The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
June 15, 2022

Chris Bey On Joining Bullet Club, NJPW, IMPACT Wrestling & Betting On Yourself

Chris Bey On Joining Bullet Club, NJPW, IMPACT Wrestling & Betting On Yourself

Chris Bey (@dashingchrisbey) is a professional wrestler known for his time in IMPACT Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. He joins Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios at Wynn Las Vegas to talk about how he got started as a pro wrestler, moving his entire life to Las Vegas to chase his dreams, how he got signed by IMPACT Wrestling, winning the X Division Championship, his main event with Rich Swan, joining Bullet Club in NJPW and much more!

On Chris Bey being his real name:

“My first wrestling name was terrible. It was, shout out to Roderick Strong, but it was Chris Strong, The Genetic Genius. I thought it was pretty hard, but everybody in Vegas, like all my trainers said ‘Wait, your name is Chris Bey? Why don’t you just wrestle as that?’ I didn’t know how wrestling works, I didn’t want to get heat with anybody like ‘Oh this guy thinks he can use his real name.’ Like John Cena right? When I first realized I had a great last name, I was in middle school. I was writing down my initials in biology class, terrible at biology so I wasn’t paying any attention. I’m just writing down my name a million times over and over, I’m looking at my name and I’m like imagine this on the back of a football jersey. I had written raps and I was going to start again, so I’m like OK, I’m going to drop everything under the name Chris Bey. Like I’m going to do it now, and it just took on a world of its own.”

On where the story began:

“I was born in Maryland and I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, a lot of my family is still in that area. All of my family is back there and I started there, I’m the youngest of 6, I have 5 older brothers. I am so tough because they were always trying to jump me back then. Naturally I was super small until high school, but I’m like if I want to be a pro wrestler then I should probably start lifting weights. But bro, they were wrestling fans and they beat me up, but it was good times.”

On wrestling being his dream:

“It was either that or being the first black president, but Obama beat me to it. Man I was tight when he won, but Obama, you took my dreams away from me so many years before I could try. I was the school president, I was trying to be you before you were! But it was around 8 when I knew I wanted to be a wrestler. It was when Eddie Guerrero won the title from Brock Lesnar, we couldn’t afford cable so we were watching a lot of DVDs. The first one I got was Cheating Death, Stealing Life and I watched that every day. People in my life, a lot of them have had addiction problems. When I saw what Eddie had overcome, he got his family back and made it to the top of the mountain when people thought he couldn’t. And watching the people in the building when he won that title, man I couldn’t imagine how it was going to play out. Just that story, this is what I want to do, make people feel how this made me feel.”

On realising he could be a wrestler:

“I implore all wrestlers to do their research, because there are so many people out there with different schools and different availabilities, styles, techniques and opportunities. I have been doing my research since 15 in graphics class, doing no work! I wish I had paid attention anymore. But instead I was researching and training Team 3D training academy, emailing Ring of Honor, watching videos. Then when I was 18 to 20, I knew I wanted to go into wrestling after I graduated, but I had no money. I remember sitting on the side of the road and I had like 70 cents. Fresh out of high school, I knew I needed to get a job but I had no experience. Eventually I got a job as a cashier and that was my home for the next 2 years.”

On saving up:

“I’m watching wrestling and I am saving up. But the more I am saving up, the more that doubt is creeping into my mind. My friends are coming back from college and seeing me at the restaurant, they are on the other side like ‘How’s the wrestling going?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, still going good but still saving.’ I am realizing that damn I am procrastinating. Looking forward to my 20th birthday, I had a friend who lived in Vegas, so I went there. I land in Vegas and it’s 76 degrees, and I’ve never experienced a birthday where it is not cold. The last day it dawns on me that they probably have wrestling here. I looked it up, Future Stars of Wrestling. But I didn’t have time to see the school, so I’m like damn, I wish I got to see that. But the next month my dad passes away, I get the call, he was going through colon cancer at the time. There were times I would get off work and go and see my dad in the hospital and not responding. He started to reject the medicine up until the last day, I’m standing over him and this is real. I took a seat and it the machine started beeping, they said that now is the time for last words. Selfishly, one of my thoughts was that he would never see me wrestle, because he bought all of the wrestling toys, the DVDs, took me to 12 WWE events. He didn’t care for wrestling, but he knew that I did. After he passed, his funeral and birthday was the same weekend as WrestleMania 32. I decided to go to Connecticut to watch it with one of my friends, who I had been friends with for a while, because I wanted to be around someone who likes wrestling.”

On the deciding factor to pursue wrestling:

“I remember doing the funeral, hopping on a plane and going to Connecticut. This was the biggest WrestleMania of all time at that point. I am watching the opening match and Zack Ryder, Matt Cardona is in the match when he not supposed to be, I think Neville got hurt. He wins the Intercontinental Title, his dad gets in the ring and I am pissed off, because I will never get to have that moment. I just buried my dad and I am watching this guy celebrate with his dad. I’m just like, that’s it, I am getting the f*ck of my ass and I am doing this. I started researching Future Stars of Wrestling, the cost and the living, and they called me right before I was about to start a workout. They gave me the low down and I said I will probably see them in a couple of months. After deciding whether or not this was the move I wanted to make, I bought a one way ticket to Vegas, no insurance. I said to my mom ‘I’m going to Vegas to do wrestling.’ And she’s like OK, and that was it.”

On having no excuses:

“That’s how you to have to do it. I used to say that I would have my back against the wall so I would either do it or do it. That’s why I came to Vegas. People don’t realize how much I have to sacrifice. I haven’t just sacrificed my nieces and nephews growing up, a lot of family passed after I moved out here, so I missed a lot of funerals. I couldn’t go back for the funerals and for the important moments. After 6 months of living in Vegas not getting a job that would also let me train, it was like 6 to 9pm, well sorry, training is 4 until 7pm. I did nothing for money, what I did first was I blew through my savings and sold all my finest possessions. I sold guitars and my collection of wrestling belts. All I had left was a bed, no car and I couldn’t afford an apartment, for a while I was sleeping in the school and then in a friend’s kitchen. But I knew if I had the wrestling, then the rest of it wouldn’t matter. I had been obsessing for 20 years and didn’t have it, but now I have it.” 

On never giving up:

“There were times where I would call my mom and I would break down. There were times where I was like this is hard, I can’t get on my feet. She was like well come back here and you can that job back and stack up some money. I said ‘Listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but I would rather be homeless here than go back there.’ The difference between me here and me there is that I got to be me here in Vegas. People were like ‘You were too small.’ So I avoided it all this time, I only went back there recently, it’s a dangerous place where I come from.”

On the first break:

“I started getting a little better with it about 2018. The first time I touched IMPACT was 2018. It took me a while because I was young and dumb, I was not concerned about real life at all. I was negating credit, bills and savings because of wrestling. I don’t have my dad to tell me some of these things, he was a very smart person. I didn’t understand, I was struggling. I would have this plan where if I worked hard and hustled, I could then get a contract and take things more seriously. But it wasn’t until I started wrestling as Chris Bey that things changed.”

On being a WWE extra:

“So I did some extra work for WWE about a year in. I’m not on screen for this one, but I did a 3 day loop and got to work a match in front of the talent. I worked a local wrestler named Nino Black, me and him had just lost out tag titles at the time, so we were like if we are going to get contracts, then we are going to have to wrestle each other here at The Staples Center.”

On his goals moving forward:

“To keep shocking the world with everything that Bullet Club is doing. Bullet Club is something that people want to say is watered down, nah you ain’t seen nothing yet. The big LG, Karl Anderson, me, Juice Robinson, we are only getting bigger.” 

