“We have endless possibilities of what to do with it,” he says. “It’s like the whole situation of putting me with Dixie, Spud and EC3’s involvement, there’s a lot more questions than answers, which is a great situation to be in, because then it means people are actively wanting to see where we go next with it, and that’s always what you’re trying to achieve with wrestling.
“I was a little bit worried that the whole thing [leading up to the title win] was a bit foreshadowed, I’ll be honest, and it was, there’s no getting around that. But we just worked through it, and we just stuck with it, so people were going, ‘I think this is going to happen, I think he’s going to do this,’ and even when it happened it was done in a way that nobody would have predicted exactly how. Just because they could see it coming, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a bad thing.
“You see it happen in real life. You see someone’s changing and you go, ‘He’s changed,’ before he’s really changed, you can see he’s becoming different. Things don’t necessarily happen overnight, and we have a tendency to try and do that in wrestling, to have Jekyll and Hyde all the time, and it doesn’t have to be that way. At first I was concerned and I was getting really upset about it, because I was thinking, ‘This isn’t going to go the way that we want it to, everyone can see it coming.’ The more I started to think about it and the more that guys explained it to me, I went, ‘Yeah, you’re right, it doesn’t matter, actually, because they’re coming on the whole journey with us, and that’s the most important thing.’
“Even with the airing of it in the UK, I would venture to say that at least half of the audience already knew the outcome, but I guarantee that nobody didn’t watch it – they thought, ‘I still don’t know how it happens, and I want to see how it happens.’ People still want to suspend their disbelief, so as long as we’re not explaining to them the whole, as long as we’re not giving them a complete play-by-play, who cares? Sit back and enjoy it. That’s the best thing about Brit fans. They’re the ones who, more than anyone, still want to just sit back and enjoy it. That’s great.”
Magnus’s run to the world title began in the finals of the Bound for Glory series, where he lost to AJ Styles (“I’m so proud of it – the way the whole thing played out, that was the seed planted. Sometimes your most significant moment is the match you lose”), followed by his shock defeat of Sting, by submission.
“Not a lot of people have done that,” says Magnus, with understatement. “That was a huge testament to Sting’s faith in me and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. That sent me on my way. He also said, ‘I just hope it means something.’ What he means by that was – quit pussyfooting around, and pull the trigger. That was Sting. He did that for me. He said, ‘We have to make it mean something. If he’s going to beat me, which I want him to, it’s because I want him to be a top guy, because he deserves it.’ I cannot tell you what that means to me. It’s Sting, do you know what I mean? I’ll never be able to repay him for that. I can do my best, but thanking him is a start, and I try to as often as I can.”
He’s also highly complimentary about another of TNA’s roster – Samoa Joe.
“He’s done more for me than probably anyone, truthfully,” he says. “He’s the man. There’s no-one else in the world like Samoa Joe, and that’s the point. He understands that better than anyone. He’s not arrogant about it, he’s just Cool Hand Luke, he understands how good he is, give him whatever you want to give him and he will knock it out the park.
“Whether we go to Japan, the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Joe will consistently get one of the top three reactions anywhere we go. Who’s the only other guy in all of wrestling who has that, regardless of where they are and who he’s working with? The Undertaker. Joe is the equivalent of that in TNA and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that.”
In Part 3 of our interview with Magnus, which follows later this week, he talks about returning to the UK on tour – and the perils of carrying the title belt in your hand luggage.