Inside the ring, Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian are partners. As The Addiction, they are as good a tag team as you’ll find in professional wrestling. The duo is the current Ring of Honor tag-team champions and are two-time tag champs during a long run with Total Nonstop Action.
Outside of the ring, Daniels and Kazarian are practically family. Each calls the other their best friend and each credits the other with helping him find success in a business that can be, to quote the late, great sportscaster Stuart Scott, as cool as the other side of the pillow to a performer.
It comes as no surprise then that Daniels and Kazarian share the same philosophy when it comes to tag-team wrestling and finding success in an otherwise forgotten art form in pro wrestling.
“No (wrestling) company (is) working hard to find tag teams,” Daniels said over the phone ahead of The Addiction’s next appearance at Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore in Toronto on July 18. “I think tag teams that come up, sort of come up either accidentally or at the whims of the talent. In our example, Frankie and I, we saw that there was a deficit of tag teams in TNA when we started tagging and we wanted to become that featured tag team, that team that was a cohesive unit and not just two singles wrestlers put together. We were in TNA when Beer Money got together, when the Motor City Machine Guns were together and they found success. Beer Money split up and Motor City Machine Guns had injuries so I thought there was a spot for us, and that was what prompted us to get together in the first place.”
Kazarian echoed his partner and friend’s sentiment.
“Tag-team wrestling … I think it’s a lost art,” he said. “There are several of us who are keeping it really strong. Tag-team wrestling is something I always loved as a fan and I continue to really, really love as a professional wrestler. It offers something different. You can go down a card and all the singles matches, they’re not necessarily going to tell the same story, but it’s one guy against another guy. When you’ve got four guys in there, the action, the possibilities of what can happen, it’s just really exciting. I think in mainstream wrestling it lost its way for a while, but teams like The Young Bucks and ourselves and a lot of other teams, especially in Ring of Honor, are bringing it back to the forefront and are really focusing on it. I love being a tag team wrestler and I take incredible pride in being a tag-team wrestler.”
Daniels also feels the tag-team wrestling landscape is as strong today as it has been in a long time.
“In Ring of Honor, you’ve got us, you’ve got reDRagon, you’ve got The Young Bucks, you’ve got ACH and Matt Sydal, you’ve got The Briscoes, you’ve got War Machine, you’ve got the Kingdom … There are so many good tag teams that are there right now and a lot of them are made up of guys that want to be in the team, that want to make the team the focus.”
Dreamer’s international debut in Toronto will also put a strong emphasis on tag-team wrestling, boasting a main event featuring the legendary Team 3D facing arguably the best young tag team on earth right now, The Young Bucks, while The Addiction take on Matt Taven and Mike Bennett.
Both Daniels and Kazarian believe strongly in House of Hardcore and in their friend Dreamer’s vision.
“When you’ve got a company, when you’ve got a product that has a clear vision behind it, it’s easy to sort of get excited and to get motivated to either participate in the product or to go watch the product,” Daniels said. “And I think that is something that Tommy Dreamer brings to House of Hardcore. He knows what he wants to put out there and it’s basically great wrestling, no politics, no B.S. That’s word for word from a text to me from him about it. And that’s exciting to get behind.”
Dreamer, Kazarian said, puts the fans ahead of everything, and everyone, else.
“Tommy does House of Hardcore for the fans and nobody loves the fans more than Tommy Dreamer. He had a vision of a place that guys and girls can come, work with no B.S., no politics, no nonsense, go out there, put on a kick-ass wrestling match, send the fans home happy and that’s exactly what he’s done. Tommy’s a great wrestler, he’s a great friend, and he’s the type of guy I aspire to be in terms of later on in my career and what he’s done to give back to the wrestlers.”
The bottom line, Kazarian added, is House of Hardcore is a great place to work.
“House of Hardcore, it represents just that. It represents fun. There’s a fun atmosphere and everybody’s going to work really hard and the fans know that. Anything Tommy Dreamer puts his name on, he’s going to stand behind and it’s going to be a great product. House of Hardcore just represents the passion and dedication of wrestlers and wrestling fans, I think.”
House of Hardcore is contributing to a new age in professional wrestling, according to Daniels.
“I feel like there’s a boom coming for wrestling,” he said. “I feel like it’s a lot more popular now than it was five years ago. I feel like there are a lot more eyes on it. With the addition of Ring of Honor on Destination America, New Japan on Axxess TV, Tommy getting House of Hardcore on the Fight Network, there’s a lot of demand for wrestling on television right now and I feel like it’s a great time to be a wrestling fan because of all of that.”
The Addiction have been featured on nearly every House of Hardcore show, which will stand at nine following the July 18 show at Ted Reeve Community Arena in Toronto. For his part, Kazarian relishes every chance to work with Dreamer.
