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  • This edition of our weekly wrestling column includes Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada’s first comments after Wrestle Kingdom, Disco Inferno explaining the dangers of modern wrestling, an interview with TNA’s Eddie Edwards and much more.
By Justin Barrasso
January 04, 2017

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling. This edition includes New Japan’s Kenny Omega discussing his historic Wrestle Kingdom 11 match, as well as post-match reaction from Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tetsuya Naito; The Shoot from Disco Inferno; the Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff; and Five Questions with TNA world champion Eddie Edwards.

Kenny Omega Fails in Bid to win IWGP Title

Change is coming. But don’t hold your breath just yet.

Kazuchika Okada defeated Kenny Omega in a 46-minute classic—which is currently available on New Japan World and will also be aired in its entirety on AXS TV on Friday, Janaury 13—and saw Omega risk life and limb to tell an electrifying story in the ring. Ultimately, however, Omega could not overcome Okada, the uber-talented 29-year-old four-time IWGP champ, just like he could not change the booking philosophy in New Japan.

Omega’s date with destiny is far more than a one-night stand, and he will eventually claim the IWGP championship in 2017, but New Japan is an old-school wrestling company that relies on homegrown talent to headline and win the main event at Wrestle Kingdom, which is their version of WrestleMania. Regardless of Omega’s undeniable talent, the window was never open to win the title last night in Tokyo. Even AJ Styles, who is a two-time holder of the IWGP heavyweight championship, captured (and lost) the title either well-before Wrestle Kingdom or, in one case, immediately following. New Japan very rarely highlights foreign talent in the Wrestle Kingdom main event, so Omega’s appearance alone was noteworthy. With a victory, he would have become the first non-Asian to win the main event of the heralded January 4th Tokyo Dome showcase since Brock Lesnar in 2006.

Omega competed in the junior heavyweight title match in the past two Wrestle Kingdoms, and jumping to the heavyweight division in 2016 is an incredible accomplishment in its own right.

Extra Mustard
Watch: Highlights from Kenny Omega-Kazuchika Okada Wrestle Kingdom 11 match

“I have dealt with a lot of negativity over the past year,” revealed Omega in a Sports Illustrated exclusive. “There are people who would love to see me fail. I’m the guy who supposedly turned down WWE offers and is nothing more than a second-rate, cheap imitation AJ Styles, yet I’m doing things in a matter of a year that nobody did—not AJ, Finn Bálor, or any foreigner or any Japanese guy—and I’ve shut those people up yet also showed something special to the people who have supported me all this time.

“If I ever stepped away from wrestling, I’d have a nice pretty little package with a bow on top if I won the most prestigious title. The IWGP title makes me a legend. I’ve committed half my life to this, and it’s worth all the sacrifice. Not only was it worth it, but it was worth it and then some.”

Omega was devastated to have fell short of attaining the gold, but left fans in awe of his performance. His smooth style and daring style took on an entirely new life when he cleared the ringside barrier off a moonsault into the stands, and he took vicious bump after vicious bump, culminating in a back-body drop out of the ring onto a wooden table that was a far cry from a pop. Omega risked his well-being for a shot at the IWGP championship.

“This IWGP title means more with me than any WWE championship,” said Omega. “The WWE belt means nothing, it means absolutely nothing. They pass around that belt like a hot potato. I probably have a neighbor on my block who held that belt at one point. There is no prestige to that belt whatsoever.”

Okada admitted that Omega presented a challenge unlike he had ever before encountered.

“I haven’t wrestled as dangerous a guy as Kenny, so I needed to show my other face,” said Okada. “I still suffered from pain in my neck from his One-Winged Angel maneuver to me on the table in December, so I wanted to try dangerous moves like Kenny.”

Okada avoided Omega’s One-Winged Angel finisher, which sets up a brilliant storyline that can ultimately crown Omega champion later this year. Yet the dawning of a new day in New Japan is currently on-hold.

“It’s hard, in the moment, to know what this all means,” explained Omega. “I’ve never scripted a promo and I always talk from the heart. Like the G-1, this was a battle of heart and fortitude. I had friends and family fly in from America, Canada, and the U.K. to see me in the main event, and it’s very emotional.”

Omega has proclaimed that a victory would have led New Japan into international territory, where Okada is merely the popular face of Japan. Okada dismissed that notion.

“I should hold the IWGP title always,” said Okada. “I will fight in many cities and many countries and earn my title on the next stage. I’m the best, not Omega. I love New Japan more than Omega, and I will continue to prove that.”

