Former TNA wrestler Samuel Shaw recently took some time to participate in an interview. Shaw reveals his work with Gunner, training under Curtis Hughes and the WWA4 Wrestling School and what he believes the benefits of either the Gut Check Challenge or Tough Enough. Check out the complete interview below.
Describe your training under Curtis Hughes & WWA4 Wrestling School
“Curtis Hughes was an excellent in ring trainer, who taught me the fundamentals. He taught me all the moves, how to bump, how to run the ropes correctly, just the repetition each and every day and doing all that and coinciding with getting into ring shape, I thought he was an excellent trainer as far as that was concerned. As far as the character and reasons why we do certain things in the ring, I think that there was some things left to be desired. I really didn’t know why I was doing certain moves, why I was selling at certain points and why this was at a certain point in a match. Why was I doing certain things? But as far as fundamentals, he was tremendous and one of the things he really taught me was to just to feel it out in the ring. For instance, my first professional match was against him and he basically got dressed in a separate locker room and he told me he’d see me out in the ring. Basically, I just listened to him during the match and it was one of the most fun things I ever did. I was very nervous but just listening to him it gave me that confidence.
My time with ROH was a little before my time signing with TNA, that was in 2012. I had long hair and people didn’t even recognize me that’s a very little known thing, that I actually did that. I loved working with Ring of Honor and I went to two of their tryout camps and I was big on going to some of the camps and just getting noticed however I could. I went to a Harley Race camp, I went to an OVW camp where John Laurinaitis was there. All these camps were really good for a learning experience but I feel like Ring of Honor you get the most bang for your buck with their training seminars. They found a lot of talent through their camp and it’s the reason I got booked in Baltimore to wrestle the Briscoe Brothers. So I can’t put that over enough.”
Describe your time in OVW working alongside Alex Silva & what you walked away from your time there.
“I remember the first day sort of showing up a tad bit late to my first OVW training camp session with Rip Rogers. I have no idea what to expect. Al Snow told me ‘oh, you’re going to love training with Rip Rogers’, you’re going to learn a lot. I show up and of course he’s already got people in the ring doing stuff. There was about 20 people there and I walked up and I put out my hand and I try to introduce myself to Rip Rogers and he just sort of looks at me and says, “Who the fuck are you?” and I am like I’m Samuel Shaw and he responds, “Okay, why the fuck should I care? What the fuck do you want?” I’m oh my god is this really how this is going to go? I’ve heard stories about this guy but okay and he tells me to get in line and let’s see how you can bump and by the end of it I think he sort of like me because I showed him some sort of athletic ability and not just a jabroni that is just coming in and wasn’t some bodybuilder muscle look to him and he wasn’t going to really do anything special. But at the end of it he was really receptive to me and I enjoyed training with Rip Rogers. It was very short.
The developmental program for TNA at OVW was very short lived and changes were always happening. There was no real structure I guess you could say. It was sort of like here we have training a couple of days a week and you have 4 or 5 shows a week which is tremendous because you are getting into that mode of working each and every day and I think that it was a tremendous learning experience. I went into the whole OVW experience thinking that I was already trained really well coming from Curtis Hughes and then coming from Team 3D academy for four years. Getting signed with TNA and then I thought I had to go back and train some more? Destroy my body and this and that. I was there for practically a year and I feel like I learned a tremendous amount in that time and I look back on it as a very fond memory for me.”
Describe your thoughts on the Gut Check Challenge and how, in comparison, whether or not the Tough Enough competition provides potential stars a chance to achieve?
“I really feel like in the long run, I feel like the Gut Check challenge and Tough Enough are really good ways to take a talent that might have not had an opportunity otherwise. Especially with Gut Check, I felt like they were bringing in some talent that somebody might have seen somewhere and said, ‘hey, let’s give this guy an opportunity’ and I don’t know if it’s always for the right reasons. For me, it’s just my personal opinion but I felt like I was brought in to the Gut Check because they were going to say no. I feel like they had already said yes to a number of talent for whatever reasons whether they performed well or not. Alex Silva was going to be a no but then Ric Flair changed his mind on the spot. I think there were 3 yes’ and they were looking for a no because they were trying to make this like an American Idol thing. We need some drama, we need some guys to not pass the test and make this good TV.
