by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Before becoming a professional wrestler Tim Donst had a background in amateur wrestling contests dating all the way back to his junior high school days. Donst’s amateur training is evident in his current in-ring work and he has gone onto to be a success on the American independent scene. His achievements include defeating Player Dos for CHIKARA’s Young Lions Cup, winning the HWA Cruiserweight Championship and holding the AIW Absolute Championship. In 2010 he was one of the few wrestlers who performed with Bryan Danielson aka Daniel Bryan during Danielson’s brief return to the indies. He can be followed on Twitter @tdonst. This interview was completed on July 6, 2013. In this interview Donst and I focus on the topic of having an amateur background as a professional wrestler.
Daniel Johnson: My first question is for those unfamiliar with your work how would you describe yourself as a performer in a nutshell?
Tim Donst: I think I combine a few different styles and my body of work hopefully reflects that. I’m a bit of a comedian, technician but mostly a reckless wrecking ball. I’d say simply a fighter.
Daniel Johnson: When did you first work as an amateur wrestling?
Tim Donst: Junior high school, seventh grade.
Daniel Johnson: Do you have any early fond memories as an amateur wrestler? What was your first match like?
Tim Donst: I definitely do. I got into amateur wrestling because my dad had been one and I thought it would make our relationship stronger. I fell in love with it and eventually became captain. I actually lost in two seconds to Whitehall with a gatorroll. Funny enough.
Daniel Johnson: Did your amateur background help you when it came to training to be a pro wrestler? If so how?
Tim Donst: It helped a ton in terms of understanding holds and why they work definitely. My endurance, strength and mental toughness was aided in all those hard intense practices. However, on the flip side, I began pro wrestling training at 16 and its obvious differences made my amateur career suffer.
Daniel Johnson: If you could do it again would you have started later or do you think starting at 16 worked to your advantage in the long run?
Tim Donst: That’s a good question. I never finished college and threw away a film scholarship to Pittsburgh so a part of me always wonders what if. Especially looking at how successful the Who is the Man video, Dissecting Donst etc. have been. However, I also wouldn’t have met the same people, traveled the country or have such an interesting lifestyle. Sorry for the long winded answer, but my life was really shaped by people at the CHIKARA Wresfle Factory. Sixteen is such an impresionable age. I wasn’t looking up to Michael Jordan or Mark McGwire on TV. I was looking up to Eddie Kingston, Hallowicked and Claudio Castagnoli live and in-person. The older I get the luckier I feel to have known such influential people at such a young age.
Daniel Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were trained by Mike Quackenbush and Claudio Castagnoli aka WWE’s Antonio Cesaro, two wrestlers known for their technical ability. What was the training process like and given the emphasis on technical wrestling in their styles did this help you better make the leap to pro wrestling?
Tim Donst: I was also trained by Chris Hero as well. Skyda was a guest trainer at the time so I was actually learning flips and crazy lucha armdrags before a simple headlock. They’re all really great, but each one has a different mindset in terms of what their personally best at and views on what works in a match. It was a great philosophical melting pot in the art of wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned this a bit earlier, but did you ever consider going into amateur wrestling full-time and compete at top level events? When was the moment you decided pro wrestling and not amateur wrestling was the path for you?
Tim Donst: There’s no long life in amateur wrestling whatsoever. Even if you make it to the Olympics, after the sponsorship deals end you’re left with a few seminars a year which isn’t a stable lifestyle. I always saw wrestling as a way for me to eventually make a stable lifestyle if I got great enough. I’d say the moment hit when I was spending all my time playing the games and watching it on TV. If I was going to spend so much time enjoying it, I might as well study it too.
Daniel Johnson: A lot of MMA fighters have amateur wrestling backgrounds. Did you ever consider going into MMA instead of wrestling? Would you ever consider going into MMA now?
Tim Donst: I really enjoy MMA training. Its a great cardio workout, but has none of the theatrical or charismatic elements wrestling does. As a human being I need a creative outlet and wrestling provides that in promos and storytelling.
Daniel Johnson: You are best known for your work in CHIKARA. What if anything, makes CHIKARA stand out as a great place to showcase your current character?
Tim Donst: The talent there is one of the best in the world and the exposure is great as its viewed all over the world.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise, do you feel CHIKARA values technical wrestling more than your typical promotion. If so how?
Tim Donst: Maybe. Its tough to say. I think the top indie companies now do have a technical or hard hitting style. If anything I think the characters, storytelling and general love and consideration of our audience makes CHIKARA different than a typical promotion.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of CHIKARA in 2010 you won the CHIKARA Young Lions Cup. What was it like being given that opportunity and do you have any memories from your match with Player Dos?
Tim Donst: It was great because I always looked up to Larry Sweeney and he was champion when I first came in so it made me feel closer to his caliber since I idealized him so. My match with Dos was fun. I remember a fan yelling, “Why don’t you shave your armpits, Donst!” and I replied “’cause I like the smell.” That’s the type of intimacy only indie wrestling brings you.
