by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Eric Ryan has wrestled for some of the most notable independent promotions around today including Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) and Beyond Wrestling. Ryan has held a slew of championships throughout his career including being the first ever two time holder of the AIW Absolute Championship. Aside from being a gifted singles performer, Ryan has also formed some successful teams over the years. Ryan has been a vital part of the NIXON and Dead Wrestling Society stables. In terms of tag team wrestling Ryan has had plenty of accomplishments, most recently in holding the CZW World Tag Team Championship with partner Dustin Rayz as The Catalyst. Ryan has merchandise for sale through prowrestlingtees.com, which can be found here. This interview was completed on December 10, 2013. In this interview Ryan and I focus on his reigns with the AIW Absolute Championship.
Daniel Johnson: Before I get into your work in AIW I just wanted to focus a little bit on your background so in a few words how would you sum up yourself as a performer?
Eric Ryan: Unique. Not in the sense of going out there and doing off the wall crazy stuff, but more along the lines of going out there and trying to do something different every time, yet have things I do that people recognize.
Daniel Johnson: Who were some wrestlers that first caught your attention as a fan and have any of these wrestlers influenced your as a performer?
Eric Ryan: As a fan during my childhood, the heels were always the ones that stood out. Rick Martel and Mr. Perfect were two of the ones that stood out the most. Why Martel, I’ll never know, but he was there! As a performer, everyone is an influence. You can take a piece from here, and a piece from there and mold it to your own. But if I had to try and peg my “style,” in the beginning I molded most of what I did after ROH era CM Punk.
Daniel Johnson: Awesome, I always liked Rick Martel as a heel too. He did some classic vignettes. Anyway when you first knew you wanted to be a pro wrestler how did you find a place to get trained and what did a typical day of training look like?
Eric Ryan: When I was looking to get trained, I did my research and looked at various schools. But like most people, travel, money, places to live are issues, so I went the local route and found a school that was around the area and called them up. I had known about this school, since I contacted them when I was 15 and did some side stuff for them. I guess fate brought us together all those years later. It was a small storage area with a ring and some chairs. No heat, no air conditioning so the winters were freezing and the summers were brutal. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, do you remember your first match in front of a crowd at all and if so then what stands out from it for you?
Eric Ryan: I do remember my first show. It was for the place I trained and it wasn’t really a match, but a battle royal to be the number one contender for the light heavyweight title. Prior to this, I had over tanned and my skin was bright red and hurt pretty bad! So I wore a shirt my first time in front of a crowd. I ended up winning the battle royal and going on to face the then champion, Marion Fontaine in the later months.
Daniel Johnson: Way awesome that you won. Most times when I hear someone debuted in a battle royal they get tossed out pretty quick. Anyway, I wanted to mainly focus on your AIW work, but before we get into that I was wondering if you had any advice for prospective wrestlers looking to get into the industry?
Eric Ryan: When we were at training, they were trying to figure out who would win the battle royal and I just suggested myself as a joke…and it happened! It’s rough. Really rough. I know I’m not out there as much as some of the top level guys (as far as frequency of work) and I’m beat the hell up. Its something that if you want it, go for it. I’ve had more concussions than I can count, torn ligaments, broken bones (nothing serious though) and just random injuries that add up. Look at a guy like Dustin Rayz, he dove and snapped his femur in half and is back wrestling again.
Daniel Johnson: My first AIW question is just how did you first come to work for the company?
Eric Ryan: A man that used to be a part of the company named Rebis introduced me to them. I don’t exactly remember how the interaction went down, but it ended up with me going there and working a three way match with Rebis and K-Fed/K-Fernandez/man of many names.
Daniel Johnson: What were your thoughts on this firstt match and what were your initial impressions of the promotion?
Eric Ryan: The first match was like anyone’s match early in their career, not the greatest but it ended up getting me the job. The odd part of my first show there, there was a riot at the end of the show with chairs being thrown, people fighting and just utter chaos during the main event of the show. And after that, I kept coming back!
Daniel Johnson: Haha speaking of the AIW atmosphere what, if anything, do you think makes AIW stand out from other independent wrestling promotions today?
Eric Ryan: Appreciative fans and a comfortable atmosphere to do what you want, when you want. If you want to go out there in the first match and do top rope reverse ‘ranas, there is no glass ceiling to hold you down. Their product has an early ECW vibe with that business motto and the fans, and wrestlers, love it. I think with the glass ceiling removed, guys aren’t afraid to make a good impression. Just as an example when I wrestled Bobby Beverly at EVOLVE 8, we were told we did too much in our match and the stuff we did should have been saved for the later card. But, if we didn’t do those things, we probably would have been asked why our match was so basic and why we didn’t try to impress. So guys have free reign to do as they please and it helps open eyes that bigger places see.
Daniel Johnson: What was the earliest feud you had in AIW that you were really satisfied with and what do you think made it a successful feud?
