Hooked On Wrestling had the opportunity to catch up with Impact Wrestling X-Division champion Willie Mack recently.
Below is the transcript from an enjoyable and candid chat with one of the few people who can say they won a major wrestling championship during a pandemic..!
If you wish to use these quotes, please credit Impact Wrestling and hookedonsport.com.
With a career spanning almost 15 years and a title reign for every one of those years, how does it feel to now be the X-Division champion?
It feels great. Especially when it’s a championship like the X-Division title. It’s the thing that pretty much brought everyone to watch Impact back in the day. The heavyweights were awesome and there were a lot of other really great things, but everyone remembers the X-Division.
Considering the list of top names who have held that title over the years, do you feel extra pressure now as its champion?
Well, I’m now on the same list as AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Jerry Lynn, Petey Williams… even Kurt Angle held this title once. Now, I’ve gotta keep it rolling and show the world it wasn’t a fluke.
What made you choose Impact Wrestling?
I’ve wanted to be here since I watched it as a kid. There were three things that made me want to compete for TNA, as it used to be called: the six-sided ring, which ain’t here no more; the fact they had the best roster in the world and the X-Division. So, I got two out of three. And I get to tag with one of my best friends!
Who has been your favourite opponent there so far?
So far? I guess The North, maybe.
What do you still hope to achieve at Impact?
I’m just gonna keep having fun and make sure everybody out there is enjoying matches. And I’m gonna help show the world that Impact is still one of the best rosters out there. Everybody looks like they belong, here in Impact.
Who do you think has the best chance of pushing you to your limits as X-Division champion?
To be honest, for how stacked our roster is, anybody could. I couldn’t honestly pick just one. But there are plenty of people here I haven’t wrestled yet, even though I’ve been here almost two years. So, I’m sure there are some new opponents waiting for me that will test me a little bit.
One match of yours so far that stood out to me was against Rob Van Dam last year. That was an intense match.
Oh, yeah. I hurt my shoulder in that match. If you watch it back and see I’m moving kinda slow, it’s because I hurt my shoulder and one of my ribs popped. It was when he did a dive to the outside. I heard my stuff go -click click- and I was like, argh! I wasn’t going to stop the show for anything, though, so I finished the match, got to the back, iced up, took a deep breath and popped it back.
Your X title win came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did the lack of fans for your big moment affect how it felt to you?
It did kinda suck that we’re doing all this crazy stuff and all we have to look at is the camera crew and ring announcer. But I knew the fans watching at home would be going crazy for it. And, no matter how it came off on TV, I know I’ll be one of a select few champions who won their title during a pandemic!
What kind of atmosphere are you expecting when fans are finally allowed back into arenas for shows?
It’ll probably be a bit hectic at first. People will still be a little nervous about the virus and there probably won’t be a lot of people let in, because it’ll be a slow and gradual return to normal. But anybody who is there I think will be really grateful to just be watching live shows again and will make a lot of noise for everything. It’ll be great to hear that crowd again instead of just [silent pause, followed by laughter]. There’ll be a lot of emotion, because they’ve been so deprived of what they love. And it’ll be the same at the first few concerts etc that people go to.
Who did you grow up watching? And who was your favourite wrestler as a kid?
The usual suspects. Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Bret Hart, Stone Cold. All of the attitude era stuff was great, so I watched everything I could back then.
Was there a particular moment watching all of this that you knew you wanted to become a wrestler?
I think it was Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon in their first ladder match. It was an awesome match, they looked like they were loving what they do, the fans were having so much fun and I assumed they were making nice money doing it, so I decided I wanted to give it a go.
In recent years, fans’ chants have become more creative and sometimes a bit weird. What’s the strangest chant you’ve heard while in the ring?
I was in Australia with Lucha Vavoom, and working with a guy called Dirty Sanchez. The fans did a soccer hooligan chant of [sings] “He sh-ts where he wants, he sh-ts where he wants, oh Dirty Sanchez, he sh-ts where he wants!” I was like: what!?
When things like that happen, do you find it difficult to conceal your smile?
I don’t even try to hide it! When something’s funny as hell, I’ll laugh and make sure they know it’s funny!
Who’d be your all-time dream opponent?
All-time? 2 Cold Scorpio. Him, or Norman Smiley. Both of them were awesome, plus when it comes to Smiley, there’d be another reason I’d want to face him. I have a championship list I want to complete. I’ve faced a champion of every title of every major company you can think of. WWE, WCW, ECW, New Japan, AAA… the last belt I need to tick off is the WCW Hardcore title. I’ve never wrestled someone who was a WCW Hardcore champion. The TV title and cruiserweight title from WCW were also still on that list, but I ticked them off recently when I wrestled Disco Inferno.
Fans in the UK can watch IMPACT Wrestling every Wednesday night at 9pm on Fight Network UK on Sky Channel 192