are reaching out to me, whether that be a top independent company or a top foreign company like RevPro or Whatculture or wXw or New Japan. The only way to do that is to make myself valuable, and that's my goal by the end of 2018, for me to have to turn people away (because I am so busy), rather than to have to reach out to companies. It is difficult to make predications like, ‘I am going to be in WWE' because you never know what is going to happen. Sometimes that is a difficult and unrealistic expectation to have. You just have to go with the flow and wrestle every match like it is your last.

Do you have anything to share, promote or make fans aware of as it pertains to wrestling? How can fans connect with you if they so wanted to?

You can connect with me on Twitter, I am @thejohnskyler, and I have the ‘Southern Savior John Skyler' Facebook page, and a ProWrestlingTees store if people want to buy some merch. I am on Instagram at @thejohnskyler. I am all over social media, and I am not too hard to find in terms of social media. I recently won the world heavyweight championship for Resistance Pro, and I will be there defending the title. Coming up in the next year a lot of people can check me out in PWX, Premier Wrestling Xperience, which is my home promotion, and a lot of exciting things are happening there. In January, there will be a two-night event on the 13th and 14th where they will have their X-16 tournament, which is an annual thing. I will be a part of that along with several other top independent stars. If fans want to look into tickets they could go to or reach out to them on Twitter at @pwxwrestling and on Facebook.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Independent wrestling star Josh Briggs aspires for greatness while blazing a trail for himself

Josh Briggs doesn't like you. If you don't believe it, you can ask him yourself. The New England native has been making a name for himself since beginning active competition over a year and a half ago. With a persona that originated in a bad moment in time, Briggs developed a character that fans have come to enjoy watching each time he competes. One of the most notable in ring qualities that Briggs possess is his versatility and ability to move around with the greatest of ease. He enlightened me when he said that it was important to know your audience, and he certainly does just that. As arguably one of the fastest rising talents in the northeast, Briggs has continued to hone his craft since starting with the New England Pro Wrestling Academy.

Possessing an array of technical moves and the ability to perform high flying maneuvers, Briggs aspires to personal greatness. Standing 6'7 and weighing 270 lbs, those aspirations aren't limited to competing in the United States either. He demonstrates a passion for what he does and does it the right way. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world finds out what the North Eastern United States has known for nearly st two years: Josh Briggs is coming, and when you see him you certainly won't forget the impact he will make.

Fans can communicate with him on various social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, where he can be reached @thejoshbriggs

Where did your early exposure to wrestling come about, and was there a moment where you felt you were going to make this a commitment?

From where I am from, where I am based out of and where I started making my name, the Northeast in the United States of America. Early on I was with Chaotic Wrestling, and then I started to branch out to Limitless Wrestling, and now I am wrestling in CZW, places like that. That is where I am trying to make my name right now. As for when I really realized this was what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to make my money, I think it was really early on before I even had a match. I knew this was something I wanted to do. I was a Division 1 football player, and I was fairly good at it, but I chose not to pursue any dreams of the NFL because I was completely miserable, and it wasn't like I was great by any means, so I wasn't going to get drafted. So, I forsook the entire NFL process and I jumped into professional wrestling. Early on, maybe two or three months in, I realized I had a knack for it. I played football for 11 years and I was completely miserable. So, going from something that made you completely miserable and depressed to something you enjoy automatically was refreshing, and it was how I knew it was something I wanted to do.

I stuck with football for as long as I did because of the free education, at one of the best schools in America. I realized as I got older and more mature that the only reason I played football was to get things that I wanted, like money or free education. Once I got into wrestling, I realized I didn't care about money, I cared about being happy, and wrestling made me happy. That is how my thought process is right now.

Traveling the independents has its share of highs and lows. Share with us if you could what you have found to be some of the biggest challenges and some of the biggest rewards of competing all over North America.

I have only been a professional wrestler for just over a year and a half, and luckily I have been able to get a good amount of matches under my belt. I have had over 200 matches since January (of 2017).

Once you get up there in matches in a row, five or six, for example, it's really hard on your body. It's a real challenge when I am driving 4 to 7 hours back-to-back, just go back home to sleep, and do it all over again. That's where you really realize wrestling isn't what you really think it is. You really have to love what you do and enjoy what you do, to get out of bed when you are sore and you can't move. So that's one of the biggest challenges. Early on, trying to find who you are is one of the biggest challenges. Your brain is so scattered from everything you did in the match that you don't really know who you are portraying once you are in the match, and that was something I had a tough time with. I am finally getting over that, and now I am more comfortable with knowing who I am, to an extent.
One of the biggest rewards was wrestling Donovan Dijak. He was a guy that trained at the same school as me and was pretty much a mentor to me outside my training with Brian Fury. Without him, I wouldn't be as good as I am. So, I owe him. To throw ideas at the wall and see them stick and see him light up with excitement about what I was asking him to do or what I am doing for him, that's probably the biggest reward I've had so far. I was getting a really good match against him most of the time.

Championships are cool and everything, but you are making a name for yourself. Once you have those championships, it means you are starting to rise in the ranks and everything. All that will come with time. I think the memories will last a lifetime. With this last Limitless show, Question the Answers, Teddy Hart had a match against one of my good friends Maxwell Jacob Freedman, and afterward, he called someone out and I was lucky enough to be chosen to go out there and meet him in the ring. So it laid the breadcrumbs for a future match against me and him. That is a big honor to me. Things like that are rewards to me. It isn't the money or the titles or winning matches or things like that.

If you can highlight one match where you felt that it all came together either/or in singles or tag team action, when would that be, who was involved and share what was going through your head at the time?

I touched upon it a little bit, but probably my crowning match where I realized I had something going here was against Donovan Dijak at Limitless. That was my first match against him, someone I looked up to and aspired to be like, and to be able to have him explain the way he was putting together the match made me a completely different and better wrestler for it. But, I was able to throw ideas out there and he enjoyed them, and it boosted my confidence to know that one of the best wrestlers in the world appreciated my ideas, understood them, and believed in how good they were. When he was placing all the ideas into spots, I started to realize, yeah, that's where I would have put it too, and that was another boost of confidence as well. Mentally we were from the same learning tree from Brian Fury all the way down to Killer Kowalski and Steve Bradley, and to be able to fall back on that and know that, okay, I have a similar mindset to Donovan Dijak, it's a very comforting thing. That boosted my confidence a lot. In the match itself, right from the get-go, I didn't want to mess anything up. Luckily enough, I haven't messed anything up so far in my career. That was my biggest match and an important point in my career. So, I didn't want to screw the pooch, especially with someone who was my friend that I see all the time, and someone I wanted to know that I was a good wrestler. Midway through the match, I realized that he knew I could bring it, and I knew that he knew what I am all about. That was more of a boost of confidence. That was one of the biggest things in wrestling, to boost your confidence and to know that you are good.

To me, tag matches are difficult because you have more bodies to work out. I like to take control of everything and be the general in there, call the match and put everything together in there and make sure everyone's positioning is on point so that everyone out there can have everything come out perfectly. Sometimes it's tough because when it's singles wrestlers or even a triple threat, you can for the most part figure out where everyone is going to be based on your own positioning. But, when you aren't in the right place, or when three of the four are in the ring and you are not, it is a little difficult. But, I tag with Mike Ross of the Minderaser. He is an awesome guy and one of my great friends, and we are the New Gore Order down in XWA in Rhode Island. We just gelled instantly because we have the same mindset, and we can put the match together perfectly because we know each other so well. I can rely on him when I am not in the ring, to take control and to move people where they need to be. If I lose where I am at in the match, I can ask him, and vice versa, and we can get back on track. It's really comfortable having someone with the same mindset on your team so you don't have to think about everything. You can give him some of the worries and you can take some of the worries off of him as well.

How would you say your character or personality developed from its inception to today, and where do you see it going?

Not a lot of people know, maybe 20 or 30 in professional wrestling know this, and I don't discuss it a lot because it's a little embarrassing to me, but everyone has growing pains with their first character. Back in college, I had a nickname of Mike Honcho, from the movie ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.' It's a little inside joke I have with me and my friends, but I liked that name a lot. Getting into wrestling, I knew I wanted to wrestle, I just didn't who I wanted to be yet. I pitched that name to my friends and they said that sounds like a relaxed surfer. So, I decided, help me put together this character of Mike Honcho and let's see what happens. So, Mike Honcho became a surfer and just went out there and had this whole ‘hang ten' attitude and stuff. It was fun. I didn't know any better because it was my first character and I just wanted to wrestle.

After a few months I knew that's not who I am and that's not who I wanted to be, so it started getting uncomfortable and almost embarrassing. I came up with the name Josh Briggs after months of deliberating what my name should be. I changed the last three letters of my last name from Bruns to Briggs, and I stumbled upon who that was. It took a long time. That's one of the hardest things in wrestling that people don't understand, who you really are, and if your character is completely different from your actual being it is easy to get into because you are just acting at that point. But, being 23 at the time, I didn't know who I was as a human being. I realized one day, I had a horrible day and I was grumpy, I was in my car and I hated everyone, and I hated everything, and I didn't want to deal with anything. I realized that may be a good character trait for Josh Briggs, so that became who I am, someone who doesn't like people. It's basically me on a really bad day. It is still ever evolving, just like everything in wrestling. Right now, I know who I am that I don't like being around people. If you are in the ring with me I instantly don't like you, and I am going to do whatever I can to hurt you. In a nutshell, that's just Josh Briggs, someone who doesn't like people.

