Devine Q&A Part 2: Team 3D, house shows, the future
JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
|Johnny Devine at the Bad News Allen supershow in Cochrane, AB, on May 25, 2007. Photo by Jason Clevett
To some, Johnny Devineís self-requested release from TNA may have barely made a blip on their radar. Throughout his four-year tenure, he often seemed like an afterthought. Those who had seen his work on independent shows knew what he was capable of, and it frustrated both them and Devine himself at what many perceived as misuse.
It came to a head a month ago when Devine asked for his release from TNA. His request was granted at the Bound for Glory pay per view event on October 12, 2008. Two days later, SLAM! Wrestling caught up with Devine from his home in Windsor, Ontario, for his first interview. In this second of two parts, Devine discusses his relationship with Team 3D, TNA house shows, and his future.
JC: You have gotten the chance to work a lot of people and a shows with a lot of big names. Are there times when youíve pinched yourself?
JD: Honestly, no. I am a fan of the business and if I am a fan of someone I will tell them. There arenít a lot of guys around anymore that were the guys I was a huge mark for. Jerry Lynn is one of those guys, but other than him there really arenít many around that are still working that I would have that fan giddiness around.
JC: Tell me about your relationship with Brother Ray and D-Von.
JD: It is based on mutual respect. They are guys who have been around for a long time and done it all as far as what tag teams can do. They are continually at the top of the card and one of the most entertaining at whatever they are doing. They are a value to whatever company they work for. That is my respect for them. What is hard for a lot of guys to get is respect from Ray and D-von, especially younger, smaller guys. Their attitude is so old school that younger guys really donít get it and canít translate. They were trained by whomever who didnít show them how to conduct themselves around veterans with Team 3Dís kind of history. For me it was really easy because I came up in the [Hart] Dungeon and the style I was trained and work, is very similar to what they went through. It was easy to talk to them on a lot of levels and joke around with them about being old school. I can work a new style but I have a very old school mentality. So I was able to gain their respect for being an old school style guy.
JC: The feud that seems to be developing on TNA TV is the veterans and ex WWE wrestlers against guys like A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe, young versus old. With you mentioning the ocean of difference between pay, do you think there is a fair amount of truth in that angle?
JD: Yes, there is. It is a good example of art imitating life, taking a true statement in that the younger guys and originals really are angry with the way that the pay works out. To me there are things that are absolutely disgusting. It is utterly amazing that I know of guys that have had to hold down almost full-time jobs on the side so that they can feed their families, yet these guys are wrestling on TV every week. Then there are the guys who work once every six months and can move to Bora Bora if they like. These are the guys who are working week in and week out who are keeping these stars on top and building new stars, they deserve some kind of compensation.
Johnny Devine as Havoc. Photo by Jason Clevett
Youíve had a number of gimmicks since joining TNA. Team Canada, Paparazzi Productions, Havok, and as Team 3Dís associate. Which one was your favorite?
JD: Team Canada by far. If booking hadnít disbanded that team and it had been allowed to continue its run I think it could have been Horseman-like in its effectiveness as a stable.
JC: You have worked on the TNA house shows, which havenít done fantastic numbers. For example, The New York City show was a disappointment, and the December Canadian tour lost a lot of money. It has been five years and it takes time to build but that has to be disheartening.
JD: They are trying and in a lot of ways they are succeeding. In a couple of important ways they are not succeeding. There are a lot of smallish towns that TNA does that really there is not much else going on in the town, so when the wrestling company comes to town everybody should be there. The promotion isnít being done. We would drive into town and look for posters or something signifying there was a wrestling show, and we would find nothing. We would go out to eat and people would approach us and say, "Arenít you TNA wrestlers?" and we would reply, "Yeah we had a show at this arena." They would reply, "Oh I didnít know or I would have gone." That is not just a TNA problem, that is a every promotion in North America other than WWE problem. If a little bit more of that was done then I think they would draw better. They also need to choose arenas that fit ticket sales. I canít count the number of shows I have done in the last six months that were 10,000 seat arenas with less than 1,000 people. That just looks awkward and wrong.
JC: That has to affect you as well, because if it is intimate but smaller and rowdy and loud, like the Impact Zone, that motivates you, but the same sound doesnít travel as well in a cavernous space.
JD: Exactly. It is a lot of different levels of that. They are succeeding because they are doing well in certain places. As soon as they do well in a place they return to it and it doesnít do as well. The first run in New York was sellouts. We went back to the same building last month and it was three-quarters full. We went into downtown Manhattan for the first time and didnít pack a room that other companies put 1,200 in there, we had maybe six or seven hundred.