I think the decision was already made, like I said just my opinion. I feel like I performed well and I had showed a lot of heart and passion and I really wanted it and I was told yes and even Eric Bischoff came up to me afterwards and he mentioned to me, ‘I pretty much knew it was going to be a no but then you went out there and did really well. How can we say no to that’? Do I think I would have gotten those opportunities in TNA to get a contract there? Yes. But, everything in this business is right place, right time. I was given that opportunity and I was always told to go out there and shine. With whatever opportunity they give you. It was crazy because there were some really bad Gut Check performances and I almost don’t want to name names but I remember one particular guy that Gunner had to wrestle and honestly it made for really good TV. You saw this talent given an opportunity to come and he basically wasn’t ready for that environment. It just showed up in his work and he had blown up and Gunner was just like ‘oh, man’. And you can tell it was just bad. For the casual fan and the diehard fan you could see how real this could actually get, really quickly.”
The Lupus character had a very short lifespan. Was there more intended for the character? If so, what? If not, what could have been done to develop the character?
“I think as far as I know I think it was just a one shot deal. As far as I know Tommy Dreamer and some of those ECW originals just popped those guys a little bit. Of course, just like Gut Check it was an opportunity and I’m going to do the best that I can with what I’m given. That was in 2010 and I was just looking for any sort of break that I could find and I remember specially being at Team 3D academy and Bubba Ray says, ‘ Sam, come in my office’ and of course I go in and he tells me they are going to use me on the Hardcore Justice pay per view. I’m just thinking, I’m on cloud 9 and whatever you want me to do let’s do it and then he tells me the spot and he say’s I’m going to be doing my famous leg drop from the top rope during the Tommy Dreamer/Raven match. I am just like ‘hell yeah’. Then he tells me I am going to be Lupus, and I vaguely remember Lupus being Raven’s lackey and he carried around a little blow up sex doll and Bubba asked me if I could go out and find some attire that is going to match Lupus as best as possible. Absolutely. I go to Hardcore Justice and I’m surrounded by all these ECW originals and they give me a blow up doll that is 1/3rd the size of the blow up doll that the original Lupus had. It was a very interesting day. I think we had the fire department there at the Impact zone to make sure that because we were going to use some fire that night they used me as a test dummy to go through a flaming table earlier on in the day in front of all talent, in front of Dixie Carter. Bubba and Devon put me through a flaming table and I was on fire and I singed all of my arm hair off and a little bit of my eyebrows but at least I can say that I went through a flaming table but damn it was never televised.
And I think I was ribbed a little bit that day because Balls Mahoney was following me around and said, ‘hey man, this is what you’ve got to do before you go through a flaming table’ he is filling up glasses of water and he is making me carry all these glasses of water to the ring and in front of all the boys and I’m thinking oh man, I’m going to get made fun of now. I get down to the ring and Bubba sees me with four glasses of water and he’s…’Sam, just get you’re ass in the ring’. It was just one of those funny little things. I end up getting the Mick Foley barbed wire sock in my mouth. I remember specifically earlier in the day someone said, its gimmick barbwire so don’t worry about it. I didn’t know, I didn’t care, whatever. Then later on we are going over the match and Dreamer says Mick Foley is going to put the barbed wire sock in your mouth, I don’t know if its gimmick or not. So whatever happens, happens. I didn’t care so I was ready for any opportunity that honestly if a real piece of barbed wire is going to get stuck in my mouth. I remember specifically my roommate at the time texting me and looking at phone and I had all this blood pouring out of my mouth and Taz put it over so well on commentary. I remember all this stuff very vividly because it was all a huge moment for me and a lot of people might not remember this stuff but obviously this is a huge moment for me. So I remember checking my phone and my roommate said that my girlfriend is just crying her eyes out because she didn’t know if I was dying. That blood pouring out my mouth made for a good effect because it made my girlfriend cry.”
The Samuel Shaw character has been described as a cross between film character Patrick Bateman from American Psycho and Dexter Morgan from the show Dexter. How would you describe him?
“I was pitched the idea of an American Psycho-esque character from John Gaburick, ‘Big’ as we like to call him. He had this idea that presented it to me and he said do you think that this is something you could do. And I said, yeah. Again, this is music to my ears. I’m on cloud 9 because that genre of horror and the American Psycho was one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of those movies that I would break out a couple of times a year and just look at it. For some reason it was just so interesting to me. The way that Christian Bale sort of came alive off the screen and that was a big break out role for him, I think. I think you knew that even bigger things were coming for him. We used to say in college, ‘that guy is going to be Batman one day, he looks like Bruce Wayne’. Just so many cool things he did with that character. I read the book and I loved how Mary Harron the director of American Psycho took all the best elements of this long book and put them into an hour and a half movie and I think Christian Bale just nailed it.