Omega and Okada brought a showing, feel, and aura to the main event, which was an outstanding card that featured victories from Cody Rhodes, Adam Cole, who won the Ring of Honor world title for a record third time, and Kota Ibushi, who worked as Tiger Mask W.

“I’m a foreigner and someone who was a junior a year ago, and there are still a lot of people who don’t believe I deserve to be in this spot,” said Omega. “I want to say something in Japanese, but the first order of business is to assure the people that things are going to change. The company is not going to stroll along. I’ll be on the political end lobbying for the company to have more shows in America and the U.K. I was never supposed to be G-1 winner or a heavyweight or in a ladder match, but the company trusted me. For them to trust me to this point, I want to be the guy to take the company further than it has ever gone. New Japan Pro Wrestling has a time-honored tradition as the King of Strong Style for the past fifty years, but now I want to make it more than that. The smart money for 2017 is still on me. I’m going to move this company forward.”

With or without the IWGP championship, Omega vowed to give wrestling fans a viable option to the WWE.

“I want to take New Japan into a new world of wrestling so there is at least one other option to the monopolized world that WWE has created.”

News of the Week

Wrestle Kingdom 11 also included high stakes with New Japan’s Intercontinental championship, which saw Hiroshi Tanahashi fall to Tetsuya Naito.

Naito enjoyed incredible success in 2016. New Japan originally planned out a babyface-run for Naito, but similar to Roman Reigns in WWE, the fans rejected the idea. Naito has flourished as a heel, particularly with his gimmick of dropping his title belt and forcing someone else to pick it up, which is his definition of the belt “chasing” him. Naito’s character is similar to the “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” mantra of Eddie Guerrero, and has been so well received that Naito led New Japan in merchandise sales during 2016.

Tanahashi is the “Ace of New Japan” and a living legend in Japanese wrestling. The 40-year-old, who grew up admiring the work of the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, is a seven-time IWGP world champion and was in unfamiliar territory not closing out Wrestle Kingdom during the main event.

Naito’s victory over Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom muddies the playing field for Omega in the main event picture. Naito, Cody Rhodes, and Omega are all vying to be the company’s top heel, and it is worth watching to see how the story moves forward.

In other news…

• Finn Bálor is my pick to win the Royal Rumble. Bálor is also the master of the swerve on social media, so it doesn’t surprise me that he tweeted his New Year’s resolution is to regain the Universal championship in 2017—while I believe he will actually be matched up at WrestleMania 33 against WWE champion AJ Styles.

• The WrestleMania 33 card is beginning to take shape, albeit with a few key exceptions. If John Cena battles The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar has his rematch with Bill Goldberg, Seth Rollins finally gets his hands on Triple H, then that begs the question: what is the fate of Roman Reigns? A triple threat with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho? And will Randy Orton still be with the Wyatt Family by ‘Mania? There are still more questions than answers when it comes to the “Granddaddy of Them All.”

• Bill Goldberg’s appearance on Raw was bittersweet. It was exciting to see the former WCW champion share the ring with Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, but the segment finished all over the place with run-ins from Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. Will this led to a Goldberg/Reigns tag team match against Jericho and Owens at the February PPV?

• AJ Styles boldly called out John Cena on Smackdown for his subpar acting skills, part-time status, and for calling out The Rock’s decision to leave for Hollywood while Cena jumped at the exact same route at his first opportunity. Cena cut a passionate, if at times misdirected, promo right back at Styles, and both Cena and Styles are helping build a must-see match at the Royal Rumble. I still think the WWE is building a swerve – making people believe that Cena will win the championship, yet Styles will be booked to defeat Cena for a fourth time at the Rumble.

• Xavier Woods may no longer be WWE tag team champion, but he will have a voiceover role in the PS4 cyberpunk game 2064: Read Only Memories, which is available on January 17. 

Woods, who created his own UpUpDownDown gaming site, chose 2064: Read Only Memories as his first videogame voiceover role: “I’m really excited to be a part of a game that’s super nerdy, but also touches on deeper level issues that matter more than ever right now,” said Woods, who plays Vincent in the game. “When I learned what the game was about on a deeper level, I couldn’t wait to be part of it.”

• Did you know WWE’s Jack Gallagher is actually undefeated (2-0) in mixed martial arts competition? The “Extraordinary Gentleman”—better known at that point as Jack Claffey—captured his first victory with a guillotine choke in December of 2015. He won again via submission, in a spot sure to make Chris Jericho smile, with an armbar in April of 2016. Both fights took place in the United Kingdom.

