I recently had the opportunity to interview Nick Aldis, better known to fans of TNA Impact Wrestling as Magnus, for the Mirror.co.uk.
The British grappler, who fans on this side of the Atlantic will also recognise as former Gladiator Oblivion from Sky1′s re-imagining of the popular ITV show, has quickly ascended the ranks of the US wrestling company to become one of the promotion’s top names. What’s more, he’s done it all at the young age of just 26.
It’s not the first time I’ve spoken about Magnus – I recently explored his appeal and rising fortunes in Rule Britannia: Why Magnus is destined to be TNA’s next breakout star. Now, in this in-depth exclusive interview, I find out from the man himself what it feels like to receive glowing endorsements from industry legends Hulk Hogan and Sting, where he sees his career heading, his relationship with company owner Dixie Carter, and just why TNA is proving to be so popular here in the United Kingdom. Read it below.
Nick ‘Magnus’ Aldis is currently a long way from his hometown of King’s Lynn.
After a varied first few years in the US promotion, which saw the charismatic Brit debut as a stoic gladiator before quickly becoming part of the British Invasion faction, Magnus is now establishing himself in TNA’s upper echelon – first by joining the elite Main Event Mafia group alongside ring legends Sting and Kurt Angle and, more recently, making it to the final two competitors in the 2013 Bound For Glory Series.
Just days after his defeat at the hands of series winner AJ Styles in the main event of No Surrender, Magnus reflected on his career to date, his loss to Styles, and how it feels to be named “the future” of TNA by some heavyweight grappling greats.
How did it feel to come so close to getting your first World title opportunity after making it all the way to the finals of this year’s Bound For Glory Series?
I think more than anything I was relieved that I was finally able to prove myself in the main event. Having already wrestled once that night, I had a back and forth match with an established great wrestler in Bobby Roode and was then able to come back out and get such a great ovation from the crowd in St. Louis, which meant being able to really have a killer atmosphere in that building for everything AJ and I did.
In wrestling we use the phrase “we got ‘em”, meaning we had the people with us every step of the way. For me, being the youngest guy in the Series, not being American, and getting the response I got, it meant that I deserved the spot and proved that I belonged.
As far as getting ‘this close’, that match has put me right where I need to be. Trust me.
AJ Styles is now set to face Bully Ray in the main event of Bound For Glory. What are your thoughts on both men as competitors, and who do you believe will walk away with the gold?
Bully Ray has extended his real personality into his character and really done a great job at reinventing his persona. He’s transitioned into singles competition from being predominantly a tag team guy, and has become a red hot bad guy.
AJ is the franchise of TNA. He’s been there from day one, he’s the most talented in-ring performer of his generation and he has a huge fan base. His character has really taken a new shift and exploration this year, and I feel like the journey will culminate in him winning the title. But anything can happen.
What’s it like to receive such glowing praise from the likes of Sting, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle and Dixie Carter?
I looked up to Kurt in particular when I decided to be a pro wrestler, and Sting and Hulk Hogan are both characters that captured my imaginations as a kid, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be working alongside them by the time I made it to a high enough level.
I always dreamed of wrestling Kurt Angle, but even that was a pipe dream. So the fact that I’ve wrestled Sting and Kurt and appeared with Hulk is still surreal to me and means so much. But then to hear them publicly endorse me is one of the most gratifying feelings I have ever had.
Sting was the first major name to speak up for me, and Kurt has been a supporter of mine for a long time. He’s a wonderful guy and I am so appreciative of all he has done for me and the business.
Dixie saw something in me before anyone else, so in terms of how things are going for me now, I’m proud of myself and forever grateful for her for her support. I was determined not to let her down.
Anytime someone takes a chance with me, I will do my absolute best to return on that faith. It was the same thing when Richard Woolfe [the former head of Sky 1] saw something in me for Gladiators that the other producers did not. And it will be the same for anyone else that sees something in me: I’ll deliver.
How did you first get interested in wrestling? And, growing up in Norfolk, did you ever imagine that one day you would be a major star in an American wrestling company?
I imagined it every day from about the age of 12! I would stay up late, set my alarm so I could see it live, go to a friend’s house when we didn’t have satellite TV.
I knew deep down I was visualising myself being a pro wrestler. I kept it to myself for a long time, but when I heard about Ricky Knight’s training camp in Norwich I was sure I was going no matter what.
You made your professional debut in 2005 against Doug Williams, who you later teamed with in TNA as part of the British Invasion. What was it like to work alongside Doug?
