Hey and welcome to my interview with Johnny Mundo aka John Morrison aka the Any Night Delight. I definitely did not foresee ever interviewing an actual pro wrestler, nor did I foresee talking with one for about an hour and having so much in common. Johnny clenches his jaw when he sleeps, I clench my jaw when I sleep. I applied to Loyola Marymount, and he used to jog by Loyola Marymount. Basically I see it like one of these situations-
We covered wrestling, movies, Out of your Mind fitness and we covered the hell out of it, so I’ll get right to it. Below, my comments will be in bold, Johnny’s will be in regular type.
You were born about an hour outside LA, Palos Verdes?
I was born in Westchester, like literally I went to school in Westchester, Loyola Village. I was close enough to ride my bike to Loyola Marymount, which I mentioned. My dad’s favorite joke on the campus of Loyola Marymount was “go sit between those two lion statues at the library and read a book so you can read between the lions.”
Classic dad humor.
Yeah, I heard that joke dozens and dozens of times. Anyway, then I moved to Palos Verdes for high school.
Do you think growing up there helped fuel your desires to be in the entertainment business, or do you feel like you’d have the same pull even if you grew up in Kansas City, Kansas?
I think I would’ve had the same goal regardless. The place that I grew up, it’s like Southern California but it’s almost like a bubble, it’s not really that LA/Hollywood Hustle. There’s a couple of things that I think shaped my desire for acting and entertainment and wrestling. I did take some acting classes when I was a kid. But the first thing I was really, really good at was high school wrestling. Varsity my freshman year, team captain my junior and senior year, and I felt like it was really cool to be really good at something. Maybe being around LA… I did take the Barbizon bullshit, like the Elise Marshall school of acting. You pay money to take your headshots, and you go to your commercial acting and your film acting class once a week. I did that in high school, and when I started wrestling I just kind of abandoned it, like “you know what? I don’t got time for this.” Then I got really good at wrestling and when I got to college I started to think how I could combine the two, so I thought “action filmmaker.” I made a couple of short action movies, The Foot of Death. Fast Food about a fastfood restaurant where everyone knows kung fu.
I’d love to see those.
They’re around. I got some of ‘em on a computer, but The Foot of Death is on VHS, it’s ridiculous. I gotta digitize it sometime. I’ve been thinking about putting it up on YouTube.
Yeah, you should.
It’s like a 17-minute kung fu movie. Anyway, I think LA kind of influenced me, now that I’m stream of consciousness talking and thinking, but I think I would have come to the same conclusion, regardless.
A lot of your characters are “rock star” “movie star” contemporary celebrity stuff. Do you think living in that environment where it’s all just a stone’s throw away… do you think that influenced your choice in personas?
Absolutely. No that’s absolutely what happened. I went to film school at University of California-Davis, Jim Morrison went to film school at UCLA. When I was doing the Morrison character, that was one of things I thought was relatable to me and I took and combined to the John Morrison character in 2007. But even before that, MNM- Johnny Nitro, Joey Mercury and Melina, were trendy, name-dropping LA rich kids. My very first job in production, I was an intern at Access Hollywood and my job was to drive everybody around on the NBC lot on go-karts and go on runs like dropping off tapes at different production studios and I was exposed to a lot of annoying wannabe celebrity types, a lot of annoying celebrity-celebrity types, and you know, some legitimate celebrities and that stereotype, that negative connotation was what I used for the inspiration of Johnny Nitro. And if I hadn’t been around Southern California I probably wouldn’t have been able to get that job at NBC, like first year of college I had that internship. My second year of college I worked for a company called Little Fort productions, in college I was around productions and around that type of character and I definitely think that it blossomed from those experiences for MNM, and for John Morrison, and even now for Johnny Mundo.
Now your characters are always sort of, cool and confident and collected, can I ask when was a time you felt really awkward or embarrassed, a real Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm situation?
Um, I feel embarrassed all the time, you kidding me? Every time I ding my car because I’m trying to eat a burrito bowl while driving and I crash into a parking cone with somebody else in the car. That happened to me, I want to say three months ago. I dented in my passenger side door. I was trying to adjust the radio while eating Chipotle while driving at the same time. I felt pretty bad, especially when I spilled the beans on my shirt.
There’s a ton of times, like I was trying to do J Step Gainers a few years back, I think I was in WWE and I was in the middle of the ring, and I was wearing these breakaway pants and I swung for the take-off on this J Step Gainer and I hooked my pants somehow and it rips my pants off. I was wearing underwear but I had momentum and I flipped, kind of landed on my stomach and face a little bit but my pants fell off, and they were attached to my ankles. I did a flip and pantsed myself at the same time and landed on my face. That was a pretty good one. Actually, I wish that was on videotape. That would probably be a viral YouTube video.
You have to incorporate that in something. I looked at your IMDB and you’ve got a ton of stuff coming out in 2015 including Boone: The Bounty Hunter, which you actually wrote.
Oh bro, Boone: The Bounty Hunter is literally the thing that I’m absolutely the most excited about of everything that I’ve done. I wrote it, produced it, I’m actually tomorrow shooting pickups for it again. Movie-making is a very, very, very long process. Especially if you’re dealing with a project that you’re very passionate about and you want to see it finished right. I’m spending so much time on Boone and when it’s done I’m probably gonna tweet every day for a year telling everybody to watch it and let everybody know. All my friends know that I’ve been working on this for, oh over two years now. Yeah, I’m super-pumped for Boone.
Yeah, when I was doing the research, I saw that you wrote it… I was an English major in college.
Yeah and having written two shitty screenplays I have admiration just for that. Screw wrestling, writing and producing, that alone is worthy of props.
Boone is the third feature that I wrote. The first one was terrible. The second one was terrible. Boone, I think it was a great idea. And I wrote a really crappy draft. Then I collaborated with a writer and we wrote a slightly better draft. And then collaborated with another writer, then I rewrote it, and then another writer and I rewrote it, and then the production company and then I rewrote it with a guy named Jon Perkins and then the director took a pass, so Boone’s evolved, and I think that’s what happens when you’re actually gonna make something. You continually have to improve and improve and improve.
Yeah, from what I’ve read, you write it, you put it in a desk drawer, you write something else and when you’re done with that you can come back and with an objective eye think “oh this is rushed,” “this character is kind of pointless” and especially with movies that are actually produced, that’s the norm, to have that many rewrites and passes. Now, you’re so active, was it weird at first?
Yeah, do you get antsy? I’m not nearly as active and when I do it I get restless, it’s monotonous…
Writing is super-unhealthy, and so is editing. When I was a film major, I edited the stuff that I did in college, too, and dude, doing post is even more unhealthy than writing. You just sit there in front of your computer. In college there’d be times where- I’m pretty obsessive about working out so I would work out in the morning and it’d be Friday at four p.m. and at six, seven, eight p.m. my roommates would all be “John, come out to this party” and I’d be “uh, I’ll meet you there!” Then they’d come back at two or three in the morning and I’d still be at my computer editing and theyd all be drunk and I’d be “hey guys, c’mon we gotta watch this kung-fu scene I just put together with the sound effects” and they wouldnt give a shit (laughs). I mean, they would care about it later but editing, when youre exciting about it you just do it until it’s done. Writing is kinda the same, when you get on a roll you just gotta roll and roll until you get your ideas out. And then with writing and editing both you read back what you just wrote or you watch what you just did in post and you realize it was sloppy and crappy and you want to do it again.
Now is Boone action-comedy, or action-drama, or what would you say the genre is?
Um, it’s definitely action-comedy. I would say it deals with a couple of serious themes. One, identity, which I think is personal to me and applicable to a lot of pro wrestlers. Freddie Blassie wrote in his book that he was sitting down in a diner one time with his mom and the server came up and forgot to give him a salad fork or something and he yelled at the guy like “goddamn, you pencil-necked geek you’re not fit to polish Freddie Blassie’s boots” and his mom looked over and said “Freddie why dont you be nice to people like you used to be?”
And in his book he was writing about how he spent just so much time in character that the character started to overlap with who he was in real life. And Boone: The Bounty Hunter is kind of about that. Same concept, same thing I think you see happen with a lot of pro wrestlers because your character in pro wrestling is the ultimate method acting thing. John Morrison is John Morrison, the same character for years and years and years. With Ziggler and CM Punk and the Miz, Zack Ryder, John Cena, I mean where does the Miz start and Michael Mizanin start? Where do they overlap? How are they the same? How are they different? At some point you spend so much time as a character that it starts to overlap with who you are personally. And this Boone: The Bounty Hunter is about this reality show bounty hunter who is a fake hero on TV and when his show gets cancelled he decides to go after a real criminal. Which isnt typically what his show does, and what it means to be a real hero versus what it means to be a fake hero on TV and when he gets put in real danger it turns out he does have real skills and he has to apply his parkour and his fight training against a real Mexican drug cartel. It’s action-comedy, but rooted in real, honest issues that mean something to me and what I’m interested in. I think it’s really cool, and when people see it they’ll laugh and hopefully it’ll give something for people to think about as well.
