A Wrestling State of Mind: Journeys that Pull on the Heartstrings

When the opportunity to look into the wrestling state of mind from pros presents itself, it’s not about getting dirt or a soundbite. It’s about putting their minds at ease, having some fun and getting raw stories through an approach of two old friends sitting down and talking from the heart. This is exactly how Alex of journeyofafrontman.com approaches his wrestling interviews. Alex has spoken with a who’s who of wrestlers, and in that time, he’s heard a ton of great stories and insight into a wrestlers state of mind. Now a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories, over a spread of installments, he is excited to show you a collection of quotes from wrestling interviews he has done in the past that are heartfelt, funny, thought-provoking and share the wrestling state of mind during memorable moments. In today’s article, we look at the sincere, feel-good side of things.

The wrestling state of mind - Corey Graves shares memorable moments with Dusty Rhodes
[Photo courtesy of Corey Grave’s Instagram page (@wwegraves)]

Professional wrestling encompasses everything of a good drama – the finery of costume, the grandeur of staging, and emotion in the highest sense. It is a spectacle that can lead you on a roller coaster ride from grief to awe and anger to tears in a second’s notice. The same array of emotion can be applied to wrestling journeys shared by the characters of the squared circle once the camera stops rolling. Here’s a look into the wrestling state of mind from a few during important times in their careers.

Related: RESPECT: Much Deeper Than Storytelling, Athleticism and Showmanship 

A Wrestling State of Mind – Corey Graves on picking the brain of Dusty Rhodes at Full Sail

Corey Graves Wrestling State of Mind on picking the brain of Dusty Rhodes at Full Sail
[Photo courtesy of WWE YouTube page]

“It’s unbelievable, especially for a fan like myself. For as long as I can remember since I was three or four years old, I’ve loved wrestling. And I’d watch all these guys that I work with on a daily basis such as Bill DeMott and Norman. These are guys that we work with day in and day out and I think we sometimes take it for granted. It’s a thrill for me. It means a lot to me that they look at me the way they do and show me the respect that they do as far as our points of view on the business. To sit down and discuss ideas with Dusty Rhodes creatively or just sitting and listening to him tell stories, it’s so much fun. Everything’s such a thrill for me. And sometimes I have to take a step back.

If I have a day where I’m frustrated or I’m in a bad mood, sometimes I’ll call my dad or one of my friends and start venting to them about something and my dad will say, ‘Listen, you just told me that you got into an argument with Dusty Rhodes.’ Then I take a step back and I go, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot. This is where I’m at.’ So it’s really cool, definitely a thrill all the time.” [Note: This was said by Corey prior to Dusty’s passing in June 2015]

A Wrestling State of Mind – Trish Stratus on the Women’s Revolution in WWE

Four female WWE wrestlers, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Baylee, dressed in bright yellow and black
[Photo Courtesy of WWE.com]

“I think it’s amazing. It’s about time. The girls are ready and the fans are ready. I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen. I think they’re doing a fantastic job. I want to see who is going to break out from the girls now since they came in as a cluster. It’s an exciting time to see these strong characters, these strong athletes, and to be able to sit back and watch who is going to break out and be that star. They’re all stars. They are all great in the ring – and what I love is they all have pretty defined characters from what we’ve seen so far.  I’m proud of them. It’s a good time for women in our business right now.”

A Wrestling State of Mind – Kevin Owens on his NXT debut

Kevin Owens (back view) entering NXT during his debut
[Photo courtesy of WWE YouTube channel]

“I wish I could tell you exactly what I was thinking about, but there were so many things going through my mind. I thought a lot about my family because they got me to the point. It sounds really corny because it seems like that’s what people would say when there’s a big moment in their lives. I thought about my kid, my parents, and my wife. I remember at one point, I stopped midway through the ramp before I got in the ring and I clearly remember having a flash of running to the ring in my first match. It was just such a culmination. It’s always been my dream. It’s really hard to describe how memorable that was.”

A Wrestling State of Mind – EC3 on Working with Wrestling Icons

Kurt Angle with his TNA Championship draped over his shoulder in the ring with EC3 and Tyrus
[Photo courtesy of Impact Wrestling]

“Looking at it from the perspective as a fan growing up watching wrestling, it’s surreal to be in the ring with guys I considered heroes, guys I watched every week. From being a little kid to a teenager, I would see a thing Kurt Angle did in a match one time and pause the TV. Then I’d look to my dad and say, ‘Someday I’m gonna do that.’ And he’s like, ‘Okay.’

Then, someday comes, and I’m doing it and I’m in the ring with a guy that inspired me. As a fan, that’s incredible.

As far as being a talent or a performer, you only get better being in the ring with people that are better than you. The only way to improve is to be in situations you’re not accustomed to and being taught through hands-on training. Being in the ring with Sting, Bully, Angle, even all the other veterans in TNA [at the time] like Eric Young, Austin Aries, Matt Hardy, Abyss, you’re always learning with all those guys. You always learn with everything you do. Guys that have been around longer have learned from some of the best, too. It’s the trickle-down effect. Trickle-Down Economics, Ronald Reagan style.”

