BOUND FOR GLORY: John Hennigan On His Life In The Ring, New Projects & More!

Johnny Impact (John Hennigan) is one of most dynamic performers in the industry.

Born and raised in Southern California, Johnny Impact (aka John Hennigan) was destined to become a star. Throughout his meteoric rise, he has proved time and time again to be one of most versatile performers in the entertainment business. He has been wrestling professionally since 2002 and has been a shining star in the U.S. and Mexico, where he also has competed for Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. He is a crossover star, appearing on various TV shows, including “Days of Our Lives,” in addition to numerous film credits, including “Boone: The Bounty Hunter,” which he created, co-wrote and served as executive producer. Johnny Impact tied the knot with Taya Valkyrie this past June, with many personalities from their wrestling lives attending, including WWE Superstars The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder. Ironically, Impact wasn’t around for much of his wedding planning, as he was instead in Fiji, filming Season 37 of the hit CBS TV show “Survivor,” which kicked off on Sept. 26. Both husband and wife will be competing for world titles of a major wrestling promotion on the same night, which is a first. If they both win their respective matches, that will be history-making, too. Johnny Impact challenges reigning World Champion Austin Aries, who has held the title for most of 2018 and is a three-time champion. Valkyrie, meanwhile, faces Knockouts Champion Tessa Blanchard, a third-generation wrestler in her first-ever title run. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Hennigan to discuss his life inside and out of the squared circle, the challenges he has faced along the way, and what he has in store for us in the months to come.

You’ve spent the past decade building a tremendous career for yourself. What drew you to professional wrestling as a young man?

I feel like it started with the larger than life characters. When I was a kid, I grew up on pro-wrestling and action movies. I moved to a new place in 6th grade and I was a wrestling fan who watched it all the time. When I got to the new town, as the new kid, pro-wrestling was the first thing that I bonded with kids in my school and neighborhood over. We’d watch wrestling and try to put each other in Boston crabs or sharpshooters in each other’s backyards after we would watch on Saturday or Sunday! [laughs] I feel like when you’re hooked on something like that when you’re a kid, you’re always going to be nostalgic for it and have a soft spot for it. As I grew up, I went to high school and college before starting collegiate wrestling. At one point, I was even going to try to be an Olympic wrestler, but I ended up falling into training for fight choreography in action movies. At one point I had this epiphany that professional wrestling was the thing that had been motivating me to do everything I had been doing in life. That’s when I ended up training and started doing “Tough Enough.”

It takes a lot to make it in this industry. What are the keys to success and longevity?

Patience. Passion. You know that speech that Rocky gives in “Rocky Balboa”? He says, “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how much you can get hit and keep moving forward.” I feel like that’s very true for pro-wrestling. Obviously, it’s a nice analogy because you take bumps and get up in the ring but on you path of getting into and learning the business you hear the word “no” so many times. You have to have this clear vision and belief in yourself. If you don’t have that, eventually your motivation is to wane, you are going to find something else and stop training. If you have that clear vision and belief in yourself, then you can do anything you set your mind to and that’s really what it takes.

That’s a great outlook. Was this work ethic of yours something that was instilled in you early on in life or something you had to work toward?

Wow! Man, this is a crazy interview! [laughs] Both! Growing up, I feel like the way that I validated myself was achievement oriented. When I first started wrestling in high school it was the first thing that I was really good at and I had a lot of early successes. For example, I won the championships the first year in high school and that made me focus, double down and try that much harder. It’s never a really good idea, especially as you get older, to see yourself only on what you’ve accomplished but that is what I did when I was younger. It made me really ambitious and it’s something I have carried with me since I was a kid.

What do you consider some of the biggest obstacles you have faced and overcome along the way?

Wrestling is tough. Sometimes it can get monotonous and you might have doubt. I don’t know if the coin has been turned but it’s kind of like “creator’s guilt” or “artists guilt,” when you reflect on the things that you are doing and ponder things like “Is the story I’m telling currently, or the time I’m spending to tell it, what I should be doing or the best use of my time?” Ruminating on that sometimes is an obstacle for me because the answer to that question is subjective and it changes. Sometimes it’s tricky. I don’t know if that’s the answer you’re looking for. You might be looking for an answer speaking to the physical aspect of the job. I tore my MCL in 2007, had neck surgery in 2011 and just dislocated my elbow three months ago. The first time I’m going to wrestle without my elbow brace is on Sunday at Bound for Glory. It’s hard to come back from injury but I think the mental and emotional obstacles are more difficult for me.

How do you feel you have most evolved over the course of your career, both inside and outside the ring?

At some point in pro-wrestling, you have that Neo moment where you can see the Matrix, so to speak. [laughs] For me, those moments when I know exactly what I’m doing, and everything makes sense, happen sometimes. It’s not like a switch that is flipped on or off, where you constantly know everything. You have to fight to stay relevant, keep everything you are doing fresh and figure out what people want. What people want changes and that’s one of the hardest things about wrestling. If you can figure out what people want, then you pretty much have the answer to everything in life! That idea of keeping yourself fresh and motivated is a big part of it. It’s less about keeping yourself relevant and more about keeping yourself interested in what you are doing and motivated to move forward.

Your arrival in Impact Wrestling is a huge deal for fans. What made this the right move for you at this point in time?

I’ve been all over, and I have worked for most of the companies in the world. When I came to Impact, I felt it was one of the only places with a roster of talented people who I hadn’t worked with that much. Currently, I believe Impact Wrestling is at a really interesting spot. The roster has evolved into a younger, hungry, talented roster. If you look at the comments that people are making when they watch a lot of the Impact Wrestling shows, it feels like something really great is happening at Impact and it’s happening now. That makes me excited to be a part of the company. It’s fun to be a part of an organization that’s evolving and changing into something that people really like!

You recently tied the knot To Taya Valkyrie (aka Kira Forster-Hennigan). Congratulations! Pardon the pun but you two clearly make a terrific tag team. What do you feel that you bring out in each other creatively?

[laughs] That’s a long answer! It’s tough because in this business so people say, “Never date anyone in the business.” When I met Kira, I instantly felt like I was with someone who understood me, my motivations and the business of pro-wrestling. We connected on so many different levels. As far as what we bring out in each other creatively, I think it starts with us understanding and accepting each other. That leads us to double down. She believes in me enough so that I feel like whatever I feel like doing, I just do it and I know she is going to be cool with it. For example, on our honeymoon, we wrote this crazy horror-comedy thing that we shot in our house a few weeks ago. It’s going to take a couple of months to finish it. I’ll just say that it’s crazy and that we destroyed our house. The whole house is covered in fake blood and stuff from the movie. I feel like that’s the kind of thing where both of us said, “Should we do this?” The answer is “Yeah, why not!” If we’re going to make a cool little horror movie, let’s go all the way with it. That’s what we did! I think that’s one of the reasons we love each other so much. We support each other, and we are all in.

I’m excited to see where that project leads. You’ve already established yourself in the film industry. Are there parallels between the worlds of film and professional wrestling?

Movies, pro-wrestling, television and theater are all forms of storytelling. For me, it’s cool to be able to tell stories in each of those different areas. In film, it’s really about storytelling just as much as it is in pro-wrestling. The type of stories you can tell with movies can be a little more complex or intricate because of the medium. It’s fun to think about the different type of tools and ways you can tell a story. It’s definitely something I’m eager to explore more in the future.

Thanks for your time today, John! I wish you continued success!

Thanks for having me!

Bound For Glory on Sunday takes place on October 14th in New York City. The live pay-per-view extravaganza from IMPACT Wrestling, presented by COMDA.com, will be held at the sold-out Melrose Ballroom. Connect with John Hennigan through social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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