When you take TNA/Impact Wrestling’s massive history book, there are a few names that you can’t escape, some because they left an indelible mark on the company, some because they broke records or because they made history. Chris Sabin could fit the three categories. He is a TNA original, someone who witnessed the emergence and then the expansion of the company. He is a record 8-time X-Division Champion, one that will be hard to break. Then, he has been World Champion World Tag Team Champions, and X-Division Champions, so he’s won them all.
When Impact Wrestling started to tease the comeback of former TNA Champions at Slammiversary, the name of the Motor City Machine Guns was running wild among the fans on social media. They were the first to make their comeback at the PPV. Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin impressed facing The Rascalz, but they even more impressive when they defeated the North to become World Tag Team Champions for a second time.
This weekend, without Alex Shelley who can’t come to Nashville, as he was supposed to, Sabin will team up with IMPACT World Champion Rich Swann and Moose to make history again when facing the team of The Good Brothers, the current IMPACT World Tag Team Champions, and the AEW World Champion Kenny Omega in the first-ever companies’ crossover match.
SteelChair Wrestling Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Chris Sabin on Wednesday. He told us about being back in the Impact Zone with Alex Shelley, his singles experiences, Hard To Kill, his unique position as a wrestler and a producer, and what the future holds for him.
What is the state of mind coming to the match this Saturday at ‘Hard To Kill’? It’s a match a lot of people are waiting for, with AEW World Champion Kenny Omega coming on Impact Wrestling?
“I’m trying to just make sure my mind is in a state of preparedness and that I’m ready. It is a big deal. This is huge, this is the first time I’ve ever been a main-event on an Impact Wrestling PPV. AEW crossing over with Impact Wrestling, obviously, is huge. Kenny Omega and The Good Brothers, obviously, are very popular with the fans. They have a big following. The Good Brothers just came from WWE, so they’re bringing a boatload of eyes with them. Kenny Omega is considered one of the best wrestlers in the world. He’s super popular. The fans love him, so he’s bringing eyes with him. I’m just hoping that we give the fans their money’s worth, no matter what happens, who wins or loses. I’m just trying to be prepared to give the fans their money’s worth.”
What about teaming with IMPACT World Champion Rich Swann? Was it someone you were interested to work with?
“Definitely, I’ve been a fan of Rich for a while. I first saw him in PWG, it was a while ago (around 2012-2013), but I immediately was blown away by this guy. Just the things he was able to do, he was so athletic and such a good wrestler, and beyond that, he’s just a great guy, so I’m really looking forward to working with Rich.”
What are you expecting from the AEW-Impact collaboration in the future?
“As long as it continues to be beneficial for both companies, and it seems to be that way right now, I hope it continues. If it goes well this weekend, hopefully, that opens the door for more crossover matches, hopefully, more talent will be sent to AEW and, more AEW talent will be sent over to IMPACT that we can have some crossover dream matches and just create a good product for the fans. So I just hope it continues.”
You are taking part in ‘Hard To Kill CELL-ebration’ this Saturday. What do you think about this kind of interaction, mostly with the current situation that prevents from doing meet and greets in the arena with the fans? Are you happy to be able to connect with the fans this way?
“Absolutely. It’s definitely weird and a bit awkward when you’re wrestling in an arena with no fans, but at the same time, we just have to deal with what’s going on. It’s better to make a product and put on a show and have there be no fans there than to have no show at all. This is just the way it has to be that’s fine. We’re still going to go out there, fans are not. We’re going to try and put on the best show possible. That’s just how it is.”
Last Saturday, on ‘Genesis’, it was time for the Super X-Cup that you were the very first winner of in 2003. You remain the record 8-time X-Division Champion, with the most combined days. You have built something really special around X-Division, something that is really a TNA/Impact Wrestling thing. When you look at those records now, how do you feel about them, knowing in 2021 they haven’t been beaten yet, and you remain one of the major names of this division?
“Thank you. I really appreciate that. I think it’s really cool to be considered “Mr. X-Division,” as you say. I’ve had a really cool and unique career. I’ve had a cool path and just being able to be such a big part of the X-Division is something really cool to me. Maybe once I actually start wrestling as a singles wrestler again, maybe I should go back to the X-Division and try to make those records stronger, so no one else can break those records ever, so I’ll make sure to hold the records forever. Maybe I should be an X-Division wrestler again soon.”
What do you think of Ace Austin, this year’s Super X-Cup winner and already a former X-Division Champion at 23?
“He’s so young, and there’s so much potential with that guy that the sky is really the limit. Honestly, I’m just looking forward to watching his career unfold the next several years.”
Do you feel like you can help the new generation of X-Division talents, like Chris Bey or Ace Austin, who are only 23 and 24 respectively, because of your experience?
“Absolutely. The way that I like to help guys, I want to help them become better themselves. If I’m giving someone advice, I don’t want to tell them what to do. I want to point them in a direction to where they can figure it out themselves if that makes sense. I don’t want someone to like do something and then just be doing the thing that I told them to do. I want them to come up with it themselves. I just want to be a finger point in a direction to try and help these guys because I honestly believe the only way you can really figure it out is you have to figure it out on your own. You have to have your own spin on it, your own impression, and your own mind has to come from you. It can’t come from anyone else. People can give you advice, and they can help you out with things, but ultimately, you’re the one responsible for creating yourself.”
We are talking about X-Division but you’re also a former World Champion. If you were given the chance, would you try again?
“Absolutely. I definitely would. I think that this next run if I have a chance to have one, I could make it a lot better than the last run. I’m really grateful it happened, and it’s cool to have on my resume that I’m former TNA World champion, but at the same time, I think that a second run around that I can make it a lot better.”
Right now, it’s all about the MCMG, you and Alex Shelley, once again a major part of the history of TNA/Impact Wrestling. You have been working together for like fifteen or seventeen years?
“We’re from the same area. We’re both from Southeast Michigan. I started in the year 2000 when Alex Shelley started in 2002. He’s a little younger than me and started a couple of years after me. We knew each other before we started to team in 2006, like we knew each other just from being on the same shows, coming from the same area. We would drive down to IWA Mid-South and independent shows together. Finally, when we did the ZERO1-MAX tour in 2006, and Mr. Nakamura put us as a team, and we saw that we had this chemistry, that’s when we knew it, and that was fifteen years ago. On and off, though, we haven’t been a tag team for fifteen years straight obviously, we’ve gone our separate ways a couple of times, but that’s quite a long time for a tag team to still be competing fifteen years later.”
How do you explain the longevity of the team, what do you put to them on the table that Alex is not and what is he putting on the table that you are not?
“I don’t know. I think that’s something that can’t be explained. I don’t really know why we work so well together, whether it’s because we’re both from Southeast Michigan, we’re both about the same height, same size, same build, and we have similar athletic abilities. I think it’s just something unexplainable. I don’t really know why we work so well together, but I know a lot of it is practice and just training together. Practice is always going to help you get better, no matter what it is, and we put a lot of practice into our double teams and the stuff. I think that’s a big part of it, but the other part, it’s unexplainable magic.”
You’re a wrestler and a producer for Impact Wrestling. As a producer, how do you feel on this team made up of people as different as Gail Kim, Tommy Dreamer, Konnan, Jimmy Jacobs, D’Lo Brown, and more? You’re under the management of the man who trained you and helped you become who you are now, Scott D’Amore.
“Scott D’Amore is the centrepiece of like all the talent that you were naming, as far as bringing us all together. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Scott D’Amore, and that’s just a fact. Originally, I went over to a school, was brought over there by Amazing N8. He started booking me on his Border City Wrestling shows. He booked me in a singles match against Sabu on a BCW wrestling show, and that was the match that he gave to Jeff Jarrett, which originally gave me my tryout, which led to me getting a job and led to the rest of my career. I think the common denominator there is Scott D’Amore. If you’re a good person and a hard worker, he takes care of you, it’s that simple. He surrounds himself with people that he knows, he loves people, he takes care of people, and I’m just super grateful for him.
