The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Jan. 25, 2022

Wardlow - The Man Behind AEW's Mr. Mayhem

Wardlow - The Man Behind AEW's Mr. Mayhem


Wardlow (@realwardlow) is a professional wrestler currently signed to All Elite Wrestling. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about signing with AEW, his diet and workout regimen, what he has learned from being paired with MJF, what his WWE tryout was like and why it almost made him quit wrestling, his goals for his career, what it was like working with CM Punk and much more!

 

Here we are. On TV you are kind of an enigma. You speak with your actions and not that much with your words. I think there might be some people listening on here that this will be the first time that they hear you speak?

“This is very true. I am excited to get this side of me into the light as well.”

Who was it that made you want to start working out?

“Dave Bautista. Yeah, Dave Bautista. So I was a junior in high school in 2005, and in 2005 Dave Bautista was in Evolution in the peak Evolution era. He was starting to branch out on his own and I was just amazed by him. I personally think that he has the best physique in the history of professional wrestling. If you are just talking about looks alone, his physique was just astounding to me. I looked at him and I was like yeah that is what I am going for.”

Yeah and Dave is like 300lbs.

“I have accepted that I will never be quite as big as Batista, but as close as I can get I am happy with.”

What would you say about growing up in Cleveland that helped you shape the person that you are now?

“So I currently live about 15 minutes east of Cleveland. Growing up, I was born and raised 40 minutes east of Cleveland in a small Amish town. My graduation class was 80 people, it was a very small town. I grew up pretty poor, so small town, not a lot of money and not a lot to do. We would entertain ourselves by going into the backyard and wrestling. There were days where we would go down to my buddy’s house and take every mattress. While the moms and sisters were at work, we would take every mattress to the back yard and put them on a tarp and have a field day.”

How big were you in high school?

“Oh man. As a freshman I was lucky if I was 5 foot 2! As a freshman, I was 5 foot 4 at the most, but that was pushing it. I still had that pre-puberty chubbiness going on, everybody was blowing up except for me, and that was frustrating. Fortunately at the time I was a huge Jeff Hardy fan, so in my head I was going to be the little guy. I just started practising flips and corkscrews, I was on a trampoline every day of my life after school perfecting moonsaults, swantons, everything. Then of course I perfect all of these acrobatic moves, and I blow up after my senior year. But your body doesn’t forget that stuff, so you see me bust out an occasional swanton even today.”

At what point did you decide to really pursue wrestling?

“I’ve always been such a big dreamer, I believed it when I was in elementary school. I was locked in like this is what I am going to do, and nothing will veer me away from that. I was very confident that even through school that this is what I was going to do for living. It was a weird thing because I knew what my life was going to be, almost to a fault, I was overconfident when I was leaving highschool. I knew that I was going to be this superstar pro-wrestler, but life happens and you make some bad choices. I went far from that path for a number of years and fortunately, destiny is destiny. If you are born to do something, then it will find a way.”

You mentioned making mistakes. I’m curious, what is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself?

“Don’t be overconfident. You have to be confident and be sure of yourself, but maybe I was a bit too cocky. It was a long time ago, but I thought it was so guaranteed that I didn’t have to work for it. I think I just took my eye off the ball with too much partying rather than training and dieting. But keep your circles small and surround yourself with those who have the same dreams as you do.”

Before you signed with AEW I know you had a try-out with WWE. Do you feel like having that audition made you go ‘OK, this is possible.’

“Almost the opposite. I mean I aced the try-out with flying colors, and they didn’t want me. For the first time in my life, I went ‘Oh, well maybe this isn’t going to happen. But fortunately I stuck with it, and I was determined to make it happen. I thank God every day that AEW came about. But yeah, being denied, that was a unique experience and a unique feeling. But it put me where I needed to be, so I am happy for it.”

QT Marshall gave you a call to get to AEW. How do you think you got on his radar?

“It was one of those perfect storms. It was 3 or people had mentioned my name to Cody Rhodes all within like 3 weeks. So it started with Britt Baker, because her and I came up together in IWC in Pittsburgh. So she had mentioned my name to Cody [and said] ‘Hey, my friend Wardlow is pretty good, you should give him a look.’ Then they had a guy that QT partners with and came into the seminar, Lloyd, he was Glacier in WCW. He did a seminar in IWC, and ended up watching my match. He called Cody the next day and went ‘Hey. You might want to take a look at this guy.’ I think there was one more guy from Warrior Wrestling that had contacted Cody about me. So it was this perfect storm where so many people said my name, it was like well ok, let’s give this guy a shot.”

Did they immediately go ‘Let’s pair this guy with MJF?’

“Not immediately. When I first met them, it was start thinking up some things and we will figure some things out. It was months before that kind of worked itself out and they worked that stuff out.”

We recently saw you in the ring with CM Punk. What was it like to have a match with him?

“Dude, honestly I am still waking up every morning feeling like I hit the lottery. It brought such a sense of peace and fulfilment over me. Those big matches, I am usually very focused and very tense and it’s hard to be around me. This time, I wasn’t at all, and I think it was because I didn’t believe it. I’m like ‘I’m not wrestling CM Punk in 3 days.’ So it’s just another normal day. Then the day of the show, it all hit me like ok, this is happening. That was possibly the most nervous I have ever been before a match, but it was also the most comfortable I have been. But the fact I got to wrestle CM Punk, that’s something I thought that I would never be able to do.”

That’s a bucket list item right there! What is on the list now?

“I almost want to now put impossible things on that bucket list. Can we get Dave Bautista to make an appearance, can we get Jeff Hardy in? Can we have a 6 man with Matt and Jeff as my partners? I think that’s at the top.”

You are making a lot of headlines recently. In particular, when people say ‘Who will go from AEW to WWE?’ You are at the top of everybody’s list.

“I always believed I was going to walk into the front door of WWE and they were going to say ‘What took you so long? Get over here!’ So I don’t want to sound cocky, but I was confident years ago and it didn’t happen. But I still feel like a certain individual in that company would go ‘Oh you are my guy!’ I feel I would be right up their alley of what their cookie cutter wrestler would be, but hey, they had their shot.”

You got everyone’s radar initially with that cage match against Cody, which was a great match!

“Thank you. That is up there with the CM Punk match. The CM Punk match and the Cody match, they are the 2 best days and the 2 happiest days of my life. That was the same thing, but the difference is with CM Punk match was that I took the time to enjoy myself. I finally just calmed down, looked around at the crowd, and I was in the moment. The Cody match was like a blackout, it was all business, it was let’s get to this. I don’t remember much of the Cody match vividly like I do the CM Punk match. Just because there was so much pressure, first match, first time on TV and Cody and I had never touched. Before I walked out there, Tony Khan looked at me and he said ‘Don’t F this up.’ It’s all the pressure in the world, but I thrive in high pressure situations, that’s what makes me.”

When did Cody tell you about the big spot?

“I think it was the day before. He said the day before that he may or may not. There is no practicing it, and then sure enough, the cage is 6 feet higher than it is supposed to be, so this ought to be great.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things in your life that you are grateful for?

“My health, for AEW and the support I have.”

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