Ring of Honor is putting on one of the biggest shows of its year this Saturday, September 11, at the Manhattan Center in New York City. Ticket information is available at ROHWrestlng.com And if you can’t be there in person, you can catch the show live on Internet pay per view at GoFightLive.TV.
Check out this preview video of the big show:
The show is highlighted by three gigantic matches. In one, the bitter rivalry between the team of El Generico & Colt Cabana and the team of Kevin Steen & Steve Corino will come to a climax in a double chains match. The ROH heavyweight title will also be on the line when champ Tyler Black defends against Roderick Strong. Adding significance to this match is Black’s recent signing with WWE.
But the bout that many see as the true main event is a tag team dream match pitting ROH tag team champions The Kings of Wrestling, Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero, against the former “World’s Greatest Tag Team” Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at length with Chris Hero about the upcoming match, and other topics. In this extensive interview, Hero talks candidly about such issues as the dangers of chair shots and other moves to wrestlers, his experience watching one of his wrestling heroes die in the ring, WWE’s use of former Ring of Honor talent, and the future of ROH.
Alfonso Castillo: Let me start by asking you about this match that you have coming up with Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. Is it exciting for you to be able to perform against a pretty recognized team, a team that has a lot of accolades and to show what you and Claudio can do against a pretty established team?
Chris Hero: Absolutely. What I think is good for the match is that Charlie and Shelton had some excellent matches on TV and pay per view throughout the years. However their duration as a team wasn’t as long as most fans would have liked. They were kind of one of the tag teams that, you know, would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, etc. Because of whatever reason behind WWE’s booking, they split them up and never quite achieved what many people thought they would. So the fact that that lies there, there’s a great fan base. Everybody wants to see them succeed. And it’s just going to be very interesting to see how they’re going to compete in a different atmosphere, the ROH atmosphere, which is the hottest crowd. Throughout my history in Ring of Honor, New York City has always been the hottest crowd overall. And it’s not like Shelton and Charlie are seen as the enemy. Whereas most WWE wrestlers would get booed by our diehard fans – maybe not most. I’m being a little bit extreme there. But a lot of them. A lot of them see WWE as having a different style. However that’s not really the case with these two, because the fans have always respected their abilities. And they respect Claudio and my abilities. So it’s definitely going to be an interesting clash. And not just previous matches etc., but size. We’re two of the biggest guys in Ring of Honor. And while they might not have been the biggest guys in WWE, they both have a great deal of size. So it will definitely be interesting from a match up standpoint.
AC: What do you think of Ring of Honor going the route of bringing in established, ex-WWE talent? Promotions are sometime scrutinized for that kind of thing. I know Ring of Honor hasn’t done that too much, and when they have, it’s been for kind of special circumstances. Do you see any kind of risk or backlash in bringing in ex-WWE guys?
CH: I don’t really see much risk, because when we’ve done it we’ve pretty much always done it for the better of the company. If you go down the history of Ring of Honor – you can go through guys like Ricky Steamboat and Mick Foley and Terry Funk, etc – the guys we have brought in nine times out of ten have been successful. And it’s been a real reward to our fans who support us, although we don’t have the exposure or the credibility that some of these other wrestlers do. But it’s nice for them to get to see the, Even Bushwacker Luke, who I don’t think anybody would have called him a wrestler of the year or whatever, when he performed, I think three or four shows for Ring of Honor, each time it was a special event and the fans really got into it because it was a bit of nostalgia as well. In this case, with Charlie and Shelton, I don’t think there’s any risk at all on Ring of Honor’s behalf, because both of them are ready to perform, at least to my knowledge. I think they’re going to come into this looking like they have something to prove, not necessarily to the fans, not necessarily to us or to Ring of Honor, but I think to themselves, because they no longer work for WWE. I think both of them were there for about 10 years or so. At least it seems that long. And I think they both want to know if they could still go – if they can perform at a high level. I know Charlie worked independents before signing with WWE. Shelton did not. So I don’t know really what they’re completely expecting. Maybe they’ll think Ring of Honor is just like pother independent wrestling they’ve performed at, but it definitely is not. I personally don’t consider Ring of Honor independent, because we have a TV deal. Our guys are under contract. It’s not that we can’t work other companies. We have the ability to freelance ourselves here and there. I think Ring of Honor is definitely an entity in and of itself.
AC: It strikes me that ex-WWE talent who find themselves having to work independents, there’s a thought that they can sometimes phone it in because they’re only performing in front of a handful of fans. “Who’s going to see this? It’s not worth it.” But I would think that working in Ring of Honor, it’s actually just the opposite. And wrestler like Benjamin and Haas would actually feel pressure to up their game, knowing that they’re going into a promotion where there is such a concentration on athleticism. They can’t go in there and phone it in. If anything, they have to show that they’re better than what they were doing in WWE. Would you agree with that?
CH: Absolutely. I agree with that completely. And I think, regardless of whatever doubts they may or may not have, once they come out that curtain and they see the fans there and the electric atmosphere of the Manhattan Center, which I’m sure will be packed 1,000-plus, once they feel that energy from the crowd, if they weren’t inspired before that point, they definitely will be after that. The fans in New York love Claudio and myself. That’s where we won our first ROH tag team titles. That’s also where we reunited. And we got amazing reactions both times. So, the way they’re going to be received by the fans I think is definitely going to inspire them to do a bit more. Not exactly on that topic, but I was at the Gathering of the Jugalos this past weekend. And it was definitely an interesting experience. But what I enjoyed the most was being able to mingle with all these different legends and wrestlers from all over. Some guys I had never met. Some guys I had met before. And I was sitting on one of the shuttles to and from the event to the hotel. And I was with terry Funk, Kamala, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and a host of other people. And I forget exactly how it came up, but the subject of Ring of Honor did come up. And Terry Funk was being very supportive of what we do. He’s going to be on the September 11 show. I’m sure he won’t mind if I quote, but when we were discussing Ring of Honor, Kamala mentioned that he had worked Ring of Honor during WrestleMania weekend last year. Jim Duggan had heard the name, but really didn’t know much about it. But Terry Funk then went on to say that we have the best wrestling today, bar none, whether it’s WWE, TNA, etc. But those words did come from Terry Funk’s mouth.
AC: Yeah. It’s hard to dispute that. Watching some of the promotional material for the pay per view, there’s a lot of focus on tag team wrestling. I just saw the video where they show all the great tag teams that work in Ring of Honor and then talking about Haas and Benjamin. Obviously this match is being billed as the main event of this very big show, a New York show, Glory by Honor being one of the biggest of the year, a pay per view. Is it rewarding for you to see that kind of importance being put into tag team wrestling – something that’s kind of become a lost art?
CH: Absolutely. It’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of. It’s good to know that the company has faith not only in Claudio and myself, but the other teams. We’re not all being split up every couple months. And, you know, it’s “this guy and this guy” – they don’t even have a tag name together. I grew up in the 80’s watching wrestling – 87, 88, 89, 90, etc. The tag teams were completely separate. You did have your break ups here and there, but it definitely meant something, and it usually meant that one person was moving onto the main event scene. Times have changes but it’s good to know that if they do focus on tag wrestling in Ring of Honor, we can deliver. There have been a handful of shows that we’ve main evented throughout our duration as a team. That definitely says a lot, not just because we’re in the main event, but because of the rest of the talent that’s on the roster. I think on any given night, 75 percent of the roster could credibly main event a Ring of Honor show. And that just speaks volumes about our talent.
AC: So, for you, did you have any reservations after having a pretty lengthy singles run following your break up with Claudio, to go back into the tag team division? Some wrestlers, I imagine, would see it as a kind of demotion – that you couldn’t make it in the singles scene, so we’re going to put you back in the tag team.
