The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Aug. 9, 2022

Anthony Ogogo On AEW, Cody Rhodes, His WWE Tryout, Winning Olympic Bronze

Anthony Ogogo On AEW, Cody Rhodes, His WWE Tryout, Winning Olympic Bronze

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Anthony Ogogo (@anthonyogogo) is a professional wrestling and former boxer signed to All Elite Wrestling. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about how he got discovered by AEW and signed as their first developmental talent, working with Cody Rhodes, his path to the 2012 Olympic Games in London and winning bronze as a middleweight boxer, the eye injury that ended his boxing career and forced him to retire at age 30, his thoughts about living in the United States and much more.


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On boxing aspirations:

“So my only goal in my entire life was to win a gold medal in boxing at the Olympics, that was all I ever wanted to do. If I had done that, I would have probably retired from boxing and went into acting. [Chris asks about turning professional] Never wanted to turn pro, was never bothered about turning pro. Most kids want to become the world champion, I wanted to be like Ali and win the gold at the Olympic games. I was never fussed about turning pro, didn’t want to turn pro, there’s loads around that. But yeah, I just wanted to win the gold medal. I almost did it, I had a lot of adversity that year, which has been a common thing in my life.”

On the most unbelievable thing about Anthony Ogogo’s life:

“The eye injury that ended my boxing career and was the reason that got me into wrestling was 3 years of hell. I was 78% blind in my left eye, still to this day, my eye is f*cked. Every single day life is [a struggle]. I was clever at school and found it really easy, good at sport. I was that kid that never picked up a tennis racket but was then beating Mr. Marshall at tennis, I was always just good at stuff. But there are a million things that I can’t do. I did Dancing With The Stars in the UK in 2015, we call it Strictly Come Dancing, and I went out in week 3. Luckily growing up I was good at sport and good at school.”

On transitioning from boxing to wrestling:

“So I am just going to be me. I rub people the wrong way sometimes, but that is because people don’t get me. I found it quite easy to be honest. I have been a wrestling fan for my whole life, I didn’t miss a Raw for 15 years. So I would go to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan boxing in 2011, I would have my big laptop, a big laptop, I had a whole suitcase to carry it because it was bog. I would go and be in Azerbaijan and find these illegal streaming sites so I could watch raw, because that was my guilty pleasure and my escape. In Azerbaijan, it was 8 hours ahead of eastern time, not necessarily live but next day. My thing was to have my laptop to solely watch wrestling.”

On who Anthony Ogogo was a fan of in wrestling:

“My 3 guys were Rock, Taker and Angle growing up. Now being in the business, it hasn’t totally changed, but I can now appreciate things. I signed with AEW in the beginning and didn’t get here until a year later because of COVID and Visa stuff. The wrestling fan that I was, I used to watch Raw and SmackDown back then. For those 2 hours, I would immerse myself in it. I didn’t want to know the wrestler’s real names, who they were dating, their ages… The curtain was there and I didn’t want to peek behind it. I go to the cinema and I know it is Daniel Craig, but for those 2 hours he is James Bond to me. It’s the same thing with wrestling. I don’t look at YouTube things and see how the magician does the tricks. So I loved wrestling, when I had to retire from boxing, it was what I wanted to do. I didn’t get it from a business side, I just loved wrestling. So when I first turned pro, from 2019 to 2020 I watched your [Chris Van Vliet] interviews religiously. I watched Shawn Spears smack the sh*t out of you. Around that period I watched everything, and I learned so much about behind the curtain, because I didn’t know it. When Cody brought me in I said ‘Cody, I am so reluctant to make a faux pas, because I just don’t get how the business works.’ I never wanted to know, because I wanted to believe that it was real. That may sound silly and childish, but that is how it was.”   

On how Anthony Ogogo became friends with DDP:

