By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
On the infamous weigh-in segment with Cody Rhodes: “F—ing dogshit mate, f—ing dogshit! So Cody said to me that we were going to do a weigh-in. I’m like ‘Cool, so what’s going to happen?’ And Cody is brilliant, he is brilliant at what he does and he has got a great mind for it, he is a really good coach, great promo coach. QT is a great wrestling coach, any move he can teach you how to do it, how to get out of it, the reversals. QT is the f—ing man. However, [Cody] was like ‘We are going to do a weigh-in.’ I’m like ‘Cool, who is getting knocked out? What are we going to do.’ [Cody responds] ‘It’s a weigh-in, we are not going to touch.’ I’m like oh, I have watched enough wrestling to know that that’s a bit drab, a bit of shit. [Cody says] ‘Nah it’s gonna be cool.’ It’s my third week on TV, I am going to turn up, work hard and do what I am told. Mate, I am in it and I am thinking this is crap.
“”You got Big Show there sweating his tits off and getting really hot. So I said to him [Big Show], I’m just being a heel and I thought that he hated me for ages. I said to him ‘Can’t you count, you dumb yank?’ And then after the segment has happened, no one was happy. I was just doing my job, there was nothing that I could do. I get my phone and my friend texted me, he said ‘I can’t believe you called Big Show a c*nt.’ I went [makes confused face] did I? When I go out there and the red light goes on I am in the zone and what I do is real. That is my favorite word and I say it all the time, but even I wouldn’t have said that. I do get lost in the moment, because it becomes real to me. If I have a problem with someone, I will call them every name under the sun before knocking them out, so like possibly I did. So I watched it back and I said ‘You can’t count’ And when I said count it looks like I said [c–t], but I didn’t.
“So I’m like agh, I saw him next week but he didn’t speak to me, he was busy not because of that. Mate the whole thing was disastrous, but I feel like I’m the victim. It was my first kind of entry, and I am in this really weird segment that wasn’t my idea. I would have rather knocked out Goldust, knocked out Dustin. We get out the ring, we bicker, maybe Aaron Solo gets beaten up and me and QT get away Scott free. At least then something happens. But I have this weird thing where I am wearing Union Jack pants, I get up on the turnbuckle and get a yay/boo thing, which is so childish. I like the Bryan Danielson and William Regals that are so in your face and smash, Jon Moxley [as well]. They get stuck in, that’s what I like about wrestling, I like blurring the lines between real and not real. I don’t like standing in my pants going ‘Boo! Yay! Boo!’ So I was embarrassed. I had never stood on the turnbuckle before with no shoes on, and those metal struts are very hard. So my poor little feet are getting dug into by these metal struts. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, but you got to do your job.”
On signing with AEW instead of WWE: “To a degree. They [WWE] never actually got to a point where they offered me money. But they did speak to my agent and they were talking numbers and the numbers were better than the AEW numbers. I was going to be the first developmental talent that they [AEW] signed. Reading between the lines, I don’t think that they were that fussed about signing somebody from scratch, because we had no real school where we trained, we had to figure it out. QT [Marshall] was going to train me but QT at the time was also Cody’s assistant, doing the behind the scenes stuff and being an on-screen talent, so he was also really busy. I think they [AEW] actually offered me a contract because they were like ‘He might not accept this because it is not the best contract. But if he does accept it, then let’s see how much he wants it.’ That was quite an attractive offer, but meeting Cody and Tony and the vision, I wanted to be a part of that. Also when I retired from boxing I felt like my life had ended. I was extremely depressed, suicidal at points.
“I have got a whole mental health talk I do where I talk about the things that I experienced at the time. I was in a bad place and boxing was my everything. So I said to myself that in this chapter of my life I have got a lot of lessons to learn, life is about learning lessons, and I can’t make the same mistakes in this next chapter as I did with boxing. I love wrestling, I’m over here away from my family, I am busting my arse every day. I mentioned earlier that wrestling is easy, it is very hard, it is not easy. But it came naturally to me because I watched it for so long and I am very athletic. Also I am a bit older and I have got no time to waste. I started at 31 and I am on it, I can’t dawdle for four years like an 18-year-old can. Lee Johnson is 24 years old, he has got all the time in the world, I haven’t. That is why I train so hard and study so much, time is against me.”
