Interviewer’s Note: Jimmy Rave began his career at the age of 15 and by his early 20s he was a key player in ROH, performing with Prince Nana in The Embassy stable. Rave headlined events and wrestled for the ROH World Championship, arguably the top independent wrestling championship in the world, on multiple occasions. Following ROH he wrestled in TNA as half of The Rock ‘n Rave Infection that also included Lance Rock aka Lance Hoyt and manager Christy Hemme. More recently he wrestled in Ring Ka King, a project operated by TNA that ran out of India. Now, he wrestles for American independent promotions and outside of the ring serves as the Director of The Peer Support, Wellness & Respite Center of Bartow County in Cartersville, Georgia. This interview wrapped up just prior to Election Day on November 5, 2012 so any references to time should be taken from that perspective. He can be followed on Twitter @thejimmyrave. In this interview Rave and I focus on the topic of wrestling in India.
Daniel Johnson: My first question is pretty general. How would you describe yourself and your career in a nutshell?
Jimmy Rave: Just a kid that got a lucky break and tried to make the best of it. I’ve got to travel the world, meet great people, have some amazing friends and made a few bucks.
Daniel Johnson: How, if at all has 2012 been different for you than 2011?
Jimmy Rave: Really it’s been much of the same. I was involved creatively in a promotion here in Georgia for two years and wrestled other places when I felt like it. Now, I’m just doing things I know I will enjoy.
Daniel Johnson: One of the places you wrestled for fairly recently was for Ring Ka King in India. How did the idea of you wrestling in India first come about?
Jimmy Rave: I was sitting at work one day and Dutch Mantel called me up saying, “We’re going to India! Wanna come?”
Daniel Johnson: Did you have any reservations about going or were you completely into the idea from the start?
Jimmy Rave: I was down to go from day one! Sonjay Dutt is one of my best friends and so knowing he was going along with Dutch and Jeff Jarrett…I was super excited.
Daniel Johnson: I heard that Sonjay was helpful for the trip due to his knowledge of the language. Did the language barrier give you any trouble in India? Were there any times where Sonjay or someone else helped you in particular?
Jimmy Rave: We had a ton of help with that and a lot of the people there know some English, as it was a British territory. The Bollywood Boys were very helpful when Nunzio and I were training the guys though.
Daniel Johnson: Did you come across any native Indian wrestlers that you think could have big careers in front of them?
Jimmy Rave: Pagal Parinda was very good. So was Barood and Jwala has a presence that is really something that needs to be seen live.
Daniel Johnson: Backing up a little bit what was your understanding of wrestling in India prior to working for Ring Ka King?
Jimmy Rave: None…I knew that WWE had toured there some but I had no idea when.
Daniel Johnson: I’ve heard varying descriptions of what Americans think about India when visiting the country. What were your first impressions of India?
Jimmy Rave: There were so many people and the driving was scary! I also thought it seemed like a very hard life for some people but I’ve seen that in other countries too. Including the USA.
Daniel Johnson: Once you got settled in India what did a typical work day look like for you there?
Jimmy Rave: Well, I had the best roommate, Zema Ion. We would usually grab some food and jump on the bus at around 11 AM then get to the show and work out. We would start taping around 6 PM and go back to the hotel around 11 PM. The second tour, myself and Nunizo would train some of the other wrestlers from 9 AM to 12 PM then eat and so on. I would be at the building from 9AM until 11 PM that tour.
Daniel Johnson: Did you have any days off there? If so what did you do for fun?
Jimmy Rave: I can’t remember having a day off and if I did I was probably sleeping!
Daniel Johnson: Haha, getting back to the in-ring product how big was the first crowd you worked in front of in India?
Jimmy Rave: Each night was a packed out house. It was a studio audience so they were brought in, fed and then reacted to the show. We were in the same studio each night.
Daniel Johnson: Any idea what the capacity was of the studio?
Jimmy Rave: 1,100-1,200, I would assume.
