Home » COLUMNS » Trevor Murdoch on Almost 20 Years in Wrestling, Training with Harley Race an His Decision to Leave WWE

Trevor Murdoch on Almost 20 Years in Wrestling, Training with Harley Race an His Decision to Leave WWE

Dan Ryno: Now, you’ve been in the wrestling business for close to 20 years, is that right?

Trevor Murdoch: Yeah, right at the 18 mark. I’m pushing (20). I’ve got 2 more to go.

DR: And how did you get started? I’m assuming you were a big fan growing up. Did you have any particular wrestlers that made you want to get into the business, or what it something you just, sort of, fell in to?

TM: Well I grew up, in the early part of my childhood, in St. Louis, and my brother used to wake me up on Sundays, and we would watch World Class Wrestling. My brother is 11 years older than I am, and you can only imagine the two of us sitting on the floor, eating cereal, watching Kevin Von Erich, Kerry Von Erich, ‘Iceman’ King Parsons, ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams. I mean, to me, that was pro wrestling at the time. And I loved it. It got me excited because it amazed me, not only, how athletic these guys were, but how the crowd was going nuts. They had them (the crowd) almost in the palm of their hands sometimes, where they could make them cheer when they wanted and boo when they wanted.

The whole thing just got me fired up, and I loved it. But, as I got older, it wasn’t something that people were promoting, like, there weren’t schools out there. At least, none that were out promoting trying to get the public to be a part of. So, I really didn’t know how to be a part of it (the wrestling business). After I got out of the Job Corps, my brother was wrestling for an independent company in St. Louis called Central States Wrestling Alliance. When I would come in to town, he would invite me, when he had shows, and I would do security before and during the show.

But before everyone would get there, he would get in the ring with me and I’d be, basically, his tackling dummy. He would do all his new moves on me, the other guys would pick me up and say, “Let’s try this!” I was 18 years old, 6’2”, maybe 220/225, I was pretty lean. But I was the perfect guy for everybody to try their moves on and, of course, I didn’t argue or fight it. I was like, “Yeah, come on, let’s do it!” And that was my first taste, or introduction, to pro wrestling

DR: So did you begin this while you were still in high school, or did you wait until graduation when you, officially, started your training?

TM: After I got out of high school I had planned on going into the Marine Corps, and that didn’t work out. So I went to Job Corps in Puxico, Missouri and I became a certified welder. I took a 12 month course. It only took me 8 months to complete it, and they sent to me Georgia and I got a job building railroad cars in Athens, four blocks away from Georgetown. It was a college town (with) girls, drinks, bars. I remember one time, I was 18, I went into this club called the 40 Watt Club. There was this band playing, and they all had wrestling masks on, luchador masks. All five of the bands members, you had no idea what they looked like. And I remember thinking, “That’s the coolest thing.” So for two hours I’m just listening to this heavy metal band, when I don’t even like heavy metal. But I was just having a good time watching these guys rock-out in luchador masks.

I got homesick after about three months in Georgia. I called my brother, and I said, “I want to come home. Can I live with you for a while until I go find a job welding somewhere?” And he said, “Yeah.” I had just turned 19, and I moved back to St. Louis to live with my brother, and that’s when I started going to more shows. And he said, if you’re going to live here and you want to wrestle, I’ll start training you, and you can start having matches. And, lo and behold, one night in Arnold, Missouri in an Eagles Lodge, a wrestler didn’t show up and the promoter was looking for someone to fill a spot. He goes, “You’ve been training, we’ll pay for your license. You’re going to wrestle tonight.”

Thankfully, I was under a hood (because) I went in there and really had no idea what the hell I was doing. There were two things I could do well: I could bump, and I could get my ass kicked really, really well. Other than that, I was sloppy, I didn’t execute moves properly, and I wrestled like that for the next two-and-a-half years; thinking that I was the greatest thing since sliced bread, until I got an opportunity to wrestle for Harley Race, when he was starting up World Legion Wrestling in Springfield, Missouri in 1999. Bill Ash, a promoter out of Arkansas, got me the shot. So I went in there, in Springfield, Missouri, at this big country bar called Remington’s, for World Legion. We go to meet Harley and Gordon Solie at a Motel 6, and they’re putting the card together that day. And all of us wrestlers are waiting in line, we don’t know what they need, we’ll do whatever Harley Race wants us to do. And there’s a fifth of vodka sitting between both of them. They’re putting the card together but, what I don’t know is, they’re putting a match together for Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine.

