I had the absolute pleasure of holding a two-hour conversation with Damian O’Connor, a mainstay at Scotland’s ICW and Coach at the SOURCE Wrestling School.
Here’s Part 1 of my ‘Unbelievable’ conversation with Big Damo, as he talks about Sting, Vader, Mark Henry and perfectionism in wrestling!
HARI: Are you all right to start off with some serious questions?
DAMO: Oh I don’t know, depends how serious we’re talking here.
HARI: What’s your favourite RKO vine you’ve seen so far?
DAMO: God, I’ve actually enjoyed that quite a lot. What was it, there was a little child falling over, Orton and Austin double-teamed him, one did the stunner one did the RKO.
The only thing is it’s getting a little bit out of hand right now, there’s a Rey Mysterio one, a Shawn Michaels one, it’s now starting to drag. I wish they would’ve kept it to just RKOs.
HARI: Growing up, you watched a WCW event live in Belfast. Do you remember the card?
DAMO: I don’t remember too much about it at the time, but I’ve looked back since. I was a big fan of Sting you see, as a kid, he was the number one babyface really. I had my fucking Sting hair cut and all that stuff.
I can tell you who was on it – Kevin Nash as Oz, Barry Windham, Paul Orndorff, there was Flair, as far as I know Steve Austin was there as well, it was an amazing card but the matches were really strangely put together.
HARI: Is the fan in you excited about possibly seeing Sting in a WWE ring?
For a fella like himself, who’s had such a long career, an unbelievable talent through the 90s and 2000s, for nostalgia reasons I’d love to see him compete again. Obviously as he’s fit for it. As a child in Ireland, he was one of the first heroes I ever had, before Hogan and anyone.
But you fall away from your childhood heroes as you get older.
HARI: I heard Vader was an influence later? Especially when getting more influenced by Japanese wrestling.
DAMO: It was actually in the late 90s that I really liked Vader. I believed everything he did was real.
HARI: Is that because often it was?
DAMO: I’d imagine there was an element of it, but it was more his facials and the way he moved around the ring like. A lot of people judge everything by the strike itself, but for me it’s the set up to the strike, the action after it, the sell from the guy who gets hit, especially if it’s two guys out there who don’t touch each other and it looks unbelievable. It looks fantastic and it looks realistic.
For me, it was Vader’s facials as he was hitting, not the strike itself. Sometimes for people, the harder you hit, the worse it looks. It just depends, there’s no real rule of thumb when it comes to bad strikes.
But Vader, he became an influence very late on as I got older. Him and Bam Bam Bigelow like. You’d watch either of them wrestle and you’d be mesmerised, they were lads that could move.
By that point I was a pretty small fella, well I was tall but I didn’t have much girth. I was a middle distance runner, I ran as a hobby and competitively. So when I was maybe 15/16 I was a very skinny fella and I’d just enjoy these fellas wrestling like “HA, that’s so unlike me.”
It’s amazing to think now “How did I get there?” but it’s amazing that I enjoyed them so much back then. It wasn’t just them, Earthquake was unbelievable for different reasons, also Big Show and Mark Henry. Mark Henry’s one of those that for the last 10/15 years, he’s seemed to get better and better and better.
He’s become kind of an inspiration for me because he’s one of the best powerlifers that’s ever existed. He held an amazing record that’s only been beaten this year. He held it for nearly 18 years, the collegiate powerlifting record. That man is an inspiration because at the end of the day, he was 17/18 years old and to lift that is just unbelievable discipline and obviously he’s still one hell of a strong man.
When I actually watch him wrestle now, I think he’s a massive asset in WWE.
HARI: Can we see you take fashion inspiration and dress in a salmon coloured suit soon?
DAMO: Haha, salmon-coloured suit. Ehh, I dunno about that. I think I’ll leave that for the Joe Hendrys of this world.
HARI: What were your thoughts on one of the greatest promos, with his retirement and the build to Henry vs. Cena at MITB last year?
DAMO: It was excellent. That’s one of the things. If a guy like that wasn’t well-known for being a promo guy, he was more well-known for size and shape and figure, but when he put that emotion in, people in that audience were genuinely upset.
I remember like, everyone was live-tweeting and whatever else, feeling gutted and he fucking pulled the swerve on all of us. It was excellent, but that’s what wrestling is all about.
