After the recent COVID-19 pandemic-induced years without wrestling, Matt Cross’s return to Canada – Smash Wrestling in particular – is the last piece of the puzzle to feel like wrestling is really back.
“It’s appropriate on a personal level,” Cross told Slam Wrestling ahead of Smash’s August 7 “Homecoming” event. “My first trip to Canada for pro wrestling was probably 2005, [and I’ve been there] upwards of every month since then. So to be away for three years is kind of strange. It’s the longest amount of time I’ve ever just been in the U.S.”
Cross, the inaugural Smash Champion back in 2014, will face Carter Mason and current champ Kevin Bennett at the London Music Hall, in London, Ontario.
While Cross and Bennett have in-ring history dating back to 2018, the August show will be the first time Mason and Cross lock up.
“I remember him from my early days going to Canada… If memory serves, he used to come to the shows, perhaps set up,” Cross said. “He would always be rolling around in the ring like a tiny kid. In my head, he’s still sort of this baby rolling around before the shows. Obviously now he’s like a man… It feels like the next generation a bit.”
Mason said prior to the pandemic, he had worked hard to earn a spot on the Smash roster. So being on “Homecoming” in a championship match is a moment he’s looking forward to.
“On top of this, there are few crowd’s energies that match what the Smash fans give,” Mason said. “To hear [the chant], ‘This Is Smash,’ again is something I am absolutely looking forward to with the return.”
That said, fans can also expect a new champion, according to Mason, who has been aware of Cross since his teens.
“Matt Cross is a name that most wrestling fans around the world know in some shape or form,” Mason said. “He is respected, rightfully so. He’s paved a way for guys to make money outside of the spotlight, and I’ve been honored to share those same steps in that regard. Matt Cross has had one hell of an unbelievable career – it’s a shame I’ll have to put that all to an end for him.”
‘A FORCED BREAK’
When COVID-19 lockdowns began in early 2020, that was the first time Cross stepped away from the ring – and what had been his full-time career for several years.
“There was this element of a forced break,” he said.
During the time off, he tended to nagging injuries and mental fatigue.
“What I enjoyed was almost the industry was at a standstill,” he said. “There was no unspoken competition… All of a sudden I’m reconnecting with a childlike sense of myself. I was going on hikes everyday, rediscovering straightedge, finding new bands, writing music.
“We’re more than wrestling, but wrestling sometimes doesn’t allow you to be that.”
Of all his interests, wrestling is the “most consuming,” Cross said.
“Wrestling is like one of the dozen things that I enjoy, and it’s weird how you’re like forced to be consumed by it in this bubble,” Cross said. “So when the structure of that was removed, I had other chances to explore who you are, remember who you are.”
Financially, he said, it was “ruinous,” but he leaned in to his clothing brand Wrestling Is Forever.
“At least I had that to kind of keep a connection with wrestling and then be able to have some means through which people could support me,” Cross said.
It’s only now, with the Smash show and trip to Europe in October, that he feels like “we’re back.”
“I had settled into the pandemic life, but then once these things started happening again, this sense of adventure was re-awoke,” Cross said.
That sense of adventure has taken Cross to 28 countries. In a 2012 Slam Wrestling interview, the country count was at 16.
“There’s that adventure, that excitement. Seeing the world doing what you love, which seems a likely distillation of what every person in the world is trying to do,” he said.
Still, there are nearly 200 countries to travel to.
“When you look at it through that lens, I haven’t done anything,” Cross said.
Also unlike some of the stars of Cross’s childhood, the former Lucha Underground star (he was Son of Havoc) can credit some early fame to his inclusion in 2003’s Backyard Wrestling video game.
“[Some] guys doing backyard wrestling tapes found the website [a friend made for us] and asked us to send some stuff in… They would fly us out to California to consult on tapes,” Cross said.
Cross said they were told they would be in a video game and there would also be a movie.
“It was almost a lesson in wrestling,” he said. “You don’t know what to believe, what’s true. I don’t want to say stuff was in one ear out the other, but [we were] skeptical of everything.”
He never signed anything to be in the game or received compensation.
Cross’s career also was taken to the screen in another form – the 2020 film Powerbomb. In it, Cross is a feature player who runs into an overzealous fan.
“They did such a good job. It was the best synopsis of my career… When I watched it the first time, I was like, ‘Wait, do I have to retire?’” Cross quipped.
But far from retiring, those interested in seeing Cross return to Canada can purchase tickets on the Smash Wrestling website.