Billy Gunn returns to the AEW ring later this week. Rampage in a match against rising star Darby Allin.
Once one of the best in the industry, Gunn’s list of accolades is extraordinary. He teamed up with “Road Dogg” Jesse James as The New Age Outlaws and was a pivotal member of D-Generation X, spearheading the WWE product during the height of the Attitude Era. His career spans decades, from tagging in The Smoking Gunns to having his own singles career, including victory at the King of the Ring tournament in 1999. Now, at the age of 58, Gunn (who worked under his real name , Monty Sopp, in TNA) is writing a new chapter in AEW with his sons Austin and Colten.
As patriarch of The Gunn Club, Gunn now has the opportunity to work closely with his sons. The WWE Hall of Famer is also still active in the ring, and every time he passes the ring is a reminder of his brilliance.
Talking with Illustrated Sports, Gunn talked about his role in AEW, the opportunity to work with his children, and even brought up memories of working with DX.
Illustrated Sports: Your career path is remarkable. You fought the late Owen Hart and Yokozuna in WrestleMania XI Back in 1995, and now 26 years later, you’re fighting a featured match on AEW against rising star Darby Allin.
Billy Gunn: I had a great career and now I work for a company that makes me feel young. As long as I can do this at a level I’m happy with, I’ll keep doing it. It takes a lot of work to stay in the right condition, but it’s worth it. I also owe a lot to my children, they keep me young. I still enjoy what I do.
AND: Beyond wrestling, what other roles do you have in AEW?
Gunn: I am the head coach. I watch all the games and criticize them. When I teach, it is important to comply with everything I say and defend what I do.
AND: How has wrestling evolved in the last three decades?
Gunn: The fight continues to evolve. If you were stuck with the mindset you had in the 90s, then you would lose what is happening now. You have to evolve with wrestling. My training and experience are also important. It’s not just about making moves. It’s putting some psychology behind you and letting people follow you. You can’t just go out and do things just for yourself. People have to invest in you if they are going to care about the things you do in the ring.
AND: What impresses you the most about Darby Allin?
Gunn: Darby is willing to risk it all. There are no reservations for him. You get everything you have every time. Said in Dynamite he wants the biggest and the baddest, and he’s going to have all that against me Rampage. He had never met a train wreck like me before. I’m not cut out for spinning and diving, I’m cut out for hitting people.
AND: Darby Allin is aligned with Sting, whom you tangled with during Triple H’s match at WrestleMania 31. What memories do you have of that night?
Gunn: That night was super special. It was a collaboration of what people really wanted to see. Much of the Attitude Era was the New World Order and the DX. It was great to see Triple H and Sting there together, and now I can be next to Sting and his protégé, Darby Allin. He has done a great job helping Darby, and Sting still brings a lot to everything he does. It is a true legend. So it’s a cool dynamic, to be able to see an era of what Sting was and what Billy Gunn was, and people can now experience that while also enjoying new talents like Jungle Boy and Darby Allin.
AND: Certainly, there is healthy competition between AEW and WWE; nothing seems to compare to the height of WWE against WCW. Will AEW vs. WWE ever reach that level of rivalry that WCW had with WWE?
Gunn: You’re putting me in a bind here [laughs]. It has a bit of that same feeling. WCW was absolutely drowning us. That is what led to the creation of the Attitude Era. They were beating us in grades; they were hitting us in every way. When that happens, either you stick your tail in and run or you turn up the heat. We turned up the heat and we all did what we did best.
Now [in AEW], what we are doing is waking them up to realize that there is competition. And everyone thrives on competition. This is why WCW and WWE were doing so well; we were thriving on competition. I feel like that’s where we are now. AEW is competition. Yes [WWE] want to acknowledge that or not, it doesn’t matter. We know that we are competition, and that is what makes us prosper. I love it, I think it’s cool and fun to watch. Makes great programming.
AND: Can a group be recreated as DX? Or was it just the perfect place at the right time?
Gunn: I’m not saying it can’t happen, because anything can happen in the wrestling business, but it would take a special dynamic. There were only five of us and we never bathed him. NWO was ruined by allowing everyone to join. I think there were something like 350 members, right? There were five members of DX, and we all clicked and we all knew our positioning. We all worked together to make something special, and we knew how to feed each other to make it work.
It was almost too good to be true. See how it happened. Shawn [Michaels] abandonment. Hunter needed other boys. Road Dogg and I were never supposed to be together, but then they put us together and clicked. Then you have Chyna, who is alone in a league, and Kid [Sean Waltman] added a special dynamic that no one else could. They all gelled, everything came together. And let’s look at the landscape. You had [Steve] Austin and [Vince] McMahon, they were red hot. You had The Rock, Undertaker. It was such a special moment.
AND: You will always be known as part of DX and The New Age Outlaws, but now you have very special tag partners in your children. What do Austin and Colten need to do to reach that next elusive level?
Gunn: Road Dogg and I were very different in terms of personalities, but our dynamic was incredible when we were together. Colten and Austin also feed, and they are brothers. They love to compete and have a great relationship. We all work very well together.
They need experience. They need to work with guys who are better than them. They are in Shawn Spears and Tyler Breeze’s school all the time, and they work so hard at what they do. So for them to reach the next level, they have to work with people better than themselves. And they will soon, it’s just a process. You don’t want everything to happen very quickly, because then nothing is assimilated. It takes time, and that’s how it happened with me too. It takes experience and time.
AND: What should fans expect when they see you back in the ring on Rampage?
Gunn: They’ll see old Billy Gunn. I try to keep it a secret but Rampage it’s going to be out of control. I’m going to let go and show people that I haven’t missed a step. Darby Allin is a good boy and has a bright future, but that doesn’t cross me. I’m excited for people to see old Billy Gunn back.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.