Tony Kozina Interview
Tony Kozina is doing mighty well for himself.
Tony Kozina gives advice to
aspiring wrestlers, talks about the Super 8, making it to the WWF or WCW,
and gives a glimpse into the life of an indy wrestler.
Tony Kozina is an independent
wrestler who has dreams of making it to the big time. He was one of wrestlers
specially chosen to compete in this year's Super 8 Tournament, a showcase
of eight top indy workers. This interview took place before the tournament.
Tavares: You've been selected to wrestle for the ECWA Super 8 Tournament.
It's a tournament put on by ECWA promoter Jim Kettner and has showcased
great talent in the past which led onto bigger things in their careers,
including Billy Kidman, Lance "Simon" Diamond, Devon "Crow Bar" Storm, Reckless
Youth, Scott "Too Hot" Taylor, Matt and Jeff Hardy, and Christopher Daniels
to name a few. What are your thoughts on being selected to compete in such
a prestigious event?
Kozina: I'm quickly learning that this is a very big event
even bigger than I thought it would be. It's an honor to be chosen when
you consider the incredible amount of talent available and I'm looking very
forward to meeting and working with people who I've heard of but have never
seen wrestle. I think it will be a very special weekend for everyone involved,
and hopefully like you said, all the competitors will get that extra exposure
which is so critical to those of us on the indy scene.
Tavares: Obviously most pro wrestlers are big fans of pro wrestling,
so who were your favorite wrestlers and promotions as a kid growing up?
Kozina: I grew up watching Don Owen's Portland Wrestling and it was
very exciting. I always liked the heels when I was little and Rip Oliver
would have to be my favorite. He was like the Ted DiBiase of the northwest
the perfect heel.
Tavares: When did you know you wanted to become a wrestler?
Kozina: I can't remember a time when I DIDN'T want to be a wrestler.
I was ready to start training when I was 18 but between the business being
very kayfabe and my size it didn't work out until several years later.
Tavares: Who trained you? What was the experience like?
Kozina: Billy Jack Haynes started training me and after about five
months Matt Borne picked up where Billy left off. Matt also hooked me up
with Michelle Starr and the ECCW/NWA-PNW promotion. Starr began booking
me on all the ECCW shows and taught me more psychology, and the business
side of wrestling how to promote myself. Those guys come from the
old school and the training was very, very tough. I liked that discipline
and no BS environment. It really helped give me the drive and focus to try
and improve my game every single day.
Tavares: How long was it before you got your first match, who was
it against, and for who? Tell us about that experience.
Kozina: I started training in July 1996 and had my first match about
six months later in January 1997 against Oly Olsen for Sandy Barr's Championship
Wrestling USA In Vancouver Washington. I had actually begun as a referee
in October 1996. Matt wanted to get me in front of the audience and get
me used to it. He always told me to being my gear wherever I go. So, one
week they were one man short. I had my gear and out to the ring I went
as a wrestler!!! I wasn't very nervous as I had trained almost daily. Oly
was a veteran and all I had to do was listen and learn. He gave me a good
stretching, but he also made me look tough. After he beat me he helped me
up, shook my hand and raised my arm. The fans appreciated that and I think
Oly's actions helped the fans accept me. Working for Sandy was a fantastic
experience as almost all the guys had well over 10 years experience. Several
even had been in the business for over 20 years and they took the time to
show me why and when to do things. Those kind of lessons are priceless and
I am grateful for my short time there.
Tavares: You've wrestled for many promotions in your short time in
the business. What are some of the promotions you have competed for the
most? Who do you like working with the most?
Kozina: I've worked across Canada and the United States for over
24 promotions. I also worked for NWA UK/Hammerlock Wrestling. I have always
been treated well and got what I was promised and sometimes I was promised
nothing but an opportunity. Of course, my home promotion ECCW/NWA-Pacific
Northwest is my favorite for many reasons. The crew there is like a family
of die-hard performers always trying to improve the show and the scenery
of British Columbia is one that never grows old. Other promoters who I really
enjoyed working for include Bill Behrens who helped organize both NWA Anniversary
Shows that I was on, Roland Alexander who runs APW in California, Andre
Baker the promoter of NWA UK/Hammerlock Wrestling, and Jim Miller of NWA
East/PWX in Pittsburgh. Those four promoters really stick out in my mind
as true professionals.
Tavares: What's your style of wrestling? High flying? Technician?
Kozina: I wrestle so much that I've had a chance to experiment over
the last year with different styles to see what I feel works best for me.
I've kept away from the high flying lucha style and developed a strong ground
game trying to add as much psychology as possible. Then when I add the high
flying I'm hoping it means more. I've spent considerable time studying matches
with guys going after an arm, leg, and neck, leading then to submission
holds. I have found that the fans get into the match much more with that
kind of strategy, and it's a challenge to me to constantly find other ways
to "get it again" as I was taught.
