The man with a thousand nicknames heard the one name he did not want announced by Jeff Probst at Tribal Council: his own. John Hennigan (a.k.a. John Morrison) became the second member of the Survivor: David vs. Goliath jury after two hidden immunity idols were played and the Davids were smart enough to split their votes — sending the professional wrestler out of the game and over to Ponderosa.
It was a big exit for the biggest contestant and biggest celebrity of the season. But how did John feel about it when it all went down and how does he feel about it now? What was his long-term plan and final three? And what does he make of Jeremy’s claims that Angelina wanted to be in a showmance with him? We asked Johnny Mundo all that and more when the Mayor of Slamtown called into EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning. Here are some highlights from our chat.
ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY First off, take us through your reaction when you saw those two idols played and then saw your name come up at Tribal Council?
JOHN HENNIGAN: It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to be the one out until Jeff read the first vote for me, and suddenly it all hit me all at once. I guess when you play Survivor, almost everyone gets got. I was completely shocked and was truly blindsided by what happened. But it was also some really savvy gameplay by Davie, and Nick, and they brought Christian in. And when I watched it back, I was always curious of how everything went down, and it was really cool seeing the episode because it answered a lot of questions that I had.
What were the questions?
Who asked who to play the idol? Who was in cahoots? That kind of stuff. Exactly why Brochacho Hubicki spelled my name wrong, I don’t know. But it was really fun watching it back.
Who was your biggest ally in the game? And who was in your dream final 3?
I always wanted Mike in my dream final 3, and at the beginning I thought we were really close and then we kind of drifted apart after the tribe swap. It’s tricky now because so much time has passed on who I thought when I was out there.
Well, whom did you trust the most after the merge?
I trusted Alison, Mike, Dan… a lot of the original Goliaths. And I think that was one of my biggest downfalls of my gameplay was the idea of being Goliath strong. And in retrospect now, it should all have a shelf-life, and my idea of staying Goliath strong was outdated. Especially with the way the game is played now. Everything happens so fast and people get voted out and alliances are formed quickly. So I think that was a big part of what happened with me. There are some elements of stuff came up that I didn’t predict, and then there are some elements of me trusting the Goliaths and wanting to stay Goliath strong for too long. And it all kind of led to that Blindside.
If you could have worked with some Davids, whom would you have wanted to work with going forward?
Gabby and Christian, for sure. There wasn’t a ton of air time for tribe Tiva because a lot of the episodes have to tell the story of who is being eliminated and Tiva never had anybody getting voted out. You didn’t see that all of us were really tight and I really had a good time hanging and talking with Christian and Gabby. In retrospect, I wish I had talked game with them more. But it was really nice just talking life stuff with those guys.
Jeff Probst told me you almost didn’t make the trip to Fiji, that there was a scheduling snafu and they thought they weren’t going to be able to get you on this season for a minute. What was that all about?
I left for Fiji 36 hours after we wrapped Lucha Underground season 4. The producers of Lucha Underground had to bend over backwards to get me wrapped out of the season to leave for Survivor. So it was unusual for people to cut it that close. And second of all, I just really wanted to do it so was happy they were able to make it work.
And then certainly I am the Impact wrestling world champion and I had just signed a deal with Impact wrestling at the time, and they had to bend over backwards to agree to let me miss two months of wrestling bookings based on a contract that I had just signed recently. So two wrestling organizations both bent over backwards to make the schedule work.
I spoke with EP Matt Van Wagenen who said he met you a few years ago, because his brother Eric produces Lucha Underground, and you inquired then about being on Survivor and he told you to do your homework and dig deep — as Probst likes to say — into it. So then what happened? Did you start watching and studying?
I’ve been a fan of Survivor for a long time. I even applied for a season. I made a really stupid audition tape. For some reason I thought if I spoke in a German accent whoever was casting would think it was funny and put me on the show. But that didn’t work! So when I met Matt for the first time, it was towards the end of season 1 of Lucha Underground… I didn’t know this at the time but Cochran was actually with him on that visit. We just talked about it recently. I didn’t even remember that he was there.
But since then I’ve done my homework and watched a lot of Survivor — Cochran’s seasons and a bunch of other seasons — and I started to become an even bigger fan of the show. I really like binge-watching Survivor. Watching week to week is exciting but it’s difficult because I just want to see what happens.
How hard was it to get all your muscle back and get back into fighting shape after being out there?
When I left, I lost maybe 20-25 pounds. I want to say I put all that weight back on in like three days, but it wasn’t necessarily the muscle I put back on. I didn’t feel like regular Slamtown for a couple of months. More than just muscle mass, it was the athletic functional ability and cardio and muscle and balance and endurance. The fatigue and starvation actually affected me more physically than I anticipated.
Well, it’s always hardest for the biggest guys out there to deal with getting significantly less fuel. Hey, Jeremy claimed Angelina was trying to be in a showmance with you out there. What did you make of that when you heard that out there on the island and then again in his exit press?
It was ridiculous. There was no showmance. I’ve been in the public eye now for a long time because of wrestling. There are all kinds of haters and people that make stuff up in the world that I come from so my reaction to Jeremy bringing up a showmance… I thought was kind of funny because it was so far off-base. It does suck though, because there are a lot of people who are not used to that kind of thing. First of all, he said Dan and Kara were in a showmance, he thought Alec and Natalia were in a showmance. Really everyone was forming alliances and I think what happened with him is he kind of imploded because he was starting to get paranoid.
He had the group meeting and said the side conversations had to stop. It was too bad too because I actually really liked Jeremy a lot. He’s super funny and articulate and goofy in a really fun way. But that was kinda too bad. I think his feelings were hurt really bad and I don’t blame him for the way he got voted out. It’s kind of not cool of him in my opinion to try to lash out and hurt other people, but I understand where he’s coming from. I think he’s just a guy with a big heart and his feelings got hurt.
Also make sure to read our episode Q&A with Jeff Probst as well as our episode recap. And for an in-depth state of Survivor discussion, check out our mid-season long-view chat with Probst. Finally, to score more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.