John Hennigan, formerly John Morrison in WWE, is making a comeback in the national wrestling spotlight with Lucha Underground on the El Rey Network on October 29th. Hennigan’s new ring name in the promotion is Johnny Mundo. In this exclusive interview with AlternativeNation.net’s Sports section, Hennigan discusses working with Eric Bischoff, Joey Mercury’s new ‘corporate’ on air role in WWE, Lucha Underground’s potential, his acting career, and more. Check out our recent interviews with Kurt Angle, Kane, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Randy Couture, Eric Bischoff, and Hornswoggle in our Sports section.
Considering how you got into your WWE career with Tough Enough, what do you think of WWE’s new performance center and training faculties? Also what do you think of their developmental system with NXT?
One of the most frustrating things I’ve found with getting into wrestling is when you expend a big pile of effort and feel like you aren’t getting the best training, or you’re wasting your time. The performance center is ridonkulous! I’d love to train there now. The facilities are cutting edge, but more important, when it comes to pro wrestling, or really learning any skill from kung fu to basket weaving to medicine the people you learn from are your most powerful influences.
If you have ambition, dedication, and a knowledgeable trainer who isn’t bitter about their own career and believes in your potential, you can learn anywhere… but not everywhere has air conditioning like the performance center.
For the business side of WWE, NXT is great because it’s a way to monetize their developmental system (NXT guys! thanks for the rasslin’… sorry ‘bout the money) For Talent, it’s a good chance to see what it’s like to wrestle on TV tapings. Politics, pacing of matches, intensity, expectations, selling to cameras, etc…
When you first got on the WWE roster, you were doing a lot of skits with Eric Bischoff as his assistant. How did you like working with Bischoff and did he share any wisdom about some of the wrestling business?
“… back then it was about booze and blow, now it’s about starting my TV days with a good bowl of oatmeal to keep my energy level up.”
~some RAW taping in 2004 the Bisch to Johnny Nitro & Jonathan Coachman
Eric was great to work with. Gave me some awesome insight into the business of Wrestling. At the time I was thinking in terms of what I wanted to accomplish in the business, Eric talked in business terms, what do people want to see, what will people pay for? Pro Wrestling is a business, what can you do that people will pay to see you do? I really didn’t appreciate the opportunity I had as ‘The Apprentice’ Johnny Nitro. All I wanted to do at the time was wrestle.
Why do you think Dolph Ziggler hasn’t been given a main event push and what do you think it will take for that to happen?
Ziggler should wear a suit to TV tapings, wait outside Vince’s office to shake his hand & talk about deadlifts, tell HHH that he should be the lead Viking on that Viking TV show that the kids are watching, maybe less selling in the ring, more crossfit at home, paint his face, get bigger, forget how to work completely then remember half of what he forgot … I dunno?… he could start with all that or just accept that success in wrestling is usually a combination of luck and skill.
What do you think of you former tag team partner, Joey Mercury’s new on-air role in WWE which is kind of similar to what Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco did in the late 90s?
Love it. Every time I see Joey on TV I get so happy! That dude has lived wrestling his entire life & is a genius in wrestling psychology. Working with him in MNM was like teaming with a non annoying agent- haha. I couldn’t be happier to see him back with WWE in a fun on air role & as an agent behind the scenes as well. Of course if our paths ever crossed on-air, I’d have to let ‘Corporate Joe’ know what a sell out he became and how badly Joey Matthews would’ve kicked the crap out of Corporate Joe
We remember what happened at Armageddon in 2006 when Joey Mercury was struck in the face with a ladder during a spot in the match. What was your first reaction to seeing Joey like that?
I didn’t see the extent of the damage til after the match. When I got backstage Joey’s entire head what already wrapped in gauze. Melina was standing next to him crying, I teared up. When the adrenaline wears off the reality of living with injury sets in.
Do you have any favorite Doors songs and how much did Jim Morrison influence your character?
Huge Doors fan, huge fan of Jim Morrison; dude is an icon. The John Morrison character is obviously an homage to the Lizard King. My original finish as John Morrison: the Moonlight Drive. I got so into the Morrison character I started writing Morrison-esque poems in 2007 and posting them on my MySpace page- this is one of my favorites:
“The Brightest Star”
Acetylene torches hide in the shade
with nuclear explosions drinking lemonade
as flashbulbs retire and angels conspire
to get close to brightest star god ever made.
Howls in the distance,
blind men drunk with the light:
All scream, “We see you, though we are without sight.”
And I am their pilot
And I am their sun.
They remember my work backwards
And as their sun raises its arms in a V
I know that the world turns only for me
For I am the center
and I am its soul,
and everything distant from me is so cold.
Another poem I wrote was titled “Starship Pain.”
When you split from The Miz, you were featured in a lot of good matches; you won the Intercontinental Championship and started to end up in many different World and WWE Championship matches. Was there ever a plan to make you a World Champion at some point? Did you ever get that impression that in a few years you would be in that position?
