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Interview with "Tornado" Tony Kozina on prowrestlinginsider.com
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 be.

KE: Very interesting, Tony. You sure have a lot to say [laughing]. Well, how did you start training for pro-wrestling?

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 say DETERMINED.

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.


   

 


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