There was something so interesting about that role and when Big approached me with that character idea it was please let’s get started right away because I just feel I have a grasp on this that well. I went home that day stayed up all night and just went through American Psycho and I paused, rewound and took notes and just tried to figure out all the mannerisms. The certain things that he would do to get that character to come alive. Not to mention that it was mentioned to me that my ring attire had to look like you were going out for your kill, sort of like Dexter. Look at Dexter when he was walking around in the middle of the day he looked like a normal guy but then he always had a specific outfit that he wore whenever he was out to stalk his next victim and thus kill them. It was the grey or light green Henley American Apparel shirt and then the police gloves that leave no finger prints at the crime scene. We had these very ugly like puke green and I think his were like cargo pants. I actually had to go search far and wide for a pair of pants that I could actually wrestle in and do some athletic things in where they wouldn’t rip in the crotch. I found some Steve Madden very nice dress boots and I resoled them, thus there is the Samuel Shaw character with the Dexter/Patrick Batemen all derived from those characters.”
Where did the idea of the Christy Hemme storyline come from? Did it move in a direction in which you hoped?
“I don’t know if it was directly related to the American Psycho film per say but I think it was a good way to get the idea into the fans minds that this guy is a creep. By involving a great hero like a Ken Anderson, that can off the cusp I had really no idea that in London, England that he was going to call me a “creepy bastard”. When he did, the fans are so receptive to him and he’s just so good that I felt so comfortable bouncing off of him. The whole crowd sure enough started chanting creepy bastard.
People would be offended being called a creepy bastard but it’s just absolute music to my ears and I had goosebumps. The whole crowd was chanting creepy bastard and all the things they had involved with Christy Hemme and I had this reveal where I had this room full of Christy Hemme posters and Barbie dolls with red hair and a mannequin all this weird and twisted stuff. I think one of the vignettes we did was I seemed like a very normal guy and Christy leaves the room and I’m at a table and I’m fixing the pens and the piece of paper on the table almost like I have a problem with messiness. I think all those things with Christy Hemme and Ken Anderson were a very vital part in getting the idea across that Samuel Shaw is a creep.”
The feud with Gunner was the most developed feud for both of you during your time in TNA. Was there anything you would have done differently during the feud?
As far as the in ring stuff, our goal was to just go out there and kill it every time. We did a particular match in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where we just floored each other. We just wanted to show everybody that these guys are serious. These guys are taking crazy bumps and are doing whatever it takes to get recognized here and our goal was just to have the best of those matches and the creative writing team just didn’t have enough for us where we were both ‘we need to do more with these guys’. We are doing a phenomenal job out there. We wanted to do some of those matches on our next UK tour. Unfortunately, it just turned out where that was just the end of it. We had that match in Bethlehem, PA and then we had a three month break because TNA was just negotiating a new TV deal elsewhere getting off Spike TV we had no idea where we were going to end up. The feud just had ended over the three months. Brittany (Santana Garrett) didn’t resign with the company so, there goes that with Samuel Shaw and Brittany that’s over with and well, we had that one match with Gunner. I guess the writing team just said I guess it’s not in their interest going forward to push Samuel Shaw and Gunner. This is just my opinion, there is so much talent on the roster and they have their ideas of who they are going to push and put in the limelight and I think it just sort of fizzled out for me and Gunner and they didn’t know what to do.”
Can you foresee a return to TNA? Or would other promotions present themselves as opportunities?
“Really and truly at the moment, I was with TNA since 2012 and I have seen so many regime changes there and I said 2012 but I was training at Team 3D Academy since late 2007 so Bubba Ray was always giving me the opportunity up at TNA and I’ve seen so many changes up there almost like an identity crisis. I never had any problem with that obviously, I just got released and now you look at it as well, they don’t really have their structure all there yet even after 13 years.
I think for me personally, I don’t have any interest in returning there any time soon. I think that there are so many other great opportunities out there that I am striving for and we are really in a wrestling boom period now and I think that now to explore other opportunities that will better utilize my talents. I feel like I have just scratched the surface on what I can do. I give TNA all the credit in the world with giving me the ball to run with and that character was such of breath of fresh air for me and something to latch onto in a lot of ways. I don’t think that character is totally done with yet. I feel there are ways to make that character more user friendly. I think he can thrive in another environment somewhere else.”
Who could you say has meant the most to your success in the ring either or out during your time in TNA? What did they do to help ensure you achieved?
