Hot off of a spectacular start of the year with Impact Wrestling Homecoming, Daily DDT got to speak exclusively to Impact Wrestling’s 2018 Wrestler of the Year “The Draw” Sami Callihan. He talked about his career in Impact, what All Elite Wrestling means for the industry, the Ohio independent scene, and more! Sami doesn’t hold anything back in the ring, and he wasn’t shy about speaking his mind to us either.
At Impact Wrestling Homecoming, we got to see Sami Callihan take on Willie Mack. Despite being a match only announced three days before the event, it went on to steal the show and remind fans just how good Callihan and Mack are inside the squared circle. When I spoke to Sami yesterday, this was the first thing we talked about.
Patches Chance: First off, I wanna talk about Homecoming. You and Willie Mack stole the show. What kind of tone were you trying to set for Sami Callihan’s 2019?
Sami Callihan: “The same tone I try to set every time I step into a ring right now. It’s that I’m one of the best, if not the best professional wrestler walking the planet today. It doesn’t matter what show I’m on. Any company. It doesn’t matter who I wrestle, I’m gonna have one of the best matches on the card anywhere I am.
“See that’s one thing. After this Eddie Edwards bat incident, a lot of people wanna look down on me. They wanna forget what I’ve done in my career and the body of work that I’ve built up over the past few year. So don’t forget that I’m a damn good professional wrestler at the end of the day as well. I can do all the technical [or] flashy stuff other people do as well, but I don’t choose to do it.”
PC: Speaking of Homecoming, we now know that the event’s broadcast television premiere will be this Sunday on Fight Network UK at 9PM. What do you have to say to UK fans who might be on the fence about watching?
SC: “That’s huge. They’re givin’ it away for free. Watch this, it’s free! Why else would you not watch this? You want an alternative? You want another professional wrestling program to really thrive and be able to sustain itself? Then watch the show and see what Impact Wrestling is all about right now.”
PC: On the note of the UK, you got to compete at Wrestling MediaCon last year against Jimmy Havoc. What was that experience like?
SC: “Oh, I stole that show too, didn’t I? Pretty sure I stole that show as well. Seems to be the trend on most events that I’m on at this point.”
PC: Is there someone else on the UK circuit that you’d love to face next time Impact Wrestling goes to the UK?
SC: “At this point I’ve pretty much wrestled everyone in European wrestling that’s been a big star over the past ten years. I’ve gotten extremely lucky and blessed to be able to travel over to Europe and Germany and the UK and work all of those talents. But I’d have to say if I can work one more, if I have to pick just one [person] that I’d like to work [with] next time, I’d like to work Jody Fleisch. ‘Cause I’ve never worked Jody Fleisch in my career, and he’s a guy that really helped mold me as an independent wrestling fan when I was younger.
“Jody Fleisch is underrated, man. He’s comin’ back now [as] a middle-aged man and killin’ it like he did when he was 20 years old. And that’s crazy commendable. You see a lot of these older guys coming back and having the best runs of their career later on, look at PCO for example.”
PC: I do wanna touch briefly on All Elite Wrestling because it’s the hot topic right now. With the other ways the business is changing, how do you think they can help change the landscape of the wrestling industry today?
SC: “They actually got someone to put money in that can actually make a change. That’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of great minds in professional wrestling all over the world, and they always have great aspirations and big aspirations on like “let’s change wrestling,” but it’s getting somebody in a power position to actually sign on the dotted and give you the funding to be able do what you have to do. And Cody and The Young Bucks were able to do that because of the body of work they built up over the last year. And that’s ridiculous when you really think about it. Guys that never really ran a show in their life ran their first giant show and sold over 10,000 tickets. And now [they] are probably gonna blow up even more with the giant wrestling program they’re about to put on television with the [co-]owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And that’s crazy. To say that would’ve happened five years ago, to say that would’ve happened three years ago, everyone would tell you you’re losing your mind. But now that’s the reality we’re living in the professional wrestling world.”
After giving his thoughts on All Elite Wrestling, Sami continued to speak on the ways the industry and media consumption have changed in general.
SC: “People wanna focus on numbers and television ratings. WWE ratings are down, Ring of Honor ratings are down, Impact ratings are down, but people do not consume their content that way anymore. Sure, some people will watch television and television will always be a huge moneymaking asset to professional wrestling companies. But right now, for me in general, I watch a lot of wrestling, but I watch everything online. I have online hooked up to my television at home. Like the only reason I have cable is for the American Football season. Other than that, I could watch anything I could ever wanna watch online, on Hulu, and I can watch it on-demand and not have to sit through the commercials, or sometimes sit through the commercials but still have my internet connection [to do other things].