Daniel Johnson: What was the atmosphere of an Indian crowd like? What did they react to and what were they unreceptive to?
Jimmy Rave: They were very hmm “virgin.” They didn’t react to a lot of “high spots” or fast paced wrestling. They enjoyed heat and letting a match build. It was great!
Daniel Johnson: I listened to Sonjay Dutt’s “Art of Wresting” episode a while back and I remember he mentioned there being no real promotions touring in India, but there being a massive fan base in India. Did you see or hear of any promotions in India outside of Ring Ka King no matter how small they might have been? If so, could you describe them? If not why do you think none exist?
Jimmy Rave: I didn’t hear of any and they probably don’t exist because of the lack of good trainers. The Ring Ka King crew had Savio Vega and Eugene and it doesn’t get much better than that!
Daniel Johnson: What did you think of the finished Ring Ka King television product. Did they capture the atmosphere of the live show?
Jimmy Rave: I loved it because it was simple and very much captured the energy we felt there. I am shocked we aren’t over there now.
Daniel Johnson: Do you have any particularly interesting memories of teaming with Zema Ion?
Jimmy Rave: Yeah we had a really fun time hanging out and teaming together. I thought we complimented each other very well. I loved our match with Sonjay/Magnus. I would love to see how we could do as a team in Impact.
Daniel Johnson: Do you have a favorite match or just in-ring moment that sticks out from India? What about a least favorite one?
Jimmy Rave: Probably Sonjay/Magnus versus Me/Zema was my favorite match. Before that night, I hadn’t watched a lot of Magnus stuff but oh man he was amazing to work with and I believe very underrated! I don’t believe I had a least favorite but I am a huge critic of my own work so I thought I could’ve done better in all of my stuff.
Daniel Johnson: How do you think a stable like The Embassy would work in front of an Indian crowd?
Jimmy Rave: Oh, no doubt we could work in any environment, I think. When myself, Alex Shelley and Abyss with Nana were in ROH…I believe we were unstoppable. Imagine us on a TV show like Impact, ya know? We had a chemistry and I was having the time of my life.
Daniel Johnson: Overall, what was the most pleasant part about working in India? What about the least pleasant?
Jimmy Rave: Just the opportunity to be invited and be a part of something new like that in an amazing country like India. The crew we had over there Chavo Guerrero, Luke Gallows, Zema, Sonjay, Scott Steiner, Magnus, Abyss, Jeff Jarrett, Dutch Mantel, Savio Vega, Eugene, Harry Smith, The Bollywood Boys, Nunzio, Joey Ryan, Rudy Charles…just an amazing group of guys! The lease pleasant was trying to get back to the states on December 23, 2011 for ROH’s Final Battle. The travel time was 30 hours or something like that so I was so freaking tired for that match but really wanted to do it.
Daniel Johnson: Is there any advice you would give someone going to India to wrestle?
Jimmy Rave: Just the same advice I would give anyone going anywhere. Remember how fortunate you are, someone is flying you, paying you, and featuring you on a show halfway across the world. How awesome is that? The least you could do is embrace and respect their culture and give your all because that’s what the fans always deserve, let alone the promoters.
Daniel Johnson: Do you ever see yourself going back to India to wrestle?
Jimmy Rave: I would love to go back but who knows. I always say never say never.
Daniel Johnson: Now, that you are back home what are you doing? For those unfamiliar, how would you describe your work outside of wrestling?
Jimmy Rave: I am the Director of the Peer Support, Wellness, & Respite Center of Bartow County here in Cartersville, GA. We support people who have challenges with mental health and/or substance abuse.
Daniel Johnson: How did you first get into the mental health field?
Jimmy Rave: Through dealing with my own struggles I stumbled upon this thing called Certified Peer Specialist. Then applied for a job with no expectations and luckily received the director’s position. I’ve been very lucky in both pro wrestling and this line of work.
Daniel Johnson: I have a two part question. What should someone be aware of if they think they have an undiagnosed mental disorder? Also, what should someone be aware of if they think they know someone with an undiagnosed mental disorder? Can you offer any advice?
Jimmy Rave: The great thing about my work is we are a non profit service…we don’t even ask for a diagnosis. I think if you treat people with respect and talk to people with respect that is what you’ll get in return. I believe a lot of things occur due to past traumatic experiences (abuse, neglect, etc.) and we are all just doing the best we can at any given point in our lives. I think walking into a situation and saying, “What happened to you” instead of “What’s wrong with you” is a very good approach. My advice is to listen and to listen from a point of not knowing.
Daniel Johnson: What, if any misconceptions do you think there are about addictive diseases?
Jimmy Rave: That “recovery” isn’t possible for everyone! I’ve seen people be written off as lifelong addicts and they turn their lives around into being something very different then just being an “addict.”
Daniel Johnson: Some people choose a profession based on past experience in their background. Did your background lead you to this profession at all and if so how?
Jimmy Rave: That is the main thing that lead me to this…my challenges, which I thought I’d have to keep quiet and would hinder me for life. Now, they’re what I get paid for and are tools to support people in moving forward with their own lives.
Daniel Johnson: As part of my last few questions I like to ask five non-wrestling related questions just to bring a little uniqueness to the interview. If you don’t have an answer or don’t want to answer one of them just feel free to say, “skip.” Outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Jimmy Rave: Wait…there is time in the day for TV? With a full-time job, pro wrestling, family and the other advocacy work I do…TV is the last thing on my mind. My favorite show of all time is The Wire though.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Jimmy Rave: I don’t think I’ve seen any…
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Jimmy Rave: I am the pickiest eater ever so I’m not sure that I’ve tried anything new really but I guess it was everything I ate in India. I have no idea what it was but just closed my eyes and dove in!
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Jimmy Rave: “Novacane” by Lil’ Wayne.
Daniel Johnson: Did you vote in your last local election? If so would you be willing to say for who?
Jimmy Rave: I have not voted yet but will be tomorrow and I’ll be voting for the RIGHT person!
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of off topic, but I’d feel lame if I didn’t ask it since it interested me when I saw it. Anyway, I recently saw you ranked on a top 10 list of ROH wrestlers who never held the ROH World Championship. How much do you think a run with the ROH World Title would have helped your career, if at all? Do you think the importance of title runs today is exaggerated or are they significant?
Jimmy Rave: I would have loved that opportunity and I am sure it could’ve really helped me at one point. I think a promotion and a champion can really make a title mean something. Samoa Joe’s ROH title run was so awesome, as was CM Punk’s and Bryan Danielson’s so I really believe in the importance of a good champion. I would have loved the challenge of trying to have a good run with a belt there. I have never seen myself in that type of role but maybe I should have?
Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question, but one I try to ask everyone: What is the weirdest part of being a professional wrestler?
Jimmy Rave: I’ve been doing this since I was 15 years old and so just the idea that I had friends all over the world yet didn’t know anyone in my own town was always weird to me. I would stay gone so much I just didn’t make connections with many people in my own area yet could go to Japan or the United Kingdom and have tons of people I had a relationship with there. I love the fact that some of my best friends are from such different backgrounds and we all connected through this whacky world of wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: My last question is just is there anything you would like to add or talk about that we haven’t talked about already?
Jimmy Rave: I just wanted to tell people who may read this, thank you for the support you may (or may not) have given me over the last 14 years. I was just a kid with a dream and continued to learn and grow and 14 years later I am doing the very same thing in every aspect of my life. Pro Wrestling gave me a family that I really didn’t have and an opportunity to see the world. I am very thankful for that. My love affair with pro wrestling hasn’t ended by any means.
See Jimmy Rave wrestle for ROH! In this match with Pelle Primeau, Rave has Prince Nana in his corner, but that doesn’t stop him from getting covered in toilet paper: