Michael Elgin has spent about two months in limbo.
He couldn't wrestle. He couldn't lift weights. Even cardio was not a possibility.
The former Ring of Honor World Champion and current contracted New Japan Pro Wrestling star is finally back in action.
After breaking his orbital bone in October during a match in NJPW against Tetsuya Naito, then encountering complications that required a second operation on his hip, Elgin made his return to the ring this past weekend. A December 10 match for NWA Smoky Mountain in Kingsport, Tenn., marked just his second match back.
Elgin is still working his way back into the shape he would like, as he posted on Saturday on his Twitter:
Before Elgin stepped into the ring at NWA Smoky Mountain against Jason Kincaid (part of the stable of Fightful Pros), he spoke with Fightful.com in an exclusive interview where he discussed his recovery from the injury, his status with New Japan, his future with ROH, and his new endeavor -- Glory Pro, a promotion based out of Elgin's home base in St. Louis that will hold its first show next year.
And, apparently, Elgin's immediate future will not include a match at Wrestle Kingdom. NJPW announced the full card on Monday and Elgin's name was conspicuously absent.
When asked Saturday about whether he would have a match at Wrestle Kingdom, Elgin said the following:
"I'm not certain, to be honest. I have told New Japan that I'm cleared, and that was the whole plan, to hopefully return for Wrestle Kingdom. I'm not sure. I'm almost 100 percent positive I'll at least be there; I don't know in what capacity, I don't know what I'll be doing. But, I would assume that they would want me there if I'm cleared, but maybe this injury kind of delayed it and they have to start me after Wrestle Kingdom, just because everything's set in motion—kind of, me being out maybe affected what I was originally supposed to do. So I'm really not certain what the outcome is going to be."
Check out our full interview with Elgin:
Q: We're here in Kingsport, Tenn., at NWA Smoky Mountain, and I believe this is your first weekend back in action since that injury in Japan, right?
ELGIN: Yup. Yup, last night was my first match back and tonight's my second in about two months.
Q: You broke your orbital bone, right? That was the actual injury, and then I've read and heard elsewhere that you had some complications that delayed the return from that injury further.
ELGIN: Yeah. So, they took a bone graft from my hip to place underneath my orbital, and then the hip started acting up. I actually had a second surgery on my hip, about 3 ½ weeks later.
Q: So, how much did that delay, as far as working out and that kind of thing, and trying to maintain shape?
ELGIN: Yeah, so, I was told to wait three weeks for the initial surgery, which was the hip and the eye. But when the hip started acting up, I was told to wait another four weeks, and so in total, it was almost two months completely from working out or anything. We're sitting here, December 10 right now, and I had my first workout last Sunday [December 4]. So from October 10 until December 3, I did not have a single workout—cardio or anything. It was tough, almost two months of sitting around--
Q: I was going to say, I imagine that was incredibly frustrating.
ELGIN: When you're so used to working out twice a day, sometimes seven days a week depending on the schedule, it really kinda just puts a null in your day. You kind of try to find something to do to fill that null. In that process, I started a wrestling company. That's how bored I was in two months,
Q: Inflict all that misery on yourself.
ELGIN: Yeah, well, you know, it's been going well so far. We haven't had the [first] show yet, but the support has been tremendous. I'm giving a place for guys I think need more eyes on them or deserve more eyes on them, and giving my students an extra place to work. All in all, I'm happy that something good came of such a crappy situation.
Q: And it's a very tradition-rich area for wrestling, too, going back to Central States and all the way back to those days.
ELGIN: And that's part of the thing I'm trying to bring back. I find people try to reinvent the wheel rather than change the look of the wheel. I still want to change the look of the wheel, but also, make sure it's still a wheel. There's a lot of tradition there that's kind of been over passed and not taken into consideration with promotions that run. And I hope to bring that back into the St. Louis area. There's certain areas you learn about. Fans from all over fly to PWG. Fans from all over fly to AAW now. And there's certain promotions that get a rep, and although I'm not really putting out the money that either of those promotions do, I want to put out a successful company where you get to see matches that you would never see and … get your eyes on talent that you really didn't know was out there but are so good that you need to know they're out there. I want it to be a destination for wrestling fans to at least drive in to, and really pay attention to the scene.
