– Former TNA star Chad ‘Gunner’ Lail recently took some time to participate in an exclusive interview with PWMania.com. Lail reveals his strong connection to his faith, his growth and development as a character and his aspirations to compete in other promotions. He discusses his time and TNA, what else is in store for him in 2015. Check out the complete interview below:
Who would you say were your influences either in the ring or out that have helped to shape you as a person and your character?
The person that would be outside of the ring would be totally outside of the wrestling world would be my father. My father is the one that supported me since day one when I was 11 years old and out playing backyard wrestling with my friends stuff and he was the one that always taught me to follow my dreams and never called them stupid. He said you can do whatever you want as long as you set your mind to it. He always instilled that in me.
As far as in ring, in the wrestling world my number one supporter and someone that has helped me a lot has been Ken Anderson. Ken has been another guy that since 2006/2007 where I did a WWE extra spot. I was with Ken doing a little spoof of Shawn Michaels blast from the past and he did a great job. When he got to TNA and he took me under his wing, he really believed in me and always told me I could do bigger and better things. He really gave feedback and said I could do better. The character stuff was something I really appreciated and looked up to and he’s one of my best friends in the business.
Anyone that follows you on twitter can see a strong connection to your faith. What are your thoughts on religion and using religious angles in wrestling?
I think that my faith is something that is important to me. I was brought up and it was never something that was forced on me but something I did on my own and it’s my choice. It’s really just one of those things that whether you believe in God or a higher power or even just being a spiritual person to me all things happen for a reason. Whatever life brings me I realise it’s not the end of the world, it’s not my last day here on earth. There are bigger and better plans for me and the thing is you can’t sit home and expect people to come knock at your door. My faith really helps me realise that you better go on out there and get it. Just keep a positive attitude about life and say that one of the people I look up to most is Christ. He was a role model to me. He was and is a positive influence in my life. The things he taught, the way he walked and I just tried to model myself after that, just being a good person and to work hard to get things.
I don’t really get offended by religious angles. When Vince McMahon said he challenged God to wrestling match, some people might have been offended by it doesn’t offend me at all. I think bringing religion into wrestling is a really touchy situation. It doesn’t mean a lot of people have to believe in it and it may turn a lot of people off of it and offend a lot of people but to me everyone’s got their own beliefs and respect and their own way of life. I personally believe you have to keep religion out of the wrestling business. Now me posting stuff on Facebook or Twitter, that’s different. Those are my views and if someone doesn’t like I don’t force it on anyone. And if they don’t like it they can unfollow me. There are things that you have to keep out of the entertainment business. That religion and other things are really really touchy to kind of hit on.
Formerly serving in the U.S Marine Corps and defending your country. What has the experience taught you about putting life in perspective?
That was the toughest moment thus far in my life is going through Marine Corp Bootcamp and going through combat and being overseas and being away from my family and friends for 7 months not knowing if I was going to make it home alive. Its one of those things where it really taught me that you have to work hard to achieve anything.
When I was in the Marine Corp, I had goals and I set out to obtain them and I reached many of them. It also made me cherish life a little bit more and like I said before when one door closes for instance leaving Impact Wrestling it wasn’t the end of my world. I wasn’t in Iraq. I knew that the next day was going to continue. I think the Marine Corp just being able to have respect for being able to wake up another day and being able to live my dream regardless of whether it was with Impact Wrestling or WWE, Ring of Honor or any wrestling promotion that wants to bring me on. Life goes on.
Describe your training under Abel Adams and what you’ve walked away from the experience?
Met Abel Adams in 2001 and he’s the one that gave me a chance to step in the ring and really and I actually spoke with him the other day and always talking about the next step in life and he was one of those guys that was hard on me. He taught me respect for the business, respect for those that came before me and etiquette which I think is lost in some of today’s professional wrestling and the independent stuff.
