Pro wrestling and fishing may seem about as different as two sports can possibly be. But Eric Young is out to prove that they have more in common than you might expect.
“Most people think of it as just kind of sitting around on a boat and relaxing,” said the veteran TNA wrestler, who recently crossed over to reality television with his new show "Off The Hook: Extreme Catches" (Sundays at 8 p.m. on Animal Planet.) “A lot of the styles of fishing that we do on Off The Hook are aggressive, physical and dangerous. So in a way, there are a lot of similarities to wrestling.”
For “Showtime,” who grew up fishing with his father, the new program presents the ideal opportunity to bring his outsized personality to a new audience. Young was approached with the opportunity by a TNA production worker who read the casting call and thought Young would be the perfect fit.
“It’s a version of myself as the Eric Young on TNA. This is probably a more mainstream, cool side of Eric Young. But he’s still pretty crazy. And a lot of people that I meet on the show are characters themselves,” said Young, who hopes his new gig could open the door for the next chapter in his life. “It's something that I always kind of strived for. It was always in the back of my mind. The reality is that I can’t wrestle forever.”
That said, Young’s first love is still the wrestling ring. The Florence, Ontario native, who began wrestling 14 years ago in the Canadian independent scene, is anxious to return to TNA and take advantage of the momentum the company has gained in recent months. The promotion has created a buzz by showcasing new faces, like world champion Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, and telling logical, compelling stories.
“It’s cool to see. Being with the company since pretty close to the beginning, it’s cool to be part of something like that and see the steps that we’ve made,” Young said. “We knew we had it in us. We just had to be pointed in the right direction.”
Among the most rewarding parts of TNA’s evolution has been the rise of Roode, one of Young’s longtime wrestling comrades. Young said he knew the former world champion had what it took to be a top wrestling star, even way before their days working together in Team Canada.
“We first met, I want to say in 2000. We wrestled in Toronto at Seneca College in front of a couple hundred people. Just being in the ring with him, I knew he was good,” Young said about Roode, who he called a “pro’s pro.”
“It’s mental and physical credibility. He looks like an athlete. He is an athlete. He played hockey and lacrosse in high school at a very high level and even football,” Young said. “When he says stuff, the fans believe it. He says it like he means it, because he does.”
Although Young — who is still one-half of the Knockouts tag team champions with partner/on-air spouse ODB — has mostly been featured as a comedy performer in TNA, he hopes the company’s new vision might offer him an opportunity to move into the top of the cards and show fans — and TNA management—a different side of him.
“You could put me in there with Austin Aries and I’d blow people’s minds. I never second-guess my skills,” said Young, who is confident his TNA bosses “trust” him, including Eric Bischoff, who recently paid him a complement.
“He goes, ‘You’re funny and stuff. But the more I watch you, the more I realize you’re a wrestler first.”
Young agrees, and says he’s never set out to be a wrestling funny man. Although Young said he’s “always been kind of a comedian,” his earliest wrestling persona was quite serious, and rarely had the opportunity to speak.
“I got my job in TNA because I could wrestle, not because I was funny or because I could talk,” Young said. “I’ve always had the ability to be funny. I knew I could do it.”
And although he’d like more opportunities to show off what he can do in the ring, Young says he doesn’t mind, for now, playing the part of the court jester. If nothing else, it’s probably prolonged his career.
“It’s like a vacation," Young said. "Not very often do I have to wrestle. And when I start to wrestle, I lose the people, because that’s not what they want to see me do. They want to see me lock up with the ref and jump over the guardrail and crawl under the ring,” Young said. “It’s hard to get hurt doing that. And it’s a lot of fun."