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Q&A with Ring of Honor's Frankie Kazarian

Frankie Kazarian will participate in Ring of Honor's Tag Wars 14 at William J. Myers Pavilion on Saturday.
Frankie Kazarian will participate in Ring of Honor's Tag Wars 14 at William J. Myers Pavilion on Saturday. (Handout photo courtesy of Ring of Honor)

Frankie Kazarian spent more than a decade in total with TNA before being let go last spring, and he was a multiple tag team and X-division champion. He quickly found a home in Ring of Honor with his tag team partner, Christopher Daniels.

Kazarian and Daniels will take part in ROH's Tag Wars event in Baltimore on Saturday, and Kazarian spent some time talking to me about his transition from TNA to ROH, his view on tag team wrestling, and what makes ROH such a special company.

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Several months ago, you left TNA and almost immediately found a new home in Ring of Honor. After spending the better part of a decade in TNA, what's the transition been like for you?

It's been really, really good. I was in TNA for a long time and made a lot of great memories there. I had a lot of great matches and made a lot of friends. Sometimes, things just have a tendency to get stale, though. For me, professionally, I think it worked out that it was a good time for me to leave. Coming into Ring of Honor, with a roster full of hungry, young, very, very talented guys, was the perfect place for me to prove that I still belong in that category of one of the best wrestlers out there, and to prove that me and Christopher Daniels are one of the best tag teams. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a really cool ride the last six months or so.

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This is the first time you've been on the Ring of Honor roster, though of course you've wrestled many of the people on the roster over the years. How is it different from some of the other places you've wrestled for in the past?

I think there's a standard at Ring of Honor, that people expect really exciting, entertaining wrestling matches, more so than they do anywhere else. I think Ring of Honor has created that expectation. Ever since they started as a company, they've always delivered on shows, and then delivered even more in the next show. So I think there's always that expectation of an outstanding wrestling match, and an outstanding wrestling show, top to bottom. That's the precedent that Ring of Honor has set, and that's the expectation for every show that continues today. There's always a thought of "Can you top this?" both from the wrestlers and the shows as a whole.

When your time at TNA was over, you pretty much jumped straight to Ring of Honor. Was that your primary target, or did you consider going elsewhere, such as New Japan, before deciding to go there?

Well, I knew Ring of Honor was interested in both of us [him and Christopher Daniels], as an act. I was very interested in going to Ring of Honor, based on their reputation and knowing how good of a company they were. Obviously, New Japan is something that is a goal of mine. It's something that I'm still looking into, and I'd still like to pursue. But at the same time, I wanted to jump right into Ring of Honor and be a regular wrestler there, not just a guy who lives off of his reputation and what he's done in the past. I want to be a working member of the roster, a member of the team, and I think that's what I am. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me to go straight there after leaving TNA.

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You mentioned the act. How did Bad Influence (now known as The Addiction in ROH) come together in TNA, and what do you think made you guys connect with each other and the fans so quickly?

It started basically because Fortune [a TNA stable] had just broken up, and Chris wasn't really doing much on his own, I wasn't doing much on my own, and the tag division was lacking at that time. Chris Sabin was hurt, Alex Shelley was hurt, and Beer Money had just broken up. We saw a lack of tag teams there, so we pitched the idea to throw us together, and they gave it a shot. We knew it would work based on our chemistry in the ring as opponents, but more so based on our chemistry as friends. I've known the guy for close to 17 years, and we're best friends. We knew that it would work, we think alike both in and out of the ring. We knew that if they just gave us the opportunity, we'd take the ball and score a touchdown, and I think we did that.

What do you think connected with the fans so quickly? It seemed like as soon as you guys appeared together, you were instantly over with the crowd, not just at TNA shows, but all over the country.

I think people respected the fact that we were both TNA originals. They respected our wrestling ability, and once we were put together, both of our personalities were able to come out more. They were truer versions of our personalities. The things we could do, whether they were in vignettes or in-ring promos, people were really entertained by it. It made the act a commodity, and made people want to see us together. Both of us, upon leaving TNA, people wanted to see the act together specifically. Yeah, the two of us both do shows separately sometimes, but the attraction is the act, they wanted to see Bad Influence together. They want to see us, because they respect what we do in the ring and they respect our charisma and our nonsense and tomfoolery that we do. They let us know that the past six months especially.

In addition to having this tag team run, and tag team runs with other partners, both of you have had successful singles careers. What's it like to be a tag team competitor vs. a singles competitor?

I like tag team wrestling, because I think it's a lost art. I don't think it's presented like it should be these days in mainstream wrestling. That's another thing that's so great about Ring of Honor, that they have the best tag division in wrestling, bar none. It's a whole different style of match, a tag match as opposed to a singles match. There's always going to be more action because there's four guys as opposed to two. It's a completely different dynamic that the wrestling world, outside of Ring of Honor, isn't really capitalizing on. I'll throw New Japan in there as they also have amazing tag teams, though. It's such a unique and cool type of match that I think the fans really like. Singles wrestling is just that: you and another guy, mano a mano. You can only see so many singles matches before you want to mix it up with a tag team match. I don't mind singles matches -- of course I like them -- but I've been really focused on the tag team for a few years now, and I am going forward, and that's where my mind's at.

You mentioned that you don't think that tag team wrestling is portrayed as it should be. Why do you think that is?

I just don't think that there's the tag teams to do it. Nowadays, it just seems like guys are thrown together and are given the tag titles, instead of having legitimate tag teams going strong for years and years. I go back to the days of the British Bulldogs, and the Hart Foundation, and the Killer Bees, the Midnight Express, the Rock and Roll Express, the Rockers, and Demolition. Those guys were tag team wrestlers. Yeah, occasionally they'd wrestle singles matches, but they were tag team wrestlers. I don't think there's a focus to create tag teams or build legitimate teams, as opposed to just throwing guys together. You'll see it here and there in mainstream wrestling. Of course, you have The Usos, who are twin brothers and have been together since birth. And that's cool. But I miss the days of the actual tag teams, where guys would team together for 5, 10, 15 years. Sometimes they would spend their entire careers together. I don't know whether it's wrestling fans' attention spans or the wrestling promoters' attention spans anymore that they can't stick to something long enough, but I think the lack of actual tag teams being together long enough is why the scene is like this. I go back again to the fact that you have Chris and myself, you have the Briscoes, you have the Young Bucks, you have reDRagon, established tag teams that people now know what people do in the ring. They're behind them.

While there do seem to be few career tag teams at that level, there does seem to be a slight surge in them, with teams like you guys and the Young Bucks staying together through several televised companies, and The Wolves even getting a tryout as a team for WWE before winding up in TNA. Do you think that there could be a rise in tag team wrestling on its way?

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I hope so. I think that the indies are a different beast. Teams like us or the Young Bucks can go to an independent show and be the main event because people know the acts. Ring of Honor never really lost focus on tag team wrestling. But it all begins and ends with the WWE, since they're the big dog. I think if they were to follow suit and really revitalize the tag team division, then I think everyone else would. But it's good to see these established teams staying together for so long. You talk about the Wolves, and ourselves and the Bucks and guys like that, it's good to see that. And maybe that will be the spark that's needed to reignite tag team wrestling overall. I hope so, as a fan, but wrestling has changed a lot. It's 2014, and I don't know if what I want to see is the same as what the younger fans want to see, but I hope so.

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Speaking of WWE, a lot of fans don't remember, or don't know, that you spent time in WWE in 2005. What was that like for you, and why did you ask for your release at the time?

It was cool. WWE is, for the most part, people's dream when they get into this business, and it was mine. When I got there, I realized that, I think professionally, I wasn't mature enough to be there at the time. It was the first time that I really saw wrestling as a business as opposed to something I just loved to do, and that really depressed me. That's no fault of WWE's, that falls on my shoulders for not really being mature enough as a man and a wrestler to 100 percent commit myself to being there. So I just thought that it wasn't for me. It wasn't wrestling the way I knew it. It's not a knock on WWE, because obviously they're doing something right, they've been around a long time, and they'll probably be around forever. I just wasn't ready as a wrestler, or as a person, to be there. So I thought I should just go back to being a wrestler, as opposed to being a sports-entertainer. I don't regret being there at all. I learned a lot being there. I'm thankful I got the opportunity, and I have a lot of friends up there still. It's just, at the time, I was not ready to be there. It's as plain and simple as that.

So far, has the jump over to ROH been what you expected?

I followed the Ring of Honor product from afar for a long time. I wasn't as familiar before I started as I am now, but I knew it was an in-your-face, hard-hitting, very athletic style. It was top-to-bottom athletic matches. I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I was thrilled because professionally, I was starting to feel a little bit stale. I had felt that Chris and I had been severely underutilized in that last year at TNA, and I felt that we were not used at all to our potential. I think the fans felt the same way, too, and I've had hundreds tell me that since then. I felt really revitalized walking into the Ring of Honor locker room and being able to work with guys that I haven't had been able to yet, and wrestle some incredibly amazing matches with some incredibly talented guys.

Right now, it seems like a lot of former ROH wrestlers are finding their way back to the company. Of course there's your partner Christopher Daniels, and AJ Styles, and on this weekend's card, there's Brian Kendrick and Matt Sydal [WWE's Evan Bourne]. What do you think is drawing these wrestlers back to ROH, and what does their return do for the company?

Obviously, it's good for the company because wrestling fans, by and large, are very loyal. Ring of Honor fans exceed even what you see from most fans. They know that guys like Matt Sydal and Brian Kendrick and Chris Daniels really cut their teeth in Ring of Honor. So to see them return, it's like when a character goes away in a sitcom and then comes back, you know these characters, and you know their journey, and you know where they've been. It's good to see them back. All those guys mentioned before, they're great wrestlers. That's what it all comes back to. Ring of Honor presents great wrestling with great wrestlers. And wrestlers recognize that, too. That's why guys like AJ Styles returns to ROH, and Christopher Daniels and myself go there, Matt Sydal returns and Brian Kendrick. There's no BS, no politics, it's just great wrestling, with a great locker room. That's very appealing to pro wrestlers, in a day and age where politics still run stupidly rampant in pro wrestling.

Ring of Honor, when you look at where it stands in the landscape of professional wrestling, has been in a little bit of a holding pattern ever since their deal with Sinclair Broadcasting. What do you think they need to do to take the next step as a company?

Obviously, a primetime television slot on a national cable network would be ideal, but that's not how they're choosing to do business right now. But really it's just about getting more eyes on the product. A lot of people know about Ring of Honor, and those who know about it, know that it's the best wrestling in the world. Getting new eyes on the product, by possibly getting that national primetime slot, might be the way to move forward. I don't necessarily know, and I don't know if that's their business plan. I'm one of those guys that prides myself on just being a wrestler. But just getting more people to see it, and get familiar with the characters, and get to know what Ring of Honor is. If given a chance in front of new eyes, Ring of Honor could be a true alternative to what's on television right now. It really does present more of a pure wrestling than what is out there. If that's in the cards, that would be awesome, if not, so be it. But that's just one man's opinion.

Let's talk about Saturday. It's a set of television tapings that are revolved around Ring of Honor's Tag Wars concept. You will be part of it, along with a number of great teams. What would winning Tag Wars, and thus winning the ROH tag titles, mean to you?

It would mean everything. We set out on a mission, and it would mean we accomplished it. We didn't just come to be ambassadors to Ring of Honor wrestling, or just to have a short run. We came to compete at the highest level, and to be champions. Winning that would sum up why we're here. Wearing those titles would make us very proud, because those tag team titles actually mean something. They actually mean something in this business. Those belts are elite belts, held by elite wrestlers, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly. To win those belts, you have to go into war, literally, which is why it's titled Tag Wars. For us, it would be a culmination of why we came here, and what we're all about, and why we claim to be the best tag teams in the bus-i-ness. Regardless, it's going to be a tremendous show, because you have the best tag teams in the world all on one night. If you're a fan of wrestling, and tag wrestling in particular, you cannot miss this.

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Have you had a chance to wrestle in Baltimore much before?

I have, for several different companies. I have for TNA, several house shows and live events. I remember even doing a WWE live event there. I know the fanbase is rabid, and is one of Ring of Honor's best, most loyal fanbases there. They're very passionate about pro wrestling. I know that from doing indies and years back, that it's a hotbed, and they love their wrestling there. What better place to have Tag Wars?

So, one final question, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?

The main focus for us is those tag team belts. Going forward you can expect us to continue to compete for Ring of Honor, to continue to put on amazing matches, and we'll be everywhere. We're going to be all over the country, and all over the world. We have a lot of stuff, not all wrestling-based, which I can't really elaborate on right now, but we have some irons in the fire for next year. But Ring of Honor is our main focus and our priority. We're both thrilled to be going forward with them and hope to draw as much attention as we can to the product. We know some fans who weren't familiar with the product before, but were fans of ours, have jumped over and started following the product, which is really cool. I'm humbled that we've been able to do that. Going forward, you can look for us to continue be the cornerstones of the company, and continue to be soldiers moving forward.

You can see Frankie Kazarian, along with his partner Christopher Daniels and the rest of the ROH roster at Tag Wars 14 at the William J. Myers Pavilion on Saturday. You can find more info at rohwrestling.com. Any thoughts or questions? You can leave them in the comment section, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster.

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