By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Powerhouse Hobbs
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
Video available at Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube Page
What job did you have before AEW hired you?
“So I was working at Facebook and Instagram. I was running their facilities department, so I was running about four different buildings. Then I got a call saying that we are going to give you a month off with pay, and I’m cool with it. I can take my son Bam Bam to school and look after my other son Julian. I got home about 2:30, then got a call about 3:45 saying that they were going to terminate my contract. I’m like f—, but everything happens for a reason. I am glad that I got let go and I am living my dream.”
I’m liking the gear that you are using right now. It’s a tip of the hat to Harlem Heat.
“Yeah those were my dudes growing up. Just the intimidation factor and they talked like my grandparents did when I was growing up. Things like, neckbones, sucka, my grandpa said that stuff to a tee. So those were my dudes growing up. Plus, they look like me, so that was a good thing.”
So what was it that drew you to pro-wrestling?
“Pro-wrestling was already on by the time that I came along. So my grandparents moved from a small town in Mississippi right down the street from The Cow Palace. They took my dad, aunts and uncles all the time, every other weekend to see Pat Patterson, Peter Maivia, all those guys. By the time I was born, wrestling was on the TV and I was hooked.”
So at what point did you think that this was something that you wanted to try?
“I’ve always wanted to be a wrestler from when I was five, that was all that I ever cared about. I played football, basketball, and baseball, but wrestling was all that mattered. I remember going to a live show and being like OK, I know what school to go to, which was APW, which was in Beyond The Mat. So I saved up the money, pulled the trigger and that was it. We had 23 people start and there were only two people at the end.”
There’s a lot of people who want to be a wrestler at five years old but they lose track of it. For yourself, you stayed on course.
“It was all I ever wanted. Coming home from school we watched old wrestling tapes. Watching wrestling on Monday and having my grandpa flick between the channels on Mondays. I remember getting mad at my grandparents for calling the cable company and them saying the wrong pay-per-view. I remember my grandma saying ‘I want to order WrestleManiac.’ I’m like ‘It’s WrestleMania!’ Them not understanding what she wanted to order, but it was always on. I had the figured, drew figures on paper growing up.”
I heard in another interview that you were skinny growing up. How skinny are we talking?
“I graduated high school at 142 lbs. I was shorter, I grew and genetics happened. But it happened, my first wrestling match in a battle royal, I thought I was the business then. So I came in, threw some punches, got chopped and kicked, then out the door. That was the highlight.”
What do you think is the biggest difference between the Powerhouse Hobbs that is sitting here right now and when you debuted 12 years ago?
“Confidence. Having the right people around to teach me. Knowing what I can do and can’t do. Knowing how to work a crowd, have fun and be myself. When I smile and give that snarl, that’s me, I’ve been doing that since football. I have been doing that to keep the bullies away, because they thought that I was crazy.”
What originally got you on AEW’s radar?
“I know a phone call got called in, and next thing I know I got a text from QT Marshall. I looked at it and I’m like this is bullshit, but I sat on it for a little bit and I responded. It was one of those things where I’m like do I risk flying to Jacksonville and possibly get COVID? Or do I say ‘Thank you, when things open back up…’ But I’m like I am a fool if I say no to this. I remember QT asking me if I was local to Jacksonville? I said no, but I will find a way to get there. When I got there I was amazed at Daily’s Place. Everyone was friendly to me. I looked on the board and I got a match with Orange Cassidy. I’m like cool, I’ve been following the program and he has a feud with Chris Jericho. Then 12.36 seconds later, I lost to Orange Cassidy, but I couldn’t care less if I won or lost, my main thing was how can I help out this show? I knew the pay-per-view was coming up with him and Jericho, and I knew it was going on the highlight reel because of my size and his size, and it was.”
What was the breakout moment?
“I think it was the battle royal and that match on Saturday Night Dynamite with Darby [Allin] before the pay-per-view. I think local people in California knew who I was, but Florida, like people who have seen AEW Dark know who Will Hobbs was. That battle royal was crazy, because it was the anniversary of my brother’s death. I was in this battle royal and one of the last six. When I had this moment with Matt Sydal and that spinebuster and I had that moment with [Lance] Archer, I’m like I should be here. It all took off after that.”
When you came back through the curtain, did Tony Khan or anyone come to you and say ‘Yeah that worked.’?
“Yeah Tony Khan was like ‘Willie Willie Wille! Let’s go!’ So I’m like shit let’s go, let’s do this! I think the following week was when I saved Mox [Jon Moxley] from [Brian] Cage and [Ricky] Starks, that was a big moment when Mox introduced me, I was ready to go then too.”
You have this real presence in the ring as a big man. Who was your favorite big man growing up?
“For me personally, I loved the way Yokozuna worked. I loved how Mark Henry worked, just those guys. I was even impressed with Big Daddy V, when he threw that back kick! Those big guys, it took so much for the little guys to get them down, and they could just hit them with one move, like look at Vader, I love Vader, man.”
You did some enhancement stuff with WWE. Did you ever feel like that was a possibility?
“I did at one time. I got to the point where they bring you in to do a half and stuff and I’m like OK cool. Then there are people on the roster who are like ‘Hey, when are they going to give you a shot?’ So you know, guys alone telling me that stuff and that I have talent.”
Walk me through finding out that you will be wrestling CM Punk on TV.
“That was crazy. I remember if you asked me a few years ago if you asked me, I would have said no. But the fact that I am wrestling him in front of 20,000 people in Arthur Ashe Stadium on cable TV, I just have been dreaming. He knew how special that night was for me, it was a little over a month since my mother had passed away. So he knew what my mindset was and how I wanted the match to come across. I can’t thank him enough and I tell him thank you all the time so that was just special.”
You have mentioned your brother and your mother both passing away, which I am very sorry to hear. How have you managed to get over those really difficult moments in your life?
“I have great people around me. Also going to therapy has helped me out, not having those feelings jumbled. If you have too much bottled in, it can destroy you, you just have to find a way to get it out. Wrestling was always a way for my family to connect, we would have parties where the family comes over to watch wrestling. It was always a way to connect the family.”
What do you think is the biggest lesson that you have learned from being with Taz and being a part of Team Taz?
“Patience. Patience in the ring. Stalking, being true to myself and doing what I feel. Doing stuff that feels natural and put my size over. I am a big dude and I like stalking people. Taz has taught me that whatever you do in the ring, make people in the arena and at home feel it. I see people cringe when I hit people and I know they are at home too.”
Who is on your radar now?
“I want to work Eddie Kingston and I want to work Jon Moxley. I am putting this out there now I want to work Mark Henry. Also The Young Bucks, FTR… I want to work with people who have my style and people don’t, just things that mesh so well.”
I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are three things in your life that you are grateful for?
“My family, I work for an amazing company, and that I can motivate people.”
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