Ring of Honors Chris Sabin has had a career that has spanned nearly two decades. As a former X-division champion, tag team champion and heavyweight champion in Impact Wrestling he has run the gauntlet of wrestling achievements. However, since his transition to Ring of Honor, Sabin has reunited his old tag team with Alex Shelley, the Motor City Machine Guns. But certainly isn’t one to rest on his laurels.
During our discussion, Sabin shared how committed he is to his craft, and how, after competing for as long as he has, injury has slowed him down a bit. It hasn’t stopped him, however. Sabin continues to push the boundaries, demonstrating athleticism against everyone and anyone in North America and the world. He is a part of New Japan Pro Wrestling Best of the Super Juniors tournament, has big plans for the tournament and is excited for what it could mean for him. Along with his passion for professional wrestling, Sabin shares his love of music and video games as well. His future is as bright as it ever was, as he is surrounded by family, friends and still has his desire to succeed driving him forward.
Fans can communicate with Ring of Honors Chris Sabin on social media such as Twitter, where he can be reached at @Sabintron2020
For your early training, Scott D’Amore is credited with training you as part of Border City Wrestling. What can you say from that learning experience that you carry with you today?
I wouldn’t be where I am in wrestling today if it wasn’t for Scott. Scott helped me out so much in the early parts in my career. I met Jeff Jarrett through Scott D’Amore. I met Simon Diamond, who got me into the Super 8 tournament back in 2003. Basically, Scott really helped me out with connections and getting my name out there. I give Scott a lot of credit for that.
The school I first started off at back in Michigan was the NWA Great Lakes pro wrestling school, which ended up shutting down after a few months. That is when my buddy Amazing Nate took me over to Scott D’Amore’s school and introduced me to him. I then started to go there every week. I basically finished my training there. I learned not just the fundamentals of headlocks and locking up and taking bumps, I learned more about how to work.
For a number of Ring of Honor talent that return to the company, it is much like coming home again. How would you compare your first period of time with the company to your second?
Well I was never really with the company consistently, I did one off shots here and there starting in 2003. I was never really an actual Ring of Honor guy until I signed with them in 2016. I have been in there between 2003 and 2004 and 2008, 2010, so I have been able to be somewhat of a witness to the growing of the company throughout the years. Each time I showed up, the company was growing and growing, and to see where they are today compared to where they were when I started back in 2003, it has just been some amazing growth.
I think that one of the things that makes Ring of Honor unique is that the talent has always been extremely hungry and always had this drive to prove themselves. It is a very competitive locker room, let’s just say that, for sure I will definitely say that. I feel that it has always been. If you look at the talent that has come through Ring of Honor over the years, you obviously have to be at the top of your game, you can’t just be an average talent guy. You have to be extremely good at what you do and extremely talented in pro wrestling to be able to have a spot in Ring of Honor, and it has always been like that.
You’re a former X Division champion, and the title has seen a resurgence in Impact Wrestling. Describe how it felt during its inception, and as part of the collection of talent that was there. What would you say has changed from the level of competition then to now?
For me, I was still young, I was only 21 years old when I first won the title, I was just about three years into the wrestling business, so I knew that it was cool, and I knew that I was just signing my contract and winning the X division title for the first time. Funny story too, I was working at Subway and the X division champion at the same time, for a small amount of time. That was when I ended up signing my first contract. I was like, okay, I’m quitting Subway and I am wrestling full time now. So, it was great for me. I was young, I was hungry. I was able to make a living off wrestling starting at a young age. I hope guys can have that experience now, that younger guys in the business are given a chance in that company (Impact) similar to what I experienced. To be able to make a living off wrestling, to be able to do what they love.
Off the top of my head I can’t think of a match as champion where I would say it was under rated, but there were so many matches while I was there as champion. I could say that my favorite match was during TNA’s Bound for Glory pay per view in 2006 or 2007. It was in Michigan, I wrestled Low Ki for the X division title and I ended up winning the title and my whole family was there in the audience, my grandparents were there. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences in my career. That definitely stands out as one of the top experiences I have had there. I enjoyed the match. I do have really good chemistry with Low Ki, actually I enjoyed every time I wrestled that guy. Regardless of what people say about him. It was the atmosphere alone, and being in front of the home town crowd and being in front of my hometown family. All of that put together.
With the Best of the Super Juniors tournament taking place, and being involved in the tournament, how can you best describe facing those involved in these matches as opposed to any other tournament?
