SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Shares His Admiration for Vince McMahon
The Hollywood cognoscenti never expected Arnold Schwarzenegger to become a household name.
Schwarzenegger has a difficult-to-pronounce name, not to mention a thick accent. Yet he has constantly reinvented himself, from bodybuilder to action hero to comedy star, to remain relevant for the past 30 years. Schwarzenegger recognizes many of those same traits in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who parlayed his success from WWE into Hollywood—and 15 years later rose to box office prominence as one of the top stars in the business.
“Myself, I felt that there was a place for me when I came on the scene, and I also felt very strongly about Dwayne Johnson,” said Schwarzenegger. “But we never know when we get into this thing how far you’re going to go.”
Schwarzenegger instantly identified a certain kind of screen presence from Johnson that he acquired from his athletic background.
“My screen presence came from bodybuilding, Dwayne’s came from professional wrestling,” said Schwarzenegger. “He could do action very believably, and he is also a very good talker. Professional wrestlers have to be convincing in their talking, and he was always good at that in the ring and he was able to unleash that talent in front of the camera. It was no surprise to me that he would become a star, but it was to everyone’s surprise how far he went. Like I said, that it something you never know.
“But it should all be attributed to him. He is a very talented guy, he works very, very hard, and he is relentless and positive.”
Schwarzenegger, who was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, used his stardom to disseminate his political views. He was even elected governor of California in 2003, a post he served for eight years.
“Dwayne has literally taken all the skills he learned from sports to this industry, which is exactly what I did,” said Schwarzenegger. “We should always hail people like that. That’s something that should be commended.”
His new Terminator: Dark Fate film, which opens Friday, represents an opportunity to re-engage one of Hollywood’s most iconic characters in The Terminator. The decision to extend the franchise with a new installment is particularly meaningful to Schwarzenegger because he believes this film necessary to the overall story arc of The Terminator.
“I enjoyed the story because it was a totally different spin,” said Schwarzenegger. “I thought doing a sequel to Terminator 2 was a good idea. Me playing a drapery expert and having a drapery business in the new film was funny, and they evolved my character to someone with a conscious and ability to think for himself. He has the power to alter his original programming when he was a killing machine, and those are the kind of things I found very appealing in this movie.”
Schwarzenegger has close ties to WWE, particularly in friendships with Vince McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque. He also appeared at the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2013 to introduce and induct the legendary Bruno Sammartino.
“I have admiration for Vince,” said Schwarzenegger. “I’ve always admired what he’s done with professional wrestling, even from the days when his father ran it. He’s one of those kids that didn’t take advantage of benefitting from his father’s fame.
“Vince took his father’s talent and assets and went ahead and made it much, much better. He is also extremely passionate about that sport, and there is nothing more beautiful than when someone is really passionate about a specific subject. He’s involved in it every step of the way. I’ve watched him and how much he is involved. I admired him years ago and I still admire him today.”
Schwarzenegger and Levesque also share mutual respect, and Levesque is a strong proponent of The Arnold Sports Festival. Schwarzenegger believes wrestling is in the right hands if Levesque takes McMahon’s place and runs WWE.
“One day, Vince will retire, then Triple H is going to take over,” said Schwarzenegger. “He’s also very, very passionate and an unbelievable gentleman that is very smart about business and wrestling.”
Schwarzenegger beseeched his fans from wrestling to check out the newest installment of The Terminator, which he vowed would add a new dimension to the series.
“I always enjoy playing this character,” said Schwarzenegger. “To me, if it is the first Terminator or the last Terminator, I’ve always enjoyed it—and I really enjoy the evolution of the character. The character started as a machine, a killing machine, and someone that terminates everything. In the second one, I was the protector. In this one, I grew a conscious. There was a certain evolution that made it fun to play the different characters. I can’t wait to share the film with everyone who wants to see it.”
Rey Mysterio in Ringside Role as WWE Returns to Saudi Arabia
Rey Mysterio will be in Cain Velasquez’s corner during his match against WWE champion Brock Lesnar at this Thursday’s Crown Jewel show from Saudi Arabia.
The trips to Saudi are glorified house shows, albeit ones continually clouded in controversy. Mysterio is using the show as an opportunity to connect with a fan base in Saudi Arabia, and he has a special mask to unveil for the occasion.
“We’re going retro,” said Mysterio. “I have a green mask that was made specifically for Crown Jewel. The top of the eyes, where I normally carry the cross, I put in my old signature emblem, which is a crown. Back in the day, I used to wear the crown, and I’m bringing that style back just for Crown Jewel.
Mysterio has built a portfolio like few others in the history of the business, constantly evolving, still performing at an elite level.
“I just want to be myself and entertain my fans, giving them something different every time, whether it’s a move, my ring attire, just something else that keeps people on their toes,” said Mysterio. “I truly believe, throughout the years, people see the love I have for this sport. The competition is always getting better, but I’ve never been the type of guy that wants to be number one. I have always wanted to keep the strong connection with my fans around the world.”
Considering Velasquez’s limited experience in wrestling, it will be interesting to see how WWE inserts Mysterio into this feud following the match. Lesnar has also destroyed Mysterio’s son Dominic on two occasions, lending justification within the story for Mysterio to seek revenge.
“I’m truly blessed to be able to share this with my son,” said Mysterio. “We did it once before in the ring with Eddie [Guerrero], and now we are doing it with Cain, Brock, and Paul Heyman. That is incredible for my son, myself, and my family.”
Mysterio returned to WWE in 2018 after a four-year absence. The highlight of his return to the company has been working with Andrade.
“My highlight has been the matches I have had with Andrade,” said Mysterio. “From my perspective, I felt there was a strong connection. Andrade gives me, personally, a resemblance of Eddie Guerrero’s style. The way he moves, his positioning, his in-ring style remind me a lot of Eddie. They both have that lucha libre bloodline, and that match with Andrade and our entire rivalry has meant a lot to me.”
Velasquez’s respect for lucha libre has also resonated with Mysterio, a style he believes will surprise WWE fans watching Thursday’s Crown Jewel show.
“It’s been awesome to see Cain perform, especially seeing what he did in Mexico City,” said Mysterio, referring to Velasquez’s debut in August at AAA’s TripleMania event in Mexico. “I was very impressed with his form. He was so natural at a style that is very hard to learn. He easily adapts, and that is a very good thing and shows Cain’s discipline and commitment to be the best in WWE.”
The Week in Wrestling in Its 200th Week
This is the 200th consecutive column for The Week in Wrestling.
For the past 200 weeks, it has been an honor and a privilege to bring a different perspective to pro wrestling coverage.
There are many people to thank. Without Andy Gray and his unfailing belief, the column ceases to exist.
Dan Gartland is invaluable to the column; readers don’t get to see him advocate and fight for stories that benefit wrestling fans. He adds his own touch enhancing the column with subtlety and nuance each week. Dan’s value is hard to capture in words, but there wouldn’t be 200 weeks of this column without him.
Readers won’t recognize the name, but Francis Connolly is a close friend and brilliant writer that takes pride in vetting my work. Incredibly talented as a writer and editor, Francis is the column’s unsung hero.
Above all, this column exists for a reason. The readers make it special, and I am grateful for every email I receive from people reaching out about our work.
We’re onto 300.
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
- The story that broke this week involving Jordan Myles (formerly known as ACH) is layered and certainly complex, but there are some definitive certainties: the shirt was extremely offensive; Myles’ decision to insult other wrestlers, specifically Jay Lethal, was a mistake; and this story is far from finished.
- I am an unabashed Rusev fan and would like to see him in the world title picture… and though I am not in love with his current storyline, the amount of views it has generated on YouTube is remarkable.
- Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes continue to be the highlights of AEW programming, and Rhodes is in the process of proving he can be the lead babyface for a promotion.
- AEW’s decision to add judges to the Jericho-Rhodes title match at the Full Gear pay per view only reinforces my belief that Rhodes isn’t winning the title (yet).
- Losing Xavier Woods to a torn achilles is not only a blow for the New Day, but also for the WWE as a whole.
- Watching this Andre The Giant-Bret Hart match on Twitter reminded why the Internet is such a wonderful creation.
- Impact Wrestling debuted Tuesday night on AXS TV, even catching the attention of Tommaso Ciampa.
- Darby Allin was fantastic in the main event of last night’s AEW DARK.
- Matt Hardy’s “Free The Delete” series debut is definitely worth watching.
John Cena donated $500,000 to first responders fighting the California fires.
Indie Spotlight With Erick Stevens
Erick Stevens is experiencing a career renaissance on the independents following nine years away from the business.
His comeback is one of wrestling’s best stories, embedding a stunning sense of reality into a heavily scripted industry.
Somehow, the 37-year-old Stevens is even wrestling above the level he did when he left in 2010.
For those unaware of Stevens’ story, he was part of the crew of wrestlers that elevated indie wrestling in the 2000s. In an era where fans impatiently awaited DVDs to arrive in their mailbox, Stevens’ prolonged feud with Roderick Strong led to some of wrestling’s best matches, ones that still resonate today.
Stevens’ decision to return to the ring after nearly a decade away from it was not made in haste. He remained in top condition, mastering jiu-jitsu in his time away, training that exponentially helped his return.
During his slate of return matches this past spring, Stevens dazzled in a Beyond Wrestling match against Chris Dickinson. But right before he walked through the curtain for that match, the thought of failure nearly paralyzed Stevens
“That’s when I started to second guess everything,” said Stevens. “There was a stairwell that led up to the curtain, and I couldn’t get up those stairs. I had imagined coming back to wrestling so many times, and this was it. Once I finally went through that curtain, I didn’t look back.”
Stevens finds constant inspiration from his family, and support from his wife gave him the final boost to make his comeback.
“If it weren’t for my wife Kelsea, I never would have come back,” said Stevens. “I was so scared to tell her I wanted to come back to wrestling, and part of me was wishing she’d say no because I was also scared about the idea of returning. We have a child, we have jobs, and I don’t want to leave her. But she gave her blessing and told me that I couldn’t go through the rest of my life wondering, ‘What if?’
“That night, I went on Twitter and posted that I was accepting bookings. And I’m happy with what I’ve done, even if I never wrestle another match in my life.”
But Stevens’ story is not quite finished.
There are still goals remaining to conquer for the best brawler on the indies. Stevens always dreamed of wrestling in Japan, which he has yet to accomplish, and there are a number of other matches he has in mind before he hangs up his boots again next April.
“My goal has always been to end my career where it started,” said Stevens. “I first wrestled in Tampa, and it would be very poetic to end there, too. Maybe I’ll get to wrestle 14 matches that weekend and go until the wheels fall off. But if I could wrestle anybody in the world, I would wrestle Roderick Strong, WrestleMania weekend, at the armory. Our story would start where it began.”
Ten years after their last match, which is an incredibly hard-hitting, compelling, realistic version of pro wrestling, Stevens continues to recall what it felt like to be in the ring with Strong.
“WWN and EVOLVE have the armory booked, so what if I just started talking trash to Roddy?” said Stevens, who was trained by Strong back in 2002. “It’s a pipe dream, but he’ll be in town, I’ll be in town, so let’s go finish what we started.
“I’m very proud of Roddy. He’s doing now what he always dreamed of doing. People doubted him, but he’s continued to show he is one of the best in the world in the ring. That would have to be my last match because Roddy goes so hard.”
Stevens also made his name in Ring of Honor, wrestling for the company before it was purchased by Sinclair, groomed for stardom by longtime ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky.
“Ring of Honor went from the company I dreamed about working for to a company I despised being at,” said Stevens. “Roddy and I used to sit on the couch and watch VHS tapes and talk about the matchups. Ring of Honor was based around in-ring competition, athleticism, hard-hitting competitive matches. I was a guy cultivated by Gabe Sapolsky, and once Gabe was fired, I saw the writing on the wall. But it’s also on me. Instead of making myself more viable and marketable, I started feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want to wrestle for a TV company, and it showed.
“There was nothing salacious, nothing personal, but it was not a healthy situation for me and I had to go.”
So he left.
The business changed dramatically while Stevens was gone. So did his life, as he and his wife brought a son into the world. He also made his name in a different genre, creating a food channel that has built over 100,000 followers on Instagram.
Yet he was stifled by a missing piece in his life.
“The sound of the crowd’s reaction makes me feel alive,” said Stevens. “Even a crowd of 50 people chanting your name, you can feel that respect for your hard work and craft.”
The timing was right for one more time-consuming, painful, amazing run back in pro wrestling.
“Independent wrestling is filled with so much talent, and it’s blooming right now,” said Stevens. “I consider myself so lucky to be part of it.”
Tweet of the Week
Will WWE crown a new Universal champion this Thursday? And, if not, how do you beat The Fiend so soon into his run?