There were glimpses of heavy metal love, from the Metallica-style font on Frankie Kazarian’s wrestling trunks to signature holds titled, “Fade to Black” and “Creeping Death.”
Yet, despite being among the most innovate stars of his generation, California pro wrestler Kazarian was unable to unleash his true self in the ring. Through the beginning of his career, the Kazarian character wasn’t a “heavy metal” wrestler per se, at least not in the sense of a Van Hammer or Man Mountain Rock type.
Now with Ring of Honor, Kazarian has found the freedom to fully express his love of metal. Nicknamed “The Heavy Metal Rebel,” the metal horns throwing Kazarian now sports a self-crafted, metal patch-loaded battle vest to the ring. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x32hbel
Kazarian says that the current iteration of his character is the most accurate presentation of his real personality yet. His promos are littered with references to heavy metal lyrics and band names.
“In the last couple of years, I've really been trying to extend the heavy metal part of me into the wrestling part of me more than in the past,” Kazarian said. “In the past, I was kind of bound down by the shackles of what a pro wrestler should look like. Well you know what, I want to look like a kid at a heavy metal concert. I want to look like a guy at a Maiden show.”
An item like the battle vest, which Kazarian is particularly proud of, could be a red flag for other wrestling promotions due to copyright and trademark issues. Although Ring of Honor is on syndicated television throughout the world, Kazarian and The Addiction tag team partner Christopher Daniels have been free to design their own ensembles without worry.
“Daniels and myself ran into problems with logos in the past with TNA and other places. Whether it be him wearing a shirt that had Marvel Comics on it or me wearing a Pantera shirt to the ring. We were always told, ‘Nope, don't do that’ and yeah, Ring of Honor has never said a word to me.
So I would probably not be allowed to wear the battle vest or a (Judas) Priest shirt if we weren't in Ring of Honor, but I think Ring of Honor understands that this is an extension of my character. and I don't think any of the bands would mind either — ‘Hey, this guy is flying the flag for heavy metal.’” http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x38dsif
Kazarian’s love of metal and pro wrestling ran parallel in his youth. In a household full of diverse music, a young Kazarian gravitated towards his father’s Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin records. He recalls a touchstone moment that many metalheads can share, his first introduction to Black Sabbath.
“When I first heard the chords of ‘Iron Man’, it moved me in a way that music hadn't moved me before,” he said. “I was a little bit scared, but I was also very much intrigued (as to) where this evil sound was coming from and how was it being created. So I started to gravitate towards that, and as a real young man, started discovering rock and roll and heavy metal music.”
Kazarian feels privileged to have grown up in Southern California in the mid-to-late 1980s, where two of his all-time favorites, Guns and Roses and Metallica, made their names before rocketing into megastardom.
“I knew exactly where those places were and what that scene was. Not that I was hanging out at any clubs, I wasn't rocking at the Troubadour when I was 10 years old but I damn sure knew where it was,” he said. “It was cool being a So Cal kid when that scene, in particular, was really blowing up.”
Metallica holds a special place in Kazarian’s heart. A copied tape of And Justice For All, opened Kazarian’s eyes and ears to not only the emergence of thrash, but to the bands that Metallica reverently took influence from.
“I didn't even know you could do that in heavy metal, because I just wasn't exposed to it until then,” Kazarian said of And Justice For All. “So it just hit me. And because of Metallica, I started looking back into the history of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and Priest and Maiden and those types of bands. And I really discovered what built heavy metal.”
As a high schooler in the mid 90s, Kazarian would be inspired to pick up the bass – a 1966 Fender Mustang short scale given to him by his grandfather. Meanwhile, Kazarian was developing another love – pro wrestling.
The athletic Kazarian started training to be a wrestler in 1998, and by 2003 had become a well known name out of the California indie wrestling scene.
“I was able to develop enough of a local name to keep myself kind of busy with wrestling and to really get me motivated. And in getting motivated, I kind of put music on the back burner,” Kazarina said. “I would still always fiddle with my bass and play with my friends, but I was really tunnel visioned on wrestling for a long time.”
Kazarian would go on to develop a reputation as one of the most creative in ring performers, regularly developing flashy new moves and complex sequences. He became a five-time TNA X-Division champion and three-time TNA World Tag Team champion, and also had a brief stint as a full time performer with WWE in 2005 in between his TNA runs.
Now a father and married to former wrestler Traci Brooks, Kazarian’s reputation in wrestling speaks for itself. As an established star, Kazarian has earned the freedom to pursue his other dream – rock and roll.
His band, Vex Temper, has played a few shows in Southern California and is currently working on a 5-7 song demo. Vex Temper, who Kazarian describes as “aggressive rock”, even wrote and recorded The Addiction’s ring entrance music, “Get Addicted.”
“The guys I've been doing it with are incredibly talented musicians, they've been doing it their whole lives,” Kazarian said. “We're all very realistic. We are all men in our 30s and 40s. We have no delusions of grandeur, but at the same time we don't put any limitations on what we can or can't do.”
It’s safe to say that the members of Vex Temper have heard some of Kazarian’s road stories, including encounters with some of heavy metal’s biggest icons. Because of his connections in wrestling, Kazarian has had the chance to hang out with heroes like Metallica backstage at a concert and Motorhead at a WWE wrestling event.
“Lemmy was there at The Pond in Anaheim, and me walking in being a metalhead, and finding out what I was going to do or not do that day, and seeing, like ‘Holy shit, there's Motorhead! there's Lemmy! Why is he here?’
And this was when he started doing (HHH's) music. So, I'm saying to myself, ‘I have to go up and say hello to him.’ And I had that opportunity, even though it was just a little, ‘Hello sir, I’m a big fan of you… 'Oh, hello thank you' and that was it. But that was all I needed. I probably wouldn't have had that opportunity if not for wrestling,” he said.
Kazarian is proud to be part of a small covenant of pro wrestlers who love metal. He regularly converses with the likes of Chris Jericho, Bubba Ray Dudley, Simon Diamond (ECW’s Nova), former TNA talent Gunner and Lucha Underground referee Marty Elias about heavy rock and roll and metal.
Although Kazarian has found fame and fortune through pro wrestling, he never allowed his rock and roll dreams to die.
“The dreams (of pro wrestling and being in a band) were always neck-and-neck, but wrestling is what puts a roof over my family's head(s) and food in my son's tummy, so that's the priority. But music gives me something that professional wrestling can't, and that's a priority to me.” he said.
“Now later on in career, I am very much exploring what's out there for me musically in addition to pro wrestling.”
You can watch Kazarian perform on Ring of Honor TV.