TNA Superstar Eric Young has been with Impact Wrestling for over a decade, but his greatest day as a professional wrestler came on Thursday, April 10 when he defeated Magnus to capture the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
Young became the seventh Triple Crown winner in company history—he previously won the tag team championship and the X Division championship—and he proved through his world title victory that his underdog character has a true connection with the fans.
Featured columnists Donald Wood, Mike Chiari and Brandon Galvin sat down for an exclusive interview with the new TNA world champion and talked about his time in the business, his road to the top, the comparisons to WWE’s Daniel Bryan and so much more.
Here is the interview with Impact Wrestling Superstar Eric Young.
Donald Wood: After more than a decade with TNA Impact Wrestling, you were finally able to capture the company’s most important title. Talk about your road to the top and how it feels now that you’ve had time to soak it in.
Eric Young: It’s wild. Yesterday was the best professional day of my entire life. It almost doesn’t seem real. I haven’t had it that long, and I’m still trying to soak it in. Talking to you guys, talking to people from all over, and it’s a good place to be. A really good place.
Mike Chiari: What has the overall reaction to your victory been like and has there been any particular congratulatory messages that stuck out to you?
Eric Young: Yeah, man. It’s been from all walks of life. Not just the wrestling community, but guys from other companies, guys that worked here before, guys that work here who weren’t here, Robert Flores from ESPN, Michelle Beadle from ESPN and all kinds of people reached out to me to say they were proud and happy for me. That’s a good feeling. There is always going to be negativity and naysayers and that’s part of being in a creative field, but its been 90 percent positive. It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming, really.
Brandon Galvin: Your road to the Championship scene has been covered by publications such as Bleacher Report and your TNA Championship victory has been covered by publications such as the Miami Herald. What can fans expect from EY as the new ambassador for TNA wrestling?
Eric Young: For me, it’s more of the same. It’s crazy to hear people say stuff like, “Eric Young is quite possibly the most entertaining wrestler in the world today.” There is nothing more important to me than that. Wrestling is about entertainment. Whether you’re entertaining people with physicality or comedy or verbiage or emotion or characterization or whatever it is, the name of the game is entertainment. It’s a television show and people are watching it because they want to be entertained. So to be held at that level and regarded in that way is the biggest compliment I could get. It’s not just the fans, it’s my peers and people I work with. It feels like the lifetime achievement award. It’s cool. I’m not going to win the Nobel Prize, but this as close as its going to get.
Donald Wood: You may have won the championship on the April 10th edition of Impact Wrestling, but you will inevitably have to defend the title at Sacrifice on April 27, likely in a rematch against Magnus. What are your feelings as you look toward your first title defense with a target painted on your back?
Eric Young: The old saying says you have a target on your back. That’s how it works in sports and that’s how it works in pro wrestling. Having that target on your back is a huge compliment too. Now everyone is looking to come after me. As crazy as that sounds, it sounds like fun. I want to create as many memories and amazing moments for myself and wrestling fans as I can. That’s what pro wrestling is to me. I don’t remember whole matches from 20 years ago, but I remember moments from matches. I remember where I was and who I was with and how it made me feel. I’m ready to do that as world heavyweight champion. That’s my No. 1 goal. It’s to have as many amazing matches and memories as I can possibly make while I have this belt.
Mike Chiari: Now that you’re world champion, do you feel any added pressure to continue trending in the direction of a more serious character as you try to establish yourself in the main event?
Eric Young: For the storylines I’ve been involved in, that’s what it called for. I’m never going to lose my sense of humor. I was a class clown when I was a kid, I’ve always been the funny guy and I’ve always liked making people laugh, and that’s not going to stop. It will just be a different brand, a different style, a different way of being funny. I’m funny on my show that airs on Animal Planet. I’m not silly on the show, I’m not goofy and all that other stuff; I’m just kinda me. That’s the version of Eric Young that you’re going to get. It’s important for me to be funny, and that’s what made me popular. That’s what got me over with the fans in the first place and I won’t lose that. As far as adding an edge, when you’re rolling around in tacks with the monster Abyss, it’s hard to crack jokes. There’s nothing really funny about that. But yeah, it’s a cool challenge for me because that’s what I have been for the last five to eight years, and this is a whole new world for me. I can do it. I know I can. I’ve always known that and I’m dying to show people.
Brandon Galvin: Eric, you've been playing the underdog role for the majority of your career. Now that you're champion and everybody is targeting you, will this change your state of mind on how you approach your matches?
Eric Young: I still look at it as being the underdog. My face is not really the face of a champion and my body may not be the body of a champion, but I bring something completely different and I think that is what wrestling fans have latched onto. I’m a wrestling fan since I was five and I am one of them. People can relate to me. I’m a wrestling fan. I’ve been a wrestling geek my whole life. My VHS tapes are still at my house and my VCR is still hooked up so I can watch old tapes. I’m a bit of a nerd that way.
Donald Wood: There have been comparisons between your championship victory and Daniel Bryan’s in WWE at WrestleMania since you both won two matches in one night and have a super-sweet beard. What are your thoughts on the comparisons?
Eric Young: I definitely see the comparisons. Like you said, we both have sweet beards, we both won two matches, were both world heavyweight champion and I don’t think either of us are prototypical champions. That’s what makes us special. Anytime someone wants to make a comparison between me and Daniel Bryan, go ahead and knock yourself out. He’s a super talented guy. I never met him personally, but I know lots of guys that know him and he’s a nice guy. I listened to his interview on Steve Austin’s podcast and he sounds like he’s a cool dude. Anytime anyone wants to compare me to him, they can go right ahead.
Mike Chiari: There was once a time in pro wrestling where guys had to be a certain size to get the top title, but do you feel wrestlers like yourself and Daniel Bryan have helped throw those prerequisites out the window?
Eric Young: I think that kind of world has been on a downward spiral for awhile. Guys like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero opened the door for guys my size and Daniel Bryan’s size. It’s not so much about being 6’5” and this massive person anymore. I’m not a huge guy, but I’m a good size. I’m about 235 pounds. Comparatively, I’m a pretty decent sized guy, but I think that perception is a thing of the past. People just care about having a good product and I know we can supply that.
It’s clear from our conversation with Young that he understands the magnitude of his accomplishment and he is relishing in the opportunity. As the new heavyweight champion, Young better be ready to be the target of the most dangerous men in the wrestling industry.
Judging from his positive attitude, Young is ready for all challengers.
You can catch Eric Young on Impact Wrestling every Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV and Sunday, April 27 at the Sacrifice pay-per-view. Catch Young as he hosts the Animal Planet show Off The Hook: Extreme Catches and follow him on Twitter @ShowtimeEY.
*All quotes obtained first hand.
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