by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Kongo is a performer who has been wrestling a good chunk of his life, having already become a six year veteran while still in his twenties. Portraying a South American savage, Kongo has made a splash through various promotions, perhaps most notably in Chaotic Wrestling (CW). In CW he held the CW Tag Team Championship on two occasions with tag team partner Fala as Republique. More recently Kongo has appeared for ROH and made his ROH television debut in July. In the coming weeks Kongo will wrestle for Real Warrior Entertainment (RWE) in South Windsor, Connecticut on October 26 and November 9. Kongo will then wrestle for Fusion Wrestling (FW) on November 16 in Virginia. He can be followed on Twitter @wildman_kongo. This interview was completed on October 15, 2013. In this interview Kongo and I focus on what it is like to play a savage character.
Daniel Johnson: My first question is how would you describe yourself as a performer in a nutshell?
Kongo: Good question. I would have to say powerful, surprisingly athletic and a fearless competitor.
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with you where and when were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
Kongo: I was born January 4, 1984 in Brooklyn, New York. I moved to Rhode Island when i was 18 years old. I have been wrestling for six years.
Daniel Johnson: Who were some characters in wrestling that inspired you early on before you became an active wrestler?
Kongo: Let’s see i would have to say Arn Anderson, Eddie Guerrero, Randy Savage, Vader, Scott Hall, Bam Bam Bigleow and Shawn Michaels. These guys were a very big influence on me wanting to become a wrestler.
Daniel Johnson: Have any of these characters influenced your work as Kongo and if so then how?
Kongo: Vader and Bam Bam are big influences on my ring work. Both guys were big and very athletic. I also played sports as a kid and watching bigger guys in the ring do stuff off the top rope and moving just as fast as the other guys in the ring made me believe that I could pursue my dream in becoming a pro wrestler.
Daniel Johnson: When you knew you wanted to become a pro wrestler how did you go about finding a place to get trained and what did a regular day of training look like?
Kongo: Well, I was about 17 the first time I looked up information about becoming a pro wrestler. I lived in Brooklyn at the time. WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz has a school in Brooklyn. When i was going to turn 18 I was going to sign up. But we moved to Rhode Island. That delayed me for a few years. I then started to research in Rhode Island. I came across a school in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The head trainer was “Brutal” Bob Evans and his assistant trainer Dan Freitas. I signed up and we trained about three to four days a week. A regular day of training started with stretching and then blow up drills to get the blood pumping. Then it depends on how many students and how quick each student learned. We did promos and had matches in the school and watched them and critiqued ourselves
Daniel Johnson: How do you feel your promo work has developed since that time? Also, did you have any idea about what kind of character you wanted to be in wrestling at that time or did that come later?
Kongo: My promos are a good ten times better than when I started. As far has the character I had no idea what I was going to do I just knew i wanted to wrestle. I would go to train and I picked it up really fast and I’m pretty athletic for a big guy. So Bob and Dan would say we’re going to use you as a Samoan wrestler. I hated the idea and would get teased, it was pretty funny, about it all the time at the school. Bob at that time ran a promotion called Eastern Pro Wrestling (EPW). He needed another heel and someone mentioned me to him saying he is really learning pretty fast and listens well. So one day during training Bob pulled me aside and said, “Hey we want to use you on some upcoming shows.” I was like, “What me? Really?”He said, “Yes and we want to do that Samoan gimmick we’ve been teasing you about.” I was like, “Really? Okay.” So I had a month before the show. I went to training at 6: 50 p.m. and left the school sometime around 12:30 or 1 a.m. One night at the school Bob said, “You come up with a name?” I was like, “No.” So Bob, Dan, me and the other students started brainstorming. I asked him, “Can I just be a savage from South America and not Samoan?” He said, “That’s fine.” Another student said, “How about the name Congo?” I said, “That’s not bad, but let’s change the c to a k.” That’s how the Kongo character came to life. Also, Bob told me if the gimmick didn’t get over I would get squashed in a match and just go back to just training until we came up with something else.
Daniel Johnson: So was that EPW your first official match? How did it go and where did you go from there?
Kongo: Yes, it was. I wrestled one of my best friends and a very talented wrestler, Nick Westgate. We started training around the same time. I wrestled him in Westerly, Rhode Island. That was the winter of 2007. Then the summer of 2008 Bob made me the top heel in his company putting the title on me for 21 months.
Daniel Johnson: What was it like to get a push like that, that early on in your career? Also, since you were still so new to the industry did you tweak your character at all along the way and if so how?
