As long as there has been Impact Wrestling, “Cowboy” James Storm has been a part of it.
Storm appeared on the company’s first show in 2002. He has won virtually every title in the company, including the world heavyweight championship, the world tag team titles seven times, the NWA world tag team titles another seven times, the King of the Mountain, Joker’s Wild and even the “unsanctioned” TNA World Beer Drinking Championship. He has appeared in all but one of the company’s pay-per-views.
Impact Wrestling celebrates its 15th anniversary with its annual Slammiversary pay-per-view Sunday from Orlando. Storm faces Ethan Carter III (EC3) in a strap match, with Storm hoping to get retaliation for a brutal beating in which Storm was handcuffed to the ropes and repeatedly lashed.
In those 15 years, Storm has done a lot and seen a lot. He’s seen the highs and lows and the uncertainty that has surrounded the company.
Canadian media company Anthem Sports & Entertainment, which owns The Fight Network, finalized its acquisition of Impact Wrestling in January; installed one of its own executives as Impact Wrestling president; and brought back Jeff Jarrett, who had started Impact Wrestling with his father in 2002. (The company has been called Total Nonstop Action, TNA, or TNA Impact – for much of its existence but now goes strictly by Impact.)
Jarrett had split with the company in 2013 and formed Global Force Wrestling a year later. On Wednesday, Anthem announced that it had entered an agreement to acquire Global Force Wrestling. Once the sale is finalized, Jarrett will be a member of its board of managers, equity owner and chief creative officer.
The Slammiversary card features several unification bouts between champions from Impact and Global. The company also brought back Dutch Mantel as a creative consultant.
“I think it’s very good and I’m not just saying that because of the new ownership,” Storm told For The Win about Impact Wrestling’s current trajectory. “I always felt Impact Wrestling was the best when you had Dutch and Jeff. Even when had the crazy ideas of Vince Russo there, you always had Jeff and Dutch to pull him back from certain ideas that he was trying to throw out.
“They weren’t afraid to think outside of the bubble. People might label them as Southern wrestling stuff, but they were willing to listen to guys’ ideas and use them a lot of times. A lot of times people get in that position who wouldn’t use the guys’ ideas because it’s not their ideas. Because if it works then it might make look bad in certain people’s eyes. Jeff and Dutch aren’t afraid to listen to guys and that makes them feel good and try harder.”
During tenures with WWE, WCW and TNA, Russo’s name always brings a reaction from wrestling fans. And still does today.
“My experience with him was always good,” Storm said. “There were some things that we didn’t see eye-to-eye on with the creative stuff, but I’m not the writer, I’m the wrestler. At the end of the day, I have to do what the writer tells me to do. But I give Russo a lot of credit because he was the one who let me start talking freely with my character in my promos.
“They were writing everything for me and I would say to them, ‘Man, I wouldn’t say this like this.’ If you want me to be me and be an authentic cowboy character you need me to speak the way I would speak. He said, ‘Go ahead. If it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to my way.” I said, ‘Sounds good.’ And ever since then I’ve been able to speak freely and go out and do my thing.”
Storm’s thing has included his role as a beer-drinking cowboy, a cult leader with a strange hold on other wrestlers and part of the Death Crew Council, a heel group of masked men who later unmasked themselves.
“Everything needs to evolve,” Storm said. “Whether it works or it don’t, I can always go back to the ‘Cowboy’ character because that is what’s drawn money for Impact Wrestling. They’ve given me the freedom to do other things. This will be my 20th year in wrestling, 15 with Impact Wrestling. For me to be in the company that long, I must be doing something right and they believe in me enough to let me sway my character one way or the other to keep it fresh.”
Storm spoke with For The Win about his rumored Hall of Fame selection, his upcoming strap match, his brief tenure in NXT and his derailed college basketball career.
After a Facebook video about the Impact Hall of Fame that you appeared in, speculation has run rampant that you will be this year’s inductee. True?
I think everybody jumped the gun on it. … I really wouldn’t want to go into the Hall of Fame because I’m still wrestling. To me, if you go into the Hall of Fame, it means you’re winding down or out of the business and I don’t plan on doing either one. It was giving my point of view on the Hall of Fame, not saying that I’m being inducted into it. It would be a slap in the face if they announced it on Facebook and not on their TV program like they have everyone else.
You are in a strap match this week and you have to know that’s going to hurt. How do you prepare for that?
We did a thing where they handcuffed me to the ring rope and ripped my shirt off and strapped me 33 times and you can see the welts. These are the kinds of matches when you have to man up and take it. There is no dodging around it and getting around it. You just have to take it like a man.
