ATPW - Let's kick off by addressing the thing that got tongues wagging over the last few months and that is your call of proclaiming yourself today's "Greatest Play-by-play announcer". How did that line come about? When was your "character shift" first suggested?
Josh Mathews - It wasn't a character shift. It's something that I truly believe. It was a video that was done on ImpactWrestling.com and people took what I said..."I've been saying I'm "the Greatest play-by-play announcer of all time" since I got here and I think I've proven that over the last three years. I also said in that video that I want to do things here in Impact, like videos games and action figures and stuffed animals, bigger venues, more touring, but people ran with that (call) and that's fine. It's something I stand by, that's something that I believe. In 2017 I don't think there's anybody that can do what I do, at the level that I do it.
With your persona on TV at the moment, how do you deal with treading the line between viewers saying "I'd like to punch that guy in the face" and "I'm going going to change the channel"?
It's "go-away" heat vs. legitimate heat and look, I've had people in the Impact Zone spit on me and be thrown out because of it. I've had people scream at me, I've had children give me the middle finger, I've had grandmothers yell at me. All of these things are happening while I'm out there just trying to do my job. I'm just out there to call the show, to give people factual information and to let people know that they are hearing, the best possible wrestling play-by-play announcing that they can have. Sometimes I talk a little about myself, but that's to be expected when you have someone the calibre that I am out there calling these shows.
With the recent changes in Impact, what's the vibe like backstage at the moment?
The vibe is great, it's a lot of fun. I kinda live in my own world, when the show starts I'm out there at ringside. During the day, I'm always having fun, we have a lot of meetings, we work really hard. We get there, we work hard, we got to meetings and then we do great content and then everyone goes about their business.
What do you think makes this version of Impact Wrestling different or better to previous incarnations?
I think that everyone seemed to get caught up in the saga of what was transpiring in Nashville...more so than what they were watching on TV and that's the problem. People wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, more than watching what was transpiring on the TV. We did some amazing shows in New York, about two January's ago. The World title series wasn't critically acclaimed, but I thought it was pretty good, it was innovative, it was different, it was a lot of wrestling. Where we are right now, where we started in March and as we move towards Slammiversary, we've got new regime, new owners. But I think, if I got to the movies, I don't wonder "Oh man, did this movie go over budget?" or "Oh man, did this movie almost not make it?" or "Oh man, this actor did this to this actor backstage"...I just want to see a quality movie. I think wrestling fans feel that their entitled to more in 2017 and that's probably a result of social media, because they're so close. Just watch the show and enjoy it and then come back the following week and watch it again.
There's plenty of fans that have fallen out of love or drifted away from the Impact product over the last five or six years, what reasons would you give them to tune back into the product in 2017?
I'm not gonna be a corporate shill and beg people. "Oh please come back and watch". If you're a wrestling fan and you're paying attention to what's going on in the world and especially if you're paying attention to what's going on in the United Kingdom and the amazing talent that are over there and now you've got Impact on Spike TV UK, every Friday at 9, it's right there at your finger tips and you can watch it. If you're a wrestling fan, you should watch it and you should see what's going on. You shouldn't worry about the bullshit that transpires behind the scenes, because what you're seeing on the show is the hardest working individuals in professional wrestling doing what they can to entertain you for two hours.
With Impact returning to UK television screens with Spike UK, how important do you think it is to have a free television presence in the UK, at the moment?
I think it's very important. Obviously, Challenge decided to not air Impact anymore. Then we went with the app, so our fans in the UK weren't missing Impact and you could see Impact the same time it premiered here in the States. You had to do it on a mobile device and some people aren't used to that yet, but now we're on Spike UK, every Friday, you know it's going to be there at 9pm. It's just super important. You now have destination, you know where you're going and you know where your guys are going to be. That's all I need to know as a fan. I watch a lot of TV shows and maybe if I hear a show's getting cancelled, maybe I don't watch the last few episodes. But this is brand new, we've landed and it's going to be a lot of fun going forward on Spike.
Impact also has the relationship with ITV's WOS Wrestling, how do you see that developing as a professional wrestling and perhaps, also as a broadcaster?
I would love to be apart of that, I don't know if I'm going to be able to be, but I think it's really cool. I've got a chance to speak to some of the talent that's going to be competing over there, guys like Rampage and a few of the others. I think it's going to be a lot of fun when that gets going on WOS Wrestling on ITV. It's just another thing, like AAA or Pro Wrestling NOAH, another place for us to be. I always call it like "Hey, can we be friends with all these people? Is this really gonna work?" but right now it seems to be working.
It's been a while since we've seen Impact physically over here in the UK, do you know if there's anything in the works for a return?
I don't want to say, for sure, one way or the other. I think that that's in the works and a huge possibility, but I don't want to say "Yeah, for sure" because I don't want to speak out of school.
Slammiversary is coming up on 2nd July (US), can you let us in on any of the current plans for the event?
I hate to spoil the end of the movie! We've just got back from filming a bunch of great TV and we've still got some filming coming up in India before we get to Slammiversary. When someone had told me what some of the ideas were for Slammiversary my eyes got super-wide and I said "Man, this is gonna be an incredible show". I know everyone saw on YouTube, it did almost a 100k views in less than a few days, Scott Steiner returned, I know he'll have something to do with Slammiversary. It's gonna be a lot of fun. We need to have that big summer bash, big summer show, a big party on July 2nd at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Do you think there is space to perhaps do more PPV content?
PPVs, to me, are, kind of, antiquated. We do the monthly One Night Only series and you have the big Bound For Glory and Slammiversary, I think those book mark PPVs are good, but monthly PPVs...I don't know. I guess it depends on the price point and that's a whole different conversation.
We've seen a lot of new faces in the Impact Zone recently, which of the recent signings have impressed you most?
|Source - Instagram/dezmondxavier|
Almost all of them. Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid, I think they're great. I love Reno Scum, it's unfortunate that Adam Thornstowe went down with an injury recently, but I know he'll be back and better than ever. I think those guys are really good. Dezmond Xavier, he was in the Six Man match on the live show, the first show on Spike UK, he's awesome. Low Ki's back, Sonjay Dutt is back, so I just think it benefits us, it's feel good and if you turn on the TV you're going to see people you don't know, but if you stick around you're going to see people who impress you. Dezmond Xavier, I never say "Hello" to anybody and I went out of my way to talk to him after he competed in that match.
When it comes to the taping blocks in Orlando, what's an average week like and what's your role in putting the show together?
I'm involved in every aspect of this company, except for the creative process. Digital and all sorts of other things, but the creative process, those guys know what they're doing, so I'm not involved in that. So, when I get to TV it's a lot of work as it relates to generating content for digital, because we're only with these guys for a short amount of time and some of these people we won't get to see until Slammiversary. It was just grinding work, but it's really worth it in the end. The good thing in that other company, they're together every week, so if you miss something on Tuesday, you're going to be with them again on Monday. We don't have that luxury, we're with our guys until we're not and then we don't see them for a while. So it's a chore, but it's plan, plan, plan, but we're going to have success when we get there.
You mentioned the "other company", what's the difference between announcing for them and announcing for Impact?
Just freedom. Not being worried. My biggest thing up there was worrying that I was going to saying something that I was going to get yelled at for. I didn't mind getting yelled at, it was the deal that you didn't know what you were going to get yelled at for. One day it's blue, the next day it's red. It was like just an unknown. I remember everything that Vince McMahon ever told me, as it relates to commentary, everything, Kevin Dunn as well. I never forgot those lessons that they gave me. But sometimes those lessons, not from Kevin, but from Vince, they would change. It got, not frustrating, because you want to make them happy because you work for them and that's how I felt when I was there. I felt that I delivered, but whatever transpired there, it is what it is.
The real difference is freedom. Down here, if I get a talent over, I get over. If get a talent to the next level, I get to the next level. That's the way I look at all of this stuff. If I'm going about it a different way than you're used to as a fan and you think that I'm being selfish and you think that I'm making it about me, then you're not seeing the big picture...which is fine.
You've worked with a variety of partners of the years, if you could work with anyone, whether that be inside or outside of the business, who would you like to work with?
You guys probably don't know him, his name is Kirk Herbstreit, he works for ESPN. I think he's the most phenomenal colour analyst in sports today, I think he's really really good.
Where do you see yourself in five years time, professionally?
I'm a forward thinker, I have a lot of things going on, in and outside of the wrestling business, in the entertainment industry...I keep those things close to the vest. I love where our entertainment field is going, in the sense of social media and digital media and what can you do for me outside of the TV shows. That's where my brain goes. Five years from now, I don't know where I'm going to be five minutes from now.
Can we expect even more digital content from Impact going forward?
I'm looking at our calendar right now. On Tuesday we do The Question Mark, on Wednesday's you have Around the Ring, Thursday - Impact in 60 with all the clips, Friday - the new show with my wife, Madison Rayne and I, called With This Ring. I'm sitting here waiting to click send on something called Allie's World, where Allie has her YouTube channel, she's going to have her first look on her channel and we're going to have an Allie's World playlist and in a few minutes you'll see a tweet that's going to talk about that. Maybe that will be get more talent to create their own content and you're really going to get an inside look at the lives of our amazing roster. It's opportunity to have these guys, they all go home and they all have iphones and they have a lot of down time to get in front of the camera. They're the stars, they're the ones who are driving this vehicle. So we'll see what can happen with these people who are all super talented.
A big thanks to Josh for taking the time to speak with us and we wish him all the best going forward. You can find him online here
Twitter - @RealJoshMathews
Instagram - JoshMathews
Hear Josh announce alongside Jeremy Borash and Da Pope on Impact Wrestling on Spike TV (UK) Friday's at 9pm (Freeview/TalkTalk/BT TV - 31, Sky - 160, Freesat - 141, Virgin Media - 154) In the US you'll find him on Pop TV, Thursdays at 8/7c.
Thanks to Impact Wrestling, as well as Si Rothstein and Lauren Soar, for allowing this interview to take place.