AEW's Wardlow on TNT Championship Obsession, Powerbomb Plans for MJF, More
AEW Double or Nothing airs this Sunday, and while the show will include all of the usual championships being defended, one of the non-title storylines that has people talking the most is MJF vs. Wardlow.
These are two men who have been linked for most of their respective All Elite Wrestling careers, so their breakup and subsequent feud have felt more personal than most.
Ever since The Wardog decided to go his own way, MJF has been doing his best to make his former associate's life a living hell. He has given him several powerhouse opponents to face, whipped him with a leather belt while he was handcuffed and kicked him below the belt.
We had a chance to speak with Wardlow ahead of his big showdown with his former friend to discuss how he is feeling physically, what the rest of the year holds for him, how he spends his off time, a movie review and much more.
How Is He Holding Up After Everything MJF Has Put Him Through?
During the May 18 episode of Dynamite, Wardlow was tasked by Maxwell Jacob Friedman to take 10 lashes from a leather belt. Once it became clear the strikes were having little or no effect, the heel kicked him below the belt and proceeded to dish out more lashes than he originally stipulated.
As tough as Wardlow proved himself to be during that segment, all of the punishment he has endured in recent weeks has given him a few bruises.
"Well, physically I've been pretty beat up for a number of weeks now ever since Max has listed all these hoops to jump through," he said. "You know, I had Butcher, then I had Lance Archer, then I had Morrissey, you know, three consecutive weeks, and now a complete beatdown while I'm handcuffed. So I've been pretty beat up head to toe like never before for weeks now. So, I'm feeling a little rough."
Despite feeling slightly worn down, Wardlow still no-sold most of the belt shots as if he was being hit by a light breeze. He might have been forming welts within seconds, but it didn't seem to faze him. Now, he is entirely focused on giving MJF more than he bargained for.
"I most definitely have a very high tolerance for pain," Wardlow said. "I think I've just built a pretty strong back over the years and apparently, I have some thick skin because it wasn't as bad as I thought it was gonna be. You know, I took more than 10 lashes. I think he laid it to me pretty good after the shot below the belt.
"But as far as I'm concerned, I owe Max at least a minimum of 10 powerbombs. So I am going to powerbomb him until my arms get weak. I'm going to powerbomb him until he is hurt physically and embarrassed mentally to the point where he's not going to want to show his face in that company anymore.
"So, I'm going to beat him very badly. And then hopefully I can get rid of that contract and obtain a new one. Hopefully with AEW officially."
What Does the Rest of 2022 Hold?
For Wardlow's entire run, he has been associated with MJF. At first, he was just a bodyguard but then became an enforcer in the ring as The Pinnacle developed. Now, he finds the man who employs him as his biggest rival.
Once he is done powerbombing the life out of Friedman, The Wardog sees the rest of this year as a chance to make his mark in this business.
"I see the rest of 2022 to be in the year of Wardlow," he said. "The rest of this year is mine to take as far as I'm concerned. I hope everybody had fun playing pro wrestler because the real deal is here now.
"I haven't gone a day where I haven't thought about the TNT championship. I was literally a second away from being the TNT champion. So, I think my first line of business is probably that just because I've thought about it every single day."
Wardlow might be one of the hottest acts in AEW, but there was a time when his future wasn't as secure. He not only worked to pull himself up, but he is now also working to put himself on top.
"My greatest life accomplishment is pulling myself out of the hole I dug myself," he said. "I mean, I was at rock bottom. You know, a lot of bad choices in life. So I think my greatest life accomplishment is being at a point where I thought I had ruined my chances of making my dreams come true, and at the young age of 20, 22 or 23, thought I had ruined my life. And here I am 10 years later talking to you."
When it comes to career accomplishments of which the 34-year-old is proud, there are two that stick out, and both took place at the Revolution pay-per-view on March 6.
"Career-wise, recently, I would say that ladder match," Wardlow said. "Winning the Face of the Revolution Ladder match was the highlight of my career so far. As far as a moment is concerned, the moment I laid that ring down in front of CM Punk. So, collectively, that night as a whole was the biggest of my career."
Boxing and MMA Training
A lot of wrestlers have some kind of background in another discipline these days. Some came from amateur wrestling, some from mixed martial arts and boxing, and others have come from sports like rugby and football.
