Talking With Frankie Kazarian About Ring Of Honor's War Of The Worlds PPV, Pro Wrestling, Comics, And Heavy Metal
Tonight at 9PM EDT, Ring of Honor will hold its annual War of the Worlds PPV event in New York City at the Hammerstein Ballroom. On the card, in addition to a three way match for the ROH Championship between Christopher Daniels, Cody Rhodes, and Jay Lethal, a TV Title match between Marty Scurll and Matt Sydal, and seven other scheduled matchups, fans will be treated to an old fashioned grudge match between "The Heavy Metal Rebel" Frankie Kazarian and Bullet Club's Hangman Page. Kazarian played the Bullet Club to help longtime friend Christopher Daniels win the ROH Championship at ROH 15th Anniversary, and Page later interfered in Kazarian's shot at the TV title against Marty Scurll. But before these two settle things in the ring, we spoke with Frankie Kazarian about the tonights event at the legendary New York venue.
"Hammerstein's one of those buildings that I think if you're a professional wrestler should be on your bucket list," Kazarian told us. "It's a different vibe. Very very cool. The New York crowd is always very rowdy, very loud, very rowdy. The atmosphere inside the building is really cool and unique. I can imagine doing anything in there, whether you're playing a concert a rock show or any type of event in that building is just different. This kind of stands out. Wrestling, there's a rich history of wrestling in that building. To continue that with Ring of Honor returning there."
The 12,000 square foot Manhattan ballroom with its iconic balconies has played host to Ring of Honor events before, but its history in pro wrestling also stretches back to events like ECW's final PPV before going bankrupt in 2001, Guilty as Charged, as well as both of WWE's ECW revival One Night Stand PPVs.
"It's its own unique beast, it's its own entity, much like the way ECW arena is," Kazarian explained. "The buildings are similar in that they house and have housed some incredible pro wrestling shows. They stand out for different reasons. It's definitely up there. Same with Korakuen Hall in Tokyo Japan. Another small intimate venue, but with its own very unique and very cool vibe. It's definitely up there. I think it's definitely on one of those top 10 venues that you want to wrestle at. You include Chicago and Madison Square Garden and various places like that."
And tonight, it will play host the battle between Kazarian and Hangman Page. "There's no better place to get in a fight than in New York city in my opinion and that's exactly what this is going to be a fight. It's going to be something different from everything else on the card. It's a fitting place to blow this thing off between Adam and I in the Hammerstein ballroom."
Asked how he prepares for a fight like this, Kazarian told us, "You kind of throw tradition out the window. I'm not looking to do any top wrist locks, or go behinds, or headlock takeovers. It's going to be a fight. It's going to be a lot of punching, kicking, scratching, biting, clawing. I don't know if the ring will be able to contain both of us, so you kind of have to unlearn what you know and throw traditional professional wrestling stuff out the rule book. Prepare to get your ass kicked and to kick someone's ass. It's a different mindset to put yourself in, but what that I've taken before many times as a matter of fact. You just leave it all there."
"I mean I leave it all out there every time I go out there," he assured us, "but this is a different type of physicality this time."
With his friend Christopher Daniels fighting in the main event, we asked Kazarian to recall the night he ripped off his Bullet Club shirt to reveal one that said "Destiny," signaling that joining the Bullet Club was a trick to help even the odds when Daniels faced Bullet Club's Adam Cole for the belt back in March.
"It was great. I was happy to be a small part of that," Kararian said. "Knowing Chris professionally personally the better part of my career, I was incredibly happy because I know how much he sacrificed and how much effort he's put in to being a pro wrestler and to being a top guy in Ring of Honor."
"I vicariously won the bet with him because I was so much involved in everything leading up to it," he continued. "Anytime one of your best friends achieves something, which you have been working for, for a number of years, you're going to be thrilled for him. I'm incredibly happy for what he's achieved and for what he's done so far always being a champion."
Kazarian and Daniels' friendship extends outside the realm of wrestling alliances and tag teams, even into the world of comic books, teaming up with well known comic book creators Art Baltazar and Franco to produce a series of comics starring Daniels and Kazarian in the world of Baltazar and Franco's Aw Yeah Comics.
"We teamed up with Art Baltazar and Franco of Aw Yeah Comics, on top of being two incredibly talented artists and authors, are buddies of ours. We just popped the idea into their head about doing a comic book about us and they loved it. We released the first one, [Christopher Daniels and Kazarian Wrestle Aw Yeah Comics!], in Spring of 2014, and just released the follow-up to that, [Aw Yeah Comics! Team-Up], a few months ago and people fortunate enough to go to Ring of Honor live events can pick one up and get it signed by both Chris and myself."
"He's a humongous comic book fan," Kazarian said of Daniels. "Very big Marvel guy. I enjoy comics myself. Chris is a walking talking encyclopedia about all things comics. He's taken it to another level by actually writing these two books and people's response has been great."
Karian told us that he enjoys Marvel's current Star Wars comics, and has kept up with The Walking Dead "since day one." Christopher Daniels has kept him up to date with KISS comics. "Growing up," he says, "I was huge into Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, and Batman. Those were the three big ones that I tried to follow as closely as I could."
This brought us to the most important part of any pro wrestling interview: the part where we ask which comic book character Kazarian would most like to portray in a movie or television show.
"Wow, that's a tough one. All the cool ones are taken," he replied. "The Deadpools and the Wolverines and all those have been taken already. I suppose… I don't know if I can pull of a Bruce Banner. I know I have an Incredible Hulk side to my personality, so maybe if I could channel that into playing the Dr. Jekyll to his Mr. Hyde, because I wouldn't really have to worry about playing the Incredible Hulk in the CGI, I could play the mild mannered Bruce Banner and I think I would like that. He's kind of the anti-superhero. He's completely somebody else when he's in superhero mode, where he's not just a guy who puts on a costume. There's a complete metamorphosis, so I think it would be interesting to take on that role."
And speaking of things that bring the clicks to entertainment websites, we also asked Kazarian his thoughts on Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan, who recently purchased the rights to old school wrestling organization the NWA. Kazarian left TNA Wrestling in 2014, before Corgan's creative and financial run with the company, and failed takeover. We asked his thoughts on these recent events.
"I've kept up through hearing about what's going on obviously," he said. "I left in June of 2014, and I hadn't watched TNA since November of 2013 if that gives you any idea, and it's not a slight to TNA. I very rarely watch wrestling in general, but I wasn't really keeping up when I was there. I obviously have heard what's going on, the trials and tribulations over the last couple of years. I know Billy and I know he's very passionate about pro wrestling and I think he had good intentions."
"It's unfortunate the way things turned out," he continues." I don't know the whole story, just what I've heard from what I've read, but it looks like he was let down in what he had intended to do with TNA going forward. Now that they're taking new management out again, let's just hope that they can turn things around and right the ship and put on a professional wrestling show. That's what everybody wants. Billy has already landed on his feet. Lets just get everything moving forward again that's my take on it."
"I don't know if he has a business model in plan for reinvigorating the NWA and what it means and getting that brand, that's actually the forefront. And like I said he's very very passionate about pro wresting and if that's something he's going to put his creativity and his mind and his heart and soul into I'm all for it. We have a lot of very good options in terms of pro wrestling right now. If he could produce another viable option for people to watch, and especially traditionalists that were fans of the NWA of yesteryear, I'm all for it."
Switching gears to talk about his short 2005 run with WWE, Kazarian told us, "I don't regret anything. I was there, I was employed for close to a year. I have no regrets, life's too short. It didn't work out for various reasons and I'm responsible for 99.9 of those reasons. I just wasn't ready personally and professionally to be there. I wasn't ready to treat the industry like a business. It was still my fun pro wrestling that I like to do and I could do my way. I'm very thick headed and very rebellious, and things weren't going my way and I decided that it wasn't the place for me. Not any fault of theirs. They're obviously the biggest dog in the yard and they always have been and always will be and are going to continue producing wrestling and doing a great job at it. I regret nothing.
We asked if he could see himself making another run with the company in the future.
"Well, if I could see anything into the future I wouldn't be taking bumps that's for damn sure," he joked. "I'd be telling people lottery numbers."
"It's pro wrestling and it's literally an impossible question to answer," he continued, getting serious. "I've done a lot of things with New Japan already and welcome going back there. As far as WWE, to hit an old cliché line, it's never say never. You never know. I'm not certain. I'm very very happy with Ring of Honor. Contractually I'm with Ring of Honor for the foreseeable future. Pro wrestling is a different beast and things can completely flip upside down in the blink of an eye, so I guess that's all you have to be determined with what happens going forward."