My plan was always to become World Champion, I felt at times I was months away, and at times I was years away.
You pitched a fitness book to WWE in 2009, they decided not to publish your book through the WWE machine, why not?
I wanted to write a book about functional fitness and get into some autobiographical stuff as well, but the literary guys at WWE said they’d published an earlier fitness book that hadn’t done very well. So… I pitched a series of DVDs which they passed on as well but then said I could do a fitness product on my own if I wanted to. So… it took a while, but I did.
In 2010 I met Jeff Carrier at a gym and started talking about ideas for a functional virtual personal training system. We spent 2 years programming, coming up with exercises then we started filming everything. That’s where the difference between having the backing of a billion dollar company and producing your own program out of pocket is the most evident. We had to shoot at night in friends gyms and set up lights and backdrops and hustle to get it done.
The product we came up with Out Of Your Mind Fitness (www.ooymfitness.com) is the most comprehensive functional training program on the market. We focus on exercises that improve the body’s ability to do what it was meant to do; MOVE, run, jump, push, pull, twist. If you want more info on OOYM Fitness check out the YouTube www.OOYMFitness.com @OOYMFitness and Facebook.
You have been doing more independent shows recently; do you think independent wrestling is in a good state right now?
Yes. Do you think independent wrestling is in a good state right now? Do you think I should stay with Lucha Underground? Go Back to WWE? Post more videos about OOYM Fitness? Make more movies and wrestle less? Buy the rights to Suburban Commando and reboot the franchise? Cut my hair? Change my name some more? Tweet me your questions @TheRealMorrison!
You left WWE in December of 2011, why did you decide to start acting?
I was a film major at UC Davis. I’ve been a lifelong fan of 2 things, wrestling and film. In college I was studying all aspects of film; acting and production, and specifically, stunts. Action acting, like the stuff that Jackie Chan does really interested me. I wrestled in high school, and in college, but didn’t consider a career as a pro wrestler until I saw Tough Enough. I’d been preparing for an action acting career, making kung fu movies with my roommates like ‘The Foot of DEATH’ … a flick about a man with a very dangerous foot, ‘Kung Food’, a fast food restaurant where kung fu fights happen frequently… Hahaha… training in martial arts and movement based skill sets like breakdancing and gymnastics… I was doing all that when I saw Tough Enough season 1, I was like dayum! Pro Wrestling is the perfect combination of everything I wanted to do my whole life. I’d dreamed of being in the WWF when I was a kid… but seeing Tough Enough on MTV is what made me think of my dreams as a kid as a tangible career path. Wrestling is entertainment, so are movies, so is theatre, so as far as what influenced me to get into acting?… I like telling stories. I like entertaining. Acting is necessary to share my stories with people. Check out IMDB.
Hennigan in Hercules Reborn
Have you had talks with TNA or Global Force Wrestling and what are your thoughts on the two companies?
I’m booked to wrestle Jeff Jarrett on December 6th, might talk a little talk about Global Force. TNA & I have had talks, I live in LA, Florida is far. Wrestling is a business, the more promotions the better, more opportunities for wrestlers to work. Both of those companies could be fun to work with. Right now I’m signed with Lucha Underground and I’m happy with where I’m at. Backstage is great, no drama, great shows, great people involved, and in my hometown of Los Angeles.
How do you psychologically prepare for the ring? Do you have to get in the right frame of mind?
Warm up. Stretch. Breathe. FIRE UP! enter.
You signed with Lucha Underground last month, and you are going to be working as Johnny Mundo. That should be airing near the end of the month on October 29th. What sets Lucha Underground apart from other wrestling shows and do you think it could succeed long term?
Johnny Mundo is going to rock the world on October 29!
Lucha Libre itself has a rich tradition and deep roots in Mexican culture, it has a powerful built in following. The stuff we’re doing in Lucha underground is going to put the rest of the wrestling world on blast! Prince Puma (Ricochet) Fenix, Pentagon Jr, King Cuerno, Drago, these guys can do things you won’t see anywhere else. I’ve been pushing myself every week to try moves I’ve never done before. What’s happening at Lucha Underground is exciting to me both as a wrestler and a fan. This is a melting pot of ideas from the best wrestlers, writers, and film production people in the world; we are creating a show that is defining itself and rapidly evolving every week.
I describe lucha sometimes as extreme acrobatics… What sets Lucha Underground apart is the extreme acrobatics of Lucha Libre with the story telling psychology of WWE, the culture of Mexico, and also the style of Robert Rodriguez which I think will be especially evident in the backstage vignettes which look like scenes from gritty action films. Chavo Guerrero, Big Ryck (Ezekiel Jackson), Konnan, the luchadors I mentioned earlier this whole promotion is made up of people who have creative ideas and want to contribute to a show that is going to be more entertaining than any other wrestling show in the world (Mundo). So yes. This show definitely has the potential to succeed long term. Will it? Damn right it will!