Eric Young is atop the IMPACT Wrestling mountain yet again, after four years away from the World Title.
"I’m doing well. What’s the old saying? 'It’s good to be king,'" Young told Fightful in an exclusive interview just after winning the championship.
Eric Young went from not being used on WWE TV, to being released, to being a free agent during a pandemic, to returning to the IMPACT brand in one of the hottest stories the company has seen in recent years. That's not lost on him.
"It’s a crazy time to be alive for everybody," Young said. "We’re living a very weird time of in history and in the world in the United States and North America. It’s a very, very weird time. I think if you would have told me a month or two ago, I would have said, 'Yeah, probably not.' But, I can say Scott D’Amore was one of the first people to call me when I was released. Kind of apologizing, weirdly. Saying, I can’t believe I’m in this position, but he’s excited ‘cause he wants me to come to IMPACT! and talks kind of blossomed from there."
Eric Young hit the big 4-0 in December, and has two decades of wrestling work under his belt. He's been wrestling on TV for well over 16 years and didn't even have to continue wrestling if he didn't want to. Desire brought him back to the company he called home for so long, and the way things have went thus far have led him to realizing that was a good decision.
"I was in a very interesting position where I’ve been very smart in my career. I’ve done very well for myself. I don’t need to be working right now. I could have taken time off. I could have waited things out. I choose to be at IMPACT!. I think it’s the right choice for me. It was definitely the right choice at the time and every week I feel that that choice is being vindicated. At Slammiversary, IMPACT! had positioned themselves with a ton of buzz and buzz is great. Creating a buzz, that’s a skill set on its own. But, once the buzz sets, you’ve got to be able to deliver, too. I feel the IMPACT! roster did that from top to bottom. Every week it does feel like there’s this groundswell, like it’s building and building and building. As far as a performer goes and being in a position like that, there’s just going to be more and more opportunities; more and more business; more and more chances to prove that we are a legitimate alternative. As a performer, nothing excites me more than that," Young said. "But, I think when people came to Slammiversary, like you had the [?], the numbers were the biggest that IMPACT!’s had in five / ten years. It’s proof that what we’re doing is working. It’s not saying we’re not going to have a couple of backward steps here and there, because that’s just the nature of wrestling and the nature of television. But, I can assure you that everybody here is striving to make this the best pro wrestling show on TV, week in and week out."
Young returned at Slammiversary as one of two mystery opponents in the World Title match, eventually won by Eddie Edwards. Young toppled Edwards Tuesday night for the title, but had his sights set on Rich Swann in the weeks prior. Now that he's the World Champion, Young is all too familiar with the responsibility associated.
"Just absolute bliss. I’ve said it before, if you are in wrestling and you don’t want to be the World Champion or the guy that the company that you’re in leans on, then you’re a liar or you’re in wrestling for the wrong reasons. That’s me. That’s being the flag bearer and the person a huge amount of responsibility falls on your shoulders. I take it very seriously, man. I mean, very serious. I did before and I definitely do now. We’re in a position right now at IMPACT!, all the people, all the guys on the roster, all the people on the staff where we’re making forward steps. We don’t want to do the wrong thing. We don’t want to make a misstep. We don’t want to go backwards, we want to go forwards. Being part of something like that is the lifeblood for me. I love being the underdog. I love being the person that’s counted out or the person who maybe isn’t the first choice.
Young's first title reign way back in 2014 gained polarizing reactions. Odd assumptions circulated that the then-TNA management booked the versatile Young to be champion "because he had a beard like Daniel Bryan's." As baseless as that idea was, it was a more criticized era of the company. Since making his way back to IMPACT, Young's appearances have been heavily praised by viewers and critics.
"Pro wrestling is art. It’s subjective," Young stated. "What some people like, other people may not. But, there’s a flavor for you on this show at some point during the two hours. There’s something you’re going to enjoy. We’re making IMPACT! on Axxess for pro wrestling fans. That’s our number one goal. We’re not trying to make it so housewives watch it or people that don’t like wrestling tune in week to week because there’s some silly game show. We’re doing it with the pro wrestling fan in mind because that’s whose watching IMPACT!. That’s who we want to support this product."
We've heard of new champions, namely Deonna Purrazzo, who not only don't have contracts, but haven't had full-time offers. That isn't the case for Young. He's with IMPACT, and doing some side gigs as well.
"Yeah, I’m committed there. I signed a two year exclusive deal. So, exclusively wrestling with them. It will be all IMPACT! all the time for me. I mean, I have tons of other interests like TV, outside of that I’m crazy into fantasy sports. Just actually this morning signed a deal with SportsGrid, I’ll be doing a Sunday morning fantasy prep show for them that airs digitally online and all over the world. Like I said, I’m a very experiential person. I want to do everything. I’m running out of time in the day. One guy can only do so much. For me, IMPACT! is my home. It was my home away from home when I was gone. Now, I’m back. It’s just a very cool place to work, a very cool place to be involved. I said, for me, I just wanted to be involved. I just wanted to be doing something. The fact that I’m the World Champion, I’m the flag bearer, I’m the flagship of the show, it is a huge honor for me. Something I feel that I’ve earned and I deserve, but I will not rest on it, you know what I mean? I’ve never been a person that’s rested on it. I want to improve myself. I want to improve IMPACT! and in turn improving my life. Everything is circular that way. The task at hand is huge. We’ve got a long ways to go, but the opportunity is there. It’s limitless potential in this locker room and I can’t wait to get going and do some other amazing things," Young closed.
You can see our full interview with Eric Young above, or download/stream the audio at this link. IMPACT Wrestling airs every week at 8 PM EST, Tuesdays on AXS TV