Though Kazarian's career shows no signs of slowing down in the ring, he could always fall back on a second job as a heavy metal musician.
"I have a band, VexTëmper, and there's a new album out. We released it a little less than a month ago. It's called Doom Engine. It's available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, all the digital outlets, as well as in physical format on our website vextemper.com. I'm really trying to spend all my energy away from wrestling on promoting that brand, booking gigs, and getting our music out to as many people as I possibly can — as we possibly can."
"I've always loved music," Kazarian said, delving into his past. "I grew up in a very eclectic, rich musical family. hearing a bunch of different styles of music. I gravitated towards the bass guitar. Luckily enough for me, my grandfather was a musician, gave me my first bass guitar when I was 18, and I taught myself how to play it. I've been playing it ever since. Shortly after I got my guitar and started playing. I also began training for pro wrestling and wrestling took precedence, because that was the career. That was the goal. I got very busy doing that, all the while still playing my bass guitar."
"It was only about four or five years ago when I moved back to California and reconnected with some old friends who also played and were fabulous musicians and we started basically something to do to jam," he continued. "We started writing a few original songs, and, all of a sudden, we thought we had something decent, so we decided to take it to the next level and that level was actually writing and recording the album. We recorded it last winter and had it mixed and mastered, did all the work, and released it this spring, and I've been playing gigs and having as much fun as we can with it. It's great. It's something I enjoy as much as I do professional wrestling."
VexTëmper plays heavy metal, if you couldn't tell by the name and the album title. Specifically, they play a genre called "Desert Metal," which Kazarian has described as the "vibe of the desert, the mystique, the magic and the serenity." When asked what drew him to heavy metal, Kazarian calls back to what made his 2005 WWE run so short.
"Going back to what I said earlier about being hard headed and rebellious, rock and roll and heavy metal is just rebellious by nature," he said. "It's a big middle finger to society sometimes. A big FU to the man and that's how I've always related to that. I always tend to follow the outlaw side of things. I'm very very fascinated by that style of things and rock and roll since its inception has been a 'fuck the system' type of attitude. I love the musicianship of a lot of heavy metal. I don't think heavy metal gets the credit that it should in terms of how the music is composed and the musicality and the technical aspect of the actual playing of some of the songs. I just really really appreciate live music and music that's not manufactured by robots and machines and somebody on their laptop that can auto tune, just create a plastic sounding song. I like organic music that is written and performed by human beings in the same room, jamming and having fun and letting loose."
Unfortunately, touring is difficult with the band members various careers and other duties.
"In addition to myself all the other guys have responsibilities such as jobs, careers, family, etc etc, so we are trying to book as many gigs as we can in Southern California and surrounding areas where we're based," Kazarian explains. "Obviously what I do happens on the weekends, which is often when gigs are booked. I've had to turn down numerous opportunities because of that, but when we all can, we would like to play as many shows as we can. We definitely entertain the idea of a tour if it fit in everyone's lives. That's just something again as the band hopefully continues to grow, that's hopefully an option that we're presented with."
But first, he'll need to get through Hangman Page tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Did he have any final words for his opponent?
"Anything I need to say to him, I'll just say it that night," he promised. "Verbally or physically. I'm not big into threats. I would rather just settle it like men, the way debates are supposed to be settled between two men. Go in there and fight it out. Punch him in the mouth, let me punch you in the mouth and then let's entertain a few folks while we're doing it. It's going to be an already stacked and amazing Pay-Per-View as Ring of Honor always puts forth."
"What sets Ring of Honor apart right now is the same thing that set Ring of Honor apart in 2002 and that's the end ring product," he concluded, letting Bleeding Cool's readers know why they should tune into the PPV tonight. "Unrivaled, unmatched, and unequaled. It's the reason the fans have continued to come back and have given us so much of their loyalty. Ring of Honor always puts the emphasis on what happens in the confines of this one circle. Fans, I think, respect and appreciate that, and nowhere on Earth will you see a better roster, and nowhere on Earth will you see better matches and better wrestling than in Ring of Honor, on a Ring of Honor Pay-Per-View, or Ring of Honor Live event. I defy anybody to say anything differently."
You can watch Ring of Honor: War of the Worlds on the Fite TV app, by ordering it on PPV from your cable provider, or on the Ring of Honor website., and check out VexTëmper's album Doom Engine on your favorite digital music store, Amazon, or at vextemper.com.
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