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Vampiro & Director Michael Paszt spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about new documentary ‘Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro’, the destructiveness of WCW’s backstage & lifestyle, not being fond of AEW, not caring if Chris Jericho or anyone else dislikes him, Mike Awesome being his friend, and being an avid gamer.
Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro illustrates the visual of a man who sacrificed his body to the fans, to the wrestling business, one brush of face paint at a time. Vampiro is both passionate about being a pro-wrestler and yet simultaneously wishes he could leave it all behind. But he must get back in the ring one more time, just to see if he can… The following interview reveals the journey of Vampiro, real name Ian Hodgkinson, and his thoughts on wrestling today.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: In Nail in the Coffin, one of the moments that stood out to me was your remarks (@ 20:07 in the film) on what appeared to be Jeff Jarrett. You commented, “I’ve been fighting with that guy my whole career. The reason I didn’t break in the United States & become the ‘MacDaddy Mega Champion’ is because he said I wasn’t famous enough. He ruined my career in the United States.’ I was surprised, considering Jarrett speaks highly of you in the film. Were you specifically naming Jarrett there?
Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson): Yeah, it’s a true story but I’m not blaming Jeff, I’m naming Jeff. Because it’s the truth of what happened, and if I’m asked about that part of my career, I can only answer it honestly. I’m not doing it to start a feud. Jeff and I are very, very, very good friends. I don’t care about wrestling gossip so that’s not what that was about. But did it happen that way? Yes, it did.
Did you ever have a chance to speak to Mike Awesome after that traumatic injury shown in Nail in the Coffin? I know he’s since sadly passed away in tragic fashion. I understand you feel in many ways that neck injury was a turning point of your career. Steve Austin has commented before that it was important to him that Owen Hart reach out after that sit-down piledriver gone wrong, so I was curious if you felt the same at the time?
There was nothing really to talk about, it was an accident. I’d been friends with Mike Awesome for 15-16 years before that happened. We toured Japan together, we worked in other companies together. It’s a risky game when you’re two big guys doing those things that you shouldn’t be doing.
It just turned out wrong, I had a bad fall, and that’s that. It’s not like there was any animosity in any way, shape, or form. It was an accident, I know he felt terrible about it. I feel it actually was terrible but that’s part of the business we’re in. It happens. It’s not ballet! But it wasn’t my first injury and it certainly was not my last. I don’t hold anything against Mike Awesome in any way, shape, or form.
Nail in the Coffin showed what happened backstage at AAA Triplemania after the incident with Rosemary and Sexy Star. I couldn’t help but wonder if you ever mentored Rosemary in some way prior? There’s so many similarities from the face paint to the vibe of Decay in Impact Wrestling.
No, I only met her one time actually! I wish her the best of success but not at all.
I noticed you consider the years in WCW not exactly the favorite of your career. I was a bit surprised as I got to know Vampiro from WCW growing up and I’m sure many other U.S. fans did too. Do you feel those years weren’t the best primarily because of WCW’s booking side?
Anytime that a pro-wrestler complains about the booking, put your ego aside. You know what I mean? You’re hired to do a job, your job is not creative. They have a creative team for that. In Mexico they didn’t have creative teams, you had to kind of do things on your own. I have nothing but respect for anybody who works creative. Pro-wrestlers who really believe their importance in the industry is more than it actually is, are not on the team. The way I was educated, in my education growing up in wrestling, I was brought up a different way.
What really bothered me about WCW was that I felt like that was my moment. That’s where I was really invested in emotionally in becoming a great character. I was at the top of my game physically but the politics and the drug use behind the scenes and the he said, she said stuff… It’s almost like the American political system right now. What’s going on in the news. That’s kind of what it was like in the dressing room, just bulls**t. I didn’t want to be around that, I didn’t enjoy it.
It’s like everybody was committing suicide. Everybody was overdosing. The drug use was crazy. The million dollar baby club was doing a mutiny, every second that they could. It just wasn’t a fun place to be. I loved the fans, I loved being Vampiro, I loved being on television. I just did not like the experience behind the cameras. It was horrible.
Is the reason you’re not in AEW currently in a storyline role like Arn Anderson or as an agent because of past animosity with Chris Jericho?
Well, the reason I’m not in AEW or anywhere else is because I don’t want to be. And they don’t need me, and they never asked me. Plus, I’m happy to be a real man, working for a living, taking care of my daughter, creating other projects for myself in life. I’ve outgrown it! To be honest with you, I would love that million dollar paycheck. But the way I look at it, they’re not contributing anything impactful in society.