Limitless Wrestling and Chaotic Wrestling appear to be promotions that are near and dear to your heart. What is it about these promotions that has meant so much to you?

I'd like to throw Beyond (wrestling) in that hat as well. When I first started, those were the three that I wanted to work for, they were promotions that had the buzz at the time, they were promotions that you could make money with. They were promotions that you could wrestle better people at, sometimes; not always the case, but sometimes. I always wanted to get to those three. Chaotic was my first because of where I trained, at the New England Pro Wrestling Academy, it was the feeder for Chaotic Wrestling, the one that I first broke in with. Chaotic will always be special to me because they gave me my first big platform to actually have good matches with great production value, great professionalism in the locker room, great booking, great ownership. That was the first time I realized that indy wrestling is more than just going out there and doing moves. It's an actual business and an actual job. Chaotic is special in that sense.

Limitless, that was the first big super indy show that I was able to get on. All of my friends got on it and I really wanted to wrestle with my friends and go on road trips with my friends and get out of the New England, Rhode Island, Connecticut area. To get there was one of the crowning moments of my career. Randy Carver Jr, the guy who runs the place, the owner, gave me one of the most special things on the planet. They just had their two-year anniversary show with Question the Answers, and it sold out with about four hundred people, they need to get a new building because of how quickly the place sells out. The match quality is next to none. That Question the Answers show was the best show I'd ever been at or have been on. Every match had a place on the card, every match did its job, every match was perfect for the most part. That's something special that Randy does, and being so young, to put together that card and bring those people in and draw those people in, in Maine of all places, that's outstanding.

Beyond, everyone knows Beyond. Everyone wants to get into Beyond, and Beyond is THE platform for Indy wrestling on the East Coast. Everyone that is anyone wants to be in Beyond, that's how you make that name for yourself. Me being such a big fan of Donovan Dijak, and such a good friend with him, I saw how he made his name, and wanting to follow in his footsteps I chose Beyond as my ultimate destination early on. Drew Cordero, the owner, he runs the most amazing show. If you haven't seen a Beyond show on demand or on YouTube, it is something special that you can't replicate. He has been nothing but good to me and gives me the matches that he thinks I deserve even if I don't think I deserve it, and an outstanding platform to build my brand of Josh Briggs.

So those three are very near and dear to my heart. There are few more, like Northeast Wrestling where I just started, they treated me so well, and XWA as well in Rhode Island, and the Monster Factory. Places like that have given me opportunities on great platforms, those are the places are special to me and I can’t thank them enough because without them I would be Joe Schmo, wrestling in front of twenty people not doing this for a living. Maine for a while didn’t have the wrestling buzz that it does now, and that is all due to Randy Carver and Limitless Wrestling. The way he runs that place, it’s unbelievable. What he does for me and wrestling and all the boys in the back is such a good platform, such good production, and there is such great talent opposing them in the ring. Everything about that place is second to none.

A few months back notable trainer and former wrestler Rip Rogers were very critical of the state of independent wrestling today. What are your thoughts on how programs are worked in an independent wrestling match as opposed to something that is televised?

Independent wrestling is a different monster than WWE. There are different fans, and you have to know your fanbase and know how to get over in the fans' eyes. It doesn't matter if you do no moves or you do a million moves in my opinion, as long as the crowd enjoys it. I think you need to do the least amount to get over, but get over nonetheless. Some places, in particular, you need to do a little bit more and you have to put your body on the line. People who have grown up and have been cultivated by that major, WWE style, they don't get to experience independent wrestling, when you don't do what the crowd expects of you. If you don't get that reaction from the independent crowd, it really is, not heartbreaking, but it's disconcerting. You really go home pretty bummed out, and sometimes that is going to happen.

With the WWE style, those guys are making six figures, and I completely understand they can't put their body on the line the way independent wrestlers do. We're working to get there, and in our eyes, we have to do those moves. They're in that safe zone where they don't have to put their body on the line, and they shouldn't have to body on the line because they are such big items for WWE and those big companies. They can't risk their life. You have to know your crowd, and if there's a crowd with thirty people in it and you aren't making that much money, you don't really need to put your body on the line. If there is a crowd of 300-400 people standing on their feet, expecting you to do a dive over the top rope, giving them anything less is a disservice to the fans if that makes any sense.