Abel was another one of those father figures. One of the best friends in my life that believed in me and still believes in me. It was one of those that were instilled in me and was just another person who said you’ve got the goods, you’ve got the look and what it takes and I think you can go far. I was 18 years old when he started training me in 2001. He took me on the road and that’s one guy that I owe a lot to because he drove a lot of the times and I was pretty fortunate because I didn’t have a lot of money and one of those guys that I respect thoroughly.
After competing on the independents for almost 10 years, you signed with TNA. How did the deal come about?
I started in 2001. September 2002 I went to Bootcamp. So for a whole year I didn’t wrestle at all until right about the Summer of 2003. For the most part when I was in the Marine Corp, I was stationed at Camp in North Carolina and I would travel home every weekend unless I was deployed to work shows. I would drive 5 hours to my home town, get into a car with Abel and wherever the show was in Florida or Georgia, Alabama we were looking at sometimes 25 hour round trips just from one show to have me get into the ring. In 2006, when I got out (of the Marine Corp) I really picked up what I call full time working with the NWA and doing stuff all over the states. It was worldwide. I did some South America. That’s the truth, I joined Impact in 2010. We’re looking at 8 years.
I think my time in the Marine Corp slowed down my progress. Luckily for the most part, being in the Marine Corp I saw some good shows working with some good guys but obviously there is talent out there. You have to work with people that are better than you in order to get better. When I got out in 2006, that’s really when I started with NWA Anarchy and really started to work with those guys down there. I really came into my own. I learned TV product, art cam and was working with guys that were way better than me. I learned psychology and how to tell a story. So the Marine Corp time hindered me a little bit but the thing was I was still able to make shows and not miss a whole 4 years of slowing my dream even more.
You’ve worked in programs with Jeff Jarrett, Samoa Joe, James Storm and Samuel Shaw. Describe each program and how it helped you progress as a wrestler and character.
I think the Jeff Jarrett stuff was really when Murphy and I were in his corner was during the big MMA deal with Kurt Angle. I would take a couple of German Suplex’s from Kurt but working security was more just standing and watching Jeff while he was cutting promos. When it came to working with promos and listening and how he talked to the people and how he built his opponent up that was a learning experience.
Unfortunately, Joe and I we worked some house shows together but we didn’t really have any big feuds, I was always upset about that. Crimson had to have a pretty lengthy feud with Joe. Any time I stepped in the ring with Joe that’s the guy that you know he’s an amazing talent in the ring. He knows his was in and out of the ring. He knows all about character facials and people love him obviously from his Ring of Honor days to now and in NXT which I am so happy to see him in I think that’s where he belongs. The guy is a machine. He was always very helpful when it came to having a young guy like me and building that character and getting your moves set and just placing the moves where they belong and not doing 30 different moves but less is more kind of thing.
Working with James was awesome. You know tag team wise, I’m a huge tag team fan. So we always wanted to take a tag team and make it two guys like when you look at some of the true tag teams back in the day like Brain Busters and Rock n Roll Express. Two guys that weren’t individuals but were a team and they worked as a team and that’s what James and I wanted to do. He was a beer drinker and I was a modern day Viking and I would beat my head on a turnbuckle but I think we fed well off of each other. Then we finally got the deal to do the feud. The feud was done right. I think that was one of those feuds that I needed to catapult me as a singles star and have people say ah this guy is actually competitive, he can actually make a run for the heavyweight title. Some things weren’t done right after that, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t James’ fault. For the most part working with James was a really good learning experience. He has been there since day one. He knew what the fans wanted to see and he taught me that. He was very open for ideas. I think we taught each other. We taught each other certain things and I think always good when two guys can get in there and put their differences aside and can tell a good story.
And the Samuel Shaw feud, other than the James Storm one was one of the favorites of mine. I talked to another interview the other day about this about how we had these two young guys, we had this creepy guy gimmick that Sam took, molded into his own, you had Gunner who for the most part never really talked unfortunately never given the microphones so people don’t know about my promo skills whatsoever, it’s not my fault but that’s another story. (chuckles)
The good thing is we took this and I’ve done some acting as well. So we did this six weeks’ worth of vignettes where he was in a padded cell and all this other stuff and I loved it. It was character development and I think the fans really got to see another side of the Gunner character. Somebody who actually cared, you know a little bit different. You can’t just have a guy that goes out and bashes his head and wants to kill everybody all the time there is no dimension to that to me. Triple H back in the day, the man, he’s still one of the greatest but he’s still had a different side to him. So the Shaw feud was one of my favorites. They gave us ideas and we went with the writers about really hoping that doesn’t do all the whole thing and once we did the little turn we had two guys that wanted to go out there and show that they could like we did in Bethlehem, PA in December of last year unfortunately it was the only match we ever did. I thought there was so much more opportunity with the Sam Shaw and Gunner character even though the girl (Brittany) left Impact Wrestling and I guess that affected the storyline. Don’t understand why we still couldn’t have gone on with it but Sam’s one of my favorite people to work with because he’s young and he wants to get it. Unfortunately he’s not with Impact anymore but you can see that he’s one of those guys that he’ll be around somewhere.
Being formerly married to someone in the business has its challenges, I’m sure. How did it help you both to deal with the challenges of the business?
I’m not married anymore. But being formally married to someone who was part of the business we would have clashes here or there when it came to wrestling and everyone’s got different views in wrestling. I was brought up loving this and everyone has their different views and ways on how they want to get into wrestling we’d always clash. She’d get mad at me and want to kill me sometimes, I swear. (chuckles) She definitely understood being a wrestler and being an actor my schedule would like I could get a call tomorrow and they would say, hey, I need you in LA or I need you on a movie set or hey I need to book you on a show, she understood that’s what paid the bills. There were arguments at times but you could take away from the family but the bills still had to get paid. So it takes a strong women for that.
After leaving a promotion can lend itself to more freedom. What has departure from TNA meant for you personally and professionally?
I really enjoyed working for the company. I’ve been with them since 09’, Terry Taylor helped me get my foot in the door with me and Murphy and working the security deal. I will definitely miss the guys that I worked with. I think it goes the same way and that they will miss me. I talked with a handful of them. I really think it was best. After six years, there were times where I felt I was underutilized. Even though I worked with James Storm and I did the main event with Magnus, even after the Sam Shaw stuff I was put on the backburner for some odd reason and didn’t do anything wrong. After six years, I was to the point where I was stressed out a lot. I’m 33 you know and I don’t want my youth soaked up. I feel like I have something more to offer to somebody whether Impact calls me back in a couple months or WWE or Ring of Honor whoever it is, I know that me as a person I have a lot to offer. I think it was what was best for business.
There is no bad blood. It was a mutual agreement and I thank them for the opportunities of having me in the Impact ring. But I have bigger and better goals and I think that since I was 5 I wanted that Wrestlemania moment. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to compete in the WWE ring and I’m not getting any younger. It’s still in the back of my mind, hey, I want to compete in a WWE ring or NXT has an amazing product right now down there. So I feel like I could wrestle on Impact and I’m looking forward to the future.
I think it is more of a hearsay rumor (about 30 year old’s not wanted in the WWE). I think everyone goes through a developmental tryout now and I think that’s fair. They want condition. They want a different athlete now. Wrestling is totally different from what it was back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up. Its guys are balls to the wall now. So now you have guys working 15 and 20 minute matches and stuff like that it’s not just bodyslams anymore its everything. I think it’s awesome that wrestling is getting more into the athletic look. I’m 240(ibs), I’d be happy at 225 if I got a job with WWE if they said hey, we want you to get ripped. I think 33 is a good age. They are looking for stars and they are building their own stars which I love. They are taking their young talent and not taking guys that were formally with another company and putting them in the spotlight and putting their young talent on the back burner. I don’t want to drop any names but we know what’s happening over there. So I look forward to the opportunity to it as well.
