As he takes what feels like an eternity to get to the ring, former WWE superstar Paul London is taking the time to interact with each and every single fan at the American Legion in Brooklyn, New York, for Five Borough Wrestling. Decked out in his vintage orange track suit and long, straight black hair, the life of an independent wrestler is now a comfort zone for London.
At 35-years-old, London’s career post-WWE has allowed him to wrestle around the globe against some of the top names the industry can offer, such as Chris Hero, El Generico, and Kevin Steen. All three of those men have either been with or are currently with WWE. But for London, returning to his old stomping grounds isn’t in the cards.
“My priorities have shifted in the sense that it’s not on my priority list,” said London. “The motivation behind making a decision like that unfortunately would be money and partly ego because I didn’t give them everything that I had. I was there during at a very weird time, so there’s a part of me I think that wants to satifsfy that part of my ego but that part of my ego isn’t big enough to pursue it, if that makes sense.”
During his stint with WWE, which lasted from 2003 to 2008, the former Ring of Honor standout amazed audiences with his aerial capabilities, which led to him establishing a connection with the audience, despite his 5’8, 180 pound frame, which in wrestling is considered small.
Although he never got to an elite spot in the company, London would like to see future generations of wrestlers chosen into elite status not based on their looks, but rather their talent.
“Here’s the thing, people are so judgemental. We might say ‘Oh, I’m not judgemental’ but we are. It’s a terrible thing but we can’t help it,” said London. “I think a lot of stems from our defense mechanisms as far as protecting ourselves, even if it means judging someone else. So, it doesn’t make it any better or right. Well the proof is in the pudding, I don’t give a damn what you look like, if you can go, you can go. And if anything, I think it’s better for wrestling because why does everybody have to be some shredded model, monster, roid-freak? Why?”
London cited the aforementioned Chris Hero, who he got the chance to wrestle recently and believes can still perform at a high level, despite appearing to be heavier than he was during his stint with WWE. In fact, the former two-time WWE Tag Team champion thinks having people like Hero, who resemble more of the wrestling fan portion of the audience rather than a dream physique portion, helps the fans relate.
“The audience isn’t full of models, the audience isn’t full of body builders, the audience isn’t full of shredded dudes… people want to have someone they can relate with, people want to have someone they can connect with. And even if it’s in appearance, more power to them,” said London.
In the last decade, London and his former tag team partner, Brian Kendrick, paired up to enjoy one of the longest tag team title runs in recent memory. From May 2006 to April 2007, London and Kendrick dominated the WWE’s tag team scene as champions.
Their unique style, which featured a mixture of matching vests, shorts, theatrical masks, was met positively by the audience. Having garnered comparisons to acrobatic teams of years past, such a The Rockers, is a source of pride for London.
During that time, the WWE’s tag team division was viewed as a weak spot for the company Legendary teams, such as Team 3D, Edge & Christian, and the Hardy Boyz, were either gone or disbanded, leaving the field wide open for a team to grab the proverbial “brass ring.”
Despite the company’s personal feelings, London is proud of what he and his real-life best friend were able to accomplish.
“The truth is they just didn’t have anybody better, they didn’t like us but they didn’t have anybody better, so there wasn’t much they could do about it and the audience slowly started to come with it,” said London. “We did the best we could with what we were given. I’m extremely happy with that and it’s something they can never take away from us.”
Kendrick has since returned to WWE, competing on NXT and even training current WWE Diva Eva Marie. However, London still doesn’t foresee himself returning to the company, even if it would be to team with Kendrick.
“It would really come down to them truly convincing me that they gave a sh*t this time around because I’m convinced they didn’t the first go-around,” said London. “And there would have to be a pretty penny behind it. So, read into that however you want, never say never, but it’s just not on my priority list and I don’t know that it ever will be.”
Conversely, London’s first tag team partnership didn’t go as smoothly. Billy Kidman, one of WCW’s popular athletes, amazed audiences with his acrobatics years before London. In addition, both men had long black hair, charismatic in-ring styles, and neither going in any particular direction. Therefore, putting the two together seemed like a natural fit.
However, despite winning tag team gold, London feels that a rift existed between the two competitors. In prior interviews, the former Cruiserweight champion stated that he felt Kidman threw him “under the bus” and showed him no respect.
Although he doesn’t dislike for Kidman, London believes that a lack of mutual respect is the reason their team and relationship didn’t turn out more successful.
“It’s not that I had a dislike for him, it’s just that somewhere in there, there wasn’t a mutual respect that was required for us to be a successful team,” said London. “He looked at me as a rookie, which in comparison to his tenure there I was. But when you’re saddled up with somebody, when you’re a team, you win together, you lose together, in my opinion you go to war together you don’t put your teammate under the bus to help keep you out of trouble.”
In the classic instance of staying away from idols because you might end up disappointed, teaming with his favorite WCW wrestler ended with more hurt than success.
“Truth is it hurt, it hurt my feelings. This is somebody that I thought we really had a good thing going. I think I was just more a side dish to him,” said London.
But as London’s career continues, he also understands that wrestling isn’t forever. One day, the clock will strike midnight and his 450 splash will halt in time. When it does, London believes that he will be more than ready to exit the squared circle and even teases that it could be sooner than we all think.
“Knowing that I can step away and be happy with it because there is plenty more in store for me,” said London. “If anyone is keeping track or paying attention… they haven’t seen anything yet. I’m going to take my talents global and they’re going to go on a much bigger stage than what wrestling can provide.”
To listen to the full interview, you can do so at this link.
[Images by Sulaiman Larroko]