They’re looking for a ‘job’ guy just to, basically, get squashed. They’re looking up and down the line, and Harley stops at me and goes, “Kid, do you got a license?” I said, “Yes sir, of course, yes sir.” He says, “Okay, tomorrow night you’re gonna wrestle Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, and you’re gonna do the job.” I had been wrestling for two-and-a-half to three years, but that was the first name I had ever gotten into the ring with. Of course, I’m extremely nervous/excited. We get to the show, and that man (Valentine) proceeds to just pummel me in the ring. But it’s probably one of the greatest experiences and lessons that I’ve learned about pro wrestling in my career. You don’t know nothin’ until someone shows you differently. You think you know everything, until someone goes, ‘No, you don’t know as much as you think.’

DR: So, talk about your experience with actual day-to-day training. Because I’m really fascinated by what actually goes into that experience. I’m sure it’s very different from what the general public sees on the reality TV side, like WWE’s Tough Enough series. So, what’s the daily routine like when you’re actually in training?

TM: Harley opened up a school, originally in Springfield for 3 months. Me and a guy named Matt Murphy were the first two guys at his school. I met him (Race) through World Legion, and when Matt found out he was starting a school, he proceeded to go there. So Matt and I were the first two guys in Harley’s camp. Basically, you’re not getting paid to be a pro wrestler at this moment in your career. You’re paying to be a pro wrestler. You’ve got to get up, and you’ve still got to go to work.

So, you work your 8 hour job. For me, when Harley opened up his school, I was living in St. Louis with my mother, in a three-story house, working for JS Alberici making $15 an hour, and working for the Union. Now, this is back in 1998-1999. $15 an hour was a lot of money, and to be with the Union, with benefits and all of that. I traded all of that in to move to Springfield, Missouri to live in a two-bedroom house with six other people and seven dogs, to sleep on the living room floor and work at a landscaping company making $4.75 an hour.

DR: That’s good livin’, right there.

TM: Oh, brother, you are ‘high on the hog.’ But, I didn’t care about money. I wanted the knowledge, and I knew if I, at the very least, could survive Harley Race’s Wrestling Academy, I could come out a knowledgeable wrestler and a tough wrestler. The daily routine is, you’ve got to get up and go to work, 8 hours a day, out in the sun. Get home, and you want to eat something before you go to training. Then you’re going to spend the next four to five hours at the school doing cardio. And when I mean cardio, I’m talking 300 push-ups a day, 500 squats a day, up/downs. If you think of a military-style training, this is cardio just to get into the ring.

You do this for about an hour, and then you get into the ring and you start taking bumps. You’re getting knocked down, continuously, and getting back up. And you do this for about an hour, and when you’re getting bumped around like that, it beats you up. Then, you start working matches. You do this for, about, another hour. After that, you’ve got to go to the gym. For me, you could tell that I was never a bodybuilder. It didn’t mean I didn’t go to the gym. You could never ‘blow me up’ in the ring. Then you want to go home, eat, shower, wake up and repeat. You do this four to five days a weeks.

For me, when we started out here down in Eldon, (Missouri) this was my life. If I wasn’t wrestling on the weekends, I was at the school running matches with trainees, or with Matt, or with other guys that were as experienced as me. Trying to get better, trying to have different matches, trying to tell better stories. I always knew I wasn’t going to look like a bodybuilder like you see on TV, but I always wanted to make sure I could out-wrestle anybody and be one of the toughest guys in the ring. I think I’ve been able to come across like that in my career.

DR: And, while you’re actually at the school training, you said you were going out on weekends and working shows as well?

