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COMMENT





Devine Q&A Part 1: His final TNA days
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling


Johnny Devine heads to the ring at the PWA 7th Anniversary Show on March 2, 2008 in Edmonton, AB. Photo by Jason Clevett


Itís a story as old as wrestling itself. An upstart kid makes it to the top of a local promotion, and then somehow grabs one of those golden rings to go to the big time. Then, those who watched a kid with so much potential wrestle in front of 50 people shake their heads as they watch the big time waste said talent.

Such is the case with Johnny Devine. For six years he stole the show every night from Thunder Bay to Calgary, and a hundred places in between. Every single person who walked out of a show after seeing his match would say, "Someday that guy is going to be a star." It seemed like that chance came when he signed with TNA in 2004. Things seemed great for Devine initially in Team Canada, but as time went on, his fans just shook their heads in wonderment as to how someone so talented could be so misused.

Count me as one of those people. Iíve been a fan of Johnny Devine since I saw him in an opening six-man tag match at the resurrection of Stampede Wrestling in April 1999. Weíve traveled to shows together, had lengthy conversations about wrestling, and a deep mutual respect. It is that respect that leads us to this interview, Devineís first since his release from TNA Wrestling. In part one of a two-part interview, Devine reveals why he asked for his release, takes us through his final days with the company, and gives a view of TNA wrestling that many have never seen before.

JC: So... whatís new?

JD: (laughing) Um, I asked for my release from TNA Wrestling.

JC: What prompted that?

JD: In truth, they werenít doing too much with me. It was getting to the point now where the roster is growing and continues to grow, so if they werenít going to do anything with me at this point it was only going to get worse. The writing team apparently wasnít seeing much in me anymore. So rather than sit around and waste my time and fill a spot, and not be paid for to sit around because I was on a pay-for-play contact, I decided to ask for my release and take my fortunes elsewhere.

JC: A lot of people wonít have details on why you left. A lot of wrestlers in Canada, many who donít know you, may look at your position -- on TV in a national company, paired with one of the biggest tag teams of the last decade, they would kill for that opportunity and think you are crazy for walking away from it. What would your response be to those people?

JD: There was a point where I would have said the exact same thing. Years ago when I was doing the same thing struggling to get a spot, had I known me I would have choked me for doing it. One of the things I always told myself was as soon as it wasnít fun for me I wasnít going to do it anymore. Wrestling at TNA has not been fun for me for some time. A job is a job, it pays the bills, but this isnít a job it is my career and what I love to do. When the job you are doing barely pays the bills and you arenít having fun anymore, why stay?

JC: Can you explain that statement? People will think you working for a national company, and have an idea of what main event talent makes, you should be able to pay bills.

JD: There is an ocean of difference between what main event guys make and what the undercard guys make. When you add in road expenses like paying for your hotels, rental cars, food, gym memberships, tanning, all of that while you are on the road even making decent money doesnít cut it because your money is cut in half due to road expenses. People have no grasp of the pay structure at a place like TNA. It is a hard job, and if you are not pulling in the indies to supplement your income, it is almost impossible to make ends meet. My situation was, with what was being done with me on TV and the storylines that I had been involved in, my indies dropped off. When I started working for TNA with Team Canada I was doing between four to eight indy shows a month down to none at one point. One or two a month, you canít live off of that.

JC: You were working a lot of the house shows as well.

JD: You have a roster of 45 guys. There house show budget is to take anywhere from 12-16 guys to the shows. They have to fit guys into a budget for these shows, because they donít draw all that great. They pay guys who are under contract different for house shows than what they pay for TV. So making less at house shows and still having to pay road expenses still didnít make up that much of the difference. I didnít pull in that much extra money doing house shows.


The Steel Asylum bout at Bound For Glory. Photo by Ricky Havlik, TopRopePhotography.com
JC: This past weekend was Bound for Glory. You participated in Saturdayís Fan Fest, you were involved in the Asylum match and later helped Team 3D set Abyss on fire in their match. You canít say you went out on top, but they didnít bury you. What are your thoughts on the weekend and what had to be very emotional for you saying goodbye to people and knowing it was the last time you would be on a TNA production?

JD: Saturday at the fan fest was excellent. It was a great turnout and I had a lot of fun. I sat at the table with 3D and I always get a kick out of being around them. I hit Consequences Creed with a stick and beat him up a little bit because I never liked that kid anyway.

Bound for Glory was emotional. There was some hemming and hawing on the office side of things as to whether to give me my release. Unbeknownst to a lot of people I asked for my release a month ago and asked for Bound for Glory to be my last show. As of Sunday it was still not 100% confirmed, but Terry Taylor did his best to confirm what was going to happen. Once I had confirmation it became a bit more of an emotional scene. I told the X Division guys before the Steel Asylum match that this would be my last match with them. I have the utmost respect for all those guys, they are all fantastic people and great, great workers. I told them, "I wish the company would realize that if they gave any of those guys more time then they give them, they would have four-star matches every night."