Wardlow is no exception. His main focus is pro wrestling, but he has also dabbled in boxing and jiu-jitsu to expand his arsenal and keep himself in top shape.
"I've been a fan of boxing my whole life, growing up on Rocky Balboa. I was obsessed with that," Wardlow said. "I've always had a thing for boxing. And then obviously, with the popularity of mixed martial arts, even before then I've always just thought I was a scrappy kid.
"I've always just liked wrestling, amateur wrestling. I just figured doing jiu-jitsu and doing boxing, I know that it's hard work. Jiu-jitsu training is the hardest thing I've ever done next to professional wrestling as far as the physical demand while training for those things, which is ultimately what helped me in wrestling.
"So that's really why I did it. I don't necessarily have any plans to do anything further with [MMA and boxing]. If the opportunity arose, I never say never. But, yeah, it's ultimately just to stay in shape and help my wrestling work."
How He Spends His Time off
Everybody needs something to keep them occupied during their time off. Many wrestlers have side projects such as game streaming or podcasts, but Wardlow spends most of his time focused on keeping himself as fit as possible.
"Realistically, my enjoyment or my pleasure is our training or some sort of physical activity," he said. "Whether it's something as small as just being outside going for a walk or going for a hike through the woods.
"I really got into mountain biking and going on trails, especially through the woods and on off-road trails. Mountain biking has really been something I've really enjoyed doing. And I tend to be doing that a lot.
"I just try to do anything physical, anything that keeps the body moving. And then, when it's time to rest, I am a bit of a movie junkie. I love watching films. That's pretty much what I'm doing. And eating a lot."
One of the things we like to do when interviewing AEW figures is to ask them to review a movie they have seen recently just to give us a glimpse into the personality behind the character.
Wardlow chose a recent release: The Batman.
"The most recent movie I saw in theaters was The Batman," he said. "I'm a DC fan, a huge Batman and Superman fan, and I can say this movie did not disappoint. And it may possibly be the most comic book accurate Batman movie I've ever seen.
"When I first heard the [Robert Pattinson casting] announcement, I think myself, along with the majority of people, were like, 'No, I won't see it.' But he felt like he was perfect for that young Batman. And there's moments in the movie where they really hit home with the fact that he is young. He's immature, and I felt like he portrayed that very well.
"You know, comic books and being a body guy or a big man in wrestling, I enjoy a big jacked-up Bruce Wayne. So I know it's only year two for Batman, but I'm hoping the next movie he hits the gym a little more.
"I was a big fan of Ben Affleck. I was a big fan of that all around. I thought he was great. And I would still love to see a solo Batman movie with him. The montage in Batman v Superman, where he's training in the Batcave and working out, he got in great shape. He was just jacked-up, man.
"But then when you see him in the suit, he actually looked intimidating. If you were to walk down a dark alley, and you saw Pattinson or Bale's Batman, you would just be like, 'Hey, there's a dude in a Batsuit.' But if you walk down an alley and see Affleck's Batman, you might actually go, 'Alright, I might turn around and go the other way.'"
Acting and Who He Would Like to Play in a DC Movie
Wardlow jokingly expressed a desire to play Superman in a recent tweet, but the idea of acting, especially in a superhero movie, is something he would consider.
"Yeah, I think I absolutely would [consider acting]," he said. "That's something I think that's always been in the back of my head. You see what John Cena, The Rock and Batista are doing, and it's phenomenal. Then I gotta say, to be a part of the Marvel Universe or the DC Universe. Oh my God, that would be a dream come true. That'd be an honor. I'd love to do that one day if the opportunity came up."
Superman and Batman are obvious choices for him due to his size, but when asked who else he would like to portray, he had a couple of names in mind.
"Honestly, my third choice would have been Shazam. But they just recently did that and I think they're doing another one. But I would have loved to portray Shazam. I'm just a kid at heart. I feel like it would be so easy to portray that on screen. Like, he's this big monster, but he's really just a kid with a big imagination.
"When I look at the villain side of things, I most definitely would love to play Lobo, and I used to have a Harley I loved riding. I love bikes, love riding. My Harley Davidson was my baby. And I enjoy a cigar here and there, so I feel like with Lobo, I would really be able to be super-in-tune with that character. Let's get on it. Let's get a live-action Lobo going."