Johnny Impact on 'Survivor,' Impact Wrestling's New TV Deal & Turning Heads at 'Homecoming'
A new wife, new house, winning over new fans on Survivor: David vs. Goliath and becoming Impact Wrestling champion — it has been a banner year for John Hennigan (a.k.a. John Morrison, Johnny Mundo and Johnny Impact).
The 39-year-old California native believes his experience on the popular CBS reality show will help him within the entertainment industry. The time in Fiji gave him a fresh outlook, reaffirming the durability of the human spirit.
Despite being among the so-called overachievers, Hennigan resonated with audiences including longtime host Jeff Probst. His shocking exit during Tribal Council caught viewers off guard. However, even in defeat, the notable contestant left a winner with how he took the elimination.
“It’s the juxtaposition of what people expect when they see and hear 'pro wrestler' versus who I am. Who John is, I think, I was just me on the show. People thought I was going to put on a personality or put on some crazy persona, but I didn’t," Hennigan said, looking back at Season 37 of the series.
“It’s not always about being superman. In wrestling and in life, I feel like there is a lot of pressure not to show any cracks or weakness or vulnerability. I didn’t put that pressure on myself. If I felt something, I let myself feel it and went with it. I didn’t let those feelings or conditions dictate my behavior, but I didn’t shut down into a robot…Life is not easy. From Survivor to real life, you have to deal with stuff that isn’t ideal. Life’s hard.”
The chiseled "Prince of Parkour" knows that firsthand clawing his way to the upper echelon of the pro wrestling business. He isn’t afraid to take the road less traveled. That was proven when he left WWE in search of other opportunities. And it’s why Hennigan remains dedicated to Impact Wrestling.
“It feels like a collaboration between the talent and the office,” he said. “Creatively, artistically, it means more to be part of this organization where we’ve got a hard-working group of people working for something as opposed to being a cog in someone else’s machine.”
The company is presently working to rebuild its place within the industry through captivating storylines and a talented roster, though visibility has become one of Impact’s biggest obstacles — a situation not helped by the recent news its flagship show is moving from Pop TV to the Pursuit Channel starting January 11 in a 10pm ET timeslot. For Hennigan, it’s a calculated decision that will help in the long-term. There is a method to the madness.
“There are a lot of positives," he says. "The demographics of the Pursuit Channel hits a lot closer to home than our demographic on Pop TV.
"Anthem owns Impact and is part owner of Pursuit, so it makes sense because we know we’ll have the support of the network. It really feels more like we are betting on ourselves as a promotion. We’re betting on ourselves continuing the trajectory that we’ve started in 2018 upward and ideally expand the viewers of the Pursuit Channel. Then, who knows? Other options may present themselves for another move at some point. But for now, I feel like it’s a smart move.”
The company looks to make a solid first impression on Pursuit Channel coming off of its first Pay-Per-View event of 2019, airing this Sunday and called Homecoming. The event is sure to bring some nostalgia emanating from “The Asylum” in Nashville. The venue is where Impact Wrestling, originally branded TNA, shot its weekly PPVs before transitioning to a more traditional business model. Hennigan headlines the show against challenger Brian Cage.
“Impact has been a promotion I’ve been aware of since I started my journey with Tough Enough and WWE,” he said “It was something I watched when I could. There was AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and the guys who started it back in the day there. It’s pretty crazy to think where those guys are now and where Impact is now and the change of the wrestling landscape since 2002.
“I think that when we start Homecoming, the place is going to be electric. People are going to be buzzing and for good reason. With Homecoming, there are so many awesome matches. A lot of the guys and girls feel like they have a chip on their shoulder, but in a good way. They feel they have something to prove. And I think that is what is making the difference with Impact Wrestling and other promotions. Everybody goes to the ring and leaves it all out there.”
Hennigan hopes collaboration between pro wrestling companies like the one Impact Wrestling had with Lucha Underground becomes more prominent. With that, he wants to make a match with Ring of Honor champion Jay Lethal a reality.
“Madison Square Garden would be a pretty awesome place to have that match,” Hennigan said, throwing it out there to the universe. “And it would be the first time ever two world champions from two major promotions have a match like that. I feel like the way wrestling is right now and shaping up, it feels like the kind of thing that should happen in 2019.
“Jay and I are pushing for a match because we respect each other as wrestlers with what we’ve done in the business. I’ve never had the chance to wrestle him one-on-one. Now in our primes, and we’ve both achieved so much on separate tracks, that it’d be cool to have that collision happen.”
Outside the ring, Hennigan feels like he won the world championship of marriage with his bride, fellow grappler and Impact Wrestling star Taya Valkyrie. Since they are now both onscreen fan favorites, the couple has been able to work together more on the shows. The newlyweds feel fulfilled with their successful careers and enjoying the ride, which is why a "Johnny Daddy" isn’t in the cards at the moment.
“We do want kids, but no time soon, soon,” he said. “I feel like Taya has a lot she still wants to accomplish in wrestling. And I do, too. Once you have kids it’s tough.
"I mean, we have a little Pomeranian, and it’s hard for me to leave it at home. Imagine if we had a skin baby. As soon as you have a baby, you almost live through your kid. I feel like if we had a child, it would be hard to leave them… This is a crazy time in wrestling. We want to experience it. We want to live for ourselves this year.”
Impact Wrestling Homecoming, Sunday, January 6, 8/7c Live, Pay-Per-View