• WWE is reportedly set to announce their return to New Orleans for WrestleMania 34, which will forever be the home of Daniel Bryan’s coronation atop the wrestling world. Bryan’s accomplishments are hard to put into context—he is a success story almost unlike any other in pro wrestling—and he connected with nearly every major figure during his run in the indies, which included this unforgettable moment with Kenny Omega.

Go ahead and mark Bray Wyatt’s appearance on Good Morning, Washington as one of my favorite wrestling moments of 2016. The “Eater of Worlds” dressed to impress in all denim and showcased his personality and backstory while also remaining in character, which is a constant problem for talent on WWE Network shows like Talking Smack and Raw Talk. WWE’s refusal to fully commit to Wyatt’s cult character is one of the greatest misses in company history.

• Lucha Underground’s Johnny Mundo appears in the newest Slim Jim commercials. I would have loved a nod to Randy Savage in the commercial, though I did enjoy the clip. It’s incredible how perfectly it ties together with this week’s The Shoot from Disco Inferno.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_d-HgFiagw]

• Coming attractions: The Week in Wrestling will feature a “Five Questions with…” Curt Hawkins next Wednesday on SI.com.

The Shoot: Disco Inferno

Courtesy of Disco Inferno

Disco Inferno is a former two-time WCW Television champion, as well as a one-time Cruiserweight champ. Disco was played by the creatively gifted Glenn Gilbertti, who Chris Jericho credits with the idea of “The List.” He now appears weekly on Keepin it 100 with Konnan and Vince Russo’s The Brand.

Gilbertti’s Disco Inferno character sparked interest in WCW in the late 1990s, which was the hottest era in the history of professional wrestling. Despite working alongside some of the most legendary names in the business, Gilbertti was able to remain a fixture of WCW programming as Disco Inferno, and he now shares the secret to his success—as well as foreshadowing potential dangers in wrestling.

A Reintroduction to Wrestling

Back in 2007 I used to write articles for WrestleZone. The first topic I covered was how the internet was hurting the business. Almost ten years later, it’s still a pretty entertaining read considering how many of the points are still valid. In summation:

• I coined the term “IWF”, which I started referring to the readers as “Internet Wrestling Fans”. That morphed into the term IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) which is commonly used today.

• I questioned the star rating system and its overall effect on the way the boys were working.

• I discussed focus groups that I attended and shared their perception of the televised product at the time.

• I gave my thoughts on how the smaller guys weren’t selling enough, especially considering the damage they were doing to themselves.

My philosophy on wrestling is pretty much outside the box from the way people look at it these days. There is this thing called the “wrestling bubble”, where you are so immersed in watching professional wrestling that you lose sight of some of the things it is trying to accomplish. Lately it seems like the WWE, with all of their programming and network content, are trying to trap their fans inside of it.

The inherent problem with this is that the object of televised wrestling is to increase your fan base. In order to do that, you have to get people who are not already watching. Wrestling today seems to be just feeding more to the people that already do.

The wrestling I grew up on was watching guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes cutting great promos on each other to set up a fight. Pro wrestling has drifted so far away from that basic concept that I am not sure how we will ever get it back.

Today, the emphasis in wrestling is on match quality. How good is the match? Everyone wants to go out and have the best match on the card. Great matches today are evaluated by the level of athleticism that is included. The more successfully executed risk, the better the match is perceived to be. It provides excitement, but it also presents a problem.

Guys are getting hurt. And it’s only going to get worse if they continue down this path. This is not rocket science. High risk means high risk of injury. It’s basically simple math. The more difficult and dangerous the moves are, multiplied over a prolonged period of time, there then becomes a far greater chance of an error and somebody getting hurt very badly. I hate to say it, and I hope I never see it, but we are eventually going to see someone get paralyzed on TV someday if we don’t start putting the brakes on what these guys are doing.

Chris Jericho and I had a fun discussion on his Talk is Jericho podcast.  One of the things I brought up on the show, and it’s also a topic I enjoy talking about, is what actually gets you over with fans. The legends in this business and the wrestlers that leave an imprint on your life all share a common quality.

Fans need to be able to imitate you.

When you’re a kid and you and your friends want to pull the mattresses out and set up a ring in your backyard and have a match, and one of you wants to be Hulk Hogan and the other wants to be Ric Flair, there are specific things to those characters that you can imitate. Whether it’s the “Whoooooo!”, the cupping of the ear, or Hulking up, you can pretend to be one or the other. There are so many legends in this business that have certain mannerisms and catch phrases that can be repeated.

Let’s face it. If you are a professional wrestling fan, then at some point in your life you have wrestled around with your buddies or at the very least cut a Ric Flair promo to the man in the mirror. You’re usually imitating someone.

But who is there to imitate these days? Wrestlers today are more concerned with styling the moves in their matches like performance artists to hopefully get five stars than they are in doing the things that a casual fan can imitate that are synonymous with their characters.

Raven actually gave me the idea for the Disco Inferno gimmick. He had a tape of a pro wrestler from Canada that was doing a Johnny Fever gimmick. Come out to disco music with a white jacket on. That was about it. So we took that concept and came up with The Disco Inferno.

I patterned the concept of the character like The Honky Tonk Man. Honky had the flamboyant style and southern accent which you could imitate, and he had a couple of specific dance moves he would do during his entrance and during the match. Basically, I just copied the idea and came up with a couple of specific dance moves to do.

It wasn’t that difficult of a process. I was a serviceable worker and I had something that the fans could imitate. I parlayed that into being a regular performer during the period of wrestling when it was at its most popular. If anyone wants to imitate me, it shouldn’t be that hard to do. Dance around like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sCl6NZLNNI​]

I knew when I wrestled I probably wasn’t going to have the best match. Guys like Booker T, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and the great Eddie Guerrero were all wrestling on the same show. But I felt that even though I wasn’t going to have the best match, I could still go out and get the best pop. If I was a heel, like I usually was, I would try to get a very loud “Disco sucks!” chant. 

I was going to use my skills as an entertainer to get a reaction from the crowd. You can do that when you have characteristics which define your character that make the fans like or hate you. For me it was dancing like a disco jackass after I had beaten my opponent down after cheating. The fans would boo, and then start chanting “Disco sucks!” Easiest part about that was that none of it hurt to do.

Today, to get a reaction from the crowd, wrestlers feel they have to coordinate a high-risk stunt that involves a big bump of some sort that results in a “This is awesome!” chant from the crowd. The easiest part of that is… nothing. The hardest part of that is that you might get hurt for real. There’s nothing awesome about that.

“This is awesome!” is not an emotional investment into the match. The fans are usually cheering for both guys. The proper response you want from a crowd is for them to boo the bad guy and cheer the good guy. It is much easier to do this if you emphasize showmanship and character than trying to perform a scripted acrobatic stunt.

I honestly think casual fans would come back to wrestling if they could identify more with the characters and have things they do that they could imitate. The only things fans can imitate today are the moves, and a lot of them are not safe to try at home.

Safety should be one of the primary concerns going forward in the professional wrestling industry. There is an historical catalog written over the years with regards to the moves and how much they are supposed to hurt. As wrestling has so-called “evolved”,  the boys (and girls) have not been adhering to the rules of that catalog, and have been kicking out of what are supposed to be painfully devastating moves as they navigate their way through matches like a simple math equation. BIG MOVE… KICKOUT… REVERSE... BIG MOVE ... KICKOUT…  REVERSE… ETC…

When the move looks like it hurts a lot, we should sell it like it hurts... a lot. Making it just another move in the match that supplies us with a false finish, when done so often, puts too much stress on the body over a given period of time. We know where the bones in the neck are, and we know the shoulder is not supposed to undergo direct stress from a fall. Wrestlers need to start using some common sense, or else they are going to be wearing neck braces for months while they recover from surgeries.

And when did the forearm to the head become so prevalent??  Wrestlers used to fight with their fists. Fans bought it. Two guys don’t like each other and want to beat each other up.  A good working punch doesn’t have a significant risk of concussion, unlike a forearm to the head. Especially when done incorrectly, or even correctly for that matter. “Well, the rules say forearms are legal and closed fists aren’t!”  Please stop using that argument. Wrestling is a work, which means it is simulated fighting that is NOT supposed to hurt. Change the rulebook. Oh, wait. THERE REALLY ISN’T AN OFFICIAL RULEBOOK??  I thought this was real! SMH.

And can we stop doing that silly dive through the second and third rope in EVERY MATCH?  One person is going to catch their foot on the second rope and dive face first into the mat and break their neck. The fact that nobody that gets dived on ever moves out of the way makes everyone think, “Why doesn’t anyone ever move out of the way?”  

So in conclusion, wrestling should be safer. Start emphasizing the oral skills and help define your character, as opposed to thinking of the next big devastating move or scripted acrobatic spot. That will help you to a longer career and a healthier life. Cena, Miz, and Y2J have the blueprint. Everyone should follow it.

~ Glenn Gilbertti

The Nitro Files: The WCW Hotline

Courtesy of WWE

The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff, who was the president of WCW during the company’s most successful years, hosts his weekly Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast, as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”

A piece of wrestling that will forever belong to the 1980’s and “Monday Night Wars” eras are the 1-900-hotlines.

For only $1.99-ish per minute—with, of course, your parents’ permission—wrestling fans could call the WWF or WCW hotline to hear the extra scoop that is now found instantaneously on the internet.

The WCW Hotline gained considerable steam when “Mean” Gene Okerlund left the World Wrestling Federation to join Eric Bischoff’s WCW in 1993.

“Timing is everything, and Gene Okerlund coming to WCW in ‘93 was a big deal at the time,” said Bischoff. “Gene had been a prominent character in WWE, and he had been a prominent character in the AWA prior to that. Gene was a radio guy, he was a salesman. He knew how to motivate, inspire, and sell, which is why he did as well as he did. At the same time that Gene came to WCW, the 900-lines were hot. It was the nexus of two great opportunities, and Gene was inspired, motivated, and incentivized, and he took it as far as it could go.”

Bischoff revealed that the WCW Hotline continually turned a profit, as well as the information that Okerlund actually received a percentage of the Hotline revenue.

“One of the things Gene wanted in his agreement was the ability to participate in the revenue from the 900-line,” said Bischoff. “That was all Gene, and he is an entrepreneur. This is the guy who started his own burger joint called ‘Mean Gene Burgers’, he’s one of my favorite people, and Gene was an entrepreneur.

“I didn’t want to micro-manage it, and Gene had a lot of control over that. Occasionally, it created some controversy with me because Gene took it to the line and probably stepped over the line on more than one occasion. But he did it out of his drive to be an entrepreneur and his drive to be successful, and his drive to push the envelope—which, as frustrating as that was from time to time, I had respect for.”

Exclusive Lucha Underground clip

Lucha Underground, which is available on iTunes, continues its third season tonight at 8pm on El Rey Network.

Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson

Courtesy of Conrad Thompson

Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard return to the MLW airwaves this Friday at noon for a “Million Dollar Man” edition of the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast.

“I want to talk about the Million Dollar Belt in great detail,” said Thompson. “There was a lot, as we say on the show, rumor and innuendo regarding the belt. We’ll have a lot of fun talking about the vignettes, how one of the kids in the vignettes was Rob Van Dam, and how the ‘Million Dollar Man’ character was Vince McMahon’s own character if he could have put on the tights and jumped in the ring.”

Thompson and Prichard put together an outstanding “Love to Know” rapid-fire question show this past week, which is a format that will return in the future.

“That was my favorite episode,” said Thompson. “This was fun with the rapid fire questions and I wish we could have gone longer. We have enough to circle back to later, like the Papa Shango ooze, Vince McMahon limo incident, and Bruce ordering lunch as different characters, which was laugh-out-loud funny.”

Five Questions with… Eddie Edwards

Courtesy of Eddie Edwards

As Impact Wrestling returns with a brand new broadcast this Thursday on POP TV, Eddie Edwards will take center stage as the TNA world champion.

Edwards connected with Sports Illustrated for an in-person interview last week at Fenway Park in Boston, only miles away from his childhood home, to discuss his run as champion, new TNA ownership, his friendship with Kevin Owens, and more.

SI.com: You defended the world title against Bobby Lashley during TNA’s “Total Nonstop Deletion” at the Hardy compound. How would you describe the experience? And who actually won the match?

Edwards: When I was training at Killer Kowalski’s professional wrestling school, I never thought I would be wrestling a match on top of a volcano built by Jeff Hardy. It would have taken a while to turn Killer into a fan of Total Nonstop Deletion, but eventually we would have. The experience was other-worldly. That’s the best way I can describe it. Being at the Dome of Deletion in Cameron, North Carolina was basically like being in another world. Jeff was building volcanos and there was a giant Matt Hardy face on the entranceway. I fought Lashley all over the place, and technically it was a no contest, but it’s possible that we may still be fighting. Bobby Lashley may be waiting to spear me into my Christmas tree right now.

SI.com: In addition to your current reign as TNA world champion, you were also Ring of Honor world champion in 2011. How do you compare winning the TNA championship over Bobby Lashley to winning the ROH title over Roderick Strong?

Edwards: Winning the title against Bobby was the top moment of this past year for me. At the start of the year, I never thought I would be in that position. The way the cards fell, I found myself in the world title picture. It was unexpected, and the unexpected surprises are always the nicest. It was definitely a proud moment, and it was cool to hear from so many other guys.

Defeating Roderick Strong for the Ring of Honor title was the moment that elevated me into the main event and the world title picture. A lot of people only saw me as a tag wrestler, and a lot of people thought my Wolves tag partner, Davey Richards, would be the first one of us to win the world title, so it was another surprise, feel-good moment. It’s actually very similar to winning the TNA title. A lot of people were shocked, and I remember feeling the building shaking after the three-count. It took a moment for it to hit, and the place just erupted. That moment with ROH really helped elevate me in the world of professional wrestling, and the win over Bobby was another step up.

I can’t say which one was better, but winning the world title in TNA is a big step forward. I always like to set goals for myself, and first it was get a job with Ring of Honor. Then I wanted to win the tag titles, win the TV title, and eventually win that world championship. It’s been the same thing in TNA—get a job there, win the tag titles with Davey, win the X Division, and then win the world heavyweight title. It’s a great feeling to accomplish those goals.

SI.com: Kevin Owens told me this past summer that you are the most talented wrestler not signed by WWE. Do you believe Owens is the best wrestler in WWE? And do you compare yourself to other world champions?

Edwards: Kevin Owens is such a good dude. I know his persona doesn’t always come off that way on television, but he’s a real good guy. He was one of the people who reached out when I broke my heel, and he texted me when I won the world title. He’s such a good dude who always has his friends’ and family’s best interests in his heart.

Owens is incredible, but look at a guy like John Cena who has been doing this for so long and is still killing the game, and there is also AJ Styles and Seth Rollins. The WWE has so much talent, but TNA has a loaded roster, too. Look at Lashley—he’s a beast. He’s just a freak athlete. When I’m in there with him and he’s throwing me around, I got a better sense of how strong he is. He’s also a great dude. So when you go through the roster, there are great wrestlers across the card, and that’s what TNA is doing better than anybody.

I do not compare myself to other world champs, but I’m constantly competing with myself. There is always added pressure, but it’s only the pressure I put upon myself. I want to have the best matches and deliver the most memorable moments. I want to be Mr. TNA, and I’m always trying to watch and learn and step up my game.

SI.com: You were in Ring of Honor when the company changed owners, and now compete in TNA under their new ownership. Is that a difficult process as a wrestler, or do you remain focused on your work in the ring?

Edwards: I was there when Sinclair [Broadcast Group] took over in Ring of Honor. It was a little different in ROH because it was a bigger jump in going to that next level. It’s not a huge shock to the system. Wrestlers are wrestlers and we’re going to go out and do our thing, and I know I’m going to go out there and do my thing to the best of my ability for TNA. It’s a new year and feel for TNA, so it will be exciting to see how far we can go.

SI.com: What are your goals for the upcoming year? And will you defend the world title this week on POP TV?

Edwards: I would like to defend the title. The live shows have a different feel to them, and it’s a new year with new ownership, so let’s kick this off with a bang. I love being the underdog, whether it’s in life or in the ring. I’m working to bring new fans to TNA to show them what we’re all about. People have brought up me wrestling Davey, and I love wrestling Davey, but I’d love to hold that off for as long as I can so we can tag together. Davey and I can be put together at any time and we won’t miss a beat. We can have amazing matches any time we’re together, so I’d like a healthy dose of tagging and singles matches when Davey comes back. I’d love to even wrestle twice a show, and see how everything unfolds with the storyline. I’d also love to do some one-on-ones with Matt and Jeff Hardy, and I’m sure there is a rematch with EC3 coming my way. I’d also love to have a world title match with Drew Galloway and Mike Bennett.

I want to be an old-school world champion and defend the title around the states and the globe for any company that would have me. I can never express how happy I am and how grateful I am for the fans and the amount of support I receive. Things happen so fast in wrestling, so it was amazing to step back and enjoy the world title victory with the people who have cared about me for so long, so I would like to say a true sincere thank you to all of them.

Tweet of the Week

What are the odds we see Hulk Hogan slam Braun Strowman at WrestleMania?

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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