“Putting a show together is definitely easier when you work with people you know. I’ve known a lot of these guys for more than ten years. Jimmy Jacobs is from Michigan. I’ve wrestled so many independent shows with him and against him. D’Lo was doing Border City Wrestling shows, back then, around like 2003, so I’ve known D’Lo for years. I worked with him in TNA around 2003-2004. He was around there having all these great matches with AJ Styles. It’s really cool to work with people that you’re familiar with and that you know. It makes it a lot better.”
Does the fact of being a producer influence your vision on your matches but also on the others’ matches?
“A little bit. If I’m producing, let’s say, a random X-Division match, I don’t want to have too much influence over their creativity. I want them to create the match. Obviously, there’s going to be certain points we need to get across, if certain things are written a certain way, or if I feel strongly enough about something doesn’t make sense that I hear, but I have to feel really strongly about it because one of the best ways to learn is to make a mistake and then learn from it. So I try not to interfere too much, I try to help guide them and point them in a certain direction, but like I said, you have to learn on your own. When it comes to my matches, sometimes, definitely, but you got to pick and choose your battles. Sometimes, it may not be that big a deal, sometimes it may be a big deal, so you really kind of just have to gauge that in your own mind, is it worth bringing this up, or should we just let it go, so it depends on the situation.”
You’ve been wrestling for twenty years, do you feel like you have a lot more to say and to show in the ring after everything that you have already done on TNA/Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, NJPW, etc. whether with Alex or not?
“I do. I feel like I have years left in me as far as wrestling goes, and I really just want to keep a focus on staying healthy, so I can continue to do that because, between 2010 and 2020, I was injured four years out of the ten years. That’s not really a good sign for longevity in the business, so I just want to prove that wrong, that I had a decade of injuries, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go for ten more years in wrestling. That’s my goal. I have a lot more to give, and like you said, most of it is in your mind as far as like staying focused on your goals and all that. I have the agenting position in my back pocket, just in case it doesn’t work out as a wrestler and maybe down the line, let’s say I wrestle for ten more years, maybe the next ten years I can be a producer or something like that, still work within wrestling. As long as I’m going to continue to work hard and try to stay healthy, and hopefully, I can give the fans many more years.”
You were there in the early days of TNA, you are now with Impact Wrestling, you have been able to witness the evolution of the company. When you look back at it now and what the company has become, how do you look at that?
“I think the company is in a great spot right now. They have competent, passionate, smart people working backstage. They have a roster full of talent and young guys who are going to be the future of this business. It’s been great to see the company grow and change throughout the years, but right now, I think the company is in a great spot, and I’m going to do everything I can to help Impact Wrestling and help keep it afloat and help make it a place for the fans to have a quality alternative product to watch.
“I think I have kind of a unique position as that I can trigger some nostalgia for long-time Impact Wrestling fans because if you go and watch the old school, you’re not going to see anyone that was around in 2003 or 2004 on the roster today, you’re just not going to see it. Throughout the years, many people have watched TNA on Spike TV, we were doing like over a million viewers consistently for a long time, so a lot of people are familiar with TNA. Hopefully, if they watch nowadays, they can say, ‘Oh yeah, Chris Sabin, I used to watch him when I was a kid.’ Sometimes I hear that like, “I used to watch you growing up,” and then me to myself, “I still feel like I’m a child” (laughs). That’s just the craziest thing to hear, but it’s cool.”
Follow Chris Sabin on Twitter @SuperChrisSabin.
Hard To Kill will air live on Saturday, January 16 at 8 PM EST (1 AM GMT) worldwide on Fite TV and on Premier Sports 1 in the UK. IMPACT is airing on Tuesday at 8/7c on AXS TV and Twitch in the USA. The show is available to view in the UK from 2 am Wednesdays on the IMPACT Plus app and airs on FreeSports at 10 PM every Wednesday and 5STAR on Fridays in the late evening (please check local listings weekly).
All pics, videos, and screencaps courtesy of Impact Wrestling, AXS TV, Fight Network, and Basil Mahmud.