At Bound For Glory 2020, Rich Swann bookended the perfect redemption story by winning the IMPACT World Championship just one year after facing the very real possibility that he may never walk the same way, let alone wrestle again. Not only did Swann win the IMPACT World Championship, but the 30-year-old would do so on the same night his wife, Su Yung, became Knockouts Champion – and at a critical point in the company’s history!
As the Forbidden Door edged open, Rich Swann would compete in one of wrestling’s most monumental matches in decades, sharing the ring with AEW World Champion Kenny Omega at Hard To Kill. Rich Swann told Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy why he’s pushing for a singles match with the Best Bout Machine, how he plans to unify the IMPACT and TNA World Championships, and much, much more.
I want to start by going back a bit to your World Championship win – just a year after your career was almost ended. On that night, both yourself and your wife became the faces of your respective divisions in IMPACT. Just what did that night mean to Rich Swann?
It was definitely a special moment. I’ve never had the opportunity to be the face of a company, especially with national exposure, and being the head of the company, the World Champion, at my size and stature, people would say that an accomplishment like that is very hard to even come by.
To get an opportunity like that, it was the culmination of all my hard work, in and outside of the ring, and it was definitely a special moment.
And then also for my significant other, my wife Su Yung, to become the champion as well, that definitely solidified us as a power couple in professional wrestling, if you will. I think it was just a special night all around and there was a lot of partying going on in the Swann household, if you know what I mean.
I can only imagine! Of course, the incredible part of that journey isn’t necessarily the title win, it’s that your career was almost over a year before! I know you opened up to Fin Martin about that a little bit recently, but I wanted to ask – did any wrestlers in particular reach out to you to show their support? Was there anyone in particular who helped you through?
All my buddies came out, all my buddies came out and it didn’t matter what company they were from, people from WWE, from AEW, people in my company, everybody was just hitting me up and keeping me in good spirits and letting me know that, you know, I’m not the first person that’s gotten injured and I’m most certainly not going to be the last. They kept me in good spirits.
Once the doctor told me, ‘Hey, you might not walk the same way again, let alone wrestle,’ I told some of my close people that, they got into my head, they rented that space in my head and they kept all the negative thoughts out and said, ‘Hey, look. There’s people that have had worse and they’ve come back. You can do this and I pushed on and I pushed on, and I pushed on, and I pushed so hard, I got into the main event of Slammiversary and it was a little doubt in my mind, ‘Hey, can I still be the same Rich Swann I was before?’ I broke my back and my leg, my ankle, my fibia, or, you know, ‘Am I going to go in here and mess it all up and flop it all up?’ Slammiversary proved that I’m still the same guy, I can go in, I can move the same way and all the hard work of getting back to what I was, it all paid off.
That story as a standalone, as Rich Swann’s story, is great – but it also needs to be noted that you actually become the World Champion at arguably one of the most critical points in IMPACT history. What was your reaction when you found out you’d be the man getting to represent IMPACT, as World Champion, facing off against AEW Champion Kenny Omega?
It was definitely a fire lit underneath me, you know what I’m saying? INSIDE OF ME! Because that, right there, is very special.
It’s not very, very, very, very common that you get two world champions from two different promotions, on two different television stations, it ain’t timing – that just doesn’t happen. You could go back to maybe the old school NWA territory days when things like that could have happened, but never on a television scale.
To be put right in the midst of that, it makes me want to step up my game and makes me want to be on top of my game, and it makes me want to go out there and prove that Kenny Omega, with all the adulation and all of the championships, the Best Bout Machine, all the nicknames and everything, The Cleaner, that I can go out there and be on that same level and have IMPACT be just as much and mean just as much, and that world championship be just as important as the one that Kenny Omega holds right now.
Of course, Moose is a man you have a lengthy history with – but you were on the same side when Alex Shelley was taken out of one of the biggest matches in wrestling history. What did you think of Moose’s performance that night, and the way he’s made us all sit up and take note of him – and the TNA World Championship – this past year?
You know, for months, almost a year, he had been walking around with the TNA World Championship, claiming to be the world champion, just like Kenny Omega when he stepped in and claimed to be the real world champion. Moose had already been doing that but what I will say is – throughout his time in this persona, he has been successful and then when it came around, at Hard To Kill and the unfortunate circumstance of Alex Shelley not being able to make it. I would have chose Willie Mack, but Moose injured Willie Mack.
But at the same time, who would you rather have? Moose is almost seven feet tall. He’s 250 pounds of straight, solid steel. And now, since the TNA World Championship is official, he IS a world champion and, that night, not only did he put himself on the map even more than he already is, the man made himself a star. People can say what they want about Moose, about his actions, myself included but I can’t take anything away from him and, come March 13th, I know, at Sacrifice. I’m going to have a mountain to climb.
That leads on nicely to my next question. At Sacrifice, it’s starting to look like you might have the chance to unify both the IMPACT and TNA World Championships when you take on Moose. What would that mean to you, and would you want to carry both belts or properly unify the lineage of them into one?
So, officially, right now, the IMPACT Championship is the only championship on the line in our match so Moose, right now, is the only person that has something to gain. If he wins the IMPACT World Championship, he would have that clear, set and straight to unify. Right now, I don’t have the opportunity.
Would I like the opportunity at Moose’s Championship since he claims to be the World Champion? I would. But right now, for Sacrifice, the only thing set is my IMPACT World Championship. But if Moose is the world champion he says he is, he would have no problem putting that championship on the line.
To answer your question, I’d walk around with both of those championships with my head held high, you know what I’m saying? That world championship that Moose carries today, it has a very, very strong lineage, a great history and to have my name a part of that championship officially – it would be an honour.
The last time you spoke with Inside The Ropes, you said you didn’t believe the match with Kenny Omega would be “the end” – do you foresee a singles match between the two of you in the future?
I am lobbying for a singles match harder than anybody because, the loss at Hard To Kill, it definitely it was like a stake straight to the heart, you know what I’m saying? And it’s something that I definitely want to avenge. It’s something that I know that if we were in the ring, head-to-head, one-on-one, singles, no Good Brothers, no Moose, no Chris Sabin, just Kenny Omega and Rich Swann head-to-head, world champion versus world champion, we’re going to see a masterpiece.
I know that, even if you were, you wouldn’t tell us, so I’ll ask if you can categorically deny it instead… Will we see IMPACT World Champion Rich Swann appear at AEW Revolution?
Hey, you never know! You never know! The thing is, Forbidden Door. It’s… It seems to be… Not cracked open. It’s not just popped open, it’s BUSTED WIDE OPEN! That door is off the hinges! So expect anything when it comes to this partnership. That’s all I’m saying.
I know you previously were apparently almost renamed from Rich Swann during your time in WWE, and a lot of people had fun when you were joining IMPACT by giving you a different name on social media. Did you ever consider switching your name in IMPACT, or was a different character of any sort ever pitched to you?
You know, there was definitely a consideration to switch up my character from the happy, dancey, happy-go-lucky but, you know, fighting spirit type character to something different and, you never know, it might pop up. It might happen. I’ll just keep that character to the chest, keep it close to me.
But other than that, man, it was just like, ‘I’m Rich Swann.’ I’ve been Rich Swann my whole life. As soon as I came out the womb, I’ve been Rich Swann, since I started in wrestling. Why let the brilliance stop? Why let the name stop? Keep it going, keep it carrying, you know? And I feel like, with the help of the IMPACT faithful, the help of the roster, the help of my friends, I’ve been doing a pretty decent job of keeping my legacy strong in the professional wrestling industry.
I recently spoke with Ace Austin, and he mentioned his desire to step in the ring with you – and not just for the chance to become the youngest World Champion in IMPACT history. How much has he impressed you?
I think Ace Austin is a once-in-a-lifetime performer. A lot of people like to throw around he’s like AJ Styles. I would definitely say he’s in that calibre of athlete in this industry and to get into the ring with somebody like Ace Austin who is young and vibrant, and he wants to grow, and he wants to learn, and he wants to be the best, and he’ll do anything to get to the top – to see that it’s like, ‘Right, there still are hungry athletes in this game. There still are people that are willing to go out there and put their bodies on the line and prove they’ll do whatever.’ Ace Austin has proven that.
To get into the ring with him? I’d love to put my championship on the line against him. I’d love to go in there and see what he has and see where his knowledge is at, where his scientific wrestling skills are, where his brain is at when it comes to a world-title-calibre fight, and what he would do without a Madman Fulton.
Final question, the Forbidden Door is well and truly open. If you could bring one person to IMPACT or take that IMPACT World Championship elsewhere for a dream match, who is the man you want to face?
Man, there’s a lot of people out there that are just hot. I’d say there’s two. One is from New Japan USA and the other is from AEW.
One, I would love to get into the ring with Lio Rush. Lio Rush is one of the finest athletes that I’ve ever seen. He comes from the Baltimore, DC, Virginia area. I remember when him and Patrick Clark were both starting, they were called the Sudden Impact and they were in Maryland Championship Wrestling, my stomping grounds, and I remember seeing them and then seeing the stars that they became. Especially Lio, who is charismatic, he is a high-flyer that can do things that I can’t do! His quickness. His style is just crazy, you know what I’m saying? I think that if me and Lio Rush got into the ring, it would be a great match.
The person from AEW I would love to step into the ring with, other than Kenny Omega, obviously, would be Darby Allin, who I think he has the style of… You can compare him to like a Jeff Hardy or a Raven – or somebody that can just captivate you just by the look that he gives, and just to see his story and see him bloom into the superstar that he is is amazing. I remember seeing him when he first started and the professional wrestling game, you know what I mean? And to see what he’s become and what he’s turned himself into is amazing. And I think that Darby and I, we kind of share the same type of philosophies and thoughts when it comes to the in-ring action. I’d love to show a different side of myself with the shock value and I think we’d explode the wrestling world.
Thanks so much to Rich Swann for taking the time, and to IMPACT UK & Ireland for facilitating the interview. Fans in the UK & Ireland can catch IMPACT! every Wednesday on IMPACT Plus and on Facebook & YouTube, with the show repeated on 5Star on Friday evenings, and catch all IMPACT PPVs via IMPACT Plus and Fite TV worldwide.