It’s a cold, damp Monday morning in London. More than that, it’s the morning after the night before for TNA Impact Wrestling’s British contingent – they were guests of honour at the now-customary Fan Party at the Garage in Islington, thrown to commemorate Magnus becoming the company’s first ever British World Heavyweight Champion.
“It was [a good party]. It meant a lot to me,” says the new champ.
He feels that getting his shot at the championship was just as much about the British audience’s loyal support for TNA as it was about his own abilities.
“That’s a testament to our generation of wrestlers and fans – we were the fans that made them aware of the fact that we’re a strong market, so when we all became wrestlers they went, ‘These are the guys who have grown up their whole lives watching us. They’re as big a part of this as anyone.’ They understood that my aptitude for wrestling was for the worldwide business, the world’s getting smaller, they just said, ‘You’re the right guy.’ The Brits get to go, ‘He’s OUR guy.’ That’s an important thing, and a great feeling.
“No-one’s looking at me really as a Brit apart from the Brits, which is how it’s supposed to be. I always wanted Brits to be looked at the same way as Canadian wrestlers. They may not be American, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them in this separate pen. We speak the same language. I get all your TV shows. You get all mine. You go to America and they’re all watching Downton Abbey.”
Magnus picked up the title in a so-called Dixieland match against Jeff Hardy, in which the contenders had to escape a steel cage and then climb a ladder to release the belt.
“I’m not in love with the name, but I love the match concept, it was clever!” he enthuses. “Everything’s been done. We have to think of different things to do to innovate. It’s basically combining two matches – simple but effective. I’m sure when I was a kid I could have easily sat there with my action figures and my ring: ‘You have to get out of the cage and THEN you have to climb the ladder.’ That bit where we both start climbing – it was exciting! I liked it! I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it, that concept will stick around.”
Hardy, of course, is well known for his fondness for ladder matches – but Magnus, for all his qualities, isn’t exactly a high flier.
“And therein lies a great story,” he points out. “Sometimes people are so quick to analyse. Once upon a time people would never have allowed, in the old World of Sport days, it was unheard of for someone to wrestle someone in a different weight class. I remember watching Fit Finlay wrestling Johnny Saint, which was a classic, but Kent Walton’s going, ‘Saint’s got no chance, because he’s a different weight class, he’s two stone lighter.’ Two stone?! Now that would be laughed at. ‘Magnus is 250 and Jeff’s only 225. Jeff’s got no chance!’ People would be, ‘What? What an odd thing to say!’ But back then it was a legitimate thing, people were probably going, ‘This is stupid! I can’t believe Johnny Saint’s wrestling Fit Finlay, what an idiotic decision!’ but somebody, probably Fit Finlay himself, people who knew what they were doing, probably went, ‘No, this’ll be a good match because of the story.’
“If you watch our match, Jeff does most of the offence – and that’s by design. He knows how to do that stuff more than I do. Everything I did to him was an attempt to ground him. There’s multiple layers to that, he had the chance to escape occasionally and decided to do the whisper off the top. He took himself out as much as me, and that led us to be able to climb out together. There’s logic in that.”
He’s well aware, though, that the match and his win didn’t please everyone.
“When it comes to internet critics, you’re never going to win anyway, so I don’t care. But if I’d have climbed to the top of the cage and done a moonsault or flipped up onto the top and Spidermanned across the cage and done a crossbody and stuff, it would have got, ‘Oh, this is awesome,’ but there would have been a bunch of people saying, ‘It didn’t make any sense!’ You can’t win anyway. I’m going to stick to my character and do what I do. You take what you do and adapt it to your environment. I love the way that match went.”
He claims that he’s watched his win a couple of times since it aired, although he did get hold of an advance copy – but he’s had more than a few sneaky looks at the post-match promos.
And after the past few months when TNA’s storylines have revolved around whether or not AJ Styles would stay with the company or not, the new champion is ready to move on.
“Let’s put the AJ stuff to bed and accept that it was unfortunate – things don’t always go the way you want,” he says. “We’ve got plenty of talent, and [AJ’s departure means] a spot has opened up. I’ve taken mine. I don’t feel like letting it go any time soon.”
The second part of TOWIS’s interview with Magnus will be published later in the week – and features his thoughts on Sting and Samoa Joe!