by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Derek Cornell is a regular on the Iowa independent scene and has been wrestling for nearly five years. Some of the Iowa based promotions Cornell has worked for include Pro Wrestling Phoenix (PWP), Magnum Pro Wrestling (MPW) and 3XWrestling (3XW). In PWP, Cornell and partner Brian Gott held the PWP Tag Team Championship on two occasions. Cornell has also performed for some independent promotions operating outside of Iowa such as AAW, IWA: Mid-South and Juggalo Championship Wrestling (JCW). As can be expected from a wrestler with as much experience as Cornell has, he has worked with a laundry list of notable names on the independent scene including Joey Ryan, Jimmy Jacobs and Arik Cannon. Cornell can be found on Facebook here. This interview was completed on October 22, 2013. In this interview Cornell and I focus on the topic of wrestling on the independent scene in Iowa.
Daniel Johnson: In a nutshell how would you describe yourself as a performer?
Derek Cornell: In a nutshell, I’d say as a performer, I’d say that I’m still as thorough of a student as I’ve always been. I’m always striving to get better and trying to incorporate more combative sports into wrestling as far as offering something different.
Daniel Johnson: For those unfamiliar with you when and where were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
Derek Cornell: I’m originally from Fort Dodge, Iowa and I’ve been around just shy of five years.
Daniel Johnson: When you knew you wanted to become a wrestler how did you go about finding a place to get trained?
Derek Cornell: I always knew I wanted to wrestle, and it was just dumb luck I found a school about 30 minutes from the college I went to, so I tracked down the trainer and it’s all history from there.
Daniel Johnson: What was a typical day of training like?
Derek Cornell: My typical day isn’t one I recommend to anyone serious about this business. I won’t say his name, but he was a guy who burnt all his bridges before he himself was done training, and then roped dopes like me into paying him. Training was an hour or two of drills and stretching, followed by a three hour bitching session from the trainer. Fortunately, I sought outside training from a guy who cared and along with a group of guys from my “class,” we never stopped working.
Daniel Johnson: For those in Iowa interested in becoming wrestlers where would you point them to get started on the right path?
Derek Cornell: Davenport. I don’t know how much info I can divulge, but Davenport is going to have a great school very soon.
Daniel Johnson: In a broad sense how would you describe the independent wrestling scene in Iowa?
Derek Cornell: Indie wrestling in Iowa is chaos. Controlled chaos, in a sense. However, it’s showing promise again, and I think it’ll be a scene to watch in the coming years.
Daniel Johnson: One wrestling company you have worked for lately is Pro Wrestling Phoenix. How did you first get involved with this company?
Derek Cornell: The class of guys I had trained with had made a friend in one of their top guys, Jaysin Strife, and we all started to roll together. He put the word in that we were worth a look and that’s when we all got a shot. Years later, two big title runs and still going strong.
Daniel Johnson: Who are some wrestlers from PWP that you feel you have meshed the best with and who are some wrestlers you would suggest readers check out?
Derek Cornell: Sir Bradley Charles, hands down. We’ve made some magic happen, and people definitely need to go out and find him. Him and Matty Star.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of PWP you have held the PWP Tag Team Championship on two occasions for a combined length of over a year. What was it like to be a champion for that long and what sticks out most about your reigns?
Derek Cornell: That long of a reign, what stuck out more was actually the chase. We came in at the bottom with a lot to prove and the first time we got them I felt was the way of saying we belonged there. A lot of very talented athletes came through PWP like Alex Shelley, Arik Cannon, Akira Tozawa, Zack Sabre, Jr. We just earned our keep.
Daniel Johnson: Your partner during this time was Brian Gott. How did this team first come about?
Derek Cornell: Brian and I broke into the business together, basically. He had a six month lead on me, but we were in the same class and we just clicked on day one. We joked around about being overly flamboyant and teaming up, and then when the opportunity came, there we were, doing exactly what we talked about, and it turned out incredibly well. The chemistry is there and I thoroughly enjoy tagging with him.
Daniel Johnson: Have you teamed with any other wrestlers for extended periods? Does anything in particular make you and Brian click well?
Derek Cornell: Brian’s truly the only tag partner I’ve had. I’ve done one-offs with other partners and it’s been good, but the chemistry we have I can’t duplicate. We’re figuratively the same person and constantly on the same page. If he’s banged up, I make sure that I’m putting in most of the work and vice versa. If we weren’t essentially brothers, this tag team wouldn’t be as great as it has become.