I guess I would compare it to being in the All Japan Junior league back in 2007. That was actually a cruiserweight tournament that I actually ended up winning. I was going over there, and it was really an unknown for me. I had been to Japan before, but not for a prolonged period of time, and I was wrestling a lot of new guys that I had never wrestled before. That is the case here. I am going to be wrestling a bunch of new guys that I never had the chance to wrestle before, and I am going to be in Japan for three weeks. It’s the longest I have over been over there. So, it is kind of looking down the barrel of the unknown, but that is very cool. I enjoy that though. I think it’s really cool, it’s going to be a challenge and I am going to be in there with some of the best wrestlers in the world without a doubt. I am really looking forward to it.
I guess I am looking forward to wrestling KUSHIDA. The whole dynamic there with myself tagging with Alex Shelley as the Motor City Machineguns, and when we split up Alex went over to New Japan and wrestled as the Time Splitters with KUSHIDA. So, I have a little connection there, and a dynamic of wrestling Alex Shelley’s other tag team partner. So, I guess that is what I am looking forward to the most.
As successful as you’ve been as a singles wrestler, the emergence of you and Alex Shelley as a tag team has been a memorable part of your career. How did that relationship come about and what has made it as successful as it has been for you both?
Its funny, we didn’t meet until we were both in the wrestling business. I don’t think we met until it was about 2004. We grew up about 30 minutes apart from one another and never knew each other. It is just kinda funny that we end up meeting and becoming really good friends and doing a tour of Zero-One together. I think we just bonded on that tour. We wrestled against each other and then we ended up tagging with each other.
Scott thought that we had a great chemistry and he said, ‘Let’s push this, we have something here. We have two guys about the same size, similar sense of humor, similar passion for wrestling.’ We are both from Michigan, we’re friends, and this could really turn into something, and it did, it did end up turning into something. It was different, it took awhile, then we split for a while and then reformed as a team in Ring of Honor. There was a learning curve there for sure. It took a little time to get back in the swing of things, but I think we definitely got there.
One of the more underrated periods of time was during your time as TNA Heavyweight champion, as it really showcased how much personality you have as a singles wrestler. Describe what you felt was the moment or match that you are most pleased about with that run, and what you would have changed about it.
I think feel that I wasn’t ready for it. I had just come back from an injury, actually two surgeries on both of my knees. I was out for about two years. Then, I am back and two months later they want to put the title on me, and don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the experience, it’s really cool, but I personally know that I wasn’t ready. I was gone for two years, before that I was a tag team wrestler for several years, so I really hadn’t found my own identity as a singles wrestler. And I don’t think I really found that until after the title reign was over and I turned into a heel. I think that allowed my personality and my charisma to show, that part of my act came out.
I really wish I had become a heel when I became the world heavyweight champion, but it is what it is. That’s why I view it as disappointing with the exception of the 1-2-3 and the crowd pop and the reaction, that was one of the coolest moments of my career without a doubt. Being able to do something with Hulk Hogan was really cool, you know, I grew up watching him. I just felt like I wasn’t ready at that time and I knew I could have done better. Unfortunately, I never got another chance though.
Upon your return to Ring of Honor you emerged as a member of the Knights of the Rising Dawn. How did that all initially come about, and what did you most enjoy about that period of time, working with fellow Impact alumni Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian?
Chris Daniels and Frankie both contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do this with them. I did of course, and I was looking to get my foot in the door at Ring of Honor anyway. So this was just a story, and a chance to do that. I have known those guys for years. It was a nice transition into the company, and like I said I was never a consistent performer there. So, it was a nice transition and to be around some friends and some familiar faces that I knew, it just helped make everything go about a lot smoother.
I was out for a period of time back in 2015, I had a bulging disc in my neck that was pinching a nerve. So, I had pins and needles down my left arm and part of my left hand went completely numb. So, I just had to take some time off, and thankfully I didn’t need surgery and eventually it healed up on its own. I was out for roughly eight or nine months. I give Ring of Honor a lot of credit for using me during that entire period. I was at almost every TV taping, and they used me while I was injured with Chris and Frankie, and I was super thankful for that because I didn’t have a contract at the time. That was basically my only income, so I am grateful for that.
Music is a big part of your life outside the ring. Where did your interest in it all come about, and if we were to listen to your iPod what would we find in rotation at the moment?
I guess I have always been drawn to rock music ever since I was younger. My dad listened to a lot of classic rock, a lot of oldies. I would hear bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, and stuff like that, and then when I got into middle school it was popular bands like Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, alternative stuff like that, and I was always drawn towards that for whatever reason. 311, I was a huge fan of them for years and I still am. I haven’t liked any of their recent stuff, but their older stuff was what I liked quite a bit. I don’t know, I was always just drawn to any sort of rock music. People like what they like and that’s what I like.
