For the first time in show history, Big Shooter sat down for a one-on-one interview that spanned an entire episode when Luke Harper joined the Chad Dukes Wrestling Show this week.
In a sprawling interview filled with ball busting, discussion of Harper’s recovery from injury, secretive Wyatt Family business, Suicide Squad, the Washington Redskins, Lucha Underground, Luke Gallows’ Twitter handle, and much more, Harper also reveals his career goals, thoughts on the brand split, Conor McGregor, and the world of wrestling in 2016.
After opening the show by clashing heads over the recently released Suicide Squad film, Dukes started the interview proper by checking in on Harper’s knee injury, suffered back in March. While mum’s the word about an actual return date or his future with the Family, it sounds like his recovery is coming along nicely.
“I feel really good, actually I just started moving a little bit better and made a few check marks in the rehab category that were long due. So I’m happy, I’m happy right now.”
So Harper is feeling physically better, but mentally, it sounds like the former Intercontinental Champion has a chip on his shoulder specifically caused by the staff of WWE.com. Being sidelined by injury during an all-important brand split, Harper is a premiere talent that you would think the website would include when speculating on which brand, Raw or SmackDown Live, will sign undrafted superstars. However, in article hyping the “10 Hottest Free Agents,” Harper was snubbed by the website, something he takes Cryme Tyme to the woodshed over.
Harper: “When you put a list of the ten hottest free agents available in today’s market, and I mean no offense to them, but when Cryme Tyme ranks above you, it really makes you question your career choices.”
Dukes: “So you don’t think Heath Slater should be the #1 free agent, that’s what I’m being told watching these television shows?”
Harper: “Listen, I don’t want to talk about Heath Slater, he’s been beaten down by Rhyno and Jinder Mahal. So I don’t want to talk about that, but Cryme Tyme couldn’t be more irrelevant to today’s wrestling scene. So for them to rank above me, it’s a bit of a slap in the face.”
“I believe that I will be the WWE World Champion one day. I know that a lot of people say that, it’s easy to say, if I were to go away without accomplishing that task I would feel unfulfilled, to be completely honest… So for Cryme Tyme to rank above me, when I think that of myself, it becomes a bit of an issue inside my own brain.”
Shifting the conversation, Dukes next asked Harper about guys like Cody Rhodes beginning to carve a life outside of WWE and should his goals be unfulfilled, is something like what Rhodes has done since his WWE release an appealing option. Harper made it clear, for him, WWE is THE place to be.
“I’m very happy for Cody Rhodes. It’s good to see a person I know like him go out there and do what he needs to do to fulfill his life. In my opinion, WWE, to me, is the top of the food chain. So I’m concerned with being at the top of that food chain, which is the top, top of the food chain. So for me personally, I need to be here right now to do what I need to do. In the future who knows, but I need to accomplish things before I can, I guess, sleep well at night. I mean, I sleep good because I have a great family and stuff like that, a great life, but career-wise, I have some things I need to accomplish… There’s places I need to be and it’s WWE right now…”
“If Okada, if a Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, The Young Bucks, if they want to have a match the place they can find me is the WWE. I’m going to be busy making my way to the top of that food chain. The future, who knows? I have that in front of me right now.”
With his focus clearly on climbing to the top of the WWE “food chain,” Harper will be returning to a very different WWE, a WWE split into two separate brands. However, Harper sees the new landscape as nothing but an opportunity.
“I think the brand split is a beautiful thing. It opens up opportunities for everybody up and down the card. You look at a September show, where it will be a SmackDown only pay-per-view. That means from the roster of SmackDown only, you’re going to draw eight matches to fill three hours. In my first three years in WWE that’s unheard of. You don’t get that opportunity. So to me it’s an opportunity.”
The Twittersphere was set on fire by the comments of Conor McGregor this past weekend calling the WWE roster “pussies” and threatening to “slap their faces off their heads.” Harper shared his thoughts on the Notorious’ comments.
“I mean here’s the thing when he comes and works for WWE, can I call him a pussy? How does that work? Sure, he’s a smart businessman, he knows exactly what he needed to do to drum up a little interest, but my man blew his biggest payday known to man in MMA at [UFC 200] and a professional wrestler had to come and pick up his scraps and save the show…”
“Business is business, but he doesn’t understand my world and fairly, I don’t understand his. So for what he said, he said something off the cuff at an interview, that I’ve probably done already today, maybe, we’ll find out in a couple days, he said what he had to say, absolutely fine, much respect, he said it off the cuff, but it’s very measured and he knows what he’s doing. At the same time as a man in our business, it’s offensive. You’re calling us all pussies. You’re saying line up and I’ll slap each one of you. I think Big E said it best, ‘How do you want us to line up, sir?’ How do you want us to line up so you can slap the sh*t out of us? You tell us…”
“He can do what he needs to do, but if he comes up to me and slaps me, then we’ll have a go. That’s the end of it.”
After asking Harper about one of Dukes’ favorite shows, Lucha Underground, an interesting discussion took place about independent or international talents, like Ricochet, possibly coming into the WWE and if they’d have to change their styles. For years, fans would hear through the wrestling media, that these wrestlers needed time in developmental (OVW, FCW, NXT, etc.), to learn the “WWE style.” Harper points out, and rightly so, in today’s landscape that paradigm is changing.
“I think that ‘learning WWE style’ is a very 2007, as late as 2010, mantra. I feel like things have changed now and that professional wrestling is professional wrestling, from the top to the bottom and what WWE is presenting is quintessential professional wrestling. You look at these guys who have come in, nothing’s changed. You don’t have to change anything and if you want to have that argument when I came in, you say it to me because I didn’t change a frickin’ thing. You go through your battles in developmental, but at the end of the day you’re you and if you have conviction in who you are and how you wrestle then that’ll show through and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, then you have to look in the mirror and decide that.”
We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Luke Harper for giving so much of his time for this interview and giving his fans a glimpse into the “real” Luke Harper. Follow Luke Harper on Twitter @LukeHarperWWE.
Be sure to check out the full interview as part of this week’s Chad Dukes Wrestling Show here on the site and on iTunes.