A Wrestling State of Mind – Rhyno on Getting Let go from WWE and Making a Triumphant Return

Rhyno during NXT speaking into a microphone and pointing at the screen
[Photo courtesy of WWE]

“I was released from WWE for a little incident, but it’s not a secret. It involved alcohol and I was going through a difficult time in my life. Alcohol wasn’t an issue, I just happened to be drinking. And I was very irresponsible.

As a man, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Every action. There was no physicality. I just threw a flower pot. I laugh at it now and my ex-wife laughs at it now. But like I said, you have to be a man and stand up. No matter what was said or done, there is no excuse for the behavior. And when you behave, you have to be responsible. I understand what I had to do, I had to work hard and work towards the indies.

We already had the One Night Stand booked and I fulfilled my commitment with that. They wanted me to honor that commitment and we did good business. [WWE and I] professionally parted ways. They were good on their part and did everything as far as they were contractually obligated to. They did not try to mess around or anything. It was just one of those things where it was a very good learning experience. But it was a good situation for me. I made it a good situation by learning from the mistake, then I move forward in my career. I put my nose to the grindstone and worked to keep my career going. I moved forward, there’s no dispute about it. I began to create some good memories like working with ‘The Monster’ Abyss. He’s a great talent. I worked on the independents and developed a great relationship with the fans. I met and interacted with them, one-on-one, on a smaller intimate level. You have that time and you have that ability. When you’re doing the bigger venues, it’s harder because there are so many more fans and it can get chaotic.

At this moment in my life, the fans of NXT and their passion, I see that same emotion and that same passion and that same drive from all the fans that I did fifteen years ago. I see that same passion and drive from the performers that I did fifteen years ago. They had something to prove fifteen years ago in the company that I worked for. We all know the company that I’m talking about, I don’t even have to say it. They were rejected, look at each and every single talent, they had something to prove. Stone Cold Steve Austin was fired from WCW, they said he’d never make it and that he’d never be anything better than a mid-carder. Where did he go for six months to prove his worth? He had something to prove because he was rejected and he proved it in under six months. Then he went to WWE and within six, seven months, he started taking off. The rest is history.

Kevin Owens has something to prove. Sami Zayn has something to prove. The list goes on and on. Finn Balor. The list goes on and on. It’s the same stuff that happened then, people crave that same passion. There’s a lot of great wrestling out there and there’s a lot of great things happening in wrestling, just with a little different formula. And that brings a person to life. That brings me to life. I feel alive all the time and I feel great, but this makes me feel really young again. The fans and their passion make me feel really young again. You’ve just gotta feel it. Whether you’re in the crowd or in that ring, it brings you to life.”

A Wrestling State of Mind – Bubba Ray Dudley on his Surprise Appearance in the 2015 Royal Rumble

Bubba Ray in a grey camo shirt with no sleeves holding up the #1 sign at a WWE Event
[Photo courtesy of cagesideseats.com]

“If that was my last appearance, all I can say to my fellow wrestlers in the back and the fans in Philly and all around the world that watched…thank you. Thank you for the warm welcome backstage. Thank you for the warm welcome in the arena. Thank you for everything. People always ask me about the Hall of Fame, whether it’s TNA or WWE. ‘Do you think you’re gonna go into the Hall of Fame?’ I tell them, ‘I get inducted into the Hall of Fame every night I go through that curtain.’

When you go through that curtain and you can hear the response of the fans, that’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame every night. As long as they are booing me as loud as they can or cheering me as loud as they can, that’s the only Hall of Fame I will ever need in my career.”

A Wrestling State of Mind – Eric Young on the Night he Won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship

Eric Young holding up his TNA World Heavyweight Championship title belt
[Photo courtesy of Impact Wrestling]

“I’m a pretty emotional guy anyway. For me, the most important thing in wrestling is respect from my peers. I never got into wrestling for money or fame. Fame is something that comes with it. If you told me even a year before that happened that I was gonna win the world title, I would’ve said not to hold your breath. But things happen. Other than Jeff and Kurt, I was arguably the most over babyface on the show. I put them in a position where they couldn’t ignore it. And they didn’t. There [was] a vision [there].

I started to cry in the ring because [I was] holding the world title. I just won it and [it was] a pretty big deal. [I was in TNA over] ten years and I [got] along with pretty much everybody. I’ve known most of these guys for over ten years. Bobby Roode, I’ve known for twelve, thirteen years. I’ve only known some guys a couple years, but I’m close with them. And when I came through, everyone was there. Standing ovation and clapping. The match was super good and I’m proud of it. Me and Magnus had a really good match. But that moment was more important to me than winning the belt, coming back and having everybody there. We’re like a family. Every time you’re in the ring, your life is in that guy’s hands. Even if you’re not close where you hang out with each other, there’s still a brotherhood to it. Brotherhood, sisterhood, the guys, and the girls. Because we’re the underdogs, it makes us a pretty tight-knit group. We all deal with the same problems and the same bullshit and stuff. Coming through the curtain and having eighty of your peers clapping and giving you a standing ovation, it doesn’t get better. Not ever.”

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Alex is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories as well as a writer, interviewer, and podcaster for JourneyOfAFrontman.com.