In my opinion, I can do really athletic things that my body shouldn't allow me to do, and a lot of the things I can do people haven't seen on shows from me because I chose to save them for those big moments. I think if you do something huge so many times, so dangerously, it waters down that product that you are giving to the crowd. If I go to the top rope and do a 450 every match everyone is going to expect it, but if I pull it out in those one or two big matches everyone is going to want to see that. I don't feel like a guy who is 6'7”, 270 lbs., needs to make his money being on the top rope, but I think for the right crowd you can give them one or two special or unique things to show that you are one of the superior athletes of your size.

Often talent has aspirations to improve. What are your aspirations moving forward, and who can you see involved in helping achieve those aspirations?

I think one of the easiest ways and to get better and get farther and build a name is to have matches against some of the best in the world, and open those peoples' eyes to how good you are. You can listen to people tell you how good someone is, but you don't really understand how good they are until you get into the ring with them. Being really young in the business, that's the opportunity that I need, to get into the ring with some of the best in the world and show them I am the real deal, show them I can hang with them and they can see everything that I can do.

As for my aspirations, I want to become the best big man on the planet. I want to become one of the top independent wrestlers on the planet. I want to get out of the country and start becoming an independent household name. Right now, I have only been wrestling for a year and a half. I've made a pretty good name for myself in the Northeast and I'm starting to branch out a little bit, but I need to start taking over the country, and other countries as well if that makes any sense. That is going to happen by getting opportunities, capitalizing on those opportunities, and showing everyone what I actually am as a wrestler.

Self-promotion is crucial for success. What would you say it takes for any talent to elevate their stock? What helps increase a following for anyone looking to be seen?

You touched upon some of the main things, like going out and getting into a car, meeting other people. Once they see you they can keep you in their mind, and if you have a unique look, which luckily I do, they will remember you. We have this big son of a guy from New England, let's bring him in and give him a shot. I think what goes a long way is not being a piece of garbage. I think if you are a genuine human being who lets the passion for the business ooze out of you once you meet them, I think you can tell once you meet a few people and look them in the eye how passionate they are, and know instantly that this guy wants what I want. That helps a lot.

I went to college for communications and business and marketing, so I have a good background in marketing. If you can market yourself properly and not make a fool of yourself on the internet (which is hard sometimes), and put over the show and your opponents and everything, it goes a long way. JT Dunn, one of my best friends in the business, and MJF, both do that in a way that I think anyone that doesn't do it should be jealous of. When they are on the show, they don't just highlight themselves, they highlight the event. Go watch everything, and just get the gratification from the gifs by Mr. Lariato on social media that I think is something no one really does, and it's something that I am trying to do myself. It's a hidden talent that gets you a lot of respect from promoters, and from me as well. Things like that. Marketing yourself, and of course giving your fans more than what they paid for. Putting your body on the line and letting them know that you did it for them. That's another one of the big things.

Anyone that follows you on social media can see you have a fairly longstanding friendship with “All Good” Anthony Greene. To what do you attribute that friendship and relationship with one another.

“All Good” Anthony Green is my best friend. He is the first genuine person I ever met in pro wrestling, we train at the same school, the New England Pro Wrestling Academy in Massachusetts, and we have the same mindset on a lot of the same things. I know that if I need something I can just talk to him about it. Something that is very scary in professional wrestling is you don't know a lot of these people. It's frightening to have to trust someone. Professional wrestling gives you a weird trust issue, but Anthony Greene is a great guy. I hang out with him outside professional wrestling all the time. I think he's one of the best wrestlers in New England. To me, the most entertaining guy. He's a good guy. He's fun to watch and fun to be around. He gives the crowd what they want, and he knows what to do. He's been doing it for a long time. He's pretty much a grizzled young veteran, and I can't speak highly enough about him. He's on my list of guys to wrestle, and it's weird not have ever had a match against him in singles competition, but we've had probably had about 50 matches opposing each other in tag matches. I hope to tick him off of my list pretty soon, within the next few months. If you don't know who Anthony Greene is, look him up @allgoodag on Twitter and Instagram. He's a good follow and a great wrestler.

Do you have anything to share, promote or make fans aware of as it pertains to wrestling? How can fans connect with you if they so wanted to?

If you want to, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @TheJoshBriggs and you can friend request me on Facebook and see all my updates through that. If you want to buy a shirt you can do that. You can tell me how much I suck or how awesome I am, and ask me if I don't like you, which I don't. That's Facebook, just search Josh Briggs, I'm the ugly guy with the really good picture from Harry Aaron. That's pretty much it. As for me being on a show, come see me, I'm not a horrible wrestler and I think you might like me.