Last December, just a few months after signing with Impact Wrestling, Joey Ryan drastically rebranded himself by changing his gimmick, going by the reserved Joseph P. Ryan. The co-founder of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla appeared on a recent episode of the WINC Podcast and discussed the various reasons behind the change.
"Well, there could be a few reasons. One, it's about time. I know I haven't been in Impact that long, but I've been doing the character for five years. A lot of people don't realize that the first penis flip was five years ago. It has been a long time, and you have to keep growing and moving forward or things are going to get stale," Ryan stated.
"It's not that the character of Joey Ryan was losing its audience, as it was growing still. But you want to catch it before it happens and don't want to change while you're on the decline, because then it comes off as more desperate. It's like the old Seinfeld thing – you walk out when you're on top. Give the audience something different while you're still hot."
Ryan would continue by saying, "Impact was looking for possibly new heels and I came up with this. Obviously, it's a take on Right to Censor, and originally my initial pitch was Right to Cancel. It's more contemporary with social media and they tweaked it to Cancel Culture. We presented the idea and I know Katie Forbes is dealing with a lot of internet backlash, same as me, and that was the initial pitch for the turn. Now, me getting a stable and bringing new names on has been cool and different for me."
The Right to Censor was a stable famous at the turn of the century in WWF that acted as a parody of Parents Television Council, a group that protested the level of violence and sexual content on WWF, during that time. Censorship is still a hot topic, 20 years later. Ryan was asked why he thought the issue was still so prevalent.
"It's probably always been there throughout time. People try to control other people's thoughts and what they say. Everybody thinks they're right and try to push their agendas on other people. I think that's the way the world has always been," Ryan stated.
"Right to Censor was based off TV, as there wasn't much social media in the 90s. So, it was based off TV critics. Now, in modern times, with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, there's a lot more world critics out there. It's still something that's relevant and a lot of ideas in wrestling you can recycle. You can change them and make them more contemporary in today's world. It's a different time now, but it's the same idea. So, it still plays in today's society."
The Joey Ryan gimmick was built around Ryan's penis and his infamous PenisPlex. His current character is a complete 180-degree turn from the Joey Ryan gimmick, and Ryan shared his thoughts on the experience of undergoing the dramatic change.
"It's nice, because it's a challenge. I've got the Joey Ryan character down. And it's not that it isn't a challenge every time you walk out in front of an audience, but I know what to say and how to act to make that character work," Ryan said. "Getting to do this character, it's less catchphrases to rely on, and more actual promos with content. It's not relying on the go-tos, where, 'Okay, we can do this and this, but I have to get this in because I know it will get a pop.'"
Ryan discussed his need to re-invent himself, finding new ways to get things over. He added that "you can't just play the hits" over and over again.
"It's almost like a band, where you've got your songs that you know your audience is going to come up for. Now you're trying to get your new material to get that same reaction. It's fun and different, and I'm enjoying it," Ryan revealed.
The Cancel Culture stable welcomed a new member this past week when Jake Crist joined the group. Ryan discussed why Crist was the perfect person to add.
"I've known Jake for years and I feel like he's a very underutilized talent. He's always been in a supportive role, whether teaming with his brother or in oVe. He's always been a supporting cast member and I think it's his time to shine."
"You can say I'm the leader of Cancel Culture, but we all have equal say in the group," Ryan added. "We're getting to see Jake be more of himself and getting to talk more. He gets to perform more on his own and show the world what he has. So, now is his time to shine."
Ryan continued, by saying, "He has always taken his wrestling seriously and he knows more eyes are going to be on him. Again, much like me, altering a character can get you a little more relaxed. When you get something new presented to you, you kind of get that spark again, and you want to make the most of it."
Joseph P. Ryan can be seen every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. EST, on Impact Wrestling. Joey's full interview with Wrestling Inc. aired on The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released, every afternoon, Monday through Friday, by clicking here.
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit WINC Daily, and give a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.