Tavares: What's been the highlight of your career thus far?
Kozina: There have been so many fantastic things that I've been fortunate
enough to do thus far, but traveling to England was definitely a career
Tavares: If you had a chance to wrestle anyone, past or present,
who would it be and why?
Kozina: Ric Flair at his prime because he was just so good. I'd love
to have one of those bouts where my objective was to keep him from getting
at my leg one of those 40 minute epic encounters. You don't see too
much of that anymore although the WWF has been getting back to that style
from some of the matches that I've seen lately.
Tavares: Where do you see yourself in the business 2-5 years from
Kozina: It's just so hard to say with the way this business goes.
I feel confident that my abilities are at level equal to that which is on
WWF/WCW, but the bottom line is am I something that they are looking for?
I hope that within two years I will have been given a chance to work with
a major promotion. If nothing comes of that I will be hard at work helping
ECCW to grow and expand throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Tavares: If you were not wrestling, what would you be doing?
Kozina: I would still be in college studying astronomy.
Tavares: Not many know what life is like for an indy wrestler. Can
you tell us what it is like for you, like what you do on a daily/weekly
basis? Such as time for the gym, working a show, etc.
Kozina: It is very unstable, and difficult to hold down a regular
job while trying to do shows every weekend. My schedule changes from month
to month and it seems that just when I get used to living one way, something
changes and it throws everything for a loop. For example, I am just coming
off the winter wrestling slump and for the past two months I've had a nice
little routine of working a day job, training, rest and family. Soon I will
be back on the road that gets hard as everyone has to re-adjust. I'll most
likely give up my warehouse job to concentrate on wrestling, but one of
my best friends has a landscaping business and he encourages me to work
with him when I'm in town so I have steady income. My daily schedule will
be all out of whack as sometimes I'll be in a car for 20 hours at a time.
It's hard on my family too. I get home from a week on the road and I might
be home for only three more days before leaving for another four. I do my
best to balance it all and it gets exhausting, but I love it and wouldn't
trade it for anything else.
Tavares: Do you have any advice to anyone reading this who wishes
to pursue a career in pro wrestling?
Kozina: Go to school and get something to fall back on in case wrestling
doesn't work out. Putting "pro wrestler" on a job application won't exactly
get you a management position so you have to think smart. I just had a friend
of mine break his leg in a match and he's 23 years old. It sounds like he
will recover and return to the ring in a few months thank God, but it makes
me think, what happens if I really hurt myself, what do I do for a job?
That should be the question on every aspiring wrestler's mind. Once you
have the answer to that start researching wrestling schools and see what
they can offer you. How many shows do they run? What connections do they
have? Who are the trainers and what does their resume look like? Those are
the things you need to find out before plopping your money down.
Tavares: What are your thoughts on the state of pro wrestling today
(i.e. WWF, WCW, ECW, and indys)?
Kozina: Well it all kind of looks up in the air right now, but very
promising at the same time if that makes any sense. I don't have cable so
I am unable to watch much wrestling except for the PPVs that I see on tape.
With that said, the WWF has had some incredible matches in the past six
months and I see nothing but more great things for them throughout the year.
I think that the indy scene will slowly continue to improve although I've
heard that business was way down last year for many indy promotions. I'd
like to see ECW get another TV deal and keep going strong. They have a unique
product and show atmosphere that can't be duplicated. I haven't had a chance
to watch much WCW at all, but they have the potential to have as many incredible
matches as the WWF and maybe more with all the talent they have. Their strength
is in the different types and styles of matches they can have and I wouldn't
be at all surprised to see WCW back on track with great PPVs throughout
Tavares: Who do you most respect in the wrestling business?
Kozina: Chris Benoit. He's the finest performer out there and his
best days are still ahead of him.
Tavares: Have any wild road stories to share?
Kozina: Ohhhh, where would I start??? Let me quickly take you back
to a hot summer's night in Penticton, BC and the damndest thing I ever did
see... All the boys have just finished up socializing at a local pub. We're
walking to a Subway down the block and there's about 10 of us. Midget Bruce
has had one too many...well actually the little meego just had one but that's
enough to do him in, God bless him. For whatever reason he spots this group
of girls walking ahead of us and overhears one of them call out to another
named Sabrina. Beautiful Bruce, with the grace of God starts running after
this girl, yelling "Sabrina, Sabrina." With that he attempts to hop over
this curb but instead rips and I'm crapping you negative splats
on the cement face first in what has to be the greatest thing I have ever
witnessed in my life.
Tavares: Any final thoughts you'd like to share?
Kozina: Just a thank you to all who have helped and supported me
in the past four years. I have appreciated all the help so very much. For
those interested in reading more about me you can go to my website at www.eccw.com/kozina.
And finally a thank you to Jim Kettner for inviting me to this year's Super
8. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and the opportunity that awaits!
Interview from IGNwrestling.com