Ahead of IMPACT Wrestling’s Slammiversary PPV event, Inside The Ropes’ Liam Alexander-Stewart sat down with former X-Division Champion Rohit Raju to discuss his upcoming Ultimate X match, his dream X-Division opponent and why IMPACT wrestling is underrated and hating on it is simply “the cool thing to do”.
On July 17th you step into the ring against five incredible opponents with the added stipulation of the incredible Ultimate X match, how do you go about preparing for such a unique match style?
“Well, I’ve upped my cardio just because getting in the ring with these guys, I know I’m going to have to be doing a lot of ducking and dodging plotting and scheming and just really up my game period, but also mentally.
Now, I know a lot of fans are going to be wanting to see a lot of and they’re going to see it obviously a lot of crazy high spots and stuff like that. I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t want to sit there and have to climb those ropes, you know, I mean, I’ve been working on grip strength and stuff like that. But if you know me, if you’ve ever paid attention to my career, I like to work smart and not hard.
So and I’ma give you a little scoop. I have a little insurance policy that I have in my back pocket that I think is really going to guarantee me to be a two-time X-Division Champion. I’m not going to say anything else, but we’ll see when it happens. But, you know, I think it’s going to be great.
We’re going to have to make some history. But like I said, I’m going to be playing the game of chess. I’m going to be moving these pieces here, moving these pieces there. And when the opportunity is there, I’m going to strike all that other stuff that I wrestle for longevity.
I’m going to do my best not to do anything stupid with a crowd there. You never know. The adrenaline might get, might get, be pumping. But that means that takes away from my game plan and I don’t want that.”
You have taken on a who’s who of modern X-Division Champions from Petey Williams to Ace Austin, if you had the opportunity to share the ring with any X-Division Champion in history who are you taking on?
“AJ Styles just for the experience and the knowledge and to be able to sit under his learning tree and the fact that I get a chance to be in the ring with someone of his calibre.
I mean, that guy started out as an absolute nobody and just worked his way up to one of the best wrestlers in the world today. So obviously, AJ Styles current roster, Rich Swann. I think Rich is one of the best wrestlers, I think super underrated when it comes to how great he is.
I think there’s certain chemistry there between Swann and I, and I would love to have a one on one with Swannee. So hopefully that will happen sooner or later.”
You came into IMPACT Wrestling as an outsider in 2018, was there anyone in the locker room that really took you under their wing and helped you adjust to the company?
“No, when I first got there. I was pretty much on my own. I buddy buddied up with Fallah real quick, just because I knew him from when I had, like a trial match in 2017 and we became really good friends.
But other than that, I didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t have any indie buds because it wasn’t indie darling or anything of that nature. I was a guy that had won the gut check and that I don’t know if that was frowned upon or not and no one ever told me. But I have been busting my butt for years. So no one really took me under their wing when I first got there.
TJP helped me out a lot in the last year or two, honestly, is his help, his experience, his knowledge, his guidance has been tremendous. Being in the ring with him. It’s helped me out a lot it’s helped my confidence. It’s helped my in-ring work.
I have grown as a performer, and so I credit a good chunk of my confidence to battling him over the past year, guys like Josh Alexander and Ethan Page, when they got there, would definitely sit back and watch my stuff and give me some really great critiques and advice. But as far as when I first got there, nobody, nobody it was I was pretty much by myself and just really trying to prove myself.
There was there were guys that would watch my stuff here and there and they gave me some really good feedback. When Eli Drake was there. I talked to him about promos and we go over some stuff. But other than that to it’s under their weight. I did enjoy listening to Gama though I enjoyed listening to Gama’s Stories, his history.
That was something I always loved with him was him just telling stories and then giving like Don Callis a hard time because Don was pretty much a young boy when Gama was the man. So it was funny and also was great to see the respect that Don still had for Gama”
You have mentioned previously that you don’t think your rise in IMPACT Wrestling is down to improving drastically over the past few years but rather you are only now being given the platform to show your talent, has the process of IMPACT giving you these opportunities been natural or have you had to scratch and claw at the door for opportunities?