“I love it,” Kazarian said of the House of Hardcore experience. “Tommy will always book an intriguing match, a match the fans want to see. A lot of times it’s first-time matches, it’s dream match-type matches and I get to reconnect with a lot of guys I really haven’t seen in a while. I get to see some new faces out there having killer matches. When I do one of Tommy’s shows, I know I’m going to be treated professionally, I’m going to wrestle in front of a great crowd, a lot of people and be around a lot of co-workers that I admire and respect.”
House of Hardcore 9 will have an added special element to it for both men as Canadian-born Traci Brooks, the real-life wife of Kazarian and longtime friend of Daniels, will make her final wrestling appearance in her home country, not far from her hometown of St Marys, Ontario.
It’s a night neither man expects they’ll ever forget.
“As long as she doesn’t take away from any of my gimmick sales at the table, I’m fine with it,” quipped Kazarian, before turning serious.
“It’s obviously very special. Another reason Dreamer is just,” he paused, “I admire him so much. He called me and asked if this would be something she would be interested in and I told him to speak to her. He really was adamant that everybody should have that opportunity to say goodbye. She never really announced her retirement or anything like that. She just faded away and rode off into the sunset. I think it’s going to be a very special experience for her to say goodbye in her home country, with me there — I hope that’s special for her at least,” he joked, before again turning serious. “It’s cool. It’s not something that too many husbands and wives get to do is share a stage like this. We’re both very much looking forward to it.”
Daniels said the honour couldn’t be bestowed on a more deserving person.
“I’m very happy that she’s got this opportunity,” he said. “When she left TNA, I know she was doing some signings and things, but once she became a mother, she sort of just abruptly went away because that’s sort of how it goes. She’s a great mother, she’s got a great family and she’s made that her first priority. Now (she has) the opportunity to come out and say goodbye to the fans. I think that’s very important and it’s awesome that the fans are going to get that opportunity. It’s good to get that closure on her career the way that it’s going to happen. I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy that I’ll be able to tell her how much she means to me in terms of what she’s meant to me as a friend over the past many years that we’ve known each other and shared locker rooms together.”
Unlike early in his career, when he was so focused on his work in the ring, Kazarian admits he now has the ability to recognize and soak in special moments as they happen, which will serve him well in Toronto as his wife is honoured.
“I think now I can take things in and enjoy it more so than when I was younger,” he said. “For instance, doing things with Ric Flair and doing in-ring promos with Hulk Hogan, it was cool at the time we did it, but I never really, in the moment, stopped and thought, ‘Wow, this is awesome, I’m going back and forth in a promo with Hulk Hogan or Sting or Ric Flair.’ ”
Kazarian points to a recent event as an example.
“A few weeks ago, we wrestled Samoa Joe’s farewell match in Ring of Honor and as Joe made his entrance, it was very emotional, a very emotional night,” he said. “Chris and I were wrestling Joe and AJ (Styles), who are my three best friends in the business, the three guys who stood up with me at my wedding. It was a very emotional night. Even though I was focusing on the match, I was trying to take it all in. And after the match, as all the guys came to the ring and the crowd gave Joe the standing ovation that he deserved, I looked at Chris and I said, ‘This is a moment, man, this is cool.’ Right then and there, I allowed myself to just take it all in and let that seep into my memory and into my heart and keep it locked there and remember it forever. To make a long story long, as I mature in my career, I’m more cognizant of taking in those memories.”
As a tag team, Kazarian and Daniels rely on one another to find success as a unit, something they have achieved everywhere they’ve worked. But both are quick to heap praise on the other when it comes to talking about their relationship outside of the ring.
“Frankie and I, I think one of the reasons that we got so successful as a tag team so quickly was because we were already super close friends and he and I, we have the same mindset when it comes to pro wrestling, which is why it’s easy for us to work as a team,” Daniels said. “We both have the same goal in mind. We both know that it’s not one of us above the other, we are the team, we are the unit. When you’ve got a guy that’s willing to put the team ahead of his single aspirations, it just works out best for the both of us. We know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so to speak.”
The quick-witted Kazarian wisecracks when asked to talk about his friend and tag-team partner.
“Do I have to?
“All kidding aside, he’s my best friend,” he said. “We’ve known each other pretty much 16 years, almost 17 years … almost my whole career. And we’ve been very close friends for a good portion of that time. He’s everything you could ask for in a friend and a tag-team partner. As a wrestler, there’s nothing much that I can say that hasn’t been said about him. He’s multi-talented, multi-faceted, can do it all: can talk, can wrestle, can fly. He can make others look better by being in there with him. He’s been great to learn from. He’s been great to collaborate with. We think so much alike in and out of the ring so in terms of coming up with moves or coming up with scenarios or promos or ideas, we’re always on the same wavelength so it makes it really easy. It’s just a blast. Every match is a new adventure. Every trip is a new story. He’s just as ridiculous as I am, which is a remarkable feat. I get to travel the world with my best friend, kicking ass and getting to do what we both love to do, so it’s a blessed life.”
Both men speak articulately when the discussion turns to their friend Dreamer.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with Tommy,” Daniels said. “I had a very short, brief period in ECW where I first met him and ever since then, we’ve kept in touch. One of the things that I think Tommy has is he’s got a really good mind for the business. Even when he was in TNA, he was underutilized. I feel like they listened to him a little bit but not a whole lot. I wished that they had given him more control over the creative aspect of it, because despite the fact that he has got such a great history in the business, he also has that ability to think outside the box. He looks at things that are done in traditional wrestling and knows why those things work but at the same time, he can think outside the box and take a fresh outlook toward things in wrestling and I think that’s very rare to find somebody that is successful at doing both.”
Kazarian waxes eloquently about the man he considers a friend and mentor.
“For all the funny things that you can say about Tommy, because he’s one of these guys who will literally do anything to boost morale and pop the boys, he’s just a wrestler’s wrestler. He’s such a kind, loving-spirited guy,” Kazarian said. “When I think of Tommy, I just think of opportunities. All of the opportunities he’s given me. All of the opportunities he’s given my family. He got me my job at WWE. He’s always given me advice. He’s always shot straight with me, even if it’s not what I want to hear. He’s always told me the truth, and he’s always been a guy, ever since I met him when I was teaming with Nova in 2000, 2001, in New Jersey, he’s always been a guy who’s been a mentor.
“There are not many guys that I go to for advice that have kind of been there, done that, but he’s definitely one of them. He’s a confidante and a friend, but at the same time, he’s also a promoter and sometimes he’s a boss and sometimes he’s a producer. His passion for wrestling, I don’t know that it can be matched, at least by anyone that I’ve met. When I think of Tommy, I think of a guy that just loves this business so much that he’s willing to give back and willing to help out and willing to present opportunities for Traci and for myself like this coming July 18 in Toronto.”
Daniels and Kazarian also spoke with passion and affection when asked to discuss wrestling in Canada and Canadian fans.
Daniels talked of Canada’s long history in professional wrestling.
“They’re a great group of wrestling fans,” he said. “Wrestling in Canada has a unique history. It’s got its own set of stars and their own set of role models. They’re very passionate about not just the people that have come from Canada, but just the wrestling overall. I’m always happy when I get a chance to go up and wrestle there. Just recently we did the Ring of Honor shows there with the New Japan guys and it was electric, man. It was a great audience. We had a great turnout and a great audience for the television that we taped there. I think it’s going to be the same style of show when we do House of Hardcore there.”
Kazarian, who married a Canadian and who was trained by one of Canada’s most famous wrestling stars in Killer Kowalski, considers Canada his home away from home.
“At this point I’m pretty much half Canadian,” he half joked. “Obviously my wife and all of my in-laws are Canadian. I travel up there four times a year just for personal reasons to visit family and however other many times I’m up there wrestling. And I have been going there for so long that the culture and everything is just ingrained in me. And like you said, Killer Kowalski was from Windsor and probably one of the most famous Canadians. So at this point, I might as well just declare myself as a dual citizen.”
Kazarian expects nothing but the best from the roster Dreamer has assembled for House of Hardcore 9, a roster that includes the likes of the aforementioned Team 3D and Young Bucks, Rhino, John Hennigan, Tony Nese, Thea Trinidad and others.
“The type of guys and girls that Tommy brings in, they’re not people that are happy with the status quo, they’re people and athletes that are going to want to raise the bar each and every time. I think with that attitude, it presents a really positive environment. Tommy is very smart in putting together a roster of people that aren’t satisfied with the ‘it’s just another show’ attitude. He wants a locker room full of warriors and people who are going to go out there and bust their asses and give the fans what they really want to see.”
Added Daniels: “The main emphasis is always the show and you want the fanbase to have that feeling that they got their money’s worth. And that’s why I think Tommy’s stuff is doing so well. He gives the fans their money’s worth. In a day and age where you can get wrestling on television four or five times a week every week, convincing a fan to pay money to see it is a chore sometimes. And I think Tommy has made it somewhat easy.”
For tickets to House of Hardcore 9, go to www.houseofhardcore.net.
House of Hardcore 9
What: Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore 9 makes its international debut.
When: July 18, 6 p.m. meet and greet, 7:30 bell time.
Where: Ted Reeve Community Arena, 175 Main St., Toronto, Ontario.
Card: Tommy Dreamer, The Young Bucks, John Hennigan, Team 3D, Rhino, Traci Brooks and more.