Today we treat you to a fantastic interview with a wrestler that needs no introductions.
You may know him as Nigel McGuinness, one of the most important figures in RoH in the past decade, or as Desmond Wolfe on TNA; read what he told us!
WtW: You trained under Les Thatcher (in HWA), and then – in England – under Robbie Brookside (ASW); how did you integrate their two styles creating your own?
NMG: Just naturally added to my repertoire. Chic Cullen also showed me a lot. Part of becoming your own wrestler is to take bits of inspiration from other people you admire.
WtW: How and why did you choose the name “Nigel McGuinness”?
NMG: Shark Boy called me Nigel after Nigel Tufnel from one of his favorite movies “This Is Spinal Tap.” I came up with McGuinness as Mc is Scottish, Guinness is Irish and I’m English.
WtW: In the first years of your career you were a mainstay in HWA (and held their heavyweight title twice). Besides being the promotion your trainer worked for, did it have anything that made it different from other promotions?
NMG: Les had helped create a sense of professionalism and work ethic that most of the guys had.
WtW: Nowadays you are pretty much identified with the RoH Pure Championship, that you held for much longer than anybody else; what was the relevance of that title in the period you held it?
NMG: I kind of gave it a life of its own. Before it was largely a belt based on superior technical ability and I took my heel persona to tell some new stories with the matches.
WtW: At the time, you often carried an iron to the ring: how did that come to happen?
NMG: I was watching WWF with my girlfriend at the time and her mum was in the room doing the ironing. She casually looked up and saw Jim Duggan coming to the ring with his 2×4 and after I explained gimmicks she asked if anyone ever carried an iron to the ring. They will now I said.
WtW: During your time in RoH, you had fantastic matches (and, I dare say, feuds) against Claudio Castagnoli and Bryan Danielson; had you imagined, at the time, that they could and would progress even further in the business?
NMG: I absolutely knew they were talented enough but at the time WWE had little interest in guys on the independents unlike today so I’m not sure I ever thought anyone would necessarily make it to that stage. They’re both very deserving to have done so now though.
WtW: In June 2006 you wrestled 3 matches in Italy, for ICW (losing the final of the Il Numero Uno tournament to Andres Diamond), and returned to our country and to ICW in march 2009, successfully defending your RoH World Title against Kaio (match available on YouTube); do you remember what impressions you had of ICW and Italian wrestling in general?
NMG: I was very impressed. Emilio [Bernocchi, the owner and promoter of ICW, who also wrestles as Mr. Excellent] was professional and clearly had a passion and talent for wrestling. I got on great with some of the other guys too. I loved Italy very much. My great grandfather was from there so I always felt an affinity for the country. It is a beautiful country full of passion.
WtW: Could you tell those of us who haven’t watched your documentary The Last of McGuinness what happened in September and October 2009, when you left RoH for the WWE but re-emerged in TNA?
NMG: Long story short, the WWE doctor wouldn’t clear me to wrestle because of an old arm injury that my doctor said was not an issue and I’d wrestled with for two years without issue at that point. Their doctor even felt it was fine when he saw me but upon viewing the MRI changed his mind. Such is life.
WtW: Why did you have to change your ringname in TNA, and why did you pick Desmond Wolfe?
NMG: TNA wanted to own it I assume. I’m not sure where the name came from, I think Vince Russo.
WtW: In TNA, you immediately had a fantastic feud with Kurt Angle; how important did (and do) you feel that series of matches was for your career? What were the differences between RoH and TNA?
NMG: TNA was tighter on time in ring and had far more (arguably too many) people involved creatively in what you did on the show. My matches with Kurt were highlights of my career. He is one of the best wrestlers of my or any generation and it was an honor to be opposite him in the ring. But unfortunately the way I was handled after them destroyed most of the positives from the matches. When I left the company later the following summer there was no interest from WWE at all.
WtW: In mid-2010 bad luck forced you to leave TNA for a time; later you admitted that you had been found positive to Hep B. Do you know exactly how it happened?
NMG: I have some idea but it is just conjecture and as such serves no purpose being voiced. The truth is I’ll never know for sure. Only how I didn’t get it. I am just glad I found out when I did, thanks for TNA’s testing, and eventually was cured.
WtW: Your last tour seemed, from your documentary, very emotional. What was going through your head in those weeks?
NMG: Not much really. A dull sense of sadness perhaps. A tiny hope WWE may be interested. But largely it felt like a slow painless death.
WtW: You are one of the strongest campaigners against blood in wrestling, mostly for medical reasons. Some of your colleagues, however, insist that – as long as one has been thoroughly medically tested – bleeding can add a lot to a match or to a storyline. What do you answer to them?
NMG: I believe everyone has the choice to live their life how they want. But that also goes for people who have the right to wrestle in a ring without other people’s blood in it. Testing is not flawless as is clearly evidenced from my example where had I bled in the ring other people could have got it irrespective of if I got it the same way. But as much I believe it’s out dated now and fools no one. I think it takes more people out of the match, just like unprotected chair shots.
WtW: A question we ask everyone: what do you answer to people saying that “wrestling is fake”?
NMG: They are of course right. But only in the same way that acting and theater is fake. The implication perhaps is that the violence is not real, however, and that is of course, not true. To be honest I rarely encounter people who say that any more anyway.
WtW: To conclude: your Kickstarter campaign for L.A. Fights didn’t go too well; what was that project about, and do you think you’ll try to carry it on anyway?
NMG: It was a TV show based on a small time fight promotion in Los Angeles that combined the best aspects of pro wrestling, MMA and scripted high concept TV series. It was revolutionary and different enough to anything else out there that you could make the argument that it’s not really pro wrestling at all. I am continuing to try to get it funded because even though it was funded through Kickstarter it did garner over $70,000, more than any other pro wrestling related crowd funding project so there clearly is interest from some people who have the belief in me and/or vision to be able to see it. As much, however, I know it is a killer idea that could create an entirely new version of scripted fight entertainment and I’ve put too much into it to give up now.
Well, that was indeed something.
Thanks again to Nigel McGuinness for being so kind and answering to our questions and curiosities. And good luck to him with L.A. Fights!
Interview by Marco Piva-Dittrich and Gennaro Donnarumma