IMPACT Wrestling’s World Champion Rich Swann spoke to Inside The Ropes‘ Fin Martin on January 11 about his upcoming appearance in the blockbuster six-man main event of Hard To Kill, IMPACT’s burgeoning relationship with All Elite Wrestling, the devastating injuries he suffered in a match one year ago, and the episodic story line that culminated in him lifting the IMPACT crown at Bound For Glory 2020 . . .
This Saturday, January 16, at IMPACT’s Hard To Kill pay-per-view, you will team with The Motor City Machine Guns to tangle with Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers in a monumental inter-promotional main event. This feels like the biggest IMPACT match in many years, due to the company’s new talent agreement with AEW and the participation of AEW’s World Heavyweight Champion, Omega. Bound For Glory was a colossal night for you, obviously, but this seems even bigger in some respects.
It’s definitely a huge, huge opportunity for everybody involved: for IMPACT Wrestling, for AEW. It’s no secret that AEW has the bigger platform, being on TNT. But I’d say that the IMPACT roster can rival any roster in the world. And, now, with us putting our greatness together, we’re going to see what Kenny Omega and The Bullet Club, along with Rich Swann and The Motor City Machine Guns . . . We’re going to see what that relationship can do, just through our athletic abilities. I’m just happy to be a part of that.
I assume IMPACT management and the rest of the crew are approaching Hard To Kill with the same feverish anticipation. Theoretically, there should be more eyes on this event than any IMPACT pay-per-view in aeons.
I definitely see this as one of the biggest nights in recent years. It’s no secret that IMPACT Wrestling has always been the butt of the joke in professional wrestling in our industry. It’s, like, “When are they gonna die now?” Well, guess what? That’s why we have a second annual Hard To Kill pay-per-view, and with a match that so many people are talking about.
What more can you tell us about the IMPACT/AEW relationship?
In this match that’s about to be unfolding, you’ve got World Champions from both companies. I’d like to say — and I don’t know; no one has told me anything otherwise. But I’d like to say that this match will not be the end: this will only be the beginning of an IMPACT/AEW relationship. Don’t count anything out: anything can happen in this industry, as we’ve already proven.
With that in mind, the ultimate prize of this treaty has to be a one-on-one battle between Rich Swann and Kenny Omega. It stands to reason that you would be eager to sign up for such an encounter.
That’s something I would totally look forward to having. I believe the very first time I met [Kenny Omega] was in 2012 in Dragon Gate/ DDT. They did a collaboration show, and he always had respect. Just to have this opportunity to be in this six-man alone is going to show people that I can be at that type of level. And then that’s going to show everybody that, “Hey, we need to see this match even more, the one-on-one encounter between Kenny Omega and Rich Swann.” Because I feel that I can be on his level, and the only way you can prove that is if you get in the ring with those guys.
Indeed. One year ago, you were in a different place in your career. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to state that your career was very much up in the air. During an eight-person match at IMPACT’s Bash At The Brewery 2 event, you suffered a catalogue of injuries that were so serious, there was a genuine fear afterwards that you might not wrestle again.
That is totally, 100-percent true. I essentially broke almost everything on my right side from my hip down. My hip was dislocated. I broke my fibula. I fractured the L5 and L6 in my back. My ankle was lodged into the starting point of my calf and shin. My foot was completely mangled, and it was turned to the other side. I almost got a compound fracture, basically like the ‘Sycho’ Sid [injury at WCW Sin on January 14, 2001]. But it was just poking at the skin; it didn’t go through.
Man, it was pretty rough. The doctor told me that I would probably be walking with a limp for the rest of my life. With something like that being told to you, you can take away any type of high-flying, any type of wrestling style I would incorporate into my style. You can take all of that away. It was, like, “Man, I may be done.” Then being told that my back was also broken . . . It was something that I had to really, really keep a close eye on, if I was to get back into professional wrestling, because let me tell you: one bad bump and that could be the rest of my career [over] and change the way I lived life.
That was a big thing that I had to think about before I started back into the ring. But I got myself back to where I needed to be by doing extra physical therapy. A lot of things were closed around me, even the doctor’s office, due to the Covid-19. But I was able to do the exercises and study on things that would rejuvenate my body and, once I was able to get my [medical] appointments back rolling, they said, “You’ve worked very hard. It looks like you actually may be able to step back into the ring,” just due to the countless hours I had been up, trying to rehab my right leg and my back.
To clarify, the injuries were a result of one in-ring incident, right?
It was from one move in one match.
Tell us how it happened.
I was in a front chancery, standing up, but I was bent over. I was held by Sami Callihan, and his partner at the time, Dave Crist, was on the rope. And he was wobbling a little bit and he jumped a little bit too soon, so he got straight up in the air and straight down — no distance — and every single pound [of his bodyweight] came down on my lower back. And with me being bent over and all of his weight coming down, that basically . . . It destroyed my back. It blew out everything on my right side. It was like an egg, almost, when you drop it: it just breaks down.
It’s something that . . . You could take it a thousand times. I’ve had that move done to me from that exact person so many times, since 2012. He’s been doing that move to me forever. Just this one time, you know . . . Sometimes, I think when you’re doing moves like that, you just need to really, really know, 100 percent, that you got it. I feel that night, certain people weren’t 100-percent at feeling the way they should have when they did that move.
I can’t imagine you would put yourself in a position to receive that move again.
No. This is the thing, though: this is professional wrestling. It’s very dangerous and, if you do step back into the ring, you have to give it the exact same heart, the exact same determination, the exact same passion that you did before you got hurt. Once I got back into the ring for Slammiversary and Bound For Glory: I’ve not changed my style because I don’t want to let people down. I don’t want to let myself down, knowing what I’m capable of doing. I feel like once somebody feels like they can’t give 100 percent of what they can do . . . then you retire.
These devastating injuries as a result of a move you had absorbed numerous times previously without a hitch must have dealt your confidence as a performer a savage blow as well.
In the very beginning, the first couple of months, when I was told that I may not be able to wrestle again: that totally knocked my confidence down, because that was something being taken away from me that I love. That decision is not somebody else’s: there’s only one person who says when it’s over, and that’s me.
That made me lose my confidence — but then it brought me back up to where I needed to be as well, with a lot of help from a lot of friends. So many people [got in touch]. People from WWE that I know. People from IMPACT, people from all over that I’ve known and worked with through the years in the industry: they came out. Even people that I hadn’t talked to in months or years, they came out and just asked me how I was doing. Certain people came over at the time when there were really no restrictions, and they sat with me and talked with me when I couldn’t really walk. It was really another eye-opener for me in my career: there was people out there that really do care in this industry.
Your comeback was the elimination scrap at Slammiversary on July 18 in which you shot an injury angle with a chair-wielding Eric Young, following which you withdrew from the ring once more. Were you fit and ready to go at Slammiversary, just over six months on from the Bash At The Brewery episode?
I was definitely 100-percent ready to go. We saw how the story played out, and I think we did a pretty great job.
Agreed. The injury angle at Slammiversary and Young’s subsequent attack with a crutch on IMPACT! precipitated the saga of whether or not you would be able to overcome the mountain of misfortune and sufficiently recover in time to receive medical clearance to challenge Young for the World Title at Bound For Glory on October 24. It was rousing stuff, which climaxed in the feel-good sight of you dethroning E.Y. in the top attraction of Bound For Glory.
I think we put a lot of good time into that. And Eric Young, who I think is one of the best professional wrestlers and the best entertainers in our industry: I couldn’t be happier than to work with somebody of that calibre. He was a guy in the company that made TNA a great thing. He was there, busting his ass for the company and being a company guy. He went to NXT and, when they made the Sanity character and group, I thought that was successful. Obviously, main [WWE] roster time wasn’t what everybody wanted it to be. But he came back to IMPACT and he became the World Champion, and he showed everybody what he was about and what he brings to the table. And then the story that we had, I thought it was great: I thought it was great pro wrestling.
Ten or 11 years ago, when you were trying to make a name for yourself in pro wrestling on the independent scene, did you ever imagine that you might one day become World Heavyweight Champion?
I never want to say, “Never” to anything, but I never would have thought that I would be World Champion in a major company, especially one like IMPACT. It’s moulded so many great talents, it’s moulded so many great stars and it’s put people on the path in our industry to be legends and remembered forever. To be given that honour is something that I can barely put into words.
With my size and stature, most people would not label me or somebody like an Amazing Red or [anyone else on] the list of five-foot-five, 170-pound guys that would achieve that great honour. Just to be in that list, man . . . I can’t even really put what it means into words. I just want to go out and do the best that I can and represent IMPACT and represent myself as a World Champion and be somebody that can inspire people.
Fans in the United Kingdom and Ireland can catch IMPACT! each Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on FreeSports. Hard To Kill is available via Premier Sports in the UK and Fite TV worldwide.