Kongo: It was crazy and a lot of pressure. Because Bob had faith that I could carry the title for his promotion and be one of the top heels for him. I was very humble about it. Because I was maybe a year in the business when that happened. As far as my character, I would ask wrestlers who I was on shows with that I respected and thought were great wrestlers like Bob Evans, Alex Arion, Brian Fury, Brian Milonas, Todd Hanson and Sonny Goodspeed to watch my matches and provide as much feedback as possible to make my gimmick better. It also help that I was in a program with the assistant trainer Dan for almost a year and a half. he helped me a lot with my gimmick. He carried me in a lot of matches. With time I picked up things and had ideas and just trained almost every day and watched videos.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a broad question, but what, if any, challenges are there in playing a savage character in 2013?
Kongo: A lot of people think gimmicks like that are old and people don’t want to see them. But like I love to say I’m going to prove people wrong once again. Because I have had people that have been in WWE, TNA, ROH and hall of famers say they love it and not to change a thing.
Daniel Johnson: What kind of wrestler do you think a savage character works best against? In that same vein what have been some feuds you have been in that you thought came out the best?
Kongo: My gimmick can work against any babyface on the card. Like I said I had a feud with Dan Freitas that we had cage matches, last man standing matches and the biggest one was the ikapa bamboo match, which is on YouTube. My other favorite was working with my tag team partner of two years Fala. We worked a feud with them in 2010 through 2011 for the promotion Chaotic Wrestling. I had a lot of good matches there. For the last several months I have been working for a promotion in Virginia. It was called NWA Fusion. They just changed the name to Fusion Wrestling. I been having good matches there.
Daniel Johnson: What is one thing you would like to say to a young performer interested in portraying a savage character?
Kongo: This applies to any gimmick. If you don’t believe the gimmick yourself, when you’re out there in front of 30, 40 or 1,000 plus fans. They won’t believe it either and won’t care about you or the person you’re wrestling in the ring. And a big thing: study, study, study and practice like you play.
Daniel Johnson: Aside from not believing in the character is there anything else young performers should look to avoid in order to get the best results?
Kongo: Yes, just don’t get lazy and you’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices. Like not hanging out on the weekends because you’re at shows helping setup the rings, chairs, etc. Going to training three to four times a week. When I started training I worked a full-time job, went to training four times a week and did shows on the weekend, got home from the shows, got two hours of sleep and went to my regular job. If you say you want to be a wrestler make the sacrifices and don’t get lazy. And take all the feedback you can. Ask people to watch your matches.
Daniel Johnson: I also wanted to ask some more general questions about your career. You mentioned earlier your team in Chaotic Wrestling with Fala in the tag team the Republique. How did this team first come about and what makes you click as a team?
Kongo: Fala is an awesome person and his gimmick is just like mine. Chaotic contacted me and asked if I would like to work for them as a tag team. I said, “Sure, why not?” I met Fala and like that we had ideas on what we wanted to do and how people wanted to see us. We came up with the headbutt tags, yelling at each in our own language and how to paint our faces for matches. It just happened to click well.
Daniel Johnson: As the Republique you held the CW Tag Team Championship on two occasions. What memory most stands out from this period of your career?
Kongo: Just having good matches and showing the fans and the locker room what we could do. That locker is filled with a lot of New England’s top talent. I learned a lot from just asking guys to watch our matches.
Daniel Johnson: Did any one match in particular stand out from your CW Tag Team Championship runs? If so then what was it and why?
Kongo: I have two favorite matches there. One was for there big show of the year called Cold Fury. It was Cold Fury 2010. It was me and Fala vs. Chase Del Monte and Julian Starr and The Logans for the tag titles. And another time us vs. Matt Logan and Julian Starr. The matches just flowed right and everyone had ideas and was pumped for those nights. So it made it easy to just have fun and not over think things.
Daniel Johnson: More recently you have been working for Ring of Honor. How did you first get involved with this company?
Kongo: I did the first camp ever for Ring of Honor in 2010. Jim Cornette loved the gimmick and so did other ROH officials. After that I kept in touch with them for a bit and then for personal reasons took a few months off. After time guys that I went to the camp with got signed with them like Mike Bennett, my trainer Bob Evans and Matt Taven. So I decided I was going to the next one. I dropped almost 100 pounds and got new gear. When I showed up Delirious was like where have you been. I said MIA. I did the camp and after the second day I was told that I would be getting e-mails about possibly being used. From there I just kept showing my face at events riding along with bob evans whenever I could and sending e-mails. I have gotten several dark matches from them. I got to wrestle in the Hammerstein Ballroom and the Manhattan Center last year during Wrestelmania weekend. This past summer I got to have a match that was aired on ROH TV. Those are three nights I will never forget.
Daniel Johnson: As you mentioned you also recently made your Ring of Honor television debut in a four corners match with Brian Fury, Todd Hanson and Vinny Marseglia. What was the experience like of wrestling on ROH television for the first time and what impressions do you have of that match?
Kongo: The experience was just like the Wrestlemania weekend experience. I was nervous, pumped and didn’t want to look bad or make the other guys in the match look bad. Us four just wanted to make sure everyone shined in the match and look good. Which I think we all did and I love how when I came out of the ring they focused on me from the ramp to the ring. Made me feel like a superstar haha.
Daniel Johnson: This is sort of a random question I always like to throw out there, but I always like to hear ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you would be able to share?
Kongo: Let’s see. One time we went down to Virginia for Fusion Wrestling. Me, Bob, Nick and a wrestler who will stay nameless. Well people know we travel and drive for hours. With that being said there are things you do and don’t do on a road trip. Like we all take turns driving, chip in for gas, rotate seats, etc. This one wrestler that went with us never offered to drive, he didn’t chip in for gas, never rotated seats and when we would arrive to places he would be the first one out of the car and the first one back in the car. We always wait for everyone to get out of the car and walk into whatever place it is. So after we got to Virginia we just busted his balls the whole two days. Every time someone is acting like that person we call them by his name. Not that great of a story, but there are so many details that it is easier to tell in person, but just know that person hasn’t been on the road with us since. Good guy, just not a good person to travel with.
Daniel Johnson: What is one goal you would like to accomplish within a year in wrestling, if anything?
Kongo: I have a few. I would like to get a contract with Ring of Honor, wrestle overseas. Those are my goals for the next year as of now.
Daniel Johnson: Thinking more long-term, where do you see yourself five years from now in wrestling?
Kongo: Who knows? Maybe overseas in Japan or with Ring of Honor or maybe if given the opportunity working with the WWE.
Daniel Johnson: I also like to ask five brief 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?
Kongo: I love the show Breaking Bad. Loved the way it ended. I’m a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. Besides those shows and wrestling I watch a lot of sports. Baseball, football and basketball.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Kongo: I liked Pain and Gain, it was good. Kick-Ass 2 and I must say I did enjoy Monsters University haha.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, what is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Kongo: I didn’t try it this year it was more towards the end of 2012, but I had nime chow, which is a spring roll, but not fried and it has rice noodles in it, shrimp, lettuce, basil and comes with this peanut sauce. I now eat it all the time.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Kongo: I don’t have a favorite song, but I have enjoyed the music of Kendrick Lamar a lot this year.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Kongo: Wow, I haven’t read a lot of books lately. The last book I read was Goldust’s book [Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of Darkness]. I have been listening to a lot of podcast, being on the road for so many hours. Like Colt Cabana of course. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s podcast are awesome as well. And I want to thank Bob for telling me to listen to Adam Carolla and Jay Mohr.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, I wanted to close with just a few more brief wrestling questions. What is the weirdest part of being a pro wrestler?
Kongo: The weirdest part of wrestling for me haha. Let’s see gong to like Walmart buying sports tape, face paint and body wipes. You get a look from the cashier. Also ordering custom gear because you have to measure yourself or have someone help you. But the funniest is when you’re washing your wrestling in a laundry mat and you pull out the one strap singlet with your name on them in different colors. People just look at you and the gear and just have this look like what the hell is that for.
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or under that you think readers should know about?
Kongo: I would say a few like Nick Westgate. He is about to turn 25 I believe. Also, AG Green, Kevin Perry and Mike Webb have been making names for themselves lately up here in New England.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to promote?
Kongo: I have two events coming for RWE in South Windsor, Connecticut October 26 and November 9. On November 16 I will challenge Preston Quinn for the Continental title in Virginia for Fusion Wrestling. Also, follow me on Twitter @wildman_kongo.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Kongo: First, I would like to thank you. This has been my first interview like this and I must say I enjoyed the questions. These last six years have been great. I have made friends for life and lost a few friends. I learned that this business is like any other thing in life. You get back what you put into the business. Nothing ever falls into anyone’s lap. Also be yourself and remember hard work always beats talent. I also want to say a big thank you to my family and friends for always supporting me.
Categories: Wrestling Interviews