“So I retired from boxing and I was friends with DDP. He is like my mentor in this game, what an unbelievable dude, I can’t put him over enough. So I was injured, I just hurt my eye, I had 9 surgeries on my eye in 3 years. It was a very difficult time. I was training so hard, making and losing weight, and I got a back injury. I thought that I needed to do something, and being a wrestling fan I listened to podcasts, and Jericho was always putting over DDPY. So I reached out to him [DDP] and he got back to me and we became best mates. I had 9 surgeries on my eye in 3 years, 4 in America. Every surgery I had in the USA I would come over early and stay over in Atlanta and we would hang out together. We would do yoga together and hang out together, and he said ‘Have you ever thought of being a wrestler.’ I said ‘Dallas I am honored.’ He said ‘You can talk, you got the look, you are athletic. I think you can do this.’ I was really humbled but I told him that boxing is my thing, he got it, he is someone who is all about work ethic and achieving your dreams. So I had a surgery, and one of the maddest things happened to me. I woke up from the 3rd surgery and I knew the protocol, 5th on my eye altogether, but then my heart stopped altogether. They resuscitated me back to life, and it was scary as you can imagine. I stayed in hospital overnight to have some regular checks, and Dallas called me. He asked how did it go and I said not well, all the doctors were panicking, big thing. He said ‘Listen, when are you going to give this dream up? It’s not happening for you. I can make one phone call and make you a wrestler today.’ That was the only argument that me and Dallas ever had. I snapped at him and said ‘F*cking hell! I need everyone that everyone that I love and respect to be on my f*cking side now. I can not have you dangling the carrot over here. I have got the blinders on.’ We had an argument and I said to him ‘Don’t mention this to me ever again.’ He said ‘I get it.’ That was March 2018 and I retired in March 2019. I Facetimed Dallas and said that I was retiring from boxing and to thank him. He said ‘I’m sorry. I know how much this meant to you.’ He took a beat, then the next thing he said was ‘So now do you want to be a wrestler?’ I said ‘F*ck Dallas, let me mourn my career! 18 years of unfulfilled dreams and pain and bitterness.’ I wanted to sulk, I was still writing my retirement speech. He goes ‘When you are finished sulking then give me a call.’ So I retired the next day, and I went to WrestleMania with some friends from school for my 30th birthday, we all went to WrestleMania in New York. I met Dallas there and he said to me ‘You gotta meet Cody, I’ve been telling Cody about you.’ So I met Cody and told him my story and all of the ins and outs, glossing over how my heart stopped on the operating table and having the insane belief that I was going to fight again. Incidentally at this time, I did an interview after I retired with the BBC. I had tears in my eyes, I was boxing since I was 12. The journalist asked me what was next, purely to pop myself I said ‘I like wrestling, I might become a wrestler.’ It was purely to pop myself, I wasn’t thinking about the future at the time. So word got out, BBC and it all goes around the world, WWE offers me a try-out. I ask Dallas what to do and he says to go and do the try-out, then meet Cody. So I did the try-out and they were impressed with me, I did promo class with Road Dogg and I killed it. I was asked to just watch while they did a 2 minute promo where you had to have a turn. I asked to have a go and I was the second to last person, everyone did the usual ‘Duh duh duh and now I am a bad guy….’ So I switched it. I came out and being really cocky and arrogant saying that wrestling is beneath me, then I said that I took a bump and realized how hard it was. Road Dogg loved it and asked me to come back next week with the scenario that I am fighting Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Title at Battleground. Madly enough I took my leather jacket with me to Orlando, did the promo in my jacket and sunglasses and they loved it. They basically offered me a contract, and then AEW offered me a contract. Two weeks ago I was a boxer, two weeks later the two biggest companies wanted to sign me. I met Tony Khan at a Fulham game in London and as soon as I met him and heard his vision for AEW, how charismatic and nice he was, I fell in love with his vision of AEW.”

On leaning towards AEW over WWE:

“To a degree. They [WWE] never actually got to a point where they offered me money. But they did speak to my agent and they were talking numbers and the numbers were better than the AEW numbers. I was going to be the first developmental talent that they [AEW] signed. Reading between the lines, I don’t think that they were that fussed about signing somebody from scratch, because we had no real school where we trained, we had to figure it out. QT [Marshall] was going to train me but QT at the time was also Cody’s assistant, doing the behind the scenes stuff and being an on-screen talent, so he was also really busy. I think they [AEW] actually offered me a contract because they were like ‘He might not accept this because it is not the best contract. But if he does accept it, then let’s see how much he wants it.’ That was quite an attractive offer, but meeting Cody and Tony and the vision, I wanted to be a part of that. Also when I retired from boxing I felt like my life had ended. I was extremely depressed, suicidal at points. I have got a whole mental health talk I do where I talk about the things that I experienced at the time. I was in a bad place and boxing was my everything. So I said to myself that in this chapter of my life I have got a lot of lessons to learn, life is about learning lessons, and I can’t make the same mistakes in this next chapter as I did with boxing. I love wrestling, I’m over here away from my family, I am busting my arse every day. I mentioned earlier that wrestling is easy, it is very hard, it is not easy. But it came naturally to me because I watched it for so long and I am very athletic. Also I am a bit older and I have got no time to waste. I started at 31 and I am on it, I can’t dawdle for 4 years like an 18 year old can. Lee Johnson is 24 years old, he has got all the time in the world, I haven’t. That is why I train so hard and study so much, time is against me.” 

On being trained by QT Marshall:

“I got to put over QT Marshall. Unbelievable coach, unbelievable talent, one of the best wrestlers in the world. He is so good at what he does, I say it on commentary all of the time, there is not a move he cannot do, and not just cannot do, the only person who can do a better 450 than him is PAC, it’s so good. He is so good that when he does a move bad, he does it bad on purpose. How good must you be to do a good move bad just to get heat. He is just so good and unbelievable. Bit shout out to Cody too, going to bat for me.” 

On facing Cody Rhodes in Anthony Ogogo’s debut match:

“We had 16 minutes, we lost 6. So having your first match on a massive scale like that, literally my first match. I had been training for, I got in September 2020 and then we were doing the Jacksonville loops. So Jacksonville for a week and then back in Atlanta for a week. So I was training every other week September to May, so 9 months. I had 4 and a half months of training under my belt to then a 16 minute match with Cody. And I had seen people on TV like wrestling [and are told] you gotta cut a minute, and then they start to panic and make mistakes. We lost 6 minutes in that match, like 6 minutes in my first ever match, which was annoying because we had some cool sh*t planned and were going to hype up the big moments, but you have got to be a team player in this business. I very much am a team player, I want to be successful of course, but I really want AEW to be successful as well, and I want to be a team player.”  

On the infamous weigh-in segment:

“F*cking dogsh*t mate, f*cking dogsh*t! So Cody said to me that we were going to do a weigh-in. I’m like ‘Cool, so what’s going to happen?’ And Cody is brilliant, he is brilliant at what he does and he has got a great mind for it, he is a really good coach, great promo coach. QT is a great wrestling coach, any move he can teach you how to do it, how to get out of it, the reversals. QT is the f*cking man. However, [Cody] was like ‘We are going to do a  weigh-in.’ I’m like ‘Cool, who is getting knocked out? What are we going to do.’ [Cody responds] ‘It’s a weigh-in, we are not going to touch.’ I’m like oh, I have watched enough wrestling to know that that’s a bit drab, a bit of sh*t. [Cody says] ‘Nah it’s gonna be cool.’ It’s my third week on TV, I am going to turn up, work hard and do what I am told. Mate, I am in it and I am thinking this is crap. You got Big Show there sweating his tits off and getting really hot. So I said to him [Big Show], I’m just being a heel and I thought that he hated me for ages. I said to him ‘Can’t you count you dumb yank?’ And then after the segment has happened, no one was happy. I was just doing my job, there was nothing that I could do. I get my phone and my friend texted me, he said ‘I can’t believe you called Big Show a c*nt.’ I went [makes confused face] did I? When I go out there and the red light goes on I am in the zone and what I do is real. That is my favorite word and I say it all the time, but even I wouldn’t have said that. I do get lost in the moment, because it becomes real to me. If I have a problem with someone, I will call them every name under the sun before knocking them out, so like possibly I did. So I watched it back and I said ‘You can’t count’ And when I said count it looks like I said [c*nt], but I didn’t. So I’m like agh, I saw him next week but he didn’t speak to me, he was busy not because of that. Mate the whole thing was disastrous, but I feel like I’m the victim. It was my first kind of entry, and I am in this really weird segment that wasn’t my idea. I would have rather knocked out Goldust, knocked out Dustin. We get out the ring, we bicker, maybe Aaron Solo gets beaten up and me and QT get away Scott free. At least then something happens. But I have this weird thing where I am wearing Union Jack pants, I get up on the turnbuckle and get a yay/boo thing, which is so childish. I like the Bryan Danielson and William Regals that are so in your face and smash, Jon Moxley [as well]. They get stuck in, that's what I like about wrestling, I like blurring the lines between real and not real. I don’t like standing in my pants going ‘Boo! Yay! Boo!’ So I was embarrassed. I had never stood on the turnbuckle before with no shoes on, and those metal struts are very hard. So my poor little feet are getting dug into by these metal struts. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, but you got to do your job.”

On the segment starting strong but ending poorly:

“It didn’t start that strong [laughs]. Big Show couldn’t work out the thingy [on the scales]. And because the ring moves the thing wobbles. I think he said I weigh 219, and I weigh 235, so he did me in like 15 pounds. I’m like you’ve done me mate. Again, hindsight was a wonderful thing. I wasn’t and still am not at the stage to do pitches, Cody has been there for 15 years I can’t tell him how to do this. I would have rather stuck the nut in on Dustin [headbutt], he had all his posse out, his students. Chuck Aaron Solo, me and QT get out there laughing.” 

On future plans in AEW:

“I had this program with Cody and then I had to go back to the UK because I had some Visa stuff going on. I had to get a new Visa and I had to leave America to get a new Visa, that took 4 or 5 months. Regardless of the Cody storyline I had to leave anyway, and that was really sh*t because I wanted to build on that. And I have come back and when I was gone we have signed the best wrestler that has ever lived, Bryan Danielson. We have signed CM Punk, Malakai Black, some amazing stars, it is a really rammed roster. It is great, unbelievable, but I don’t see it as competition. I know me, I know what I can do, I back myself and I want people to do well. Because the better they do, the harder I have got to work to get that opportunity. So I know what I have got to do and no one can be me, so I back myself to the hill. But I would like more opportunity to show what I can do, but I am working hard and I am learning a lot.”  

On what Anthony Ogogo is grateful for:

“Life after boxing, my mum is still alive and getting to share my story.”