Daniel Johnson: More recently, you competed for the CHIKARA Grand Championship. Do you have any particular fond thoughts or memories concerning your time competing for this championship? What was it like to work in such an important capacity with someone like Eddie Kingston who had been around CHIKARA since almost it’s inception?
Tim Donst: I think Eddie and I have come a long way since Wallingford. I don’t think the match was good, but the Dissecting Donst videos and my King of Trios promo was my favorite thing I ever did in a wrestling ring ever. I hope you see me for the title somehow, someway again.
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to your amateur skills, despite your background not all of your opponents have had a similar background. What wrestler have you worked with who had a style most different from you that you were still able to have a good match with?
Tim Donst: No doubt Mad Man Pondo.
Daniel Johnson: What was that experience like and how did you and Pondo pull it off?
Tim Donst: It was crazy as you might expect. Not only were our styles completely different, but we did a hardcore match. It was great and really made me more confident as a performer and competing with a 106 temperature also! The cinder block sledgehammer combo was nuts. No pun intended.
Daniel Johnson: Do you still watch amateur wrestling or fighters with amateur backgrounds who compete in MMA? If so what competitors stick out to you and who should readers check out?
Tim Donst: No, not too much. When I have time to I watch anything. I study tapes.
Daniel Johnson: I also had some more general questions. You’ve wrestled two luchas de apuestas in CHIKARA, putting your hair on the line both times and losing. What do you think of luchas de apuestas overall and should they be used more in American wrestling.
Tim Donst: I think they are used not often which is good. They would devalue in meaning really fast if it happened all the time. Plus, I think especially the first one with Hallowicked Iwas able to turn that into an arc for my character.
Daniel Johnson: Are there any promotions you have yet to wrestle for that you would like to? If so where? Also, are there any countries you have yet to wrestle in that you have not yet?
Tim Donst: All of them everywhere. Especially PWG and ROH. I think I could do wonders in ROH. Europe would also be fun.
Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question, but where do you see yourself in five years?
Tim Donst: Hopefully under contract on national TV. And happy!
Daniel Johnson: Cool, feel free to answer this next question however you want, but I’d feel lame not asking it. I read on your Facebook that a few months back you considered quitting wrestling. What made you consider quitting and what made you stay?
Tim Donst: I felt like I hit a glass ceiling personally and professionally. I had such momentum for awhile than it was suddenly stopped. I never got into wrestling to be okay at it. I got into it to be great, to change it. That whole series of events made me second guess myself which is the kiss of death in our business. Fan support and AIW believing in me in particularly helped me gain my confidence back not only as a performer, but as a person. Which I can’t stress enough how much it has helped me. I hated wrestling for months which coming from someone who spent nine years loving and dedicating his life to it was beyond scary.
Daniel Johnson: I just had a few more wrestling related questions what was it like to wrestle Daniel Bryan in 2010?
Tim Donst: Great. I always looked up to him and never thought I’d get a chance to wrestle him. Its like karaoking with your favorite artist.
Daniel Johnson: What is the weirdest part of being a pro wrestler?
Tim Donst: Being close friends with people you would have hated in high school. Also, feeling normal in ridiculous outfits
Daniel Johnson: How has 2013 treated you and where would it rank overall among the years you have been in wrestling?
Tim Donst: I think more people know who I am which is great. I believe my best years are yet to come. Only recently do I feel as though I’ve realized my potential along with fans.
Daniel Johnson: What advice would you give to any young person interested in becoming a pro wrestler?
Tim Donst: Get properly trained in moves and etiquette. Go to a reputable school.
Daniel Johnson: In your opinion who is the best wrestler 25 years old or younger wrestling today?
Tim Donst: Too hard to say.
Daniel Johnson: No problem, I also had five short non-wrestling related questions I like to ask everyone to make interviews a bit different: Outside of wrestling what television shows do you watch?
Tim Donst: Dexter, The Walking Dead, rescue me, Maron and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie to come out this year?
Tim Donst: Man of Steel, hands down.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Tim Donst: That’s tough because I eat food all the time. Probably the mozzarella hamburger Sheetz creation. Very healthy for you.
Daniel Johnson: What is you favorite song released this year?
Tim Donst: That “welcome to the new age” song. Also, whatever the “I don’t care” song by Iggy Pop or whoever is awesome. [“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons and “I Love It”by Icona Pop].
Daniel Johnson: What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Tim Donst: The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, that’s all the questions I had, is there anything you would like to add?
Tim Donst: Thanks for the great thought out questions as well as supporting me and independent wrestling.
Take a step back in time and watch this early Tim Donst match! It is teacher against student as trainer Mike Quackenbush wrestles Donst at CHIKARA’s 2007 Cibernetico & Robin show:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews