TK Cooper is a New Zealand professional wrestler and is one half of the South Pacific Power Couple with Dahlia Black mainly known in Progress Wrestling and Lucha Forever in the UK.
How long have you been in the business and why did you want to become a professional wrestler?
I’ve been training since 2010, debuted in March 2011, so 6 and bit years. Watching wrestling growing up I never grew out of the phase of wanting to copy what I saw and somehow get involved when I grew up.
What would you consider the hardest part about being a professional athlete?
Maintaining your body. If you’re fortunate enough to have a busy schedule, wrestling 2-3 maybe more times a week, everything takes its toll. Obviously now I’m more talking from hindsight in that maybe if I’d done something different I wouldn’t have gotten hurt in New York, but at the same time that was just a freak accident, but the principle is the same. Training (in the gym and wrestling), stretching, whatever other extras to make sure whatever style you wrestle you can do it as long and as healthy as you can.
Could you tell us some of your career highlights?
I think the obvious two are our leaving match at chapter 47 and the subsequent crowd reaction coming out and after the match. And the other would be our return at chapter 53 just for emotional highlights. Other than that, working for the WWE over Wrestlemania weekend and I would’ve preferred to be able to say entering BOLA, but I’ll have to settle for being invited to participate because that’s still pretty cool to me. Mostly though, the biggest career highlight for me has been being able to share the experience with Dahlia.
If you can name 3 wrestlers who influence your style, who would they be?
The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Hero.
Who would you put on the Mount Rushmore of pro wrestling?
Shawn Michaels, John Cena, The Rock, Okada
Who would you say is the next breakthrough star in British / Indy Wrestling?
Millie McKenzie. She’s so badass.
Who are your favourite and dream opponents to face?
Faves so far, Dowie James from Australia would be a standout, we had a couple matches in MCW in Australia before I came back to the UK, tagging with Trav I think I’ve felt like consecutively each match has been my favourite so it’d be hard to nail it down; Ringkampf, BSS, FSU, JML.
Dream opponents though, even though they keep trying to steal Trav, I’d been keen for us to throw down with CCK, and obviously the match I was really looking forward to at BOLA that didn’t end up happening against The Bucks.
With the uprising and popularity of independent wrestling, is WWE really the place to be?
It's hard to gauge really, everybody is having such a great time on the indys, the UK scene anyway, I can’t really speak for the rest of the world. But in times when the WWE is letting people kinda come and go like the WWEUK guys and even some of the Mae Young girls, it’s a weird hybrid of everybody using each other to heighten their profile. It’s hard for someone like me to comment on that though, I’m sure I’d have a hard time saying no if Vince dropped a contract in my lap.
What are the differences in fans from the UK compared to different countries?
Passion. I think the UK fans just completely let themselves go at shows and just let everything be what it is, no doubt there’s that small group that end up on twitter or their blogs criticising it, but for the most part they’re all there watching live theatre and totally playing their part as the crowd and not trying to get themselves over which I think some US crowds have a bad reputation for doing sometimes.
What’s the New Zealand pro wrestling scene like?
Another one I can’t really comment on anymore as it’s just changed so much since I was properly involved. Like when I first started the promotion I was with, was the only one in the area. The next nearest one was at the other end of the country, an eight hour drive away and they were basically the only two promotions running. Now, I think there’s like 4 or 5 that operate in the same area I came from, and the country as a whole scene has transformed. There’s a really cool promotion called SPW that started up the same year Dahlia and I left and they’re probably leading the way for NZ indy wrestling, some of their shows are on Progress on Demand actually if you want a taste of what 2017 NZ wrestling is like.
What’s it like being one third of the South Pacific Power Trip and what’s it like working so close to Dahlia (people always say don’t work with your partner)?
It's perfect. We know the stigma, but wrestling together has been exactly what we needed to stand out amongst the rest of the scene. Adding Trav into the mix legitimises us and since he’s genuinely the guy who trained us, it’s been easy to integrate him into our stuff seamlessly. We’ve all been friends for 8-9 years so it’s not really like a new thing to us, plus outside of wrestling we don’t spend every waking minute together, Dahlia and I have our own interests, our own friends, wrestling together is what we like to do.
You guys had to return to New Zealand after Progress Chapter 47, I’d like to know how it made you feel having to leave Progress behind, and how it felt coming back to one of the loudest pops ever witnessed in Progress upon your return?
We always knew we’d be going home after two years. I guess the thing we never pegged would be how much of an impact we’d have in those two years. Most people from NZ/AUS generally use that visa to just do a working holiday then go back home. I definitely think we never realised how much our journey would resonate with people. Standing behind the curtain for our return, we were expecting cheers, obviously, like it was going to be a nice surprise to see us for sure, but we never ever expected to get the reaction we got. Even as I type this I’m a little watery eyed because it was a really emotional scene.
On a personal level, how did it feel knowing 1,000 people signed a petition to want to keep you in the UK?
It was actually only 1377 or something, the goal was 10k, but the thought was really nice. I definitely didn’t set my expectations too high, but it was super lovely to see that the fans cared enough to put together a legitimate petition to try keep us.
You suffered an ankle injury in New York, how long is it until you are ready to return to action, and it must be disappointing not being in PWG’s BOLA as a result?
Coming back is still a grey area at the moment so there isn’t really a definite comeback date yet, but I’m in physio now doing rehab so I’m not too far off getting back to training at least. Yeah it was a total bummer having to email PWG and let them know I couldn’t be a part of BOLA this year, I basically grew up on outside of WWE, PWG DVD’s so when the email came in inviting me to be involved I was so psyched. But being able to still be there this year, with my foot in the cast, it was easier for me to just chill out and enjoy the show and support my friends.
What would you say is the most despicable thing you’ve done whilst portraying a heel persona?
I stood on a dogs tail. It wasn’t intentional. But I did it. I’m not going to go into it. But yeah. Stood on a dogs tail.
What was it like wrestling in a WWE ring at Wrestlemania Axxess this year?
So wrestling in a WWE ring, wrestling FOR WWE, both surreal. At that point I'd never had a WWE tryout or any kind of WWE interaction before that weekend, so it was all just very overwhelming. I was super grateful to have to opportunity to tag with Trav against Rich Swann and Mustafa Ali, and on the last day be given the opportunity to work against Buddy Murphy. It was just one of those things that I had always wanted but never expected so when it did I just made sure to enjoy it as much as possible because maybe I'll never get signed and that kind of opportunity won't present itself again, but at least I'd be able to say I wrestled for WWE and not be lying.
One last question. What’s next for TK Cooper? What are your ambitions for the next year or so?
First and foremost. Recover. Be healthy. There are so many awesome opportunities out there waiting for me that I know I’ll have once I’m good to go again, but most important to me is just having a fully functioning ankle to go with the other one. I’m going to have to prove myself all over again, prove i’m not a liability to have on those big shows. I just want to keep improving and keep having good matches. I want to be at NOLA for Progress next year, I want to be in BOLA next year to redeem myself, so many things. Ambitions for next year or so, just being able to wrestle.
Are there any people or organisations you’d like to give a special thank you / shout out to?
Nobody in particular really, just anybody out there who’s bought a shirt, shouted me out on twitter, cursed me out on twitter even, those are my favourite ones actually haha. Other than that, just a general thank you to the wrestling for giving me the platform to give it all a go, it’s been mostly really great so far.