Hard on the heels of a massive title defense 'MCW 99 - The Homecoming' against JXT. Mr Juicy aka Gino Gambino burst onto the Australian professional wrestling scene back in 2005 and ever since then he has entertained audiences everywhere and grown into one of the most loved and respected performers around. He can engage an audience, he can do comedy, he can wrestle hardcore matches, and he can make you love him or hate him. Current accolades include being the current MCW (Melbourne City Wrestling) Heavyweight Champion and the very first Australian member of The Bullet Club, who knows how far Gino Gambino can go or where he'll end up? We spoke with the man himself to get some insight on his already stellar career, his potential future, upcoming shows and much more!
Thanks for talking with us Gino, I really appreciate. I just wanted to firstly ask what is your earlier memory of wrestling and how did you get into the product to begin with?
Probably my earliest memory of wrestling would be, oh geez, that's a really good question. I probably started going to live shows when I was about thirteen in Australia, where they were running a local show just around the corner from my house. That kind of got me interested in live wrestling, but before that I was watching it on TV and my earliest memory of that would be the 2000 Royal Rumble. I think it was The Rock and Big Show who were the last two men left in the Rumble that year.
When did you know that you wanted to become a professional wrestler and when/where did you begin your training?
I think I knew from the moment I started watching it. It just looked like something really fun and interesting and something that I want to give a go. So, definitely as soon as I started watching I was hooked and it's been something that I've spoken about since I was a young kid. I started training the day after my 18th birthday, but I did a couple of training sessions before that, but I couldn't drive back then and getting there was a bit too far away. So as soon as I got my car and my licence then I drove to training a couple of days later.
You started off I guess as a sort of comedic wrestler with the Mr Juicy character, what made you decide to get into a bit of a more serious role now with Gino Gambino, and is there a big difference between the two?
I think that I did start off as a comedic wrestler because I thought that it was something that was lacking in the local wrestling scene. I used to find that I wanted to laugh along with a lot of the things that happened in wrestling and nobody was doing it as well as the guys were over in the States and Japan. So I gave it a crack and I decided to change it up a bit because I wanted to challenge myself artistically, I wanted to do something different, something that was outside my comfort zone. I try to be a funny person in my general day to day life anyway, I used to get in trouble a lot in school for being the class clown and the same goes for anywhere else in my life, as I'm not a very serious person. So this is sort of an artistic challenge for me more than anything.
I just want to talk about MCW 100 for a moment, what does it mean to you as someone who's been a massive part of the company for so long now, to see MCW reach this milestone?
I think it's a good indicator, I think that MCW is the bar for wrestling in this country. It shows that with the right group of people, the right talent and the right management, that it is possible to get to the big time for us. It's going to be huge and it would be great to sell it out. It will be amazing to have that many fans there, I think it seats about 2,000 people, so having that many people turn up to a local wrestling show will be pretty astronomical. It will be awesome to see it full with all the fans there watching the show.
We've got Jonah Rock vs. Naito already announced which is huge. But who do you hope to face on the night and have you got an opponent in your sights?
Well nobody has really stepped up. I don't know at this stage, who knows? Maybe it will be a night off for me just so that I can sit there and enjoy the show. But at this stage nobody has stepped up or offered to challenge me, and since I smashed JXT's face in at MCW 99 I'm just waiting for that next challenger to step up.
If you could face anyone right now in the WWE, who would it be and who would you have the best feud with?
Look, there's actually a few, but I think if I was to have the best feud I would love to have feud with Rusev. I think by far that he is the best heel in the last 10 years, just really talented and really good at what he does. But if I could wrestle anyone in the WWE right now it would have to be Shinsuke Nakamura. I was lucky enough to become friends with Nakamura about six years ago when he was in Australia and he's just someone that I really look up to.
Was the idea of you joining The Bullet Club sort of an expansion of the group so that it isn't just restricted to New Japan? Is it also a way of helping the company expand to Australia with your presence?
I think it's a bit of everything, I think it's the decision of a couple of other people and it was a bit of a shock to me to be honest. I found out earlier on, and I was really shocked by that decision for them to put me up there. I think it was to help Bullet Club expand to Australia, and yeah, it was just a decision made my The Underboss himself and it's sort of just taken off from there.
What do you think after everything that's just happened at the G1 Special and now with the dissension in The Bullet Club? Does your loyalty lie with Bad Luck Fale and The Firing Squad?
Well nobody has spoken to me yet so I don't know what's going on, I haven't received any calls, but I'm sure someone will tell me something big fairly soon.
You were a big part of the NJPW Fallout Down Under Tour earlier this year as well as entering the New Japan Battle Royal at Wrestle Kingdom 12, what was that like and do you want to wrestle for the company more on a regular basis?
I'd love to wrestle for New Japan on a more regular basis. I have a relationship with them now, so hopefully it does lead to more shows. But Wrestle Kingdom 12 was just insane, it's like saying that you went to WrestleMania and you were able to perform. It's funny because at Wrestle Kingdom 11 I sat in the crowd as a guest of The Underboss, and I remember saying to my mate sitting next to me, "Man, I don't think I'll ever reach this status, I don't think I'll ever get here, it just seems so past my reach." And then 12 months later I was in the ring, so yeah it was an amazing experience.
How long was it before the event that you actually knew you were going to be a part of it?
I found out in October, so about 3 or 4 months before Wrestle Kingdom. I remember an email notification popping up and it was from New Japan and I was really taken back and I just couldn't believe it. It was just so unexpected, it was after the tryouts here that they had picked who they wanted to take and I was just lucky enough that it was me that they chose.
Being a big dude such as yourself, how did you get into ring fitness and all of the cardio that is required from training, yet still remain the size that you are?
I just eat a lot, I constantly eat. I'm pretty lucky, I've always trained so my hearts pretty good and I can keep up but I'm definitely not as fit as some of the other guys. Me and Jonah Rock often have challenges of who can eat the most, and yeah it's just matter of keeping up your physical activity but at the same time making sure you've got a surplus in your calorie intake.
What's been your biggest accomplishment to date in terms of wrestling and do you have a goal or dream that you'd love to achieve some day?
I think my biggest accomplishment to date, I mean if you put New Japan aside, it would definitely be helping the Australian wrestling scene to get where it is. I've always believed so strongly that we deserve to be on the main stage with everyone else and to see it finally be able to reach that potential and helping out with the New Japan stuff and having that relationship, that's probably my biggest achievement so far. Helping my friends and my colleagues reach that point in some small way of me being able to help here and there, it's a pretty big achievement in my eyes. But as for future plans, well I've always said that I just want that one paycheck from WWE with Vince McMahon's signature on it, that would be kind of coo. But I think that being a regular for NJPW would be the ultimate goal for me.
You just started working with Underworld Wrestling, can you tell us a bit about that and what it's been like so far?
It's been great, it's very different, it's something that's an unusual take on what wrestling is and it's just really cool. I think it's something that's definitely going to be a big name in wrestling very soon.
Big focus on characters too much is good to see.
Oh absolutely, and that's something that drew me to them, and I've always said that I'm not a good wrestler by any means but give me 5 minutes to put my character over and I can hang with the best of them. So it is very awesome that they've sort of got that plate for me to serve something up on.
Last but not least, do you have anything you'd like to tell your fans that have been following your career whether it's from the beginning or new fans up until now?
I just want to say to watch this space, I think there's a lot more to come. Just please keep supporting wrestling in this country, it's going to keep getting better and not only is it going to benefit us but it's going to benefit the fans by having more exciting shows and if you keep standing behind us then we will do everything we can do to get there.
Before you go, with the success of the NJPW tour earlier this year, as someone in the know, can you see them coming back to Australia sooner rather than later?
Yes. I believe there is talks right now and there should be an announcement before the end of the year.
Possibly at MCW 100 with Naito perhaps...
You never know (laughs) Thanks man, talk to you soon.
Visit the event page for MCW 100 - NAITO vs. ROCK plus ticket info here.