Interview with "Tornado" Tony Kozina
by Kevin Edwards
KEVIN EDWARDS: I'm glad you
could make it Tony. First off, tell the readers a little bit about yourself
and how you got interested in pro-wrestling.
KOZINA: I was born and raised
in Portland, Or. and still live there today. I grew up watching Don Owens'
old NWA-PNW promotion, and even at an early age thought it would be cool
to be a wrestler, although they seemed to be superhuman absorbing all
that punishment every week. Growing up, I always wanted to do something
I really loved. Something that didn't seem like a typical job. I wanted
to be in KISS, or a wrestler, or a movie star. I always thought to myself,
"hey that guy did it, why can't I?" Unfortunately, my family really frowned
on anything that involved any risk, physically, or financially. It was
always go to college, get a degree. When I graduated from high school
in 1988 I looked around at getting trained, but it was the "bigger is
better" era, and I was turned down. So after trying college two different
times and withdrawing both times, I went to work in the grocery business.
In 1994 I looked into getting trained by Jesse Barr. I knew his brother
Art had achieved amazing success in Mexico, and that Mexico also used
smaller wrestlers. Jesse spoke so proudly of him when I inquired about
my chances in Mexico. Unfortunately, while my heart wanted it, I became
influenced by my family, and the training was a big risk financially with
no garentees of success. After 7 years of working, and trying to be happy
with myself there came a point in June 1995 where I got laid off from
a really good job right when I was about to buy a house. I took a good
long look in the mirror and said fu@k this. From now on i'm doing what
I want. I was playing drums in a rock band at the time, and I concentrated
on that. We played shows in Portland, and Seattle. When that fell apart,
I got an easy warehouse job that I really liked, and went back to college
to study Astronomy, and Chemistry. I still wanted to wrestle, but it seemed
impossible for me at 5'6" to be a success in the business when everyone
was so much bigger. I joined another band and figured I could, work, go
to school, and play shows on the weekends, and whatever happened happened.
Then in 1996 Rey Misterio Jr. was picked up by WCW, and they created the
cruiserweight division. I stood right up, and said "if he can get in there's
no reason why I can't. I went ballistic. I tried to reach ECW's House
of Hardcore, but we kept playing phone tag. WCW's Power Plant wanted guys
over 5'10" and 200lbs. so I called Billy Jack Haynes, who hosted a wrestling
radio show, and spilled my guts over the air. He agreed to train me, and
it took off from there. I continued working at the warehouse, playing
in my band, going part-time to college, and now training to be a professional
wrestler. One by one, things started having to be eliminated. The band
dissolved when my bandmates went away to college. I still worked, but
fortunately was able to get the time off when I started wrestling on shows
out of town. I continued going to school, and kept going until my wrestling
schedule got so busy, that I couldn't make the classes, so I stopped going
after the summer of 98. I kept working at the warehouse, until I wrestled
so much that I couldn't really commit to a steady work week. Now they
use me when i'm in town, and they need extra help. Looking back, it really
sucked not having any family support when I decided to persue my dream.
Instead, I felt like they mocked me. It was my friends, the guys I grew
up with that said "goddammit Tone don't worry about the money, you've
been wanting this your whole life, so go get it." In November 1997, I
got together with my girlfriend, Chris, who has been instrumental in my
happiness, and has supported me wholeheartedly in my dream. I say, "got
together" because we had been friends for two years before that and our
attraction had been growing from the start. We just never thought the
other one felt the same way. She has sacrificed her life to take this
chance with me. And the reality is that I could get crippled tomorrow,
I could wrestle for 10 more years in the indy's and have nothing to show
for it. More importantly no work experience to get a good job outside
of the wrestling business. But, we concentrate on the positives, and we
work as a team. For all the negative feedback, pokes, and jabs that I
felt from all the others, Chris has given me more positive support than
I could have ever wanted, and I would be a fool not to talk about her,
and the difference she's made. Together we have done everything we can
think of thus far to make it in this business. Will I make it to the top?
New Japan? WWF? WCW? All-Japan? ECW? Who knows for sure. All I do know
I that everyday I wake up I am dedicated to being the very best I can
KE: Very interesting, Tony.
You sure have a lot to say [laughing]. Well, how did you start training
TONY KOZINA: I started training
with Billy Jack Haynes. Matt Borne took me under his wing soon after.
He was booking for Sandy Barr's Championship Wrestling USA, and he along
with Bart Sawyer really taught me everything about this business. All
three of them are the reason I am here right now.
KE: Who did you idolize in the
world of pro-wrestling?
KOZINA: Of course Matt, Bart,
and Billy have a place in my heart, and every time I wrestle I can use
a piece of what they taught me. Matt, and Billy really drilled it into
me how to survive on the road. What to do, and what to avoid. As wrestlers
go I have always been very influenced by Ric Flair, and Bret Hart. They
are such fantasic wrestlers. Chris Benoit is another one who will carry
their torch into the 21st century.
KE: Can you describe your first
match for the readers?
KOZINA: My first match was Jan.
26th, 1997 against Oly Olsen. Oly is a fine gentleman, and he gave me
a good streching like it should be. He also made me look as tough as nails.
He could have done whatever he wanted to with me, but he wrestled me,
and didn't get nasty or take advantage of me. After he won he shook my
hand, and gave the crowd a thumbs up. He didn't have to do that, but that's
how Oly is, and I think that helped the crowd accept me more.
KE: What was your most serious
injury to date?
KOZINA: I have had no serious
injuries. Last year a small amount of fluid began building up in my right
elbow, but It quickly went away. Other than bumps and brusies, I've been
very lucky, especially with the way I wrestle.
KE: What do you think of WCW's
current cruiserweight division?
KOZINA: In 1996-97 WCW could
do no wrong. Rey Misterio Jr. Psicosis, Malenko, Jericho, Juventud, etc.
The cruiserweight matches were unreal, and that is what makes them unique.
No one else wrestles that style but the finest crusierweights, and it's
something to see. Today, I couldn't tell you what is going on. Ohh, everyone
has heard the rumors, and speculations, but who knows the real reason.
They have tons of crusierweight talent. Unfortunately, it's not being
utilized correctly, and it's a shame.
KE: Who has been your favorite
person to work with?
KOZINA: I have wrestled so many
fantastic people, I'd feel guilty naming one and not the others. I'm telling
you that there are so many incredible athletes in the indy's it blows
me away. Torch is always one of my favorite's to wrestle. Buddy Wayne
is another one who is just incredible. I wrestled "Kool Daddy Swing" Tony
McGuire in Winnipeg, and through BC, and he has a ton of potential. Most
recently, I have wrestled Vince "Big Time" Kaplack, and The Black Dragon,
both of whom are tremendous wrestlers, and I have much respect for. As
far as one person i'd like to wrestle, I don't really have a favorite,
but i'd just like to at least once wrestle each of the World's best. Today,
thinking about it, i'd say Juventud would really be a treat to wrestle.
KE: I can respect that. As far
as tag team wrestling goes, who has been your favorite partner?
KOZINA: A favorite partner?
I haven't wrestled in too many tag teams. I did team with Bart Sawyer
on a few occasions, That was a pretty big deal for me, because I was just
breaking in - maybe 6 months experience, and here I was with Bart against
Matt Borne, and Brusier Brian in the main event in Portland. The spotlight
was really on me, because I was wrestling with the two guys that were
responsible for getting me into the business. I felt like it was my final
exam, and I needed to be at my best. They could have put anyone in my
place, but they put me in this position because they had faith in my ability,
and I did my damndest to show them that they made the right decision.
KE: I asked this question to
Torch, so I'll ask it to you if you don't mind. What is the atompshere
like in ECCW?
KOZINA: Let me tell you about
the atmosphere in ECCW... Those guys are like my family. If I never make
it big, and spend my career in ECCW i'll be just as happy. It is relaxed.
It is a positive envoirnment, and it is a team of guys dedicated to doing
whatever it takes to blow the crowd away. We work very hard - all of us,
and it shows because we had over 100 shows last year, and the schedule
is increasing this year. We also just shot our first tv taping, so tv
may not be far away. When you come to work for ECCW. Prepare to work hard
and be creative, and also prepare to laugh yourself silly, because once
the work is done there is chaos, there are antics like you've never known,
and there is fun. You don't know why and you never know when, but it's
always right around the corner. Our roadtrips remind me of 6th grade outdoor
school. That may be the best way to describe ECCW.
KE: If you could describe Dave
Republic in one word, what would it be?
KOZINA: There is no one word
to describe Dave, because when one pops up, ten others are right there
with it that also describes him. But, for the sake of arguement, i'll
KE: What can't you understand
about pro-wrestling today?
KOZINA: I can't understand what's
going on in WCW right now. They have the finest pieces of talent in the
world, and yet they can't seem to get the ball rolling. I also can't understand
the wacky, wacky soap opera stories that drag on, and change from week
to week, and it's not just WCW. I'm a fan of kick ass in-ring action.
I always liked the personal stories that stayed close to the mat. When
Terry Funk beat Ric Flair half to death in 1989 because Flair took Funk's
challenge too lightly, I nearly pissed myself dry. When Flair came back
5 months later to challenge Terry Funk to a match for the NWA World Title,
the antisipation was so great that I almost passed away right there in
front of the television and ascended into heaven. That's what it's all
about for me. Flair was soft spoken, and sincere, breaking his usual "Nature
Boy" character, taking off the sunglasses, pointing into the camera, and
basically saying "Now we're gonna fight to the death." Don't get me wrong
I dig The Rock 100%, but wrestling today is far less emotionally stimluating
than it used to be, in my opinion.
KE: I totally agree, Tony. But,
what keeps you coming back into the ring day in and day out?
KOZINA: What keeps me coming
back is my love, my passion for this business. And you know, I can't even
really describe it. It's just there. Matt Borne said "it's in your blood,
Tone", and i'll I could do is nod my head. It's everything. I love learning
new things, and practicing something over, and over again until it flows
beautifully like some wicked ballet. I love driving for hours and hours
to places I've never been. I love getting the crowd into the action, and
the satisfaction of having a good match. Hell, if I've botched something
up, or feel like I could do better, I can't wait to get back to the ring
and get it down. It's all of that stuff, and knowing that there's nothing
i'd rather be doing that makes my heart happy.
KE: Tony, you have to be the
most dedicated wrestler I've come across. I know I haven't interviewed
a lot of wrestlers, in fact only one, but your dedication is truly inspiring.
But, if you couldn't work for ECCW, where would you work?
KOZINA: Would New Japan count?
If I had a choice to go somewhere right now, I would choose New Japan
because I want to learn, and I think I could learn alot over there. In
North America, all three promotions have so many positives, and i'm not
talking about money. WCW uses crusierweight wrestlers, and although the
division isn't really on fire right now, the chance to wrestle Rey Misterio
Jr. Juventud, Eddy Gurrero, and the dozens of other fantastic athletes
would help me to improve so much. ECW [Extreme Championship Wrestling]
is another place that uses lighter weight wrestlers, and seems to encourage
them to go nuts! Super Crazy, and Tijiri along with at least 4 other innovative
daredevils are always coming up with unique variations of moves, and the
latest unholy dives. I went to the WWF in September and spoke with the
talent scouts, and let me tell you. I felt at home there.The atmosphere
there was relaxed, and I felt really comfortable. The people I talked
to were very professional, and truthful. Do they use alot of junior heavyweights?
No, but as they said, "we hire dedicated people, and our management is
very creative". If I had a choice in North America, i'd go to the WWF.
KE: What is your advice to kids
who are looking to break into the wrestling gig?
KOZINA: My advice to guys wanting
to break in, especially smaller ones would be to first have a back-up
plan. Have some schooling, or some work experience to fall back on. Second,
listen to nothing but your heart. People might laugh. People might mock
you, but they can't kill your spirit unless you let them. Third, find
a good school run by a seasoned professional. Research schools and what
they can offer you to get the most out of it. And last, and most important.
Work like you've never worked before.