So often in life, people will jest and say they are living the dream, when in reality that’s pretty far from the truth. I say this with no hyperbole what-so-ever, Wardlow is living the dream. Or at least his version of it.
Fresh off the biggest win of his career at AEW Revolution, Wardlow could capture his first championship in All Elite Wrestling this Wednesday, when he challenges Scorpio Sky for the TNT Title at St. Patrick’s Day Slam.
I had a chance to chat with Wardlow on the most recent episode of the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, and the big man said he didn’t care if Sammy Guevara, Scorpio Sky, or King Kong was the TNT Champion. He was planning on running through whomever had the gold.
Wardlow has been near unstoppable during his AEW tenure, losing less than a handful of one-on-one matches. The question remains, what kind of a role will MJF and the rest of the Pinnacle play after Wardlow turned his back on them at Revolution? That moment was the culmination of a months long build and when it finally happened, it was met with thunderous applause. CM Punk and MJF had one of the best builds to a match you could ask for in pro wrestling, and the loudest reaction of that Dog Collar Match was Wardlow giving the Dynamite Diamond Ring to Punk instead of Max.
“When I say that was the best night of my life, I truly mean it. I mean, the moment of grabbing that ring and putting it over my head at the end of that ladder match and hearing that crowd and then hearing them again in the moment of placing that ring… When I turned around and I was walking up the ramp and I heard behind me the entire arena chanting my name, best moment of my life. I’ve been dreaming of that moment since I was in elementary school. I knew it would be a big moment. I just didn’t comprehend that it would be received that well.”
The face turn for Wardlow has been a long time coming. In fact, he can pinpoint the exact moment it started. The very first night he heard a Wardlow chant was in Cedar Park, Texas, just outside of Austin. That night he defeated Chad Lennex in under a minute, but he clearly made an impression on the crowd. Following that match, Wardlow went to the back and wrote a note to himself that read, “Austin, TX - my first actual Wardlow chant.”
Those chants have grown exponentially in the weeks and months that followed and now, Tony Khan has himself a brand new top babyface ready to shine. He has the crowd behind him and he has all the tools needed to be a big star in AEW. The final box was checked this past Wednesday on Dynamite when we found out the silent enforcer can cut promo.
“I was very excited to show that and I’m excited to have the opportunity to have a microphone in my hand more often. But yeah man, I’m just ready to be myself. I’ve had to be the silent bodyguard… and realistically there is a side of me that is very quiet and to myself, but I’m ready just to show the world every aspect of Wardlow. And everything that I can do, because I have so much more to give than what people have seen.”
Some of what the fans haven’t seen on AEW television yet is Warlow’s ability to fly. Early in his high school days, Wardlow had visions of following in the footsteps of one of his childhood idols. An idol that he can now call a colleague.
“I was a very late bloomer. I anticipated being a future Jeff Hardy. I practiced flips and corkscrews and moonsaults and swantons and all that stuff, thinking I would be a Jeff Hardy of a future company. And then obviously one day, life took me on a different path. Fortunately, my body still remembers how to do most of that stuff. So, people will see some unique things from me in the future that they probably wouldn’t expect.”
Growing up a huge fan of Jeff Hardy, you can imagine how elated Wardlow was when Brother Nero made his debut for AEW this past Wednesday and realigned with his brother Matt.
“Calling me a ‘Jeff Hardy guy’ is a huge understatement. When I tell you I’ve done thousands and thousands and thousands of Swanton Bombs on a trampoline, also an understatement. Jeff Hardy is a big reason I’m sitting here talking to you today. And it was almost one of those CM Punk type situations where I just thought I missed my opportunity. So, to be in the same company as the Hardy Boyz is really just a dream come true. And this past Wednesday, it was such a special night for me. The fact that we heard the music, we saw the man and we saw a Swanton Bomb on AEW Dynamite, and then I followed it... It’s just so sweet man.”
While Wardlow is excited that the very real possibility of having a dream match against Jeff Hardy exists, he says he would rather live out the childhood fantasy of tagging with Team Extreme for a night. Again, a very real possibility. If AEW has proven anything in the last three years, it’s that nothing is impossible.
To steal a classic Simpson’s line, everything is coming up Wardlow right now. Make sure to check out my full conversation with the Face of the Revolution winner in the video above, or feel free to check out more of our Q&A session below:
Believe in Pro Wrestling: It doesn’t matter the time or location, Jeff Hardy is perpetually over with the audience. What was it about him that really gravitated to a young Wardlow?
Wardlow: I’m 34. So that 99, 2000 era, I was just becoming a teenager. You know, 11, 12 years old at that time. Jeff was, you know, he was different. And when I was that age, everybody was starting to grow and hit puberty, and I was still kind of the runt. And I had this little bit of a punk rock side to me at the time. And Jeff Hardy was just, he was different, and he embraced his uniqueness. Which, especially for kids in school, you feel so pressured to dress a certain way, look a certain way. And Jeff really made me realize, like, you could just be yourself. And he was just so cool. He was himself, he was different, but he was so cool. So, I think that’s what it started it. But then you also, obviously, you have things like the Whisper and the Wind, the Swanton Bomb, all things he could do that just made him even cooler.
BPW: You’ve said before that you are built for ladder matches. Obviously getting the win has to help, but did the Face of Revolution Ladder Match live up to your expectations?
Wardlow: Dude, it really did. There’s so many situations thus far in my career that have just been mind-blowing and hard to even comprehend how things played out. I’ve said it before, manifestation is real. I grew up loving the Hardy Boyz, Edge, Christian, the Dudleys, all those ladder matches. Revolution was my first PPV performance. And in my first PPV, I am in a ladder match. Not only in a ladder match, but I’m in a ladder match with Christian.
It’s so wild how life works, man, and how mine’s unraveling. It’s still hard to believe every day. I feel like we did things that have never been done before in a ladder match. Things you’ve never seen, which I feel like are very hard to do. And I feel like we created such an entertaining ladder match without giant huge crash and burn spots. I mean, compared to other ladder matches, you know, we didn’t have those super crazy, crazy, crazy stunts. Sammy and Sting, they did the big spots. So, we were able to put together a phenomenal ladder match without that crazy stuff and still tell a great story.”
BPW: So much of that ladder match was built around the big boys. Yourself, Keith Lee and Powerhouse Hobbs. But you also had guys like Orange Cassidy. Looking at both ends of the spectrum there, as a performer, do you prefer wrestling smaller opponent or do you prefer the big man hoss fight?
Wardlow: I honestly don’t know if I could put one ahead of the other. I love both pretty equally. Obviously, very unique situations on both ends of the spectrum, but I love a classic big man brawl. I like to go. I like to be hit and I like to hit back. And I like to feel it and I like to bring it. So, I love getting in a ring with somebody that can bring it and take it. So, let’s just go out there and give it our all. That’s always fun, but I also love the story of David vs. Goliath. Realistically a big man-small man match, you’re able to complement each other very well. And I’ve always loved the dynamic.
BPW: We have all seen what MJF is like on the screen, but what was it like working with him behind the scenes? And is there anything positive that you’ll take away from your time in the Pinnacle?
Wardlow: What you see on TV is Max and I dare say he’s even worse off screen. People think the things he says in front of millions is bad. You should hear the things he says on a private jet with just the boys. I mean, he’s not a good person. That’s real. The things he says to people is mind-boggling. But I will say my time with the Pinnacle… Max is a businessman, and there’s most definitely a lot of things on the business aspect that I did learn from him. And then Shawn Spears, FTR, Tully, I mean, you couldn’t be sitting under a better learning tree. I learned so much from those guys and I’ll be able to take so much from what they taught me.
BPW: One thing I’m always interested in is a talent’s finisher. Coming up with a finisher, that can be a daunting task for a wrestler. You want to have something cool. You want to have something that looks effective. You want something that’s different. I think you check all those boxes with the Powerbomb Symphony. What's the origin story there?
Wardlow: This is another thing that’s just like, it’s crazy how life works out. I didn’t come in saying I want to do a powerbomb. Two of my favorite wrestlers growing up were Kevin Nash, Jackknife Powerbomb, Dave Bautista… Batista Bomb. So, realistically you would think I would come and be like, ‘I got to do a powerbomb’. But that actually came about Chris Jericho recommending me doing multiple powerbombs. And then we’re like, okay, this could work. And then Tony (Khan) was the one that deemed it the Powerbomb Symphony. And we just went with it and seemed to work out well.
BPW: I’m glad you brought up Batista because there have a lot of comparisons between your arc with Max, and his rise to stardom. When you hear your name mentioned with a heavy hitter like Batista, what does that do for you?
Wardlow: Dude, it just makes me smile. Being a junior in high school, I just started growing. I’m 170 pounds and I’m finally starting to grow and get some muscle, but you look at somebody like Batista, and you’re like, ‘I could never.’ I’m gonna try to get as close to that as possible, but what are the realistic odds? So, I worked my butt off to get to as close to a Dave Bautista level as possible. And to just go on Twitter and see side-by-side pictures and comparisons and people comparing me to him, it’s just such a cool feeling. Dave is somebody who I haven’t met, and I would love to meet him and thank him.
He’s still doing big things in life, and he still motivates me and pushes me to this day without even knowing it. But yeah man, again, just life and manifestation. You look at Batista. He started as Deacon Batista, wearing that same suit, silent. You know, I started with the suit, silent. Then he turned to Evolution. I have been in the Pinnacle. Him and Triple H. Me and Max. It’s like these things, it’s crazy. You can’t write this stuff. It’s just crazy how life is working out.
BPW: We’ve talked about all these legends, how about another one? Sir William Regal is now in AEW. What’s it like now that he’s there and are you looking forward to picking his brain at all?
Wardlow: It was actually funny. He’s somebody I hadn’t met yet. And when I saw him backstage, I wasn’t expecting it. I actually, excuse my language. I think I looked at him. I was like, ‘Holy s***, pleasure to finally meet you!’ And he just looked at me like (makes gesture with face), but it just came out. I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve been waiting a long time to shake your hand.’
He’s just another legend that is going to help everybody grow. And we have such a team now. Such a good team of people that genuinely want to help and have the ability to help. And it’s a special thing.