Ahead of AEW All Out on September 4, GiveMeSport Lead Journalist Louis Dangoor sat down with Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood (FTR) for an exclusive interview.
At the show, which takes place at the Now Arena in Chicago, FTR will team with former Pinnacle stablemate Wardlow to take on Jay Lethal and Motor City Machine Guns.
Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley, best known for their work in IMPACT Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) will be making their highly-anticipated AEW debuts on the show.
Ahead of their match on pay-per-view, Wheeler and Harwood sat down with GiveMeSport to speak about a variety of topics, including their fantastic 2022, Dax’s unexpected singles run, being removed from AEW: Fight Forever and a variety of other topics, as you can see below.
Speaking about feeling as if they’ve come into their own in 2022, Dax said that he felt as if FTR got lost in the shuffle during the first portion of their AEW run, but said they’ve come to the forefront this year.
CASH: “Yeah, I do. Like you said, a lot is down to the work we’ve put in not just this year, but in the past that people really just started appreciating. And we’ve been, I would say not to sound super conceited, but we’ve been so good at being bad for so long that people just really starting to understand like, ‘oh, these guys are purposely trying to make us dislike them. They’re purposely trying to make themselves look lesser than answer their opponents look better.’ So like, I think it’s just one of those things where the fans are a lot smarter than they get credit for sometimes, not even just the ones that think they’re smart, but just the fans, the general fan in the audience that doesn’t go on Twitter to get everything. Like they’re smart, and they appreciate stuff like that. And they, you know, organically started just kind of turning us and cheering us and we’re like, ‘do we fight this, or do we go with it?’ And we had, you know, touched on it a little bit throughout the months leading up to it. I think we just run with it completely. It’s crazy, because now you get to kind of be a little more open, a little more yourself, a little more inviting. You don’t have to try to be the stone face, a**hole. You can smile, you can have fun. People see that, people know when it’s genuine and they have fun with you. So it’s yeah, it’s been crazy. But I’ve loved every bit of it.”
DAX: “Yeah, I think like, the first two years in AEW and the headlines is gonna be that Dax was bitter about the first two years, not the case. AEW is still a brand new company and in a transition period because we were coming from full arenas, to the to the pandemic crowd, and then back into full arenas was a huge transition. I think coming in, even though we didn’t get the Tag Team Titles, I think that we kind of got lost in the shuffle. Like the first story we had we were just a backdrop to the Hangman, Young Bucks and Kenny Omega story, and then we dropped the belts to the Young Bucks, and we really had nothing until the Pinnacle stuff. And the Pinnacle stuff again started off hot, but then Cash and I became a backdrop to the MJF and Chris Jericho story. You’re going to be a role player, and that’s going to happen, sometimes you’re up here, and sometimes you’re down there. Then this time, we were just down there for a couple of years. But now, like Cash said, we just felt the groundswell of people who respected us. They didn’t want to boo us, because they’re like, ‘man, we respect them, but we’re supposed to, you know,’ so we got kind of like that middle reaction. I was thinking about it and I said, ‘man, I think it’s time for us to try this out,’ and we were like, ‘yeah, let’s roll with it.’ So when we figured that out, we consciously started implementing things in storywise into our matches, to the singles matches and into the tag matches where we could garner sympathy instead of having just a great match that people would consider a five-star match or whatever. We started doing things consciously to garner sympathy, and let people know ‘hey, we’re inviting you in come party with us’. You know, that it’s been a cool year.”
A lot of fans have started to put Dax in the conversation for wrestler of the year, including Cash, and Harwood gave his thoughts on the matte,r believing that he’s worked hard enough to be considered.
DAX: “That gives me goosebumps. That people feel that about me, just a little 5ft 10” chubby North Carolina guy. Wrestling is all I’ve ever wanted to do in my life. Up until the point that I married my wife and we had our daughter, wrestling, aside from faith was number one. So to be in that conversation is awesome. I think, patting myself on the back, I think given the parameters that I’ve been given that we’ve been given, because speaking bluntly, we’re not able to say, ‘hey, Tony, this is the match we want. He told me, we want this match this week, this match next week, this match next week, and we also want 18 minutes for this match and then we want 22 minutes for this match.’ Some guys in AEW and WWE are allowed to do that, because they have that equity built up, especially the singles guy, but we didn’t, we don’t and we don’t care to do that. So given the parameters we were given… I think maybe, you know, I have a legit argument for Wrestler of the Year… I’m just so proud of the work that we’ve done this year.”
CASH: “I’ve tried telling everybody, same as him, that he’s the best wrestler in the world. For years, it’s just when you aren’t selfish, and you aren’t a guy that goes out there and just tries to shine for yourself. You kind hold yourself back a little bit, you purposely don’t show how good you are so you can show how good other people are. Especially we were the bad guys, that was our job, and we take a lot of pride in that… But now as the good guys, you get that moment to shine. That’s what a good guy does. Like they get the adulation, they get the moments to have the triumph. and so now you’ve gotten to see we’ve had some really great tag matches this year, like unreal, probably some of my favourites that I’ll ever have. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another year like that touches this as far as just quality and quantity of work that we’ve been able to do. But now that he’s done some singles stuff, especially as the good guy, because then you can get the sympathy. You can show the emotion, you can let people care about him. He also gets to show off a little bit more about what he can and can’t do, and that opens eyes that people but yeah, he’s got a legitimate chance at Wrestler of the Year because he is the Wrestler of the Year. He doesn’t need a lot of gimmicks and a lot of razzle dazzle from everything else around it. You can just have a great wrestling match and be Wreslter the Year.”
The long-time tag team shared the ring in a qualifying match for the Owen Hart cup tournament, which they explained was their idea, and one that Tony Khan initially wasn’t too keen on.
CASH: “So we’ve always wanted to have like a friendly competitive match just because wrestling is the name of the game, right? Like there doesn’t have to be any animosity when it’s just a good straight up back-and-forth wrestling match. It’s just, you know, that actual sport competition. I know how good he is, and I want to test myself against that. I want to raise my game, I want him to make me set myself up and like, make me better. Like I would be stupid not to want to work anybody as good as him. It’s like the first time we ever wrestled was our trial. We started that day talking about being a tag team, even though we just wrestled each other, and so we never got the chance to wrestle each other again. But we always wanted to find a way if it made sense. As soon as we heard about the Owen, and we got on the group chat. And we’re like, ‘hey, I know, there’s probably gonna be a lot of stuff that needs to happen in this. But if there’s some way, we’d love for us to have this one-on-one’. It’s one of the questions we get asked the most like, ‘would you guys ever do it again?’, and I said, ‘the only way we’re gonna run it back this time is if it’s in the finals of the Owen. Not a qualifier. It’s the finals.’”
DAX: “It very emotional night, because it was a full circle night for us. Like you said, we met at that tryout, and we leave immediately having a friendship, like it was almost like love at first sight kind of thing. Regal had put us put us together, and we call it all in the ring and it was just magic. So we asked Tony, ‘hey, this is the perfect opportunity. We’d love to work with each other. If there is a chance, can we please have this match?’ And he wasn’t sold on it. So we’d let a couple of weeks go by, because you know the Owen was announced months before. A couple of weeks go by and we say ‘hey, Tony, just wanted to remind you, if there is an opportunity, we’d love to wrestle each other. This means a lot to us, and if not, no big deal.’ Again, he wasn’t sold. I guess we just finally asked you enough and he’s like ‘okay, we won’t do it in the tournament, but it’ll be a qualifier.’ I think the two things that I’m most proud of in that match is one, when people talk about the Owen Hart tournament, that’s the match they talk about the most, even though it wasn’t a tournament match, they forget that. The second thing I’m most proud of is, we we went in there and we said, ‘look, we can go in there and have what the what the journalists would call a five star match if we wanted to, easily.’ And I say that with as much humility as I possibly can, we could have done that couldn’t we? But our one goal was to tell the story of two friends having an athletic competition. We consciously didn’t want to shake hands at the beginning. We wanted to tell this story very slowly, and like the accidentally thumb to the eye, that’s storytelling. That’s happened a million times, when guys play basketball and an elbow gets caught in the chin, you know, and it’s like, ‘dude, you didn’t have to f***ing foul me,’ and the argument escalates from there. We wanted everything we did on the back end to just be to sell, we just wanted to sell. And that’s it. Because, again, we knew at the end of this match, people feel sympathy for me that I had to beat my friend. But sympathy for him too, because he didn’t beat me. Yeah. And that was the whole premise of that match was, to tell that story, make them care about us more than having a five star match, and so those were the two things I’m the most proud of.”
A recent report stated that FTR have been left out of the new Fight Forever video game, which the pair confirmed, before adding that they aren’t too concerned about it after initial discussions with management.
CASH: “The only real issue is we were kind of blindsided by it. We found out, not how you would expect. When you find out something like that, something major like being taken out of a video game, your mind automatically assumes the worst. For us, it was like, ‘is this something we need to worry about? Should we read between the lines here. Were we not told for a reason? Now that we are aware and we are out, what is that reason? Is it something we should worry about?’ We got an answer, it made a lot of sense, a very logical answer. Okay, cool, as long as we don’t have to worry about it, non-issue. That’s what it was. We’ve known about it since May, June, I don’t know how long, but for months. The fact that it came out yesterday, no idea why. Don’t know exactly what happened yesterday, don’t know why it just now became a headline, but we’ve known about it for a while, we got answers on it a while ago and for us, it’s not even an issue or thought about.”
DAX: The headline can be, ‘FTR is not upset, FTR does not blame anyone for pulling us out of the game.’ We heard about this, I want to say March, it was before the Briscoes match and we heard about it a long time ago. One of the journalists messaged me and said, ‘Is this true?’ I ignored it didn’t respond to him, the first thing I did is text Cash, obviously. ‘Have you heard about this?’ ‘No, let’s text Tony and find out.’ We text Tony, we went through the right chain of commands. We text Tony, talked to him. Legal texted us, talked with them a bit, we got our answer, and it was a non-issue. We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing something wrong and if there was something we could do to correct that, let us know. Months later, this article comes out, I couldn’t believe it didn’t come out in March. It blindsided both of us. I don’t care to be in the video game. My worry is leaving a legacy, having fun with my best friend, and on top of all that, taking care of Maria and Finley [wife and daughter].”
Many fans speculated that FTR would go on to face The Young Bucks at All Out, but that didn’t end up happening, the pair confirmed that a match was never in the works, although they did think it was going to happen.
CASH: “I’m very happy with this match Sunday that we’re going to have. But I thought that was the direction to go, us versus The Young Bucks for all the marbles, as they say. I think the way things lined up kind of naturally. There was no plan in place, but like a lot of things happen that changed the title scene, like our babyface turn. Was it something that we had thought about like a planned far out in advance? No. So when it started happening, we’re just kind of riding the wave with it, trying to figure it out as we go. So like the fact that it was kind of all culminating at the same time, and leading to what I thought would have been the perfect build to it, because it was just, you know, all these outside forces kind of setting it up, for what would have been a huge money match for as far as tag team wrestling goes. But I understand there’s a lot of injuries that happened. There’s a lot of moving parts in the wrestling business. And it’s not easy kind of getting everything to go. But no, we weren’t told far out that it wasn’t happening. I wish you know, everything could have worked out the way we envisioned, but again, I’m very happy with how Sunday’s one one is set up right now, and like the potential of what it leads to afterwards with Motor City. So I’m very happy right now, but I wish we could have had that match, yeah.”
DAX: “I think we expected that. As performers and individuals, and a tag team, we thought that was the right way to go. I think it could have been at least built as the biggest tag team match of all time. Four World Championships on the line, the two best tag teams of a generation going two-one-two at a big pay-per-view in Chicago. It could have been billed as the biggest tag match of all time. I think our problem was, we just expected that to happen. We expected how hot we’ve gotten, and how much heat those guys were getting. I mean, they were chanting FTR during that promo, you know, just a few weeks ago, which could have got us a little trouble… Even though we didn’t get the tag team match with The Young Bucks, regardless of how we feel about them personally, you always want to work with a team that’s as talented as them. A team that you know is going to produce a money match. Now on live pay-per-view, we get to team with one of our very,very good friends, Wardlow and we get to work with someone like Cash said is as effortlessly talented as Jay Lethal. And on top of that, we get to work with guys that we’ve looked to work with for years, and years, and years in the Motor City Machine Guns. So even though we didn’t get what we expected or what we thought was going to happen, this is a hell of a consolation prize.”
You can watch AEW All Out live on pay-per-view on Sunday, September 4 in the US on Bleacher Report and in all other international markets on Fite TV.