At EPIC’s inaugural show, International Collision, Joshua Shibata had the opportunity to sit down and interview Josh Lazie. Lazie talked about how he got into wrestling, working for XPW, wrestling on the Internet, the state of EPIC exclusive contracts, the state of wrestling in the States, who he admires in the business, and much more.
Josh Lazie: Doing alright. Everything looks like it’s going to go really good today. We’re going to have a good show and hopefully everything will turn out great.
Joshua Shibata: Alright, why don’t we start out at the beginning? How did you get involved into wrestling?
Josh Lazie: Well, I first got involved in wrestling when I was on a record label. I was in a band called Danzig and we were on the label called Deaf American. And not many people know this, but Rick Ruben was the money behind Smokey Mountain Wrestling. So through Ruben, I met guys like Jim Cornette and Chris Candido and guys like that. So through them I learned about the business and I was always a big fan of wrestling. So eventually, one day, me and Rob [Black] hooked up and I started working for XPW. And I was booking for them and eventually it went from booking to managing Sabu.
Shibata: So before Sabu, you never had managerial experience?
Lazie: No. Sabu was the first guy I have ever managed, and it just worked. It was supposed to be just a one shot deal, but it worked, and 2 years later its still going strong. People seem to dig it. The hardest thing about it though was I was trying to fill Fonzie’s shoes and you know, those are some big shoes to fill. [Fonzie] is a phenomenal manager. I give him nothing but respect.
Shibata: Have you ever studied any of Fonzie’s tapes or asked Sabu, to try and figure out why their relationship was so strong, or did you want to take your relationship with Sabu and go your own way?
Lazie: I wanted to go my own way. Sabu told me I could do anything I want as long as I don’t bring out a fucking whistle.
Shibata: Was he really annoyed with the whistle?
Lazie: I don’t know. He’s just always cracking jokes like, “Where’s your fucking whistle, asshole?”
Shibata: So when you first met Sabu, and I’m sure you’ve heard about the reputation of Sabu like all of us fans have, were you intimidated at all by him or worried about working with him?
Lazie: Oh definitely, because Sabu carries so much history with him. I mean, me and Larry Rivera, we’ve been friends for years, and we grew up in the same area and have been following wrestling since we were kids. I mean you got the Olympic Auditorium with the Sheik, and I have been following wrestling in Japan. I’m a big fan of that. You know I brought some of that style to XPW. So yea, I knew about Sabu. I was intimidated when I first met him but it was just one of those things that just hit. It just worked. It was right there. It was on, and we’re still going.
Shibata: That’s great. Alright, I want to talk a little bit about XPW, if that’s alright with you.
Lazie: It depends on what it is.
Shibata: Alright well, what was your relationship with Rob Black in XPW?
Lazie: Me and Rob Black were really good friends and I think the thing we fucked up was mixing business with friendship. We were working together first and then we became friends. We were like best friends, and girlfriends got involved and work…
Shibata: Well, that can never be good.
Lazie: Yea, definitely true. And everything just got fucked up. I mean, my opinions of Rob and my opinions of XPW I will keep to myself and I will say them to Rob when I see him but I mean, I loved XPW and that is where I found my start. A piece of me will always be with XPW, especially, as long as they have that death match belt there. A piece of me will always be in that company. The guys that I know in the locker room, I love them all, the ones that I know. I have no hard feelings against XPW and EPIC is not a thing I am doing. I am not trying to shut down XPW. I am just trying to give wrestling fans an alternative to XPW.
Shibata: What do you feel the atmosphere was like in the XPW locker room?
Lazie: It was weird. There was a lot of camaraderie. Towards the end, there was so much personal drama that it ended up being Sabu and myself in a room by ourselves with like New Jack and a few other guys. We were always cool with the workers. But Rob really… the tension between me and Rob was so strong it just really fucked up everything in the locker room. So for the most part, in the beginning of XPW it was great. We were all just doing everything we could to get that company over.
Shibata: And I think you guys did that. I mean, everyone has to agree when you guys first came out, you were the company to beat. But now, the state of XPW, well, what are your opinions of the current state of XPW, that is, if you pay attention to it?
Lazie: To be perfectly honest, I don’t. I don’t watch the TV show. I kind of read up on the show just to see what’s going on. But it really is a shame because XPW at one time had it all. It could have been great, and at one time it was great. And hopefully EPIC will give Rob a kick in the ass to bring a better product to the fans because people want to see good wrestling. They are tired of being disappointed, being let down and XPW has done that a lot. They have turned away a lot of their fans and I think in the end it will come back and bite XPW in the ass.
Shibata: Alright moving away a little bit from XPW, you have been touring with Sabu since your pairing in XPW and traveling around the world. What has your experience been like traveling with Sabu?
Lazie: It’s been amazing. We got to meet with so many cool people. So many legends in the business like Bruce Hart, from Calgary. And working with Bruce Hart has been great because he’s like a fucking genius, a wrestling genius. So being able to hang out with him and build a personal relationship with him has been great. We’re hoping that we can do a talent exchange between EPIC and Stampede wrestling.
