Rich Swann recently spoke to Philip Lindsey of Daily DDT in an exclusive interview about his current run with IMPACT, Moose, Kenny Omega, and his involvement in GCW For the Culture.
This weekend, the reigning Impact World Champion, Rich Swann will defend his title against Moose in a unification match. The self-proclaimed Wrestling God could be the Baltimore native’s toughest challenge to date, but he has overcome so much to reach the top of the company that it’s hard to count him out.
After he suffered a potentially career-ending injury last year, Swann returned in the biggest match and storyline of his career to win IMPACT’s top prize. The former X-Division champion talked about what it was like to win his first world title.
“It was definitely an experience that I’ll never forget,” Swann said. “You never forget your first major world championship win. That was a moment I’ll cherish forever and being sidelined for seven months in the middle of it, being told that you might not walk the same way again let alone wrestle was definitely stressful. And there were definitely moments where I thought, you know, maybe I can be just an on-screen personality. Hey, maybe I can just be a commentator, maybe I can just be an announcer, but with determination and just pushing and just keeping the dream alive and IMPACT believing in me I was able to get the opportunity to have the honor of being the world champion. Working with Eric Young being such a great talent, you know, the run that he had. And then it was something that people will remember just because of the story and how well we were able to grab everybody.”
In January 2020, the 15-year veteran sustained a catastrophic injury during a match where he broke his fibula and inflicted severe damage on his ankle and foot. When he went in to undergo surgery, his MRI scan later revealed that he also had a broken back as he fractured his L5 and L6 vertebrae. In the retirement segment on the Aug. 4, 2020 episode of Impact, Swann cut an emotional promo that played off of his traumatic journey back to the ring.
“It was something that was definitely very believable because it was real,” he said. “I was at a point where I was possibly going to have to legitimately retire. I took that feeling and I took that moment where the doctor told me, ‘hey, that’s it bud. You’re going to have to hang it up’ and I made sure people could feel that. I made sure that transcended through people’s television screens and, you know, it came together because like I said, Eric and I, we had that story. He re-injured my leg at Slammiversary and it was definitely something that I wanted people to, within that short span of the story, feel how I felt during those seven months, thinking that I’d have to retire leading up to me actually being able to come back and have the opportunity that I had today.”
Swann defeated Young at Bound for Glory to become the second Black Impact World Champion, an honor that he doesn’t take likely. “It’s huge because in this climate today and in the past, especially in wrestling, it definitely didn’t promote to the Black community but now to see that wrestling had changed and to be someone who is a face for the community and a world champion, I’d like to lead by example. I’d like to go out and show everybody that no matter what your creed, sex, or sexual orientation, it’s something that doesn’t matter. I’m just going to show that there can be diversity in this, you know. I’d love to be a leader and to show that we can all be one.”
The wrestling industry is currently in the midst of a renaissance for Black wrestlers. There are more talented African American or African-born performers than ever before and one of them is Chris Bey. Back in December, The Ultimate Finesser challenged Swann for his title in what became an instant classic and a potential match of the year at Final Resolution. Their showdown was also a historic moment because Black men rarely compete in the main event of pay-per-view events.
“It definitely proved that anything could happen in our industry,” Swann said. “And that no matter what’s the color of your skin, creed, or culture you can be all that you can be. It was special to be in there with somebody like Chris Bey and what I say, the personification of somebody who is a go-getter and somebody willing to do what he needs to do to prove that he’s here for the long run. The match that we got to have, I definitely hope that it will inspire people like Eddie [Guerrero] and Rey [Mysterio] or Jerry Lynn vs. RVD. And in the Black community, that it says hey you can do this too, you know what I’m saying. It was definitely a moment where everybody’s head could be held high. The future is bright for Bey and he’s already making himself a star that no one will forget. He’s going to be a household name.”
Bey spoke online about how humbling the response to the match was and how much that meant to him. Swann isn’t active on Twitter but he could feel how significant the moment was when he spoke to people in person. “I am not too much of a social media guy. I don’t have a Facebook or Instagram account. So I don’t see the reviews that fans put up but everything that I hear from my friends in the wrestling business, they’ll say that the match was so crazy. The next time that I saw Chris Bey he said, you know, in his finesse way, the match was crazy, we worked it. Even on TV, he wanted to tell in front of everybody, in front of the world, hey, let’s see Chris Bey vs. Rich Swann 2 and I’m not opposed to that, but I first I have to handle other business.”