Eric Ryan: It was with myself and TJ Dynamite (soon to be replaced with Bobby Beverly) versus Faith in Nothing (Christian Faith, Rickey Shane Page and Vincent Nothing). I learned a lot during this time. It was a big part of building the wrestler I am today. I want to say it was my first real program as far as multiple matches/promos/shows go. We had a couple crazy TLC matches with those two. TJ actually had a seizure during one and we had an ECW chair riot during that match. Vince yelled, “Give me your chairs” and the building just threw chairs in the ring! Here’s the link for that. It was a pretty wild thing to be in the ring for. It was Vince that was responsible for various concussions of mine as well…he hit hard, very, very hard!
Daniel Johnson: Wow sounds wild! Getting into your more recent work at AIW you first won the AIW Absolute Championship when the title was vacant in a 2012 three way match also involving ACH and BJ Whitmer. What was it like to become AIW Absolute Champion after being with the promotion for six years?
Eric Ryan: It was a huge honor to be “the guy.” Before me, there were a lot of people who held that belt that went on to do bigger and better things. Guys like Sterling James Keenan who is now Corey Graves in NXT, Steve Corino, Michael Hutter who was Derrick Bateman in NXT and now Ethan Carter III in TNA, Drake Younger, Shiima Xion who is now Zema Ion in TNA, and a world traveler in Johnny Gargano who some would say is one of the best in the world. So to be even put in the same category of these men and to win the first ever JT Lightning Invitational Tournament was a huge honor. It felt like all the hard work and dedication I put into the company had paid off in a way.
Daniel Johnson: Do you have any memories that stand out for you from that match in particular?
Eric Ryan: Just being in the match with BJ Whitmer. Its unfortunate I couldn’t have had a one on one with him due to his condition, but being able to be in there with him was a huge honor. He was one of those guys I would watch as a fan getting ROH tapes and DVDs and never thinking I would wrestle. That and the atmosphere after he was eliminated. The locker room came out and got the fans riled up and pounded on the mat during the home stretch against ACH. That was an unexpected thing and really added to the moment to make it feel special.
Daniel Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe your reign lasted until AIW’s next show where you lost the title in a four corners elimination match to Tim Donst in a match also involving Johnny Gargano and Shiima Xion. Where you surprised your reign ended as quickly as it did and were you disappointed it came to an end so soon?
Eric Ryan: It would have been Absolution VII? I think VII…that sounds right haha. Yes and no. Would I have liked to have it longer, sure. But other plans were in the works and I let things run its course. In the end, it helped me become the only two time AIW heavyweight champion!
Daniel Johnson: Cool, speaking of your second reign you regained the title at the tail end of 2012 at AIW The End of The World 2012 in a singles match with Tim Donst. What did you think of this main event match and of working with Donst in general?
Eric Ryan: I was really happy with it. It would be the first, and I believe only one on one with him. He’s a guy that goes out there and gives it his all and wants to put on a show for the people. It’s always more rewarding working with people like that since you’re more motivated to do and try new things. As an example, I did a top rope x factor…which is odd to randomly do, and haven’t done it sense. But at the time, it felt right!
Daniel Johnson: During this reign you held the title for much longer than your first one and also got to work a singles match for the title against challenger Johnny Gargano. I find Gargano an interesting character because he has had an incredibly long title reign as the Open the Freedom Gate Champion for DGUSA. Do you ever see yourself having a title reign that long and if so how do you think you could overcome obstacles such as fans wanting a new champion after a multi-year reign?
Eric Ryan: I honestly don’t know if I could. If the opportunity arose, I wouldn’t be opposed to do it. In Johnny’s case, his long reign in my opinion helped him develop into the amazing performer you see today. He had the in-ring down and a huge presence already. But you can see the development as he grew with the title. He is also a man that I’m pretty sure is a machine. He doesn’t have an off switch and he can just go, go, go and go. He’s a one in a million wrestler and I’m happy to have shared a ring with him. And as long as you keep people entertained, you can have multi-year reigns. I think it’s easier on the independent level due to the one show a month and people not getting as bored but, look at a guy like CM Punk who held the belt for 400 plus days and he had to keep people entertained six to 10 times a week depending on shows/pay-per-views. It can be done. You just have to have the tools for the job.
Daniel Johnson: Sounds good, getting back to your second AIW Absolute Championship reign for a bit you ended up dropping the title to Colin Delaney at AIW Absolution VIII. What are your thoughts on this match and of this second reign in general looking back on it?
Eric Ryan: My second reign was more rewarding. I grew as a performer and learned more of what to do and not do and having to try and step my game up being in the main event. Like I said earlier with that glass ceiling being gone, the crowd sees a lot of stuff and you have to give them something they haven’t seen. I think at that time Colin and I delivered that. We gave them a bit of lucha, brawling, hardcore and just wrestling. We did a fair amount of stuff without going completely overboard and the fans were into it. Even though I came out on the losing end of that, I left happy knowing I left everything out in that ring that night for the people who paid their money to be there.
Daniel Johnson: Looking to the future do you see yourself holding the AIW Absolute Championship again sometime soon or would you like to move on to another challenge?
Eric Ryan: I do *knock on wood*. I don’t want to jinx it! Another goal would be to win the Intense Championship so I can be the second Grand Prix Champion in AIW history. With the first being Shiima Xion. Grand Prix: Absolute title/Intense title/Tag Team/JT Lightning Invitational Tournament winner (with Shiima winning the invitational tournament) and I would like to do another trios tournament. The Jack of All Trios was loads of fun.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, I also wanted to talk about your career outside of AIW for a little bit. First, I was wondering how did you first come to get managed by The Duke?
Eric Ryan: It all came about with NIXON. He saw injustice and wanted to be a part of it so he came on board to fight the good fight with Bobby Beverly, Rickey Shane Page and I.
Daniel Johnson: Another ally you have had who you mentioned earlier is Dustin Rayz who you have teamed up with as The Catalyst in CZW. How did this team first come about?
Eric Ryan: Dustin was looking for a tag team partner as CZW was looking for tag teams. We have crossed paths in the past and clicked well in-ring, so we thought about giving the tag thing a shot. So I got the call to tag with him forming The Catalyst and we made history with our second match in CZW by winning the CZW World Tag Team Championship. The history of those belts speak for themselves.
Daniel Johnson: As you mentioned you beat the Nation of Intoxication in only your second match with the company. What did you think of this run and would you like to hold more tag team gold in the near future?
Eric Ryan: It was good, and bad. It wasn’t what I had hoped my run there would have been. I learned a lot there and wish things could have worked out better there, but it just wasn’t meant to be at this time. Hopefully in the future the stars will align again and I’ll be back in the combat zone. I just have to keep working hard and show why I got there in the first place. And I would. I love tag team wrestling. It’s been a huge part of my career. The AIW tag division was my home for many, many years.
Daniel Johnson: Could you ever see yourself as being primarily a tag wrestler and only rarely working singles matches or do you see yourself more as a singles guy these days?
Eric Ryan: I like both worlds. If I primarily did one, I’d miss the other. I enjoy a good mix.
Daniel Johnson: This question may be a little out of place, but is one I always like to ask. People love to hear ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you could share?
Eric Ryan: There was a rib done on me by the late JT Lightning who you are aware ran Cleveland and Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling (CAPW) that housed many names you see today. We were at a show in Norwalk, Ohio for Mega Championship Wrestling (MCW) and at the time, I tried to make children cry every show by scaring them to the point of crying. After the match I did such a thing and I walked to the locker room sat down and started getting changed. At the time JT was wrestling and I hear the bell ring and an angry JT Lightning comes down the steps, grabs me by my neck and says, “Don’t you know by now who the fuck I am? Who my kids are. That was my kid you made cry out there. I don’t find it very funny. Don’t you know who the fuck I am, huh, huh?” and at this point, if I had any urine or shit in me, it would have been in my pants. I was pleading for my life since I was terrified and he said, “You know who I am? The best ribber in the business.” Everyone laughed…but me. I was still terrified to the point it made me nauseated.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, sounds scary! Also, to make interviews more fun for readers I like to ask five brief non-wrestling questions. First, outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Eric Ryan: American Dad, Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Futurama, South Park. That’s all I can think of. I don’t watch TV much. It’s usually just Netflix in the background. Sometimes I watch, other times it’s just to have noise in the room.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Eric Ryan: Oh God. I rarely go to the movies enough to remember what came out. I’d say either The Wolverine or Escape Plan. That’s really all I can remember watching or the Evil Dead remake. Ironically I saw that at 10 p.m. the day before it came out for free!
Daniel Johnson: Cool, I’m a big horror movie fan too. I love the original series. My next question is what is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Eric Ryan: Maybe not a favorite food, but I tried hummus and tofu for the first time. It’s nothing I’d eat everyday, but I’d eat again.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Eric Ryan: Anything by GWAR. Their new CD [Battle Maximus] was great.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Eric Ryan: The last book would have been my anatomy and physiology book for school. And unless you want to know everything about the body, I wouldn’t recommend!
Daniel Johnson: Haha, I then just wanted to closed with a few more general wrestling questions. First, what do you think is the weirdest part of being a wrestler?
Eric Ryan: The travel at times. People that aren’t involved find it very obscure that I can spend six hours driving to Chicago, wrestle, drive six hours home all in one day. That and I have a weird anxiety about speaking in front of a room of people for various things whether it be work or school, but yet I am most comfortable in regards to wrestling and have no anxiety or irrational fear of speaking then…it’s a weird complex!
Daniel Johnson: Oh yeah I can get what you’re saying. My next question is who is one wrestler 25 or under that you think readers should know about?
Eric Ryan: JT Dunn or David Starr. Those two dudes are amazing at what they do and I like watching what they do.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Eric Ryan: Support wrestling. I think if anyone is reading this they already do and it’s greatly appreciated. Come out to the shows, have fun, yell for who you love, boo for who you hate, and be appreciative of what myself and others do. We go out there and do what we love for your enjoyment and I can’t thank you enough for it! And go to prowrestlingtees.com/ericryan and buy a shirt!
Witness Eric Ryan perform at Beyond Wrestling! From Beyond Wrestling’s All Killer 20 show Eric Ryan and Rickey Shane Page representing NIXON take on The Contingent consisting of Nicholas Kaye and Mike Quest. The bout starts at roughly the 20 minute mark:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews