Exclusive: World Champion Johnny Impact talks Homecoming, Survivor, American Ninja Warrior, and more!
by Patches Chance
With Impact Wrestling in high gear with their eyes on the Homecoming pay-per-view on January 6th, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee, much of the focus is on the main event where Johnny Impact will defend the Impact World Championship against Brian Cage. I got to speak exclusively with Johnny earlier this week about his preparation for Homecoming, his experience on Survivor, and more!
While this will be Johnny’s first collision with Brian Cage in Impact Wrestling, it’s far from the first time these two have stepped into the ring with each other. During their time in Lucha Underground, Johnny picked up a win over Cage with the help of a debuting Taya Valkyrie. The two of them also had a brutal steel cage match where Brian came out victorious. Johnny talked about how what he’s learned about Brian Cage, and what he’ll take from those experiences heading into Homecoming.
Johnny Impact: Man, I learned Brian Cage is no joke. I learned the only thing stiffer than a steel cage is Brian Cage. There’s nothing worse than Cage in a cage. My rivalry with Brian in Lucha Underground, also my rivalries with him in AAW, WrestleCircus, PCW, and in various places all over the world, has taught me that he’s no joke. He’s really good at what he does. Let’s just say if this is a bench press contest, Brian Cage would win. On the other hand, if this is a brain press contest, Johnny Impact would win hands down, and that is my competitive advantage. Wrestling, especially in a high profile match like this in the main event of a pay-per-view, I think is more like a chess game than a powerlifting contest. That’s why with my experience, my unorthodox offense, and my knowledge about Brian Cage, I feel like I’ve got his number on January 6 [at Homecoming].
Despite the focus on Homecoming, there was no avoiding the topic of Johnny Impact’s recent participation in Season 37 of Survivor. Johnny was part of this year’s “David vs Goliath” edition, and was shockingly eliminated last month fairly soon in the competition. While he was third in votes for elimination that night, both people ahead of him had gained immunity, and the cards fell into place to end his journey. Johnny talked about what he learned from the experience, and how great that first shower felt on Ponderosa. For those who don’t know, Ponderosa is the location (usually a resort of some kind) where competitors go after being eliminated from Survivor to stay until filming is done.
Johnny: Never did I ever think I would enjoy a shower so much, or did I think I would enjoy pizza and food so much as I did at Ponderosa. The experience I found to be very authentic. It was difficult. You’re uncomfortable, constantly uncomfortable, when you’re playing Survivor. [You’re] cold, hungry, mentally exhausted because your guard is up 24/7 because you’re having conversations with people that have layers of depth to them. It’s not just the ‘hey, how are you, where are you from’ [conversations]. You’re assessing people, [thinking] can I work with this person, can I trust this person, is this person a threat, when do I think I should get this person out, oh crap does this person wanna get me out. Your wheels are constantly spinning. It really kinda wears you down into this raw state, and at the end of my game I found myself in that raw kinda vulnerable state, and it was nice. I came away with a couple of life changing epiphanies about who I am, what I want, and how I want to live my life. It was really valuable experience, and I don’t regret anything.
When contestants arrive on Ponderosa, they also usually film a video talking about their Survivor experiences with only a couple of days to process things. One thing Johnny brought up was his hope to speak to local Fijian women on the island about customs he could incorporate into his then upcoming wedding to Kira Foster, better known to Impact fans as Taya Valkyrie. He got to talk about this, and how those discussions weighed into his vows.
Johnny: I was talking to Elizabeth and all the local Fijian women at Ponderosa, who were full of personality. I feel like the local custom that I brought was not necessarily a local Fijian custom, almost just like a human custom. The most important thing I heard from all the women that I talked to about their weddings was knowing how much their husbands loved them and cared for them and how excited their husband was to spend the rest of his life with them. That I definitely incorporated into the vows. I was gonna do this whale’s tooth thing, that’s the Fijian thing. They buy a really expensive whale’s tooth and kind of use it as a form of a dowry. I think Kira’s mom would’ve really liked that, but like even the jobber whale’s teeth were a couple hundred bucks, and I didn’t know where to get a good one. So as the time at Ponderosa came to a close, they didn’t have any sweet whale’s teeth to take home with me, so I just decided to make sure that Kira knows I love her.
With competitive shows like Survivor being the topic at hand, I asked whether Johnny had ever wanted to compete on an obstacle course show like American Ninja Warrior.
Johnny: I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do American Ninja Warrior, but it’s just never really worked out. The tough thing with that show is that you need to sign yourself up and commit and lot of time to them for nothing in return. And for me, that type of athletic challenge is more interesting if it’s me against me. Like I’d love to see if I could complete the course and how well I would do. Competing against the other athletes is less interesting to me, and competing on the American Ninja Warrior television show is less interesting to me. Because of that, it just never worked out with me and casting for them.
With that the conversation turned back to Homecoming, and another factor is the presence and potential actions of Killer Kross. In recent weeks, Kross has gone from an enemy of Johnny’s to offering him assistance. While Johnny has been hesitant so far, he’s certainly not unfamiliar with Kross.
Johnny: Yeah, our paths crossed quite a bit in AAA. Our paths never crossed in Lucha Underground, but man he had my back for years in AAA. [Kross] helped me win the Mega Championship over there, the Latin American Championship, and the Mundial Crucero (AAA World Cruiserweight Championship). He was instrumental in a lot of my success over there in AAA. And he’s, uhh, got a few screws loose. He’s a very intelligent, maybe sociopathic, and definitely dangerous man. Especially when he wants something that he can’t quite get, and at Impact [Wrestling] that thing that he wants is the World Championship. And I have it, so that makes me a target. The stuff that he’s doing, the games that he’s playing, I don’t fully understand why or what he’s getting at, but he’s up to something. I’ll just put it that way.
Considering that history and all of the preparation for Brian Cage, I had to ask if the presence of Kross might affect Johnny’s planning for Homecoming.
Johnny: I’ve been trying to ignore it. I’m gonna prep for Brian, and to wrestle Brian. [I’m going to] watch a lot of Brian Cage tape and study his stuff and think of outside the box counters and ways that I can outthink that meathead machine. But it would be stupid of me to think that Killer Kross won’t be present at Homecoming, and figuring out where and when and what he might be up to is impossible. So I’m just preparing to take on Brian Cage, and I’m preparing to be ready to call audibles based on what’s happening.
Before we wrapped up, Johnny had one more tidbit to reveal. While Killer Kross may become a factor in the main event at Homecoming, he isn’t the only outside influence that will be present.
Johnny: Let me leave you with this. There’s several of the cast of Season 37 [of Survivor] that has been looking for an opportunity to come and see me wrestle. I can’t say who or how many, but at Homecoming I’m going to have a lot of support from the cast of David vs Goliath in attendance. I’m really excited to have those people be a part of my real life, my wrestling life, off the island. Because I really do consider those people friends, and I think it’s gonna be cool to share the experience in Nashville in January 6th with them.
Tune in to Homecoming on January 6th, 2019 at 7PM CST / 8PM EST airing LIVE on Fite!