and Frankie Kazarian
didn't show up at Comic-Con 2011 in San Diego as a couple of posers. When we caught up with the duo for an interview arranged by TNA's public relations people after they saw our coverage of CM Punk crashing WWE's Mattel panel
earlier that weekend, Daniels was rocking an Avengers T-shirt. Later that night, at the invitation-only TNA Hullabaloo
, they would compete in gear resembling two of Marvel's icons, with Kazarian as Captain America and Daniels as Magneto going against Eric Young--who made a mid-match costume change to Batman.
Is it any real shock, then, that both see a strong link between the world of wrestling and the world of comic books?
"It’s good versus evil. We’re living out good versus evil, which is what we all fantasized about, read about as kids," Kazarian said. "It’s a giant comic book. The industry is a comic book. You can’t deny it. At the end of the day, it’s a big comic. Protagonist, antagonist. Black hat, white hat."
We conducted this interview at the booth for "Headlocked"
, a visual marriage of the two mediums that's becoming increasingly popular within the inner circles of the sport. Daniels and Kazarian weighed on the comic, Ring Of Honor, and TNA's continuing competition against WWE.
You can check out tnawrestling.com for more information on Daniels, Kazarian and their fellow TNA grapplers. Daniels also has his own site
JOHN: You guys are here helping Michael Kingston promote the Headlocked comic. He’s said there’s a lot of guys in wrestling that enjoy it. How did you guys find out about it?
KAZARIAN: I found out about it through Chris Daniels, who’s a huge comic book enthusiast and supporter of the genre and very knowledgeable—almost to the point of nauseam. (Daniels starts laughing) And I met Mike and my wife had met Mike a while back. I loved the premise of it, and thought it’d be a great opportunity to get the word of Impact Wrestling and Headlocked Comics out.
DANIELS: Mike reached out to me at a comic convention I did in New York. He and I bumped into each other. He was introduced to me as the guy who was doing Headlocked, and at that point I hadn’t heard of it. But it was soon after that I started hearing through the grapevine and through wrestling press that Headlocked was a comic. I got an opportunity to read it once we met. The thing that I thought was really cool about it and appealed to me as a wrestler, Mike’s not a wrestler himself. He’s not been in the back rooms or the locker rooms. He doesn’t know. But he’s written a very realistic portrayal of what it takes to become a pro wrestler. I liked the idea of sort of paying respect to the efforts that we put into being a professional wrestler, and that’s what the lead character is going through. The idea of wanting to be a pro wrestler and realizing it’s not as easy as it looks. How we make it look. I thought that was just an interesting concept for a comic book and, yeah, like he said, I’m happy to be out here helping promote both the comic and Impact Wrestling.
JOHN: Because it seems like, people like you who wrestle, people like myself who have watched it, we all have to defend it at some point. And this book kind of takes that cause up a little bit. And (Kingston) talked about that, being a wrestling fan and having to defend it from people who are going to be detractors for whatever reason.
DANIELS: Sometimes pro wrestling is its own worst enemy, in the sense that it can be accused of appealing to the lowest common denominator sometimes. But it doesn’t have to. That’s the thing that we as wrestlers and athletes first and foremost, we’re always trying to defend that and make people see that what you see on television, your preconceived notion, isn’t necessarily what it is. Like you said, we had to defend it sometimes but if we didn’t love what we did, we wouldn’t care or it wouldn’t matter to us. But, we put our passion into it—not just our physical bodies but our hearts, our passion into it. And if we didn’t care, if it was just a job, you could talk bad about it all you want. I take offense to it when people denigrate it or minimize the effort that it takes to do what we do.
KAZARIAN: I think it’s basically a match made in heaven, pro wrestling and comic books. As a child, I think that most of us that are pro wrestlers now, there’s a good chance that most of us were probably fans of comics. And pro wrestling is the epitome of living the life of a comic-book superhero—aside from watching a movie. It’s good versus evil. We’re living out good versus evil, which is what we all fantasized about, read about as kids. It’s a giant comic book. The industry is a comic book. You can’t deny it. At the end of the day, it’s a big comic. Protagonist, antagonist. Black hat, white hat.
JOHN: That’s when it works best.
KAZARIAN: Absolutely. At least, that’s the way it should be. Some people’s opinions differ, but there’s room for a little bit of everything. Pro wrestling is such an open book. There’s no real boundaries on it. That’s kind of a cool thing in and of itself.
JOHN: CM Punk did something for GQ, recently, and said that pro wrestling was one of the few unique American art forms. What do you think?
DANIELS: Yeah, it makes perfect sense when you look at it in that sense. I don’t know that you can call it unique, in the sense that it’s everywhere.
KAZARIAN: Pro wrestling’s one of those things where, it’s survived. People have tried to predict its demise for years, and even as recently as the last five years with the explosion in popularity of MMA and UFC. People thought wrestling would fall by the wayside. But it’s going to survive. There’s always going to be a market. There’s always going to be new, compelling characters and storylines. Now, you have a lot of opportunities to watch different types of wrestling with TNA and Impact, WWE and Ring Of Honor. It’s honestly a good time to be a wrestling fan if you ask me.
