The other day i got the chance to have a chat with Ring of Honor star Donovan Dijak. We talked about training in the New England Pro Wrestling Academy, Ring of Honor, his current tear in Beyond Wrestling, touring Europe in 2016 and other things. I uploaded the audio for whoever wants to hear but also transcribed it to text for anyone who would rather read than listen.
Mark: You trained at the the New England Pro Wrestling academy, you are apart of the big three of Brian Fury as i call it, you, Biff Busick and Sasha Banks. I know when usually when we hear about training, they’re usually horror stories like “we took bumps on concrete” and stuff like that, but, the NEPW does not seem like that kind of place, am I right?
Donovan: No, we haven’t any bumps on concrete yet (laughs). We haven’t been forced to anyway, I might have on my own choosing, but, nobody’s made me do it. The School’s a great school, it used to be the Chaotic Training Center, its an extension of Killer Kowalski’s. Back when he was with us he moved his school from Malden to North Andover and hopped on to the Chaotic Training Center building back when Mike Hollow was the head instructor and some things come up in Mike’s life around 2008, and that’s when they brought on Brian Fury, “Handsome Johnny” at the time, now known as Warbeard Hanson and Brian Milonas as the three head trainers of the CTC. So that’s why, pretty much everybody on your list, both of them have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Biff had Hollow, Hanson, Fury, Malone, He traveled up to Lance Storm, and Funaki. When She (Sasha Banks) was Mercedes she trained at the Chaotic Training Center so she originally started off with all three of those guys, Milonis, Hanson and Fury, and then obviously she got supplemental training from Sara Del Rey. So out of the three, Fury definitely has the greatest Impact on me, cause he has been, kind of the only trainer I’ve had. When i started, Hanson was a full time trainer, so for about six months to a year he had a big influence on me, but since then its been mostly Fury. Not to say say that i haven’t trained elsewhere, I’ve trained with all sorts of guys for small periods of time and we have all sorts of guest trainers at the schools, so there’s definitely been bits and pieces that I can pick up from everybody, but in terms of having one guy, he’s (Fury) sort of my guy. i don’t know who the other two would say is there’s. At the end of the day, a trainer can only do so much for you, a lot of your experience comes from who you get to wrestle and how much you pick up on it, a lot of it is homework and doing your own studying, they can give you the tools, but you have to build your own house.
Mark: Who would you say is the next Brian Fury Guy to come out of the New England Pro Wrestling Academy that’s going to take the indie scene by storm?
Donovan: Probably due to the buzz he gets just from what he can do, Travis Gordon. He’s been featured on some Beyond Wrestling stuff. He’s not quite at the level that some of the other students are, like (Mikey) Webb and (Brick) Mastone, but just with the acrobatics and athleticism, this kid does high flying stuff that people have never seen before. He’s the kind of kid that if he’s there after class and you tell him to try something and he’ll give it a couple shots and does it on the second time, and im not talking like “hey do a back flip”, I’m wracking my brain trying to think of like Create-a-Move type stuff like “start on the outside, springboard to the inside to the second rope, then do a corkscrew shooting star press” and he’ll try it like three times and nail it. I see him wrestler on shows, he doesn’t quite do what he’s capable of doing, because, i don’t know if he’s shy, I don’t think think he knows what he’s capable of doing yet and once he figures that out and picks up the wrestling portion of it, that will come because he’s training with one of the best trainers in the world, so it’s only a matter of time before he really starts to go places. In terms of what he can offer, he can do stuff that I’m not even sure Ricochet and Shynron can do, I mean, they can do stuff that he can’t do, but I’ve seen him do stuff that I’ve never seen those guys do.
Mark: In PROGRESS Wrestling in England their tournament (The Natural Progression Tournament) that’s kind of like ROH’s Top Prospect Tournament, the Winner gets to choose one of the competitors that didn’t win to come back to next year’s tournament for another shot, who would you pick from this years Top Prospect Tournament to come back?
Donovan: That’s a good question cause most of them are kind of in Ring of Honor now. Probably the obvious answer is Mikey Webb. Out of the eight guys that were in the tournament there’s about three guy’s that haven’t been given a true shot with Ring of Honor, (Jay) Diesel obviously has a spot, Will (Ferrera) has a spot, Dalton obviously has a spot, we’re using Beer City Bruiser, Ashley Sixx has gotten some dark matches, and there’s me, i obviously have a spot. Webb is the only one left, and he’s the only one who really hasn’t been given that that second chance. I’m not sure he want’s that second chance right now, not to say he doesn’t want to work for Ring of Honor, but his goal is to be completely different the next time they see him. He’s not thrilled with the way he performed in the Top Prospect Tournament, but he’s aware of it and he doesn’t wanna be that guy that just treads along, he want’s to make sure that the next time that ROH see’s him, that he makes the impact he wasn’t able to make last time. So if I could give him another shot, I think it would be like night and day from what everybody saw last year.
