Week in Wrestling: Kurt Angle responds to Conor McGregor
SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Kurt Angle responds to Conor McGregor
Olympic gold medalist–and legendary professional wrestler–Kurt Angle was not amused by Conor McGregor’s insults aimed at WWE’s wrestlers.
“Conor is either the most loved or the most hated fighter in UFC, and that’s a credit to him,” said Angle. “But to cross over into another career, into pro wrestling–something you don’t even know–and call WWE wrestlers “p------”? That’s offensive. Don’t talk about someone you don’t know.”
McGregor told Sports Illustrated last Friday, “For the most part, WWE guys are p------.”
Angle believes McGregor was simply working his self-hype machine before his upcoming fight with Nate Diaz at UFC 202. In reality, Angle explained, McGregor would be tested in the Octagon by WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler.
“Dolph Ziggler was a great amateur wrestler,” said Angle. “If he trained for six months, Dolph could give Conor a good run for his money.”
If the 47-year-old Angle, who once defeated Brock Lesnar in a non-sanctioned Olympic-style wrestling bout, were five years younger, he knows exactly how he would have defeated the brash-talking McGregor.
“I’d take him down, then ground and pound him until I knocked him out,” said Angle. “Conor is a polished fighter, but with my size, I would overpower him. It wouldn’t be that difficult for me.”
Angle is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his Olympic gold medal in wrestling, and he confirmed that a fantasy match-up against McGregor during his peak from 1996 would have been a wholly one-sided affair.
“Coming out of the Olympics, with the way I was training, McGregor wouldn’t have had a chance in hell,” said Angle. “I was also 230 pounds, so that’s not really fair. But pound for pound, he might be the best fighter today.
“People always throw the Nick Diaz loss at him, but Nick Diaz is a tough son of a bitch. That loss doesn’t take away from what he has accomplished. He’s a great fighter and the poster boy for UFC, and that’s exactly why I told him to get his head out of [UFC president] Dana White’s ass. Dana knows that’s his boy, and Dana has picked on wrestling in the past, so Conor is just following suit behind Dana. So Conor, it’s time to get your head out of Dana’s ass.”
Angle explained that McGregor and White do not have the proper respect for wrestling because they have never fully immersed themselves in the business.
“I’d like to challenge Conor,” said Angle. “Take five bumps with me in the ring. Just five bumps. When I did that for the first time, I took three and said, ‘F--- this, I’m quitting.’ I quit for a couple days and my manager talked me into going back. I know how Dana White and Conor continue to bash the business, but I challenge either of them to get in the ring with me and take five bumps. Once they do, they’ll realize how tough it is–and that’s not even a fraction of what it takes to be a pro wrestler.”
Angle understands why McGregor feels the need to create controversy, but believes his comments overstepped the customary boundaries.
“I know what Conor is about,” said Angle. “He says things to enhance his character, but he is being a hypocrite when it comes to pro wrestlers.”
The art of pro wrestling is rooted in protecting your opponent, which is a completely different animal from mixed martial arts.
“We do rely on safety, unlike UFC fighters,” said Angle. “The pure fact is there is nothing I’ve ever done that is tougher than pro wrestling. It doesn’t make you tough from a fighting standpoint, but it does make you tough from what you have to do every day and how you have to sacrifice. They’re both very tough to do, but they’re tough in different ways.”
Angle praised John Cena as the toughest man in all of wrestling.
“John Cena would tap in twenty seconds in the Octagon, but he is still the biggest badass to ever walk the face of the earth,” said Angle. “This kid has been on top for thirteen years. No one has ever done that. He’s now in his fourteenth year on top.
“I couldn’t do it. Hulk Hogan didn’t do that, Stone Cold had four or five years tops, and it was the same with The Rock before he went to Hollywood. From a toughness standpoint, there is nobody tougher than John Cena. I would love to see Conor McGregor try to be on top of WWE for thirteen years. He wouldn’t make it.”