CH: I had no problems with it whatsoever because I just kind of took a step back and looked at the landscape of things. We do have a great amount of singles performers between Aries, and Tyler Black, and Roderick Strong and Davey Richards, who is also in a tag team but has been focused more on singles wrestling. And I thought it was best for both Claudio and myself to reunite. We had talked about it before it had actually happened, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. And I believe our stock has risen, both individually and as a team, because now we’re a bona fide team. We’re a legitimate team, whereas years ago, it was just like “Hero and Claudio.” We meshed well as a team, but we didn’t quite have all the pieces. Now we function better as a unit, both mentally an physically. I’m in better shape now. Claudio’s always in great shape. We took our experiences from Japan and we’ve come up with some different ideas on how to approach things. It was no demotion whatsoever. I would say we’re much better off now than before when we were both going down our singles path. There’s only so many spots. There’s bottom of the card. There’s mid-card. And there’s main events. And, not that both Claudio and myself couldn’t main event shows as singles stars, it’s just that it’s not our time. Our time is to rejuvenate the tag team division, and I think we’ve done that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
AC: I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that both of you guys are one of Ring of Honor’s top acts, and as a team are enjoying the highest profile run you’ve had in the company. You mentioned getting yourself in better shape. I was just watching a video on the HDNet show, and it had a clip of you guys when you were originally a team. And you had the shirt and the big pants and stuff. It really strikes me that you look a great deal different than you did before. It’s certainly more of a kind of major league look. Was that a deliberate conscious effort on your part to step up your look, step up your conditioning?
CH: Absolutely. It was just sort of, I guess you could say, a personal struggle I had to overcome. I’ve loved wrestling since I can remember. But I never had that same passion for personal fitness. Not that I wouldn’t get in the ring and wrestle for hours and hours. But as far as taking extra time in my day and going to the gym and putting myself through rigors weight lifting and cardio. It took me a while to wrap my head and heart around that. It wasn’t until, I’d say, a year and a half ago that I just kind of started to look at where I was, and where I had been, and what else I wanted to accomplish. I literally feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I feel like things are just starting to unfold how I would like them to. But I felt I had gotten the most out of my previous looks. The blue Chris Hero T-shirt and the baggy white pants, or the patent leather pants and the spandex top, or the spandex top and the spandex tights. It’s kind of an ongoing evolution. I told myself I wanted to change it up. I wanted to switch down to trunks. I had been wrestling more frequently in Japan, and as you know, Japan takes things a little more seriously. I told myself that, and I actually had a goal to work toward. And once I started to going toward that. I think I came back form Japan just wearing a singlet top and trunks, to just transitioning to it. It was a bit of a shock to most people who had seen me wrestle over the years. Six months later – I think it was last June when I dropped to just trunks. The June tour of Noah last year. Then I came back and had matches with lance Storm. I had matches with KENTA. Those were really high profile matches. And I figured it was time to step it up and see how much further I can go with a bit of a different look.
AC: You mentioned there only being so many singles spots. And it would appear a few more are opening up. There have been talks of Tyler Black leaving the company. Davey Richards has been on the record saying that he doesn’t plan on doing this much longer. Roderick Strong got a TNA try out match. So it would appear that there’s going to be some openings again. And, obviously, you lost Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness last year. There’s certainly some buzz about you being able to be one of those go-to guys. I think it was Gabe Sapolsky who said that if he was running things, he would put the title on you now. What do you think about what kind of opportunities there are in the near future for you? Do you see yourself as potentially one of the go-to-guys in this period of transition now for Ring of Honor?
CH: Absolutely. I think I’ve proved that. I had killer singles match with El Generico in Toronto. I had a very good title match with Tyler Black in Chicago. And Claudio very recently had a great singles match with Tyler when we were in Kentucky. To focus on singles matches, I don’t think you have to be only a singles wrestler. I think the way ROH shows are structured with shows on a Friday and Saturday, I don’t think it would be out of the question to see Claudio or myself main event one of those shows as a singles wrestler and on the next night for us to main event as a tag team. It might no be something that’s done frequently. But I think, especially with our abilities now, it’s something that we could definitely do. It might be a completely added attraction. And if either Claudio or myself was Ring of Honor world champion, I think we could pay attention to the title scene there, as well as keep defending the ROH tag team titles, because if either of us does go the singles route, I don’t see us breaking up as a team. I don’t think there’s any reason for us to do that. I think we have a lot of value as the Kings of Wrestling – not just from a perspective of fans coming to the shows to watch us, but from the locker room, going to different countries and representing both tag teams and Ring of Honor. I think that’s something both Claudio and I can handle ourselves.