Mark: How’s it been working with the House of Truth?
Donovan: It’s a really unique experience that’s getting me a lot of things that nobody else can really get. I’d say more so it’s just the presence that all of those guys have, being around Truth Martini and Jay Lethal, they just have this aura, this start quality, it’s a real thing that you can feel and become apart of. Of course i get feedback from them and I get wrestling advice, obviously Truth and Jay are reputable trainers so they know what they’re talking about, but just the Star Quality of the HoT has been more important than anything really, you get to spend all your time both in the back and in the ring around the best wrestler in the world and the best manager in the world eventually it starts to impact you as a person and a performer
Mark: Whenever I talk about you i always say you can do it all. One questions that’s always asked is can you cut a promo, I didn’t know, until you dropped the Aj Styles promo which was incredible
Donovan: Yeah, I think i did a couple takes, I did it with Scotty Slade, he’s a good cameraman. I had a concept that i wanted to do, for me it was a little too long. Like, promos are cool, the people who like me and are fans of my work are the people that are going to listen to what I have to say even of its two minutes long, but if I want that promo to be effective, in my opinion, it needs to be a little shorter, needs to get to the point a little harder, I need to have more of a steadfast character and be a little more focused. That being said I’ve always felt I’ve had the capability of communicating with people in an honest and effective way, I think that’s the most important part of promos nowadays. You know a lot people are looking for that over the top promo that makes them laugh a lot, or is super unique, or the guy’s like screaming and hollering, cause i know that used to be a thing back in the 80’s and now its starting to make it’s way back now cause nobody really does promos like that, and tha’ts all fine and dandy, but to me there’s a big difference between a promo that’s unique, that make’s you go “oh cool, you don’t see that every day” and something that you genuinely believe, I’ve always tried to cut a promo that people can sink their teeth into and genuinely believe, I’m not trying to portray a character, I’m trying to portray my actual emotions, how i legitimately feel about something so I try to keep my promos as real as possible and relate them to actual real life scenarios. But, yeah if I could do that promo again I’d probably keep it a bit shorter and have more of a focus rather than it being story time with Donovan Dijak. I know a lot of people enjoyed it, and that’s fine cause those are probably the people that are invested in me and know my back story, but then there’s probably a whole handful of people that probably turned it on, didn’t know who the hell was talking or why i was talking and probably just turned it off right away, that’s the kind of thing that i need to consider the next time i cut a promo like that. It all ended up not mattering at all cause I didn’t even wrestle Styles (laughs)
Mark: Yeah! i was so sad about that cause this was the biggest match you were getting in ROH, i see you at Beyond Wrestling and i know how amazing you are, so for you to go against the Phenomenal One was so exciting and for it not to happen was just heart breaking.
Donovan: I was definitely bummed out about it cause it was definitely going to be an opportunity for to sort of break out in ROH, like “hey you get to wrestle the best wrestler in the world in a television main event” it was a multi-segment match was gonna have a lot of time, so it was definitely going to be a great opportunity for me, but you know, things happen and maybe things happen for a reason, we’ll see. I have another huge opportunity coming up, i mean, it’s not for TV, but there will definitely be eyes on the match cause its going to be House of Truth Vs Bullet Club, I get to wrestle Styles and the Young Bucks so if we have a good enough match, and I’m sure we will cause those guys are all phenomenal, no pun intended (laughs), I’m sure that match will get a lot of notoriety and people will start to realize that I can hang with them.
Mark: I do always say that people that don’t see you in Beyond Wrestling don’t know what you can fully do. At Beyond you just hit another switch.
Donovan: Beyond is in a place where they know the audience is going to be fully invested in me because they have seen me a number of times and enjoy my work, so they know that they can put me in a situation where it’s like “hey, here’s a 15 minute singles match, just go ahead and do whatever you want”. ROH is different, because they have so many guys there that are so established and so good, it’s tough to be like “oh hey, lets give the greenest guy on the roster who’s heel some time”, that’s a big dedication, so i was thrilled when they gave me the opportunity with Styles, but that didn’t end up working out, but I did have Elgin the next night, and i definitely think that match turned some heads both for the live audience and some of the guy in the back. I think people at ROH have a sense of what I’m capable of because they see that if you give me a small spot i focus on it, I can work and I can sell on stuff, but It’s definitely a different thing to see a 15 minute singles match where you can get progressive storytelling and progressive selling, that’s definitely where i think most wrestlers are capable of shining and i finally got that opportunity wrestling Elgin in that singles match that went about 18 minutes, it definitely got some big reactions and I think people were pleasantly surprised so I think once people see that DVD/VOD they’ll start to invest in me a little bit more.
