Gary Mehaffy interviews Doug Williams; his career, training, leaving TNA, Kobashi, King Mo, Rampage



Interview conducted Thursday, June 27th, 2013.

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Twitter: @gmehaffy

Q. You’re currently in the UK. Was this a planned visit/tour or was it off the back of what happened at the beginning of June in TNA?

A. Well, I was always planning to come over at the end of May and do a week of shows here – which I’ve had planned for quite a while. But, obviously, with everything that’s happened with TNA I just decided to stay over here for a little while and pick up some more shows and do some work. I’ve been quite busy since I’ve been back so I’m going to stay here until I’ve got something else sorted; something else concrete, so to speak.

Q. Did you see it coming or were you as shocked as a lot of people were?

A. To be honest with you I wasn’t shocked. My contract was due to expire at the end of June anyway, so it was a case of me asking them that if they didn’t have anything for me then I’d rather not resign, as such. The only shock was that they released me a month early rather than let my contract ran out. But that’s up to them isn’t it! (laughs) No shame in that.

Q. You had a background in judo growing up. What sparked your interest in pro wrestling?

A. I did judo to get into pro wrestling, not the other way around for a start. I’d been a fan since I was young, anyway, and it was a case of doing that as a way to give me some sort of background in that sort of physical activity. I thought I could be a wrestler when I started getting good at judo, around my late teens. (I thought) I’d probably give it a go and see how it went – and it went ok! (laughs)

Q, I had heard a lot about you in magazines such as PowerSlam here in the UK and for your work in (NWA) Hammerlock, for example, and then saw you on the now defunct Wrestling Channel. Were you ambitions always to make it to the US or did you see your style more suited to Japan?

A. My goal originally was Japan – my long term goal. The American stuff was kind of a bonus! By the time TNA came calling and I started speaking to them I was looking for something new anyway, because I’d been going to Japan for 7 years at that point. Obviously I just wanted something else to re-motivate me and take my career in a different direction. It came at the right time. I was always a fan of American wrestling, don’t get me wrong, but I always thought that I’d be suited to Japan. I
probably was, at that point, but then a little bit later on when I got more comfortable with the entertainment side of wrestling, as such, it was quite an easy transition to doing the major league American stuff.

Q. How did your touring with ROH come about? Was that through contacts in Japan?
A. No, I knew ROH from before going to Japan. I did an American tournament called ‘King of the Indies’ which I got booked on because I was given from references by some of the American wrestlers who toured over here in the UK, and Ring Of Honor basically formed the promotion off the back of seeing that tournament. As I was one of the people in the tournament I was one of the first people they called to be on the roster of Ring Of Honor. That’s how that came about, pretty much.

Q. At the time when you started with ROH was it “full time” or was it a short, visa-required visit each time?

A. I would just go back and forth, yea, for individual shows as and when required. I didn’t need to stay over there for any length of time.

Q. There was always talk of WWE and TNA looking at you in the mid 2000’s, did you think that it would happen for you?

A. I was pretty happy with Japan – it was only when one of them directly……(laughs)…..that’s not strictly true. It was only when I had the opportunity to sign with them of them fully with a contract that I took them up on the offer, as such. I didn’t go pursuing them with any great kind of fervour; it was just to sit down with them when they showed interest in me.

Q. You appeared on and off for TNA before signing full time with them – why did it take so long to come around to it?

A. I don’t know when you think I appeared on and off for them – I signed with them pretty much straight from the time I appeared for them, I just wasn’t used. I had four tours of Japan still to come; they let me do those and once those were out of the way – my last tour of Japan was February 2009 – then they started the British Invasion gimmick, which was April 2009. So, yea, I’d signed with them from June 2008 in reality, and the only time I’d worked for them before that was in 2003 in a dark match. (laughs) A long time ago!

Q. You have been involved in many memorable moments in TNA – the X Division matches and title reigns, the tag reigns with Magnus, the British Invasion, Fortune with Ric Flair and even the IWGP tag reign that almost wasn’t! Which of those stands out the most?

A. I enjoyed most the X Division run I had, simply because it was so different to anything I’d done before. I was given a lot of interviews, talking and promo time to develop my character and get that over. I had a variety of different matches against different people – I think I enjoyed that the most.  Individual matches………from my point of view it’s a shame it got cut short, but I’d just started a feud with AJ Styles at the end of 2010, where we had a couple of great matches. But he got injured and it got curtailed – that was a shame. The British Invasion stuff was good, but I’d done tag stuff for so long in Japan and so on that there wasn’t any great requirement to develop my character, or talk, or get promo time, so it was fun but the X Division stuff was a whole different experience for me.

Q. Most recently you had been working in OVW helping to train/work with some of the guys down there.

A. Yea

Q, Was training guys always something that you saw yourself doing?

A. (laughs) Yea, but not so soon! I hadn’t really considered it, to be honest, until they (TNA) mentioned it to me. It was fine, and based on what I do in the role, in such, that obviously I was able to easily express how to make pro wrestling matches work and how to get ideas over and whatever it might be. I guess they saw something in me there when they asked me to do that role.

Q. It might be an odd question to ask, but do you find it an enjoyable experience or a frustrating one?  I know that sometimes that if guys are picking things up, that’s good, but if guys don’t seem to be getting it then it can be frustrating.

A. It’s a bit of both. The amount of times a found it enjoying far exceeded the amount of times I’d get frustrated, especially when I was working in OVW where the guys were already at a certain level.  What I was doing was refining them and getting them ready for TV style matches and that sort of stuff, as opposed to taking in beginners and showing them that sort of stuff from the word go. I didn’t have to deal with all that, which is the most frustrating part unfortunately. I enjoyed it from
that respect – just being able to give guys little ideas on little ways to improve themselves was nice.  That made me think about my own work a lot more, which was an added bonus.

Q. Spike recently signed Rampage Jackson for a crossover, and obviously already have King Mo on their books. Have you had much time working with either of those two – more so Mo?

A. Yea, I…….well (laughs) I did a couple of training sessions where Mo was involved. Obviously he is picking up things very quickly. The transition from MMA to wrestling is obviously a little bit difficult, especially when you’re still doing MMA – when your brain has to switch to being in a wrestling  environment it’s a little tricky, I guess – but he’s an athlete. He can pick things up from an athletic point of view. It’s just getting him to understand the aspects of psychology and what you need to do
to entertain the crowd, as opposed to just being an athletic pursuit. He (Mo) seems to be putting the hours in to develop his pro-wrestling skills, when he has down
time. I know a lot of people have doubts that Rampage will do the same thing, whether he will put the hours in or not…. I don’t know, really. I know Mo was a big wrestling fan, and that’s probably why. I don’t know if Rampage Jackson is – I assume he was, or is, or else he might not have agreed to do it. Time will tell.
If he wants to make any kind of success in pro wrestling, as far as he was in MMA, then he needs to put the hours in. Nothing works better in wrestling than repetition and doing the same stuff over and over.  The best way that guys learn is volume of matches, at the end of the day. You can train all you like in wrestling, but volume of matches are where most guys develop a lot. I can’t see how those two, specifically, will have the time to get the sheer volume of matches they need to become really
seasoned in the short amount of time that the company will want them to. I think that’s what will hold them back, if anything.

Q. You’ve had time recently on both the TNA main roster and down in developmental. Who do you see that you think could step up and taking by the horns, so to speak?

A. Sam Shaw is coming a long way. If TNA can harness his natural charisma, which is starting to come through in OVW, then he’ll be a big star for them, definitely. He’s such a likeable babyface. Jessie Godderz is coming along really well as the opposite kind of thing – the smarmy kind of heel. For both these guys it’s volume, it’s work – they need to do a lot more shows than even they’re doing in OVW. TNA needs to give them the time to do that. They need to give them the time and the volume
of shows to do that. All the guys down there are working really hard, but it’s just getting them seasoned – which is always tricky in a strictly training environment.

Q. Jumping back across to your time in the UK, I’ve heard a whisper on the wind of the possibility of you doing a 60 minute Iron Man match for PCW in August. Any truth to that?

A. It’s not a whisper. (laughs) Yea, that’s happening in August.

Q. Have you had much experience 60 minute matches before?

A. Yea, I’ve probably done about 6 in my career, which doesn’t sound a lot. I’ve done more 30 minute iron man matches. I’ve done a few against Steve Corino, I’ve done one against, I want to say, American Dragon – but I can’t remember if that was 30 or 60 minutes. I’ve done 5 or 6 in my career and depending on your opponent depends how you pace it and what you do within the context of the match, and how it flows or whatever. I’m looking forward to it, it should be fun – well, it’ll be fun
for the first 20 minutes! (laughs)

Q. You tweeted recently when Kenta Kobashi retired. You have wrestled him on several occasions – for people who have never had that experience, just how good was he?