“As far as the beginnings of the Samuel Shaw character and getting it off the ground I really have to give it to John Gaburick. Big was the guy. After I left OVW almost after a year it was such a weird time. I remember I had gone home to Florida and had some family stuff to take care of and I went home and a few days later about and it’s all over the internet that about 11 or 12 talents had gotten released from TNA and one of them was Bruce Prichard who had just left.
This whole new regime change and I had not really been used and I wasn’t making very much money and I was tired of being in Louisville, Kentucky and I had a home in Florida and that I was coming back to once every two months or so and what’s going on? It was almost as if I didn’t know if the office was watching my OVW stuff or not or my progress. Like I said the structure there was you never knew what to expect there and I don’t think they knew if they had a set structure there but things like OVW were a developmental project for them or not. I’m not sure if it was like a vanity thing or not. So WWE had the developmental so we need to look more like them and let’s have our developmental so they can send some young talent to be picked up.
By the time the year had passed now, I am thinking alright nothing has happened this regime change is happening, what’s going on? A good friend of mine, Crimson, he and I were just busting our ass at OVW and it was just okay, he’s gone and they aren’t doing anything with me. I actually asked for my release and then Al Snow calls me and tells me Dixie doesn’t want to let me go for whatever reason. I am okay, well, then what is going on? Then I hear that John Gaburick comes aboard and he actually gives me a call and he tells me Dixie doesn’t want to let me go and he actually has to look at the tape, he said please bare with me, we see something in you and we just may have an idea for you and then I wait about 2 months and then he takes me to a show I think in Oklahoma and that is when he pitches the American Psycho gimmick and I think for the first few months of that character, I think John Gaburick was the producer of all my segments. All the subtle nuances of the character, he was a great help of getting that character off the ground. He believed in me and said you can do this, I know you can, you’re perfect for this.
After that he had the confidence in me to just make my own decisions and just let me loose and one of the writer’s on the writing team Dave Lagana was very instrumental in producing all my segments after John Gaburick. He was really helped me with all the dialogue and made sure that I was hitting the write bullet points and I owe him a lot.
I think Al Snow was always my agent for all my matches and he really helped me there. When I am putting a match together my mind is all over the place and sometimes I need somebody to help me focus everything in the right direction and Al Snow was always just a great help. He made me realise that you don’t need that but to do this. This is the business of the match. I owe a lot to him. Those three guys are instrumental, John Gaburick, Dave Lagana and Al Snow.”
Where can you see the Shaw character going? Which nuances would you like to develop?
“I think that Lucha Underground is such an awesome TV presence. Their stuff is so much like a movie it is so cutting edge and its more risqué and violent. I think that is a really strong suited place for the creep, Samuel Shaw to go. He doesn’t necessarily need a mask there. I think the Samuel Shaw character wears a mask in general. I think that some of those backstage segments would be so great for the Samuel Shaw character to latch onto some good material. Of course, I don’t think that people have really seen what I can do in the ring 100%. Couple that with Lucha Underground being full of all these high flyers and able to do all these incredible athletic things in the ring, I think that not many people know that I can adapt to any style. I feel like I can thrive in that environment.
NXT is just doing great things right now and a place that I would be highly interested in trying out there. I think that I would thrive in that environment. I know Kevin Kelly really well. I know a couple of the guys up there (Ring of Honor). I’ve had some discussions with them and I’m not saying I’m definitely going to show up in Ring of Honor and I’m not saying that discussions have gotten that far whatsoever but, it’s definitely a place that I look at as a serious option and I love their TV show and I think it’s great that they are on Destination America and they do house shows consistently and it’s the place that if you get in with them you can work consistently. It’s a way to get your name out there.”
What do you foresee for Samuel Shaw for the balance of 2015 & beyond?
Was there anything you’d like to share, encourage or promote as it relates to Samuel Shaw?
“I am also a freelance artist and I do commission work. I draw a lot of wrestlers and superheroes and things like that. I just did the Florida Super Con down in Miami and I was at the headlock comic both with Jerry Lawler and we were there just drawing on the spot. I drew a Dusty Rhodes and talked to a lot of fans. I loved being in that creative environment and Jerry Lawler is a phenomenal artist as well. I would bounce ideas off of him. I have an email that people can reach me at that’s email@example.com and you can hit me up for art commissions. Seriously, I can draw anything your heart desires. You can also find that email address on my twitter @TheSamuelShaw and also Instagram @thesamuelshaw.”