Matt Morgan interview


Matt Morgan Interview

By Michael Hess

The enormous and charismatic wrestler Matt Morgan joined the ranks of Wolf, Justice and the other Gladiators from American Gladiators on Monday July 21, 2008. Morgan’s character is The Beast, something he claims isn’t too much of a stretch for him. We sat down with Matt and asked him about the road to Gladiators, the difference behind the scenes at WWE and TNA and a bunch of other stuff. See for yourself.

UGO: Let’s talk about American Gladiators and why you got involved, and what you’re excited for.

Matt Morgan:American Gladiators, the real thing about that is it’s just an opportunity to prove what makes me not just a 7-foot, 300lb muscle-head, the stereotype that most guys like me usually get. And prove that I’m not just a professional wrestler, but also one of the world’s greatest athletes. It sounds arrogant to say that but I bust my tail. And American Gladiators is the best test to prove that in a night-in and night-out basis. Especially to squash these kids who think they have a shot in hell of making me break a sweat, let alone break a bone. They have no shot in hell. There is nothing, nothing better than to prove them wrong on a very simple basis. When the show comes, you’ll see The Beast lowered down. You’ll see what I’m talking about. The character they have me playing, it’s really just an extension of Matt Morgan to begin with. It’s really not that far off to be this Beast character.

UGO: What events are you most excited to do, and what events are you a leery about?

Matt Morgan: Ha. This is funny. I am not leery of really any event. And this may sound like an oxymoron but as tall and big as I am, I’m not exactly ecstatic about heights. Go figure that.

UGO: Me too. But I’m not 7 feet.

Matt Morgan:My first event was the Joust. And when you’re on that joust-pad, you’re ten feet above the water. TV does not do the event justice of how small that pad is. It also doesn’t show how high above the water you really are. Once you’re up there and you look down, it’s not exactly an easy fall. So, with or without me being comfortable in my abilities, I am still not comfortable being up there.

So the way I looked at it was that I need to knock this dude’s head off even quicker, because I’m not giving him even a glitch, not a glimmer of opportunity to knock me into this water…it’s not gonna happen. So the poor kid has to deal with that. There is no way The Beast is going to allow himself to fall into that water.

This sounds weird, but it’s also my favorite game. The more I did the Joust, the more I became comfortable with it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I became very good at the joust. I also did very well at The Pyramid. I love The Pyramid.

I also love Powerball, too. Any guy that sits there at home and says, ‘Oh, I could do that, I could tackle these little guys too.’ I’ll tell you, those contestants, they’re there for a reason. Not all of them are world-class athletes, but some of them are, and you can tell which ones are and which ones aren’t. And some of them are faster than lighting. But once you do grab them, it’s lights out.

I can’t tell you the pain I caused on Pyramid. I must’ve had at least nine belly-to-back suplexes on one of these kids in a 30 second span.

UGO: That’s good practice. Speaking of that, as an athlete, how do you prepare differently for say, a TNA show, and then something like Gladiators?

Matt Morgan:

Good question. You’re the first one to actually delve into that. You’d think that it would be different, and it somewhat is. As a pro-wrestler, not many of us do plyometrics. A lot of guy lift-weights and do cardio but that’s about it. But because I played football in college, I still do plyometrics three days a week at six in the morning before I even go in and lift. And thank God I had that exercise program going because it brought me right into Gladiators, and it was very easy to transition into. I’m 330 pounds, and my strength is my agility. And it really got me prepared for Gladiators. I turned it up to level 10.

UGO:I’m going to stick with wrestling here for a second. What’s the difference in the environment behind the scenes between the WWE and TNA?

Matt Morgan: I will say that I had a good time at WWE, and that’s not just kissing-ass and being PC like a lot of other guys do. I was born wiht a silver spoon in my mouth at the infancy of my career. I had a great opportunity there to get paid to learn how to wrestle. You can’t beat that if you’re green to the business. ANd that’s why I am where I am right because of the top notch training I did get from day one. But backstage with them, it’s a walk-on-eggshell type situation. Not everyone might feel that way, like the older guys who know how the machine works. I get that respect factor, about how you should be very honored to work there. I get that. But at the same time, how am I supposed to go to the ring and get myself over, let alone my opponent, when I’m that nervous? You’re paranoid and walking on eggshells because you’re worried about someone stabbing you in the back all day. You’re not gonna get over. And I think that’s a big problem with a lot of the young guys these days; they’re being brought up so fast, they’re too green to be up there. They’re getting thrown right into the frying pan, not even just the wrestling ring but also the backstage politics of it all. They don’t know how to defend themselves the correct way. There are times you’ve got to stand up for yourself, and there are times you’ve got to let things slide. And you have to differentiate on those battles.

Some are tests from the veterans to see if you should be in this business, and I get that. You should be honored to be part of their company. But at the same time, you can’t expect that guy to go and get himself over if he’s worried about someone backstage stabbing him in the back while they’re watching him on the monitor and trying to perform.

At TNA, it’s night-and-day different. As soon as I got there, I got what they were trying to do. And it sounds hokey, but it really is a big family atmosphere. Everybody watches everybody’s matches. So did everyone in the WWE, I have to say. Everyone will come up to you, from the ticket guys and bookers, to the Kurt Angles, and Stings especially, and Nash too. Those guys will never stop helping me. If it’s over a promo, or my entrance, anything you could fathom in the business, they try to teach me and coach me without being overbearing about it.

