As a rising star on the independent wrestling scene, Mike Orlando is quickly growing a reputation as someone to watch over the next few years. The former American Footballer has always been involved in a sport, excelling in everything he sets his mind to and professional wrestling has been no different so far. Matthew Wilkinson recently caught up with the Green Machine to learn a little more about him.
Matthew Wilkinson: What was it that originally inspired you to become a professional wrestler?
Mike Orlando: It was always my dream since childhood, I loved professional wrestling and it was my best friend. My entire life I wanted to become exactly what this helped me become me and that's a superstar. I hope to inspire many other people in following their dreams because like everyone else my entire life I was told this wasn't possible, and it is.
MW: Who were your idols growing up and how did they influence the character you have become today?
MO: My idols as far as wrestling are Chris Jericho and Ultimate Warrior. Warrior for his over the top style to catch everyone's attention; and Jericho for being one of the most innovative wrestlers I've ever followed. The man constantly reinvents himself and makes the most out of every opportunity.
In life; my mother and father. They helped me get through life with a smile and to actually be blessed enough to follow my dream. My father works around the clock and my mother as well. I was blessed to be helped.
MW: Where did you train to become a wrestler and how did you find that process?
MO: I train at many different places around the world now, such as The Monster Factory and Ring of Honor but my career began in Williamstown NJ at Jim Molineaux's Old Time Wrestling. They took care of me for a long time dealing with my constant football schedule in college, I was a hotheaded 19-year-old kid. Then, at about 21, I met Jon Trosky of The Sanctuary who had helped me brand myself and guide me into the right light.
MW: What would you say has been the hardest part of your career so far?
MO: Everyday, just trying to keep getting better by constant training. If a day isn't "hard" then I am not working hard enough. I want a full-time job with one of the big boys. Until I have that every day will end up being harder than the one prior until I meet that requirement. However, the WWE tryout in February was three of the hardest days of my career.
MW: On the other side of that, what would you say has been your biggest achievement?
MO: It is a double-edged sword. I can sound like a hypocrite and answer that but the prior question already got me to admit I yearn for more. I've shared the ring with guys a lot better than I am that have made real good livings off of this. I'm honored to be mentored and share the ring with them.
MW: You've had the opportunity to work with several high-profile talents such as Ryback and Billy Gunn to name just a few, what is it like working with big names like that?
MO: It's an honor, I watched these guys growing up and admired them. But as awesome as it is it's always a test. To show myself - and him - that I am the best out there and can go toe to toe with anyone. I challenge myself with these matches, it's where you find out how good you really are. Wrestling is about earning the respect of others. I hope every time I am in the ring with someone such as Ryback or Chris Masters, I am stepping in the ring with someone who I owe a good showing to be in their presence.
MW: How does wrestling former WWE talents or other established stars differ to competing against other independent wrestlers?
MO: Style. A lot of guys from different eras still wrestle today, with some of them, this upbeat style that is now fresh is beyond their control. They do not like it and do not wish to take part in it. However, if you are as good as you say you are, you can wrestle with anyone and make it work well. Then you have guys like Ryback who was so in love with this new freedom of "indie" style that we had a crazy match that was beyond impressive.
MW: Obviously, most people's aim is WWE, but nowadays there are more options like that with ROH, TNA, and Japan all standing out. Would you like to work for any of those companies in your career?
MO: I want to wrestle for a living. I want to wake up and be a wrestler and be happy with the money in my pocket. I do good for myself now, but I want to do better. I want to live a life that is a roller coaster of wrestling. WWE have given me opportunities as of late and I am blessed to have a great connection with ROH as well with future of honor shows. Japan would be amazing. I'd like to come to the UK soon as well. Hint. Hint.
MW: When you look at the WWE, is that the main career aims for you?
MO: It's my dream job, sure. But it is not the end all be all. I'm a student of the game and I love to learn. I played football because I didn't watch it or understand it yet made it to the NFL level. After winning NCAA Championships in college. I love all levels of learning. I want to get a little bit of knowledge here and there and there etc. So yes, I would love to work there among other places.
MW: When looking at the WWE roster, who stands out as somebody you would like to work with?
MO: There are so many good wrestlers today that is so hard to answer. AJ Styles is a given. Chris Jericho, Bobby Roode. All amazing talents. I'd be so lucky.
MW: You have begun uploading matches to your personal YouTube channel, that is a platform that is growing and helping wrestlers nowadays, why did you decide to start doing that and how has it helped?
MO: If you go back I've actually been doing that for years, since my early days. It's always been my way of reaching out to promoters and bookers to be like "hey that's me." But it has helped a ton recently due to better matches. A ton of training at places like the Monster Factory has helped that. I just need more and more people to follow my page and see what I do. I see Facebook seems to get more views on things than YouTube does, so that may become a possibility soon too.
MW: Obviously, every wrestler in the world is pushing for limited spots at the very top of the sport, what would you say makes you stand out from other talents?
MO: My drive. I don't stop, I'm a machine by definition, I just don't know when to just give up. Some people call that a problem but I call it facts. I will not stop until I get to where I need to be. I wake up every day with an agenda to be the best and I won't stop until I achieve that. So the fact I'm 6'4", 275 pounds and super athletic should add to that drive and the fact I believe in being a genuinely good person, and hopefully, they will see something they don't have.
MW: For those that aren't familiar with the 'Elite Athlete,' how would you describe your character and in-ring style?
MO: The Elite Athlete is just a moniker that I've worked with for years. It was a name given to me in college football. I was an offensive lineman who moved like a running back. For years on the indies, I rocked a varsity jacket and tried to express my inner football. However, over time my drive has come out full force and my real life traits of being a machine have taken over. I wear green because I wore it to stand out in college on an all blue team.
I never wanted to blend in, always stand out. Together you get a machine, The Green Machine. As far as the athlete; district wrestling champion 2010, collegiate NCAA champion 2012. Captain. Five-year player. NFL runner-up.
MW: The bright green glasses are something that helps make you stand out from your entrance, where did you get the idea to wear them and was Bret Hart's iconic look any inspiration to that?
MO: Absolutely. I love Bret Hart. He is almost up there with Chris Jericho to me. I admired so many things he did as a kid, he pulled off exotic color schemes and different styles. I wanted to pull off a futuristic look while keeping it semi-classy. The machine came up with this and it was based on Bret. The jacket I wear is a slight nod as well; I loved his style.
MW: Out of everyone you have worked with, who has given you the best advice and who have you learned the most from in-ring?
MO: Another amazing question. So many different ways you can look at that. Did I learn a new style? Was I given good advice? Did they correct a wrong? So many guys are good for different things. I loved to share the ring recently with Shelton Benjamin. He seemed to be very relatable to and was following his own steps to correct his journey.
So conversations are so understandable because I can relate. Then you have guys like Sami Callihan who I was blessed to be one of his matches after first leaving NXT, who had a whole indie style match planned with a dive I had never done added to it. It was a great test to be like, "well, here it goes." Billy Gunn gave me great advice on crowd involvement as well.
MW: What would you say has been the greatest match of your career?
MO: I've had too many. You tell me. Check my YouTube and everyone who reads this get back to me. There are a million more matches not put on there and that is partially on me and partially on all of these networks, people have running now. Tweet me @thebigorlando and let me know.
MW: Finally, what is your ultimate career aim?
MO: To be the best, the absolute best. Undeniable. For people to look at me and instantly see a star and to allow my work rate to speak for me. To do this and only this forever.
Be sure to check out Mike online to keep up with his progress and see if he is wrestling near you soon, as well as his YouTube channel to see hours of free wrestling content and learn about his ability inside the squared circle.