AC: So when you get a period like this – and I guess you guys went through something like this last year when Bryan and Nigel left – but with Tyler leaving, and the news about (ROH booker) Adam Pearce leaving, how does that kind of change your approach? Are you concerned? Does it make you worry about the future of Ring of Honor? Or is it just another one of those things that you’ve gone through before and you’ll go through again?
CH: I would say that I’m not worried at all, because if things were going down hill for Ring of Honor, I don’t think that suck a drastic change would have been made – much like when (ROH owner Cary Silkin) made the change from Gabe to Adam Pearce in the first place. Things were a little questionable at that time period, and we were hoping that Ring of Honor was going to stick around. He made that change, and so we felt, “All right. He wants something changed.” I don’t think there are any dangers of Ring of Honor closing any time soon, because he has a vision. He’d like to see how things pan out before shutting things down. So I don’t think that’s a legitimate concern, especially not right now. I’m definitely not worried because our most recent pay per view, the one in Toronto, was definitely, from top to bottom, one of our best overall shows, not only in the last couple of years, but you could put that show up against any of our shows of the last four or five years, I personally feel. We still have the same locker room. We just have a couple different directors. So I’m not concerned at all. I’m actually excited. When presented with change, you really find out the character of people and whether they’re willing to step it up and accept new rules and move forward. I love my company and I love my peers and I think we’re definitely all going to succeed.
AC: How important is a booker to a company like Ring of Honor, where so much has to do with what the individual talent brings to the table? Creative is a big part of that, but it’s obviously the matches that brought Ring of Honor to the dance.
CH: I think it’s incredibly important to have somebody with that creative role that can instill in us a certain direction, because otherwise you’re just having matches for the sake of matches. You don’t have an ending in sight. And you can’t approach things with the right amount of passion and creativity. Now, I think Jim Cornette has been amazing for us, and just having him around, not only because of his years of experience but his devotion to the current product. Hells sit there and give us ideas – not that we have to stick to that and do exactly what he says. It’s just a suggestion. And I think by taking other people’s suggestion and putting our creative spin on it, it’s what’s giving us our identity and giving us the experience that we need. The thing about Ring of Honor is that 90 percent of us have never been on a big, worldwide television show. So we’re just proving ourselves to ourselves, if that makes any sense. A lot of guys – Jim Cornette, Christopher Daniels, Steve Corino – guys like that have been there and done that, to coin a phrase. But a lot of us are unproven. It’s not that we’re unproven in our eyes or our peers’ eyes, but from a national standpoint. What can we do? What can we do in front of new crowd? What we can we do to draw the fans into the matches that we’re having? So having somebody at the helm pointing us in a particular direction and conversing with us about their vision and trying to synch that up with our vision, it’s definitely priceless to have somebody like that that can influence us and inspire us.
AC: What do you think were Adam Pearce’s strong points?
CH: I think he had an advantage because before he was our “boss,” he definitely was one of the boys. So there’s not that whole wrestling booker like, “Well’ he’s never done it in the ring before so how does he know?” Not that that’s a popular theory, but it is something that’s thrown around and is in the back of some people’s minds at certain times. So we didn’t have to worry about that at all. It was a little uneasy at first because he was unproven as a booker. He had never done anything on that scale before. And things were a little rocky at first because it was such a shock to the locker room and I’m sure a great shock to him, as far as organizing things, and getting in touch with the right people, and phasing people in and phasing people out. It was just a whole lot to digest. So I don’t think anybody faults him for the growing pains we had at first. But as things went on, he brought in Dave Lagana to help with the TV show, and eventually Jim Cornette came in to help out. We got Christopher Daniels back. We got Steve Corino in the locker room – guys who could help us based upon their experience and help us as a group. Adam – I have nothing but good things to say about him. I always enjoyed working with him. And I was on shows with him in 2000 and 2001 in the Midwest. So I’ve known Adam for a long time.