On DDP influencing Anthony Ogogo to pursue pro wrestling: “So I retired from boxing and I was friends with DDP. He is like my mentor in this game, what an unbelievable dude, I can’t put him over enough. So I was injured, I just hurt my eye, I had 9 surgeries on my eye in 3 years. It was a very difficult time. I was training so hard, making and losing weight, and I got a back injury. I thought that I needed to do something, and being a wrestling fan I listened to podcasts, and Jericho was always putting over DDPY. So I reached out to him [DDP] and he got back to me and we became best mates. I had 9 surgeries on my eye in three years, four in America. Every surgery I had in the USA I would come over early and stay over in Atlanta and we would hang out together. We would do yoga together and hang out together, and he said ‘Have you ever thought of being a wrestler.’ I said ‘Dallas I am honored.’ He said ‘You can talk, you got the look, you are athletic. I think you can do this.’ I was really humbled but I told him that boxing is my thing, he got it, he is someone who is all about work ethic and achieving your dreams.
“So I had a surgery, and one of the maddest things happened to me. I woke up from the third surgery and I knew the protocol, 5th on my eye altogether, but then my heart stopped altogether. They resuscitated me back to life, and it was scary as you can imagine. I stayed in hospital overnight to have some regular checks, and Dallas called me. He asked how did it go and I said not well, all the doctors were panicking, big thing. He said ‘Listen, when are you going to give this dream up? It’s not happening for you. I can make one phone call and make you a wrestler today.’ That was the only argument that me and Dallas ever had. I snapped at him and said ‘F—ng hell! I need everyone that everyone that I love and respect to be on my f—ing side now. I cannot have you dangling the carrot over here. I have got the blinders on.’ We had an argument and I said to him ‘Don’t mention this to me ever again.’ He said ‘I get it.’ That was March 2018 and I retired in March 2019. I Facetimed Dallas and said that I was retiring from boxing and to thank him. He said ‘I’m sorry. I know how much this meant to you.’ He took a beat, then the next thing he said was ‘So now do you want to be a wrestler?’ I said ‘F— Dallas, let me mourn my career! 18 years of unfulfilled dreams and pain and bitterness.’
“I wanted to sulk, I was still writing my retirement speech. He goes ‘When you are finished sulking then give me a call.’ So I retired the next day, and I went to WrestleMania with some friends from school for my 30th birthday, we all went to WrestleMania in New York. I met Dallas there and he said to me ‘You gotta meet Cody, I’ve been telling Cody about you.’ So I met Cody and told him my story and all of the ins and outs, glossing over how my heart stopped on the operating table and having the insane belief that I was going to fight again. Incidentally at this time, I did an interview after I retired with the BBC. I had tears in my eyes, I was boxing since I was 12. The journalist asked me what was next, purely to pop myself I said ‘I like wrestling, I might become a wrestler.’ It was purely to pop myself, I wasn’t thinking about the future at the time. So word got out, BBC and it all goes around the world, WWE offers me a try-out. I ask Dallas what to do and he says to go and do the try-out, then meet Cody. So I did the try-out and they were impressed with me, I did promo class with Road Dogg and I killed it.
“I was asked to just watch while they did a two-minute promo where you had to have a turn. I asked to have a go and I was the second to last person, everyone did the usual ‘Duh duh duh and now I am a bad guy….’ So I switched it. I came out and being really cocky and arrogant saying that wrestling is beneath me, then I said that I took a bump and realized how hard it was. Road Dogg loved it and asked me to come back next week with the scenario that I am fighting Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Title at Battleground. Madly enough, I took my leather jacket with me to Orlando, did the promo in my jacket and sunglasses and they loved it. They basically offered me a contract, and then AEW offered me a contract. Two weeks ago, I was a boxer, two weeks later the two biggest companies wanted to sign me. I met Tony Khan at a Fulham game in London and as soon as I met him and heard his vision for AEW, how charismatic and nice he was, I fell in love with his vision of AEW.”