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By Mike Johnson on 2023-11-16 22:33:00

Earlier this week, I sat down with Chris Hero in advance of his return to the ring as an active professional wrestling this Friday in San Francisco, CA against Timothy Thatcher for West Coast Pro Wrestling, which will stream live for free on their YouTube channel.  Some highlights from the conversation:

Whether this return means he could appear on AEW television:

"Of course since the, the second I, I started doing stuff there, of course, everybody's asking me questions and Tony Khan even made a tweet tongue in cheek where he's  I'm going to keep chipping away at him.

 But at the same time, Tony has been super, super respectful. He knows my situation. He knows my apprehension with coming back and why it has taken so long for me. And honestly, not that I really need to go into all this, but my condition with coming in and working behind the scenes at AEW was like,  as long as You guys don't pressure me and, put pressure on me to get back in the ring and go do some stuff.

 It's hard to co the job we do as coaches there we have some nights that are easier than others, but some nights it is just a lot. And the more you care, the more people you're involved with, just the more you're hustling the day of that show to try to get everybody the pertinent information and answer questions for everybody and ask questions like it's a lot of work.

A lot more goes into it than people would realize. So to have my brain torn in half from trying to figure that stuff out to Alright when am I gonna wrestle? Who should I wrestle? What should I do? It's just too much for me at the moment and I believe Tony knows that because he's made a  couple jokes here and there about me coming in and doing stuff and obviously, In the last three and a half years, there was more than a couple offers.

But it's just, it's just gotta be the right situation. Same thing there. I'm not just gonna  come in and do something if it's not something that I truly believe in and something that I truly feel in my heart is right."

How the Business Has Changed since the last time Hero Wrestled: 

"I think wrestling has just sped up. It's sped up a lot, and I think it always does, but I do think  recent recent evolution of wrestling was exacerbated by a couple things.

Number one being NXT's  aggressive pursuance of Great independent wrestlers around the world, right? They scooped them up, not, not all of them, but a good amount of them. And then you know what, even before that was, I believe New Japan entering the U S market. That was another big thing that kind of happened and new Japan picked up some new people.

It sparked some business, right? NXT scooped up a bunch of people. All in happened and AEW was born and all of a sudden all these other people are getting opportunities. And then then the, worldwide pandemic was upon us, which really changed how wrestling was viewed. How it was digested how people learned and the repetitions they got in the minutes that they got in a ring in front of a camera instead of an audience, like it just changed things a bit.

And the way people consume wrestling now is just different. So  something that I really believe in,  and it comes from being on shows for ring of honor or PWG and the the 2010s.  If you can't top something if you can't, there's, you're just on shows with so many talented people and so many just captivating personalities, right?

There's just so much when you can't top something. You just have to be different, right?  Not just different, but different enough for someone to take note of you, right? Or the match has to be different enough for somebody to remember it, right? And that's been a thought of mine when working with West Coast.

It's independent wrestling, the activity in matches, the action just, it's never been more frenetic and more   just there's just so much there's more guys. There's more bumps. There's more whatever, right? There's just a lot more. And, that's what, some fan bases have liked.

And that's how the fans have adapted and adjusted or the wrestlers have adapted and adjusted to give the fans what they want. So it's just a lot faster.  But what happened is, right.  A lot of pro wrestling is about patterns, and it's about creating patterns and then it's like storytelling.

It's whether you're writing a book, writing a screenplay, writing a comedy, skip whatever. There's  there's you establish a pattern. People get used to the pattern and then you break the pattern and then that has a reaction. That's how wrestling is. But over the past 10 years, I would say  the pattern of wrestling and not all wrestling, but just a lot of it.

The pattern is the broken pattern. So to break the broken pattern, you either have to, go back down to reestablishing a new pattern or you have to break the pattern again, right? And breaking the pattern again works when you are Like the top echelon when you're the Kenny Omega versus Will Ospreay, right?

The stuff that those guys do when you're the young bucks in there with whether it's the Lucha Bros or whoever it may be like, that's what's happening. These guys are taking the broken patterns and they're breaking the broken patterns. And it's just, it can be so satisfying and exhilarating when you see one of these matches that hits it perfectly.

But. Most wrestlers don't have the equity built up within their audience to achieve those same things. You have to take, you have to take the road less traveled, right? You have to let's take a look. Roderick Strong, right? He's one of the more frenetic wrestlers in the last decade and a half of pro wrestling, right?

He just has such a, he has such a pace in the ring and... He's not on, he's not doing that in matches right now on television but he's still getting great reactions and he's selling merch and he's starting to, just really stake down his claim is, one of the, one of the more entertaining people and it's because of this damn Adam Cole thing with the neck brace and the wheelchair and he's got, the kingdom is wacky.

It's just a new thing. And who's to say that It's better than if Roddy were just, workhorse Roddy Strong in there f**king having match of the night, right? But he's taken a different path and it's catching on and it's memorable. Who's to say where this will end up in six months, but just for the time being, it's a way to stand out on a show by doing something completely different.

 And not if everything is different, nothing is different.   I started saying that a lot, maybe about three or four years ago when everything's a five star match, nothing is a five star match because five star becomes the average, right? Yep. Then you need to either be really bad or even better to catch people's eyes.

But that if I have any advice to any upcoming wrestlers or even veteran wrestlers that are just looking for a way to break out. It is, it's harder than ever now because it's just, it's so physically demanding. And  it's really hard to get people to pay attention, right?

There are so many things out there competing for attention. So if you can just at least try To be different, to try to do things in a different way, try to reestablish some patterns and actually give it a shot and try it for a while and really believe in it. Don't second guess yourself. Give it a couple months of trying it.

See how it works.  See what kind of feedback you get. And then it's taking that feedback  and channeling it into a different direction. So I think  Long story short, wrestling is a lot faster now. It's homogenized with how much action there is, how many, dives, how many high risk maneuvers, et cetera.  And I think that happens every generation things, get pushed a little bit further, but I think it just got pushed a little bit further. Like in the last five years or so, because of just all the different circumstances."

How Much Harder It Would Be To Break in Today & The Kindness of Tracy Smothers:

"Oh, I think it's in incredibly more difficult now.  I don't, it's unenviable to see these young wrestlers getting in and then You can tell them anything and everything there is to know about wrestling, but they have to go out there and experience it for themselves and they need to have, it's not just when you say reps, right?

Get some reps, right? It's not just reps. It's quality reps. How many matches are you having? How long are these matches? Who are your opponents? How how long is the trip to the show? What are you doing before and after the show? What are you doing in the week to lead up to your match?

There's just so many different things, and you need those reps. You cannot simulate experience. There's some people that catch on quicker, but still, you need to be in front of live crowds. You need to learn trial and error. I...  When I broke in, I was the 18 year old kid in the locker room with all the 20 and 30 and sometimes 40 year olds, right?

I  would go out, I'd have my people my age where I'd call a whole bunch of spots. You can go out and do it to varying degrees of success. And then you'd have an old timer who wouldn't want to call a damn thing. And then sometimes they sucked. But then sometimes they were just really good at listening to a crowd and reading them and telling you where to go.

And it's just, you have to have those experiences to learn and just, it's you wrestle for yourself. You're not wrestling for somebody else like you do what you do because it's for your career, but you need to have these other options and these like, all right, if I do it this way, maybe I'll get this reaction or if I'm trying to build up to this, maybe I should do this or, I started kicking and punching too soon or I did one too many false finishes or I tried a comedy spot that just wasn't funny.

So you have to like, Have all these experiences and wrestling is just so fast. Now, the matches are faster. The matches are shorter. The shows have more matches on them, so you're not necessarily getting the full, the full experience like you would have gotten 15, 20 years ago. anD there just aren't enough older guys out there to pass things on.

Either they're out of the business or they're signed and making money elsewhere or it's, it is interesting. And, a lot of people from our previous generations have passed on. It's pretty wild to look back at some of the locker rooms I was in and just some of the people that are no longer with us.

But I shudder to think what my career would have been or my just perception of wrestling and being a pro wrestler would have been if I never would have shared a locker room with Tracy Smothers. He just was he meant so much to me as a person, but professionally, he just also sculpted and molded and just.

I Don't, I didn't agree with him on every single thing that he thought about wrestling, but sure enough, more often than not, he'd say something and it would resonate with me and I can take it now. Something I picked up from him 20 years ago. I can take now and I can mold it just a little bit and deliver it in a way that'll resonate with a 19 year old that's just breaking into business.

So we just we need more people like that and I'm not comparing myself off. To Tracy or to Terry Funk or Eddie Guerrero, but those guys are people that I  just admired so much and just idolized even, right? Just the things that they were able to do professionally, but then also how they treated people personally.

Like I aspire to be that to other people, or be a version of that. So it's just, it's, I was really reflective when Tracy passed away and I just felt man, he was like the first guy that I grew up, seeing on TV and then, when I met him and was on shows with him, he would just make you feel so good about yourself and encourage you and critique you, but never in a way that made you feel bad.

It just always encouraged you to try harder. And next time you saw him on a show, you wanted to show him that you tried the thing that he said and it worked and, just we need people like that. Behind the scenes in a working capacity, not just in a coaches aspect, you have to be in the ring with these people and feel them and roll around with them and call matches with them  and do finishes with them.

Like that, that needs to exist more. So I just, I do my best to encourage people to just Not forget how generous people were to them and then be even more generous to those that come next."

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