TNA Impact Wrestling star James Storm may have been born and bred on southern style “rasslin,” but there are few things he enjoys more than performing in front of a rowdy New York crowd.
But there is one small downside about wrestling inside the NYCB Theater at Westbury: You can’t even think about jumping off the top rope.
“You’ll hit the light,” Storm said about the building’s notoriously low ceiling. “If you’re 5-foot-10, you can probably do. But I’m 6-1, so I’d just barely hit that light. The good thing is, I don’t jump off the top rope that many times.”
The lifelong Tennessean will be sure to watch his head when the TNA Impact Wrestling World Tour makes a stop at Westbury on Saturday. Tickets for the show, which has a 7:30 p.m. start time, are available at the box office or through Live Nation.
The show will cap off another big year for the “Cowboy,” who made history in 2013 by capturing his 12th tag team championship in TNA. Despite his singles wrestling aspirations, Storm said he has no problem if his wrestling legacy is in the tag team ranks.
“The Rock n’ Roll Express, the Midnight Express and all those guys—they made names of themselves being tag team wrestlers. And if that’s how I go down, so be it,” Storm said. “I don’t mind being labeled as one of the best tag team wrestlers.”
Storm did have the opportunity to be TNA world champions for a week in 2011, before dropping it to former partner Bobby Roode, who went on to have the longest reign in company history. Still, Storm said he has no regrets with the way things turned out.
“I can always say I was the world champion, even if it was for a week," he said. "At the end of the day, I don’t want to say I don’t care about it, but my bills are still being paid without the belt . . . when I go to the bank, they don’t ask me if I’m a champion. I still have a lot of years left in me, and the opportunity will come. It’s one of those things that you have to wait your turn.”
While he may not have any gold around his waist, the “Cowboy” has earned a reputation as one of TNA’s best performers, thanks in part to his promo skills. Storm says he owes some of that success to former TNA creative head Vince Russo, who gave him the green light to go off script.
“I told him, ‘If you guys want to make this as real as possible, is it OK if I just kind of put it in my own words?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, whatever you think is going to make it best is what I want you to do,'’” said Storm, who still believes there is some value to scripted promos. “It’s good for a lot of guys who can’t come up with their own material to have that script that they can go off of and read the whole thing and memorize it and all that. But for me, I just want bullet points that I can put into my own words and make it me—make it true. People can spot a fake. They know when somebody’s trying too hard.”
Storm said he developed his speaking style with some advice from “Road Dogg” Brian James and by observing some of the masters from the past.
“If you go back and watch it, the promos back then were so believable, unlike today where guys are just screaming, ‘I’m going to kill you!,'" Storm said. "To me one of the best promo guys in the business was Jake Roberts. He didn’t really yell at all. He didn’t even raise in voice. Actually, you had to turn up the volume because he was talking so low. That’s what I try to tell other guys: You don’t have to yell to get your point across. Because if somebody’s yelling at me, I’m just going to turn them off.”
Another wrestling mind that Storm said was invaluable to TNA was Jeff Jarrett, who recently resigned from the company he founded in 2002. Storm, who has been with TNA since its very first event, said he believes there should always be a place in TNA for the “King of the Mountain.”
“To me, Jeff knows wrestling," Storm said. "They need somebody like that either in the production side or the creative side . . . because, let’s face it, he built this company. It was his hard work and his money that he put into it in the very beginning. I think TNA needs Jeff Jarrett, whether it be behind the scenes or in front of the camera or whatever, but they definitely need him—at least for his advice on the wrestling aspect of it.”
And Storm, too, has the respect of other well-regarded wrestling legends, including one who recently surprised him on a plane.
“I was sleeping and he kicked my legs and was like, ‘Cowboy, get up!’” said Storm, who awoke to find Michael P.S. Hayes in front of him. “He thanked me for using one of his lines in a promo. I can’t remember what the line was.”
Storm said he was grateful to count the founding member of one of his all-time favorite acts, The Fabulous Freebirds, among his fans. But, he said, he still takes nothing for granted—nor should any TNA wrestler who ever makes it to WWE.
“A lot of guys might leave here and think they’re big shots and they deserve to be in the top spot there. To me it doesn’t matter if I was from there trying to come to TNA, or if I was from TNA trying to go there: If you jump companies, you need to prove yourself all over again,” Storm said. “You go to the bottom of the totem pole and you work your way back up just like everybody else does, even if you’ve got a name.”
One person who definitely didn’t understand that, Storm said, is his former America’s Most Wanted partner Chris Harris, whose brief WWE stint as Braden Walker in 2008 was an unmitigated disaster.
“I believe Chris brought it onto himself," Storm said. "I talked to him while he was there. Anytime you go up there, they’re going to test you, to see if you have an attitude or whatever. And I just heard he failed miserably. He had an attitude while he was up there and you can’t do that. You just go up there and you do what they ask of you the best you can, and sooner or later, they’ll find a spot for you and do something with you. Just because he had a good run here, he expected to go up there and have a run, and that’s not so.”
For now, Storm said he’s happy and fulfilled plying his trade in TNA, and is looking forward to returning to the NYCB Theater at Westbury—“a great place for Impact Wrestling.”
“The Westbury Theater is great because the people are right there on top of you, so you can interact with them," he said. "To me, that’s what makes the live events so good. And it gets loud in there.”