Since our last interview ten months ago, so many things have happened in Rohit Raju’s life. As the X-Division Champion, he entered a long and complex feud with TJP/Manik/Suicide who finally won the coveted belt. He made his Desi Hit Squad friend Shera come back to help him regain it. Both would work the tag team division alongside Rohit’s desire to become X-Division again.
This Saturday, at Slammiversary, he will have to face off five opponents in one of the most gruelling matches in the history of TNA/Impact Wrestling, the Ultimate-X Match, to try to grab the belt off the ropes. Josh Alexander, Chris Bey, Ace Austin, Trey Miguel, and Petey Williams are also more than ready for it. Never in the history of the company the X-Division Championship has been more important, mostly when the World title is held by a non-roster wrestler. It so earned the match that would show its value to the world.
SteelChair Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Rohit Raju on Wednesday about the Ultimate X Match and Slammiversary. As we already had the chance to ask him about his path and the importance of the X-Division title, we chose to focus on these specific subjects.
How can we prepare for a match like the Ultimate X?
“To be honest, you watch a lot of tapes, study a lot of what goes right and what goes wrong for me. Fans are expecting a lot of craziness, hanging from the ropes, jumping from the ropes, I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t even want to have to climb up if possible. I honestly am going to do what I do best and try to plot in the scheme and see what I can make happen at Ultimate X. All these other guys can go for their highlight-reel moments, I just want to win the match, so we’ll let them do that. I have been obviously trying to get in better shape, it’s always a thing I’m always trying to get in the best shape. I have added a little bit more cardio, put the boxing gloves back, which I haven’t done in a few years, started hitting the bag and just doing combos and doing rounds on the heavy bag, pushing the Sled, hit cardio on the bike, so stuff like that besides the weights just because you’re going in there with a guy like Josh Alexander, who’s a complete machine, so you have to be in your tip-top shape so and everybody else is too, but not only do I have to be mentally prepared but physically prepared as well.”
We can expect Shera or Madman Fulton to be involved in some ways. I think if you climb on Shera’s shoulders, you can reach the belt (laughs).
“That’s honestly in the cards, we’re going to see what’s happening. I’m going to give you a complete scoop, I recently bought an insurance policy that I’m pretty sure is going to guarantee me getting an X-Division Championship belt. I can’t tell you exactly any more details, but you’ll see at Slammiversary. Two steps ahead, I’m always two steps ahead.”
Do you have one Ultimate X match that you really like, that is really important for you?
“Nothing stands out. I just remember probably one of the first ones I saw. I think AJ Styles won it (at Final Resolution 2005, against Chris Sabin and Petey Williams). He got dropkicked, and then he did that crazy bomb (springboard off the far top rope of the structure).”
Some of the participants, and you’re one of them, have never taken part in one of those matches. Ace and Trey already did one and, of course, Petey Williams is taking part in his fifth and already won 2. What do you think of each of your opponents and at the same time who is your biggest threat?
“I would say Josh Alexander because he’s been on a roll. He has the most to lose obviously with the X-Division Championship belt. I would have to say the biggest threat might be Ace Austin because he and I obviously have something cooking together, we’ve made this alliance and we have a plan, but only one of us can walk out with the X-Division Championship belt. I know he has to have something in his back pocket because, sooner or later, it’s going to come down to him and me, and that’s what we wanted to anyways. But I also have a plan as well, so we’ll see what’s going to happen and which one will come to fruition. So I have to say Ace might be my biggest threat because we already have a plan to take out everybody else. Ace is on the same path, he has the same mindset as I do, he wants that ball more than anything, and so do I, so we’re going to see what happens. It’s going to be a fantastic match, and I can’t wait to make history. It’s going to be fun.”
This pay-per-view is made to make history and it’s also making history for you because it’s your first Slammiversary, which is a huge part of the history of the company.
“Finally, I’m in a key marquee match, it felt great doing the Bound For Glory 6-Way fight, especially because it was centred around me as X-Division champion, and I walked out X-Division Champion. But now this is also very historic because it is Ultimate X, which is the staple match of the X-Division, and it’s going to be at Slammiversary. It’s also going to be the first time we’re going to have fans back in the building, so that’s also a huge deal, and I get to be a part of that, so that’s huge. I’ve always wanted, and I’ve said it in numerous interviews, to sit at the big table because I know my worth, and I feel like I can have a seat at the big table but also stay there. So, being in Ultimate X match, being on Slammiversary in the main match, that’s huge for me. It’s a big deal for me, and I honestly appreciate the fact that some of my hard work is paying off and they’re finally seeing that. To quote Arn Anderson, “I don’t want to toot my own horn, but toot, toot!” I know that I can deliver and deliver differently than everybody else. I know I belong in this match and on every pay-per-view that they’re going to have because I know I can deliver and get the job done.”
It was a big part of the conversation we had last year as you were just crowned X-Division Champion. You wanted people to know you can deliver. When we look at the last ten months, you had an incredible feud with TJP/Manik/Suicide, chasing the belt back after, not being afraid to be in the match with Jordynne Grace at Bound For Glory 6-People Match. Do you feel like, during that period of time, you have been able to set your position and show the world who you really is?
“I feel like I did. I remember when I first won the X-Division Championship belt, a lot of people were like, why him? There were a lot of people that didn’t think I was going to deliver, and I felt like I had a very different entertaining X-Division run and put a little bit of a different spin when I was X-Division Champion and that’s what I want to do. I know a lot of people who want to see constant fireworks, that’s a lot, and people’s attention span is really small, so they want to see fireworks. I’m a throwback, I’m a very old-school fan, I love the storytelling, I love the Shakespeare of it, I love to be the character, so that’s what I focus on. While everybody else can have their high, and I’ve obviously proven it with TJP and Trey Miguel that I can go out there and have those styles of matches, but to me, I would rather create the moments.
“That’s my philosophy, that’s how I like to be as a professional wrestler. It may not be over like it used to be, but that’s still when I’m tried-and-true, that’s still what I follow. I felt like I did do something different with the X-Division championship belt I may not have opened everybody’s eyes, people probably still don’t like my style of professional wrestling, and honestly, I don’t care because I don’t like a lot of things that are considered over nowadays, I think a lot of it is very sub-par. I think we have a long way to go, as far as professional wrestling, where it reaches the heights that it could, so to speak. I want to mix the styles of what’s hot, I guess you could say what makes money and what has always worked in the past. I will try to mix those two styles, so that’s what I wanted to do, and I felt like I did that with my X-Division run and, of course, after you lose, you’re at the top, you got to go right back to the bottom and it’s been wishy-washy, but I’ve had some really standout moments so far. I think one of them is Jake Something, both of us I feel like we are the future of Impact Wrestling, and we proved that when we had especially that Tables match and the little feud that we had.”
What you’ve all been able to accomplish for the X-Division, all of you, over the last few months is incredible, with the TJP/Josh Alexander Iron Man Match as an exclamation point. Would you have taken part in it?
“No (laughs). An hour-long match with either of those two, at the pace that they go, I’m okay with that, I’m good.”
The X-Division is a place to make history and everybody knows that. One person for me that would be a fantastic X-Division champion, and I’m sure you’re going to agree with me, is Jake Something.
“Hands down. He’s a star, he’s honestly a star, and people start to realize that. They don’t understand where his name comes from, there’s a story behind it, and the story, once you hear it, it actually makes perfect sense. Yeah, that guy is money, the company should be investing a lot of time into him because he is money, and he has that It-Factor. It’s only a matter of time as long as they continue to do the right things with him. He’s a star, hands down, that guy’s a star.”
Which other match of the Slammiversary card are you looking forward to seeing?
“Honestly, Sami vs. Kenny. I want to see what’s going to happen with that, I thought the match-up with Rich Swann was really good, but Sami’s a different animal, so I think Kenny’s going to have his hands full with that. I’m curious to see the outcome. I really want Sami to bring that belt back home, but Kenny’s no joke, so we’ll see what’s going to happen. It’s not like Kenny’s just some fly-by-night champion, the guy has titles from so many different companies and he’s a best-bought machine for a reason, so I’m very curious to see how this is going to end up.”
This question is a special one. What would be your perfect Ultimate X match? Sometimes, they were three, up to eight, but if you had to pick people from Impact Wrestling, past and present, what is Rohit Raju’s perfect Ultimate-X match?
“I’d say, Chris Sabin, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and then anyone else that’s in the current matchup this Saturday. I think you’d have a mix of the legends with the hungry up and comers, the upstarts that really want to make a mark in this business against people that already did, and that includes Petey because, obviously, Petey is a legend when it comes to the X-Division. I think any of that mix would be a fantastic X-Division match-up.”
Follow Rohit Raju on Twitter @HakimZane.
Slammiversary will air live on Fite TV this Saturday at 8 PM EST (1 AM GMT). IMPACT Wrestling is airing on Tuesday at 8/7c on AXS TV in the USA and Twitch worldwide. In the UK and Ireland, IMPACT is available to fans for free within hours of the American broadcast on IMPACT Plus, with an encore presentation on 5Star on Fridays late nights. PPVs can be watched through the FITE app and website or a Virgin Media box.
All pics, screencaps, and videos courtesy of Impact Wrestling, AXS TV, Basil Mahmud, Dan The JOBR Man, Erratic TJ, Fite TV, and Fight Network