Daniel Johnson: Would you describe yourself as a tag team specialist or more of a singles wrestler?
Derek Cornell: I’m a jack of all trades. I can run singles and I can run in a tag, I don’t specialize in one more than the other, but I will say this: After tagging consistently for five years and running singles along side that in other promotions, tag and singles really are entirely different animals.
Daniel Johnson: Would you describe PWP as your current home promotion? If not then what is? What made you decide on it as your home promotion?
Derek Cornell: I love PWP, but it’s not on a consistent basis right now for reasons I won’t disclose because I don’t know the whole story behind any of it. Home right now is Magnum Pro. That’s where I’ve been given great opportunities to wrestle guys like Arik Cannon and Joey Ryan, two pivotal matches that I’ve had that really helped me grow as a wrestler and two of my favorite matches that I’ve had.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking more generally of the Iowa independent wrestling scene, are there any Iowa based wrestlers outside of PWP you think readers should check out? Also, are there any you have yet to work with that you want an opportunity to work with?
Derek Cornell: Magnum is definitely a promotion you need to look into and invest time. There’s a lot of hungry young talent looking to make some noise and be seen, and all they need is the right set of eyes to take a look at them. Scott County Wrestling (SCW) as well, they’re an incredible product where Seth Rollins came out of and really molded himself. A lot of good talent hiding in Iowa that just need to be seen. As far as promotions I’m chomping at the bit to work for, I’ve been a part of all of them at one point and that’s something I was told probably wouldn’t happen because of who trained me. One company I’d love to get more work with is Scott County, simply because they have those talents that are looked over and they’re some of the best guys to be in a locker room with.
Daniel Johnson: How many independent promotions are there in Iowa that you are aware of and how many have you had the chance to wrestle for?
Derek Cornell: I think it’s at eight or nine, right now. The highest its been for some time, and like I said, I enjoyed working for all of them, and if I could pick a couple to get more work with, it would be 3XWrestling and Scott County.
Daniel Johnson: What are some of your favorite venues to work for in Iowa and what makes them stand out?
Derek Cornell: One of my favorite places to have been was for Adrenaline Pro Wrestling (APW) based out of Milo. We renamed that building the “Milo Dome” and it got recognized as such. Again, a lot of great opportunities happened in that building, and I had a lot of great matches there, and the fans were nothing short of amazing. Milo is where Brian, our friend Supafli and myself really got our first break and we made the best of it every month. It was us and their original group of guys that built and sold out the Milo Dome, and that was a great feeling.
Daniel Johnson: What is the hottest crowd you ever worked in front of in Iowa and what did you do to get the biggest reaction out of them that you could?
Derek Cornell: The hottest crowd would probably be when I was wrestling for the Insane Clown Posse. A bunch of loud, rowdy, drunk clowns that just wanted to see dudes punch each other in the face, and Brian and I did that. You never forget the day when a girl in clown makeup asks you where can you hide a knife in wrestling trunks.
Daniel Johnson: On the other end of the spectrum ever work in front of a completely dead crowd? How did you handle that experience?
Derek Cornell: Illinois. Illinois, unless it’s a big promotion like AAW or Dreamwave Wrestling, the crowds sit on their hands, or at least in the places I’ve been. They’re not impressed with anything and yelling at them gets no reaction because we’re just some assholes in decorative underwear to them. The best way I can cope or try and pull anything out of them is with comedy and making jokes at their expense or mine. Every crowd is a little different, and you just have to go out there with an open mind and try a little of everything. In other words, throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.
Daniel Johnson: For readers interested in learning more about the independent wrestling scene in Iowa is there anywhere you could suggest they look online for more information?
Derek Cornell: There’s a new page on Facebook that just popped up, Iowa’s Indies, and I don’t know the guy personally, but he seems to be doing a good job on keeping up with all of these places and reporting what’s up. I believe he has a podcast, too, so there’s one guy to watch after for a general overall on everyone. Also, definitely look at Twitter, I’m positive almost every wrestler and promotion has a Twitter, so hop on and start punching in names.