Q: Is it just you as the promoter, or do you have any partners or anything like that?
ELGIN: It's all me. There's students who will help me get posters out and stuff like that, but anything that goes on in the show is my idea. Any money that goes in the show is mine. It needs to succeed, for me to run it. And I want to continue to run it. I find that, the more partners you get into it, the more money backers you get into it, you don't put as much thought into it because you really have nothing at stake. So when you have something at stake, you want it to succeed and you really need it to succeed.
Q: How can people keep up with Glory Pro? I know there's a YouTube channel, but as far as watching shows, watching matches, that kind of thing.
ELGIN: Well, we plan to release one match from each show on YouTube, just to give a taste of the product. These are also going to be available as downloads on Smart Mark Video. And if you follow online, if you follow my personal account @michaelelgin25 or @glorypro2017, all the information goes out there.
Q: Even with the injury, it was a big year for you. You signed the contract with New Japan. You won the [IWGP] Intercontinental Title in the first ladder match ever in New Japan. How do you feel about the way this year went for you, injury aside?
ELGIN: Injury aside, it was definitely the most successful year in my career. Without sounding egotistical or cocky, I think this was the year that everything I thought about myself, now fans see. That means a lot, because without fans that support me and support wrestling as a whole, we can't do this for a living. We can't do this, even as a weekend hobby. When people aren't following and aren't supporting it, then we can no longer do that. The year was successful for me in so many aspects. I'm just happy that I've been able to put a new light on me, and garner the following.
Q: Not to slight American fans, but the way that the fans in Japan react to some of the power spots you do and that kind of thing, there's got to be a good bit of validation for you to hear those reactions. Because it's a different crowd, that reacts differently.
ELGIN: Absolutely, and why I think that is because, nobody's trying to be anyone else over there. I'm Michael Elgin, and that is special over there. Tanahashi is Tanahashi, and that's special over there. Naito is Naito, and that's special over there. I can go on and on and on. Here, people might have seen a spot of mine, because there's a bigger guy who believes he can do exactly what I do exactly how I do it. So they've seen a version of what I do, and so it doesn't garner the same reaction. I still feel it gets a reaction, because I feel that, at my point in my career, I've been in wrestling for 16 years. I've been actually having matches for 14 years. I know how to put a spin on something so that, when you see it, you know, that's Michael Elgin. But, as you said, there's a little bit of a better reaction, I would say, in Japan. It's because I do my stuff and nobody else does it. Because nobody has to, because they know who they are as a wrestler. And I think as a whole in pro wrestling, that's something that's kind of missing in the States, and maybe that's why some places have a problem garnering a following or even a wrestler has a problem garnering a following. Because they're just imitating something rather than trying to find themselves. I think that's what helped me in Japan. I always knew who I wanted to be and who I was, but now people get to see it in such a different light, because, as I said, everybody else knows who they are, too.
Q: You were with Ring of Honor, and of course Ring of Honor and New Japan have the working relationship. Any Ring of Honor stuff for you in the immediate future?
ELGIN: No, you know what, I reached out to them about January 14. I had that weekend open and they never responded, after saying that I'd be on all the shows they do in the States when I'm home. And maybe they're just taking their time, but I've already filled that date now. So, I'm not waiting for them. I'm a New Japan talent. And I'm going to do whatever's good for my career. I believe that I'll be at Wrestle Circus in Texas now on that date, and they have a great following. Fans are really supporting them, and I want to be part of that—one to try and help maybe get some fans of mine who aren't familiar with Wrestle Circus familiar with Wrestle Circus, and get them some more following.
Q: So, they [ROH] didn't even say no. They just didn't respond at all.
ELGIN: I mean, don't get me wrong. They had Final Battle last week, so I'm sure they're busy. They might respond next week, but now I've already filled it because I've announced that I had that date open. Found out they had a date and reached out.
Q: You've got to go with what's open.
ELGIN: I do this for a living. I support my family off of pro wrestling, and yes, I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am with New Japan, to be under contract with them. But a family costs money. And I want to make sure that they can live a life that I never got to live, so I never want them to go without, so I'm going to try and work as often as possible and make sure that I can support them.
Q: It took you a while. It took you several years to really kind of get your big opportunity and find your niche and get to the position you are now.
Q: You're in a locker room with a lot of guys who are in a similar situation to where you were, maybe six to eight years ago. So, and there's a lot of wrestlers out there. And it seems like these days, with the Cruiserweight Classic and it seems like there's all these deals, more opportunities are opening up. So, what advice would you give to the independent wrestlers out there, as far as maximizing these opportunities?
ELGIN: I'm going to say... how many people do you think are on this card?
Q: At least twenty.
ELGIN: I ran a seminar today, and seven people came to it. I'm at the spot I'm at, because I took every chance I could to learn. It wasn't very pricey, it was 20 dollars to do the seminar. You're making at least 20 dollars tonight. It's worth it. So, seven out of 20, and some of those people weren't even on the show. They came here specifically to do the seminar. Because they felt I could help them understand wrestling a different way. I just held a camp this week, and I can tell you the difference I saw in the guys who took part in the camp for five days was unbelievable. To the point where they came in as, 'OK, this is a good wrestler, I can put them in the opening match' to 'Holy shit, you could be in the main event against anybody that I brought in, and you would not look out of place.' It sounds so weird. The little things that make a pro wrestler a great pro wrestler, are all little things. They're just little things, sprinkled throughout. And unfortunately, we're in a place and time with wrestling where there's not a lot of teachers out there that focus on those things. My seminars, I often get people who have training, who have been wrestling for a while. And that's all I have to focus on—because they know how to take a bump. They know how to do a move, no matter what move it is. But it's the little things that are going to help them, and they, at least, there's probably at least 20 [wrestlers] tonight.
Q: There probably are.
ELGIN: But let's say there are 20 and seven people took my seminar, and I know at least two of those weren't on the show. So that makes five people out of 20, which means 15 people missed an opportunity to learn for 20 bucks. There's not many things in this world you can buy for 20 bucks, and there's definitely not a lot of knowledge you can buy for 20 bucks, that they missed out on. It's disappointing, because I know, if I was in their position and... I know because I've done it. I've been at a lower aspect of my career and a Samoa Joe was on a show, and his seminar cost me 40 bucks, or 50 bucks. Or a Bobby Roode or a Scott D'Amore or Low Ki, or Davey Richards, before I got to work with him in Ring of Honor. They were upwards of 50 bucks sometimes, and you know what, I was making 30 bucks on the shows. So I had to pay 20 bucks out of my pocket plus the 30 bucks just to take part in it, because I wanted to perfect my craft. And that's how you get better. So, as shitty as it is to say, and I don't mean to sound like a dick, but if they don't feel that I can teach them anything, well, I'm sorry that they feel that way, because they could probably teach me something, too. Twenty bucks is not a lot of money and I'm kind of disappointed that more people on the show didn't take advantage of me being here.
Q: Fair enough. How can people keep up with you and with Glory Pro?
ELGIN: My Twitter is @michaelelgin25. Glory Pro's is @glorypro2017. And if you're not a fan of me, all I ask is that you support wrestling. Whether it be NWA Smoky Mountain, whether it be Ring of Honor, PWG, EVOLVE, whatever local shows in your neighborhood, please just support wrestling. Because, as I said, it gives guys like me or other guys that are on this show an opportunity to get better and an opportunity to get in front of the fans and do what they love. Support pro wrestling as a whole. That's really all that matters.