Confident, focused and determined are just some of the ways to describe Daniel Garcia. The 20-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y. over the last year made a mark for himself on the independent scene in the Northeast United States and Canada and looks to continue to build on this momentum in the near future. These qualities that kick-started his wrestling career were rooted in him before he even began to wrestle.
Raised in the South Buffalo section of the “City of Good Neighbors”, Garcia grew up a fan of professional wrestling, often attending World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events as well as local independent shows with his family. But his interests were not just limited to the ring, as he played a winger in youth hockey for the Cazenovia Chiefs and his school team at Hutchinson Central Technical High School.
Although his on-ice tenacity translated into his in-ring grittiness, Garcia also sees differences between these athletic endeavors.
“Wrestling gives me the chance to be more creative,” Garcia said. “I can determine the outcome more in hockey because I can go out there and win. Meanwhile, the outcome in wrestling is predetermined by the promoter. Thus wrestling is more of a creative outlet for me.”
As a child, Garcia’s first favorite wrestler was Hulk Hogan under the “Mr. America” gimmick. However, he cites his all-time favorite as Daniel Bryan.
“I just like that he’s an average guy that worked really hard on the indies with no machine behind him,” Garcia said. “It took a lot of hard work for him to succeed.”
Bryan is one of Garcia’s biggest in-ring influences, as well as Triple H and Pancrase mixed martial arts. He also cites local independent wrestler Brandon Thurston as an inspiration. Thus it was extra special for Garcia to train under Thurston at Grapplers Anonymous (GA) wrestling school in Lackawanna, N.Y. starting in January 2017.
Thurston thinks highly of Garcia’s work ethic and character and that they are key to unlocking his potential.
“If (Garcia) continues to work hard, he has the potential to be a major star in wrestling,” Thurston said. “He learned quickly, and he has the right kind of intelligence and passion to excel as an in-ring performer. He has a worldly view of wrestling, which goes a long way for your quality in-ring, I believe. More importantly, he’s a good, friendly person. He’s more emotionally mature and positive than some people twice his age, and that combined with his talent is why he has so much potential.”
Fellow Buffalo-area wrestler Puf trained alongside Garcia at GA. He notes the physical transformation Garcia underwent since he began to train.
“It’s insane to see how much (Garcia) grew but also how much he’s grown physically alongside his in-ring skills,” Puf said. “He’s added so much muscle and tone to his body. He looks like a completely different person than what he looked like a year ago.”
Garcia also credits Pepper Parks helping fine-tune his in-ring work while training at GA.
“Pepper put on a nice polish to my work,” Garcia said. “After getting down the basics, he teaches you how to take your stuff to the next level.”
Garcia’s first match came just three weeks into his training, facing another one of his trainers at GA, Mikey Everynite, at a Nickel City Wrestling show in Buffalo, N.Y. After that, he also worked referee spots at various promotions in Western New York which helped him get adjusted to being in front of live wrestling audiences.
It was only fitting for his first match to be against Everynite. Garcia initially tried to start training at a Tommaso Ciampa seminar but was not allowed to due to being underage. He then inquired about training at GA but was told to come back when he was 18-years-old. Garcia said he began to grow out of pro wrestling when he went running one night at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens when he bumped into Everynite who talked to him about coming to the wrestling school now that he was of age.
Garcia originally portrayed a bratty millennial persona. He would come out with a bad attitude to distorted SoundCloud rap music. He does not see much a difference between this gimmick and his current “Red Death” character – just some changes to his in-match vocalizations.
Garcia is frequently booked in Western New York-based Empire State Wrestling (ESW) and Smash Wrestling of Ontario, Canada. Some notable name he worked within these promotions includes Tyson Dux in Smash and Hurricane Helms in ESW. He also regularly tagged with Tarik in ESW as “North America’s Most Wanted.”
His reputation from these promotions allowed him to obtain more bookings outside of the area at an early stage in his career including Limitless Wrestling in Maine, Battle Club Pro in New Jersey, Capital City Championship Combat in Ottawa, Ontario and Wild Zero in Syracuse, N.Y.
“I knew getting on the road is what I had to do to be successful,” Garcia said. “I still get super excited for big shows with ESW and Smash but also realize I need to be on the road constantly to stay in the public eye and maintain my reputation.”
Puf believes Garcia already grew into one of the area’s elite wrestling talents.
“I always say it and I’m dead serious, I believe wholeheartedly that (Garcia’s) the best wrestler in Buffalo. He’s the best wrestler in ESW and maybe all of New York State,” Puf said. “His ability to adapt to things on the fly in the ring, adjust his style with others when he’s put against a variety of opponents and his execution are unmatched.”
Garcia is also known for his appearance on WWE 205 Live. He lost to Drew Gulak in a quick squash match.
“Of anyone that should have gotten that 205 Live spots, it should have been me as it validated my hard work,” Garcia said. “It was also an honor and did surprise me a bit to be selected.”
After getting a taste on 205 Live, becoming a full-time WWE performer is Garcia’s chief career objective with also aspiring to become a trainer at the WWE Performance Center.
“Hopefully by 25, I can validate what I put my body through with a WWE contract,” he said. “Staying in wrestling too long can damage your body or make you go crazy, so I want to retire early but still be involved with wrestling somehow.”
While waiting to earn that WWE contract, Garcia is currently attending Buffalo State College as communications major. He is interested specifically in public relations as he thinks it can help him in wrestling and also be a backup career option in case his wrestling aspirations do not pan out.
“I think education is very important,” he said. “If I ever blew my knee out training or in a match, I think a backup plan is a good thing to have in wrestling.”
Unsurprisingly, his interest in a wrestling-related media source helped push him into studying communications.
“I always liked listening to The Sam Roberts Podcast,” Garcia said. “I like Complex and Vice. I don’t necessarily want to be a journalist but would rather be in a similar field that involved less writing, so that why public relations seemed like the right fit for me.”
Also in the meantime, Garcia aspires to wrestle for more major independent promotions.
“If I could skip the indies and get signed, that would be ideal,” Garcia said. “But I’d like to go to Beyond, Evolve and AAW. I would like to wrestle in every major promotion in each region of the country.”
He also plans on collaborating with Thurston as a team in the near future which Garcia feels is only fitting considering how he broke into the wrestling business.
“I owe (Thurston) everything from what he’s taught me,” Garcia said. “We’re going to become a tag team in Limitless. It’s full circle.”
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