Sami Callihan is one of the biggest names in IMPACT Wrestling, and on the independent circuit today. Controversial yet always captivating, Sami has been making plenty of headlines throughout this year, and I was lucky enough to phone him up, and talk with him all about pro wrestling.
Between working for IMPACT, running your own promotion Pro Wrestling Revolver, and working for various other companies around the world too, do you think it’s fair to say you’re one of the hardest working people in independent wrestling?
100%. That’s not me boasting, that’s not me trying to put myself over, that’s just the facts. Me, Dave and Jake have always said we’re the most versatile wrestlers on the planet, not just because of our in-ring wrestling style, we can do any style there is, but also because we can do any job behind the scenes we need to do – we can do video editing, we can do production, we can do building, we can do ring maintenance, we can do promoting, we can do pretty much anything to run a wrestling company or have a very good job in the wrestling business.
I believe one of the main reason you decided to go to IMPACT was because they were willing to put oVe on television and had confidence in what you all had to offer. How’s it been having two of your closest friends alongside you to explore this creative freedom?
It’s been some of the best times in my career so far, it’s been one of the funnest times of my career so far. The main reason I just signed a big contract extension with IMPACT that will put me there for the next few years is because we’re gonna be on television together, and any company that’s actually given us the ball, whether that be on the indies or on television, like, the money is in all of us together. We’re all good on our own, but together we make something you can’t replicate, you can’t duplicate. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing.
It’s no secret you’re a fan of the Nintendo 64, so let’s settle this once and for all – the WWF games, the WCW games, and the Virtual Pro Wrestling Games, which game is the best, and who is your go-to wrestler to play as in each of those series?
See, that’s a hard one because I love them all for different reasons. I love Revenge a lot because of the Quick Play match, I love the Quick Play dynamic, but No Mercy is by far the best character wise and the best look wise, but Virtual Pro has the best gameplay, with the Fighting Spirit reversals and everything else. I have to say if I’m going to play one 9/10 times it’s No Mercy. No Mercy is my number one with the other two not far behind.
My go-to people: when I’m playing Revenge, automatically Psychosis every time, devastating top rope guillotine leg drop. No Mercy, gonna be Essa Rios, he’s quick, he’s powerful, awesome moveset, very hard to beat, very deceptive. Everyone always wants to pick Stone Cold or The Rock, nah, pick Essa Rios and he’ll do you good. Virtual Pro 2, probably one of the MMA fighters because I like the MMA fighting aspect of that game, but if I’m going with one of the wrestlers, I’ll probably go with big bad Stan Hansen, throwing lariats and knocking people out for days.
If oVe had their own video game, what genre would it be?
Horror Survival, Resident Evil style. Imagine being locked in a house with all three of us and you have to survive the night. That’s a game, we should do that right now. Someone start developing this.
So rather than being the heroes, you would be the villains of the game?
100%, the villains are the best. I love the new Friday the 13th game that came out a couple of years ago. Imagine that kind of gameplay but with all the members of oVe hanging out in trees like Ohio redneck white trash people we are.
What other video games do you play these days?
Right now, I’ve been playing a lot of Fortnite, not gonna lie. I still play every WWE game that comes avidly, have since I was younger. I’ve actually got a league with some other wrestlers around the world, we all play together. I play a lot of Madden and just about to get into Red Dead. I’m actually going to open up a Twitch stream soon and start going down that avenue. I play a lot of video games, other than wrestling that’s probably the biggest thing I do.
[The current WWE games] Are the best right now because you can download anyone from wrestling history and create your own roster to play with. It’s pretty much like every simulator game we did for No Mercy back in the day. And I did mocap for it last year which was an awesome experience. There’s a lot that goes into that game and they’re working hard to make it better and better.
Aside from the N64 games, are there any other past wrestling games that stand out for you?
I play a lot of Fire Pro as well. Fire Pro Returns on Playstation 2 was where it was at for a while. Me and Swann had memory cards for days full of characters we’d made or downloaded through emulators. But right now, the WWE game is pretty fire. They’re fixing a lot of the bugs from previous years, and they’re actually listening to their fanbase and putting things into effect and implicating things people have asked for.
I’m gonna start really politicing and pushing for another IMPACT game. The first one could have been so cool, but the gameplay was just so crap. Imagine if they got a good game developer to make a new IMPACT game now, there just needs to be another wrestling video game out there.
We’ll get back to wrestling now. Somebody you’ve had some great matches with this year is Jimmy Havoc. You’ve had some really creative and brutally violent brawls with him, one of which I was lucky enough to witness in person. It felt like you both had a lot of chemistry together – how was it working with Jimmy and would you like to do anything else with him in the future?
I’ve known Jimmy for 10+ years now. He’s a guy along with me, Zack Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll, WALTER, that group of guys that grew up in our early years of wrestling in Germany and England together. I love the dude. Me and him are like two peas in a pod, we see eye to eye on a lot of things and we butt heads on a lot of things. Either way, we’re gonna cause violence on somebody or each other, and usually it makes for very good television to watch.
Another wrestler you’ve had great matches against is Pentagon Jr. Is it fair to say your incredible match against him at Slammiversary is one of the best matches in IMPACT history as well as being a career highlight for you?