Angle holds immense respect for mixed martial arts, but he also knows, first-hand, the intricate challenges of pro wrestling.
“Both sides – UFC and pro wrestling – are tough,” said Angle. “Conor has no idea about wrestling, and no concept of the travel, or wrestling every night, or even the bumping in the ring. To be a WWE wrestler, and to be on the road full-time, you have to be a badass. The fact that he thinks they’re a bunch of p------ and that he’d slap them around shows his ignorance.
“First of all, he only weighs about 140 pounds. I’m not knocking him or saying he’s not dangerous, but the fact is WWE wrestlers aren’t p------, they are badasses. This is because of how much they endure. They come out every night and wrestle. They take bumps. It’s the toughest thing I ever did, and I won a gold medal in the Olympics. I don’t see a gold medal on Conor. Obviously, he’s a UFC champion, but he doesn’t know what it takes to be a wrestler.”
Despite dealing with the constant barrage of questions asking if he will ever return to WWE, Angle remains extremely busy. His wife is pregnant with his fifth child, and he is dabbling in the acting world. Angle is also wrestling on the independent circuit this summer with Cody Rhodes.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Cody,” said Angle. “He turned my head a long time ago. I didn’t know how much depth he had until he became Stardust. I’m not saying that was the best character for him, but he showed that he was not just a wrestler who was only great in the ring. He also has a lot of depth and charisma.”
Angle sees similarities between Rhodes and AJ Styles, who Angle explained is currently the best pro wrestler in the WWE Universe as well as the entire world.
“Cody reminds me of AJ, and everyone knows how highly I think of AJ,” said Angle. “Right now, AJ is the best in the world.
“I really believe that, somewhere along the line, if Cody goes back to WWE, he’ll be a main eventer. He can do just about anything, and he’s proven that. He has the talent to be one of the very best.”
Another labor of love occupying Angle’s calendar is his soon-to-be-released #AngleStrong app.
“We’re really coming along,” said Angle. “We have a company building the #AngleStrong app to help recovering addicts who are in trouble. It’s like Uber–you hit the app on your phone and someone will come to your aid and get you somewhere safe. We’ll be working with addiction centers, and it has provided such an amazing purpose to directly help those in need.”
Count Angle among those tuning in to watch the Olympic Games every night, and the former gold medal winner watches with a particularly keen eye.
“I really enjoy watching all of it, especially the wrestling,” said Angle. “It’s really special to watch these athletes. I know how much they’ve sacrificed. People always say, ‘Savor the moment,’ but it’s hard to do that in the Olympics. You hear some of the athletes say, ‘I went to the Opening Ceremonies and didn’t think about my competition, I just savored and enjoyed the moment.’ That’s bulls---. All you’re thinking about is your competition because everybody there wants that gold medal.”
Angle fully understands the sacrifices involved in training for competitions decided by hundreds of seconds or fractions of a point, as well as the distinctive exhilaration and disappointment of the Olympic Games.
“I watch and think about what the athletes are thinking,” explained Angle. “Are they thinking about seeing it to the end or are they thinking about giving up? For me, I never gave up. I didn’t give up when I broke my neck. So I’m always thinking about the athletes, ‘Are they going to make it or are they going to break it? Will they make it or break down and lose?’ My heart went out to that French gymnast [Samir Ait Said] who broke his leg, but he got there. It’s very hard to enjoy anything about the Olympic Games when you are there competing.”
News of the Week
The bloom is off the rose for Brock Lesnar and WWE.
Lesnar will not be suspended by WWE, no matter what the ruling is by the USADA regarding doping violations revealed after his UFC 200 fight with Mark Hunt. Lesnar’s presence is far too valuable for WWE, as he is instant box office boffo whenever added to a card.
Yet that does not mean the powers-that-be are thrilled with the “Beast Incarnate.”