AC: You mentioned that a lot of you guys haven’t had the opportunity to work on a national stage. Obviously TNA and WWE have been taking a look t Ring of Honor more than in the past with some of these pick-ups. Does being on the radar of these larger national companies, particularly WWE, kind of perk your ears up? Does it make you work harder wondering if you could be noticed? Is it even a goal for you in the long term?
CH: I’m going to say that regardless of who’s getting looks or who’s gotten signed recently or in the past, I’m the kind of guy that I’ll believe it when I see it. If you remember – you may know or you may not know – it was about a year ago, actually last September, that it was reported that I had signed with WWE or was going to sign with WWE. And to this day I’ve had zero contact whatsoever. I have maybe a dozen acquaintances in WWE, but there’s a big differences between acquaintances on the roster and guys in charge of creative and hiring and firing in WWE. Most of those guys would kind of rule out Ring of Honor and that style of wrestling. I know people who have gone to the FCW camps (WWE’s developmental territory) and such, and what they stress is that “you know nothing. What you’ve learned on the independent scene is nothing, because this is how we want you to do things and we need to complete remove you of those bad, dirty, independent wrestling habits.” So I think often times they like people with a clean slate and athletic ability who they can teach form the ground up. Now, clearly that may be changing. You look at how successful Danielson’s been. I actually just got to watch his match last night form the other day (the SummerSlam tag team elimination match) and I thought it was done very well. And the NXT guys performed very well. And you’ve got Punk, who’s obviously a success story. You’ve got Evan Bourne. You’ve got Kaval doing very well on NXT as well. Maybe things are going to change, but I don’t put any stock into it. When my phone rings, I’ll pick it up. And if it’s somebody from WWE saying they’re looking at me, that’s when I’ll go, “Oh, maybe they are looking at me.” But I think it’s very dangerous to look toward something that there’s no guarantee or even plan toward something just based on hearsay. So my best is to focus on what O have going for me, which is this tag run with Claudio, my singles stuff out in Pro Wrestling Guerilla in Southern California, my relationship with Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan, and just whatever other gigs I have penciled in my schedule. I stay pretty busy, and I’m very thankful for that. To want anything else – to expect anything else – I think is just not fair. I have to just focus on what I’m doing and what’s in front of me at this moment.
AC: Do you think it’s good to have ex-Ring of Honor talent on bigger stages like WWE? Or, the flip side of that, does it concern you having guys who were main eventers for you go to another company and being stripped down, being sent to developmental, and then in a situation like Kaval, called a rookie? The same thing happened to Bryan Danielson. I guess you could see it both ways – certainly guys like C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe make you look good. But on the other hand there’s that part, where, you know, your best guy, your champion, is only good enough to be a rookie in WWE.
CH: Yeah. I could see that. But I also think a popular phrase is “Any press is good press.” So the fact that our guys are performing on a national stage, I think is great for us, regardless of what role they full. And I think the underlying fact is that these guys, I find them all to be incredibly talented, and it would boggle my mind if the rest of the locker room didn’t feel the same exact way. So when you have guys like Evan Bourne or C.M. Punk in the locker room and they’re being given opportunities, no matter how big or how small, are delivering and performing and getting that great live reaction. I mean look at the reaction Danielson has gotten from just the first several weeks of NXT. I agree the way he was position was to succeed in that role, but he definitely performed well, and not everyone performs well in their first chance on that stage. So I don’t really see any negative side to it because I think the talent rises to the top when given ample opportunities. You have to be prepared and you have to receive the opportunities. So as long as those two things are there, I don’t see any problem.
