“The Bad Boy” Joey Janela was one of the faces of the independent scene for a long time, and since May of last year, he has been back on the indys in control of his own destiny. From Hazlet, New Jersey, Janela put himself on the map with his hardcore style of wrestling and the way he pushed the envelope in the ring and online.

Janela started on the indys at the young age of 16 and has become a mainstay in companies like Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG), and DDT Pro-Wrestling.

“I was kind of always controlling my own self and the way I presented myself when social media came around and the way I presented my character and the way I went about my matches,” Janela told SlamWrestling.net in February backstage at a Demand Lucha show in Toronto.

GCW allows Janela to hold his own annual shows, Joey Janela’s Spring Break, which have been going on for six straight years. “I’m still doing my own shows with GCW and spring breaks and we’re selling out shows all over the world and people are coming to see not only the new breed of GCW, but they’re still coming to see Joey Janela, I’m still one of the faces of that company.”

Janela became well known due to his high-risk high-reward style of competition. However, he said it was his style to just go for “spot, spot, spot, spot, exciting match, but that only gets you so far.”

Joey Janela dives onto Gringo Loco at Demand Lucha in Toronto, Ontario, at Parkdale Hall, on February 16, 2023. Credit: John Gallant

After his time atop the independents, in 2019 Janela made the decision to sign a three-year contract with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). He went from being able to control everything about himself to “a more corporate environment.” It was not quite a perfect fit, he noted. “Even though they were more laid back than the WWE at that time, I don’t know how much it’s changed now, but it was hard to adapt.”

AEW fell into Janela’s lap after he competed at All In because he blew his knee out just a couple of weeks after competing there. “They hit me up and they’re like, ‘We’re offering you a contract,’ and that was a way for me to focus on getting my knee better. I didn’t know how big it was going to be on TNT. The Bucks filled me in, but I didn’t know how big it was. So, it was a great deal for Tony Khan to contract me while my knee was blown out and automatically started getting paychecks.”

After his recovery, the first adjustment Janela had to make was becoming a TV wrestler, and getting used to working with times. He pointed out an episode of Dynamite where he was main eventing against Jon Moxley and their 20-minute match got cut to 12 minutes including entrances, and he called that experience a whole new ball game.

With these new experiences, Janela said he was able to learn a lot “from wrestling on TV, I learned how to work matches better. I know how to present myself better and I’m more mature now.”

Joey Janela vs Alan “5” Angels at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, PA on August 11, 2021. Photo by Joe Hrycych, www.hrycychphotography.com

Janela has also become quite famous on Twitter as well, “I’m Joey Janela and I’m saying whatever the f— I want on social media.” Being so blunt on social media is something that worked against him while being in AEW.

“Those people [AEW personnel], they are watching social media, so when you say something very stupid –which people think it’s stupid, I don’t think so — but whatever you say is good or bad. They’re watching your social media and then they’re reporting back to Tony [Khan], they’re reporting back to Cody [Rhodes] at the time.”

He said in a company like that, they don’t tell you you’re doing something wrong; they just neutralize you so you “can no longer blossom as a TV performer. When you know you’re in trouble and you have a little bit of hate, you’ll know it, they don’t have to tell you that, you’ll know it.”

At the end of Janela’s run, he turned on his tag team partner Sonny Kiss and was aligned with a new valet, Kayla Rossi. Janela raved about his feud with Kiss, and he said Cody allowed him to write that whole angle out and it went very well with the two of them having a big blow-off match.

Following the Kiss feud, Tony Khan let Janela know that he would be bringing him back to TV. However, upon his return to TV, there was a mishap in the ring with Eddie Kingston that killed his momentum.

“I kicked him [Eddie Kingston] in the face and there was no firing, a lot of people have that wrong there was no, you’re going to be fired, you’re not going to get your contract renewed. There was just heat on me because he was in a program with Chris Jericho and there was a little bit of heat there and I didn’t want to go through another three years tiptoeing around on a minefield of politics and bullsh–.”

When Janela’s contract expired on May 1, 2022, he chose to take his talents back to the independent scene. Prior to the contract expiring, Janela contacted Sanshiro Takagi, the president of DDT Pro-Wrestling in Japan, and on June 19 it was announced that Janela was heading to DDT in August.

“Takagi from DDT has always been a big fan and always wanted to bring me in so I saw the opportunity. I said, ‘Listen, I’m leaving AEW, my contract’s up in a month or two,’ and he said, ‘All right, let’s go.’”

Janela was now back where it all began — on the indys, “I can give knowledge to some of the younger guys that I wrestle and have knowledge to make myself more valuable on the independents compared to me before AEW.”

He said he is now wrestling every weekend three or four times and having amazing matches. “It’s just fun being back in control of yourself and being motivated. Leaving AEW, got me motivated to get in the best shape again and kill it.”

Janela diving from a ladder in AEW. Credit: AEW

He said he is in better shape now than he was in for 75% of his time in AEW, and he is still motivated to have memorable matches. He spoke about his work in GCW just a few weeks ago. “The [Jersey] J-Cup last weekend, and I was in the ring total for pretty much an hour between three matches and I’m doing the best work of my career.”

Janela represents his “Bad Boy” gimmick and he spoke about his ability to fit into larger companies.

“I’m sure if I went to WWE, in a month or two, they wouldn’t know what to do with me because I would have the proper time to earn my craft there and get promo time and they would groom me to be what they want me to be for them.”

“I definitely can follow directions, but right now it’s not the time for me to sign another contract or do that. Who knows? In six months, I can change my mind, but right now I’m focusing on just having great matches and wrestling all over the world.”

When it comes to choosing where he wants to wrestle, Janela said it is most places he wrestled before he left for AEW. There were a lot of promotions he had very exciting matches for and put his body on the line to grow their fanbase, so he said a lot of these places are happy to have him back.

While being on the indys, Janela said he does not have many goals left besides having great matches. He is more so getting himself ready for his next step, “whether that be full-time in Japan or go back to Orlando and head into the Performance Center, or I can take a whole different direction on the indys these days. I’m rebuilding myself right now to be a better and badder Joey Janela than there was pre-AEW in 2018, 2019.”

Despite, not having a goal on the indys, Janela still has a bigger goal for wrestling in general and that is making it to the WWE.

“I feel like I can make the most out of that opportunity because it’s a different playing field. I’ll have to really watch myself on social media and mature still a lot, even though I have.”

Janela at AAW Legacy. Credit: @cameraguygimmik

“I think WWE is the ultimate goal for any professional wrestler, if it isn’t you’re crazy. WrestleMania is the ultimate goal, so don’t count me out yet, I’m only 33 years old I know I’ll have a chance to somehow work for that company.”

Janela acknowledged that a lot of fans hated him in AEW and they think he has no chance of making the WWE, so he sent a message to those fans. “Well, sit back, I’m going to make a lot of people pissed off in the next couple years. So that’s all that matters, pissing people off. As long as they’re talking about you, whether it’s negative or positive, then you’re doing something right cause they’re talking about you. I’ve managed to say relevant for the last eight years.”

Anytime his name is mentioned in an article or a post, he said it gets a lot of clicks thanks to all of his haters and he’ll only worry when people stop talking. “So, keep on talking sh– about me and if you really hate me, I list all my dates on my Twitter. You can come and stab me at my merch table if you like.”

“I’ll probably survive that; I’ve survived everything else. So, if you stab me, I’ll probably survive that and when I come back from the dead, I’ll be even more over than I was before and then you guys will be really fu—-.”

As Janela embarks on this indy run, he wants to give his fans the best matches possible all over the world — including this Friday, February 24, with C*4 in Ottawa, Ontario, where he faces champion Kevin Blackwood.

“Last year I travelled to more countries than any professional wrestler in the world and any athlete in the world and I expect to do the same thing this year and the year after. And whenever I feel like getting froggy and going somewhere and signing another contract, you best believe I will.”