Exclusive Interview: Johnny Mundo – “You’ve got an independent wrestling scene in the UK that’s hotter than ever”
Johnny Mundo entered the wrestling limelight through WWE’s Tough Enough 15 years ago, and since then has enjoyed a successful career in Wrestling as Johnny Nitro and John Morrison. Now wrestling in Lucha Underground and the independent scene under his current name Johnny Mundo. The widely celebrated villain spoke to us about his various projects and being at a point in his career where he is loving life. One particularly exciting project is as the star of the recent Boone: The Bounty Hunter movie. Johnny gives a great insight into the transition of wrestling to acting in movies.
You’re involved in the 128-man 5 Star Wrestling tournament with 5 Star Wrestling – tell me about what excited you about this concept.
I’ve been a part of 5 Star Wrestling since the promotion began – I’ve been in every show they’ve done and I like big ideas. This tournament is a little bit crazy. It’s very ambitious. It’s the biggest tournament in wrestling history on live TV. What excites me about it is, yes it’s crazy but, I think that anybody who has ever won big has had an idea that a lot of people haven’t believed in and, we’re starting June 10th, in Liverpool. And I’m going to get a chance to wrestle people from all over the world – some people I’ve wrestled before and had some of my best matches with.
The likes of Rey Mysterio, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin and Rob van Dam, and some new wrestlers as well that I haven’t had the time to work with – El Ligero, Zack Gibson, and Joe Coffey. One of the cool things about wrestling in this day and age is that everything is accepted. Wrestling is viewed as an art now more than ever, and the crowds in the UK are some of the hottest in the world. And this 5 Star Wrestling tournament is going to be the cream of the crop. The best of the business.
Why do you think there is this sudden growth of wrestling in the UK?
I think that one thing that makes wrestling different from film and TV, is that the crowd is part of the show – the crowd is a character. The crowds in the UK have such a personality – they have all of the soccer chants and they become such a big part of the show and it adds a cool factor to wrestling in the UK. Add that to the fact that I think a lot of people are getting a bit tired of the wrestling they are watching on TV, and are looking for alternatives, because wrestling fans are fans of Pro Wrestling. And if WWE seems like it’s getting stale, a lot of those people have to turn elsewhere for good wrestling. Those two things combined, and you’ve got an independent wrestling scene in the UK that’s hotter than ever.
How is your relationship with WWE, and how likely are we to see you return to the company?
Well, right now I’m under contract with Lucha Underground. And I’m really happy with Lucha Underground. In my opinion it has the best wrestling on TV currently. Rey Mysterio, Fenix, Pentagon Jr, Son of Havoc, Angelico, PJ Black, Taya, Dragon Azteca, Brian Cage – the roster of Lucha Underground – the product – the polished one hour TV show is really cool for me. And it’s in Los Angeles, where I live, we’re shooting three of four months, and then taking time off during which I can do things like make movies, like with Bounty Hunter, and wrestle for promotions like Five Star Wrestling. So, right now I’m really happy with where I’m at. Will I go back to WWE? I don’t know. It’s what I grew up on and I always dreamt of headlining a Wrestlemania, and it’s one of the few things that I haven’t achieved that I dreamed of as a kid. Never say never in Wrestling.
What was it like transitioning from wrestling to acting in movies?
There’s a learning curve, for sure. Acting for film is more nuanced than Professional Wrestling. I had to learn to tone down my reactions. In acting for TV and film, a lot of the time you have to think big, but don’t react big because the camera is so close and takes everything. A lot can be told by just your eyes. In Pro Wrestling, you’ve got to be a lot bigger, because it’s ultimately the crowd that you’re working for. Even if it’s a TV taping, the crowd is a part of the show. In addition, the stunt fighting and choreography is very similar and very different. In wrestling, you’re doing one take of everything and making contact, because there’s no camera angles – you have to learn the difference between a stunt punch, a wrestling punch, and to really be good at stunt fighting, the difference between a boxing style punch, a kung-fu style punch, a taekwondo style punch. There’s a million different ways to throw a punch. In pro wrestling, you are creating your own character – all the coolest things you’ve seen and your best attributes are what you do. And you refine that over time, and it becomes, for me, Johnny Mundo. And for El Ligero it becomes El Ligero. But you step into the world of film and TV, and the character could be fighting as Hercules, the Eternal Warrior, or an android. So, you have to learn a different movement style, quickly.
Do you think it lends itself well, being able to get a crowd of 50,000 people pumped, to go and be entertaining in a movie?
Absolutely. All entertainment boils down to one thing – promotion. Whether it’s film, TV, wrestling, theatre, rock concerts, the reason someone watches is to feel something. Pro wrestling does that – the whole point is to make a crowd feel something. So ultimately, entertainers in general are linked by that common thread. Entertainment is story-telling and making people feel. The method of storytelling or types of emotions you are trying to make people feel or the colours of paint you are painting with are different from medium to medium, but there’s a central link between all entertainers.
Where does your priority lie – acting or wrestling?
I don’t think you have to pick one or the other. That’s one of the good things about doing what I’m doing now. I’m shooting a really cool project for Bat in the Sun, for Valiant, where I’m playing one of their characters called the Eternal Warrior. This weekend I’m wrestling, and then next weekend I’m doing more with Valiant and then that weekend I’m wrestling again. I’ve got a really good balance right now with both, and sometimes I end up doing more TV or film acting and sometimes I end up doing more wrestling.
What’s it like for an American wrestler transitioning into working in Mexico?
There’s a couple of differences, and some of them I really liked. The crowds in Mexico get angrier than they did with WWE. I’d regularly get stuff thrown at me like bottles of water and trash. It’s kind of cool. It’s also a really built-in character I’m doing out there. I’m currently the absolute champion of AAA. So being an American, and cheating to keep all the titles, you can understand why the crowd is upset. But as far as the culture of the locker room, I felt really welcomed down there. Even if I can’t communicate very well with some of the wrestlers, because my Spanish is limited. Wrestling locker rooms are globally pretty similar and pretty accepting, as long as you show up and you’re there to work, and you’re respectful. I’ve never been anywhere that’s tough to deal with in that regard. There’s a lot of finishing the show in Mexico and having a shot of tequila, and a lot of the time there’s no water backstage, just beer. But that’s what makes the experience cool, and traveling cool.
You can follow Johnny on Twitter @TheRealMorrison
And check out Boone: The Bounty Hunter, making sure to #GetBooned