In all your characters over the years, one common strand was you had a sense of humor, I still remember the Dirt Sheet and the Palace of Wisdom. Do you feel in acting, of course, but especially if you’re writing it, but in Lucha, you have more creative control in your matches but also your character and your input, the story. Do you feel that you sort of have a wider berth to do what you want?
Much wider. It’s like the WWE where it’s a business, it’s a show and they’re telling stories. And they are very open to the suggestions that I make and the ideas that I have. No one gets all of their ideas done. Not even the head writer of a TV show. There’s always somebody that can check that power or point out why your idea is stupid, or the producer say “we can’t afford to do this” or a director say “we want to go this way.” Anything creative always becomes a collaboration. But I feel like Lucha is thematically similar to the type of stuff I’m interested in doing right now and the ideas that I have are being heard and being integrated into the show and talked about. Not all of them are. Some of them aren’t and some might never be, but it’s a pretty great place to work.
It seems like everywhere online that I go to and everyone that I talk to, which is a lot of people, Lucha Underground got a lot of heat in not a lot of time. First of all, I’m curious as to how it was pitched to you. It’s certainly unique, it’s not just another wrestling organization it combines wrestling and film, it’s produced by Mark Burnett and Robert Rodriguez. How did they bring it to you?
The head writer of the show Christopher DeJoseph, the other writers Chris Roach, Matt Stollman are guys that I worked with in WWE, writers I got along with very well. Chris DeJoseph was talking to me about Lucha a few months before we started. First, he tells me he’s gonna write for a wrestling production in LA and I’m like “great, let me know when it happens.” A month later he’s like “it’s still happening” and I’m like “great, let me know when it happens.” Wrestling promotions, there’s a lot of people that talk about a lot of stuff and a lot of it never really happens. Then maybe a few weeks before we started he calls me up and says “hey this thing is really happening and I want you to come by the office and talk to me about signing for this. I want to put you in contact with the producer and the casting director.” And I was like, “alright let’s check this place out.” So I went by the office and saw the set and it was in this building I had done a movie in two years prior with Danny Trejo and Melina and they had transformed this warehouse into a Lucha Underground temple with the ring and the stadium seats and the office. The studio office that wasn’t in the temple was in this very nice building in Santa Monica and when I saw that I thought “holy shit, this is a very real deal.” Robert Rodriguez is behind it. They’re talking about a lot of the things I wish WWE had done more of as far as filming the vignettes in more of a TV/film type of way. When I saw that I was very interested. I get to wrestle in my hometown. The temple is ten minutes away from my house. I’m a big fan of Lucha and the other people involved. I’m excited to work with Chavo, with Big Rick, with Blue Demon Jr. All the AAA guys I didn’t even know at the time but I know now and I’m really happy to have a chance to work with all of them. Yeah, it’s been a really awesome thing.
Yeah, the roster has only gotten even better. Alberto El Patron I thought was a hugely underutilized talent in WWE. I’m a big fan of M-Dogg Matt Cross.
Oh, Matt Cross is unbelievable.
The roster is incredible. Now, do you watch a lot of wrestling? Or is it something that you do it, and you might check out a friend’s match, but you do it and you don’t want to do it on your off time.
I been working on Lucha, so when I’m doing Lucha I spend a lot of time working on lucha choreo and thinking about that type of stuff but as far as how much of wrestling I watch outside of Lucha, it’s not much.
Now you recently wrestled in Qatar. I imagine they don’t get a lot of wrestling shows, so what was that like?
I would say, pretty amazing. I wrestled in Qatar with WWE and it was a really good experience and it was very popular, much more popular than you would have thought. So being able to wrestle there again was awesome. And the guy that put the tour together and a guy named Ali Zero and a bunch of other people, Farhad Mohammad and a bunch of other guys were working on bringing pro wrestling to Qatar. And their company QPW Qatar Pro Wrestling is what they’ve created and they’ve been talking to me for years, literally, about two years. And they set up a tour of Qatar and that fell through, they set up a tour of Sudan and that fell through due to international conflict and finally this one came through and I was stoked. Me, Del Rio, Mysterio, Matt Cross and Konnan went from a Lucha taping on a Sunday, went straight to Qatar, wrestled a show on a Tuesday in this super-pimp marketplace where they had stadium seats and Titantrons and a ring in the middle and it was sold out to capacity for the show that we did. I can’t say enough good things about Qatar. I’ve never actually seen a Rolls Royce dealership before being there. But there’s dealerships with rooms full of them. Another anecdote about Qatar is any time there’s a city with more Maserati dealerships than Starbucks you know there’s a lot of money around. Me and Rey and Alberto were counting the Maserati dealerships on the way to Ali Zero’s shop. He has a shop in the movie theatre/mall that we were going to check out, and we passed two Maserati dealerships and two Starbucks. And we were like “uh, holy shit.” The fact that the statistic held up. Anyway, Qatar was great and I’d love to go back.
