by Daniel Johnson
Photo Courtesy of Elliot Russell
Interviewer’s Note: Elliot Russell just started training for wrestling last year and since debuting has already challenged for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. When Russell decided to become a wrestler he dropped 80 lbs to get in the ring. Although much leaner than he once was Russell’s style differs from many junior heavyweights today. Instead of relying a lot on speed and high risk moves Russell has a more old school style of grounded wrestling. Russell is currently looking for votes to be considered for PWI Rookie of the Year. Russell encourages fans to vote for him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Rookie of the Year and Elliot Russell in the message. This interview was completed on November 29, 2013. In this interview Russell and I talk about his work in the current NWA World Junior Heavyweight division.
Daniel Johnson: First, in a few words how would you sum up yourself as a performer?
Elliot Russell: An old school wrestler from Tennessee.
Daniel Johnson: For readers unfamiliar with you where were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
Elliot Russell: Morristown, Tennessee! A decently sized town about 40 minutes from Knoxville and I started training in July 2012.
Daniel Johnson: When did you first know you wanted to become a wrestler and how did you go about getting trained?
Elliot Russell: I saw Booker T. on TV as a kid and for some reason I was hooked, he was my favorite as a kid.
Daniel Johnson: From there how did you go about getting trained?
Elliot Russell: I always figured I’d be a wrestler I just didn’t know where to get trained so after I graduated school, I started working out and running a lot and lost about 80 lbs and randomly a buddy of mine told me he was about to get trained and I was 50/50 on whether I wanted to as well. Of course I did and it was first with a guy named Matt Sigmon, who trained me for about three months then took me under his wing and took me basically everywhere with him and he’s now my best friend in wrestling hands down. I actually trained with him and a few months later trained with Dr. Tom Prichard for three months which was the best time of my life. Training with Sigmon was mostly learning to bump, chain wrestle, the basics, etc. Lots of repetition. Dr. Tom’s training was much more chain and psychology and he really took me under his wing and we’re still good pals today! If you don’t know him, you need to because he’s the best of the best!
Daniel Johnson: Before you worked for the NWA were you a fan of the product. If so then what are some memories of NWA programming that stick out for you?
Elliot Russell: I was a Ric Flair fan and I came to find out before I was even born he was ruling the NWA world and as I got older I go back and watch him versus Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, Harley Race, Kerry Von Erich, Terry Taylor, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Wahoo McDaniel, the list goes on and on. I’m a big Horsemen fan so in my opinion NWA Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP), all that stuff is the best.
Daniel Johnson: How did you first get involved with the NWA as a performer? Also, I was curious how many NWA promotions have you worked for to date?
Elliot Russell: I’ve only worked for NWA Smoky Mountain so far and I got a tryout dark match there basically from Sigmon putting my name out there and messaging the promoter Tony Givens.
Daniel Johnson: For readers who have never seen a NWA Junior Heavyweight division match how would you describe the scene and who are some of the key performers to look out for?
Elliot Russell: Well when I lose 5 lbs I am haha! But definitely Chase Owens who’s in his second reign, he’s great! He’s helped me quite a bit and I always enjoy working with him. A few others though are Joe Black, Matt Conard, Zac Vincet (get well soon), Shane Andrews and of course Jason Kincaid (former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion and also someone who’s helped me a ton).
Daniel Johnson: Cool, you mentioned you’re technically a heavyweight now. Would you like to stay a heavyweight or would you like to drop back down to junior heavyweight?
Elliot Russell: For now I like the Junior Heavyweight division but obviously in the future I’m looking for titles in the Heavyweight division and in the World Heavyweight division in any and every promotion!
Daniel Johnson: What junior heavyweight wrestler in the NWA do you feel you have meshed well with the most out of the matches you have had?
Elliot Russell: Definitely the current champ, Chase Owens. I’d consider Sigmon a great junior heavyweight too and he’s my mentor so of course I have great chemistry with him as well.
Daniel Johnson: Do you remember the hottest crowd you ever worked in front of in an NWA Junior Heavyweight division match. If so then what did you do to get the best reaction possible out of them?
Elliot Russell: I’ve worked Chase twice for it and Kincaid once. When I worked Kincaid I was working every week at a promotion called Tennessee Wrestling Alliance (TWA) in Alcoa, Tennessee and I was on fire as a babyface. He came in and totally heeled it up and made me look really good! I hit him with everything but in the end he came out on top this time around! It was a hot crowd for the whole technical match! He brings out the best in people! Also, Chase and me worked in Virginia once and it was pretty electrifying the whole time as well.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a side question, but I was curious given that you are still relatively new to the wrestling scene is it ever tough to get your nerves settled when working in front of a crowd? Prior to wrestling did you have any experience working in front of crowds?
Elliot Russell: I was afraid I’d be nervous, but never was. Maybe a few times in about 300 matches have I been too nervous. Once the bell rings I just do what I was trained to do. Trained the right way. It’s fun to me, not nerve racking.
Daniel Johnson: Is there any advice you would give to either new wrestlers or aspiring wrestlers on how to calm down for a match?
Elliot Russell: Get trained the right way, don’t overthink, know the basic skeleton of a match, don’t rush, and breathe. To quote numerous vets, “If you think you’re going too slow, slow down!”
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to the NWA Junior Heavyweight division, what are some of your favorite moves to do as a junior heavyweight. Also, have you added any new moves to your repertoire lately?
Elliot Russell: I’m not quite the typical junior heavyweight high flying kind of wrestler. I’m more of an old school wrestler. With me, you’ll probably see a Russian legsweep, a backbreaker, lots of chain wrestling, a slingshot suplex and a fisherman suplex. I don’t get too fancy nor do I feel I need to get too fancy for fans to appreciate my matches. I think fans are tired of seeing things in the ring that are too unbelievable to be believable, if that makes sense. That’s where I come in, I try to bring legitimacy back to a good old wrestling match! I never understand why indie wrestlers will hit someone with a super kick and then have them kick out and jump into another spot. One of the best wrestlers, in my opinion, of all time. Ric Flair, was retired by HBK by a super kick yet standard indie worker 54,739 kicks out at a one count from indie worker 927,843′s super kick. I don’t agree with that stuff obviously.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned earlier that before becoming a wrestler you lost 80 lbs, which kind of puts you in a unique position where you could have technically really dove in as a heavyweight in the NWA as well. Did you ever consider packing on muscle and working as a heavyweight in the NWA or do you think you work best at your current weight? Do you think packing on muscle would limit your move set at all or would it not be a factor given your old school style?
Elliot Russell: With my style, I should put on more muscle/weight. I’m in the process of doing so as I’m the strongest I’ve ever been right now. But that takes time and I’m just doing what I can as best as I can day by day. My goals are always on my mind.
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to the NWA Junior Heavyweight division a little are there any wrestlers in the NWA Junior Heavyweight division you have yet to work with, but would like to? If so then who?
Elliot Russell: I’m sure there are plenty around the US I’d mesh well with, but in my areas that I travel to on a regular basis I’d like to work with a guy from West Virginia named Matt Conard. I think we could tell great stories! Also, a guy from Georgia who I’ve worked with before named Kyle Matthews. He’s incredible and I’d love to work with him again! Also a fellow PWI Rookie of The Year candidate named Americos in TCW!
Daniel Johnson: What do you consider your single best match in the NWA Junior Heavyweight division or elsewhere to be to date and what made that match stand out?
Elliot Russell: Any time I’m in there with Chase, Kincaid or Sigmon it’s my favorite match. Those guys are good guys to be able to travel with and learn from. Kyle as well. If I had to pick one, it’d be one of the numerous matches I had with Sigmon this past summer in our teacher versus student feud which spread across numerous states.
Daniel Johnson: What would you like to accomplish next in the NWA?
Elliot Russell: Well definitely start collecting titles. I’ve challenged for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, the NWA Smoky Mountain Tag Team Championship, and the nwa Southern Television Championship. Next year I plan on holding any and every title I’m given/earned the opportunity.
Daniel Johnson: I also had some more general questions about your career. How did you come up with the Wonder Boy moniker for yourself?
Elliot Russell: Haha I didn’t come up with “Wonder Boy”, it’s Boy Wonder. I think I got a spot on the roster earlier then some liked and the name Wonder Boy came about as a joke. I actually use the Boy Wonder and in some areas The American Nightmare (being the son of a plumber myself). Per your question, Boy Wonder is Robin’s nickname and I am the Robin to Sigmon’s Batman.
Daniel Johnson: Haha cool. Outside of the NWA what other promotions do you see yourself working for in the near future?
Elliot Russell: Obviously the main goal of my career is WWE. But I’d like to continue as long as possible with NWA Smoky Mountain, TWA and Traditional Championship Wrestling (TCW). I’d love to branch out to other states and continue doing what I love and am damn good at. Pro Wrestling Freedom (PWF) out of Kentucky has my interest for sure. NWA Houston as well.
Daniel Johnson: Thinking more long term where would you like to be in wrestling in five years? Do you think you’ll be WWE ready by that point?
Elliot Russell: I believe so. The ultimate goal is to make a comfortable affordable living off of wrestling, whether it takes five more years or 10 more, that’s the goal.
Daniel Johnson: This a random question I like to try to ask everybody, but I always like to hear ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you would be able to share?
Elliot Russell: Haha everyone seems too uptight nowadays to rib. The best that comes to mind is me and Sigmon singing a version of “Wonderwall” by Oasis to our buddy Leland and man he wanted kill us. We kept throwing his name in the lyrics and it just drove him nuts! You just had to be there to hear/witness.
Daniel Johnson: I also like to ask five non-wrestling related questions just to bring a little uniqueness to the interview. Outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Elliot Russell: South Park, Eastbound and Down and Sons of Anarchy.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Elliot Russell: Prisoners. Mud was very good as well. The Place Beyond the Pines too.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Elliot Russell: Not sure. Humas maybe.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Elliot Russell: “Sunny and 75″ by Joe Nichols.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Elliot Russell: Dutch Mantel’s first book The World According to Dutch. Yes, it’s the best wrestling book I’ve read period.
Daniel Johnson: I wanted to close with just a few more brief wrestling questions. What is the oddest part of being a pro wrestler?
Elliot Russell: Stupid questions from people who know nothing about wrestling. People are so disrespectful sometimes.
Daniel Johnson: Aside from yourself, who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Elliot Russell: Chase Owens, Joe Black, Matt Conard, Zac Vincent, Alex Avgerinos, Alex Stratton, Cadillac Burns and Shynron. I can’t just name one haha.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Elliot Russell: Yeah, everyone vote for me at email@example.com with the subject Rookie of the Year and write Elliott Russell in the message! It’d be a huge honor to be nominated! Keep supporting me and independent wrestling/professional wrestling/sports entertainment. Also, know the people who’ve paved the way for us to still have a sport to compete/perform in. Respect the vets and appreciate them.
Check out Elliot Russell in action! Russell shows off his skills in this TWA match against another young wrestler who has been making a splash in the area, Alex Pain: