Paul London is bringing his unique personality to Toronto this weekend, and it’s all a part of his efforts to see the world and share his knowledge. The 34-year-old grappler is modern-day missionary of moves.
Fans in the U.S. and in Canada, haven’t seen much of London in the recent year, and the reason is simple — he’s been wrestling in countries such as Peru, Australia, England, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.
“I want to share as much knowledge as I can in foreign countries, like some kind of an ambassador. In Italy, the guys were almost copying matches from ROH DVDs and there’s only so much you can learn from a DVD,” London told SLAM! Wrestling.
He’s game for the missionary, er, position, and his teaching seminars abroad makes sure pro wrestling evolves abroad.
“Yeah. I like that. I’m the cosmic missionary. I like that a lot actually. I’m going to borrow it and credit you every time!” he laughed.
Another aspect that helps London’s new mission is the fact that he’s bilingual.
“I’m actually fluent in both English and Spanish and that helped me a lot in that regard, especially in Latin countries. It breaks the ice that I can speak and understand their language,” he added.
That being said, not too long ago, London was still working the independent circuit in the U.S., especially promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) and Ring of Honor (ROH). So why did he stop?
“I’m not a big fan of overkilling actually. When I worked PWG on a more regular basis, it was because I was living in Los Angeles at the time and since I’m back in Texas, they won’t be willing to pay for my flight, which is fine by me, because it’s been there done that. Ring of Honor, it was just misunderstood,” he simply answered.
In the WWE, a decade too early?
Known by the hardcore fans for being a mainstay with ROH when the company first started in 2002, London hit mainstream when he signed with WWE in mid-2003.
First, he was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), which was then the WWE developmental promotion, but soon enough, he was brought up to the main roster. After making his WWE debut, winning the WWE Cruiserweight title and winning the WWE tag titles with Billy Kidman, he was teamed with another fellow cruiserweight, Brian Kendrick. With his new partner, London achieved his biggest success in WWE, winning both set of tag titles. But the team was never pushed to the top, as in those years, “independent” guys were not the flavor of the month in WWE. Something that changed in the past years.
“I like the fact that they are hiring independent guys right now. I mean NXT is WWE’s flagship program to be honest with you. They are paying attention to the guys’ history more. Like Devitt (Finn Balor) and his body paint or Steen (Kevin Owens) and Sami Zayn working together,” he said.
“When I look at NXT now, I feel like I was hired a decade too early. But at the same time, the advantage, if anything, I came at the time when I think it opened up a mental possibility for my peers on the independents. They could look at me and say, ‘Well, he’s not very big and he’s not all that good.’ I mean, I’m good, but I’m not great or I’m not the best around. I’ll never make that claim. I’m just a working son-of-a-bitch. But I’m not much of a head turner if you’re walking down the street. But in 2003, there was still that size stigma.”
If London and Kendrick would have broken into the scene in the past couple of years, they would have been looked at differently. In a sense, London and Kendrick were Hideo Itami and Finn Balor before Hideo Itami and Finn Balor. The difference being that no real trust were put into them, even if they were giving the tag titles a few times.
Talking about the NXT performers, London teamed with Sami Zayn in PWG, when the latter was under a mask and called El Generico. The Danger Bees, as they were called, won the tag team titles on one occasion. Now that Zayn is the NXT champion, does he still follow his former partner’s career?
“I’ve followed him and I’m real proud of him. He is much much bigger than anyone foresaw as far as persona and work wise. If anything, it was really a smart move to take his mask off. It opened him up, not just facially and visually, but it is much more believable to see someone’s face when he’s talking than having him behind a mask. And he’s a great promo. He has a look that appeal to the punk or the hipster. He’s another guy where you’ll say, ‘What can he not do?’ I think he’s going to continue to break into the barrier. It couldn’t happened to a sweeter guy. I miss our days as the Danger Bees! People still buzz me sometimes when I travel!”
To be an HBK trainee or not to be, that is the question
London is heading to Toronto for a new promotion. This coming Saturday, Superkick’d will have its debut show with a match every fan won’t want to miss: Chris Sabin against Paul London. Run by a trio of local wrestlers, Superkick’d is right up London’s alley, as one of his favorite moves is the superkick!
“When I heard it was their debut show, I told myself that I’d better start stretching and get my superkick ready! I’d only imagine if they had the Young Bucks in too!”
But the irony hits an another level in the fact that London was also trained by the master of the superkick, none other than WWE Hall of Famer, Shawn Michaels.
Or was he?
“Shawn was the biggest influence on my career, but there a slight misconception there. I trained mostly with Rudy Gonzales, who was Shawn’s head trainer. I kind of came in when Shawn was about to close the doors. An article in a magazine kind of took that and ran with it in the wrong direction. The funny part is that fast forward years later, in WWE, Shawn pulled me over in his locker room and asked me, ‘Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m having a hard time. Did a train you?’ So I told him the same story and he goes, ‘Good, because everyone keep saying that I trained you, but I don’t remember being in the ring so much with you, and I just figured that I’d remember training you, because you’re so talented. I thought I was going senile!'”
Even if he wasn’t trained by Michaels, the former WWE World champion is London’s idol.
“Shawn is the best wrestler that I have ever seen and after his injuries, it wasn’t that he changed his work a whole lot, but he got smarter. He gets so much mileage from every single move. Everything registers in a way that the audience can really digest it instead of just watching a firework show,” he said.
“When I was feuding with Lance Cade and we were having house shows matches, Shawn and Arn Anderson once put me over for several minutes in front of everyone, saying that I was someone with no storyline, who was able to get over no matter what and that my selling was good. It lasted for 10-15 minutes. It was completely unexpected!”
Back to this weekend, London is going to face someone he hasn’t in a very long time, Chris Sabin. And he can’t wait for it.
“It’s been well over ten years since I’ve wrestled Chris Sabin. The last time was in TNA back in 2003. He was just arriving in TNA part of the X-Division and our match was a title match and CM Punk interfered and cost me the victory. Phil Brooks, damn it, I want my revenge!
This was in June of 2003 and it was his very last appearance for TNA, as he was leaving for WWE. Since then, both continued wrestling, and although they have worked for the same promotions on some occasions, they never crossed path again. At that time, they were two young wolves in their early twenties, ready to take over the wrestling world. Now in their early thirties, the game has changed.
“I’m really pretty excited due to the fact we’re both older and smarter now. He was one of those guys where it was like, ‘What can’t he do?’ He was pretty excellent as far as being able to do anything. And I was pushing myself at the time in doing a lot of, I don’t want to say senseless, but my move set didn’t have much thought behind it at the time. Not that I didn’t think about it, but I didn’t capitalize on things. I’m better in getting more mileage in my moves now and telling a better story. We both have a different, yet similar career in the sense that we were both part of prominent tag team for a while. But I think we both enjoy the single way as well. We both had injuries as well over the course of our career. And we really got smarter. I remember in our last match that I gave Chris a reverse hurricanrana, and it kind of ended up like a head driver. I don’t think the Sabin of today would be so keen for me to give him an inverted hurricanrana! I myself wouldn’t want to give him that. I hope we’re going to have a match people will remember for a while. I’m excited. I’m going to give everything I can to make that night memorable.”
2015: U.S., Europe and TV
Aside from working in Toronto in a couple of days, what does 2015 look like for London? Any interest in going back to WWE or even the red hot New Japan Pro Wrestling?
“WWE is just not a flavour that really appeals to me unless they would throw an insane amount of money at me to go back to that environment. Japan is different. I would love to have the opportunity to go back to Japan. That being said, I would love to go back to the big stage, but it’s not a priority right now. I like the fact I’m traveling and getting to know new cultures.”
In the meantime, London has some good news for his American fans.
“I could be popping more in the States in 2015,” he revealed.
“I have rekindled my work with ROH in December in England. So there’s a real strong possibility I’ll be working in ROH this year. There are chances that I go back to Europe too, but nothing is confirmed yet. I also work with my brother on a YouTube show called Hero of the Prophecy. There’s also a strong possibility that I’ll be on your TV set, but not in a wrestling capacity, so stay tuned!
The debut show of Superkick’d is this Saturday, January 31st, at 8pm at the Great Hall in Toronto. Paul London is also going to give a seminar at 2 p.m.
- May 5, 2013: London vs Richards: Working through a concussion
- Nov. 8, 2010: Fearless honesty dominates Kendrick & London shoot DVD
- Mar. 10, 2009: Paul London debuts new character in California
- Nov. 14, 2008: Mat Matters: London’s talents were wasted in WWE