Did you feel there was more opportunities still to be had during your time in TNA?
Totally, yes. I felt that I was underutilized many times and I felt like after the James Storm feud. James was already established. Gunner who just established himself in all these high calibre matches just got voted for one of the top matches of 2014. Here is a guy that was finally getting noticed and the fans were finally getting behind me. He wasn’t just some security guy anymore. He wasn’t just some guy coming out mad all the time. They got behind the military thing. They got behind they got behind the modern day Viking gimmick and I felt like I was underutilized. For some reason, I don’t know the curtain got jerked out from under me. There were many times where I felt very disappointed.
I am thankful that they allow me to leave a couple months off of TV and doing movies to help build my brand a little better. Still my heart lies in professional wrestling and I never just wanted to be the mid-card guy. If that was the case then I would have been happy. During the time that I was there and I didn’t do anything, I was just irritated because I want to be a champion. I want to be somebody that people look up to. I want to be a locker room leader and I just felt that a lot of the times opportunities were taken from me a handful of times.
When you left the promotion you were in the midst of a feud with Samuel Shaw, who has also left the promotion. While it can be difficult to speak of what someone else is feeling, was there a commonality as it applies to moral between you too at the time in TNA?
I think we were both released to be honest it wasn’t my choice. But I look at it as a blessing. Sam’s maybe 31, 32 maybe and I’m 33 and I think for our sake it what was best. Impact has their own thing going right now. They’ve got guys that they are pushing that they didn’t have anything planned for me. So I think that Sam and I being let go was a good thing for us and I don’t know what the future is for Impact Wrestling but I have buddies that work there that I pray it goes well that Destination America re-signs them but I think that guys like Sam and I getting released was a blessing in disguise. There is something better out there for us.
Ring of Honor they have an amazing product. Sam is still young and very talented to be able to compete in NXT as well. Jeff (Jarrett) when he left Impact Wrestling it sucked. He has been there and that’s his company that’s his baby regardless of what he is doing now his heart lies with Impact. He knows what he’s doing business wise building characters and everything. I would love to do some shows with GFW. I think he’s starting small but doing the right thing. He’s not trying to fill arenas now he’s just trying to build the brand and I’ve got a pretty good relationship with Jeff and I think that I can see myself doing some GFW shows.
What’s next for Chad Lail? Where can fans expect to see you compete and when?
I personally hope to one day in the future compete in the WWE. I mean like I said a minute ago, that is my ultimate goal since I was 5. I really feel like even if I go and another huge goal of mine is acting. I’ve done two movies this year and I do numerous amounts of auditions every week but I think my heart lies and still does with having a WWE match and having that Wrestlemania moment. After that I can probably retire and hopefully build The Rock’s status and act as much as I can because I love acting. The beating on my body and wanting to have kids one day and enjoy them. If I’m 65 and I never even attempt to try WWE then there will be a missing and void there. I’m in Kingsport, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and right outside of Atlanta. So anybody that follows me, I post independent shows. I’m booked up all the way to December from Virginia to North Carolina to South Carolina and I’m working on a UK tour, going to Korea for some Military appearances. I stay busy, man. (chuckles)
Was there anything you’d like to encourage, share or make fans aware of?
They could follow me on @Gunner_ChadLail where I use my wrestling and my wrestling brand name there. I have an amazing amount of support on twitter almost 132,000 followers it’s crazy to think about a small town kid having that many followers. Just don’t give up on me. There is way more in store for Gunner and I don’t think anyone has given up on me, I think. My fans really believe in me. I’m working on some Modern Day Viking shirts finally for some reason Impact did not like the Modern Day Viking name but it’s still with me and ProWrestlingTees is going to be doing some Modern Day Viking merchandise. So expect a lot. 2015 still has 6 months left here and that’s still a lot of time to conquer the world and I’m still ready to rise and reach the top of the mountain.