Lazie: Yep. We already have deals with APW and CZW and hopefully we can get some Stampede guys over here and send some of our guys over to Stampede. And meeting guys in FMW, meeting Arai and going to England, it’s all been a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.
Shibata: You mentioned the FMW promotion in Japan. What was your experience like in Japan?
Lazie: It’s definitely a different atmosphere over there. There is still a lot of respect for wrestling in Japan. A lot of respect for wrestlers and people still believe the holds and they don’t believe in giving up secrets on the Internet. It’s very taboo. Over here, everyone talks on the Internet. All the surprises are ruined. It’s kind of fucked up but in Japan, wrestling is strong and it’s just great. To see guys come out to ribbons and to go to the Tokyo Dome to see a New Japan show, it’s amazing. And to work on an All Japan Show is just amazing.
Shibata: So then what is your take on mainstream wrestling here in the States?
Lazie: I think WWE, you’ve got to give it up for them. All the guys who work over there are great and Vince is just a great wrestling mind. But I think they kind of killed it by killing off the smaller wrestling companies and I think that was a bad thing. I think wrestling is just really going to go through another down time again. Hopefully, something will change and keep it out there, but I really see it on a down swing. I mean even in the WWE, their attendance has been low. Their buy rates have been low, and so hopefully, something will be back.
Shibata: What do you think will bring back wrestling in the mainstream?
Lazie: I think it will be competition. It’s all about competition. If there is only one thing to watch, you’re going to get bored watching it. You know if you ever got bored watching the WWF, you could have just switched and watched the NWO, you know, when there was Degeneration X and the NWO. You could’ve just switched back and forth and there was wrestling and controversy and competition and now there is none of that. I mean even back then there was ECW for the hardcore fans. I just think there are lest alternatives to the WWE and I’m sure people will get bored with the Rock and Hogan. And all their gimmicks and angles are getting to be kind of exhausted.
Shibata: Speaking of which, do you feel that EPIC will become a promotion that is here to stay because lately a lot of promotions here in SoCal have been going out of business. MPW is gone; Rev Pro is on the down low. What do you think EPIC’s chances are?
Lazie: I think if we do it right, EPIC will be here for a long time. With the way it is being booked and the way the finances are being handled, we have a shot. We have a little better of a shot than MPW or GSCW did because we have more money and that has allowed us to bring in some names, some phenomenal workers. I mean we have Excalibur, Super Dragon, Jerry Lynn, Sabu and Messiah. NOSAWA is just one of my favorite people to watch work. I really think we have a chance. I think we have a better chance than anybody especially because of our contacts with CZW and APW. We’re not closed to anything. We’re open to everything.
Shibata: There was a little controversy at the beginning of EPIC involving contracts and this also involved your former company XPW. Do you think the whole exclusive contract deal will hurt EPIC or SoCal wrestling in general?
Lazie: The only thing we are doing with our contracts is to just make sure that people will show up, to prevent any double booking. People can work everywhere. You know, Damien and Halloween were going to work here and we were like, “Sure, if you want to work here you can.” But XPW said “No, they had to be exclusive.” The guys that work here can work anywhere they want. I don’t think that you can give anyone an exclusive contract unless you’re willing to pay them contractile for running at least five shows a week and until that happens it won’t now because people are losing interest in wrestling. I hate it when I hear wrestling federations close because that means less work for the wrestlers and less wrestling for the fans. I am really into the fans. I’m really into giving wrestling to the fans because when I was growing up, that was what was given to us. That is what guys like Jim Cornette, one of the greatest wrestling minds ever in the history of wrestling. Smokey Mountain Wrestling was one of the greatest promotions ever and it was all fan orientated.
Shibata: Alright, last few questions focused on you: If you weren’t into wrestling, where would you find yourself right now?
Lazie: I would either be playing in a band or scuba diving somewhere in Thailand.
Shibata: Tight, you scuba dive as a hobby?
Lazie: Yep. Deep sea diving. I love it.
Shibata: Tight. Alright, out of all the wrestlers that you have met, which one has just totally taken you by surprise, in either a negative or a positive, of how their personality was like?
Lazie: I would have to say Terry Funk. Terry Funk has the right to be a complete asshole to anyone he wants. But Terry Funk is hands down the nicest guy I have ever met. Terry Funk and Bruce Hart are the nicest guys. I was very impressed with both of them. They are both class acts. I was amazed how cool and how open they were to helping new guys.
Shibata: Alright, where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Lazie: I would like to see myself in EPIC and it’s just taking off and is giving the WWE competition.
Shibata: Do you think that will happen?
Lazie: I would like it to be. I’m not going to close myself off from it. I don’t want to be just second best.
Shibata: Well it’s been a pleasure Lazie. Thank you for your time.
Lazie: No problem.