On Bullet Club merch money:

“I’ve never asked. There have been 16 members so probably 1/16th of it. I see people wearing Bullet Club shirts who don’t even know who I am! I am fan of when things in wrestling bleed into real life.”

On being mistaken for other wrestlers:

“Yeah, all the time. At first I thought it was just a trolling thing, but now that it is happening more in person, I don’t think it is. It started with Kofi, but he has gone on his New Day Podcast that he got the blonde from me. I told it so many times that I thought I was lying. I was doing 205 Live when I was doing it, and Kofi said ‘Man I like your hair, I was thinking about doing it. And now I see it, it’s a great idea.’ I’m like yeah do it so they can think we are the same person even more, we laughed about it. So he debuts on SmackDown with the hair and my timeline is blowing up of ‘Is that Chris Bey on SmackDown? Oh wait it is Kofi.’ The other one is Swerve, I guess now because he is on AEW it is happening more. We were at Wale Mania, me and him are walking up the stairs, I am right behind him. This girl looks me dead in my soul, walks by and goes ‘Oh my God Swerve! Can I get a picture?’ She is looking in my soul. I stop and look at her, look back at him, and look back at her. I’m like, it’s literally the guy right in front of me. People are like does it trigger me? I’m like yes!”   

Using mistaken identity to his advantage:

“I’ve had my moments where I have benefitted off of it. I ran in a Jack In The Box one time when the inside was open at like 3am. The guy was in the back cleaning and I’m like ‘Excuse me, can I get a milkshake?’  He goes ‘yeah just give me a second.’ He comes to the front and he’s like ‘Hey, you that’s wrestler aren’t you?’ I go [leans back] ‘Which one?’ He goes ‘Kofi.’ I’m like ‘Yes sir, that’s me. What’s up with that milkshake though? Is it on the house?’ And it was, I have reaped the benefits. But it does suck that you work so hard to separate yourself and be you, and then you get immediately discredited by people who are not caring to look at the work. ‘Oh you look like that person, so you are that person.’ You’re like, ok.” 

On pandemic wrestling:

“I’m a vocal wrestler, I like to tell one liners and things like that. If you see me live, I do a lot of that and you won’t hear it on TV. When we wrestled during the pandemic, I got back and agents were like ‘Yeah, maybe don’t do that. Maybe wait until we get crowds back.’ Well how else do I entertain the people if all they can hear is me breathing? We worked so hard but, man. But wrestling will always be there. When the pandemic started, once the world had to legit stop, I had been going non stop since I moved to Vegas. I was doing everything and setting goals. I did extra work with WWE and did work with IMPACT, and I wanted to sign with IMPACT. I was there and I was figuring it out, and anybody who is anybody got shook up by what happened. Everybody got affected, but in my position, I’m in Vegas 2000 miles away from my family and trying to figure out what was going on. We didn’t film for 9 weeks, the world is shut down and people are trying to balance what is important, to me it was family. My nieces and nephews are getting older and understanding what I do and watch me on tv. So I asked myself, if wrestling stopped, what would I do with my life? I then got motivated, got my real life stuff together like my vision and getting my tooth fixed, it got knocked out in 2018. I made more money than I ever had, then I blew my calf out. I couldn’t walk to the kitchen, but what if it was worse, how could I survive? And at this point, there is no crowd so I am getting no response. My whole career in IMPACT was in front of nobody. I won the X Division Title in IMPACT, I called my mom and she fell asleep during the pay-per-view. I’m like is any of this real? Now I am getting hurt, nothing felt certain and that I was going in the right direction. I started feeling like, I’m getting older and looking at my 30s, what do I want that to look like? Well I want to be mobile, have enough money to eat, a lot of that to figure out. Once we got back to live events and my shirt are selling out, now I get to feel that again and see people you inspire. That is why I got in this business, not money and not security, it’s what you do out there. Now I am doing shows again, it reminded me of what I am doing and my legacy.”

On what Chris Bey is grateful for:

“The ability to wake up today, my family has been supportive and all the people.”