You made a few appearances for NXT with WWE and then you were gone. Can you explain the situation there?
Everything is about timing. I didn’t think it was the right time. I was treated with respect when I went down there, Hunter (WWE executive vice president Paul ‘Triple’ Levesque and I talked about things. He just said, ‘At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. If things don’t work out, you have my number. Give me a call.’ It was great for him to say that to me. At the time, I don’t think I was ready for it with some stuff with my family life and my personal life to take care of. He understood that. It had nothing to do with wrestling. But never say never is the wrestlers’ motto that we live by. If it presented itself, I would talk it over my family again and see what we could do.
Beer Money with Bobby Roode was a long and memorable part of your career. He is now the NXT champion and has a large presentation around him with robes and popular entrance music. How do you feel the success he is having?
I think it’s great. I hear people say, ‘You must be jealous of him,’ No, I’m not jealous. I’m happy for him. If anyone knows Bobby – and I know his work ethic pretty good — you can give that guy anything to go run with it and he’s make it great. Same thing with Eric Young (also in NXT). That’s what Bobby and EY have done with their time down there.
“Sorry about your damn luck” has been your phrase for a long time now. Where did it come from?
It came from my mom. She used to say that to me all the time. If I’d want something, she would say, ‘Sorry about your luck.’ Over the years, as I got older, she threw in the damn, around once I was about 15. When I started wrestling, they were like, ‘You need a catch phrase.’ I was like, ‘Alright I’m going to take that one.’ Hopefully, my mom don’t want any money from me. (laughs)
You at one point had a scholarship to play basketball at Austin Peay but that didn’t happen. Why?
Before I started wrestling, I wanted to be a basketball player. I was going to Austin Peay on a full scholarship. Two weekends before the semester started. I broke my shoulder at USWA Wrestling Academy and lost my scholarship. You’re not supposed to do anything to endanger yourself. I tried to blame it on horseback riding, but you’re not supposed to go horseback riding or motorcycles or race cars. It was a compound fracture in my right arm that kept me out for almost a year and half.
I was probably about three months into my training when it happened. I was going to take the clothesline into a back flip. Instead of taking my own bump, the guy hit me and drove me down. That threw me off and I landed right on it. The pressure of hitting the mat so hard, basically ruptured every ligament and the bone popped right out of the skin.
Impact World Heavyweight and GFW Global Championship Unification Match: Impact champion Bobby Lashley vs. GFW Global champion Alberto El Patron
Knockouts/GFW Women’s Championship Unification Match: Knockouts champion Rosemary vs. GFW champion Sienna
X Division Championship Match (2 out of 3 falls): Champion Sonjay Dutt vs. Lo Ki
Strap Match: James Storm vs. Ethan Carter III
Jeremy Borash and Joseph Park vs. Josh Mathews and Scott Steiner
Intergender Full Metal Mayhem Tag Team Match: Eddie Edwards and Alisha Edwards vs. Davey Richards and Angelina Love
DeAngelo Williams and Moose vs. Chris Adonis and Eli Drake
El Hijo del Fantasma and Drago vs. TBA
Punjabi Prison returns
WWE champion Jinder Mahal will defend against Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison Match at WWE Battleground on July 23 in Philadelphia.
There have only been two other Punjabi Prison matches and the most recent one was 10 years ago. Here is how WWE.com describes the structure: “First, four walls of bamboo that immediately surround the ring in the fashion of a traditional cage. Outside of that stands another, larger octagonal structure, topped with a series of razor-sharp bamboo spikes.”
The wrestlers must exit through one of the doors of the interior cage and then climb over the top of the outer cage with both feet touching the floor to be declared the winner.
GOOD WEEK FOR WWE WOMEN
After a week of controversy following the finish to the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match last week, WWE women were in prime spots on RAW and SmackDownLive.
RAW ended with a gauntlet match that showcased each member of the roster, and particularly highlighted Nia Jax. After beating the rest of the field, Jax ended up losing to Sasha Banks, who earned a RAW women’s title match against champion Alexa Bliss at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
On SmackDown, the situation surrounding the Money in the Bank match was again the focus with Carmella continuing her excellent promo work. The show ended with the ladder rematch and Carmella again taking home the briefcase. Didn’t love that James Ellsworth again got involved.
NXT on Wednesday night features a “Last Woman Standing” match between champion Asuka and Nikki Cross. The last time these two met, they both went through a table.