AC: You mentioned Japan, and I wanted to ask you about something. I don’t know how comfortable you are talking about it, but you were there the night (Mitsuharu) Misawa died in the ring, right?
CH: I was.
AC: Because its such a unique experience – something that, thankfully, so few wrestlers will have to deal with, witnessing something like that in person, can I just ask what that does to a person – what that does to a wrestler in terms of your outlook on of your profession and even your mortality, to see something like that close up?
CH: Well, it didn’t affect me in that way, because I was able to examine the situation as a whole. I mean, seeing it with my own eyes, and experiencing it and the week following that – the funeral and the somber mood of the entire locker room, etc. – that was difficult. And that was something I didn’t think I would ever experience. But I was able to realize why things happened the way they did. And basically it came down to a matter of pride, I believe, with Misawasan – not just pride in himself, but pride in his company. And I think he just felt obligated to be the one to carry his company. Clearly he should have taken time off months – maybe even years prior to the accident, because his neck had deteriorated so much in the previous years. So it’s not like Misawa was likely completely healthy and in the ring performing a routine match with a routine move and something just happened. Now that – the way I just described it – is something we all have to deal with. There are fluke accidents. There’s situations that nobody can do anything about. It just kind of happens that way. But I don’t believe his was a case of that. I think it was a bit different. I think that made it a little easier of a pill to swallow, because he did have himself to blame. It was a freak accident, but not in a way where he was completely healthy and etc, etc. He just kind of accepted a role – maybe not even accepted, but forced upon himself a much greater role than he actually needed at that time.
AC: Does it drive home to you the importance of taking care of yourself and properly healing injuries and taking time off? Obviously, that’s a hot topic in wrestling – the importance of taking time off and recuperating. Seeing something like that, does it especially drive that home to you?
CH: Absolutely. His story is an incredibly tragic one, but also Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. Those guys just pushed themselves so incredibly hard from day one, until the end. Both Guerrero and Benoit suffered from that. If Guerrero had taken a couple months off after he dropped the title, maybe his body would have been able to recuperate and recover the way it needed to. The same with Benoit. If he had taken some time off and not done quite so many drugs, maybe he wouldn’t have snapped. A lot of us have like minor injuries. Maybe we even have more serious injuries that we work around, but we all do it – I would say like 99 percent of the guys – we all do it in an intelligent way. We examine our situation. We try to figure out what the problem is and what’s the worst that could happen. And if we think we could work though it, we work through it. But that’s not to say when there are times when we all want to take time off. I hurt my back at the double-shot in Phoenix this year. And while it turned out not to be serious over time, it was an incredible amount of pain. I have a pretty high pin threshold, but it almost brought me to tears several times. So I was given the night off the next night, which was amazing. Nobody was upset about it. They all knew I had a serious injury. And it’s not like I’m a guy who would complain about something that’s not valid. So I had no problems taking the next night off, because I knew how bad I felt and I knew how much worse I was going to feel if I stepped in the ring. So definitely the Misawa situation made us all realize – the guys over there and the guy who weren’t there – how serious it is to give your body the right amount of rest. You can have horrible results if you don’t.
AC: I talked to Tyler Black soon after WWE announced that they had banned chair shots, and he told me that the Ring of Honor locker room kind of got together and reached a similar agreement or a pact. I don’t know how formal or informal it was. I later asked Colt Cabana about it and he wasn’t really aware of it. So I thought I’d ask you – What’s your understanding of what the policy is, said or unsaid, about unprotected chair shots or overly dangerous bumps in Ring of Honor?
CH: If you know the Ring of Honor product you know that unprotected chair shots aren’t one of the most common things that we do. There are certain guys who throw some chairs around here or there. But I don’t believe there’s anybody in the Ring of Honor locker room who is out for themselves, so at no point am I worried that the guy who I’m in the ring with is going to take a liberty with me or do something that I’m not completely OK with. So if there’s some guys who don’t mind getting knocked around the head a little bit, that’s their choice. It’s their body. If they want to take a superplex to the floor, OK. I’m not saying that if I was in that situation, I would do it, I’m saying that it’s understood that certain people have certain boundaries. And I don’t think there’s any regulars in Ring of Honor who, in my opinion, go out and do something like that without having the right amount of clearance.
