Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talents working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! This edition looks at a Southern prospect who is starting to turn heads with his work in the Midwest territories, in reigning Paradigm Pro Champion AJ Gray.
He’s only been pro for five years now, but Tennessee born grappler AJ Gray is starting to make strides in the Midwest with the likes of Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), Black Label Pro and Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) to name a few. A former collegiate football player with Austin Peay University, the 6’0, 245 lb. ex-linebacker and half-back combines athleticism, power, and intensity, that has served him well integrating between “traditional” indie promotions to some of the US indie scene’s hardest-hitting companies, like GCW, IWA Mid South and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW). An emerging player with AIW and beyond, AJ Gray is a rising star to watch at the tail end of 2019 into 2020. Last Word on Pro Wrestling had the opportunity to talk to AJ Gray about his journey in the world of professional wrestling.
LWOPW: You started training to become a pro wrestler in 2015. Who you get your training and start out with?
AJ Gray: Originally it was from a lower level guy in Tennessee, then (former WWE Superstar) Colin Delaney moved down to Tennessee and he showed me how things go.
Although you’re from the Tennessee area, you kind of got your big break in the Midwest with Absolute Intense Wrestling in 2017, as well as others in 2016. What lead you to the Midwest territory?
It’s just where I was booked. They wanted to put me on a show, and I want to make money, haha! I just go where I’m wanted and appreciated.
Was Colin Delaney an influence on going the Midwest route? He’s kind of a big deal, especially AIW.
Yes and no. First time I went up there was with Shawn Shultz in 2016, and then it became me riding up with the both of them.
You’ve worked some tough promotions, GCW, IWA Mid South, Mexico’s DTU. What appeals you to that hard-hitting style?
I come from a football background, so anything that involves physicality I can get behind.
Do you remember what match got you into wrestling?
Watching it as a kid…
Who wanted to make you become a pro wrestler?
Wasn’t really a certain person that made me want to be a wrestler, I just enjoyed wrestling.
You’re getting featured heavily in a lot of the emerging new blood faces of the US indie scene. GCW, Black Label Pro, ACTION, Glory Pro, SUP, many more. Does the journey start to feel like it’s paying off?
A little, but I try to just focus on what I have on my plate now, compared to the past or what’s in the future.
These promotions all have very different vibes. What is it about these promotions that drew you to them? What are some of the unique differences you see from behind the curtain?
They all give me a chance to do me. They don’t try to tell me to be a specific thing, they let me “do me”. That’s what I enjoy from those places the most.
You’re the reigning Paradigm Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion. You also work for Black Label Pro. Is there an Indiana scene that the world doesn’t know about?
Actually the Indiana scene is really good, Paradigm and Girl Fight in the southern part of the state, then you go north you have Bizzaro Lucha, Fight Or Die, and WCWO (Wild Championship Wrestling Outlaws) that all puts out good stuff. I know EMERGE and New Wave Pro Wrestling are doing their thing, Heroes and Legends pop up from time to time with great shows, and Black Label has turned into a very noteworthy place.
There’s a lot of great new stars at your level that are just bubbling under the radar and poised to break out this year – you, Curt Stallion, “Warhorse” Jake Parnell, Kris Statlander, Kobe Durst. Who are some names that you see in your peers that you think people should take notice of now that maybe aren’t on a lot of people’s lips right now?
Bear Country, Logan Stunt, PB Smooth, Tre Lamar, Rip City Shooters (Josh Bishop and Wes Barkley), Big Twan Tucker… it’s really too many to name… it’s A LOT of good dudes out there.
What are some promotions you’d like to work for in the next year that you haven’t yet? I know the stock answer is “everyone” but are there any in particular that have caught your eye that you’d like to work yourself into?
Beyond, Freelance, and England.
Who has been some of your best feuds so far in your career? Which opponents have pushed you to be a better wrestler?
Curt Stallion, even though it ain’t ever technically get finished…not our fault. And people that pushed me? ACH, Michael Elgin, Slim J, and Mance Warner. Those are the most notable ones
What’s next for AJ Gray?
Hopefully a lot of money, I’m just gonna keep driving my 95’ Caddy from town to town until I get some more moneyZ!
Check out our full list of previous Indie Watches, showcasing emerging talent from around the world!
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.