Lance Archer meets Cody Rhodes this Saturday at AEW’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view.
Debuting for AEW in March, the 6'6" Archer feels like an overnight success. But the reality is that there is a tremendous amount of depth to his 20-year career.
Archer, whose real name is Lance Hoyt, graduated with a degree in English from Texas State University. He broke into the wrestling business in 2000, starting in the Texas indie scene and landing his first big break in TNA. He had a brief run with WWE, but spent the majority of the last decade wrestling in Japan. After a highly accomplished run tagging with Davey Boy Smith Jr. in Killer Elite Squad, Archer enjoyed his greatest success as a singles wrestler over the past year in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Archer is now part of a high-profile story with Rhodes in AEW, and their match at this Saturday’s pay-per-view has the added stakes of the winner being crowned the first-ever TNT Champion. Archer spoke with Sports Illustrated and discussed his decision to sign with AEW, why it made the most sense to pair up with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, his opinion on whether AEW will ever have a talent-exchange deal with New Japan and what to expect against Rhodes at Double or Nothing.
Justin Barrasso: What was the deciding factor to sign with AEW?
Lance Archer: There wasn’t one specific deciding factor. It was one of the hardest decisions that, luckily, I got to make. I had the option to stay with New Japan, where I’d built a relationship for eight-and-a-half years. This last year, from the New Japan Cup to the G1 to becoming the U.S. Champion, everything snowballed in the best way possible.
AEW is a company I’ve supported since before it ever really existed, from the first All In. I saw this as a great thing for the business. As far as choosing AEW, I really looked at all of the factors going in, the challenges of jumping ship and going into something new. AEW is changing the scope of professional wrestling as a whole, and providing opportunity for the fans to make choices. It’s a really cool opportunity for me to be part of AEW and help it to grow, and become that first real monster AEW was looking for.
There were so many factors. I talked to my family extensively. I have a very strong faith in God, and I prayed about it. This was an opportunity to come home and be on U.S. TV for the first time in a decade. There were so many factors that played into this, and all these things kept pointing toward AEW.
JB: Ever since you embarked on your singles run in New Japan, whether it was the G1 Climax run or the title matches as IWGP United States Champion, you have continued to unveil new elements of your personality as well as continued versatility in the ring. It took some time to arrive at this point, but you are now a fixture of a major company in the U.S. What was the most important lesson you learned during your journey?
LA: Going to Japan did so much for me. I’ve been blessed, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been part of major companies for almost my entire 20-year career, with the exception of my first four years, which was spent on the independents in Texas, but I’ve been in TNA, WWE, New Japan and now AEW.
The idea of ‘more monster’ was ingrained in me in Japan. That’s something I heard a lot. I didn’t hear a lot of ‘no’s’—as in, ‘No, you can’t do that, or ‘No, don’t do that ’cause that’s someone else’s.’ I heard ‘Yes,’ ‘Be bigger,’ ‘Be stronger,’ and ‘Be that monster.’ I was always adding elements, testing myself and seeing what I could become, and I found that monster I always needed to be.
In the last year, people have really started to pay attention. But I was very confident in myself, even as part of the tag team K.E.S. and what we were doing. We were a very strong and established tag team—three-time IWGP tag champs, two-time NOAH GHC champs with the longest reign they’d ever had in that company, two-time NWA World Tag Team champs. There was no lack of confidence from me, and people started to pay more attention to me.
I liken all this back to the New Japan Cup from last year. It was a match that Will [Ospreay] and I had, and it caught a lot of people in the company off-guard, and that led to my chance to be in the G1. When I met Will in the G1, there were expectations. That was the match in Dallas, Texas, live on AXS TV, and we tore the house down. People knew Will, but they didn’t know what I was capable of, so I opened a lot of eyes. Then I captured the U.S. title and it snowballed to the match Mox and I had at the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom at the beginning of this year. All of a sudden, I was in people’s face, and they’re going, ‘Oh crap, where the hell did Lance Archer come from?’ Well I’ve been here, and now you’re starting to see it.
JB: Cody Rhodes is the most recognizable face of AEW. What has impressed you most about his career?
LA: You have to respect anyone that perseveres through hard times. This business isn’t easy. There are a lot more valleys than there are peaks, so I respect how Cody has persevered through his valleys and his lows to become the face of AEW. It’s going to be my honor and privilege to kick his ass at the pay-per-view.
It’s the match to become the first-ever TNT Champion. There are some high expectations, and I absolutely plan to kick ass and deliver beyond anyone else’s expectations.
JB: Jake “The Snake” Roberts needs no introduction to wrestling fans. He is a legend of the profession and his work speaks for itself. But I was a little surprised at the pairing because you are such a confident and strong speaker, and you’re both very tall. What went into the pairing with Jake, and why was it the right decision?
LA: This is my re-introduction to the U.S. television market on a full-time basis. I had spurts here and there with New Japan on AXS, but I’ve really been off U.S. TV since 2010. Now the AEW fan base is very smart to the business and that’s really cool to see. Every time somebody comes in, whether it’s myself or when Jeff Cobb appeared, people knew who we were and what we were doing.
That being said, there was a large fan base that didn’t know who I was—didn’t know what I was about and didn’t understand ‘The Murderhawk Monster.’ People are still learning. My favorite quote was from Chris Jericho when he was doing commentary during matches on Dynamite, and he was like, ‘I had no idea what a Murderhawk Monster was, but now I’ve seen it standing right in front of me.’
The thinking behind my pairing with Jake, and you just said this yourself, Jake’s a legend in this business and everyone knows who he is. So when you see Jake The Snake, and he says he has a client, and then it’s me, then the hardcore fans get a cool pairing. And the people that didn’t know who I was? Now they’re paying attention. That’s what Jake provided for me: a spotlight. He’s the yin to my yang. He’s the snake in the grass and I’m going to kick your teeth down your throat. We’re both big guys, but our style and presentation are very different, and we mesh extremely well.
JB: We don’t often discuss this with big men, but there is such creativity in your move set. How did you originally come up with The Blackout?
LA: It’s 2020. You can’t just stand in the middle of the ring and not move. I’m a hybrid version of a big man, bringing back some of that old mentality and psychology, being the beast that’s disappeared from some of the bigger guys in the business. As far as the move set, athletically, I’ve been blessed. I can do some things people don’t expect me to be able to do.
I’ve been doing The Blackout move since 2001, that’s when I first did it way back in Arlington, Texas, at a small independent company called Professional Championship Wrestling. I helped Kid Kash and me win the NWA World Tag Team championship back in 2004 when I first showed up there with The Blackout. I didn’t get to use it in WWE. That was a ‘no’ and I didn’t appreciate that, but I used it in Japan and I’m now using it in AEW.
I like taking the old-school moves and adding a twist, like the rope walk and then do a moonsault off the ropes. There are guys like Fenix that can school me with moves like that, but you don’t see a lot of guys my size or my persona doing stuff like that. It’s fun adding those elements of creativity and spontaneity, making people go, ‘OK, we didn’t know he could do that.’ The EBD Claw is a claw, but I bash the crap out of their head on the mat before I pin them. It’s taking old-school things and making them my own.
JB: Your recent tweets with wrestling legend Sting garnered some attention, and boxing legend Mike Tyson will be at Double or Nothing this Saturday for your match with Rhodes to present the new TNT Championship. Who is more likely to receive The Blackout first: Sting or Mike Tyson?
LA: [Laughs] Either one. Right now, it looks like it’s going to be Mike. He’s presenting the TNT title at Double or Nothing. Mike is ‘The Baddest Man of the Planet,’ but I’m the baddest monster on the planet. If he’s not careful, he’ll get The Blackout.
JB: There is unfinished business with Jon Moxley following your Texas Death match this past January at Wrestle Kingdom. Who else on the AEW roster immediately grabs your attention for a future program?
LA: That’s the cool part, it’s part of why I came to AEW. There are so many first-time possibility match-ups. Obviously, Cody and I have our match on May 23 at Double or Nothing, and that’s a first-time match-up. We were around each other in Japan and the independents, hell even WWE together for a little while, but we never faced off.
I’ve only had one match with Mox, which was at Wrestle Kingdom. Kenny Omega is a guy I’ve never stepped in the ring with, though I’ve been around him for years in Japan. I’ve known PAC since 2009, and we’ve crossed paths so many times, but never stepped in the ring with him. A monster vs. monster match with Brodie Lee. I had one match with Fenix on an independent show, and I’d love to do it again. Luchasaurus, Wardlow, there are so many people I’m excited to get in the ring with.
JB: Do you ever anticipate a time when AEW will have a talent-exchange program with New Japan?
LA: In this business, you never say never, especially in this day and age of professional wrestling. It would be cool to see the different match-ups, and both sides would benefit from it.
JB: Double or Nothing is the opportunity you’ve been looking for. Yes, it will be an empty stadium show in the midst of a pandemic, but it is also your chance to show that you belong in the discussion of most captivating wrestlers in the world and that the main event scene should not exist without you. How do you plan on hammering home those points at Double or Nothing?
LA: My goal is to kick Cody’s ass and become the first TNT Champion. I’m going to continue to change what a big man is supposed to be in this business. I’m going to bring a kick ass, monster attitude, and I’m going to present that to the world. In 2020, a big man can be just as exciting as anybody else in this business. My plan is to make the TNT Championship even better than any other championship in the business today. They’re going to get ‘The Murderhawk Monster’ turned up to 1,000 on May 23.