Daniel Johnson: I also wanted to ask some more general questions about your wrestling career. Last year you had the chance to wrestle for Pro Wrestling Epic (PWE) in the PWE Epic 8 Tournament. What are your memories from this tournament and what was the overall experience like for you?
Derek Cornell: I loved the environment for PWE. They treated me very well, very talented crew of guys over there, and the one thing that sticks out most for me would be ACH vs. Davey Richards, where Tony Kozina was wheeling Richards around on a cart out to the ring. I worked Blake Steel that night, and I felt it was good. I felt I was on my best behavior, but something must’ve happened, because I tried reaching out to them and I haven’t heard back. Might be the whole Team Ambition/APW ordeal where I’m on some sort of shit list, but who knows. I wish nothing but good things for PWE, they took great care of me and run a pretty tight ship.
Daniel Johnson: What is the furthest you ever wrestled from home and how did the crowd differ there from you usual stomping grounds?
Derek Cornell: The furthest from home would either be Ohio where we were I think 30 minutes from the Pennsylvania border, or Amarillo, Texas. Both are about 14 hours one way. Ohio is very much a “wrestling” crowd. They like flash, technical, hard hitting, smart wrestling. Texas, total opposite. They want characters and punch, kick, stomp, not really caring about flips or how many submissions you know. It’s crazy how things differ from region to region, but it keeps things fun and keeps you from getting stale and tired.
Daniel Johnson: What is one short term goal you have for the next year or so?
Derek Cornell: Call me nuts, but to work for Extreme Rising just one time. I’m a huge Shane Douglas fan and I grew up with ECW, and to be able to do something with them one day and just sit under the learning tree for even a minute I would love every second of it.
Daniel Johnson: Looking more long term where would you like to be in wrestling in five years time?
Derek Cornell: Long term, obviously I’d love to be sitting down in developmental in Florida, living the dream. I’ve had a few try outs and had done extra work, trying to stay on the radar as much as possible, but there’s a lot more work to go before they come knocking.
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?
Derek Cornell: I’m a dork, through and through. I watch Adult Swim and all of that programming, and The Walking Dead. Football when I remember to catch it, and I say that because I’m always on the go.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Derek Cornell: Iron Man 3. I’m a comic book guy like the majority of wrestlers are, and that movie I enjoyed immensely.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Derek Cornell: I don’t think I really tried anything new. On the road and going to different places, you kind of give everything a try. Frogs, alligator, squid. Maybe key lime frozen yogurt, that was pretty amazing this year.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Derek Cornell: For whatever reason, “Good Man” by Devour The Day has been the song to grab me this year. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their stuff and seeing what they can do. It’s not very often it seems that a vocalist really gels with the sound that his band puts out, like Deftones. I’m sorry, they’re awful. The band is so heavy and powerful and makes in your face driving music, but their singer sounds like he’s whispering 100 feet from the microphone and has laryngitis. Devour The Day has a sound that’s gritty and heavy, and their singer actually matches it with that little bit of twang and range to accompany.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Derek Cornell: This is where I show that I don’t read a whole lot. Outside of wrestling biographies, Angela’s Ashes [by Frank McCourt] is that last book I’ve read. I highly recommend it.
Daniel Johnson: I wanted to close with just a few more brief wrestling questions. What is the weirdest part of being a pro wrestler?
Derek Cornell: The weirdest part is all the Facebook friend requests, because it’s people you’ve never met, but they know 45 of your friends. Then you realize that they don’t really know your friends. It’s like being popular, but not really because it’s Facebook and they just want to look at your pictures.
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or under that you think readers should know about?
Derek Cornell: Jeff O’Shea and JJ Garrett. There’s also Malaki Matthews, but he, in the words of Jeff, “has boobs.” Jeff is a kid I watched break in and took him to some of his first shows, one of which he wrestled in front of seven people in a sand volleyball pit in the rain, and he’s came a long way, incredibly proud of him. JJ is just a year in now and making good strides, definitely keep an eye out for him.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Derek Cornell: By all means, check out my page on Facebook and see my merch. I’m getting new stuff done as soon as I can get a store with Pro Wrestling Tees, so please watch out for that, and order a copy of my best of DVD with Magnum. Check out Magnum Pro and Scott County on Twitter and Facebook, and buy merch!
Check out Derek Cornell in action! In this match from APW he takes on former TNA superstar Joey Ryan in a match that turns into compete chaos:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews