Former world heavyweight champion and 12-time tag team champion "The Cowboy" James Storm is one of the most recognizable homegrown superstars in TNA history and can be seen every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV's Impact Wrestling.
He is scheduled to go one-on-one with former tag team partner Gunner for the No. 1 contender’s briefcase at Genesis live on Thursday, Jan. 16. He took time to sit down with the boys of Ring Rust Radio in an exclusive interview to talk about Genesis, working through injuries, the differences between playing a heel and a face, TNA building for the future, AJ Styles and so much more.
Full interview available above. Some language NSFW.
After spending most of his career as a tag team wrestler, starting as one-half of America’s Most Wanted and Beer Money, Storm has carved out a niche for himself as the beer-drinking cowboy in singles competition. He won the world title in late 2011 against Kurt Angle but quickly lost the belt to former partner Bobby Roode just eight days later.
With Storm’s match at Genesis against Gunner having the No. 1 contender briefcase on the line, this could be TNA’s chance to get the veteran back into the world title scene.
Magnus will need a top face to go up against now that Styles has left the company, and few wrestlers on the current roster possess the cache with Impact Wrestling fans that Storm has earned over the last 12 years in TNA.
James Storm Talks Genesis and Working Through an Injury
Much of TNA’s programming has been focused on Magnus and his quest to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but one of the major secondary storylines running parallel to the title scene is the battle between Gunner and Storm.
Storm formed a team with the returning Gunner on the May 23 edition of Impact Wrestling and won the tag titles from Austin Aries and Bobby Roode on June 2. The tag team spent the entire summer dominating the division but began teasing tension before October’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view.
Not only did they lose the titles to The BroMans at BFG, but the team was also defeated in the rematch on October 31. With tension reaching a fever pitch, Gunner won a world title shot in the Feast or Fired bout after screwing over Storm.
The duo now will go head-to-head for Gunner’s No. 1 contender briefcase at Genesis, and Storm has plenty to say about the pressure associated with competing in a bout with stakes so high.
"It’s tough, you know, there’s a lot of pressure going into it," he said. "Anyone that says there isn’t is a dog-faced liar, plain and simple. Any time you get a chance to go against the world champion or even have the opportunity to be in the spotlight and the main event, that’s something you want to fight for. Right now, Gunner is the No. 1 contender with that briefcase, so I don’t want to say I’m going to put all of my eggs into one basket, but I’m definitely going to at least stick a case of beer in it."
Storm’s experience will give him the definitive edge at Genesis, but the veteran revealed that he has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury that could affect the match.
"When football players hurt their ankles or if something’s wrong with a toe, they get three to four weeks off," he said. "As wrestlers we don’t. I’ve been wrestling the past three to four weeks with a hairline fracture in my ankle, but nobody knows that just because to us it’s no big deal. Just put a brace on it and let it go. Back when I was wearing the motorcycle boots for a long time it was because my ankle was pretty messed up and it kept my ankle immobilized."
Even with the fracture in his ankle, Storm is no stranger to adversity and has dealt with it throughout his career. He has been around the main event on several occasions during his tenure with TNA and has the fortitude to pull out the victory.
While Gunner has been elevated to a main event level by going against Storm in this feud, the smartest booking would be to give the briefcase to the challenger and let him be the first man to square off against Magnus in a long-term feud.
James Storm on the Difference Between Playing a Face and Heel
Storm has portrayed a good guy during most of his career and has been one of TNA’s most valuable commodities as a face of the company. His marketability and personality make him the kind of professional that Impact Wrestling has been able to build around for more than a decade.
It’s easy to see why he has been so valuable to Impact Wrestling.
While portraying the face can be rewarding when the fans love the character, it’s much harder to entertain them as a good guy than it is making them angry as a bad guy.
Storm talked about the differences between the roles and his preference between the two:
"Well, 90 percent of my career here in TNA I’ve been a good guy, but I love being the heel. It’s so much fun and I always tell everyone; it’s a lot easier to piss somebody off than it is to make somebody happy. You can say one word to piss somebody off, but you can take all day or all night time to make them happy. So it’s more fun to play heel and to be the dirty cheater and to me it’s kind of a lost art in itself because today the heels want to be cool and that’s not how I grew up watching wrestling. I always saw the heel as the dirty cheater who gets away with stuff here and there."
Storm may be valuable as a face, but he has the desire to be a top star and the talent on the mic to successfully make the transition to a heel character. TNA would be wise to explore the possible change.
Although his focus is on the No. 1 contender’s match, Storm is already teasing big changes over the next year.
"Well, you know, I don’t want to show my hand now, but I definitely have a few things cooking for 2014," he said. "Maybe change up my character because I’ve been the beer-drinking cowboy for four, five or six years in TNA, so I think it’s time to freshen it up a little bit. Hopefully the fans will take to it, and if they don’t, oh well. I always look at pleasing me first because at the end of the day I’m the person I have to look at in the mirror."
After watching him play the same role for several years, the veteran is teasing a possible heel turn at some point over the next year. He is still one of the most reliable superstars on the roster, but a memorable turn may be exactly what he needs to refresh his character.
A heel cowboy would be very interesting.
James Storm on TNA Building for the Future and AJ Styles’ Status
The recent contract discussions between AJ Styles and TNA, per F4WOnline via Wrestling Inc., have left the world title scene in limbo, and this could be the perfect opportunity for the company to build future stars.
TNA has already started moving in the right direction by putting the title on Magnus—despite immediately turning him heel—and Storm understands that building the next wave of stars is the key to Impact Wrestling’s long-term success:
"Yeah, I definitely think it’s something that the company needs. For the longest time it’s been guys like myself, Daniels, Kazarian, AJ, Joe and all the guys that have been there so long. We’ve had to carry the company when other guys came in and turned around and left real quick and it’s really good to see the guys who TNA are investing in actually starting to step up now and take on bigger roles which takes some pressure off of us. It also puts pressure on us because it means we have to step up with these younger guys stepping up, so I think it’s a win-win situation."
He went on to talk about Styles’ status with the company and his hopes for the star’s future:
"I don’t know the situation with the contracts and all that stuff, but you know for me to see a guy that I’ve been here since Day 1 with is a dark day for TNA because he did help build TNA. Anytime somebody says TNA, they automatically think of AJ Styles and the incredible matches he’s had while he’s been here. Hopefully him and TNA can come to an agreement and he can come back pretty soon."
Many superstars who have been in the business as long as Storm have become jaded to the sport, but he is not like most wrestlers. He understands that wrestling is a business first and foremost and has played the game thus far to perfection.
Don’t let his cowboy persona fool you: Storm is articulate and wise to the industry.
His willingness to look at his career, TNA as a company and the sport with honesty makes him a refreshing personality. Impact Wrestling is better every time Storm is on television, and The Cowboy should be back in the title scene sooner rather than later.
*All quotes obtained firsthand.
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