It's a mix of familiar and different when I greet Bobby Roode for the first time in three years. Different hairstyle, darker tan, sharper clothes. I guess that's part of the job when you are the longest-reigning TNA world heavyweight champion in the company's 10-year history. Through all of his success, I still have fond memories of him as Bob (how he introduced himself to me, anyway), the man who appeared extensively for my independent promotion in the greater Toronto area for several years (he lives in nearby Peterborough). Always reliable, even through treacherous weather conditions (once despite a snowstorm, he made what normally would be a two-hour drive in five to make one of our shows). Always gives the fans their money's worth and prides himself on having the best match on the card.
Those are traits you would want in your champion. Those are traits Bobby Roode exhibits. It was nice to see him personally, but I was also looking forward to talking with him about his rise up the TNA ladder. I had hoped during his "Team Canada" days that the championship would be in his future. It was.
Watching you then (in the independent days), I remember thinking, 'This guy's going to be a champion one day, whether it be sooner or later,' and here you are today the longest-reigning TNA world champion. Did you think this came at the right time for you in your career?
I think the timing is right. There was a time where we split up from Team Canada (in 2006) and I went on my own for a little while and people thought I deserved an opportunity then, but I think in hindsight it was best to wait. I think without the 'Beer Money' success I don't think I'd be where I'm at right now, so I think everything along the way happened for a reason and I'm very comfortable where I'm at right now.
Talking about that change in character for you, a change in direction, how much were you involved in that process?
I was involved a little bit you know, but at the end of the day it wasn't my call. But I was happy with it. I was very comfortable and confident in my role and in my character that you see on TV, and I've kind of made it my own. The whole "It Factor" and the "Selfish Generation" thing was all me. That wasn't written for me, that wasn't produced in any way. I wasn't told to say it. It was just something that rolled off my tongue and made it feel like part of the character and part of the persona I carry. I think it's elevated me to a different level and every week I seem more and more comfortable.
Let's back up a bit. How did you end up joining TNA in 2004?
I got a phone call one afternoon from Scott D'Amore, who was with the company at the time and asked me if I was interested in coming to Nashville for three weeks and taking part in the 'X Cup' as a part of 'Team Canada,' which was an 'X Division' showcase-style tournament, I guess. I was part of the second generation of 'Team Canada,' which was myself, Petey Williams, Eric Young and Johnny Devine and was there for three weeks and I left with a contract in my hand and signing a deal with them. All of 'Team Canada' did. All four members signed contracts. I guess we were just so well-liked and got over so fast in Nashville on pay-per-view, I think that Jeff Jarrett saw something in us as a group and individually I think Jeff saw something in me as well, so it's been a great run. Looking back, in 2004 when I got that phone I call, I was literally just ready to go in for three weeks and then go back to doing what I was doing, working at a sports store selling hockey skates and doing independent wrestling on the weekend. But you know, here I am today.
Did you find that when you were breaking away from 'Team Canada' that it was difficult to shed that persona and move on?
It was at first, but I tried my best to try and shake that stench of 'Team Canada' off me I guess in a way. But everybody knows I'm Canadian, and I'm proud of that. I'll never deny that fact that I'm Canadian. Those 'Team Canada' days were awesome. They got me where I'm at today, literally, and I had great times with all those guys and some good memories. But when I broke away from 'Team Canada,' they did the thing with the 'Hottest Free Agent.' They brought Bobby Heenan in and Carl Parker in and Sensational Sherri in, and this whole managers were vying for me and trying to buy me up and offer me their services, and that was a lot of fun. So in a way, I guess the company tried to shake off that Canada smell as well. But I went off with Traci Brooks as my manager, I started wearing the robe and started wearing different colors, trying to not let people think that I was the 'Team Canada' guy. Even today people know that I'm Canadian. People will come up to me at live events or wherever and have me sign Canadian flags, or the old 'Team Canada' shirt and have me talk about those days back in 'Team Canada,' so it's a moment that I'm proud of.
Obviously being Canadian you're a hockey fan. You used to play hockey. What did you think of the
I think they were a great playoffs. You know, L.A. obviously deserved to win. I thought after the first round they were the team to beat. I was shocked to see New Jersey there.
Who did you have in the East. Was it the
I didn't have the Rangers, no. But when it came down to the final four, I thought for sure it would be a typical "Rangers/Kings" matchup with two big media sources. Being the 'Big Apple' and being out in Hollywood, I thought that would be a perfect thing for hockey, but New Jersey surprised everybody. And I'm not a big New Jersey [fan] at all. I just don't like their style of hockey, and I thought it would be a boring series, but it actually turned out to be pretty good.