TM: Yes. In Harley’s first year, he ran 78 shows. If you spread that out to a 52 week year, that’s, at the very least, one show a weekend. And more than one show a weekend on a lot of occasions. When Harley wasn’t booking you for a show, you would try to work for other promoters, either in Oklahoma, Illinois. I remember one time, I was running up to Minneapolis. That’s a 10 hour drive from where I lived, just to wrestle and make $50. Because I knew I wasn’t ever going to get better if I didn’t go out there and have more matches and wrestle in front of more people, so more people would know who I was. I wasn’t always about making money, I was about going out there and putting on a good show, and hearing those people go nuts for you. And, at the very least, not losing money which, most of the time, you did anyway.

But that’s where you have to remind yourself of what you’re, honestly, working for. The ultimate goal is to get to the WWE, that’s the pinnacle. That where you can tell your mom and dad to turn on the TV and go, ‘On Monday night, if I call you, you need to be watching USA (Network) at 7:00.’ It’s what everybody want to get to. So, you have to put in the time on the road. You have to get people talking about you, so you can, at least, get somebody’s attention at WWE.

DR: And you did get their attention. How did that actually come about, when you got the call to go to Ohio Valley, which was their developmental at the time?

TM: I had just gotten back from Japan. I spent six months over there, in their dojo, training. And I had, pretty much, gave up the idea that WWE was ever going to be interested in me. I had been up there eight or nine different times doing tryouts. Whether I had matches, one time they used me as a security guard for Kane. They just never really showed any indication that they wanted to sign me.

So, I decided I was going to wrestle in Japan and make my career over there. I could still make a good living, and be successful, as long as I put on good matches over in Japan. So I offered up to go to the dojo over there for NOAH, (founder Mitsuhara) Misawa’s company, for six months and train. After I came back, I’m home for eight or nine days, and Harley tells me he’s got me a tryout for WWE once again. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go,’ but I really didn’t expect anything to happen. I didn’t expect to wrestle. The only thing I was glad about was, I was making $250, I was gonna eat some awesome catering, and I got to hang out with some superstars and be a fan for a little bit; and get to see the show from the backstage.

So, I get there, and I see that Chris Benoit is out by the ring, and he’s doing squats. I want to get his attention, so I can talk to him for a little bit, and get some advice for Japan. Again, I had no intentions on coming to the WWE. ‘Ok guys, you’re not interested. It’s okay. No hard feelings. I’ll go somewhere else because I love wrestling.’ So, I get into the ring and I start doing some of my Japanese squats and stretches, and I do get Chris’ attention. He wrestled in Japan a lot, and he came over and introduced himself, and we started talking. He asked me, “Who trained you?” I said, “Harley Race.” He’s a big fan of Harley, he and Harley are friends, and he goes, “Have you been to Japan recently?” And this was an opportunity for me to just lay out my resume, “Well sir, as a matter of fact I just came back from six months at the NOAH dojo, Misawa’s company.” He goes, “Do you have a match tonight?” and I said, “No sir.” And he said, “Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

About 10 minutes later, he came back and said, “Okay kid, you better show them what you got, because they’re going to be watching. You’ve got a match tonight.” I totally flipped the coin. I went from not caring and, pardon my French, not giving a shit about being there to, now, ‘Wow, I’ve got the attention that I’ve been wanting the last 8 or 9 times focused on me.’ It’s an either ‘shit or get off the pot’ scenario.

DR: That’s incredible.

TM: I said, “Thank you, thank you,” and I wrestled Rob Conway in a dark match. Rob came back and told Johnny Ace (head of talent relations), “That guy can wrestle, we had a really good match.” So, Johnny Ace came to me and said, “Trevor, why don’t you come to Smackdown tomorrow. We’re going to have you wrestle Rene Dupree.” So, I go to Smackdown, I wrestle Rene Dupree. We have a great match. Of course, for me, I’m excited because it’s another $250 and catering again! I’m thinking, “What a great weekend.”

I get done with my match with Rene Dupree, I’m walking out of the Gorilla (position), and I run right into Arn Anderson, for which I’m a huge fan/mark. He pulls his glasses down over his nose, he looks at me over his glasses, and he goes, “Kid, you gonna fuck around and get yourself a job here.” And all I could say was, “Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you. Thank you.” The man couldn’t have given me a greater compliment. Even if I never did get a job there, it was coming from Arn Anderson. So, I go to the locker room, started to get dressed. I’m kind of excited/happy with a great weekend, and Johnny Ace walks into the locker room and says, “Hey kid, I need to talk to you. When you get done, come into my office.”

So, I get done, I go into his office, and we’re talking a little bit, and he goes, “Do you want to work here?” I couldn’t even get the words out. I just nodded my head. He said, “Okay, give me your address and phone number and I’ll have a contract sent out to you. Have your lawyer look at it, and send it back to me.” Now, I’m an indy guy, paying to wrestle, barely making rent. And I’m like, ‘Sure, I’ll have my lawyers look at it.’ Man, as soon as I got that contract, I literally didn’t pull it out of the FedEx package far enough to read it, just far enough for me to sign it. Put it back in, seal it up, and send it out. Because I didn’t want Johnny to say, “Oh, I had a brain fart one night, kid. Sorry, I was drinking. I should have never offered that to you.” We’re sending that (contract) back ASAP, buddy.

DR: Didn’t want to give them any chance to change their minds.

TM: Yes sir. So, I get a call, about a week-and-a-half later telling me that he got the contract, that he was sending it back with his signature on it, so I had a copy. And he said, “We’re gonna send you down to developmental. I need you to move down there within the next 4 weeks.” And I said, “Johnny, I’m an indy guy. I have no money. I’m barely making rent. I don’t have the money to move down there. I need some help.” And he goes, “Will $4000 move you down there?” And I was thinking I could move with $500, but $4000 will work!

They send me the check, I’m packing up my then-girlfriend, my newborn son, and my daughter to move to Louisville, and I get a call about three weeks into that four week time saying, ‘We’re going to bring you to TV. We’re going to tag you with Lance Cade and see what you guys look like as a tag team. This weekend you’re going to tag with Lance, and next weekend Lance is going to tag with Kevin Thorn. Whoever’s the best tag team is going to be on the road the week after that.’ So I’m excited but, again, I’m not expecting anything to happen. I’m just thankful that I’ve got a job/opportunity. I’m going to go down to Louisville and learn whatever I can and get better.

So I go up to do TV with Lance, and we wrestle a dark match together Monday. We go Tuesday and wrestle another dark match together, and as soon as we go through the curtains, we’re met by Johnny Ace. And he asks us right then and there, “Lance, you’ve wrestled with Kevin down in OVW, so you already know what kind of partner he’d be. You just wrestled with Trevor the last two days. Who do you think would be a better tag partner for you?” And right there, I was like, ‘Well, that’s his buddy. I’m heading to Louisville.’ But, Lance was honest with Johnny Ace, and he goes, “You know what, I think I’ve got more chemistry with Trevor. I think we’d be a better tag team.” And he (Johnny Ace) said, “Okay, you guys are on the road this week,” and he walked away. And, literally, within 5 weeks, I went from not giving a crap about WWE to now I am on the main roster in a tag team situation.

To be honest, Harley always told me, ‘Kid, you’ve got to be ready at any moment at any time. You’ve got to be ready.’ I am a perfect and prime example of that.

DR: You really caught your big mainstream break in that tag team with Lance Cade. You guys ended up winning the tag titles on several occasions. Just talking about your WWE run, were there any highs or lows that really stick out in your memory?

TM: In the very beginning, Lance and I were put on the road, we were doing house shows. They started taping our vignettes that same week, and they started airing our vignettes. It was an extremely huge high, because you’re just getting this job, and my vignettes are airing on national TV for three weeks. The next three weeks after that we’re beating the then-current tag team champions every week, to lead into my first pay-per-view, where we’re winning the WWE Tag Team Titles.

I mean, you couldn’t be on a bigger high than I was at that moment. And you think, ‘Alright, I’ve made it to the pinnacle of the world, I’m a WWE tag champ, they obviously see something in me, they’re gonna run with us.’ And, four weeks later, we lose the WWE Tag Team Titles, and two weeks after that, they split me and Lance up for no complete reason.

DR: And that was going to be another question I wanted to ask. A lot of times the end game, booking wise, with tag teams, is to have a big breakup feud and create, at least, one ‘singles’ star out of that. So, I’m guessing from your answer previously, that you didn’t feel like the team had run its course, and that you still had some good stories to tell, as a tag team?

TM: Well, they broke us up right after we lost the tag belts the first time. They said they were going to push me towards Ric Flair, towards the Intercontinental Title, and they didn’t know what to do with Lance. They gave me one match with Ric Flair and then, all of the sudden, I’m wrestling on Heat. So, I went from the flagship program, to relegated to Heat.

So Lance and I were kind of floundering, and we both, collectively, went back to Johnny to push to Vince (McMahon) that ‘You have to put us back together.’ And they said, ‘You know what, we’ll put you guys back together on this European tour but, after that, there’s no promises.’ Me and Lance went 18 days straight having great tag matches. We came back from that European tour, and all of the agents told Vince, ‘Yeah, you need to keep these guys together.’ And, we ended up getting another solid run with the tag team belts. We always knew we were going to get split up. Just like you said, you look at past history, that’s just how it is. But we always felt you didn’t just have to have us, all of the sudden, do the regular ‘I’m mad at him. He’s mad at me. So we’re going to fight each other.’ Why couldn’t we be, and I’m not comparing us to DX; but DX was always a tag team that could also split off and do their own thing for six months to a year. And then, whenever you wanted to, you could put them back together to fit into a tag team situation, if you needed.

I felt as if, when you see Lance and I, you’ve still got two (different) characters. Whereas when you saw guys like M&M, if you took one guy out of M&M, you’ve still got the same guy; the same looking guy, the same style of wrestling. Cryme Tyme, same thing. Highlanders, same thing, except one had a beard and the other was bald. I mean, Lance and I were still a tag team, but when you looked at us you’d say, ‘Okay, he’s the clean-cut, good-looking one, and he’s the mean, fucking-ugly one that’s willing to kick your head in.’ There’s two different guys there, and that’s the one thing that always bothered me, is that they (the WWE) never did. (The breakup) was a match on Raw, two matches on Raw, and that was it, we just weren’t buddies anymore.

Three years as a tag team, you would have thought we would have, at least, gotten a pay-per-view out of it. It sounds like I’m hating on the business, but that’s the dark side of wrestling for WWE. Once you get there, the fight and struggle to be a top guy, or at least featured on Raw, is still a struggle. It’s still a fight. It’s still hard to get somebody’s attention.

DR: Was that part of the reason behind your exit from company? Was it a lack of creative direction for your character? Because, like you were saying before, I always thought you had a real unique look that no one else on the roster could replicate. You weren’t just the cookie-cutter bodybuilder that you throw in there, throw a spray tan on them, and you could mix-and-match as you saw fit. I always thought there were a lot of ways they could have gone with your character. So, what exactly led to your exit from the WWE?

TM: I had pitched this ‘singing’ character to Vince, because I knew they were splitting Lance and I up for the last time. And I knew it was right around draft time, and you could almost see the writing on the wall that I was going to Smackdown; which I actually wanted to, because I wouldn’t have to compete with Lance, we wouldn’t be on the same show. Us being tag team partners wouldn’t affect each other, being on two different programs. So, I went and pitched a singing gimmick to Vince, not really knowing what to do with it.

I kind of wanted to do a John Cena thing where I sang my own stuff, making fun of my opponents on my way down to the ring. I didn’t want to be like John Cena, I just wanted to have a little bit of that flavor from the country end of it. To the point where, I had to let Vince know I had this idea so I didn’t get sent back down to developmental or, ultimately down the road, fired. So I started tracking Vince down. You know, we’re in the arena here, and everyone is talking to Vince, and he’s steadily walking to his office. I finally catch him right as he’s walking into his office; I almost have to push one of the writers out of the way to get in.

