Source: Brian Fritz of FanHouse
Wrestling fans have seen ‘The Monster’ Abyss undergo some changes over the years. For a long time, he was simply a wrecking machine who never uttered a word, instead choosing to speak with his actions as he smashed everything in his path. But after a while, he underwent a transformation and showed that he is more human than Frankenstein.
This Sunday at the TNA Sacrifice pay-per-view (8PM ET / 5PM PT) Abyss will square off against Desmond Wolfe. Even before then, fans can once again watch TNA iMPACT! on on Thursday (9:00-11:00PM ET) on Spike TV with the show returning to that night following a run on Monday nights. Earlier in the week, Abyss was a guest on my Between The Ropes radio show where he spoke about the different changes with him over the years, hardcore wrestling, being called TNA’s ‘John Cena’ by Hulk Hogan and more.
Brian Fritz: Do you like the evolution of the Abyss character and where it has gone? There have been a lot of twists and turn with it there for a while.
Abyss: I’m really proud of the character. I think it has matured a lot over the years. In this business, to keep any kind of a character at all, at any level, relevant for an extended period of time — I’ve been with TNA for going on eight years and I’ve been there since basically close to the beginning — so you gotta switch it up. You gotta try different stuff or you kind of get stale by doing just the same old thing. I’m proud of what we did with the character. I really like the original stuff. I really like the stuff coming back with the whites (clothing) and the insane asylum stuff. I really liked all that stuff and then the transformation now into the stuff with Hulk (Hogan). That’s been obviously a dream come true. I’ve really enjoyed the different sides of it. I think that keeps the character interesting, when you can see him when he’s happy, when he’s angry, when he’s sad, when he’s mad. You see different sides of the character and that keeps the character kind of fresh.
Your character in TNA has always been one that fans have said has so much potential and there is so much you can do with it. Do you think at this point now with you being allowed to do more talking and things to develop the character, is this what is going to finally remove that potential word from you and allow you to take that next step forward?
Yeah, I think it is. Only time will tell but I think the character has definitely progressed to that level in my career where I can do that. But I have to deliver the goods too when it comes to the in-ring stuff and I plan on doing that. The character has been around for a long time and in this business, you can’t do the same thing for too long or you get kind of stale. We’ve done a lot of different things with the character and I think it’s allowed people to see a lot of different sides of what I can do besides just getting knocked around in glass and tacks … which, don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff. Those are my toys and I love them. It’s allowed people to see a different side of the character and enjoying a different side than just the grunting and groaning and the hardcore guy.
So many people have compared you with Mick Foley when it comes to work style and obviously because of the character and the mask. What were your thoughts the first time you met Mick?
I was extremely nervous the first time I met Mick. The main reason I was nervous is because I have so much respect for him for everything he has done and everything he’s continuing to do in this business and outside the business too. He’s a smart guy. I was really intimidated when I first met him but he put that away right away and was such a good person to talk to. I’ve learned so much from him. We did our little program last year – which I wish could have lasted a little longer but, who knows, maybe we can do something else together – but to spent time around him and learn from him and pick his brain. He was so good about helping me and a lot of the younger guys there (TNA). Meeting him and working with him was a true honor and I learned a lot. We also got to become close and I got to know him as a person which was a thrill as well.
The hardcore wrestling has been such a big part of your career. Has there even been something brought up to do and you said that’s even too much for me?
(laughs) You know, no one’s ever brought up anything that I’ve ever said no, that’s too much. I’ll say there’s one thing I’ve done in my career that I probably would pass on again if it came up was the chokeslam through the fire table to concrete in Chicago at Bound for Glory a couple of years ago. That really, really hurt. I expected it to hurt, obviously, but it really hurt. That was the only time I’ve ever been scared — I think — afterwards from the impact of a fall like that. That’s probably the only thing I would shy away from again. But other than that, no.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve told an opponent to give a move to you and they’ve said I’m not sure I want to do that?
There’s been a couple of people that have tried to talk me down from the cliff I guess. It’s funny, you’re always more worried about other people. I can remember when Jeff Hardy was with us the first time a few years ago and he and I did the Monster’s Ball thing. He did the big swanton off the top of the set through a table onto me to the concrete floor. It was at least 25 feet up. I can remember me — even me — trying to go to him and tell him ‘hey man, do you really want to do this, you might want to rethink this’. Of course, he was going to have none of it. He was going to do it no matter what because Jeff will do anything. He’s crazy and he’s great like that. I’m kind of the same way. If people try to talk you out of it, it kind of makes you want to do it more.
For a while there, was there too much when it came to hardcore stuff for you because it seemed like every week you were pulling out the thumbtacks or barbed wire or something?
Yeah, that’s kind of what I was alluding to earlier when I was saying you get to see more sides of the character now. You’re right, I was doing something hardcore every week. I was bleeding every week from getting into broken glass or barbed wire or something. It got to be so old the character was stale because I was doing the same thing even though it was the hardcore. You can’t do the same thing or eventually you’ll get stale. Now, you get to see the different sides of the character so it’s not just the hardcore all the time so the character doesn’t get old from doing it all the time. There was a time when I was doing it too much.
