Joey Ryan has a new documentary titled “This Is Wrestling: The Joey Ryan Story” that made its debut at San Diego Comic-Con this year. This week, I had a chance to speak to the director and executive producers of the film James Ageista and Katy Dierks about the long journey of developing the film along with comic book stories from both of them. Check out how this film impacted their lives below in this exclusive interview.
JC: How did this project come to be?
James: How did this project come to be. Well. I’ve always wanted to do a project in the world of professional wrestling. Not necessarily working for WWE or some of the bigger companies. I’ve always wanted to find a unique story to tell in the wrestling world that might open up casual fans and even non-fans eyes to kind of a different world of wrestling. I’ve been into the independent side of wrestling since 2002. The first independent show I ever saw was a Pro Wrestling Gorilla show that Joey was on amongst a couple of you know, the other big names like AJ Styles was there and Kevin Steen. It was a stacked card. It’s always been on the back burner and I’ve been working in television for almost a decade. Met my wife and we always want to do something together, but we just couldn’t quite pinpoint what. And at some point, I was like “I’d really like to do a documentary on independent wrestling”. And through some mutual friends, we met Joey and had a couple of lunches just to kind of feel it out and get to know each other to see if he was interested and to see if there is something there and there absolutely was. So, to two lunch meetings later, it was off to the races and now it’s two and a half years later and it’s done now.
JC: If Joey was not the subject for this film. Who would have been the subject?
Katy: That’s a great question! I mean, now that we’ve done it, it’s opened my eyes to so many other great talents. And I would love to talk to Tessa Blanchard. Other names I thought of was Ricochet, Will Ospreay, and Kenny Omega. Any of those guys. I mean there are so many great names out there right now, but that’s the shortlist of people at the time.
James: In a more general sense, the evolution of PWG. I still would love to do a documentary on the creation and evolution of PWG because I think it has such an interesting place in bringing up the current crop of talent across so many different promotions and I think their story is worth telling.
Julian: Speaking about PWG, how many shows have you been to since the first one?
Katy: Oh I’ve been to a handful of them I’ve been to a few more than that.
James: Probably 20 since 2002. That’s a lot.
Julian: About Joey Ryan, How much of a change in your eyes did you think was a positive change for him now compared to when you first seen him in 2002.
James: When I saw him back then when he comes out. He still had kind of like the longer, Straighter hair. And he would be wearing a handkerchief around his neck. I don’t think he was smoking a cigarette to the ring at that point or didn’t have the blow pop. Didn’t have the “flip”. Yeah, it pre-flip. Back then, he was more like a Magnum P.I. type character with Hawaiian shirts and stuff. There was a bit of the sleaze, but it hadn’t fully formed yet. Like, he hadn’t fully rounded out the character yet until that night when he won the PWG Championship from Kevin Steen. To see him now and see him kind of evolve over the years, It’s a stark difference. Back then, he was a little more goofy. But even now I guess some people would still describe his act as a little goofy right? But there are people that love it!
Katy: I think it’s been over the last three years of seeing him just settle in deeper into the character that he uses and take that and escalated over 13 years like since James has seen him. He’s just more he’s more confident with it. He knows it works. Once the flip really hit, I think it helped him find his audience and find where he fits in the show. That happened to be his groin area. And to add to that, I would say that his goal was to get to WWE or Ring of Honor which he did eventually sign with Ring of Honor briefly. He’s a great technical wrestler. He can wrestle any style. but now and days, He’s evolved to work a safe style. He’s going to have a long career because he’s not taking the risks that he used to. Like, you know every once in a while, maybe he’ll break out a moonsault, or he’ll maybe he’ll take bumo like when he took a bump off the top of the cage at the match that we filmed against Cody in San Francisco. That was crazy to see because I hadn’t seen him take a move like that in years. So he can do it. He’s got the chops to do it all, but his style his gimmick now. I think that he could wrestle this style until he’s 50.
Julian: Now how much footage have you filmed that will be presented at San Diego Comic-Con?
Katy: We shot with him over the course of two and a half years and we tried to find matches that were the pinnacle in his career. The big ones. I mean, I think every time that he steps in the right, he puts on an unforgettable show. But the ones that we wound up filming happened to be some of the bigger matches. He had a great match with Cody inside a steel cage for the first time wrestling was in the Cow Palace since decades ago. And then, we shot that match that that obviously made the final cut. He wrestled Mick Foley. So we shot with that. He’s wrestled with Tommy Dreamer too and we shot that. We were there for those kinds of tent pole moments in the course of two and a half years. Once we started putting together the footage, we really started to say like “oh if you don’t watch wrestling you can watch this and enjoy a fun story and like a heartwarming story”. This film has a great arc in this whole journey. And if you’re deep into wrestling, you can kind of see Joey’s influence or Joey’s involvement in the beginnings of this revolution that’s currently happening like the Golden Gate. The rebirth of independent wrestling, I guess, which maybe is a bold statement but it is what it feels like.
Julian: Any funny stories of Joey?
James: Oh my God, Yes! He is on his phone all the time and we make fun of him for it. We joke about it, but at the same time, he’s so involved with his social media and promoting his shows and promoting himself and promoting the people he works with and promoting people he supports and taking even you know in some cases like his stance like a social stance on things and fighting for people that don’t have a voice. So we make fun of him. But really, at the end of the day, he’s really great at managing his brand and managing social media interacting with people. So we joke about it but he’s actually working all the time.
Katy: He was doing a photo op with people doing the flip photo where they grab his junk and the hotel caught wind of it. And this happened at WrestleCon in New York and the hotel called the cops on saying like “you can’t have people touching people’s groin area” and I was like “no, no, you don’t understand” as I had to explain the whole character to the cop. We got away with it after the cop left.
James: I am also so glad about today’s healthy lifestyle of wrestlers. Like where you hear the crazy stories of the 80s and 90s of wrestlers like these guys take it seriously. they’re not out partying until all ends of the night. Like there’s less drugs. Even Joey we talked about the documentary it’s more like diet tips and stuff like that and like how to be healthier and happier is what these guys are all about. So yeah.
Julian: Now is this your first documentary you a part of wrestling.
James: Yes. The first very first one. And we’re. Like over the moon happy with the reception we’ve gotten so far. Like we’re getting into festivals. And getting into San Diego Comic-Con was one of our main goals when we were putting it together. We were like “let’s try to get into Comic-Con” and we kind of assumed we never would get that honor and to get it on the first try, we’re just blown away like can’t believe it.
Julian: What are some of your favorite comic book runs?
James: So the whole original Infinity Gauntlet run on the Silver Surfer, Thanos, and Adam Warlock are my holy trinity of comic book characters. I try to follow whatever storylines they’re involved in. So when the MCU was born and they were all building towards the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, my inner child was just excited like I can’t believe this is actually happening. And then to see them pull it off, it was masterful. Anything involving those three are my favorites. But Batman: Hush is probably my favorite DC run. And as a kid, I was never too much into DC. I was more of a Marvel guy through and through. Amazing Spider-Man obviously love that in addition to my I had like the cosmic world and then I had Spider-Man. And that was it.
Katy: It was uncanny X-Men all day and Dark Phoenix was my jam. Honestly, though, they’re kind of following the storybook that the comic book storyline because they messed it up in the comic books too.
Julian: My final question, What’s your favorite Joey Ryan match?
Katy: Oh Candace and Ryan in 2013 against the Young Bucks hands down! No questions asked. We actually focus on it in the documentary a little bit. I wish we had time to play the entire match. I think whenever when anyone ever asks like what are my favorite matches, that is one of the ones that I cite because every single time I watch it and I know what happens I know it almost shot for shot. Everything. It’s just perfect storytelling care. The characters are great. And Candace is also a rock star. That’s my favorite matches he’s ever done.
James: I’m completely biased, in this but it’s the first match I ever saw him in the way back in 2002 that I was talking about where he fought Kevin Stein for the PWG Championship and Super Dragon came out to interfere in the match costing the title and a great match. And that moment of like “wow this is alike you’re not gonna get this at a WWF show” at the time like you know growing up going to how shows go to shows at National Coliseum. I grew up in New York. You know that was a wrestling environment I was used to the independent scene just totally opened my eyes. And so I’ll never forget that. That was my favorite Joey rematch sick. Honorable mention is the stuff of Mick Foley in Dublin that we filmed with because that was really cool to see. It meant a lot to Joey. You could see it. And. Just to see those worlds colliding Mick Foley and Joey Ryan. The cock and sock connection let’s make it happen people.
Photo credit: TWM