This Sunday, TNA Superstar Chris Daniels and his partner Frank Kazarian will compete in a grueling gauntlet match against three other top teams for a chance at tag team gold at TNA’s Bound For Glory pay per view event. We talked to Daniels about what he expects from his match, how he got his start and, among other things, which X-Man he most relates to.
What makes Bound For Glory so special?
All the stories lead up to that so as a TNA wrestler, you sort of judge your year beginning and ending at Bound for Glory. We have a tournament from July through September, the Bound for Glory Series, in which the top twelve talents in the company compete in a tournament with the winner getting the main event slot against the World Heavyweight Champion, which this year is AJ Styles. All the titles – Tag Team, X-Division, Knockout – are up for grabs. It’s also a weekend where get to say “thank you” to our fan base by interacting with them the day before. It’s an opportunity for fans to come and meet us, greet us and embrace us like brethren. This year we’re also inducting Kurt Angle into the TNA Hall of Fame. It’s a lot of moving parts.
You and Frank Kazarian are competing for the Tag Team titles against three other teams. What are your thoughts on the competition?
The truth of the matter is, they not teams the way Frankie and I are a team. We’ve been together for almost two years now and we pride ourselves on being the best tag team in the business. Eric Young and Joseph Park? They’re a fisherman and a lawyer. The BroMans? Those guys are more worried about soap operas and their modeling contracts. Chavo and Hernandez? Those guys haven’t even been around the last three months. So the truth of the matter is, it’s sort of an easy guess as to who will win that match. It’s going to be us. We’re the better tag team compared to those guys and compared to (current champs) Gunnar and Storm. So not only are we going to beat those three teams in the pre-show, we’ll then win back our Tag Team Championships. We’re going to bring prestige back to the Tag Team titles like we did a year ago.
Getting through three teams and then later taking on the champs seems like it could be a challenge.
It’s not going to be a challenge. We’re in the best shape of our lives. We pride ourselves on being physical specimens. Our cardio is off the chain, so to speak. We work very hard to be in tip-top condition every show we do. We’ve wrestled hour-long matches. We’re ready for anything. There is a strategy involved in a gauntlet match like this one to minimize the amount of exertion that you deal with, as opposed to a singles match, and there will be time between the end of that match and the title match, so we know that we’ll be at 100%.
Should you beat Storm and Gunnar, how will you define your reign as champs?
Consistency. Cohesion. We’re best friends. Two sides of the same coin. We’re of one mind. Over the last year, the tag team championships have been held by ad hoc duos and second-stringers. This year, prestige will come back to the championships when those belts go around our delicious waists.
How did you initially decide wrestling was the path for you?
I grew up in North Carolina watching Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, which then became NWA, and later became WCW. So I watched guys like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Magnum TA and Sting. I had a very big appreciation for professional wrestling as a kid. After I graduated college with a theater degree, I tried my hand at acting in the Chicago area and I decided to give wrestling a try just to say I did it. I wasn’t sure what would happen but I wanted to give it a chance even if I washed out just as an experience I could tell my grandkids about. But because I was so familiar with it from watching as a kid, I went through training pretty easily and once I started wrestling matches, that’s where I learned the bulk of my knowledge. That’s how you learn. On the job. I worked very hard to get as much experience as I could by wrestling as many matches as I could, against as many different people as I could, and for as many promoters as I could. That’s you get to be a commodity. You get so comfortable with yourself that you know that no matter where you go you can get into a ring and wrestle someone you’ve never met or seen before and still have an entertaining match. That’s how you get promoters to start hunting your phone number down to get you working on their shows.
We spoke with Daniel Bryan recently and he mentioned you as a good buddy of his. Are there any other guys from those indie days that you are still close with?
Absolutely. First of all, Daniel Bryan is probably top of my list as far as being one of the nicest guys and one of the guys that’s worked the hardest. Watching him go from the Texas indies, to the Ring of Honor days, to where he is now – it’s just a testament to his desire and his hard work. Then there are guys like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, both former World Champions, we went through the indies together and Ring of Honor together. Those guys have both worked very hard to reach the top of the ladder. Lo-Ki is another guy I’ve had extensive experience with in the ring and on the road. And then Frankie Kazarian and I have traveled around together for the past decade and a half honing our craft and now we’re the top team in TNA. You build a relationship with these guys traveling around the world, keeping your nose to the grindstone to become better and I think working with such talented guys like that has helped me become as good as I am now.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I feel like I’m a jack of all trades. I do a little bit of high flying, I do a little bit of brawling, a little bit of technical but I’ve never been one over the other. Ive always tried to be more of a well-rounded wrestler and be able to adapt to the person I’m in the ring with. Like if I was in the ring with AJ, I could do enough high-flying to keep up with him. Or if I was in the ring with Daniel Bryan, I could do enough technical work to stay with him. I think that’s what has given me the longevity in this business; being able to adapt to the opponent I’m across the ring from.
Is that the advice you would give someone looking to break into the business?
I would advise them to try and be flexible. Like, if you are a high flyer, you may not get the opportunity to work with someone who works well with a high flyer. You’ve just got to be flexible in your approach to who you’re wrestling. It’s very rare you find someone who is excels in only one facet of the game that also finds long-term success because there’s so many different types of wrestlers out there that sooner or later your going to be exposed as very one-sided very quickly. Even guys like Rey Mysterio, who made a career out of being one of the best high-flyers in the world, he’s also a very good mat wrestler and he can throw hands with the best of them. He may be remembered long-term as a high-flyer but he didn’t just rely on that. When push comes to shove he can do the rest of it just as well.
Who were some of your influences?
My first favorite wrestler was Magnum TA. Coming up during that era, I thought he was really good and had a fire to him that set him apart. Another favorite of mine as a youth was Sting. He was the complete package in my eyes as someone that stood out from the crowd. He had an energy to him that was different than the flotsam and jetsom of the area at that point. When I started wrestling myself, I looked up to guys like Shawn Michaels and Shawn Waltman because they did so much with their careers despite having a smaller physique. When I was growing up everyone was 280, 300 lbs. and being 200 lbs at that point you weren’t looked upon as someone who could be a superstar. And then along come guys like Waltman and Michaels. Those guys showed the world that athleticism had its place in professional wrestling. And I still look up to those guys as people who wrestled smart and had long careers, paving the way for guys like me.
Who has given your best matches in TNA?
The easy answer is AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. Those guys have pushed me to work as hard as I’ve ever had to and have pulled the best matches of my career out of me. Someone else I feel like I’ve had great matches with is Kurt Angle, but I think he does that to everybody. Everybody he’s in the ring with works a little bit harder just to keep up with him and try to prove they deserve to be there.
What would be your dream match?
I’d have to say Chris Jericho. He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to as a fan and over the course of my career I’ve always looked at him as sort of the perfect blend of athleticism and character. I’ve said time and time again that he was a compelling guy on the microphone and once the bell rang he could get it done. He was that perfect mix of athlete and entertainer.
Kazarian aside, any dream tag partners?
No. I think Frankie is the dream partner. We’re so alike mentally in our approach to wrestling and our goals and our work ethic that I think he’s the best partner that I could ask for. The only other guy I’ve had that kind of chemistry with is AJ Styles. We had a very short, but successful, run together and if we had the time that Frankie and I have had who knows what could have happened. But I’m very happy with what Frankie and I have put together and I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what we can do as a team.
Any TNA moments that struck you as particularly special?
I thought when Samoa Joe won the World Title was a special night. That was an instance where TNA sort of got out of it’s own way and let the competitors speak for themselves. The build for Joe versus Kurt Angle in the cage was perfect and it was a well-deserved victory for Joe. It was his first world title but not his last, I don’t believe. But even if it was, that was a career defining moment for Joe and a really good moment for TNA as a company.
Any wrestling moments outside of TNA that have been particularly inspiring?
As a kid, the day The Rock N Roll Express defeated The Russians for the tag team titles was exciting to me. It was a moment in history that I’ll always remember as a wrestling fan. It was exciting to see this new team come into the company I had been watching for years and do what no one else could by defeating what was a dominant team. Also, the night that Sting won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. Those are the matches that stick out in my head.
You’re a big comic book fan. What are you reading these days and what are your all-time favorites?
Yeah I’ve been collecting comic books for over 30 years now. I’m a big Marvel guy and an X-Men guy at heart. The thing that got me into comics in the first place was The Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and written by John Byrne. I sort of have a special connection with them and Wolverine especially. In the lats couple of years, Marvel has had a resurgence in creativity and have put out a lot of books under the Marvel Now banner that I’m reading like All New X-Men, Superior Spider-Man and Avengers Arena. All good books. And what Marvel has been doing with their movies is very smart. Using all the characters to build off of each other rather than treating the franchises separately. I’m really looking forward to the new Thor next month and then Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy next year.
Any other Marvel characters you want to see in the movies?
There’s been talk of a Deadpool movies for years, especially after Ryan Reynolds played him in Wolverine: Origins. But that’s a character I’d like to see more of, whether Reynolds plays him or not, and who I think is still very popular and has an opportunity to do something pretty cool in the movies.
Any parting words for TNA fans?
To the fans, thanks very much for your support. Everybody at TNA realizes we wouldn’t be were we are without the support of our fan base. It’s a very loyal fan base and that’s why Bound for Glory is an opportunity for us to say “thank you” for their support. Everybody that comes out to San Diego is going to have a great experience whether they are first time fans or long time fans.
And for your opponents at Bound for Glory?
They know what I’m all about. I can spit and swear at them, but the truth of the matter is that they know what they’re in for. They’ve watched Frankie and I dominate Impact Wrestling for the last two years. It’s not going to be any different at Bound for Glory.
Catch Chris Daniels and other TNA Wrestling Superstars on Bound for Glory airing Sunday, October 20th at 8pm ET.
And be sure to check out our interview with TNA Superstar Austin Aries HERE!