Randy Orton–who has violated the Wellness Policy on more than one occasion–knocked Lesnar’s “enhancement” in his return interview, and John Cena told Jonathan Coachman on ESPN that Lesnar has a “long, hard road ahead” despite the fact that no official ruling has been levied. WWE champion Dean Ambrose took a major shot at Lesnar on the Steve Austin podcast after Raw when he said he was met with “laziness” from Lesnar leading up to their match at WrestleMania 32.
Fortunately for Ambrose–and Orton, Cena, and the WWE–it is highly unlikely that Lesnar was watching.
The finish of the Orton-Lesnar affair at SummerSlam will provide a better indicator of the WWE’s future plans for Lesnar.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin delivered an extremely poignant message right before he closed out his interview with Dean Ambrose after Raw on Monday.
Austin challenged Ambrose to be edgier, push the WWE product forward, and take more chances.
No one currently takes chances in the WWE quite like in Austin’s “Attitude Era”. For Austin, clearly, that is extremely frustrating. Anyone who invested significant time watching the “Attitude Era” misses the unscripted nature and genuine passion that was invested into the product. In pro wrestling, as we have learned over the past decade, you cannot deliver that type of passion from a script.
In other news…
• While calling Brock Lesnar-Randy Orton bout the “biggest SummerSlam match in history” is hyperbole, the video package from Raw explaining the backstory of Lesnar and Orton was extremely well done. Although I still think Lesnar will be victorious, Orton casts a shadow of doubt over the outcome with his RKO.
• As effective as the vignette was for Lesnar and Orton, the Finn Bálor interview came up short. The idea–providing background info on Bálor–was correct, especially in a taped setting that allowed Bálor multiples takes to get it right, but missed its mark with hokey background music and a smoky filled room. The promo drifted from a serious interview to almost cartoonish, and would have been better served with Michael Cole moderating in a more realistic setting.
• The positive from Bálor’s interview is that WWE is hinting at making his entrance as the Demon, which is arguably the second best in the business right now behind The Undertaker. If Bálor comes out as the Demon, Bálor is the favorite to win the Universal title at SummerSlam.
• Anyone curious if the Matt and Jeff Hardy will return to WWE next March–or, for that matter, if the WWE will make a serious run at Kenny Omega (who is a free agent in January) or the Young Bucks (free agents in January) or EC3 or Drew Galloway–need only glance around the ring at The Ascension and Vaudevillains during American Alpha’s victory on Smackdown. Both Smackdown and Raw–especially at three hours–will need to keep the roster fresh as often as possible.
• On the subject of the Hardys, Chris Jericho’s “Talk is Jericho” session with “Broken” Matt Hardy–who remained in character–is worth a listen. It was interesting to hear Jericho discuss how WWE wrestlers were watching the Hardy’s “Final Deletion” match while on tour in Japan.
• Was comedy the best choice for Roman Reigns on Raw? Haven’t we already tried this? It’s amazing how incredible WWE handles Brock Lesnar–and Paul Heyman deserves a lot of credit, as Lesnar is presented as the baddest man on the planet. Reigns is a tough guy one week, a comedian the next, while remaining uncomfortable on the microphone.
• Was there any doubt as to whether Lana was going to end up in wedding cake on Raw?
• Regardless of whether we have entered into the “New Era,” we are still treated–or forced–to watch Roman Reigns close out Raw. Couldn’t Rusev have seen that spear coming from a mile away?
• Why would Eva Marie’s music play in the middle of a match between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss? The win for Bliss over Lynch was meaningless.
• Best of luck to Joey Styles, who was released earlier this week by WWE. I always felt that “ECW Exposed”–which was a behind-the-scenes look at Extreme Championship Wrestling with Joey Styles and Paul Heyman–should have been turned into a long-standing feature on the Network.
