It has been almost a year since Rhino decided to leave WWE and return to Impact Wrestling. He enjoys the locker room that is filmed with familiar faces and new ones. The star has high hopes for the promotion as it continues to build itself up again.
"I've wrestled in locker rooms with Ken Shamrock for many years. I've wrestled with Tommy Dreamer and been in so many locker rooms with him. You always learn new things from those guys who have been friends with your whole lives. To hear stories from them when other girls and guys are sitting around at catering. You're just listening to these stories. You appreciate the business a little bit more. When you're able to get in the ring with guys like that if you're a younger talent, you learn. Having a roster like we have for a company, it's a great roster and a great team.
"What's great about it is I've been in a lot of locker rooms and can feel the momentum. Whether it was ECW or NXT or WWE SmackDown, you could feel that momentum. I can feel that at Impact right now. The locker room people are added to the locker room, the right people are added. You don't want to add the wrong players to the team. Then it can mess up the formula. When you get that right formula, you have to continue growing. That's what we are doing right now with AXS TV and so many things going on."
Standing at the top of the mountain for the company is the first-ever female Impact champion Tessa Blanchard. Rhino recalls first meeting this "Diamond" when she was just 19 with big dreams.
"It was a little independent show in Virginia," he reminisced. "I was saying hi to everybody, and I asked her if she was related. She goes, 'That's my dad, Tully.' We started talking a little bit more. She said her mom was married to Magnum TA. I go, 'Wow, if you do not become a star it's because you have done everything in your power not to become a star.' She has done everything in her power to become that star. The foundation was laid having a father and stepfather like she has had. When I first came back to Impact, I'd watch her matches.
"There are people you'll watch and think, 'I want to get in the ring and mix it up with that person.' She is that person. I told her, 'We may never get in the ring together, but if I do I'm hitting you with a slingshot suplex and you better not kick out because that was her dad's finisher.' She popped. She goes, 'Only if I hit you with a Gore.' I said, 'That's fine. I won't kick out.' I'm impressed every time I see her. The moves, the facials, the stories, the dedication and drive and hard-hitting action. It's amazing to watch her wrestle."
The veteran has also become a fan of Moose after working with him in a number of matches. He enjoys the level of physicality the NFL player turned Impact star brings.
"You know when you're excited to do something normal people wouldn't be excited to do," Rhino said. "It's like okay, I'm going to get excited to go in there and have this guy potentially drive me down to the mat, throw me out of the ring and onto the concrete, put me through a table, dropkick me in the face.
"I shouldn't be excited, but I am excited. It's like if you have a passion for boating and you are going under there, scraping the bottom and painting the bottom and looking at the end result. When I look at the end result and get in the ring with Moose. It's good for the fans. That's what you want. You want something good for the fans."
The former WWE superstar is happy to be in Impact, but remains grateful to his former employer for their opportunities. For Rhino, leaving wasn't less on them not knowing his worth and more on him wanting to do more.
"What I found is I wasn't on the road as much. I am that guy that wants to be on all the shows. I'm that guy where if I'm not working wrestling four times a week, there is an emptiness inside me," he said. "It wasn't, 'Oh, I didn't like the direction of this or that.' I wanted to go out there and perform. If I'm at home, I'm going to become miserable. That's something people don't want to do is be miserable at a job they love. Impact, it just fit. We do so many shows a year, but they allow me to do other shows.
"Quality shows around not only the country but the world. There are a lot of independent promotions that put forth a quality product. They have a quality talent. It's great because if I can see someone that is deserving to either have a look or to come in and do a show for Impact, what a great way to recruit new talent. Especially talent that hasn't been seen before with a guy that has been wrestling for 25 years."
Working with the likes of The Rock, AJ Styles, John Cena and many others. He wants to have a hand in discovering the next big thing, which in his eyes could be anyone including emerging talent like Madman Fulton.
"I'm the eyes and ears on the ground in the trenches. That's one thing I would love to do and want to do is find the next Rock, Austin, the next Undertaker, the next AJ Styles, the next Samoa Joe," he said. "That man could be Madman Fulton or a guy wrestling on an independent show in Chicago. You never know. That's the great thing. Besides the troubles we're going through now, I'm on the road three to four nights a week, which is great. And to be with a company that allows you to go out there and really produce."
As someone who has been through a number of different eras in history, the 44-year-old does have some words of wisdom for peers for getting through today. A period when so many shows are cancelled and income might be affected due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lean on other people when in need.
"Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We have to follow certain guidelines to help this thing, this coronavirus from spreading. It's important to do shows because there are a lot of Americans and people around the world are locked into their house and doing their part of what they're asked to do whether it's on a state level or federal level. They need to be entertained. Wrestling has provided a lot for a lot of people over the years.
"When I was a kid, I was a little shy. But once I turned on that TV, if I had any other issues going on like family members who are older passing away, wrestling was an escape for me. The show must go on. Even if you do a show in an empty arena, you're still going out there and performing and bringing matches to the masses that need that escape.
"There are a lot of fans that have told me how wrestling helped them out during this period in their life. Or just getting in the car driving to the Impact Zone created memories that will live forever of you and your buddies. It might be one of those things where you can't make that road trip with your buddies right now, but if we're doing shows and putting matches on TV you still have that escape."
Rhino's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily, which you can listen to below. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.