Nash will pull me aside and say, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ Kurt will text me back and forth little idiosyncrasies that might help my character. And little things like this, you can’t put a price on. And that’s why, in my opinion, it’s the happiest locker room in the world. Nobody is sitting there sweating their job all the time for all the wrong reasons. All those guys – Jeff Jarret, Dixie Carter, Vince Russo, Dutch, Pat Kennedy, BJ James, the list goes on and on- live, die, eat, sleep TNA wrestling. And it shows when they’re trying to help you with this opportunity of a lifetime.

Even when I was starting with Gladiators in California, I was ready to start shooting and lo-and-behold they tried to put something in my contract that I didn’t agree with, and I almost had to bow out because it would’ve affected my wrestling career. And wrestling will always come first with me. I didn’t burn any bridges, but I had to do what’s right. And wrestling puts food on my table at night.

Dixie Carter went to bat for me. She hired a lawyer I couldn’t afford. And this guy went and got my contract redone so I could do Gladiators and wrestling, and both sides could be happy with the agreement. And it’s worked perfectly. And that’s a situation where if I was still in WWE I don’t think it would’ve happened. I don’t see them allowing me the opportunity to go do movies or TV shows, especially American Gladiators. I just don’t think they would let a guy on my level go ahead and do that. I know they wouldn’t. Whereas TNA says ‘Go! And make sure if you go there, you crush bones!’ They could not be any prouder and I couldn’t be happier with them for letting me have the opportunity.

UGO: Backing up a little: Your first match in the WWE was with Kurt Angle, right?

Matt Morgan: Yeah, it was supposed to be a four on two, setting up a Survivor Series. Kurt was the very first person I’ve physically punched and kicked in a wrestling match ever in the WWE. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how cool, calm and collected he was in that ring. Kurt and Chris Benoit both had, historically, broken necks, and they would still let me power-bomb the crap out of them. They didn’t just worry about their own stuff, they helped me over in the process and that’s what a main-eventer does.

UGO: So let’s talk about Gladiators. This is going to expose a new audience to you, and potentially TNA. Do you have a larger Hollywood game plan, or is this it, and it’s wrestling 24/7 for you?

Matt Morgan: Wrestling is always going to come first. But I’m still young, so if I were on the backside of my career I would definitely entertain the Hollywood idea a lot more. But I’m also not stupid enough to not listen to offers, and do auditions where I could succeed and act in.

In my opinion I always thought wrestlers are the best actors to do action films. You have a guy who is a stuntman and can usually act in the same body. In my opinion the average wrestler would be better at an action movie than the average actor. It’s more believable. Take Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Yeah, kick-ass character, but can you imagine if you had The Rock playing that role? Who would you believe more? I’d get behind Dwayne Johnson. Come on, we know what Willis looks like, and we know he’s balding and old. I think a lot of guys would be better at it.

I’m out here in California right now, and I’m going to the Affliction pay-per-view on Saturday. A few of us from American Gladiators got invited to go out and see it. And there are a lot of opportunities like that, as well as with TNA. I want to keep these avenues open. I will read scripts for movies and for TV. It just will not get in the way of wrestling. I never thought I would need a PR rep and an agent. Pro wrestlers usually don’t have agents. I’ve only been doing this for seven years, and it’s been a blessing. I’m lucky to have these people working for me.

It’s sort of about how good you are, but it’s also about where you are and who you know and the timing of these events. And Gladiators is a great example of that.

UGO: OK, a few more quick questions. Is there a wrestler you model yourself after, like, ‘That’s the guy I want to be.’?

Matt Morgan: Honestly, the ‘It’ guy as far as in-ring-ability, and athleticism and putting the whole package together, dominating and still moving around the ring, is definitely The Undertaker. Nash also has great promos and facials. Very calm, cool, and collected. He doesn’t sweat anything. And when he does scream, he means it. He’s very cognizant of when he speaks and his voice inflection. I sometimes yell too much. But Nash is very good at controlling that.

But in the ring, The Undertaker is just a God. I’ve watched tapes and tapes and tapes of him and Kane when they were younger, and I’ve seen the evolution of their careers. He is the best big man in the history of our business. He’s flawless. There’s no hole in his game.

UGO: Last one, what can people expect from you on American Gladiators? And as a 7-ft athlete, how do you not destroy these people? Are you holding back?

Matt Morgan: I will say this: I do make it entertaining. But at the same time, producers aren’t coming up to me and asking me to let somebody win. They love it. They love my intensity. There are times before an event where I’m smashing my helmet against the bathroom stall, getting myself ready to go kill people and the producers can hear it through my microphones ,and they’re just laughing. As soon as the camera comes on, The Beast comes to life. I do kill them. I do wrestling moves. I powerbomb kids. I did a left-handed choke slam from the top of The Pyramid on one contestant. You’ll see it. It’s the funniest thing you’ll ever see. I had the green light to destroy and talk smack while I was doing it. Certain contestants where bigger than others and would talk smack back to gladiators, and we would all get pumped up for it.

The best part of the show, though, is that they do not let the gladiators see the contestants at all before the show. They even have to escort the contestants to the bathrooms. Everyone in America gets to see the look on these people’s faces when they look up that pyramid and see Justice and The Beast for the first time. You’ll see the eyes fall out of their heads. It was fantastic. That unveiling, it truly is the first time they’re seeing us.

I am going to prove what makes me the most genetically jacked, athletically stacked Gladiator. I am the biggest physical specimen in the history show. You’ll see.