So what was your first thought when you heard that Hulk Hogan called you ‘TNA’s John Cena’?
My reaction was what every other guy in this business reaction would have been. I was honored and thrilled and excited when I heard that. For a guy of Hulk Hogan’s status — what he’s done and accomplished in this business and his life — to give you that kind of endorsement is pretty exciting. I was thrilled when I heard it. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Hulk and work with him. It’s been an excellent relationship. I’ve learned a lot in just the short time we’ve been together. It’s been a complete honor from top to bottom working with him.
Now, the move of iMPACT! to Monday night didn’t work out and the show is now back on Thursday nights. What is the morale in the locker room since that was announced?
Honestly, the morale in the locker room has been really good, even with the news that we were moving back to Thursdays. I gotta give the credit to everybody in the locker room from myself to AJ (Styles) to (Samoa) Joe to everybody that’s there. There’s been a lot of changes since the beginning of the year. And moving to Monday nights I think was a learning process for the company. There was obviously high expectations. As we went along, I think we learned a lot with some focus groups and stuff. We learned that our fans really like us on Thursdays. They really didn’t like the Monday night thing. They didn’t like having to choose and the back and forth. So, that was something we learned that we maybe didn’t know at the beginning of January when we kicked the whole thing off. There’s a lot of excitement moving back to Thursday. The company was there for a long time. We were on Thursdays and we really established ourselves on Thursdays. We were doing a pretty strong and a really decent rating for ourselves when we were on Thursdays. Moving back there, Spike TV is behind us 100%. They’re going to brand it as wrestling night. We’re going to have our other show — which is ReAction, more of a reality based show — on that night as well. So, you have to look at it as a positive. We tried it out. I think everybody really wanted there to be a war and recreate what happened back in the day between WCW and WWF, WWE. I think our intentions were just to go and try to capture some of that fan base that was so accustomed to Monday night wrestling. But I think we learned that our fans like us on Thursdays and I think moving back there is a good thing for the company. And I think everyone in the locker room feels the same way about it.
What’s the best piece of advice that Hulk Hogan has given you?
He’s given me so much so I could go a million different ways to answer this but I’ll go this way with it. One of the things he’s really taught me was to really use the story you’ve been given and incorporate it in your match and work smart. He’s taught me to maximize the tools you’re given when it comes to putting a match together and an angle together.
How much would you like to get in the ring and square off against Hulk?
I would love it man. I think it would be great. It would be an honor, no doubt about it. It would be the biggest moment in my wrestling career. I sincerely doubt there would be a bigger moment in my career than me against Hulk Hogan in a singles match. I would love it and I think we could pull off something special. I have no doubt in that.
Has it ever felt weird being a babyface now after being a heel and the monster for so long?
Yeah, I do. I’ve been a babyface now for several years and for a character as big as I am and the style of wrestling I do and the hardcore stuff and my size, it’s hard to get babyface heat on somebody because of my size. It has been a bit of a challenge being a babyface for this amount of time. But I think the character has a great run in it down the road. It was a heel for the first four or five years but the character was less defined wasn’t talking and so forth.
Going back to the hardcore style of wrestling, there have been a lot of studies that have come out about blows to the head. It looks like TNA has eased off that a bit. What are your thoughts about pulling back on it a bit so it’s not too dangerous?
I’ve thought this since the beginning: hardcore wrestling in an art. You see these backyard tapes and stuff, guys using light bulbs and jumping off the roof of their house. That’s not hardcore wrestling; that’s backyard garbage wrestling. Hardcore wrestling — and I’ll reference Mick again — you look at all the stuff Mick has done in this business and how extreme it was. But Mick has always told a story and done a good job in not making something just a bloodfest. Everything he did he built up to it, it made sense as extreme as it might have been. Mick was a good worked first and then sprinkled in the hardcore. That’s kind of like how I like it. I think hardcore wrestling has a place and hardcore wrestling in an art. If you get in there and these guys just hack each other up, it’s really not hardcore wrestling. Hardcore wrestling is a match with a storyline and buildup like any other singles match would have. It just has extreme spots in it. When you’re smart and place them here and there, I think they work. As far as the shots to the head, I’m in agreement. Maybe that stuff needs to be relaxed a little bit but you can still do hardcore wrestling and do impressive, crazy, hardcore bumps and be safe about them. All the stuff I’ve done, I’ve always felt safe. I’ve never felt like I was going to be hurt in anything I ever did. You have to take calculated risks.
Now, you’ve been this character for a while now. How bad does your mask smell?
(laughs) I’ll send it to you sometime! You know, it can get pretty bad. It’s funny, I’ve got a good story. I was on the house shows a couple of weeks ago. I worked with Cowboy James Storm and one of the matches, towards the end of the match he actually spit beer in my face and on the mask. I just picked it up the other day and I couldn’t believe how bad it smelled. It smelled like a stale can of beer. So, I was tossing that one out and getting ready to start a new one. I wear them until they smell too bad to wear and then I’ll usually retire them and do something with them; sell them or give them to charity.
Brian Fritz is the host of the Between The Ropes radio show which airs Tuesday night from 6:00 – 8:00PM ET on ESPN 1080 in Orlando, FL.
Source: Brian Fritz of FanHouse