They’re a bunch of goofs. They run around, they look stupid. It’s very immature and I don’t support the product. I don’t believe in it. I probably just cut my throat but I don’t give a f***. You’re asking me, I’d rather be honest, you know? It’s not because I got trouble with Chris Jericho. F*** Chris Jericho!
Is there a time you consider the highest point in your career? When you felt everything was going almost perfect. I noticed you mentioned that in terms of physical prime & character development as Vampiro, it was in the WCW years earlier.
Yes! Right now! I’m in the greatest time of my life. I’m away from wrestling, the movie is impacting people. I can’t wait for them to see how I am now. I’m not that guy in that movie. I’m 100 pounds lighter I have my health back, I’m conquering the PTSD and the head trauma. I’m into other things, I have a different life. I got a TV show on the air right now, I’m doing another movie, I’m producing another show. Michael’s [Paszt] movie basically saved my life and saved my career! And it’s great to see that you can beat mental health, that you can change your circumstances if you put the work in. So, that movie was the greatest motivator for me to save my life and shape my career. The greatest moment of my career is right now!
I spent 39 years in front of stadiums not small arenas but stadiums. Twenty, thirty thousand people per night, six-seven times a day. I mean, everybody says, ‘Oh, how can that be?’ Uhhh, it’s right there! If you don’t believe me, I’ve got about 400 DVDs that I can show you. The fact that I’m alive and I got out of that, is the greatest moment of my career because I survived it. I was able to resurrect the relationship with my daughter. I’ve made friends, I had a really bad social phobia and I’m doing great. So, the greatest moment of my career is really right now.
Right now, today I’m doing an interview for a movie! I mean how dope is that? Who gives a s**t what I did 20 years ago in a wrestling ring when I pushed dumb-a** Sting off a jumbotron or when I broke my neck in that match with Mike Awesome. Who gives a f*** about any of that?! I’m alive today! And there’s a Coronavirus and the world is imploding but I got a movie coming out! That is dope as f***in’ hell! You know what I’m sayin’ brother?
I thought Nail in the Coffin was reminiscent of the film, The Wrestler. Was there inspiration?
‘Nail in the Coffin’ Director Michael Paszt: If you go back to Mickey Rourke and when they did their research, there’s so many elements. There’s so many other wrestlers out there that all have similar stories. It’s a tough road for everybody. I loved The Wrestler, I grew up watching wrestling, I’ve been watching wrestling since I was five.
Is there similarities? Of course, because that’s what makes our movie unique is how well it’s researched. I think the difference though is The Wrestler is a very a dark film, and it goes down a dark path. Then just when you think it’s getting kind of good, he just doesn’t get out. He goes down into that dark path, that dark side all the way into the end. In The Wrestler his relationship with his daughter falls apart, he keeps on screwing it up. With Ian’s (Vampiro) story it’s totally the opposite, he does everything he can to make sure Dasha (Vampiro’s real-life daughter) is taken care of. That’s what being a parent, and a father is. Whereas with Rourke’s character, he screws everything up right.
That’s the real story of it, I don’t think it has a dark ending. The positive ending is Dasha, she came through it all, and Ian juggling everything he’s doing, is on the road to recovery. He’s a changed person I think. That’s the beautiful thing about a documentary is it’s a journey, a journey for both of us actually. We come out on the other side of the tunnel to see the light, not the darkness like The Wrestler That’s my two cents.
How long was Nail in the Coffin in the works? There’s great personal footage from way in the past I noticed.
‘Nail in the Coffin’ Director Michael Paszt: Three years of filming I think it was. We had access to a lot of archival material, which was great.
Personally, for me, it was really hard to watch Ian (Vampiro) barely able to walk to his house at one point in Nail in the Coffin. To be unable to clinch his fists as his doctor requests during testing. As someone who watched Vampiro on TV for so many years, it’s a really difficult, tough visual. To know he gave his body and his health essentially to the fans, for our entertainment. So, even if it wasn’t intended to be a dark film, for me it was.
Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson): My daughter thought I had a stroke one time, and I didn’t want to tell her that’s what was happening. Yeah, it was… Man, I couldn’t even put my shoes on. I couldn’t even tie my shoelaces. I had to walk backwards, I couldn’t lift my foot to get off the curb. What was really scary is that everybody saw me dying but nobody told me, ‘Hey!’ You know what I mean? Now seeing the movie just like you I see that. I keep telling Michael [Paszt] every time I see the movie, I don’t remember those things until I see them on-screen. It’s heartbreaking to see me in that condition, it really is. I gave so much to wrestling. I really put my heart and soul into it.