During WrestleMania weekend, GCW will host For the Culture 2, a show that will bring Black wrestlers from all over the country together on one stacked card. In the main event, Swann will face off against a legend in 2 Cold Scorpio. Ahead of the match, the Impact World Champion spoke about what it means to compete against someone as revered.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Swann said. “I think it’s going to be an amazing show. And to work with somebody like 2 Cold Scorpio, he’s someone that I’ve gravitated to, and that helped me see that I can do this too. I can be a wrestler too and I’m going to finally share the ring with one of my heroes, a person who inspired me. If you look at my style today and my entrance and, you know, my swag, you can see 2 Cold in there. I might not be as good of a wrestler as him back in the day. I know I’m not as big as him, but, you know, he inspired me. To be able to share that ring with him is going to be great.”
Before he can take on his idol, the 30-year-old will have a difficult task ahead of him when he goes one-on-one with Moose at Sacrifice. Although the challenger will enter the match with a noticeable size advantage, Swann is confident that he will retain his title.
“You know, it’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I’m always up for the challenge,” he said. I’ve always been able to battle adversity and this is going to be no different. I’d say Moose is my biggest challenge to date because look at the guy. He was an NFL player, he’s six-plus, what 6’5”(?), almost seven feet tall. He’s taller than me, I know that, and close to 300 pounds. About a year or so ago, once he claimed to be the TNA world champion, that definitely set him apart and set a fire inside him. He’s transformed his body and he’s become a threat to this business.”
“But come Sacrifice, I’m going to prove to the world why I’m the world champion and why I’m the real world champion. All the hard work and dedication, the 15 years of hard work and dedication in this business, is definitely going to play a part and my skill and speed are definitely going to play a part. Moose has been wrestling for the better part of seven years. You take 15 years of experience and put that in the ring. I’ve been in the ring with guys that are bigger than me before and I’ll just take that and use that. I know that Moose is going in with the mindset that because he is the more dominant figure, that he can just go in and squash me. But when you use your brain like that and you think ahead, sometimes that just might mean you’re two steps back from where you need to be.”
Of course, we couldn’t finish this interview without talking about Kenny Omega. The AEW World Champion made his way to the Impact Zone after he dethroned Jon Moxley and set his sights on more gold. At Hard to Kill, The Best Bout Machine pinned Swann in the main event to cap off a phenomenal six-man tag match. This feud is far from over and the Impact’s resident high flyer spoke about the experience and his desire for a rematch.
“You know, it was surreal,” he said. “Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson have made their names in this industry and they will possibly live on in this game forever. Kenny Omega is still breaking records. He’s still going out there proving his detractors wrong and he’s been the best. To be in there against The Cleaner, The Best Bout Machine, alongside The Bullet Club, the Good Brothers, is something that you rarely see. You don’t ever see this, probably since the territory days, where you have two world champions in the same ring. And even then, it wasn’t done on a national level.
“Two world champions, myself, the Impact World Champion, and Kenny Omega, the AEW World Champion head to head, toe to toe, face to face, in the ring on an IMPACT pay-per-view. People want to see that. And in that match, we went out there and I know I gave my all I know Chris Sabin gave his all. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Alex Shelley couldn’t make it. So, we had my current opponent for March 13, Sacrifice, Moose as a partner. And I’ll say he busted his ass for IMPACT. He showed that he was in it to win it. But at the end of the night, the bell rang and the lights came up and the smoke cleared, Kenny gave me that One-Winged Angel, and I couldn’t kick out. Do I want the chance? First, I got to look and think about Moose. But if I surpass Moose I definitely want to step into the ring with Omega again and I’ve got to rectify that loss.”
If Swann can defeat Moose and unify the IMPACT and TNA title, he will get his chance to do just that at Rebellion in April. Lastly, he discussed some other opponents he would like to wrestle from AEW and even New Japan now the companies are collaborating. He mentioned three stars that he wants to work with.
“One would be Darby Allin from AEW. I think that would definitely be an interesting match and an interesting clash of styles. And I think that he is another piece of the puzzle that can be the future of this business. Another person that I’ve seen who has been blazing the world up, you know, and making headlines all over. He’s been on New Japan USA and in the Cup and that’s Lio Rush. Rush is one of the most amazing competitors bar none, stature whatever. Rush is not only one of the best competitors in the ring, but when you get him on that microphone, he’s one of the most charismatic stars you’ll ever see in this industry and I would love to go toe to toe with him. Speaking of New Japan faithful, I would love to step back in the ring with a new leveled-up Will Osprey. We wrestled before in England, but to have a chance to wrestle him now I bet we would blow the game up.”
Be sure to check out Sacrifice this Saturday, Mar. 13, streaming exclusively on IMPACT Plus.