“I think I had to stay working hard. A lot of it came down to confidence and then there came a point in time where I was like, I don’t care anymore. Like, I’m not going to sweat what somebody else thinks of me and I just started going off the walls and just really working and feeling good during and wasn’t caring about, you know, because there is a long point time.
I don’t think they have anything for me in the cards at all and I was getting frustrated. But you don’t show that stuff backstage you don’t whine, you don’t cry, you just suck it up and you go do what you got to do and that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always tried to do it to the best of my ability.
I feel like a lot of people when I finally started to find success, a lot of people hated it because they don’t want you to, you know, once you become more than what they expect you to be, they don’t like that a lot of times. And everyone expected me to be this low bottom of the barrel guy. jobber guy, because that’s what I was portrayed as. If I knew my worth, I knew I was way better than what people gave me credit for, even what the company gave me credit for at that time.
So as soon as they gave me the ball. I took the ball and I ran with it and I wasn’t going to let go of that ball any time soon. So I did feel like I had to claw and scratch. I was never anybody’s pet project. I was never anything of that nature.”
Fans of IMPACT Wrestling are some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in wrestling sticking with the company for almost two decades now despite highs and lows. What is it about the IMPACT product and the IMPACT fans that helps keep an engaged audience when there are a plethora of options for fans and other promotions struggling to hold the base level audience?
“I think these guys realize they actually pay attention to the product and they’re either fans of TNA before or they get captured by our style of professional wrestling. I think we have a great roster. I think more eyes should be on us, I think we’re very underrated when it comes to being a wrestling promotion.
A lot of fans like to hate on us because it’s the cool thing to do, even though they never pay attention to our product, especially nowadays a professional wrestling fan base, just like any type of social media or fan bases, it can be very toxic.
It’s very whiny at times, at least like 75% of them are never happy. So the instant they look at something like IMPACT that not everyone else likes, not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon they instantly tru to try to crap on it.
But our fans know because they pay attention every week and they see the talent, they see how hard we work and they see the great stuff, the content that we put on and we put on a lot of great stuff. We have a lot of great individuals on our roster and production team and management.
So we know we’ve been working really hard to put out great content and I think our fans appreciate that and they stick with us and they want everybody else to realize that as well. It’s just hard. You have to have something that people latch onto and jump on that bandwagon.”
You mentioned the toxicity of social media, with social media being a powerful pull for talent to get themselves over with the wrestling audience and a crucial key in growing organically, how difficult do you find managing the balance of an active social media presence whilst not letting it and its toxicity consume you?
“Yeah, I feel like social media. I’m not a big fan of social media. I think it’s and there’s a lot of cool things and I’ve met a lot of cool people through social media.
That’s one thing. I do it. I maintain it because it’s a huge tool for professional wrestling. I think it can work really well and you should know how to master if your professional wrestler nowadays you should know how to do social media in some form or fashion.
Ethan Page and Danhausen are two guys that have mastered that and have grown their fanbase and their personas and just their business, I guess you could say, or their brand with social media.
I don’t put as much work in as I should. I just man sometimes I get on Twitter and I instantly get back off because I don’t want to deal with this today.
But I do feel like social media is a huge key to success and a huge tool for success and any type of entertainment aspect or sports and especially professional wrestling. It’s huge. If you can get the followers and the likes on that, make a name for yourself and build your brand, you’re doing the right thing and big things are going to happen for you.”
Thank you to Rohit Raju for taking the time out to speak with us and thank you to IMPACT UK for facilitating our chat with Rohit. You can watch IMPACT Wrestling Slammiversary Saturday, July 17th via FITE and can follow IMPACT Wrestling via social media.
Inside The Ropes recently also spoke with Canadian independent wrestling icon ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey, during the chat Bailey would reveal to Inside The Ropes that despite recent reports he has not signed with the WWE.