Johnny Devine is a graduate of the legendary Hart Dungeon, where only the strong survive in hopes of chasing their wrestling dream. Following that, he had a notable run in TNA being involved with Team Canada, Paparazzi Productions, Serotonin, the X-Division and Team 3D. I caught up with Johnny in a very fun and informative interview to find out what he’s been up to since he departed TNA in 2008, how wrestling became a part of his life, and of course, music.
Alex Obert: What was the first wrestling you recall seeing?
Johnny Devine: The first time I remember wrestling was when I was four years old and my mom taking me to Stampede Wrestling. But I couldn’t even tell you who was fighting. Stampede Wrestling was a Western Canadian mainstay, it piqued my interest when I was kid. It gave me the heroes to follow. And I’ve always been into the physical side of sports such as hockey and football, that kind of stuff. I always liked contact sports. From there, I used to sneak into my parents’ bedroom to watch Saturday Night’s Main Event and stuff like that because they had cable in their room and I didn’t. (laughs)
Alex Obert: When did you take the thought seriously of wanting to become a wrestler?
Johnny Devine: I didn’t take it seriously until I was getting out of the military, but I always kind of wanted to do it when I was a kid. Though I wanted to do it, I had no idea how. When I was eighteen, I put on a wrestling show at my high school for a Spirit Week thing that we did. It was called Wrestlemania Day and we rented a ring from a local promoter and a bunch of the students put on matches. When I was a teenager in Winnipeg, I would definitely go to the Winnipeg Arena for WWF events when they came to town. I waited out behind the doors and got autographs from guys and all that kind of good stuff. I wasn’t one of those guys that ran up to them and was like, “Hey! Will you sign this for me?” I kind of just bought my spot and guys would come and pick me out and sign stuff for me. Everybody was really cool, I don’t remember anybody being douchey or anything like that. (laughs)
Alex Obert: While starting out, you trained at and were a graduate of the legendary Hart Dungeon. Did you reach out to the established names there for advice?
Johnny Devine: Once I was in the actual business, the Harts were around a lot so I would always try to get anybody who was around me for a minute. I wanted to just pick their brain and see what kind of steps needed to be taken. I would talk to Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith and Bret. Owen wasn’t around much at the time and I really only got to meet him once. He was my true hero and I never really got to pick his brain. Bad News Brown was another one. These are the Western Canadian mainstays who we had access to in my time.
Alex Obert: What was one of the most memorable workouts you had there?
Johnny Devine: Oh god, there were a lot of crazy workouts there. Everybody’s least favorite day when they were first starting out was chop day because it was a little bit different. When you have ten to twelve guys in a class, it really sucks because you’re eating punches and chops from ten guys in a row. That’s a hundred to a hundred and twenty five chops at least, ten per guy. Those days added up. Dropkick day was always terrifying too. The Dungeon wasn’t exactly forgiving.
Alex Obert: During your time there, how many guys would start training and then leave and never come back?
Johnny Devine: Ninety percent. On a weekly basis, we would get one or two guys and we’d watch them leave in the next week or two after that. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
Alex Obert: Did you train with anybody who ended up competing in WWE or TNA?
Johnny Devine: The only guys who made it out of the Dungeon recently are myself, Harry Smith, Tyson Kidd and Eric Thompson. Eric used to be known as Apocalypse, now he’s Viktor on NXT.
Alex Obert: Upon graduating, how did you get signed by TNA?
Johnny Devine: Well around 2001 or 2002, I started getting looks from the bigger companies. I had a couple of WWE tryout matches and those went well, but they had just bought WCW and there were like a hundred new wrestlers. They weren’t hiring any guys for the years that I was at my peak there. Some injuries sidelined me and I ended up coming back off an injury at the right time because Scott D’Amore was starting to hunt for people for Team Canada. I got myself in front of Scott so they could have a look at me and I got myself booked on the original Team Canada.
Alex Obert: Would you say that Scott was a mentor to you?
Johnny Devine: Yeah, absolutely he was. He is one of the best minds in the business as far as business knowledge, psychology, putting things into perspective and making a workable show. He was definitely one of my mentors and I learned a lot from him. People wonder how he always has his fingers in everything and it’s because he’s so smart.
Alex Obert: What did you think of your time in Team Canada?
Johnny Devine: I enjoyed it. I took any of that time as the gift it was. You don’t know what kind of opportunities are gonna pop up, so you make the best of them when they do. I really enjoyed being able to learn from the people that were around at the time.
Alex Obert: And I can imagine that working with Kevin Nash and Alex Shelley was interesting.
Johnny Devine: Oh absolutely! Nash is a genius as well, he’s another one of those great minds. People berate him because he slowed down due to his knees getting worse, he wasn’t doing the same amount of work in the ring. But he’s more entertaining now because of the fact that he stepped away from the physical side. The vignettes with Shelley and Nash just showed what is true personality is like. God, he’s funny.
Alex Obert: You had a one time appearance last year for TNA, how did they set that up with you?
Johnny Devine: They were doing a series of One Night Only pay per views and they wanted some guys from the past. I was contacted along with guys such as Shark Boy and Petey Williams. And then I proceeded to drop myself on my head, so that cut the rest of those tapings short for me.
Alex Obert: Was it nice to reconnect with some of the guys?
Johnny Devine: Yes and no. I mean it’s always rosier looking back. You go down and remember all of the things that made you upset and want to leave the first place.
Alex Obert: And since leaving TNA in 2008, what have you been up to outside of wrestling?
Johnny Devine: Since I quit TNA at Bound for Glory in 2008, I went back to school and got a broadcasting degree. I got a job at the Fight Network and worked there for almost a year. Decided to move back to Calgary, then got married, then got divorced, then opened up a new restaurant.
Alex Obert: What is the restaurant?
Johnny Devine: It’s currently called Circle Of Life Urban Eatery and Nutrition, but we are evolving the name into City Circle Café. It is a healthy eatery and restaurant inside of a fitness center in Calgary. The gym is called CityFit, I’m also a trainer inside the fitness center. We do quick, healthy meals such as wraps, rice bowls, smoothies, shakes, post-workout stuff, stuff like that. But we also do coffee and muffins in our café.
Alex Obert: What’s your favorite meal there?
Johnny Devine: Probably the Ginger Chicken Rice Bowl and the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Shake.
Alex Obert: When you left TNA, were you thinking of getting into something so you weren’t taking indy bookings at fifty or sixty years old?
Johnny Devine: Yeah, you’ve gotta have something to fall back on. You’ve gotta have more than just wrestling, more than just your body. My body had broken a bunch of times, got stabbed, blew my knee out, that kind of stuff. I learned that when the body finally does break down, you still have to pay the bills. Having something outside of wrestling, that’s the recipe.
Alex Obert: And you took a huge step with getting a broadcasting degree. Aside from the Fight Network, have you done anything in that field as of late?
Johnny Devine: I’ve done a couple commercials around Calgary as a talent and an on-air host. I’ve done fitness segments and stuff like that. It’s one of those things where I haven’t had the right opportunity yet to put that knowledge to use, but that’s coming down the pipe.
Alex Obert: Where do you see yourself in two to five years with everything?
Johnny Devine: Well in five years, it’ll hopefully be with a couple of these successful little café restaurants funding the ability to put on a Western Canadian wrestling promotion. Something a little different.
Alex Obert: What do you mean by something different?
Johnny Devine: I want to take wrestling in a slightly different direction. There’s two ways I see it being most profitable, you cater to kids or you cater to fight fans. I’m going to try both and we’re gonna see which one sticks.
Alex Obert: I’d love to get into your music tastes, what’s on your iPod?
Johnny Devine: It’s funny, I’m on iTunes right now and I’m attempting to download some Tool. Did you know Tool isn’t in the iTunes library? If you type in Tool, everything you get are Tool covers in different people attempting to re-create Tool songs. There’s no actual Tool. It makes me sad. Going into my playlist, I’ve been listening to Metallica, some AC/DC, Mumford & Sons. For the most part, I’m more of a rock guy. Definitely not pop. (laughs) I wanna slit my wrists when I hear Nicki Minaj! Tool was my favorite band for a number of years, them and The Offspring. Big into heavy industrial. The heavier for me, the better.
Alex Obert: What’s the best concert you ever attended?
Johnny Devine: That would be a tie. The first concert I ever went to was Anthrax and Iron Maiden, that was a ton of fun. I saw Metallica in Clearwater, Florida with Matt Bentley and Frankie Kazarian. That was just one of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever seen.
Alex Obert: What have you used as entrance themes throughout the years in wrestling?
Johnny Devine: That’s a great question. My first song that I used for a number of years was called Money City Maniacs by a Canadian band called Sloan. Recently I’ve been dabbling with a little Eminem and a couple of other things. But rock is always the way to go for me. I’ve always relied on things like AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill or something like a good heavy bassline from Offspring.
Alex Obert: With the huge wave of new talent on NXT and people getting signed, what advice do you have for them?
Johnny Devine: My advice for any aspiring wrestler is to get an education. It doesn’t matter where you get it from or how you get it, but the point is to be educated. Know what you’re getting yourself into because you’re gonna have to get out of it at some point. What a lot of people don’t realize is getting into WWE, TNA or any of the major promotions is a lot like making a sports team such as the NFL or NHL. The difference is there’s thirty five or more sports teams out there all with fifty or more players, that’s a lot of jobs in the business. In wrestling, there’s only two, three, maybe four teams and they all have rosters of twenty guys who barely make money. So that leaves only a hundred jobs in the whole business that actually make money. And if you’re one of the lucky hundred, good on ya, but it’s not gonna last forever, so get an education. Make use of your time. The smartest thing you can do is be smart. The dumbest thing you can do is be dumb. The dumb guys don’t get an education, get hurt and end up taking bookings until they’re sixty.
Alex Obert: In closing, do you have any plugs for readers?
Johnny Devine: Well, you can always check out my new restaurant if you’re in Calgary at CityFit or check us out on Facebook at Circle Of Life. We’ve got a number of different wrestling options for your viewing pleasure, I highly recommend checking out Western Canada’s ECCW. It’s very entertaining with great workers. Border City Wrestling out of Windsor, Ontario is probably the best promotion going in Canada today. Anytime you get a chance to watch any New Japan wrestling, go watch New Japan Pro Wrestling because that’s the best wrestling on the planet.
Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.
Johnny Devine: Thank you very much! Appreciate it, Alex.