Now you also recently did a comedy show with Dolph Ziggler and Briley Pierce. What are some of your favorite stand-ups, podcasts, and shows and movies. What are you really into right now?
Firstly, I do an improv show at Second City monthly first Thursday of every month called Flying Chuck. It’s named after the springboard flying kick I do off the second rope called the Flying Chuck. I’ve been doing that for about two years. Briley Pierce, aka Ryan Nemeth and Nick Nemeth aka Dolph Ziggler both do that show. Nick whenever he has time because obviously he doesnt have a lot of time, kickin’ ass all over the world in spandex. And Briley has done a lot of improv in Chicago. And we have a lot of talent working with us too, Brett Gunnell, Sam Richardson, Andy St. Clair, all of whom have pretty impressive accolades in the world of entertainment and comedy. Improv is the stuff that I like the best because you can have a good time with your friends and you don’t need to do a lot of homework and prepare. As far as why I do improv I feel it’s a good skillset to keep sharp and apply to wrestling and apply to other forms of entertainment. It’s a good way to get you thinking on your feet. It’s a really fun thing and if anyone’s ever in LA it’s Flying Chuck and it’s the first Thursday of every month. Unofficially, the Miz is slated to host next time he’s available on a Thursday so it’s either gonna be May or June, I believe, we’ll have the Miz which I think will be the first time we’ll have the Miz together in a comedy sketch thing on stage since doing the Dirt Sheet. I’m looking forward to it.
Yeah if I ever make it out there I’ll have to check it out, I love improv. There seems to be a big overlap now, that generation and you and your friends, of comedy and wrestling.
For sure. I think it’s cool that the wrestling and comedy connection has been there, and there’s been a lot of guys, obviously Mick Foley has been going on tour doing standup. Piper’s doing standup, William Regal. Nigel McGuinness is doing his standup, RVD. Foley is making a living off standup. He’s selling out places like the Hollywood Improv. In San Jose I went to his show and he did a really funny show and it’s something he’s been polishing for a really long time and it’s a cool thing.
Do you think that wrestling is starting to peak again, or is getting cooler? There’s a rapper called Jon Connor who did a mixtape, Best In The World. Max Landis, who wrote Chronicle, is a huge wrestling fan. A lot of comics now, Ron Funches, Jermaine Fowler, the Lucas Brothers, all huge wrestling fans and do plenty of wrestling references in their shows and standup. Do you think wrestling’s starting to build momentum to another peak period?
Yeah. I think almost like in the Nineties with the influx and popularity of independent rock and the rise of Nirvana I’d say pop culture there’s a rise in the popularity of independent wrestling. For me, certainly as an independent wrestler now there’s been an explosion in the demand for me, personally, which is awesome. It’s a good time to be a wrestler.
(laughter) I’ve thought about this a lot, for the first time in a long time that you can be an independent wrestler and make a good living off of it and we’ve seen that with the Young Bucks and the World’s Cutest Tag Team. I think I’ve even seen on Twitter where people are actually turning down WWE. And I don’t even want to get into what the backstage atmosphere must be like, because just from the travel alone it sounds exhausting.
I really loved being with WWE. I don’t think anyone should turn down WWE because at some level it gets your name out there to the biggest audience the fastest and the more that people know your name around the world the more you’re in demand and the more money you can make as a wrestler, so- if people are turning down WWE I hope they have a good reason. (laughs) The only good reason in my book is to work with Lucha Underground, which is what I’m doing.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your career, but to stay motivated I’m sure you have what you always want that next level step to be. As far as wrestling goes, do you have any opponents or companies or anything like that that you want to cross off the list?