The Shoot: Josh Mathews
Josh Mathews received his first break in wrestling after finishing as a runner-up on WWE’s first Tough Enough series, which was broadcast on MTV. Although Mathews did not win the WWE contract, he was eventually hired–and enjoyed a thirteen-year run–as play-by-play announcer. Mathews now serves as the voice of TNA Impact Wrestling, and he is the only play-by-play man with a major company who also wrestled. His radio show, “The Josh Mathews Show,” is broadcast at 8am every Saturday and is found on ESPN Radio’s 102.5 The Game Nashville.
Who is Josh Mathews?
When this question comes up, I tend to get a little anxious almost uneasy in answering. Who do I want to be is easier to answer than who I am or what I have accomplished. I consider myself a forward thinker. Someone who constantly wants more and tries to accomplish it all, but I don’t think I will ever look back and feel completely satisfied.
I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a professional athlete. However, I didn’t like baseball, wasn’t very good at basketball and even though I loved football, I didn’t care much for practice. I stopped playing football my junior year of high school and found my love of professional wrestling.
The industry was booming, WWE was hitting the Attitude Era and Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were becoming household names. The problem I had with all this at 17 years old was that wrestling was mine. Wrestling was something special to me and kids at school were not supposed to be wearing a 3:16 T-shirt or doing the DX “Crotch-Chop” to each other while the nWo “too sweet” high five was flooding my high school hallways. It drove me nuts. Little did I know how good this was for the actual wrestling industry at the time.
Then I found this little wrestling promotion in Philadelphia called ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling and I fell in love. I ordered Barely Legal on pay per view and I found my favorite characters and my show. The world could have WWE and WCW, I had ECW and my dream of being a wrestler was cemented.
In the age before high-speed internet, we had phone books and dial-up, but somehow my brother, Rudy, found a guy in Atlanta, GA that was willing to drive a wrestling ring up to our home in Indiana and sell us a ring for $2,000. We didn’t have $2,000 or anything close to that amount of money, but we told the guy we did and to start the drive. I have no idea how we came up with the cash, I think we were a little short, but we had our ring. We were going to be wrestlers.
Each and every day I would go into that ring, which had a heavy black canvas and black ropes and it was outside in the summer. It got hot! I would spray it down with cold water from the hose and it would dry quickly, but it stayed cool long enough to practice swanton bombs and frog splashes and springboards and tape wrestling matches with full entrances and music. We even had a show on public access TV each week. A show that I would edit together with two VCR’s and a 4 channel audio mixer in the basement and it was rotten.
It had a signature open that featured the song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by the Verve. A song that when I hear to this day, I think about that open and that time in my life that I loved so dearly. Our parents’ home became a giant dressing room, the basement was my post-production facility and the neighborhood was my set for pre-tapes and stories. It was glorious.
It was also all I wanted to be, I would tell my parents, teachers or advisors that I was going to be a wrestler for a living. I would get laughed at and told that was a crazy dream. It was a dream that I pursued even when I started college. One night I was watching Monday Night Raw while working on a freshman homework assignment when Jim Ross, the longtime voice of WWE, said, “are you tough enough to be a WWE Superstar? MTV and WWE are teaming up and starting a reality wrestling show called Tough Enough!” Then there was some information and I immediately went to work. My audition tape was in the mail the next day bound for New York City.
When the phone rang two weeks later, I had been picked, along with 2,500 other people to come to New York and audition for the show in front of WWE. It was a dream come true. I got on my first airplane and left Chicago for New York and from 5,000 audition tapes that WWE and MTV received to 2,500 that were invited to New York to twenty-five to the final thirteen that were selected to live in the Tough Enough house and train to be a wrestler was all I ever wanted. I didn’t want to be famous, I just wanted to be a great wrestler and being trained by WWE was going to allow that to happen.
