When The Ambassador of British Wrestling Invaded Finland
On October 3rd, the people of the small town of Rauma were in for a treat as British wrestling legend Doug Williams made his much anticipated Finnish debut at Urheilutalo Ooperi. The internationally packed show drew wrestling fans from all over Finland and was regarded as a truly special event. We had the pleasure to speak with the multi-time champion before his main event clash, and took the chance to get his reflections on aspects of the wrestling industry today, as well as his own endeavours of the past, present, and future.
Smarkside: How are you doing? Is this your first time in Finland?
Doug Williams: Not too bad, thanks. Yes this is my very first time.
And how have you enjoyed your stay so far?
It’s been short but luckily there’s a nice weather here. The countryside was beautiful on the drive up from Helsinki.
Are there any other locations you have recently debuted or will debut in?
No, pretty much everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been before, actually. Funnily enough. Had a couple of opportunities to go to the Middle East but unfortunately I had other commitments. Now this is the first time in Finland which is quite unique and interesting. 22 years [in wrestling] and I’ve never been here before.
Last year you made a brief return to TNA Impact Wrestling, where you have arguably had your largest exposure to audiences. Has there been any talk of a permanent return?
No, nothing since.
What’s your take on their currently very uncertain state?
It’s unfortunate the position that they are in now, and I feel sorry for the guys working there. But really, I think there needs to be some kind of stability brought back to it, in whatever respect it is. It’ll be a shame if they do go down, because that’s one less place for the boys to work, so that’s unfortunate. To be honest I haven’t really watched the product since I left so I can’t really comment on the quality of the show. But it will be a shame if they go.
Are Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling still in your radar?
For Ring of Honor I’m doing shows in the UK at the end of November, they’re coming over. So hopefully something might come of that. New Japan I spoke to briefly, but they’re looking for younger guys (laughs). They want guys to go there full-time, live in their dojo and train the New Japan way, so I’m a bit of an old hack for that. But maybe I’ll return to Japan in some form next year, I’m talking to a couple of other promotions out there. We’ll see what comes of that. I was in Pro Wrestling Noah for seven years before.
How about the rising phenomenon Global Force Wrestling, who are working with TNA and NJPW. Any chance of seeing you show up there?
They’re running in the UK at the end of this month, two shows, and I’m obviously on them. A little bit of that all. They’ve started taping TVs, that’s where they obviously get the distribution deal for those two shows and carry on that, and I’ll be involved in some form for sure. Will be interesting.
You were also the head coach at Ohio Valley Wrestling, TNA’s developmental at the time. What was that experience like?
Actually it was very positive for me because I got to learn a lot of things outside of just the in-ring product. I helped write tv in creative when I was there. Obviously being an agent too, and I agented the house shows as well. That kind of gave me lots of skills outside of just the in-ring product and training guys, and that I was quite used to, so it was useful in that perspective.
Did your time there possibly inspire to found your own wrestling school?
I’m actually happier doing little seminars like I did here today. Coming along, showing people little techniques to improve themselves and their overall skills. I don’t think I’m that interested in setting up my own at the moment. I may be, but I’m so busy. I’ve done a 150 shows this year alone. Maybe when it dies down a little bit in two or three year’s time that’ll be a more realistic goal. But now I just like to give guys the benefit of my knowledge at shows and do seminars like I’ve done today.
Have you been following WWE’s developmental NXT and would you entertain the idea of coaching there with your countryman Robbie Brookside? How well do you know each other?
I know Robbie very well and he helped me when I first started. Following that I did talk to him about a trainer’s position when I left TNA, but because I had already left the USA we didn’t get to follow through. I was already back in the UK. NXT is the only product I watch from the WWE. To me it’s what a wrestling TV show should be. It’s always good to see people you know are friends and you’ve helped out before or you’ve wrestled at times… it’s fun to see them turn up and doing a good job.
WWE – was it or is it still a goal for you?
Well, not really. There’s one: I’d like to wrestle maybe on one of their shows, because I have done dark matches for them, but to do an actual featured match would probably be a last goal of mine. But I think I’m a bit past being a regular roster member now.
Maybe NXT then, in a similar role that Rhyno has taken? Who would you like to work with there?
That would be great, really good. I love the Vaudevillains, the tag team’s great. Jason Jordan and Chab Gable, who are coming up now. Gable, he’s probably my favorite guys to watch now. Skilled in the ring, so fluid, the way he moves around and things like that. Just great. I have to get myself a tag partner and go up to them.
With that said, you have been succesful in both tag team and singles wrestling. Do you prefer one over the other?
Actually I don’t anymore. I used to think I was just a singles wrestler primarily, but now either way is fine for me. It’s all easy. Just no hardcore matches (laughs).
If TNA goes under, who from there do you see going to NXT?
Well, they could have any of them. They’re quite talented. But unfortunately a lot of the guys probably fall a little bit outside the age range of guys [WWE] want to employ. Bobby Roode, Austin Aries… guys like that are always good hands that deserve to be on TV shows somewhere around the world. There’s a lot great talent there, which is a shame if they lose that.
