SI.com: You defended the world title against Bobby Lashley during TNA’s “Total Nonstop Deletion” at the Hardy compound. How would you describe the experience? And who actually won the match?
When I was training at Killer Kowalski’s professional wrestling school, I never thought I would be wrestling a match on top of a volcano built by Jeff Hardy. It would have taken a while to turn Killer into a fan of Total Nonstop Deletion, but eventually we would have. The experience was other-worldly. That’s the best way I can describe it. Being at the Dome of Deletion in Cameron, North Carolina was basically like being in another world. Jeff was building volcanos and there was a giant Matt Hardy face on the entranceway. I fought Lashley all over the place, and technically it was a no contest, but it’s possible that we may still be fighting. Bobby Lashley may be waiting to spear me into my Christmas tree right now.
SI.com: Kevin Owens told me this past summer that you are the most talented wrestler not signed by WWE. Do you believe Owens is the best wrestler in WWE? And do you compare yourself to other world champions?
“Kevin Owens is such a good dude. I know his persona doesn’t always come off that way on television, but he’s a real good guy. He was one of the people who reached out when I broke my heel, and he texted me when I won the world title. He’s such a good dude who always has his friends’ and family’s best interests in his heart. Owens is incredible, but look at a guy like John Cena who has been doing this for so long and is still killing the game, and there is also AJ Styles and Seth Rollins. The WWE has so much talent, but TNA has a loaded roster, too. Look at Lashley—he’s a beast. He’s just a freak athlete. When I’m in there with him and he’s throwing me around, I got a better sense of how strong he is. He’s also a great dude. So when you go through the roster, there are great wrestlers across the card, and that’s what TNA is doing better than anybody. I do not compare myself to other world champs, but I’m constantly competing with myself. There is always added pressure, but it’s only the pressure I put upon myself. I want to have the best matches and deliver the most memorable moments. I want to be Mr. TNA, and I’m always trying to watch and learn and step up my game.”
SI.com: What are your goals for the upcoming year? And will you defend the world title this week on POP TV?
“I would like to defend the title. The live shows have a different feel to them, and it’s a new year with new ownership, so let’s kick this off with a bang. I love being the underdog, whether it’s in life or in the ring. I’m working to bring new fans to TNA to show them what we’re all about. People have brought up me wrestling Davey, and I love wrestling Davey, but I’d love to hold that off for as long as I can so we can tag together. Davey and I can be put together at any time and we won’t miss a beat. We can have amazing matches any time we’re together, so I’d like a healthy dose of tagging and singles matches when Davey comes back. I’d love to even wrestle twice a show, and see how everything unfolds with the storyline. I’d also love to do some one-on-ones with Matt and Jeff Hardy, and I’m sure there is a rematch with EC3 coming my way. I’d also love to have a world title match with Drew Galloway and Mike Bennett. I want to be an old-school world champion and defend the title around the states and the globe for any company that would have me. I can never express how happy I am and how grateful I am for the fans and the amount of support I receive. Things happen so fast in wrestling, so it was amazing to step back and enjoy the world title victory with the people who have cared about me for so long, so I would like to say a true sincere thank you to all of them.”