Dominic Garrini is a scary competitor. A Brazilian Jui Jitsu pro and indie wrestling monster who has now given his services to MLW and Team Filthy. Now that his indie tag team partner, Kevin Ku, has made it to MLW, Violence is Forever is coming for MLW’s tag team division. We here at SteelChair Wrestling Magazine had the chance to speak to Garrini and talked all things MLW. Enjoy!
Since it’s your first time in SteelChair, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
“So, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Dominic Garrini. I go by the surname the Bone Collector. I did Brazilian Jui Jitsu competitively for about 10 years before I turned to pro-wrestling and am currently under contract with MLW. Really, I just love pro-wrestling and chatting it up with good people.“
What actually got you into pro-wrestling? It’s quite the move to go from Brazilian Jui Jitsu and MMA-style fighting to pro-wrestling, what caused the change?
“I was always a big pro-wrestling fan. From about the time I was 10 to 16, I loved pro-wrestling, even before I was 10. But until I was about 16, I thought pro-wrestling was going to be the combat sport for me. I watched a lot of indies. I was big into early CZW, early ROH, and I’ll always credit that early 2004 to early 2007 ROH run as my favourite time in pro-wrestling. I was almost in pro-wrestling, then I got to 16 and pro-wrestling wasn’t cool anymore. I conformed with the cool kids and started playing amateur wrestling and football. During that time, the rise of the UFC really came into play, and because of that rise, I found ADCC, Abu Dhabi Combat Club videos, and it was just pure grappling, so I thought, man, I really want to try this.
“When I was at my fattest point, I was about 240 pounds in about 2009. I used Brazilian Jui Jitsu as a way to shoehorn myself to fight MMA and hopefully lose weight as well. About a year into that, I really started to give up on MMA as much as I liked doing pure Jui Jitsu. I wanted to become a Jui Jitsu world champion, and fast-forward seven years later, I’d dedicated a lot of time, effort, blood, and sweat into it, I came to the realisation that my dream of becoming a world champion in Brazilian Jui Jitsu probably was never going to happen. I kind of always felt there would be someone more athletic than me, someone, who was just better at it than me, so I decided to shift focus. When I decided to shift focus, pro-wrestling was coming back into my life, and I was really into it with the rise of Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) and Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) in the WWE. I decided to turn to pro-wrestling and started training, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Is there anyone you’ve taken inspiration from? Anyone you saw and thought, yes, this is who I’d like to see a part of myself as?
“For sure, Danielson is someone I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from. He was someone who pushed MMA and grappling into pro-wrestling before it was really vogue. Samoa Joe also. He and Danielson were always two of my favourites. Also, and this one always catches people off-guard because it’s so much different than how I wrestle, but Kevin Steen was always my biggest inspiration in pro-wrestling. I was a chubby kid growing up, and Steen was always this chubby guy who was able to do all these crazy athletic things. Yet he could also shit-talk you, so you’d have to eat their words when I deal with this guy.”
It’s always nice to have interests nobody would expect. So, what actually led you to MLW then?
“I had been wrestling a little over three years at that point. I debuted in March 2016, and the be-all-end-all for me when I started, especially coming up under Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae, especially Gargano, was that he spent so much time with EVOLVE and Gabe. Now, Gabe took such a liking to the grappling and sport-based styles, so my goal was to make it to EVOLVE. I made it to EVOLVE in early 2018, and I spent all of 2018 in EVOLVE, pretty much from the beginning of the year to the end. At the end of my EVOLVE run, I could see the writing on the wall that EVOLVE was going to go heavy into the WWE theatre system, and I didn’t quite fit there.
“I was still too new, wasn’t ready yet, and when EVOLVE didn’t call back, I took my idea to re-invent myself and get really over on the indies and see where we go from there. Around August 2019, me and MLW started having some contact. I’d always had an interest in MLW, MJF, and I had had that conversation about it being a really good fit. My friendship with “Filthy” Tom Lawlor also made me think it would be a really good fit, so we started negotiations, and we were able to make a deal. I was really drawn to MLW by the idea and the shoot-style wrestlers they had at the time. The Davey Boy Smith Jr’s, Filthy Tom’s, and Tim Thatcher’s of the world.“
Filthy Tom once classed you as someone coming for his head. What changed that and caused you to join Team Filthy?
“When I was doing some of my early MLW stuff, Tom pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I’m one of the top dogs here. I think if we work together, we can work for a unified front.” We’ve come together, and now we’re coming for the Von Erichs heads. We’ve re-assessed since The Restart with my good friend Kevin Ku coming in and forming our independent tag-team Violence is Forever. That allows us to take that Von Erichs fight and let Tom go back to things like the Opera Cup. “
I must admit, I am looking forward to seeing what Violence is Forever can do in MLW. Do you think the tag division is ready for what Violence is Forever is going to bring to it?
“I don’t think the good Christian boys like the Von Erichs are ready for what we can really bring to the tag division. I don’t really know if the division is ready for it. Kevin and I feel we are the best tag team that MLW is going to see. Besides the Von Erichs, I don’t think there is anyone who can work as well in unison as us. But I think one thing that really sets us apart from the Von Erichs is our dedication to the wrestling game. We are married to the wrestling game. We don’t have families like they do. To us, our family is wrestling, and it’s what we can do. I don’t think the Von Erichs have ever been hit as hard as somebody like Kevin or I can hit. I don’t think there’s anyone in the division that can mix the striking of Kevin with my grappling. When you put that together for a unified front, for a unified team, I just don’t think they can touch us.”
Alongside the Von Erichs, are there any other tag-teams in the MLW division you want to mix it up with and most likely kill?
“Let’s be real. I think one of the most synonymous names with MLW is Los Parks. I think any combination of Los Parks, especially now with LA Park Jr. being signed, they’re someone we look to. But with Kevin and I, we just look to fight, and it’s one of our most important things. We’ll fight whoever MLW wants us to fight and whoever leads us to the MLW tag team championships.”
I think one of my dream opponents for you would be Simon Gotch. Has there been any interest in getting involved in this CONTRA conflict that has ravaged the whole company?
“Team Filthy has been the outlier in all this.” We’re out there training, doing our own thing. We’re our own entity. For me, I don’t care about CONTRA, and I know Kevin doesn’t, Tom doesn’t. For us, it’s about competition, and it’s about that big prize-fight. I do agree that me and Simon would be one of the biggest prize fights out there. If you take his grappling background, and my grappling background, and our combat sports experience, it would really lead to a great match up.”
Right now, you’re focused on the tag team division, but what else would you like to do within MLW?
“Jacob Fatu, title or not, has proven he’s a top dog here, and I think he’s one of the guys I’d like to wrestle. I bring up ROH ’05 to ’07 and CZW being a big inspiration for me, so mixing it up with a Low Ki, or you saw Tom mixing it up with Rocky Romero. One of those guys would be something I’d like to do in a singles realm. But right now, as you said, the tag team is the most important. Kevin and I have always looked at our team like, you’d look at reDRagon or Ringkampf in terms of we’re really really good together, but we’re also really good as singles, and we can hold our own in singles. I think anything Kevin and I can get in a singles realm, we’re more than ready to take.”
MLW is billed as the ultimate hybrid company and boasted some of the youngest hot up and comers alongside some of the most dignified veterans in the business. You’re four years into your career, how has this helped you evolve in the business and how have you perhaps given back to some of the guys you’ve helped along the way?
“I think the way MLW is structured like you said, they have a great mixture of veterans and young guys, and that really helps young wrestlers. You’re a young wrestler until you’re about 10 years in the game, and when you’re in with a veteran, they can show you the things you’re doing wrong or not necessarily doing right. They can make you look into a character point that might not be working out. MLW tap for TV, and not a lot of indie guys know how that works, so they bring in a lot of TV veterans, and that helps out a lot. That’s one of the big things I get to impart in my role at the AIW school. I’m able to take the lessons I learn there, especially about TV and playing to certain types of crowds, and I’m able to show that to the students at my school.”
— MLW FUSION | Wed. 7pm (@MLW) December 13, 2020
Is there anyone outside the company that you want to point out to Court Bauer and say, you need this person?
“I would choose a duo that doesn’t always wrestle as a duo but needs to be a duo. That is the Rip City Shooters, Joshua Bishop, and Wes Barkley. I really think they’re a TV-ready act, especially Barkley on the mic and Joshua Bishop’s presence in the ring. I would point to them at the top of my list. I’d also point out Matt Makowski, former Elite XC and Bellator veteran as another shoot-style hybrid wrestler. That would be great. Also, I know he’s done some Impact stuff recently, but Tre Lamar, another one of the kids from my area. I think he would be great in a role like Injustice. I know he and Myron are close friends, so I think he’d be a great piece part to have in MLW too.”
“Josh, Wes, and Tre are all my students. I’ve been with them since their first steps into the wrestling school. Those are guys I will always look out for, and I feel their growth, especially in the last two years, has been insane. Matt is a blue-chip prospect that people really need to get on.”
Joshua Bishop scares the hell out of me. Every time I see him in a ring, there’s levels of insanity and he seems to love being just at the top…
“He sure does. He’s a crazy kid. He and I usually talk, and to pull back the curtain, we talk pretty regularly and he always pitches these crazy ideas, and I tell him, you’re a psychopath man.”
And there's the killshot! Violence is Forever (@dgarrinibc, @kevinxku) with the Roundhouse, Brainbuster combination to get their first win in MLW.#MLWFusion on @beINSPORTSUSA 📺 pic.twitter.com/J43bdAfBX8
— MLW FUSION | Wed. 7pm (@MLW) December 13, 2020
As we’re discussing peeking behind the curtain. What’s it like to work with Court Bauer? What’s your relationship like with him?
“Court is such a crazy wrestling mind that’s gotten the chance to work almost everywhere. From doing the initial MLW run when he was so young to have a pretty long run as a WWE writer, I consider a year and a half a long run when you look at the current life-span of these poor guys. To then, familiarising and blowing up wrestling podcasts, then relaunching MLW to where it is now. Court in all accords is a wrestling genius, and you can see the abilities of someone like Gary Hart. A lot of guys my age are probably not familiar with Gary Hart, but Court’s a real wrestling historian, and it’s always really good to chalk it up with him about things like that. He’s a great boss and great to work with because before he pitches anything, we talk and during the pandemic, he reached out to me many times to talk about stuff and pitch ideas. He’s been one of the best bosses you could have. You always hear about these massive companies and the disconnect between the bosses and anyone in the card. Court does a really good job at making sure those disconnects don’t exist.”
You’ve kind of just touched on my next topic and the other elephant in the room to discuss. What’s it been like trying to adapt and wrestling in this COVID era?
“It’s interesting. I even had these conversations with some of the kids at the AIW school the other day. The COVID era has been surprisingly good to me. As a performer, I’ve had one of my better years, especially when it comes to acclaim and the matches I’ve had. The elephant in the room comes down to this, we as wrestlers thrive off fan interaction. I don’t think I’ve wrestled in front of more than 200 people during the pandemic. I think those Collective shows were the biggest shows I wrestled at. So, it’s hard to not only get yourself motivated but how to call these matches and make them successful with such small crowds, or no crowds for that matter. I think one of the big things was, MLW put us in a really good environment for The Restart and the way we shot all that to make it look like a great sporting contest. It was really able to make us forget about there being no fans there. COVID wrestling has been weird, and I’ve had a lot of conversations about how it doesn’t hit the same way as normal wrestling does, but I kind of say this to everyone, just think of the first match back with anywhere between 200-600 fans and how awesome that is going to feel when that happens.”
Are there any end-goals for you?
“There are two end goals for me and Kevin. One, be tag team champions everywhere we can be tag team champions. Two would be to make it so wrestling can be our full-time jobs, so we don’t have to get up every morning and clock in nine to five. We both have regular jobs, and our goal at the end of this is to make wrestling our job. To make everything related to wrestling our job.”
Any closing words?
“Keep on supporting MLW. Wednesdays on YouTube, FUBO TV, Pluto Sports. Saturdays on BeInSports. Support all independent wrestlers during this time. I’m blessed enough to have a pretty solid day job to where the decreased wrestling income hasn’t murdered me, but a lot of wrestlers out there, this is their job. So, support them during this time, support all of us. Buy our merch, support these shows. Just be a good person right now, 2020 has been tough on everybody, so please go out there and be a good person. You don’t know what the person next to you is going through.”
Dominic Garrini on Pro Wrestling Tees: HERE
Dominic Garrini personal merch site: HERE
Watch MLW (the video below will show you Violence is Forever’s big MLW debut)
All images courtesy of MLW, Harry Aaron, MLW Twitter,