JOHN: Do you guys think there’s room for MMA and wrestling? Has MMA been a negative, or do you think there’s room for both to co-exist?
DANIELS: I think absolutely there’s room for them to co-exist. It would be like saying is there room for wrestling and boxing. It’s two different styles of that fighting sport. I think there’s a market for both, because I don’t feel that every MMA fan is a wrestling fan and vice versa. Certainly there’s a lot more crossover between that and wrestling than between boxing and wrestling.
KAZARIAN: You’ve got the Brock Lesnars, the Kurt Angles and the guys that have done both. There’s absolutely a ton of mutual respect. I know we both have known a few fighters in our day. If pro wrestling has to be defended, those guys will be the first people to step in line and defend it. Even though it is perceived as entertainment.
JOHN: How do you guys feel like things are going in TNA right now. You had the Destination X pay-per-view recently, which is big for you guys and that style of wrestling. How do you feel like things are going in the company right now?
DANIELS: First of all, having the Destination X pay-per-view and sort of the feedback from that, I feel like the management of TNA has sort of realized that there’s an opportunity to showcase a style and a group of guys that the other company isn’t willing to focus on. And so it’s an opportunity to say to wrestling fans, we have something different. We have an alternative to what you see on WWE television. So, I feel like in the next couple of months, there’s going to be more of an effort to focus on that and at that point if they give us the opportunity and they give us the focus, it’s up to us at that point. And I have no doubt in my skills and this man’s skills. If they give us the ball, we’ll definitely run with it. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Three of the X-Division wrestlers on that event, Amazing Red and the tag team of Generation Me, since have left the promotion.)
KAZARIAN: There was a time back in 2003, 2004 when it wasn’t uncommon to see an X-Division Title match main event one of TNA’s pay-per-views. This past July, you had AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels who by no means are not just X-Division guys. They absolutely are heavyweight champion, World Title-caliber wrestlers. But it was cool to have a pay-per-view that started with a match like Samoa Joe and me, end with a match like Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles. It just kind of brought back that nostalgia feel of what the company used to be surrounded around. Sandwich that with a whole bunch of awesome action, an Ultimate X match, and it was awesome. I think, wrestling-wise, hands down it was one of our better pay-per-views in the last several years.
JOHN: You guys have both been in them. How much does it suck to be in an Ultimate X match?
DANIELS: It’s adding a layer of stunt work and difficulty you won’t find in a regular match. But we’re up for it. As many as we’ve done at this point, we know what the pitfalls of that particular match are and how our strengths sort of play to it sometimes and how to avoid some of the things that can kill you.
KAZARIAN: I was in the first-ever one.
JOHN: You’ve been in the most, haven’t you?
KAZARIAN: I think Sabin has me beat. Chris Sabin has me beat. I might be second. Sabin was in the first one with me. We kind of went into that one blind. And they’ve evolved to where we’ve done tag team Ultimate X’s, gauntlet Ultimate X’s. Like he said, I don’t know if it’s a matter of friendly competition or can-you-top-this, but sometimes me and this guy will do things from on top of the structure or underneath the structure that we probably shouldn’t do. We’re always trying to up our game. I think it’s the coolest concept match that the business has produced in the last 10 years. It’s awesome. I do think it’s overdone, but I think it’s something very special that makes TNA Impact Wrestling unique.
JOHN: So you think once a year, once or twice a year…
DANIELS: At most, I think.
KAZARIAN: Because physically, it kicks your body’s ass. And I just think it’s such a unique match and so rare to our brand that twice a year would be a good number. That’s not my decision making. The fans enjoy it. I don’t ever hear complaints.
JOHN: Are you still doing some stuff with Ring Of Honor too or are you exclusively TNA?
DANIELS: Right now, I’m TNA. Ring Of Honor right now is sort of getting ready for their TV to begin and so they’re concentrating on a bunch of different guys. I’m just happy that they’re getting an opportunity to take a new step forward and a new chapter in their history and I wish everybody in that company the best. I’m sure it’s going to be great.
JOHN: Your second run, or third run I guess with ROH. How would you sum that up?
DANIELS: I can tell you it certainly rejuvenated me in terms of how I felt about myself as a wrestler. Going in there with all the fresh matches I did over the course of that year, all the matches that I had with Davey Richards, matches I had with Eddie Edwards, stuff that I did with El Generico, stuff I did with Roderick Strong. Working with those guys, guys like that that are hungry to build their name and to build the Ring Of Honor brand, I felt like it made me step my game up and I certainly felt like I went out there and did exactly that. I brought my game up a level. And I’m just real proud of everything I did there. … I don’t think it’s fair to call them an indy any more. They’re a world presence. When Ring Of Honor guys go overseas, they’re looked at as a big deal. It’s not just American wrestlers, these guys are Ring Of Honor wrestlers. Eddie Edwards and Delirious right now in Japan working for Pro Wrestling NOAH in the junior tag tournament, they’re a big deal because they’re from Ring Of Honor. Kings of Wrestling, same thing. Whenever they go over to Pro Wrestling NOAH … it’s a big deal.