by Joshua Shibata & Mr. Hill
At EPIC’s inaugural show, International Collision, Joshua Shibata & Mr. Hill had the opportunity to sit down and interview the APW 2001 King of the Indies winner and APW Head Trainer, American Dragon. American Dragon talked about training with Shawn Michaels, his WWF developmental contract, the different styles of wrestling, Indy fans, training at the FMW dojo, and much more.
Joshua Shibata: Here we are with none other than the MAN, American Dragon, who just wrestled an amazing match with Super Dragon. How are you feeling Dragon?
American Dragon: I’m doing really good. I’m a little tired because I wrestled four matches last night. So I wrestled over an hour last night and wrestled maybe twenty minutes tonight. So I’m a little banged up.
Joshua Shibata: Well, then we’ll make this quick. So you started your career and you found yourself training at the famous Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy in Texas. Did you actually train with Shawn Michaels?
American Dragon: Yea, we were part of the first class. And Shawn was there everyday with a few exceptions like when he did a part in “Pacific Blue” so he wasn’t there for that.
Joshua Shibata: So what is Shawn like?
American Dragon: He is really a nice guy. He is a little cocky but that’s because he has been on top for so long. He’s bound to be a little bit, but he really is a nice guy.
Josh: How is he as a teacher?
AD: He’s a great teacher. He loves wrestling. He shouldn’t have been doing anything. He could have just sat there but he came in there and taught us how to do backdrops. He even took a backdrop. Then he shows up the next day working with us, and he really doesn’t have to take that crap, but he
did it anyway because he loves it.
Mr. Hill: What was his regiment like?
AD: The first two weeks was all cardio and then we started doing lock ups and rolls and bumps. It started off slow but it is a three-month class so it had to pick up pretty quick. You could come as often as you like. Like, me and Spanky trained there for six days a week for the entire year we were there in Texas. But [Shawn] was always there to help us out. And Rudy Gonzalez was our other trainer and he opened up the gym everyday if we wanted to. We could just call him up and say, “Hey Rudy Boy, could you open up the gym?” And he would open it up for us. And that is pretty nice for us so that we could learn
as much as we could.
Josh: So you started off young and soon found yourself with a WWF developmental contract. How did you feel when you got that? You got that when you were what, a year into it?
AD: No. Actually, we got it after only four months. This was after our first match and it was tough for us because they expected a lot from you and there is only so much that you can do after only four months. We knew a few spots but our selling was awful. Our psychology was awful. It was really a favor to Shawn that we got hired. But when we got our contract, we were able to be taught from guys like Regal, Tracey Smothers and Bobby Eaton, which is a chance that not many people can get.
Josh: So then how did you feel when you lost the contracts?
AD: Well it was funny because we didn’t deserve the contracts when we got them, but we didn’t deserve to lose them when we lost them. But that is the way the wrestling business works. We were so much better when we were released than when we were hired and after we were released, we’ve been in the business for only two years. So you can’t really complain because you were given a chance to wrestle for the WWF and only being in the business for less than two years. There are people who have never been this close after ten years in the business.
Mr. Hill: So did you change anything with your style once you were released?
AD: Yea. I did a little more mat wrestling. When we were in Memphis, we could only wrestle for about 7 or 8 minutes. Yet, when we got to the Indies, matches are 15 to 20 minutes. So I get to do the type of wrestling I like to do now, which is really not a lot of spots because I don’t like doing a lot of spots. I like to feel things out and its a lot funner that way. You don’t have to remember a lot of stuff and your going with the people rather than make them go with you.
Josh: Now a lot of people know you from your legendary matches with Low Ki and in those matches, the style you wrestle is kind of a shoot hybrid. Do you like wrestling this style more than any other?
AD: Well, I don’t do a lot of that stuff except when I’m wrestling with Low Ki. I try to adapt to other people’s style, to make them look as good as I can. It’s not where I go out there and try to do a different style. I like Spanky’s style though.
Spanky gives him a grin.
AD: Actually, my favorite style is just going out there for a ten to twelve minute match. I don’t like wrestling in main events because we’re still young and there are still a lot of stuff we have to learn. Which is hard when the fans always expect a five star match, so I would rather wrestle in an under
card match where I can learn more.
Josh: Do you feel fans today are too demanding?
AD: Yea, definitely. Well there are fans who expect matches from me and guys like Low Ki. They expect us to have these spectacular matches but we’ve only been wrestling for two to three years. So, we should still be learning stuff. I mean, when Ricky Steamboat was starting out, he wrestled 300
matches in his first year. We still haven’t wrestled three hundred matches in our career. Or maybe we have?
Spanky: Yea, maybe around three hundred.
AD: Yea, around three hundred matches in only our third year. So we should still be learning. We have the advantage of videotapes and stuff like that but when it comes to experience in the ring, we are not nearly as far long as we should be.
Josh: So do you feel being labeled as the BEST wrestler in the Indies with only three years under your belt as being unjustifiable?
AD: Yea. It’s ridiculous when people say things like that because when you compare us, me, Spanky and Low Ki, to guys like [Chris] Daniels he is just a notch above us. I can have a good match with Spanky, I can have a good match with Low Ki, I can have a decent match with Super Dragon, but I can’t go in there and carry some guy who doesn’t know how to throw an arm drag like Daniels has been doing for the last five years. He knows so much about selling and wrestling. He is one of the guys who does wrestle 300 matches a year. So guys like that, guys who have been in the business for many more years than these younger and flashier guys, should be the ones who should be elevated. Not guys like us.
Mr. Hill: So how was it wrestling in the FMW dojo?
AD: I was in the FMW dojo for a week. It was me and Low Ki and it was a really good experience. I wish we could do it again, but I was awful when I was over there. I was only wrestling for like a month and I swear I was the worst seller of all time. The experience was great but I sucked.
Josh: So have you wrestled in Japan since then?
AD: No. I’m trying to go over there now, but it’s so hard because everyone is trying to get over there right now. Everyone is trying to send their tapes there and you really can’t get over there without knowing somebody.
Josh: So it seems everyone is trying to go to Japan. Is it because wrestling here in the States has become so stale?
AD: Well, it’s been really hard because there is only one company. But there are a bunch of groups trying to come up with stuff. I like the concept of NWA TNA. ROH has been doing some great stuff and trying to get some regional TV. And EPIC here is trying to get some regional TV as well. And if people can get regional TV in other places and start some sort of a territory thing, then that would be great. But, it costs a lot of money and I don’t know if the fans would be into it. But I think Indy wrestling is actually picking up. I get booked every weekend so I have no problems with wrestling here in the states.
Mr. Hill: Now you moved to APW and became a trainer there. What do you feel is the most important thing to emphasize?
AD: The most important thing to emphasize is the basics, the fundamentals. I can teach anybody who has never wrested before, how to do a springboard like that, but it takes a longer time to teach someone to do the mat work, the selling, and stuff like that. That’s a lot of stuff even I don’t have down right and that is the hardest thing about this job is that I’m a rookie. These guys are going in there wanting to be stars but I’m not even a star. My only job is APW and doing Indies. It’s not like I’ve been on TV with the WWF. It’s a big responsibility and I feel I don’t deserve to be there, but it is another paycheck and I enjoy teaching people how to wrestle.
Josh: When you wrestle, what do you hope fans will take away when they see the American Dragon wrestle?
AD: You know what? I really don’t think about that. Right now, I honestly don’t care what fans think about. I know that sounds awful, but a lot of [the fans] just come to ridicule wrestlers, and so what I try to do when I wrestle is to just improve what I can do. I have had great matches where the fans don’t care and I have had awful matches that the fans just pop huge for. So the difference between the two is that these fans come in and pay to have a good time. They don’t pay to heckle ya. I just go out there and work on the stuff I feel I need to work on. If the fans like it, that’s great. But if they don’t, well… I’m sorry. But I’m not going to do a bunch of head drops just to get a “Dragon” chant.
Josh: Finally where do you see yourself five years from now?
AD: It’s hard to say with wrestling. Maybe I’ll still be with APW. Hopefully, I’ll be in Japan but you never know.
Josh: Last question: Dream opponent.
AD: Billy Robinson right now. But I go through these week phases. So it could be the Dynamite Kid one week, Chris Benoit the next, or Eddie Guerrero or…
Spanky: What about George “the Animal” Steele?
AD: Actually, I would love to wrestle George the Animal Steele. I would love to wrestle Boris Malenko, Joe Malenko, or Dean Malenko, or even Debbie Malenko. There are so many people I would like to wrestle but the person I would love to wrestle with right now would be William Regal. I wrestled him before but it was more gimmicky where he was this stout British guy and I was the American Dragon and we were doing the Pro US crap. I would like to wrestle a straight up wrestling match because he is really good and that would be a dream come true.
Josh: Thanks for your time Dragon.
AD: Thank you.