I get in the office, and I lean up against the door, so no one else can come in, and I say, “Vince, I know you’re splitting me and Lance up soon. I can see the writing on the wall. I like to sing karaoke. Every once in a while, when I get really liquored up, I have a really good time with it. I don’t know what we can do with it. But, here you go…” Right there and then, I sang a song to Vince, a Capella, in his office. I was so nervous, I can’t even remember what song it was. But, I do remember there being this lull. It felt like a ten hour pause, but it was really only, like, ten seconds after I got done singing. Vince didn’t say anything. Then he looks at me, and goes, “Well, God dammit, Trevor. That’s great. Why didn’t you tell me this before? We’ll put it on Raw next week. That’s fabulous.”

And next week on Raw, I’m standing on the announcer’s table, singing to my tag partner, Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” But, my issue was, they never really seemed to want to take it serious. Prime example, they had me singing to the makeup lady, and she just, kind of, shrugged me off and made an ugly face. If I can’t even entertain the flippin’ makeup lady, how is that going to do anything for me, career wise?

And that was the WWE’s thinking, at the time, towards me. It came time to re-sign my contract, and I was watching my son grow up in pictures and videos. He was 4, at the time, and it just wasn’t something that I wanted anymore. And it was easier for me not to re-sign my contract than to say, ‘I quit.’ If that makes any sense.

DR: Absolutely. And, after that, you had the chance to spend some time in TNA, and I’ve always be fascinated with the behind-the-scenes atmosphere with that company, as opposed to WWE. Specifically, why a company that’s been around for over a dozen years, with a national TV deal for a lot of that run, just can’t seem to get over that hump, and always seems to be on the verge of just vanishing. Anything about your time in TNA that might shed some light on that?

TM: I know the boys were awesome to be around, you know, all the other wrestlers. For me, it seemed that were just too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. There were a lot of people with power, and they seemed to fight more with each other than for each other. I think there’s a lot of good talent there that they don’t know what to do with. And that comes down to any pro wrestling TV show. You need to have wrestlers in control of a wrestling show. Because only a wrestler will know what to do, what it feels like, and how to behave, in a ring.

To me, it comes down to basic lack of knowledge of the business. You’re talking about a company like WWE that’s been around for, how many years? We’re talking decades (compared) to (TNA) in its infancy.

Good to see friends!

A photo posted by Trevor Murdoch (@therealtmurdoch) on

DR: I think, based on what you’re saying, the buck stops with Vince. Everything goes through him, and he’s the leader of the pack. He’s going to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to everything. In TNA, it seems like there’s a few too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak?

TM: Exactly. And you’ve got to think too, Vince’s had his trials and tribulations figuring out how to put his business model together, if you look back on his early years. Vince has just had more time to perfect it. Stephanie (McMahon) and Triple H are basically taking over that perfected business model, and improving and making it better. Whereas, once Jeff (Jarrett) stepped out of the realm of control in TNA, you had people that were wrestling fans, in control. To me, that’s bad business.

DR: One thing that I think TNA has actually done well, in previous years, is they would actually put a big focus on tag team wrestling. Specifically in the WWE, tag team wrestling’s really an afterthought at this point, for the company. Often, tag team title matches will either take place on the pre-show of a pay-per-view or, sometimes, not at all. So, why do you think there’s no longer an emphasis on tag team wrestling, and do you think there can be a resurgence of that, in the future?

TM: I think in another company, it can. WWE is more focused, now, on their singles stars because they can pay one person (instead of two). In my opinion, even if you look back in the days of ‘old school,’ tag teams carried a certain part of the show. People were excited to see these two teams go in and battle it out and tell different stories. Good guy versus bad guy.

In my opinion, that’s pro wrestling right there. It’s very basic. You can’t mess up the story. You’ve got a good guy and a bad guy. When you’re in a tag team, you can put more emphasis on that stuff. TNA, in that aspect, was intelligent to know they had some good tag teams to tell that story. If they’re given the opportunity, tag teams can be a huge part of a show and, my goodness, they’re exciting to watch.

DR: I just remember, growing up in the 80s, tag team wrestling was so prevalent. The feuds you had in NWA with The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, The Rock N Roll Express, and even in WWE, with Demolition, and The Rockers, and The Hart Foundation. It just seems like it’s a missed opportunity for something that could be really big, if they put a focus on it.