Um, I’ve always wanted to have a singles match with HBK, I don’t know if that’s ever gonna happen. I feel like I got to wrestle pretty much everybody. I got to wrestle DX with Miz. Good matches with Punk, with Ziggler, with Undertaker, with Rey Mysterio. I would love to wrestle Rey in Mexico. I’ve wrestled him in a lot of other places. What I want to do with my wrestling career now, I want to tell multi-layered stories with the best talent available in a production that knows what they’re doing. Everything I just said is what Lucha Underground is. I feel like rather than having three matches with people I want to work with, I just want to improve my game. I reached a point in WWE where I thought I was at the height of my game and since I started working with Lucha I feel I’ve elevated it several steps higher than I thought I’d ever get it to. Along the way, having matches with people like Will Ospreay and Noam Dar in England has been awesome, just to work with some of the younger talent. Wrestling with the guys in Lucha Underground, Ricochet, Fenix, El Hijo del Fantasma, Drago, Aero Star, that’s a totally interesting challenge in and of itself. And doing independent wrestling I got to wrestle AJ Styles, he was definitely on there on my wrestling bucket list so to speak. I feel like I’m right where I need to be right now.
I ask that, there were some requests when I said I was interviewing you, of basically “would he ever consider going to New Japan?”
Sure. You know, maybe I’ll call them right now. What’s their number?
1-800-NEW-JAPAN. Now tell us about Out of Your Mind Fitness. What brought that about?
So you mentioned, you did an article and you mentioned that WWE should do a series of workout DVDs and I mentioned it a while ago and it’s too bad I never did it or it never happened or something like that?
Yeah. (inserts foot into mouth)
In 2009, I believe, I pitched a workout book to WWE. They said they already had a workout book that was unsuccessful. Hunter’s book.
I always wanted to do something workout based. I revised my pitch and in 2010 I suggested a series of DVDs and they said they were interested, and then six months later they said they didn’t have the time or company resources to dedicate to a series of John Morrison workout DVDs but they gave me permission to go and do it on my own so I started working on Out of Your Mind Fitness. In 2011 a buddy of mine named Jeff Carrier wrote this very detailed program out that applied pretty much everything I know about fitness and he knows about fitness and also stuff that I liked. Because there’s an encyclopedia of fitness knowledge out there, there’s so much fitness knowledge out there and it’s all good. Well some of it’s not, but most of it’s good. There’s some of it that I just don’t care for it, the stuff that I like the most if functional training. It’s training in a time efficient way to improve performance and aesthetic. The most functional movement that pertain to your quality of life and your performance as an athlete. So Out of Your Mind Fitness is for everyone that can do a pushup and a bodyweight squat. You can start at level one and work your way up to level five, which is crazy difficult. A lot of it has evolved from how I trained when I was on the road with the WWE. You don’t always have time to train at the gym, you run out of time, you have to drive four hours and you have to get some food and you don’t have time to get to the gym for two hours. You have to get it done at the arena or you have to get it done fast at the gym. A lot of the supersetting, dropsetting functional exercises are from that time crunch that I had with WWE. I think anybody that’s purchased Out of Your Mind Fitness, who’s used it has loved it and is tweeting about it and saying how great it is. And I think people that get it and look at it can really see the amount of TLC that I put into it and Jeff put into it. We wrote every page of this book. We planned every workout, we debated every point that’s contained in the program so that’s Out of Your Mind Fitness and you should check it out or whoever’s reading this should check it out at http://outofyourmindfitness.com.
Yeah I’m in the process of getting back into shape, and you already kind of answered my question as to whether this is for athletes because, you’re obviously a stage five guy. I’ve seen you do upside down crunches on your hands and it looks like something out of Spider-Man. Because I was wondering if this was for athletes looking for that next level, or just someone that maybe has to get started.
It’s pretty much set up for everybody. That’s why I designed the levels, so anybody can do it and benefit from it. And I think if you want to try it, you should definitely try it. It’ll work. It’ll get your ass in shape quick.
Yeah, I had a car accident and a serious illness, and all that lying around didn’t exactly work wonders for the six pack.
Bro, I know what you mean. Leaving WWE I had that neck injury and I was out of commish for a while. And it sucks, it sucks to get out of shape due to injury. I think functional training is the best no matter what. You want to get back into shape fast, and be useful? And save time? I think functional training is the way to go.
I mean, you certainly can’t argue with a guy that does something called Scorpion Push-Ups.
Functional training is the emerging new trend of exercise, and this looks a lot more interesting than lifting bars with heavy pieces of metal circles attached. Go give them a look at their website, www.outofyourmindfitness.com.
I want to thank John for talking to me, Heather for setting this up, and Widro for hosting this. I also want to give thanks to my wrestling twitter/media twitter friends @lafergs, @sarah_jacoby and @douglasmartini for the advice and tips. And feel free to follow Johnny Mundo aka John Morrison at @TheRealMorrison and myself at @todaysjimsawyer.
James A. Sawyer graduated with a degree in English/Creative Writing in 2011. He had a hardcore match with a car, and moved to New York in this economy. Clearly Daredevil is not the only man without fear.