The goodbyes to various friends who are now family to me was hard. People are as close to me as anyone I have ever known in the business I am going to miss a lot not seeing every couple of weeks. The Steel Asylum match itself went great except for damn near killing Jimmy Rave. Jimmy was fine and I love him and think he is a fantastic worker who is horribly undervalued by the company. It was what it was. I get emotional but not overly over that kind of thing. It was a tough weekend.

JC: After the show was over how did you feel?

JD: There was a sense of relief but also very sad. That has been my family for the past four years and it is always hard to say goodbye to your family. To know that I am not going to be part of what is and what will one day be a huge deal, it is depressing to know you arenít going to be a part of that, but itís business.

JC: Not to take anything away from them or say that they donít deserve it, but out of all of the members of Team Canada, you seemed to get the short end of the stick in terms of character development and push. Why do you think that is?


Team Canada, left to right, "Coach" Scott D'Amore, Eric Young, Petey Williams, A1, Bobby Roode and Johnny Devine. Photo courtesy TNA
JD: As soon as I was brought in on the first Team Canada with Jack Evans, Ted Hart and Petey Williams, and the subsequent incarnation with Eric Young and Bobby Roode, I had some issues with getting across the border due to some legal troubles. The following September I was stabbed. Itís not like there was always something going on with me, but there were little things that the office would look at and go, "Donít know if we can trust him or if he will be a there all the time kind of guy." They know that now, but at the time four years ago that gave them reservations about giving me too much.

JC: After they established that you were healthy, able to work, and talk -- which is one of your biggest assets -- they still didnít do anything with you.

JD: Oddly enough, I donít think they ever knew that I could talk. In the four years I was there, I had been given one or two lines of promo. They allowed me to do an in-ring with Eric Young at Hard Justice 2006. The match was excellent, the promo was very good, but it was completely overshadowed by the fact that the ceiling lit on fire and the building had to be cleared. Everybody forgot about what I did. They let me have one line with Team 3D, but havenít given me another opportunity to speak.

JC: A lot of people speak about the environment in WWE about how suggestions are ignored. Did you ever make suggestions to TNA?

JD: Tons. There was a point where I was the quiet little soldier doing what I was told, and then I became a bit squeakier of a wheel. As many ideas as you can give them, they are only going to take what they want or feel will fit. I know from myself and other people that have pitched some storylines that they have passed on some true gold over the years, some really great stuff. But it is their show and their decision, that is why they are writers and we are the talent.

JC: What would have seemed like a good opportunity to cut a promo and explain yourself was when you turned on the X Division, but you never got to explain it.


Alex Shelley and Johnny Devine. Courtesy TNAwrestling.com
JD: That angle could have been so awesome. Not that what it had at the time wasnít effective. But I was ready to throw in the dynamic of, "What has the X-division done for me in the last three years? My running partners in Team Canada have all gone on to be multiple X Division and tag team champions. Paparazzi Productions with Alex Shelley went nowhere. Serotonin imploded and Frankie Kazarian was getting title matches with Kurt Angle and ladder match main events, and what am I doing? What exactly has the X Division done for me? Nothing, so F the X Division." Things like that, there was all kinds of stuff that could have come out of that.

JC: You won the X Division title and held it for two weeks. The Ultimate X match (teaming with Team 3D against Jay Lethal and the Motor City Machineguns at Final Resolution 2008) was excellent, no pun intended, but it didnít make a lot of sense to have that short of a run and be insignificant. Were you happy to win the title?

JD: It is kind of a weird feeling. On the one hand it is great to get the recognition. From a wrestler standpoint it is great to have the office say, "You are the guy, hereís the belt." But when you know you are being a transitional champion, itís like, "Why even bother if you arenít going to give me the chance to run with this and get over with it; What is the point?" It is nice to see your named etched next to all those other champions, but every wrestler wants to leave a little bit of a legacy, and they have never given me the opportunity to be the wrestler I am in TNA. I was given one title defense, and wasnít allowed to show what I was capable of.

JC: Do you feel that you showed what you were capable of in the Ultimate X match?

JD: Yes and no. That match, oh my God, I am amazed I survived. On a lot of levels, I got to show what I needed because thanks to 3D helping me out, I had good heel heat. Fans hated me. I had that without doing promos and establishing a character, without the help of getting a push that way. When we would do house shows my heat would be equal to the undercard guys with one or two segments a TV show for promos. If they had allowed me to establish a character the heat would have been off the charts, but it is something we will never know.

Check out part two Friday as Devine discusses TNA house shows, youth versus veterans, and what the future holds

RELATED LINKS

  • Johnny Devine's columns on SLAM! Wrestling
  • Johnny Devine's website: www.johnnydevine.net
  • Johnny Devine's MySpace: www.myspace.com/canadiandevine
  • Johnny Devine's email: johnnydevine@shaw.ca
  • For more on Devine's career, see his biography in our Canadian Hall of Fame

    Jason Clevett has watched Johnny Devine and many other incredible Alberta talents wrestle for over a decade.