WWE are in a position where they’ve done so much, so many angles, for them to continually keep us going it’s amazing. If we can get excited about a WWE angle, it shows that they’re doing something right.
HARI: One thing everyone, wrestler or fan, should do is go read your blog on Perfectionism. A quote I loved from that was:
“I’ll teach the audience it’s okay to enjoy yourself and make noise”
which is just damn poetic. What I didn’t really understand was how abouts a wrestler could criticise another for striving for perfection, or what his take was against you? Could you explain that?
DAMO: One of the main problems when you go into a foreign locker room, or maybe a training school where there’s older guys who maybe have a specific mindset, and a particular worker says “Oh, you’re quite a perfectionist” after the match.
This is the thing, I don’t even think I was being overly critical, I was just trying to explain why you do certain things in certain ways; and he says “oh you’re quite a perfectionist”, and it really struck a chord with me because although he didn’t do it as a jibe…
HARI: He was essentially saying don’t take it so seriously?
DAMO: Well that’s it, that’s exactly it. At the end of the day, if we don’t take this seriously, then we’re conning people out of money. Everybody doesn’t have to put on 5 Star matches because that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to put on a show from top-to-bottom where you build people up, and take them down, and have them ready for the main event.
In that particular show, we were the main event and in my particular view, which I will believe until I’m done wrestling, I believe especially for the main event we need to go out and give them what they’ve paid for. We’re having to follow a show that had a few matches that weren’t great and you need to make sure you go out there and you’re giving them something.
I’m not asking people to land in awkward ways or hurt themselves, a lot of the things I do hurts me more than the other person, so I don’t expect someone to go up to me and say “you’re taking this too seriously, you’re trying to be a perfectionist because I don’t see myself as a perfectionist.
I reckon if I saw myself that way, I’d do it very differently. I just believe we have to give them [the audience] everything we can for a main event match.
By all means go for perfection, because it means you put your all into your matches. I think a lot of people don’t realise this is my full time job, and for that particular person it was a hobby who wanted it to be more. This was a fella who asked me multiple times how do I get booked more and it’s simple: you have to be able to provide promoters with something different than what they already have.
For my opinion, anytime I’ve ever booked a show and I’ve approached workers, I’ve approached those who do a good job that I like. Recently I approached Joe Coffey and Mikey Whiplash for SWA and they made me look like a better booker than I am because I’m a terrible booker. I call myself a practical booker, not a particularly good one. The two lads were so good at what they did, the match itself was 20 minutes in a cage and it was fine, no need for bladejobs or anything like that. It was the perfect end for Mikey Whiplash’s two-year long reign and it was the perfect start of Joe Coffey’s.
That was the thing I was trying to say, those lads take it seriously and there’s a reason why they’re on every single one of my shows because I trust them and I know they’ll put on an excellent match. They won’t go out there to try and kill each other, that’s the last thing I want. But they’ll give it there all. They treat the match how it needs to be treated and treat the fans with respect and give them what’s worth their money.
At the end of the day, we’ve just come out of a recession. If I’m going to do this I’m going to take it as seriously as I can. I’m not asking someone to recite the alphabet back to me as we’re planning a match, all I’m asking for is to put their effort where it’s needed. Go that extra mile, especially if you’re a main event.
HARI: Just to clarify, was this the person who was in the main event with you, or on the card before your match?
DAMO: He was on the main event with me. I don’t think he said it with any malice, but I half wanted to turn around and say “maybe that’s why you’re not getting booked anywhere.”
It gave me something to think about, but that’s the problem with my blogs. There’s a lot I think about wrestling but it’s not what I want to put out to the public, the two I did with WrestleRopes were a lot of fun.
The thing is, I’m not actually that happy with the article.
HARI: That’s amazing, you didn’t think your post on perfectionism was good enough?
DAMO: Yeah I was just happy enough to put it out there as I’d laboured enough on it and I felt if I didn’t send it there and then, I’d never send it!
End of Part 1 of my conversation with Damian O’Connor, stay tuned for Part 2 where we talk the best in British Wrestling, his training school and more.
For more from Big Damo, follow him on Twitter @BigBeardDamo
For more from Hari, follow me on Twitter @HotChocHari and check out http://www.hariramakrishnan.com