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By Mike Johnson on 2022-01-12 09:43:00

Tonight on AEW Dynamite on TBS, Wardlow once again steps into a major scenario, wrestling CM Punk for the first time ever as part of Punk's storyline against MJF.  Yesterday, Wardlow sat down with to reflect on his run with All Elite Wrestling, why he hopes to be a lifer with the promotion and much, much more.  Highlights from the conversation:

The Pressure of facing CM Punk:

"Well, for starters, we're also off our first week of being on TBS, which we had over a million viewers. So we're back on TBS this week, week two. Got to get over a million again and I think myself and CM Punk will deliver. As you asked, how does this vary from the other hype pressure situations? And if we could say one thing about my career in AEW is that they love throwing me in high pressure situations. You see me wrestle every few months, and it's a big one every few months. We had the MMA cage match, as you said. We had Blood and Guts, Cody cage match, Jericho. All things leading up to those matches, the days leading up, I'm usually very intense, very focused. The difference this time with Punk is I seem to be much more calm. And I believe the reason is I simply don't believe this is happening. It's CM Punk. Jericho was always a possibility. A lot of names were always a possibility in my mind. But CM Punk was one of those guys who I never expected to step in the ring with. But after tomorrow, he might be back into retirement."

"I don't think it's going to be your typical CM Punk match. I know he's put on a lot of bangers with the AEW roster. This ain't going to be a five star pretty match. This is going to be absolute mayhem and CM Punk is probably thinking about retiring again."

What inspired him to enter professional wrestling:

"Man, when I was very, very, very little kid, I'm not even sure if this is something I should remember, my uncle took my oldest sister to a show in Cleveland, a wrestling show, and I was too young to go. And she came back with this photo book of eight by tens with Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man and Hulk Hogan. And I remember looking at these characters like, these are just larger than life, bright, awesome looking characters. And it sparked my interest right away, and then the first time I watched wrestling and saw Bret "The Hitman" Hart, it was game over. I fell madly in love and literally just never looked back, but just starting off watching it as a kid, you go through the late eighties, you go through the nineties, you go through the two thousands, all the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression era. You go through it all and you just learn so much from different wrestlers to every generation, and I took a little bit of everybody and created Wardlow with it."

Going from being a child inspired by professional wrestlers to an adult who gets to inspire young kids when they come across his first AEW Action Figure:

"I'm happy you said that because that is pretty much the epitome of why I do this. Grew up very, very poor. After eight years old, my father wasn't in my life much until later. So I looked to pro wrestlers as a father figure or as people to look up to and if I can provide that for just one kid, if one kid can wake up and my action figure sitting on his shelf is what makes him happy or excited for the day or it gets him through his day of school or gets him through his family troubles, or maybe he doesn't have a father at home and I'm the guy that he looks up to. If I can have one person that thinks that way or I'd make feel that way, this is all worth it and it's why I do it. So to have my first action figure was one of the coolest feelings in the entire world, still is. Still don't even know if I believe it, but it's an incredible feeling."

Veteran Advice:

"Shawn Spears, Cash and Dax, FTR, those guys have given me an incredible amount of advice and pointers and what to dos and don't dos. So I'm very appreciative of those guys in the Pinnacle. As far as the true vets, I've had some good conversations with Arn Anderson, Jerry Lynn, very helpful. Jerry Lynn helps so many people backstage. He's an absolute angel. And I think my biggest go-to is Billy Gunn. He has really taken me under his giant wing and given me a lot of direction. Every week he has something for me to work on, and I'm very, very thankful for Billy Gunn. And then when it comes to like real, real stuff, my go-to person is always Cody. I read somewhere that he was unapproachable and that is so far from the truth. He is the most approachable person there is backstage. And I can go to him for anything, any advice, any questions, concerns."

Cody Rhodes' Influence & Reputation:

"Yeah, it's wild, man. I've been affiliated for two and a half years, almost three years now. And I have never had anything but a pleasurable experience with Cody. I mean, he's literally the biggest reason I am talking to you today and that I'm in AEW. I have him to thank, extremely. But yeah, man, I don't know where all that that talk comes from. I don't know if it's jealousy, people just hating on him, but I've never seen him treat anybody badly and I've never had a bad experience with him."

Powerbombs that influenced his own:

"This is when life gets wild and you start to think about manifestation and destiny, because two out of the handful of wrestlers that I grew up obsessed with and truly studied and looked up to was A -Kevin Nash, jackknife power bomb, and B - Batista, Batista bomb. I didn't come into AEW saying, "Hey, I want to do a power bomb." This is something that organically came about, and it's just so sweet, too sweet you could say, that I grew up doing so many jack knife power bombs and Bautista bombs to my friends on trampolines and now I'm in the middle of an AEW ring just murdering people with power bombs. It's a beautiful thing."

Stadium Stampede Memories:

"Oh, man, that was for the most part, such a fun experience. I will say this, it is a long, long couple of days creating that. And every time we go back to Jacksonville, I am flooded with memories of Stadium Stampede and Stadium Stampede only. It's etched into my brain, just because we put so much into that so much time and so much effort. People have no idea how much goes into that, and it was just, it's such different experience. It was like making a movie and I really, really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the process of it. And to see the final product was so cool because it really did look like a movie and you created something very special. It's not just a normal wrestling match. It's an action sequence, and it was a lot of fun to experience that."

Wanting to Be an AEW Lifer:

"Yeah, I talked about this last night, actually. In 10 or 20 years, I am going to be so excited and proud to look back and say that I was one of the AEW originals and that means so much to me because my career started, obviously I did some indies, but the world didn't know me. As far as the world knows my career started with AEW and it's going to end with AEW, and I look forward to accomplishing and growing as much as humanly possible and reach the stars throughout the next 10 years.  AEW made my lifelong wildest dreams come true. Tony Khan gave me that, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, they gave me that. The way people are treated there, the schedule, I am so beyond blessed and I don't think there's any convincing me that the grass is greener on any other side. Very, very happy with AEW and the way I'm treated and just how the whole company is ran head to toe."

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