Johnny Devine on stage at a TNA Fan Fest in Nashville, TN, in June 2007. Photo by Bob Kapur.
The other comment I have heard from people who have gone to the house shows say they are really enjoyable because the wrestlers get to show what they do, and the fan interaction like meeting wrestlers for autographs and Polaroids, if that product was the one on TV it may do better drawing of ratings and house shows.
JD: I will tell you two different sides to that. From a fans' perspective, they do get to see us focus more on wrestling and get the autographs. That is all well and good. From a wrestler perspective, sometimes the house shows are rushed, and for some reason they give TV time to house show matches, which makes no sense to me. The wrestling is always well above average on the house shows as opposed to any other shows we do, the wrestling is always great. One of the things that bugs me as well as a lot of other guys, and it is not from a selfish light that I am saying this, but the autograph sessions devalue the talent. It takes us from a star level next to Joe everyman. It is trying to keep value in the talent and set them apart. Part of the business is being able to say that these people are above the masses. But when you are giving away interactions with these people, it takes the luster off of them. If you were to throw a couple of babyfaces out there to sign autographs, well, they are supposed to shake hands and kiss babies. But by sending almost the entire group out there it takes that shine away.
JC: You are not the first person to ask for your release from TNA. A lot of people have gone with the intention of going to WWE. Frankie Kazarian left TNA, didnít enjoy WWE and came back. Braden Walker [Chris Harris in TNA], I just have to say the name and you know what happened. You are no longer a TNA wrestler, what happens now?
JD: Iíve enrolled in a school in Detroit called the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Art. I am going to get some TV and radio experience. I have quite a bit of in front of the camera experience, and done enough on-air speaking that I can pull off radio if need be. I want the behind the scenes technical side, the editing and clipping. I am enrolled to start in January so that is my immediate plans.
Johnny Devine takes a break during a show in March 2008. Photo by Jason Clevett
So you are planning on leaving the business for awhile?
JD: No. I will still be doing independent dates here and there, and still instruct at Scott D'Amoreís Can-Am school in Windsor two to three nights a week. I will keep in ring shape and the rust off there. So that is my immediate plan.
JC: So to address any rumours that might be floating around, you are not leaving TNA to go to WWE.
JC: Have they had any interest in you?
JD: I wouldnít know at this point. If they do, thatís awesome. But I havenít heard and I am not looking.
JC: What prompted you to go to that school.
JD: I have been looking at schools for awhile now as far as classes I want to take here and there. This one is a really respected program, a two-year degree cut down into eight months because it is quite intensive. To me it feels like the right choice, right place and right time. It seems like it will be the best fit for me.
JC: Wrestling has been your entire life for a decade. This is a funny way to say this due to your military background but will it be weird to be a civilian, so to speak?
JD: Entirely. I was actually talking about this with people the other day. There are so many levels to which I no longer relate to regular people, it is almost laughable. I find it a chore to hold conversations with regular people now because they donít understand a wrestler's sense of humor.
JC: Looking back on the last four years, and your career in general since you started in the Dungeon, I think people will admire that you did have success and reach that level to be on TV and pay per view and steal the show. Looking back on all of that, what are your thoughts on the life and times of Johnny Devine so far?
An early promo shot?
I have achieved all of the goals I set out for myself in wrestling except for one, to go to Japan, and that still might happen, so who knows. You knowing as much of the background of wrestling in Calgary will understand this -- one of the things I try to relate to people is that the crew I started with back in 1997, until about 2001, there were guys in Stampede Wrestling who could have rocked the world. Duke
and Dean Durrango, Greg Pawluk, Bill Yates, those kind of guys could have gone out and been a part of any roster in the world but for whatever reason they didnít pursue it as long as they did or could. In my mind they were the top X Division-type guys in the world and could have hung with anyone. I hung on to the bull the longest I guess out of all those guys, who wasnít a Hart, or within the Hart family, other then TJ Wilson, and he is practically a Hart. I am exceptionally proud of what I have done and can look back with a sense of satisfaction. Knowing that I left TNA of my own accord means a lot to me.
JC: Anything else you would like to add?
JD: I am not done. I am going to be like Jerry Lynn, around a long time. This is not the end of Johnny Devineís career by any stretch of the imagination. Itís just another chapter in the book.
October 16, 2008: Devine Q&A Part 1: His final TNA days
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on Devine's career, see his biography in our Canadian Hall of Fame
Jason Clevett has interviewed a long list of Albertaís greatest wrestlers. Check the story archives to find out who.