100%, and that’s something me and him have been doing all over the world for the past three years. Since I came back to the indies, we’ve kinda been married to each other. We’re ying to each other’s yang, peanut butter to each other’s jelly. Two complete different people who are completely the same and have the same mindset and goals in professional wrestling. It’s a rivalry that’s always going to go down because we’re always going to try and see who’s the better person. Neither of us will ever accept one is better than the other.
This year alone you’ve brought some really violent and interesting content to IMPACT television, such as the fight in the woods with Eddie Edwards and the Mexican Death Match you had with Pentagon Jr. In an ideal world, if you were to bring in any active wrestler to have either a hardcore or a cinematic on-location style match in IMPACT, who would it be?
Chris Jericho. I’ve been calling him out for months, it’s something that needs to happen. It’s something I want to happen, something fans want to happen. I think any business between me and Chris Jericho would really spike IMPACT’s ratings and launch them to the next plateau of professional wrestling.
Would you have a preferred match type with him?
Any match or any piece of business I could have with Jericho. He’s a guy I’ve modelled my style after, and a guy I’ve watched since my adolescence, and now I get to be peers with this guy, that’s something I absolutely want and need in my career.
As a promoter, you must over-see and have your eye on a lot of up-and-coming talent. Who are some of the people you think in a few years time are going to be really big deals?
Well, they all got signed to IMPACT together, and that’s The Rascalz. Those are guys of me, Dave and Jake’s, those are pretty much our kids. I know I’m being bias putting those guys over and saying they’re gonna be the ones to blow up but… they’re gonna blow up. Look at the response for their debut IMPACT video got online. Desmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel are guys you’ll be seeing for the next 20 years, they’ll all be on top in the next 1, 2, 3 years.
Trey may not be as well known as the other two, but Trey can definitely go. He’s just as good as the other two. They are three of the same people locked in different bodies, and any time they’re together, they’re their most comfortable, and they’re doing things people could have never imagined. They all bring their own different aspects to their group just like me, Dave and Jake, and that’s what’s going to make their group special.
What do you hate more – being told to stop kissing other wrestlers or being told to stop throwing chairs?
I think both. Don’t tell me what to do. I do what I do for a reason, and it garners a reaction. It plants my character in people’s minds. People are always going to remember me, they might not think I’m the best or the worst, but they’re always going to remember me at the end of any show I participate on.
2018 has been a very memorable year for you. Starting the baseball bat incident in January right up until now, of the matches and moments you’ve had this year, is there anything that stands out the most and can you give us a taste of anything to come in 2019?
Me, Dave and Jake, along with like-minded individuals and people working for the same goal, I think this year we’ve saved IMPACT wrestling, and I’m not afraid to say I’ve been a big part of that. That’s why I call myself The Draw. We’ve been these people and our group of guys have delivered every single pay-per-view, every set of television tapings, and we’ve got the bad taste of IMPACT Wrestling out of people’s mouths. Looking forward to 2019, it’s only going to get bigger.
People need to realise, things don’t just change overnight. IMPACT Wrestling wasn’t going to change overnight. There’s gonna have to be changes implimented that have to take time and effort, and they’re starting to pay off finally after a year. Now the next step is getting more exposure, possibly a different television deal. Like a lot of different things are on the table, but it took a long time to get rid of that reputation that TNA Wrestling had. And that’s why they renamed it IMPACT Wrestling, it still has the history of TNA, that’s the good and the bad history, but now it’s got a different story and a different chapter they can tell, and people can truly get behind. The fans are actually getting behind IMPACT Wrestling in 2018, and whoever thought we’d hear that.
If oVe took over IMPACT for one week and could make one big change, what would it be?
I would say we need to put more emphasis on people’s entrances. We need to up the production on that because that’s what makes people connect with the audience. Shinsuke Nakamura is a great wrestler, but Shinsuke Nakamura wouldn’t be nearly who he is without his entrance and his theme music. Same with Stone Cold, Triple H, all these wrestlers you go back and look at their greatness.
PEven in IMPACT Wrestling history, Kurt Angle, when he came in, if he just walked out to some music, he wouldn’t have been nearly as over as he was coming out to a parody of a Vision Quest soundtrack song, coming up through the stage. Same thing with Abyss, when you heard his music you knew it was him coming out, and that’s why with oVe, we went to bat for ourselves and had our theme music created by one of our friends because we had a vision for what our theme music is, and now it’s one of the most over theme musics in all of IMPACT Wrestling.
Final question, what’s the biggest reason why you love pro wrestling?
It’s everything. It’s melodrama, it’s action, it’s people succeeding, it’s every aspect of life wrapped in a bow and presented to you in a different avenue, a different universe, a different mindset. It allows you to sit back and watch life transpere before your eyes, and watch people change and people grow. See people get better, see people get worse, see people get old, see people break out, see people have some of the best moments of their lives.
It’s the only television show of its kind that is always going to exist. You can say different sports are huge in certain countries, but so is professional wrestling. You look at the poorest countries in the world that are fighting just for food, they almost all have professional wrestling because it’s an easy form of entertainment.
At the end of the interview, Sami revealed to me that oVe vs. Decay (Abyss, Rosemary and Crazzy Steve) is currently on the cards for Pancakes and Piledriver 3 during WrestleMania weekend! Buy tickets for that here!
Follow Sami on Twitter – @TheSamiCallihan
Portrait photos courtesy of Beyond Gorilla, and in-ring photo courtesy of Ringside Perspective
Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling