Not many wrestlers can say they had a more fulfilling close to their 2019 than Pierre Carl Ouellet, better known to fans worldwide as the indestructible PCO. After several decades in the business, he achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a world champion when he pinned the previously undefeated RUSH at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle. The win proved historic as the 51-year old PCO can now lay claim to being the oldest champion in ROH’s 18-year history.
Despite the feel-good moment, it would be a mistake to believe PCO is simply looking for a novelty run. At a time when some perceive ROH to be struggling creatively, PCO is focused on spearheading a championship run that includes crossover media attention and dramatic matches. The media goal is off to a great start as this week PCO was featured on NHL.com after being interviewed and honored during a Montreal Canadiens game. As for the matches, that begins this Saturday in Atlanta when PCO makes the first defense by rematching RUSH.
In this exclusive interview, PCO reflects on his journey to the title and why his best years are still ahead.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: One of your main goals in returning to wrestling was to become a world champion. When you finally reached the mountaintop by defeating RUSH at Final Battle last month, was the moment everything you imagined it would be?
PCO: Yes, it felt exactly like how I dreamed it. I knew I had a good 2019 and RUSH was undefeated since joining Ring of Honor. Even before coming I don’t think I’d ever seen him lose. Being around for a long time, you know what you want out of this business. It’s not just for the money — it’s a passion for the craft. My view was no matter who wins was to steal the show with the best match.
I knew it would come but wasn’t for sure it would be that night at Final Battle. I had an earlier opportunity in Toronto against Matt Taven, but I didn’t let it trick my mind and focused on having the best match.
This title win was very emotional. It’s no different than winning a gold medal or a team championship. You’re putting in the same amount of work and [dealing with] setbacks. My entire life flashed before my eyes for 2-3 minutes. All the sacrifices, bad breaks and good times came back to me a 100 miles per hour. It was overwhelming… no one can truly understand that feeling.
As a wrestler that made his name in the 80s and 90s but adapted to the modern style, what’s your opinion of the criticism of there being too much choreography with today’s wrestling?
The key to success in life or any profession is the ability to adapt. We tend to get angry and resistant when we have to change — we don’t ever embrace it.
I knew to win the world title I had to change a lot of things. I had to accept evolution as inevitable. We always want to believe things we better in our time. “There’s no psychology, it’s too choreographed!” If you try to go against it evolution you’re running into a brick wall. It’s too late. The changes are done and this is the way it is now. I made myself act like a rookie and retrained myself in the new way.
Even calling matches and some of the terms are different. I can imagine some of the old-timers I grew up with are spinning in their graves. Now with all that said, there is some room to bridge the changes with the old and make a hybrid style. Wrestling can always transform the old into the new. If everyone is doing superkicks and 450s, you have options to be different. There’s a mat-wrestling style, high-flying, and brawling. They’ve all evolved, but you can tweak it to stand out.
Sometimes, guys cram in so much stuff that the audience doesn’t have time to give them the proper pops. A different moment or placement and the response would’ve been totally different. Even in my day, we thought we knew everything. I don’t try to impose my experience on the younger guys; I’m very easygoing with that.
I’m intrigued to hear the story about how the boxing coach in Puerto Rico inspired your George Foreman-style comeback run…
Oh, yeah! It was in 2005 at a gym in Puerto Rico. He said, “You’re gonna be George Foreman! You’re gonna explode late (in your career)!” I watched George Foreman’s matches as a kid when he first won the world title. I lost sight in my right eye from an accident when I was 12. From there, I was always for the underdog, the one who wasn’t supposed to make it. Movies like Invincible, about the high school teacher who made it to the Philadelphia Eagles, those types of real-life stories really inspire me. Also, the Rocky movies and even James J. Braddock winning the heavyweight title (Cinderella Man).
I really relate to George Foreman’s story. See how he was in his 20s when he patterned himself after Sonny Liston and then lost the title to Muhammad Ali. He almost acted like a bully. Then to lose to Ali and then to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, he had that spiritual transformation in the dressing room. He slowly worked himself back up and made his comeback at 38 and won the title at 45.
I’ve watched every single YouTube training video on him I could find. I studied what makes George Foreman tick, from the way he talks to the way he acts. I decided that if it can happen for George Foreman it can happen for PCO.
Any particular favorite Foreman fights?
I’m not a big boxing fan, but I followed all of Tyson’s destructive run in the 80s. The Rumble in the Jungle comes to mind with Foreman because Ali was such an underdog. Foreman was really trying to take Ali’s head off, really giving him a beating. Usually, that discourages an opponent but you can never tell with Ali. That whole match was a life lesson with Ali having a poker face and messing with Foreman’s mind and making him discouraged. That’s one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen.
Tyson’s entire run was amazing until he ran into Buster Douglas. Everyone thought that was an easy walk in the park. Douglas kind of killed his aura. It made people realize Tyson wasn’t a machine and vulnerable. The fame and glory took away his discipline and rage in the ring.
As much as I loved Tyson’s run, the Douglas underdog win was such a shocking and inspiring moment.
…things just don’t hurt me like they do someone else. It’s just a gift I have.
One underrated thing about Foreman’s comeback run was his durability. Despite his age, none of the younger guys could take him off his feet or get him in serious trouble. You are very much the same way in the fact you can take this crazy bumps night in and night out. What is your secret?
I was always very flexible and have a high tolerance for pain. If we were to go to a doctor and he tests your pain levels with a hard pinch, what would be a 9 for most people is a 2 for me. It’s not a situation where I’m in a lot of pain and won’t say anything — things just don’t hurt me like they do someone else. It’s just a gift I have. I’m kind of made out of rubber and can always bounce back. It’s been like that all my life.
I never felt like I aged. To me, I’m still the 12-year-old in the street who played wrestling with his friends, who took slams on the cement floor in my basement. I kept a young spirit. Yes, I have adult responsibilities with an 11-year-old daughter, but me still being a kid inside makes a huge difference in my work.
The pendulum is always swinging in the wrestling business. For Ring of Honor, the high point last year in terms of fan attention was the G1 Supercard. Now that the slate is clean in 2020, how does ROH get that attention back with you as the champion?
If you look at the Burn the Ships documentary on me, I said a lot of things in there that came to pass in 2019. I work more outside the ring than in it. I’m always trying to upgrade my character. I’m not sure if it’ll be 2020, but I know we’ll do crazy gates and buy rates with the right opponents and feuds. That’s my next big goal [for ROH]. I made the commitment to top everything that’s ever been done in this business. I want to pass all the numbers.
I don’t know if it’ll be Wrestlemania weekend or a Montreal show at the Bell Centre. I had no idea on December 13 at Final Battle that I’d become the world champion, but that was my goal and I knew I’d get there. I just knew it would happen. I told Bully Ray and Dave Lagreca that I would do everything in my power to get Ring of Honor over in every walk of life.
What can fans expect from your return bout with RUSH on January 11 in Atlanta?
Double psychology! It will be hard-hitting. I take a lot of risks; I’m pretty much a high-flyer. Since I’ve been using electricity with jumper cables and car batteries with D.Destro, the creator of the “French-Canadian Frankenstein,” sometimes I do have “electrical malfunctions.” My opponent might be on one side of the ring and I’ll dive on the other side because’s something’s “wrong” with the circuitry.
You can never know what to expect, but you can be sure of great moments. You might see me shoot for a moonsault and think “He’s about to break his neck!” Then at the last-second, I hit it. Sometimes, I think people get so worried like “Oh my God, I hope he doesn’t get injured!” And that adds to the drama of the actual match. People are worried about my health and me winning the match. It makes it more exciting because there are so many different aspects to my character. You’ll go through all the emotional phases and that’s important for any wrestling match.
PCO vs. RUSH II for the Ring of Honor world heavyweight title takes place on January 11 at Atlanta’s Center Stage. Tickets are still available HERE. The entire show can be streamed live by subscribing to the HonorClub.