The experience of that first season of Tough Enough was amazing. There was no blueprint for what to expect. I didn’t expect to see various WWE Superstars walk through our training door, didn’t think we would vacation in the Bahamas, didn’t expect to be flown to a pay per view event and sit in the front row, and certainly didn’t expect to sit down and tell Vince McMahon why I should work for his company. It was unprecedented and it changed the direction of my life.
When Tough Enough ended and I didn’t win, I went back to Indiana, re-enrolled in college and started taking independent wrestling bookings. Now, I took the wrestling journey completely backwards. No one starts at the top. No one starts in WWE, but I did. I went from being followed by cameras all day, training in a beautiful and well taken care of wrestling ring, working out at Titan Towers in a state of the art gym to seeing how hard it is to make it as a professional wrestler.
Now I am traveling alone, renting cheap cars, wrestling in front of twenty people, dealing with promoters who were trying to undercut promised money or saying they didn’t have what I was told I would make and I didn’t like it. I signed a contract with an upstart company called XWF and that company sounded legit with real people behind it. We did TV tapings at Universal Studios Orlando, Florida and I was considered one of their “top” wrestlers and put in a great spot. However, soon after signing a deal the money stopped coming in and they weren’t answering the phone. The company folded not long after launching.
At this point, I was starting to get a bit jaded to the wrestling world and it was also around the time WWE and MTV were flying me back to New York for the Tough Enough Season 1 and Tough Enough Season 2 Reunion show. At twenty-two, I was back in New York City and staying in Times Square and given money by MTV to have fun in what had become my favorite city. It was this weekend that I was approached about becoming an announcer for WWE. Something I jumped at the opportunity to try and three weeks later I was back in the northeast auditioning for a role as a color analyst.
In the audition, I did far better in the play-by-play role than I did as color analyst. Everyone in the room changed their minds and I was now a play-by-play announcer and that is what I was hired to do. I moved to Connecticut and started learning and watching and for six months I didn’t leave CT, I didn’t leave the TV studio. I did everything I could to get better.
Once I got on the road, I don’t think I spoke a word for a year. I drove the car for the other announcers, I got coffee and I learned. I was paying my dues.
I spent thirteen years in WWE and every day I learned something new. I called WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta, GA in front of over 80,000 people and millions watching all over the world on pay per view. I traveled all over the world and have seen amazing things in my life. It is because of what I learned in WWE that allowed coming to Impact Wrestling such an easy transition. Not only as an announcer, but someone who knows this business. Someone who learned all aspects of what we do. I learned from being around it for so long and throwing my entire life into this world.
Impact Wrestling is a great home for me. Not only do I get to call our show every Thursday night on Pop TV at 8pm Eastern/7PM Central and our pay per view events, I also get to work in the office and be a part of everything we do. Again, I get to learn a different side of this business.
I also get to live in Nashville, Tennessee, a city that I have grown to love, a city I affectionately refer to as “America’s Sweetheart.” It is a great city to live and a great city to work in. I also get to host “The Josh Mathews Show” on ESPN Radio 102.5 The Game Nashville. It’s a one-hour Saturday morning show live at 8am Central time that I also broadcast on Facebook Live and Periscope–a completely new venture for me that is challenging, fun, and different, and something I love doing every single week.
So who is Josh Mathews? At 35 years old, I am still trying to figure it out. I want to do it all, I want to host TV shows, radio shows, produce amazing content and build a brand. Macklemore said it best, “don’t try to change the world. Do what you love, do it for the rest of your life, and eventually the world will change.”
I am doing what I love every day. I will continue to tell people that Impact Wrestling is a great show and a tremendous product. I will talk about it on my radio show and I will build my brand. When I was approached about writing this story, it was pointed out to me that I am the only play-by-play announcer in wrestling that has a wrestling past. That is pretty cool to think about and something I have never thought of before. In thinking about it, I guess that is why I care so much about our amazing wrestlers. I know what they have been through and I know what they are trying to accomplish. We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. We all want to scream from the mountaintops about how hard we work, how morale is not terrible, and how we are out to prove a lot of people wrong.
