Jesse Sorensen spoke with Dave Lagreca and Doug Mortman on Busted Open last week. Here are some highlights from the interview.
Where he is health and job-wise: “Health wise, I feel I’m pretty close to 100 percent. I’m still doing rehab on my neck. I rehab 3 times a day. As for a job, I was wanting to come back and wrestle but my neck still has some issues, bumping and everything like that, so as of now I’m doing marketing and production for TNA, I’m backstage now.”
Whether he’ll be able to get in the ring again: “Yeah, I think so, eventually. I think right now they’re just concerned on all the miles on my neck. If I was coming back right now for a one time deal it might not be that big an issue but to go back on the road full time would just be too tough on my neck right now. It’s only been about a year and a month now since I broke my neck.”
Support he has received from the fans: “I was extremely surprised. I remember when I first got to the hospital I told Dixie Carter that I don’t want everyone to forget about me since I wasn’t on TV that long and then instantly, within 2 days, my twitter went from around 1,500 people to around 12,000 people. It was cool to see everything blow up like that. But of course I was paralyzed at the time so I wasn’t really using my hands to tweet a whole lot.”
What he went through that night against Zema Ion: “The move, I don’t even remember exactly how it happened or what happened, I just remember I turned around and I see Zema do the moonsault and it looked like he was overshooting so I stuck my hands up to block and clearly that didn’t happen. I felt the knee hit me in the head and I blacked out at the time and then referee Brian Stiffler rolled out and checked on me, said, ‘hey, you alright?’ At first, I felt like I was fine, well then in my head I’m telling myself to push myself up just to get up and I look over and my wrists are completely bent in and nothings moving. Then I remember Stiffler rolled back out and he was like, ‘hey, you know I’m going to count you out, you have to get up,’ and I said, ‘I can’t move, I’m paralyzed.'”
Zema reaching out: “Well it was really weird because him and I were really good friends before the incident. We had actually roomed together a lot and after the incident I didn’t hear from him really at all for probably 6 months. Didn’t hear a word and it was really weird because me and the guy were pretty decent friends and we both came in to TNA about the same time and he was one person, of course, I expected to hear from and never got a call or a text or anything. I think he might have come by the hospital one time but never really heard from him at all.
“It was weird because I did the X Division PPV in June or July and that was the first time I had even seen him since it happened. He came up, shook my hand like nothing had ever really happened and I remember for a while I was wondering should I reach out to this guy because I was hearing from people in the business that I didn’t even know, guys that aren’t even in this company, maybe I should just wait on him. It was just weird because we were friends and I was getting calls and texts from all sorts of people, I made so many friends in this business because of my injury, but I at least expected a ‘hey bro, how you doing? If you need anything let me know.’ Just something. And I remember I was so heated at him for a long time and then when I went to do the X Division PPV he shook my hand and I was just like, whatever, I’ll let it go. And we didn’t really talk that day and then I think it was a week later he wound up working with my friend Dakota Darsow and had a long talk with Dakota about how he was worried about everything and I guess it was just one of those deals where he didn’t really know what to say to me. So then at that point we got on the phone and talked about it. I told him, ‘I wasn’t mad at you at all, it’s wrestling, it could happen to anybody.’ I said, ‘I just wanted to feel like you cared,’ and obviously he did care a lot. He was like, ‘man, I just thought you instantly hated me, I could of killed you,’ and all this stuff. Then we completely squashed everything and it was just a total big misunderstanding. He really did care but he didn’t know how to reach out and I didn’t know how to reach out. But as of now, we’re great. We’re still boys.”
His recovery: “My poor mom, she loves wrestling and she’s not a huge fan of me doing it because she’s seen I’ve blown my knee out, I’ve separated shoulders, everything like that and I would usually call her after all the TNA events and let her know I’m OK. She was watching the PPV when it happened and she was sitting there with my little brother and my grandma and she’s like, ‘o no, it’s probably just part of the show, he’s fine,’ and then I remember Dixie called her up from my cell phone so she thought it was me calling and Dixie told her they had me in the ambulance and taking me to the hospital. Well then I remember I got to the hospital and that’s the only thing I wanted to do. I was like, ‘just let me call my mom.’ They had to completely stabilize me and they finally got on the phone with her and told her he probably won’t make it through the night. So they flew her out first class. They thought I wasn’t going to survive because I broke my C1, my C2 and then I herniated my C5 and C6, but the C1 is like a ring at the top of your skull and it controls all of your range of motion and they said normally what happens is that bone will snap inward and it’ll sever all the nerves there which controls your breathing, controls the blood pumping to your brain, everything, and somehow mine went in, hit my spinal cord and bounced back out. So by some miracle that happened but like they said, I had to be completely stabilized, I couldn’t move at all that day or that night when I was in the hospital just because any slight movement could cause that bone to go in. So they sedated me for the night and then when I woke up my mom was there and she told me, she was like, ‘they said you’re not going to move again’, because I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. They were like, ‘you’re not going to move again’ and it was funny because I always ate so clean and my mom brought me Wendy’s and she’s like feeding me this milkshake and that’s when she decides to drop the news on me. I was like, ‘you just ruined all this’. But yeah, they told me I would never move again and then it was almost two days later I moved. They had just come in to talk to me about how things are going to be and I could already move my hands. I didn’t have a lot of feeling but I could move them. Then within about an hour I could feel my feet and everything was coming back and they sent a physical therapist in to work with me and she helped me get out of bed and to the door of the room. Then I walked down this long hallway by myself. Like this 20 foot hallway just by myself.”
Getting back into shape so quickly: “It was weird because anytime I told the story nobody believes that I broke my neck. Then I tell them how serious it was and they’re like ‘there’s no way you broke your neck.’ I think I just never really stopped training which in the long run might have affected me a little bit, but I remember being at home in my neck brace and I started losing a bunch of weight so I would do pushups and stuff at home. I had a stationary bike I would ride. I was sitting there in my recliner and I had these 10 pound dumbbells; I was sitting there just doing curls and just sitting around watching wrestling. I guess I never really quit training so I didn’t really lose a whole lot.”
Dixie and TNA’s support: “Dixie has, out of everybody, probably been the most amazing. She’s totally taken care of me. When she was in the hospital with me she was just like a mom. She was there before my mom was and was just there telling me everything’s going to be ok and totally took care of me. I mean, she was there from the time I got hurt, she was holding my hand right after I got paralyzed. Dixie has been absolutely amazing. Totally taken care of me and its cool because still to this day some people are like, ‘are you going to wrestle? Are you not?’ Dixie always tells me, ‘I know you’re going to wrestle again. I know it’s going to happen.’ So she’s been very positive. So has everyone else at TNA. All the boys, they’re like, ‘I can’t wait till you come back and wrestle,’ even if we don’t know I can. It’s been really cool. Everybody’s been very supportive, which was cool because I hadn’t been in TNA that long and I was just always a shy kid so I didn’t make a whole lot of friends while I was at TNA. I had the guys I hung out with but it was cool because I got really close to a lot of people after this happened.”
Working with TNA but not as a wrestler: “It’s getting easier, a little bit. My first night doing production was really rough. I hadn’t been around TNA, I stayed away from it and for a while, like right after I got hurt I would watch the product, I would watch as much wrestling as I could because all I thought about was getting back and how soon can I be back. Then I think it was probably 2-3 months down the road, because I spent 3 and a half months in a neck brace and sleeping in a recliner, and I just completely gave up on wrestling. I was like, ‘I’m done with that.’ I didn’t watch the product for a while. Then I went down to TNA and I was standing in the back with Dixie and just watching all the boys get ready and going over everything, I was like, ‘man, that’s what I want to be doing.’ It was weird seeing all the guys go do their thing and like I feel fine but I just can’t. There’s just no telling what could happen. Doctors said it could be one slam; it could be a thousand before my neck gives out again.”
What he would do if he never wrestles again: “I’ve been told by doctors a million times over again now, when they see what I do, I remember my first orthopedic surgeon I guess he thought I did high school wrestling and at my 6 month mark he was like, ‘if that’s what you do you’re fine, you can go back.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think you know how this happened.’ I showed him some videos and he was like, ‘whoa, you can’t do that. There’s no way your body can take that.’ And then every doctor I’ve seen so far is like there’s no way, it’s just not going to happen. My mom is totally supportive of it. She’s like, ‘if you can make it through being paralyzed, you can more than go back.’ I see a good career going here in production; everything’s going good. I like it. I’m learning more and I’m really happy that I have the opportunity to do it but I think wrestling-wise, that’s what I want to do. I’m 23, so I still have that young fire and want to go. And that’s the thing; all the older guys are like, ‘man, it’s not worth it.’ All the older guys they want to stop wrestling and get an office job like I have now.
“I think it was like my fourth day in ICU, I was laying there and I had seen so many people. I really had not even maybe said hi to Kurt Angle, I was just intimidated by him and then my mom comes in and says, ‘you have another visitor.’ I was like, ‘please, just send him home, do whatever with him,’ and Kurt spent his own money and flew down from Pennsylvania just to see me. I had never even really talked to him, I just said hi and respected him and that was it, and he sat there and talked to me for like an hour just about how I was going to get better, how I was going to get a big push when I come back. I remember I was just laying there; I was like, ‘Kurt, I’m stuck in a neck brace. This is not going to happen.’ And he yelled at me like he was my dad. He was like, ‘you know what? You can lay here on your ass and feel sorry for yourself, that’s not going to get you back in the ring, that’s not going to make you walk.’ So he motivated me to get up and actually do it. I was supposed to spend like 2 weeks in the hospital and I left in 5 days. So I got out of there pretty quick. ICU was not fun, so I had to get out of there. And the food was terrible.”