Sami Callihan Wants to Be the Face of Impact Wrestling With Win at ‘Slammiversary’
Sami Callihan has been waving the Impact Wrestling flag since his debut on the series in 2017. The livewire wrestler carried the company’s top championship proudly before losing it to Tessa Blanchard in a history-making intergender match at Hard to Kill at the start of 2020.
Now, the loyal performer looks to get the gold back. The star enters Slammiversary to challenge Kenny Omega, who came in from All Elite Wrestling and won the gold in an inter-promotional match at Rebellion in April.
Here “The Death Machine” sits down with TV Insider to preview the marquee battle.
Impact Wrestling had so much momentum before the pandemic and it really soldiered through. Why do you think it was successful?
Sami Callihan: Well, I think the last year without fans, in my eyes, sucked. Professional wrestling fans are everything about wrestling. [But] I think Impact puts on one of the best episodic wrestling shows on television right now, even without [the fans]. They truly had some of the best storylines and wrestling matches in the last year [and] I think people have taken notice of that.
How’s the locker room atmosphere now that fans are returning to shows?
Our morale is one of the best in wrestling in general because Impact truly is a family. We watch each other’s back and help with each other’s matches. The creative team is open to ideas and allows you to be who you want to be. [For] a couple of months, we weren’t able to show up because of the pandemic, and they still paid everyone. That is the kind of company Impact is. They take care of their talent. And even when someone leaves, you are still part of that Impact family and are welcomed back.
What was the moment for you that secured your loyalty to Impact?
My first show with Impact was still kind of under the old regime. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the company. I didn’t know if it would be a good fit for me. Then as soon as [EPs] Scott D’Amore and Don Callis got into power and built up their team, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to be. I was always an Impact/TNA fan, even before I went to WWE. My number one goal was to be in TNA. I think I’m the wrestler I am today and the fan of wrestling I am today from TNA 2005 through 2011.
How did you adjust going from regular travel for work to staying at home more?
I put on some weight early last year during COVID, mainly because I was hurt. I had a lot of injuries I was banged up with. In the last five months, you see me getting in better shape at the television tapings. That is why in a way COVID was great for me as far as not having to do the normal schedule. It was the first time in my career I was able to heal and get ready for the next chapter.
What did you make of the Impact and AEW working relationship when you heard about it?
I’m for more companies working together and collaborating, but at the end of the day, I’m about Impact Wrestling. That’s why going into Slammiversary, I’m going to show exactly what Impact Wrestling is all about and that we are on the same wavelength as AEW. There is no reason we shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath.
Much like last year, Impact is teasing some new faces showing up at Slammiversary. What free agent do you want to see in the company?
I think we have one of the best rosters right now. Anyone who comes in is going to help put that over the top a bit more. I would have loved to see Samoa Joe come in as a free agent, but we know that is not going to happen. With all the other free agents in the world right now, it’s a crazy time in pro wrestling because you don’t know who might show up when.
Is there anyone you are particularly proud of right now while everyone’s reinventing themselves?
In Impact, Trey Miguel was part of The Rascalz for the bulk of his career. He tried things that made him the wrestler he is now. If you look at guys outside of Impact, you look at Juice Robinson. Juice went from being pretty much a hidden character into being one of the top guys in the world right now and one of the best tag team wrestlers on the planet. It’s about taking those risks.
What steps do you think Impact needs to take to get to the next level?
The main thing is getting back on the touring schedule. People seem to forget right before the pandemic happened, Impact Wrestling was selling out bigger and bigger buildings. One of the main things we needed was a little star power. We got it with the Good Brothers, Heath, Curt Hawkins, Matt Cardona, and others. We truly do now have one of the best rosters. The touring will show just how hot Impact is.
What would winning the Impact title this time around mean to you?
I think [it would] truly show I am the face of Impact Wrestling, once and for all. I wave this flag harder than anyone, other than possibly Eddie Edwards. I like to say Eddie Edwards is the heart, and I’m the soul. Sure, we work with other promotions, but at the end of the day, I think Impact is number one. One thing we do have, that a lot of other companies don’t, is pure heart. Impact Wrestling has more heart than any other professional wrestling company on the planet.
Slammiversary, July 17, 8/7c, Pay-Per-View and FITE TV
Impact Wrestling, Thursdays, 8/7c, AXS TV “Wrestle Week on AXS TV” brings special programming up until Slammiversary. The full schedule is available here.