I believe in the magic of wrestling, I love wrestling, and it breaks my heart that the wrestlers have forgotten where they came from. If it wasn’t for the fans, if it wasn’t for that magical moment, the connection between performer and fan, we wouldn’t be here. Looking at what they’re doing right now, it’s just really bad television. That’s why I really never was concerned about going to a big company in the United States.
Yeah, everyone wants to sell their soul to the devil to get that big paycheck. But I loved European wrestling, I loved Latin American wrestling, and I loved Japanese wrestling because there was a little bit more communication and interaction with the fans. It was a lot more built on emotion. And God bless the guys! Look I love the guys, and everybody has a right to make a living. I hope they’re making a great living and they’re saving their money and they’re doing the right thing.
Go ask them, they’ll tell you: Being told what to do by somebody who knows absolutely nothing about the business or having somebody just because they’ve been in it for a long time, think that they have the right to dictate their creativity… That’s a horrible environment to be in man! Just not my thing. And I can’t support it. I just can’t do it. I’m sorry.
But I love all the guys! When I go to all the conventions, ‘They’re like m*****f****r, why would you say that?!’ It’s because I believe it, that’s why! I’m cool with everybody but there’s guys like Chris (Jericho), and a couple of other guys that just don’t like me and that’s also cool man. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t effect me in any way at all. I’m just blessed to be alive, blessed to be doing a movie, and this interview. This interview is more important to me than anything I did in WCW! How about that?
Thanks a lot for that! Just wanted to mention, I never realized Vampiro’s unique look with the dreadlocks was inspired so heavily from Milli Vanilli until I saw Nail in the Coffin!
Well yeah, take a look man! At that time a white guy with dread locks, no one had done that yet, right? There were only three guys with those kind of dread lock braids, there was Trent D’Arby and Milli Vanilli. Nobody else had them it wasn’t a thing yet. One time Milli Vanilli and me were touring in Europe and they knew I wanted to be a wrestler. They were like, if you ever become a wrestler you have to have long braids and do the long dreads. I said, ‘F***, I love that! I never forgot that. I always wanted to grow my hair long like The Ramones but I couldn’t because so many years I had my hair like Billy Idol.
So, you know with all the hair dye and everything. It was really hard to keep dying my hair once a week. And it was just too hard to get my hair long that quick to put braids in. So, I just kind of grew it out and put in the braids one day and left them in for about a year and a half, and when I took them out I had these long a** dreadlocks! I kept them in there for about 15 years. That’s how all that happened!
I noticed you’re (Vampiro) an avid gamer in Nail in the Coffin by the way. What games do you usually play?
Yeah man, Call of Duty! I get to relieve a lot of stress! I love Call of Duty, I love Doom, and Mortal Kombat. I’m actually getting into playing wrestling because I see all these cool Vampiros who are better than me when I was wrestling, and they look better! I’m having a blast man! I like playing Hockey, all that kind of s**t you know?
Did you play wrestling games as yourself back when you were in WCW? Maybe make yourself in WCW/nWo Revenge? I know a lot of actors say they don’t like to watch their own stuff, do wrestlers enjoy playing as their own videogame avatars?
That’s because all actors who say that are full of s**t! They’re the biggest liars in the world! They’ll watch that movie 200 times before it even comes out. I mean come on, man! Don’t believe those ego maniacs. Listen, the first time I came on a videogame, it was a WCW videogame (WCW Backstage Assault) and I was a secret character. You had to beat a few guys and then you unlocked Vampiro. I grabbed the garbage can and there’s a board & the boards lights on fire, and we fight in the parking lot. I remember watching it with my wife and I was married at the time and we were playing it… I was like ‘Holy S**t, I’m on a videogame!’ It was the coolest moment in the world, ever! And then uh… I lost the game! I got bored. (laughs)
Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) and Director Michael Paszt: Thank you!
Where to watch ‘Nail in the Coffin’
Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro will screen in limited theatres starting September 4th and will release on Blu-ray/Digital/VOD on Tuesday, September 8th. Pre-order the Blu-ray over at EpicPictures.com or at Amazon!
The film will be available on the follow VOD and streaming services: Indemand, Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Dish, Sling TV, Vubiquity, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Xbox, YouTube, Amazon, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Breaker, and Alamo On Demand.
Be sure to read The Natural Aristocrat®’s interview with Kenny Omega and more interviews with the entertainment industry’s top talent in the Interview Articles section