TM: I agree. But, you’re also talking about WWE. Vince has said it publicly, and I’ve heard him said it personally, that WWE is not a wrestling company. They are an entertainment company. Per Vince’s word, wrestling was something that his dad did. So, when you look at it that way, for him, tag team wrestling has no place. He has to have it, but it’s not important. But, as you can tell, when it’s given the opportunity and the time, it can do well. But, different strokes for different folks.

DR: I’m just curious. There’s a ton of wrestling on TV now, with WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor has a national TV deal, Lucha Underground. There’s just a ton of product out there. Even New Japan Pro Wrestling is starting to make its way over to the States as well. Do you still follow pro wrestling? Are you still a fan?

TM: Yeah, I love pro wrestling. Especially with what’s been going on the last six to eight months with New Japan, Lucha Underground. There’s a lot of good wrestling out there. As a fan, in my opinion, this is an exciting time. Because, at one point, I remember you had two (wrestling companies): WCW and WWE. When they competed, we as fans got the best wrestling out there. That’s where the Attitude Era came from. So, I’m super excited about the competition that’s going on out there, because everyone is going to step up their game.

But my favorite is New Japan. Those guys go out there, and they’re working their asses off. They’re going out there and putting in time, and they’re giving people a story, something to get behind and get excited about. Whereas, nowadays, when you watch WWE, if you miss two weeks of wrestling, you’ve kind of missed out on a storyline. You’ve got to look back and find out what’s going on because so much has changed. It’s hard to get behind something and get excited.

Vince is like, if you’re standing outside and the sun is out, Vince is saying, ‘No, that sun’s not out. Nope. I don’t care what you see. It’s not the sun.’ Well, I’m sorry. You’re promoting a three hour wrestling program. With wrestlers, in a ring. With people fighting each other. I understand the entertainment is part of it. But the focus is wrestling. And, in my opinion, New Japan, Lucha Underground, GFW that’s popping up, and even, to a certain extent, TNA, they still focus on wrestling. That’s what they are.

DR: Absolutely. Vince has his ideas for how he wants the company to transition to the entertainment aspect of it. But, at the end of the day, these angles are coming down to two guys…

TM: A wrestling match.

DR: Stepping into the ring. Absolutely. A wrestling match is the culmination of your story. You can’t take the wrestling out of WWE.

TM: And that’s the thing. You can take all the other stuff away and still have the WWE. But when you start taking the wrestling out of it, everything else starts to fail around it. Lucha Underground and New Japan, they focus on their product, their wrestlers, their stories. It’s a wrestling show. That’s what I want to buy a ticket to. That’s what I want to see when I watch wrestling. Not a six minute match. I want to see a story.

DR: I think that’s what’s so great about what’s going on with the different promotions, and everything, right now. Fans do have options. For a while there, once WCW went out of business, either you watch WWE or you don’t watch wrestling. And now there’s a lot of different options out there. Ring of Honor has their own style. It’s a little more high-impact and hard-hitting, in ring. And WWE is a lot more story and promo-based. And TNA is somewhere in the middle. There’s a little something for everybody, I think.

TM: It’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan. And it’s definitely an exciting time to be a wrestler. Cause a lot of guys have got places to go, options. Whereas, at one time, it was either you go to WWE, or you’re just nothing.

DR: Trevor, I really appreciate all the time you’ve given me. I wanted to close it out with a rapid-fire round of some quick questions. Is that cool with you?

TM: Sure.

DR: Stiffest opponent you’ve ever worked with?

TM: Bobby Lashley.

DR: Biggest crowd you’ve ever worked in front of?

TM: 78,000

DR: Smallest crowd you’ve ever worked in front of?

TM: 3 [laughs]

DR: And where was the 3 at? Where did that take place?

TM: Before I met Harley, I was wrestling for Central States Wrestling Alliance. It was in the back of a Wal-Mart. Apparently, the promoter had sold something to the local Wal-Mart, where they’d put on a show. But nobody promoted it, but Wal-Mart still paid the promoters. So he’s like, ‘We’ve still got to put on a show.’ So there was this dad and his two kids out there. We put on three matches. Most of the guys didn’t show up so, of course, I wrestled two out of the three. One with a hood, one without…and made my $50!