I think for me, I am more of a mood listener depending on musical interests. If I am going to the gym, I am going to want to listen to something more up tempo and rock, like a Led Zeppelin, and if I am trying to calm down I would listen to Sublime or Red Hot Chili Peppers, some really chill stuff. It really depends on the mood. Then there is stuff that I would be ashamed to listen to, for instance if I am on a plane and there is a lot of turbulence and I am feeling anxious maybe I’ll throw on some Enya.
Much like music gaming is said to be of interest to you. What can you say was the first game that had you hooked and are there any preferences got types of games you look forward to playing? First person? Sports related?
I think my generation is kinda cool because I grew up alongside the evolution of video game. I have always been around them. My dad has worked with computers since I was 4, so he’s always worked with them, its pretty much what he’s done. When I was young we had a Commodore 64, and those are my earliest memories of playing video games. This was the initial system we had, real old school like computer games, things like Congo Bongo, Forbidden Forest, they were on the big old block floppy discs, the actual floppy discs. The Atari 2600, I remember one of my dad’s friends that he worked with, he was the original game pirater and he end up making an Atari cartridge that had these big chips with these big long teeth, not like we have today with the small chips. So, he put all these Atari games on these chips on for us, so we had every game and you would just take a chip out and put a new one in. They were so big and the teeth would get so bent that we couldn’t use them. But that’s what started my love for video games, and of course that’s what I wanted every Christmas, some sort of video game system or new video game. I ended up getting the original NES, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo. Once I started working and making my own money and saving up, that’s when I started buying every game system I could. 64, Gameboy, Gameboy Colour, all of those. It is just one of those things where I always enjoyed played video games, and still play them to this day.
As far as games I enjoy, you know most games nowadays are all first-person shooter or third person uncharted style games, so it’s hard to say. I do like the first-person shooters, but I like it when it’s something different and something unique. Like, I started playing the new Doom game recently, and it’s a lot faster paced, and you don’t have to reload, and you don’t end up having to melee attack guys to get help. It’s just different things. If they can make a game and make it different things, then I will tend to enjoy them.
The pointing to your hand gesture has been synonymous with your home of Michigan. Do you think you would ever have plans to develop a wrestling school in your home state, to help further along the next crop of talent?
Definitely, that is something I have given some thought to before. The way I would want to do it, if it was just me doing it on my own, I would want a small class size, only take on four or five students at a time, and just really devote my time to training them to be good pro wrestlers. I think it reflects on you when you train someone, and you put them out there, and if they are asked who they were trained by and someone says that they were trained by Chris Sabin, then I want them to be quality wrestlers. I would do it a certain way, but you never know. I have given it some thought before, but I have no idea if whether it would happen or not.
Styles of wrestling today are criticized by those who came before. Do you think that the criticism is warranted, or does the mindset has to evolve much like the sport itself?
I take an outside view and me, myself, I try to be more of an observer than getting involved in the criticism. Its like any form of entertainment, people criticize television shows, people criticize movies, people criticize food, so there are always going to be haters out there. I think, enjoy just sitting back and watching everything evolve naturally because it is going to take the course that it is going to take. Whether you listen to what people say about it or not, I don’t think it is going to affect it very much. I think it is going to take the course that it is going to take, and just be able to go along for the ride and enjoy it.
I don’t allow people’s criticisms to affect me in a negative way, and I hope others don’t either. But it’s always going to happen. It’s just fun to watch wrestling change throughout the years. I started in 2000, and that was when WWE, WCW and ECW were all around, and of course everything has changed. That was eighteen years ago and how much things have changed and how the styles have changed. Wrestlers have become smaller, and the style of wrestling has become more athletic, and you just got to follow the way it goes. It is just going to happen naturally and that’s just the path that wrestling has taken.
As we approach the midway point of 2018, what can fans expect to see from Chris Sabin moving forward into the balance of the year and beyond?
I am only thinking short term at the moment. Obviously, I am trying to take care of myself, and I pray to be able to wrestle many more years in the future. I just focus on the Best of the Super Juniors tournament right now. This is just a huge opportunity for me, and possibly a new beginning for me. I think I opened a lot of people’s eyes as they’ve been able to watch me throughout the years, but at the same time although I may have not been in the spotlight the last several years like I was earlier in my career. I hope to change that; New Japan has gotten so popular, the last couple of years especially, I think I am going to have a lot of eyes on me and I hope that I blow people away.