I actually had a few tag matches and battle royals before the match with Doug but he was my first pro singles match.
Doug would occasionally help out training at Dropkixx academy in Purfleet, and one day he took a session and I guess he was impressed enough with my ability and physical look that he recommended me to Premier Promotions in Worthing.
We did 2 out of 3 falls in rounds, traditional British style, and he took care of me. I looked up to him because he was travelling the world, especially Japan, and gaining worldwide recognition.
It was a strange feeling of things coming full circle when he showed up in Orlando to be my tag team partner. I owe him so much. I was so green then, and he really handled the matches so I could learn through osmosis, but I think I carried my end in terms of the entertainment side.
You really grabbed the attention of many TNA fans with your impassioned ‘This is England’ speech at Wembley Arena. At the time, did you know that would be a pivotal turning point in your career? And were you surprised how well you and Samoa Joe clicked as an ‘odd couple’ tag team?
Joe and I were thrown together by Vince Russo because according to him ‘we were both always p*ssed off, so we could be p*ssed off together.’
We knew that the original plan was for he and I to team for a few weeks then have a short feud. But I am a huge fan of Joe, so I immediately got excited about how to mix our moves together into tag team combos, which was a fast way to grab people’s attention.
We had good chemistry as I had been studying Joe for ages – I always wanted to work with him because he’s awesome. He has the best arsenal in the game and a unique charisma: there’s something very real about him, because he knows exactly how good and how popular he is, it’s also why he’s so respected in the locker room.
When I got to share that spotlight with him, it brought out a new level of confidence in me, and Joe let me take it on and treated me as an equal, which was huge for me.
My favourite guys to work with are Joe, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Bobby Roode, and a big reason for that is that they respect me and give me opportunities to be an equal, even though they are all way more experienced than me. They work WITH me, not against me. That’s why they’re the best, they look at it as a two-way street, not just what’s best for them.
As for the ‘This is England’ promo, it was a line I had in my back pocket for a long time, and hoped that I would get a chance to bust it out. At the time, Joe and I were transitioning into strong babyfaces, so the timing was right.
Plus, I knew that it would be big, and I needed to prove to certain people in the office that I could get it done on the microphone. I didn’t know for sure it would be a milestone, but I certainly visualised it that way.
You recently became a member of the Main Event Mafia. Were you surprised to be invited to join the group?
I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive, because I didn’t know how the people would react to it. I’ve never been World champion, and I was obviously the youngest and least experienced.
But I had a chance to think about it and talk about it to people I respect and look up to like Joe, Kurt and some of my other peers, and the opinion was universally positive. Then I realised it was art imitating life. Sting, Kurt and Joe have publicly endorsed me off-camera, so it had credibility for me to join MEM.
Kevin Nash is someone I looked up to and got a lot of advice from when he was here, and he endorsed the decision too, which meant a lot to me. Kevin is one of the smartest guys in the business, and his knowledge should really be being utilised in a more practical way.
Will the UK continue to be an important growth market for the company, and where do you see TNA being in five years’ time?
The UK is our strongest growth market, for a number of reasons. If I have had a small part to play in that then I feel proud of that.
Expect to see an even more regular and credible presence in the UK both in the media and in the live events market. I believe the company is now focusing on [its] strengths.
As far as five years from now? That may be a little hard to predict, I’m not really qualified to make a prediction that long-term. But I think this year’s UK tour will be a highlight of TNA’s entire history.
Now that the Bound For Glory Series is behind you, what’s next for Magnus – and Nick Aldis?
I have some ideas, and hopes for where things are going. I am excited about where my character is right now. The match with AJ was my next milestone moment. I proved I could handle the main event, and it’s addictive. You want to get that feeling over and over again. There’s nothing better than being in a match that has that ‘big main event’ feel.
I watched the bout back when I got home and heard Mike Tenay and Taz call the match and I got goosebumps, because I knew they were into it too. I can’t wait to see how I can capitalise on that.
As for Nick Aldis, I just shot my second series of UK’s Strongest Man as the host, which was fun and challenging. I love hosting, and I hope I get to do some more. I’m working with some contacts in production on some other TV projects as a producer that I hope will lead somewhere.
I’m also taking acting classes, meeting with agents in LA and looking into some opportunities in that area. I also hope to explore some more opportunities in writing.
But my wrestling career is my life right now. I love this industry, I’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m so ready to get to work on the next phase. I’m not a ‘rassler’. I’m in the entertainment business, and I love it.