Mark: We were talking about Beyond Wrestling for a bit, you have a huge match coming up with Chris Hero, would you say this is your biggest opportunity in Beyond right now?
Donovan: Through the matches that I’ve had, I’d probably say that Biff (Busick) was the biggest, just because he was THE guy at Beyond, and that was kind of the match that made me. With that being said this match (with Hero) seems to have the most hype behind it, cause me Vs Biff has happened before, we’ve wrestled for Chaotic Wrestling, we’ve wrestled for a Beyond Wrestling Secret show so some fans of Beyond have already seen it, it wasn’t a mystery, everybody knew we were going to have a great match and it ended up kind of surpassing expectations so people in hindsight were super excited about it, but going into it i only had one match, granted it was a great one, with Eddie Edwards, so I don’t think people had the high expectations that they probably have for this one with Hero. Going into it now, people obviously know how great Chris Hero is, and there’s so much buzz around me at Beyond that i think people are just excited. It’s weird cause a lot of people are saying this is a clash of styles, like yeah he does a lot of technical wrestling, but to me if I had to pick another guy on the indies who’s very similar to me he’d be one of the guy’s that I’d go with, he’s a bigger, taller guy that does things that people think he shouldn’t be capable of, he’s super athletic for his size and weight and he’s creative, so to me a see a lot of him in me and a lot of me in him. To me that’s kind of the allure of the match itself and that’s why I think it’s getting such a buzz, hopefully we can live up to the very high expectations.
Mark: Your last opponent at Beyond was Jon Gresham, he’s a regular in a promotion that you will be headed very soon in 2016, wXw in Germany, how excited are you to finally be going to Europe?
Donovan: I’m very Excited, wXw is one of the companies that I’ve been pursuing since I’ve started wrestling, I’ve never been the kind of guy to sit back and wait on opportunities, I go and try to seek them out, so I’ve been emailing them since day one and, not surprisingly, kind of ignored me, like most companies do (laughs). I finally captured their attention when I sent them my Top Prospect Tournament match with Will and they said maybe they’ll have something for me in the future, and then i sent the match with Biff and that’s the one that made them say “OK, we have to get this guy over here”, Thankfully the stuff in Beyond has been helping me in a bunch of avenues. I’m super excited and can’t wait to show everyone what I can do.
Mark: Who would you like to face there?
Donovan: There’s so many different options, but out of everybody that I’ve seen from that landscape, Tommy End is the guy that sticks out to me as the type of guy you can really make a name for yourself wrestling against, if you can hang with a guy like that, you can hang with anybody.
Mark: One person I’d like to see you face in wXw is Big Daddy Walter, are you familiar with him?
Donovan: I am, I’ve watched a match of his, it was a shorter match so i didn’t get to see everything but that’s definitely an intriguing matchup. That’s one of the things I like to pride myself on is being able to work with any style, cause if I were to wrestle a heavyweight (like Walter), i think it’s cool that i can be the guy who does the lightweight stuff, it can be a cool contrast, like i turn into the guy that try’s to knock the other guy off his feet and doing all kinds of springboard nonsense, definitely wouldn’t be opposed to that match.
Mark: You said you like to pursue promotions, so are there any other promotions that you’ll be trying to work for while you’re in Europe?
Donovan: I know I’m working with wXw and they have some working relationships with other companies, some of which that are located in England so i might be doing some stuff with some English promotions, I’m just waiting to see the dates and what might be open to see what I can work. There are a handful of companies that are getting a lot of Buzz that I’d love to work for, companies like Rev Pro and Progress, there’s a promotion in Italy that Tommaso Ciampa speaks highly of, OTT in ireland, I’d love to work for all these companies and if I get the opportunity to work for one of them I’d be happy. Really wXw is the one that i had my sights set on and they are the big leagues of Germany, so I’m gonna do my best for them and hopefully they feel the need to bring me back afterward when i show them what I’m capable of, that’s my main focus for this trip, anything else is icing on the cake.
Mark: I know ROH is going to japan next year, and hopefully you’ll be on this show, who would you like to face from NJPW?
Donovan: Everybody (laughs), but if I had to pick one i would pick Kazuchika Okada, I don’t want to say he reminds me of me but there’s definitely pieces, we’re both younger, both taller guys, and we’re both very naturally athletic, he’s definitely smoother, obviously, he’s one of the best in the world and he has more experience than I do so a lot of what he does has a lot of fluidity to it, he’s definitely at a level I’d like to get to at some point. That match in particular strikes me as something where we can both make each other shine so much that it would just be a great match, hopefully one day that takes place, I think a lot of people would love and appreciate it.
Mark: We’ll wrap this up. Thanks for doing this Donovan, tell everyone where they can find you online.