As Sami continued, he touched on something I’d planned to bring up later in the interview. As spectacular as Homecoming was as an event, the biggest news of the night was that Impact Wrestling plans to simulcast their weekly show on Pursuit Channel and also live on Twitch in the United States. It’s a game-changing move, and Sami’s opinion of this change was clear.
SC: “With Impact being on not only just Pursuit, but our main company Anthem having invested stock into Pursuit, they’re gonna allow us to do other things and we’re gonna be able to experiment. That’s what people don’t understand. We’re gonna be able to experiment and try new things. We’re now simulcast live on Twitch every Friday in America. That’s ginormous.
“If you’re in America, and you have internet, you have Impact. If you have internet, you have Impact. And that’s a cool thing to really look at and I think it’s gonna blow up way more than anyone even realizes. I’m a big Twitch guy already. I watch a lot of Twitch streams, my girlfriend is a Twitch streamer. And when you really look at it, Ninja will put a video on Twitch and within an hour have a million views.”
PC: With Impact Wrestling continuing to expand and big things like All Elite Wrestling starting, do you think WWE is losing the allure of being the “be-all, end-all” of the industry?
SC: “I think they’ll always be the be-all, end-all, because they have WrestleMania, to a lot of people. But people don’t realize there’s a lot of other be-all, end-alls now. There’s Impact Wrestling’s Slammiversary, there’s New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom, there’s Ring of Honor’s Best in the World.
“There’s so many huge shows that you can really strive to be on and you can reach that goal of being a pop-culture phenomenon and not be in WWE right now. Look at The Bucks, look at Cody, look at all these guys that have shirts at Hot Topic. Professional wrestling on an independent standpoint at this point is becoming truly a true alternative to WWE because now wrestling fans can have that content at the snap of a finger. If they have internet, they can watch wrestling.”
PC: On a different note, I wanna touch on the Ohio independent wrestling scene. Since you’ve been in Impact, we’re seeing a lot of Ohio guys get opportunities. Not just Dave and Jake Crist in oVe, but Ohio natives Trey Miguel, Zachary Wentz, and Dezmond Xavier are now running together as The Rascalz in Impact. How does it feel seeing guys from that scene make it to Impact Wrestling?
SC: “Good, because we have something good going on in our little midwest territory. We hand-pick talent or we train talent from scratch and we really cultivate them to be ready for the next level because we know how to get people to that next level.”
PC: You mentioned that people should basically stop being surprised that you’re stealing the show. In 2018, you won Wrestler of the Year with Impact—
At this point, Sami Callihan was kind enough to interrupt me and add some clarity to his 2018 accolades.
SC: “I didn’t just win Wrestler of the Year, I also won Match of the Year and I also won Moment of the Year.”
PC: —and you did this even though you never had a single Impact World Title shot in 2018, and you weren’t even booked for Homecoming until three days before the event. How does that make you feel as a competitor? Do you feel like you’re at that point but still being overlooked?
SC: “I don’t think it’s being overlooked. I think I’m one of the guys that gets more television time than 95% of the roster. And not everyone can be World Champion all the time. Sure, I’m gonna get there. Sure, I’m going to go after that Impact World Championship eventually. But right now every story I tell is compelling and gets people talking and generates buzz. So any story that I’m in to me is the top storyline to be in.”
PC: Lastly, you’re on the 13th year of your wrestling career now. How are you planning to make this year stand out from the rest?
SC: “Keep doing the same thing I ever do. I don’t get complacent. I keep going for something bigger and better. I’m always working towards that next step. I’m never complacent on just being ‘oh I like my spot now,’ no there’s always a better spot. There’s always gonna be a better spot and I’m always gonna be chasing and scratching and clawing to get that next better spot. So I’m never gonna be complacent, I’m always gonna be ready to step up.”
PC: That about wraps things up. Thanks for giving us the time. Are there any announcements you’d like to make or things you’d like to plug?
SC: “Check me out on all my social media platforms. At Twitter @TheSamiCallihan. At Instagram @OfficialCallihan. And check out the wrestling promotion that myself, Dave, and Jake Crist run called The Wrestling Revolver. We do a lot of crazy shows. We do shows WrestleMania week called Pancakes and Piledrivers, and you can check out all of them on social media @PWRevolver or at ProWrestlingRevolver.com.“