DR: There you go. Like you said, it’s all about the love of the business, and you’ve got to get your name and your face out there any chance you get.

TM: I was already there so…might as well!

DR: Worst idea for a gimmick you were ever presented with?

TM: You know, I’ve never really been presented with bad gimmicks. When I wrestled for TNA, they were still doing pay-per-views. They presented to me, ‘We want you to be a redneck hillbilly Stan Dupp. And I had chew running down the middle of my lip, and I would shake, but it was just looking for the opportunity and try to make the best of it. Never a bad gimmick. Just a bad idea sometimes.

DR: Gotcha. Favorite match that most people will never see? Either because it was in the indies, at a house show….or, in the back of a Wal-Mart.

TM: [Laughs] I live in a small town called Eldon, Missouri, where the school originally started. My best friend, his name is Bull Schmidt, he lives in Coffeyville, Kansas. He came down here for a couple of years to train, and we became really close. Actually, he and I won Harley’s WLW Tag Team Titles on three different occasions. This guy is 6’6”, 280 pounds, lean, good look, good wrestler. For a guy his size, he could dropkick you right in your forehead. He was an amazing wrestler. We had always been associated as friends and tag team partners.

So, one night, we’re wrestling here in Eldon for the 20th or 30th time. Because we would wrestle here in Eldon, being the home base, once every three months. Harley decided to put Bull and I together, against each other, in a singles match. Bull and I sold out the community center, which could fit 600 people. We had standing-room-only, as the main event. But it was one of those moments where you could just feel the energy in the room. Him and I were looking at each other; he had his fans in the crowd, I had my fans, it was just ‘that moment.’ Harley was just starting to do PAX TV, so he had some smoke for the entrance. So there was just this light haze of smoke through the community center. In the ring, you’re looking at each other. It was that ‘Rocky’ moment.

Him and I went the 15 minute time limit, and the crowd’s going nuts because there’s no finish. 3,2,1…DING DING DING DING. And Bull goes to climb out of the ring, and Harley’s standing at the end of the ramp. He points at the ring and goes, ‘No. get back in there. Five more minutes.’ Me and Bull go in there and tear the house down for three-and-a-half more minutes, and I end up finishing him, hitting him with the Bulldog, 1-2-3, and it was an exciting match with my best friend. Not to mention, he’s one of those guys…you know how when you’re with your buddies, you can do things to your buddies that you couldn’t do to normal people? Well, wrestling’s no different, except we can just hit each other harder, and be okay with it. You can kick your buddy in the face and go, ‘Well, he’ll be a little mad, but he’ll get over it.’ That was the mentality for both of us. Go out there and beat the living snot out of each other and give every one of these people in this building their money’s worth. It was really one of those magical moments, and nobody will probably ever be able to see it again, or it’s probably on some tape somewhere in some dusty box.

DR: Last question for you. More fun being a heel or a babyface?

TM: Heel! Heel! Especially as I get older. When I was younger, I loved being a babyface. I was a babyface my whole career until I got to WWE. I loved being the good guy. I loved people loving me, and trying to get them to cheer for me. But, as you get older, being a bad guy is so much easier. It’s so much more fun to look at somebody and be mean to them than it is to go ‘Love me.’ It’s easier to make people hate you than it is to get them to love you. It’s just human nature. Not to mention, creatively, you can do things you couldn’t do in your daily life, as a heel. So, yes, I love being a heel waaaay more than being a babyface.

DR: That’s awesome. Trevor, thanks so much for taking this much time out of your day. I originally asked you for 20 minutes, and you gave me more than twice that. It was just really awesome talking to you, and hopefully we can do it again.

TM: Right on, buddy. I hope I gave you everything you got, and I just hope you make me sound NOT like an idiot.

DR: I shall do my best!

TM: I greatly appreciate it.

About Dan Ryno

Dan Ryno has been a pro wrestling fanatic for over 25 years, and an MMA fan for over a decade. He holds a BA and MA in Education from Lindenwood University in the historic wrestling town of St. Louis. He has been covering MMA, boxing, and pro wrestling since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @danryno.

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