So I think it is OK that I can’t define who Josh Mathews is right now, because I am still looking forward and still carving my place in this world.
Josh Mathews is the voice of TNA’s Impact Zone every Thursday on Pop TV at 8pm ET.
Weekly Top 10
1.) Dean Ambrose, WWE
The WWE champion was engaging on the Austin podcast, then tagged with Dolph Ziggler for the victory on Smackdown.
2.) Randy Orton, WWE
Orton looks completely refreshed, which makes you wonder if more talent should have a break to recharge and recover from nagging injuries.
3.) Hiroshi Tanahashi, New Japan Pro Wrestling
Tanahashi is the odds on favorite to capture Block A of the G1 Climax and fight…
4.) Tetsuya Naito, New Japan Pro Wrestling
… in the final of the G1 Climax this Sunday in Tokyo.
5.) Kenny Omega, New Japan Pro Wrestling
Omega appears to be the odd man out in the G1, and while he wrestles grueling match after grueling match in this incredible tournament, he would be surprised to know that the majority of WWE stars–like John Cena, AJ Styles and Seth Rollins–had the week off from wrestling at Raw or Smackdown.
6.) Dolph Ziggler, WWE
Ziggler scored the win on Smackdown, but is a major underdog heading into his title match with Ambrose at SummerSlam.
7.) Bray Wyatt, WWE
Wyatt was gold on the mic throughout Smackdown, cutting a solid promo to open Smackdown, explaining the show is his, and motivating Erick Rowan before their tag team match against Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler.
8.) Cesaro, WWE
Cesaro wrestled twice on Monday, but came up short in his quest to win the United States championship from Rusev in the main event of Raw.
9.) Jay Lethal, Ring of Honor
The Ring of Honor world champion defends his title in Tokyo this Sunday against the dangerous Satoshi Kojima.
10.) Adam Cole, Ring of Honor
The Bullet Club’s Cole has his finger on the trigger of a second run with the ROH world title with his upcoming match against champion Jay Lethal at the Death Before Dishonor pay per view on Friday, August 19.
Five Questions with… Guerrillas of Destiny
Real life brothers Tanga Roa–formerly known as Camacho in WWE–and Tama Tonga reunited to form Guerrillas of Destiny in New Japan. The former IWGP tag champs are aligned with the Bullet Club, and both are sons of WWE legend Haku. Tonga is a veteran of the United States Air Force, while Roa played college football as a defensive end at the University of Texas at El Paso. Guerrillas of Destiny made their Ring of Honor debut in May, and return to wrestle in a six-man tag at ROH’s Death Before Dishonor with Yujiro Takahashi against Roppongi Vice and Toru Yano on Friday, August 19 in Las Vegas.
SI.com: Does your bond as brothers help bring your work as a tag team to another level?
Tanga Roa: We worked together right when we first started, but then I was picked up by WWE. Then we got back together at the New Japan dojo this past year. I worked in the dojo for three weeks, and that helped me get to work his style, because Japanese style and American style are totally different.
Working in WWE and NXT with guys like Big E and Seth Rollins was an amazing experience, but the WWE style is completely different from the Japanese wrestlers. Spending my time at the dojo allowed me to feel comfortable and look comfortable when I worked with Tama.
Tama Tonga: We split ways when he went to WWE. He came up the American style through WWE, and I came up on the Japanese side. And now we’re back together.
Originally, the Dudley’s helped train us. We started with our dad for a few months, then we went to the Dudley’s school for about ten months. After that, Tanga went to WWE and I came up through indies and Puerto Rico, then I came to Japan. We grew up together, playing sports, and we know how each other works. But what’s crazy is we were separated from each other in wrestling for these past six years, so we’ve almost needed to re-learn how to work with each other.
SI.com: Haku had a tremendous run in the World Wrestling Federation and later on in WCW. Is there more pressure on you to succeed when your father is such a well-respected name in the history of the business?