If you're (40-year-old
Nah. I don't think so. I mean, he's still got it, but I don't think he has anything left to prove.
Back to you being TNA champion. Is there anything that is expected of you or is everything self-imposed in terms of responsibilities for you now that you are the TNA champion?
There's a lot of other responsibilities you know, other than going out and performing every night on television or pay-per-view. It's the travel. I mean, literally, I've been doing media appearances off and on for the last seven months, travelling overseas, promoting our upcoming tour in January. I got an opportunity to go to L.A. and do red carpet stuff for 'Spike TV' and '
There are a subset of fans who tried TNA a while ago and maybe got turned off by the product, but it seems now that people are starting to rediscover TNA. Are you feeling that as well?
Absolutely. I think our product is getting better. I think the talent itself has always been there. I think our talent is second to none anywhere in the world. But I think as a machine, you know, all the moving parts have to work together in order for it to be successful and I think we've turned that corner and we've got some momentum now coming off a great pay-per-view at 'Slamiversary.' Every match from the top to the bottom of that card was great and our TV show is getting better and better and better. We've got some different things, things that people don't generally see on a wrestling show; some reality stuff, some stuff that kind of hits home, and some intriguing story lines and some great wrestling matches and putting the importance back on what should be important -- and that's the world title. The 'Bound for Glory Series' is doing that again this year with the 12 guys competing for an opportunity to go to 'Bound for Glory' for the world title, so I think we're doing a lot of good things. And of course, being live every Thursday, you know, when you're live anything can happen. And I think with today's social media, when it was taped, I think people just went online and read whatever they wanted to know and tuned out or maybe tuned in at a certain time. Now with live TV, I think that we're forcing the fans to watch and we're creating new fans.
What are your thoughts then on Impact going live on Thursdays and also the time slot change (to 8 p.m. ET)?
I think it's great. I mean, an earlier time slot's always going to be helpful in trying to generate new fans, younger fans, bringing more attention to our company, to our wrestling product. So I think the time change is great. I think people are just slowly starting to get used to that time change because we've been on at nine o'clock for so long, so that hour earlier is obviously going to be a big change, but I think it's going to be helpful in the long run. And of course, live TV, I think that's how wrestling should be. I think it should be live. As the performers look at it from my standpoint, you have to be on, you have to be ready and there's no second takes and there's no re-dos. So, like I said, it gives that little extra excitement, you know it gets you pumped up a little more and it gets you ready. And I think as wrestling fans go, too, I think the element of surprise is better, too.
If people watch IMPACT they'll see things that they don't normally see. I remember one segment a few weeks ago where, there's
The way I look at it, I mean wrestling is so ... everything's been done. And I guess what's old can be new again, but you can try new things as well, things that have never been done before. And we're trying to do that. The wrestling business has been exposed to a certain extent and everybody knows that it's a performance, so to speak, so I think people behind the scenes and seeing what actually does go on give it that reality feel, and with reality TV being so predominant right now on our television over the last several years, I think bringing that element to our wrestling show is going to entertain more people and possibly bring more viewers to our show. Then, why not?
Who are guys that you say, 'You know what? I want to work with this guy in the future?'
We're all really in the same sort of era. Samoa Joe is a guy that comes to mind. He's a guy that's been to the top of the mountain before, but I really think he's got a lot of legs left and he's really underutilized, and I think that him and I can produce something really special. Austin Aries is a guy that has been the longest-reigning 'X Division' champion, has proven himself all over the world before he even got to TNA, and is well-respected in the industry, so I think he's a guy to look out for and I look forward to working with. But like I said, our roster top to bottom is solid as can be. I think Gunner has a hell of a future, too, as a top guy, so this company is not short on talent, that's for sure.
Some great moments and memories for you in TNA, does one stick out for you in particular?
Obviously winning the world title. For that particular reason, winning the world title, wrestling against my partner, my former partner at the time, that whole change in character, that change in attitude really brought me to where I am today. I mean there's been lots of great memories, some that people saw via pay-per-view, via TV. But one of the greatest memories was in January, overseas doing live events in England, I got an opportunity to do a six-man tag every night. My partners were Kurt Angle and Bully Ray, and we wrestled against Storm, Hulk Hogan and
How do people reach you?
A lot of people don't like to call me. I don't know, people don't like to talk to me very much. I do
You don't strike me as someone who necessarily loves social networking.
I'm going to be honest with you -- I hate social networking. The only reason why I'm on Twitter is because
So for TNA's next pay-per-view, Destination X (Sunday July 8), to people reading who may not have purchased one before, why should they?