AC: Do you think, regardless of whether there’s anything written in stone, that there’s just an understanding that maybe wasn’t there five or ten years ago about the dangers of some of those moves?
CH: Yeah, I think so. I think because it’s been kind of chattered about. I know that Chris Nowinski – he wrote a book on the subject, is that right?
AC: He wrote a book and he runs some kind of group that studies it.
CH: Yeah, so, I mean we’re all aware of it. And we’re all on the road together so we know how it feels to have some sort of head injury. We’ve all been in matches with guys where they’ve been conked in the head. It might even be routine. And after the match, they can’t remember anything. So something like that is a little bit scary. Now, if guys are getting together and banning unprotected chair shots, I would like to add step-up enziguris to the list, because I’ve been hit in the head many times with chairs, and I would say that getting kicked in the back of the brain does every bit as much damage just from a little different angle. Maybe I just have bad luck with getting kicked in the head. Not that I have any concussions, but goddamit, it hurts.
AC: That’s really interesting. I guess observers can’t appreciate the difference between one move and another… For all the moves that you see, it’s an enziguri that hurts in particular.
CH: Yeah, the smart fans, when it comes to something like – super kicks, etc. – if they hear a noise, they automatically think it’s the Owen Hart leg slap. But that’s not always the case. And it just depends. Somebody could throw a really strong lariat, and have it look good, but not kill the guy. But Stan Hansen was always known for – you know, he couldn’t see – he would just blast somebody with the lariat. And you as a fan can’t really tell. I mean, I can’t even tell sometimes when I’m watching my own matches, and something looks like it killed me, and it really didn’t. Or the worst is when something actually does hurt you and you look at it on film, and it looks like nothing. So there’s a lot of cases like that. And I can understand the unprotected chair shot thing, but I really don’t like it when people get on their high horse and say, “I can’t believe they’re doing that,” when in actuality, they really have no idea what exactly is happening. There are some chair shots that can murder someone. And there are some that are absolutely nothing. It’s a case-by-case basis. Something like a trash can lid – you hit somebody in the head with it, it’s not going to do a whole lot of damage. If you take a big heavy steel chair and you conk him on the head with it, and you hit him in the right way, yeah you’re going to give him a concussion. But it’s not up to the fans to criticize us when it comes to taking care of ourselves, because this is our job. This is our profession. And they really don’t know as much as they think they know.
AC: Are there moves that are maybe misunderstood about how dangerous they are? The ones that come to mind are German suplexes, piledrivers, which you don’t see that much of. Are the dangers of those exaggerated? Are they really quite dangerous?
CH: It depends on the move, because there are some overhead suplexes where it looks like the guy lands on his head. And it’s like, “Oh, my God. Why would anybody do that?” But what you don’t take into account is the actual momentum of their lower body carrying themselves over. I know there have been times when I’ve come close to landing on my head, but I was able to kick my legs a little bit and the moment that my head is actually on the mat is very brief, and I’m able to flip over and protect myself. Whereas, some of these moves that look a little bit safer, if they stick you in one spot and all your momentum comes straight down, it’s going to hurt a lot worse. The most ridiculous things is what I’ve gotten injured on. I remember once I got dropkicked in the back. And the guy – I think I was going to turn around and he was going to dropkick me. But he lost his balanced and had to come off anyway. So he dropkicked me in the lower back, which you wouldn’t think would be much. You’d think, if anything, my lower back would get hurt. But that wasn’t the case at all. Because of the angle that he dropkicked me, my head snapped back and it pinched a nerve and it made my whole arm go numb. Now you’re not going to hear any fans or critics saying, “We need to stop these dropkicks to the lower back. It’s pinching people’s nerves and causing them to be unable to feel their fingers.” No. I don’t expect fans to know that. That’s just one of the things we have to be wary of. It’s the same thing if you hit the ropes or hit the turnbuckle at a strange angle and you don’t have your head tucked, you’re going to spike something and you know your arm’s going to be numb and it’s going to feel like someone’s pouring a pot of hot coffee down your back.