Tama Tonga: When you have a father who is a pro wrestler, your goal is not to suck! Don’t fail the family.
The way he carried himself made it look real. He looked like he could kill you. His style was unique. Everything he did to you look liked it hurt. I try to take his viciousness and the energy he put out. To this day, he still teaches us. He still critiques our matches. He wants us to maximize everything–whether we’re selling or giving. There is no slack, and he’s always trying to instill that in our work ethic, which I think he does.
Tanga Roa: I remember the match with my dad and Andre the Giant against Demolition at WrestleMania VI. We sat really high, away from everybody, and got to watch the match. They lost, but I remember they rolled out in those little rings during their entrance. Andre filled up the entire ring–I don’t know how my dad and Bobby [Heenan] even got in there. We were so young then that we couldn’t really appreciate it like we do now.
When your father is a professional wrestler, we don’t want to fill his shoes, but we want to represent him and the rest of our family to the best of our ability. We may look like him, and we emulate some of his moves and movements, but the drive we had–especially among the two of us as brothers–always drove us.
SI.com: Has it been difficult for Tanga Roa to transition from the WWE style of wrestling to New Japan Pro Wrestling?
Tama Tonga: People think your career is done when you’re done with WWE, but your career is done when you decide it’s done. WWE is just another company. I know people look at it as the NFL of pro wrestling, but my goal was always to become a great wrestler. I just wanted a platform to show my skill. My brother being let go was my chance to grab him to come with me. This is all a blessing, and now we can show people what we’ve got.
Tanga Roa: I am bigger than most of the talents in Japan, but in WWE, I’m the same size as the other wrestlers, so I didn’t look as big and I didn’t work ‘big.’ Now I need to work like a giant, and that’s the only transition I’ve had to adapt to in Japan. They want me to move like a giant in Japan, while I could move a lot faster in WWE.
I’m proudest to be working with my brother. That was our goal from the very beginning in the summer of 2004. I was still in college playing ball, and he was in the Air Force, and I call him in the middle of the night and told him we were going to become professional wrestlers. And he said, ‘You promise?’ and I said yes. We’re here together, working for a great company in New Japan and we have this opportunity to work alongside Ring of Honor, and that’s what I’m proud of. I have nothing to prove to WWE. I appreciated the time I had over there and I learned from it. I learned from it, make your weaknesses your strengths, and our goal is to keep kicking ass.
I take great pride when I step in the ring with him knowing where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what we are now trying to accomplish.
SI.com: G.O.D. has such a frightening, menacing look with your face paint. Where did you have the idea to start wearing face paint?
Tama Tonga: I got it from Luke Gallows. We were on a house show in Japan, and he was the only one painting his face. One night he said, ‘Will somebody paint with me?’ And I felt bad so I did it. As soon as I walked out of the bathroom, our booker, Gedo, jumped. Right then, I knew I had something. It brought a different style out of me. I can be a little shy, but the paint almost served as a shield, and I let go and became myself.
SI.com: There is so much comedy in WWE’s tag team wrestling, while the G.O.D. style is far more realistic. What are your future goals for the style and impact of Guerrillas of Destiny?
Tama Tonga: It’s our presence. People can feel us the second we walk through the curtain. It’s our face paint, our clothes, our charisma, our work with speed and power. You just know who we are, and you won’t forget us. Even when we sell–we’ll bump and sell. We’re going to be the best damn wrestlers–not in terms of winning, but as artists.
Tanga Roa: Even as we’re lacing up and putting our clothes on, our state of mind is to be f------ badasses and put on a hell of a show. We’re there to kick ass. I want us to be the best tag team of our era. We need to prove that night in and night out, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in New Japan, ROH, or any other wrestling company. I want our name up there with the rest of the tag team greats before us.
Tweet of the Week
From your lips to NBC’s ears…
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.