A. He was an ultimate professional. He knew how to work the crowd to get the response that he needed to get, or wanted to get and that’s the most important thing. He’s an icon in Japan and for good reason. What amazes me is how he managed to adapt and evolve his style as he went along. As injuries mounted up or whatever, he managed to evolve his style and managed to keep that presence, charisma and quality of matches up. He’s fantastic. His mind for professional wrestling in Japan is unequalled. I can’t really say much more! (laughs)
There’s always an interesting thing I say about guys that a lot of fans say are great, but as a wrestler you say “Ok, yea, I can appreciate why fans love what he does” but until I wrestle that guy I don’t know how good a worker he really is. You don’t know how much he put the other guy…….there are lots of factors that go into making a match, but it’s only when you get to wrestler someone and you work with them that you really get a grasp of how good they really are. In respect to Kobashi – the adulation and respect he has from the fans is matched by people in wrestling.
Injuries have played a toll on him and his body. Speaking of injuries, have you seen Nigel’s documentary?

Q. Yea I have.  I was supposed to see him a few weeks ago when he was here in Belfast, and interview him afterwards, but we had a family issue and I couldn’t go up. With the way that it has come out and the attention it has got, how do you think it will affect the business? Or will it make some of the guys who are working now think a bit more before they take some of the moves?

A. Well, you’d like to think it would, wouldn’t you, but I don’t think it will have much effect on the business at all. Unfortunately, people do what they perceive they need to do to get ahead, whatever that might be, irrespective. Unless WWE released a similar kind of documentary about someone then that kind of stuff will never filter through from any other source, unfortunately. Sad as it is to say – but that’s where things begin and end.

Q, You had the opportunity to wrestle all over the world to develop your skills and becoming who you are now – and to keep evolving. Would you recommend that as a route for anyone getting into the business now or how would you advise them to proceed?

A. Yea, definitely now because from what I understand – and what I’ve heard – is the major companies now put a great deal more………they credit that a lot more than they used to – going around the world, getting experience, learning your trade, developing yourself properly. It’s something that’s regarded a lot more highly that it had been previously – previously being the last ten years. And of course it’s an excellent opportunity to see the world and experience different cultures and styles of wrestling. If you’re good enough that you can go to all these places, and get paid to do it, then I would say to do it.

Q. You are well known and respected within the business as a wrestler. Two sides of the same coin - how do you view your time in the business so far and what do you hope in the future will come to you after this?

A. For one point, I was a driving force in getting the popularity of the British style back and established on a global scale. When I started doing it and breaking out in different countries not a lot of people were doing that old, British style that was around for so long. Since then, it’s become very popular. I like to think I helped with establishing that with the global wrestling community. From a personal point of view, I look back at what I’ve done and I had the chance to go to so many different places and meet a lot of different people and have some really great matches and really great times. I wouldn’t change that for the world, at all.  Going forward, I’m going to try and stay injury free and deliver top level matches where I can, wherever I get booked from now going forward. There’s not a lot else I need to accomplish other than that, really. I’m an entertainer first and foremost, so if I can entertain people at a high level then I shall do so.

Q. To tie it up, do you have any words for the fans and their support of you over the years and how they can keep up with what you’re doing?

A. Sure. Thanks for, and I appreciate, all the support I get. Especially the appreciation for the matches and the style that I do and understanding the reasons why I do what I do, and supporting that and supporting me wherever I am around the world and whoever I wrestle for – that’s fantastic! If I can entertain even a few fans then I’m doing my job properly, but to entertain thousands and thousands
all over the world gives me a warm feeling inside. I’m glad they appreciate it.
If they want to catch up with what I’m up to they can either look at my twitter account – which is @DougWilliamsUK – and my website will be up very soon. It’s being revamped for my 20th year in the business and that’s going to be www.dougwilliamswrestling.com. That should be up and running soon, within a month. That’ll have all of my dates on it, a brief retrospective of my career, any
merchandise that’s for sale – it’ll be on there.