Of the current British wrestlers in WWE, who do you see as the potential next superstar? Maybe the first British world champion?
Definitely Neville, I think he’s phenomenal. Once he’s settled into his character and got that playing properly, he could be a big star really. I like King Barrett as well, but I feel he’s always trying to find his niche as well. I keep thinking of Finn Bálor but he’s Irish, unfortunately (laughs). There’s a good few guys out there actually making their mark, and Paige as well, she’s doing great.
Any other British female prospects in NXT to look out for?
They’ve got a Scottish girl I think, Nikki Storm, she’s very good. There’s a few around.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the British wrestling scene, and what would you recommend for a fan looking to get into it?
Oh, it’s great at the moment – fantastic! There’s shows every month, lots of great talent at the moment, it’s a really vibrant scene. Anybody who would want to get into British wrestling should go online and check out YouTube channels of Revolution Pro Wrestling or Progress Wrestling, and if you’re over there try to get to live events for those guys. Preston City Wrestling and New Generation Wrestling are other big companies. In Scotland there’s a whole range of companies: Insane Championship Wrestling, Premier British Wrestling – the list goes on and on. If you go online and look for British wrestling you’ll find something of quality. The talent at the moment is unbelievable.
Do any of them have a TV presence these days?
No, unfortunately not. It’s all internet based at the moment, there are no TV shows. Content is important, when promotions have got content to deliver and on display, people are going to see it and they’ll be exposed. RPW and ICW have on-demand streaming online where you pay for a subscription.
You are touted as the ambassador of British wrestling, and tonight you will be facing that of Finnish wrestling, “The Rebel” StarBuck. How familiar are you with your opponent, and how do you view him?
I’ve known him for a very long time because it’s always been back and forth about me coming here. I wasn’t too familiar with his style and what he did before this match was announced and signed, and obviously I’ve been reviewing, scouting and checking up on him – so it’ll be interesting. He’s been wrestling around the same time as I have and he’s done Japan and everything.
Both of you are technically sound wrestlers who excel at the catch-as-catch-can style. There are many similarities between you, and one could make the argument that you’re an equal match. What will you bring to the table to get the upper hand?
I think I’m going to incorporate a little bit more of my British style in there which he may not be too familiar with, and use that to kind of overwhelm him a little bit. That’s my main advantage. Other than that, probably hit him harder (laughs).
You have mentioned that earlier in your career you took the business and yourself very seriously, but with time have become more laid back in a sense. That said, will we see a more “game face” Doug Williams tonight, considering your opponent?
We’ve got no great big grudge against each other. We can go out there, have fun and entertain the crowd. But when it comes down to business then obviously I’ll switch up a gear. I always take matches seriously, even when you’re having a little bit of fun. It’s always in the right context.
What’s next for you after Rumble In Rauma?
ICW double-shot next weekend, then I’m in Germany the weekend after. GFW at the end of the month, ROH shows next month, so the next two months are really busy for me. I hope it can give me a few springboard steps for next year. I’m just kind of playing it by the ear at the moment, I don’t have many long term goals anymore, just playing and seeing what comes along. Day by day at the moment. It’s working for me.
What are your favorite matches of your own career?
There’s one with me against AJ Styles for the TNA Television Championship. There’s a Ring of Honor match against Christopher Daniels, where I won the FWA Title back from him – one of my favorites as well, definitely. One of the big matches, probably the biggest in my career, not necessarily my favorite, was when I wrestled Ric Flair in Wembley. It was going well until he was hurt. Plenty of matches, hard to remember them all to be honest with you.
You have also had the chance to wrestle the late Eddie Guerrero, of whose untimely death it will mark ten years next month. What was it like facing him?
It was intimidating at the time. I think that if I’d watch the match back now I could see that he lead the way, he lead the match pretty much, and I just followed on that. It’s interesting, at the time it gives you an idea of what it takes to be a world class wrestler. You step in there thinking: “Oh, I’m pretty good”, but you soon realise there’s still a huge gulp between what I was then and what he was. And that’s built from experience more than anything. Obviously athletically I was up there, but my experience was still lacking somewhat. And that was built up from my time in Japan, ROH… all those things followed wrestling Eddie Guerrero. It’s interesting.
Any other wrestler you would have liked to face, but never had the chance to?
William Regal I’ve never faced, and I’d like to have. The whole career I’ve been wrestling he’s pretty much been in WCW or WWE. And then there’s guys like Kurt Angle who I’ve wrestled for like 5 minutes on TV, but I’d like to have a proper 20 minute match with him. And “the man who should not be named” as well, Chris Benoit. As he was.
Anything else you would like to add?
The main thing is that I appreciate any support I get from the Finnish fans. First time I’ve ever been here in 22 years, so it’s going to be interesting for me as well as them I hope. I’ll just ask them to please follow me on Twitter (@DougWilliamsUK). Hope to come back sometime and that it won’t be just a one-off appearance.
For more info on Finnish wrestling and Fight Club Finland go to wrestling.fi.