AC: That’s really interesting. That’s a good bit of insight that people don’t usually get. Do you feel there’s a breed of wrestler, whether he works for your company or not that – obviously, this was going on back in the ECW days. A lot of really dangerous unprotected moves that were all fueled by this pride in hardcore wrestling. “I can take any kind of pain.” Do you think that mentality still exists? I can’t help but think of the Hardcore Justice pay per view and Tommy Dreamer taking the chair shots to the face. Do you think there’s still some of that out there and does that bother you at all?
CH: I think it’s on an individual basis, because I think a lot of that false bravado comes from a lack of maturity. Usually early on in your career you’ll be wrestling a guy that’s more experienced than you and he’ll suggest something. And just because you don’t want to sound stupid. You’ll just kind of go along with it, like “Yeah, sure.” And then what happens is that you go out there and you run the risk of blowing a spot or landing a move incorrectly or the guy goes to tuck you one way, but you tuck yourself another, and he ends up spiking you on the head. All it really takes is like one or two of those instances for you to be like, “OK. Next time I shouldn’t be such an idiot and I should just tell the guy what’s going on in my head.” So I think with maturity a lot of that stuff dies out. There are some guys that definitely have a little bit of bravado. They feel that, because of the reputation they built, that they need to kind of uphold that. But you have that in real life too. You have people who grow up a certain way and feel that they need to be the tough guy or they need to be the guy who never complains. So I don’t think that’s wrestling specific. I think you’ve got that in all areas of sports and entertainment. I don’t really see it as a huge problem. Because if I see a situation like that unfolding, I’m definitely not afraid to speak up.
AC: It sounds like what you’re saying is that, for all the criticism wrestlers hear about doing dangerous moves, you guys know what you’re doing better than some people would think and value your health and your body more than might be apparent.
CH: Absolutely. I think we all value our health – some more than others. And I would say that, just because I wrestle, doesn’t qualify me to criticize someone else because I can think of countless times where I have seen two guys do something and I’m like, “What? Are you kidding me?” And then I’ll talk to them and find out that it looked much worse than it really was. And that’s actually part of the art form right there – making it look a million times worse than it really is. One spot that comes to mind – Marafuji, from Japan, one of Pro Wrestling Noah’s guys, he does this leaping, vaulting dropkick to the floor, where he jumps over, kind of like a pole vaulter would jump over the pole, and ad he’s on his way down, his knees are kind of crunched up, and then he dropkicks the guy on the floor and then kind of falls flat back on the floor. Now, that is absolutely insane to me – a running back bump over the top rope. It just blows my mind. But I know Marafuji well enough to know that he’s not going to do something on a regular basis that’s going to injure him. So he must have some kind of a trick or must know some kind of a way where he can kick off and land without hurting himself. Otherwise, he wouldn’t continue to do the move. Especially in Japan. There was a rash of injuries throughout the Pro Wrestling Noah locker room this year and last. And I know those guys aren’t going to take unnecessary risks. So while I may look at something and think it’s a little bit crazy, I can trust him enough to know he’s not going to do anything to endanger himself.
AC: That’s really interesting. So it would kind of be like scolding a magician over the dangers of sawing a woman in half?
CH: Yeah. It’s like, you know when you’re in elementary school and you find the one kid who can bend his arm backwards or he can bend his hand completely backwards. And it’s like, “Oh my God.” But some people are just built a little bit different. Some people can land on their heads a little bit more. Some people can flip and land on the floor and have it not harm them. I mean you look at guys like Jack Evans or El Generico. To see the way that they get bent up, and spin around and spike, you’d think that they’d be at Dynamite Kid levels of disability. But the fact is that they’re still doing very well and are both in good shape. I mean, who’s to say what kind of shape they’ll be in in a couple of years, but as of right now it hasn’t caused any harm to them.