When TNA Impact Wrestling hits the Dothan Civic Center for the Road to Lockdown World Tour this upcoming Saturday, "Cowboy" James Storm will be among the featured attractions.
A former world heavyweight and multiple-time world tag team champion, the native Tennessean has been with TNA since its founding in 2002.
Storm and the other Impact Wrestling stars can be seen Thursday nights at 8 p.m. Central on Spike TV.
The Dothan Eagle conducted a phone interview with Storm on Thursday, gathering his thoughts on a number of wrestling-related topics.
Dothan Eagle: What are your first memories of pro wrestling? Were you a fan growing up?
James Storm: I grew up watching wrestling when I was little with my mom and brother. I actually grew up watching USWA wrestling when it was owned by Jerry Jarrett. We didn’t really have a big-time wrestling school, so mom moved us so I could actually wrestle. I won a championship at the 152 (pound) class in high school wrestling. I was gonna go to Austin Peay (State University) on a basketball scholarship, but I broke my shoulder. One morning I woke up, saw an interview to become a professional wrestler at the USWA wrestling school, and about two months in I had a compound fracture in shoulder and had to have it completely repaired. Once I got out, the school shut down, so I just found another.
Eagle: How much time did you spend on the independent circuit before finding your way to TNA?
Storm: I spent about five years on the indies, and then I went to WCW for two years before they sold out.
Eagle: You’ve developed through the years into unquestionably one of the most unique, standout characters in TNA. How did you find the persona of "Cowboy" James Storm, and how similar are you outside the ring to the guy we see every Thusday night?
Storm: That’s me. They tell me to go out and be me. I mean, I don’t drink 24/7. I'm not that guy sitting on the couch telling the kids to get me a beer from the refrigerator. What a lot of people don't realize, I never drink when I'm at home. When I'm at home with my kids, I don’t drink or anything, I hang out with my kids. Having lost my dad at an early age, I want to be there much as I can.
Eagle: You’ve been a part of two of the best tag teams in TNA’s 10-plus-year history, America's Most Wanted (with Chris Harris) and Beer Money (with Bobby Roode). How do you compare America's Most Wanted to Beer Money?
Storm: It's apples and oranges. It's very hard. With Chris, me and him were unknowns and trying to prove ourselves to everyone. We were out there basically killing ourselves working with guys like the New Church and the Harris Brothers. With Bobby, we had a name already built for ourselves. I don’t think it was easier, but things for me and Bobby clicked a lot better than me and Chris did.
Eagle: Your eventual rivalry with Bobby Roode was one of the highlights of the last few years in wrestling. How do you look back at that story?
Storm: There’s some things that were hit and miss in the feud, but overall both of us really enjoyed it, I think because we both enjoy kicking the crap out of each other.
Eagle: You’ve spent most of the last year in a tag team with Gunner. How was that experience?
Storm: It's always cool being put in a tag team with someone (new). Bobby and Chris, they had about as much experience as I did. With Gunner, seeing him evolve into who he is now -- the guy's a beast in the ring, that’s for sure. But seeing him start to catch on to things, improve on the mic and in the ring, it's pretty cool.
Eagle: One of the things I've noticed on Impact in recent months has been a reduced focus on the tag teams. What needs to be done to bring the division back to prominence?
Storm: To me, it’s just giving them a chance. We proved that with the Motor City Machine Guns, Team 3D, Beer Money and teams like Ink Inc. They gave the tag team division the ball, and we made the best of it. They need to believe in the guys they put out there. To me, there needs to be more teams, not guys just thrown together, but guys you can relate to. Me and Bobby were thrown together, but we made it work as a tag team. It just takes time, and with the new format of professional wrestling, it's kind of hard to give that much time to a specific area.
Eagle: With that team seemingly at an end, what's on tap for 2014?
Storm: Hopefully going right back into the single ranks and b3coming the world heavyweight champion. I look at it like this: there’s more rednecks that watch our show than anything, right? Why not?
Eagle: I've been a fan my whole life, like you. What is it that draws so many people to wrestling?
Storm: To me it’s the whole good guy-bad guy thing. That has stood the test of time more than anything. That’s what you have in wrestling. Everybody wast to see the good guy win. It goes back to the Bible, where you have Jesus and the devil. When you have the characters that fit the mold, the characters that know their job and know how to perform it well, there’s nothing else like it.
Eagle: You've been on both sides of that fence. Do you like being the good guy or the bad guy?
Storm: Most of my career I've been the good guy, just because of who I am -- I am who I portray on TV. I really prefer to be the bad guy. It’s just so much fun. I always say it’s easier to make somebody mad than it is to make somebody happy. You can say one word to somebody and make them mad, and it can take you weeks to make them feel happy.
Eagle: You’re a TNA original. What is it that’s kept you dedicated to the company for nearly 12 years, through thick and thin?
Storm: The people. Jeff Jarrett was here a long time, and also (TNA President) Dixie Carter. She's a great boss, very family oriented, and she listens to the wrestlers. We can go to her and talk if we have a problem, which is very cool. TNA was very loyal to me when I had the opportunity to do other things.
Eagle: There have been plenty of rumors about TNA’s status over the past year. What is the state of the company right now, and what do you see on the horizon?
Storm: Honestly, that’s above my pay grade, but Dixie Carter always looks after her wrestlers and does what's best for the company. It's not just wrestlers' job, it's hers too.
Eagle: Switching gears, what’s your favorite match of your career?
Storm: It probably would be the match with Bobby at Bound for Glory (2012). That one and the one with Chris Harris that was a Texas death match (at TNA Sacrifice 2007). They were blow-off matches to the feud and, to me, great storytelling. To me that’s what a lot of matches are missing these days. People forget we're telling stories out there.
Eagle: Who has been your favorite opponent?
Storm: That would have to be Bobby Roode. Either Bobby Roode or Eric Young. I really enjoy wrestling against Eric Young.
Eagle: Is there anyone outside the company you’d like to see TNA bring in?
Storm: I always wanted to work with Roderick Strong. When he was here, I always wanted to work with him. Also the Young Bucks. Me and Bobby tried to push matches with them when they were here, but it never happened. We had one match with the Young Bucks at a live event, and it was a great match, but that was the end of it.
Eagle: Finally, what changes would you like to see in the wrestling industry? Can it ever regain the mainstream popularity it enjoyed in the late ‘90s?
Storm: I think it can. It’s a matter of time, and it's going to take a whole lot of help, not just from the wrestling side but the TV side. A lot of people don’t realize how tough professional wrestling really is. They go, 'It's fake, blah, blah.' I'd like to see them go on the road 52 weeks a year, three or four times a week. They don’t realize the toll it takes on your body. I'd like to see more coverage of how hard it is. This is entertainment, but it's a physical form of entertainment.