Tony Kozina interview
by Joshua Shibata
At EPIC’s inaugural show, International Collision,
Joshua Shibata had the opportunity to sit down and interview "Tornado"
Tony Kozina. Kozina talked about how he got into wrestling,
his size, his record breaking stint in the NWA, where he has worked,
his favorite opponents, the WWE, and much more.
Joshua Shibata: I am here with "Tornado"
Tony Kozina, who is one of the most talked about junior heavyweights
from the NWA promotion out on the east side. You just wrestled
here at EPIC’s debut show in an amazing match against B-Boy.
Tony Kozina: Thank you, I liked the match.
I took one in the end but that’s how it is.
Joshua Shibata: Alright, let’s start at the
beginning. What made you become a wrestler?
Tony Kozina: I don’t remember a time when
I didn’t want to wrestle. When I wanted to break in at 18, it
was back when wrestling was still very protective and I was a
guy standing at 5’6 and they just looked at me, gave me a pat
on the shoulders and, "A-OK kid." But I got my start
from Billy Jack Hayes who had a radio show out in Oregon. I called
him up in 1996 and said, "Here’s my thing. I’m 5’6, but I’m
very dedicated and he took my number off the air. I started talking
to him and training with him and he turned me over to Sandy Barr
and Matt Borne.
Joshua Shibata: Matt Borne, the original
Doink the Clown.
Tony Kozina: Right. I started training with
them as a ref and as a wrestler. I appreciated good old school
wrestling which is what I got. It was really physical and I learned
how to protect myself in the most unfriendliness of environments.
Josh: So was the training everything you
expected to be, or were you overwhelmed by the physicality?
Kozina: It was everything I expected
and more. They prepared me for the worst because of my size; people
take advantage of me. It’s not necessarily always the case but
my style is, how you would say snug, because of my training.
I think the fans really appreciate it and it makes for a better
Josh: You’ve mentioned your height a few
times. Do you feel that your height has been a disadvantage in
your wrestling career?
Kozina: Absolutely not. When I broke
into this business, Billy told me there was a 90% chance I would
not make it. But after a few months of training, he said, "You
know there is a 90% chance you will make it."
B-Boy stops by.
B-Boy: I love Tony Kozina.
Kozina: (Laughing) You stop that,
right there! I took all the opportunities that I could to get
in the ring and I mean I’ve been in the ring with the best. Asian
Cougar, Low Ki, Sabu and tonight with B-Boy, and I’ve just been
thrilled. I keep taking every opportunity and you know what? My
size has played no factor in all of this.
Josh: Alright, you’ve been wrestling a long
time with the NWA which has you mostly on the east coast. Has
this been your first time wrestling on the West Coast?
Kozina: No, I’m from Portland, Oregon.
In fact, I have wrestled in Los Angeles a few times for some Lucha
groups, but nothing at this level with the fans of this size at
EPIC. This has just been beyond expectations and I hope this is
the beginning of many, many great things. I’ve been thrilled to
be a part of this.
Josh: Now, not many people know about you
here on the West Coast because you’ve wrestled mostly on the east
coast for the various NWA promotions. There, you’ve made a huge
name for yourself by being one of the top junior heavyweight competitors
as well as winning the NWA Junior Heavyweight belt on more than
one occasion. How did it feel to win such a prestigious title?
Kozina: You know in the NWA, I won
the Northwest title four times and you know the whole point of
the NWA is opportunity. So, when I regained the Northwest title
a fifth time, I went to my promoter and I said, "I would
like to go after the NWA Canadian Junior title. So we made some
calls and lobbied for it, and I traveled to Winnipeg for CWF,
Ernie Todd’s promotion, and I defeated Robbie Royce and Tony McGuire
in a three way to win the belt. I lost it, regained it again,
and as soon as I regained it again, I told my promoter I want
to win the NWA World Junior title. I lobbied for it and said that
no one had the track record like I did in the NWA so I called
New Jack came out yelling and hollering and making
fun of some of the people in the back. Then Jack asked all of
us to take a picture with him. Too sweet.
Josh: OK, going back to your time at the
NWA, when you won the NWA Junior title, you set a few records
for the most title defenses in the least number of days.
Kozina: Yea, I did that first with
the Northwest title, to help get it some prestige, and that was
19 defenses in 31 days. As soon as I won the World Junior title,
I went to Pittsburgh, Jim Miller’s group, NWA East, and defended
the title there. Then I went to the non-NWA territories to defend
the belt because again it’s all about opportunity. I went to APW,
Roland Alexander’s territory, defended the belt against Jardi
Franz, then I went to Tijuana, LA again for some little groups.
I defended it all the way up in British Columbia, lost the title
in Nashville and now I’m looking for my third title reign. Right
now, I am the number one contender for the NWA Junior title even
though I don’t have the Northwest title. As far as I’m concerned,
in Corpus Christi in October will be the NWA’s 53rd anniversary
show. Ever since I lost the belt, I have wrestled in the ECWA
Super 8, the NWA Super Junior open, here in EPIC, gone back East
and defeated Low Ki, wrestled with AJ Styles and Red, Christopher
Daniels, Asian Cougar, Sabu and nobody still, not even the NWA
World Junior title holder has the track record that I do, and
I want a Junior World title shot at the Anniversary show.
Josh: Well I hope you get it. It will be
great to see you regain the World title. Now with your previous
records of most defenses, how much of a strain has that put on
Kozina: I thank God that I’m healthy.
I haven’t had any injuries and when you have fifteen-twenty minute
matches a night, I just go back to the hotel, take a shower and
get my sleep. It’s a two-hour, five-hour. Up in British Columbia,
it’s a 17 hour car ride. They go as far as the Yukon Territory
and I love it up there, it’s so beautiful. But you know this is
what I wanted to do and I just listen to my body more than anything.
I’ve heard all the horror stories of guys just taping it up and
go, but thank God, I take the risks but I try to be calculating.
Even though a slip up could happen at any time and that could
be it. But again this is something I always wanted to do and I
just want to push it. If I could do 30 defenses in 31 days I would
do that too. I just want to wrestle as much as I can.
Josh: Now you were in ECWA’s 2001 Super 8
Tournament, which is probably one of the most prestigious Indy
tournaments in the country. How did it feel being invited to compete
Kozina: I was thrilled. Jim Kettner
is probably the best promoter I have ever worked with and he was
just a professional. It was the best show I have been a part of.
That show really helped me get some national exposure on the East
Coast. I went back there to work with Steve Corino’s group, wrestled
for New Jersey’s Jersey All Pro Wrestling and Jim Kettner’s group
again a few more times. I have just been thankful. Everywhere
I have gone it has been nothing but opportunity. Sometimes the
opportunity is just a great match, a twenty-dollar pay off and
a night of sleep on the couch. Yet, who am I to question that?
It’s just what you had to do. One day it will pay off. More exposure,
my name gets out there and that’s just the way it is.
Josh: Now, you’ve had a bunch of classic
matches in your career, who have been some of your favorite opponents?
Kozina: Man, I really
I am not
being funny, but I just can’t name one. I think Asian Cougar.
Probably, I had my best match with Asian Cougar from IWA Japan.
Sabu I had a great match with Sabu at Anarchy and Piper’s
Pit in Eugene, Oregon. It was the biggest card Oregon had in 15
years. Christopher Daniels, we’ve done some phenomenal things.
Red and Billy Fives, these guys are just tremendous wrestlers
and I’ve wrestled with them so many times. You can just go on
auto-pilot, you know. Bret Como, Black Dragon, he wrestles in
Toryumon. He’s another one. These guys are so good. It just comes
naturally. There is this chemistry there. Just like tonight with
B-Boy. First time I have ever wrestled him and man it just
it was just on. You know when you go out there and the fans give
you that feedback, it just helps it create that momentum and it’s
all there. I hope there is more opportunity later on to wrestle
Josh: Now, you speak about opportunity but
today there is only really one promotion for Indy stars to go
to. Do you think this has hurt the Indy field?
Kozina: Well, I hear a different thing
everyday. Some people see it as a detriment. I don’t think of
it as one. There is still New Japan, AAA. Truthfully, I would
love to go to Japan more than the WWE because I think performance
wise I like to fight hard and that may be appreciated more because
of my size in Japan. But again you never know. Guys like X-Pac
and Billy Kidman, Rob Van Dam. I never say never plus there is
talk about Rey Misterio coming in, so I never say never. There
really is a place for everyone. There is one big thing though
that will help the territories. WWF, the more they go for entertainment,
the more they create an opening for things like Ring of Honor,
which is more straight nose, which is what I like. Handshake,
go at it, handshake at the end, pure wrestling. The more the WWE
go to entertainment, even with the name Wrestling Entertainment,
the more it opens the door for straight nose feds. Something will
pop up. EPIC’s popping up, ROH is popping up. I am sure the WWF
can take the talent as they go like they did with ECW, but that
is a good thing, its opportunity. Those fellows will move on to
big and better things and we will all rise to big and better things
hopefully in the end. I don’t look at it as a bad thing at all.
Josh: If you could pick a dream opponent,
who would it be?
Kozina: Ric Flair. I pattern my ground
style after Ric Flair and Bret Hart. And Benoit is like the 21st
century version of the two of them. Everybody that Flair fought,
Steamboat and others, I just like that it was a straight nose
feud. I like that. I grew up with that. There is a lot of high
flying and I could do that but there are plenty of guys who can
do that better than me. If I could do something a little different
and I try to bring as much psychology as I can. You can still
do high flying but less is always more.
Josh: Five years from now, where would you
like to see Tony Kozina?
Kozina: In the big time. And from
that I mean AAA, New Japan of course WWE. I’m going where there
is opportunity. The more hands you shake, the more people you’re
going to meet. As long as I’m going, I’m not going to be discouraged
if it is not there. I know as long as my body’s healthy and my
attitude is good and hopefully my reputation will be great and
promoters and other wrestlers will appreciate it. Even if I don’t
go any further than I am now, but I keep busy, then I’m cool.
I mean everyone wants to make a million dollars but that’s not
my thing. I’m in the business because I love it. When my body
tells me that I can’t do it anymore, hopefully there is someone
I can talk to about doing some stuff behind the scenes.
Josh: Like the radio show.
Kozina: Yea. I helped ECCW up in British
Columbia in the Northwest do a lot of behind the scenes promotions.
I learned how to help promote and market. If I was to do anything
in the WWE, I would do the "behind the scenes" things
there like Tom Pritchard and coordinate. I love it. It doesn’t
matter what I do whether it be wrestling, refereeing, behind scenes,
I just want to do something in wrestling because I love it.
Josh: Well, thank you for your time Tony
and I hope to see you wrestle again out here in LA.
Kozina: Thank You.