New Interview with "Wildcat" Chris Harris by Alan Wojcik
Alan Wojcik With "Wildcat" Chris Harris: "Thank God Braden Walker Is Put To Rest"
Alan Wojcik: Let’s backtrack to Sacrifice 2007 where your feud with "Tennessee Cowboy" James Storm ended with a bloody and thrilling Texas Death match. Were you happy with the way America’s Most Wanted ended and what was the short term goals of pairing you with "the War Machine" Rhino?
Chris Harris: As far as our direction I knew it was coming and it would set off an enormous feud the fans would enjoy. We weren’t too happy the way they began with us in a blindfold match at Lockdown. I hate brining it up but the fans I am sure weren’t too happy to watch it. Angle wise with my eye being damaged by Storm it was their direction, but the fans wanted us to tear into each other which is what we wanted to do. The Texas Death match and the matches on Impact for the King of the Mountain gave us the chance to toss the rules out. It was hard on both of us physically and mentally. I think it was a match of the year candidate. As far as Rhino and our makeshift team going into the PPV, I love Rhino he’s a cool guy and could have done some great things. After the feud with Storm and his feud with AJ Styles it probably not what he was looking forward to either.
Alan Wojcik: Slammiversary 2007 was TNA’s return to Nashville since it left for Orlando in 2004. Going into that event you were part of a tag match with Rhino taking on the Latin American Xchange. First what were your feelings going back to Nashville? Second what was your reaction when you were told you were being pulled from that match and being placed in the King of the Mountain match taking Jeff Jarrett’s spot versus Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, "the Phenomenal" AJ Styles and "the Instant Classic" Christian Cage?
Chris Harris: I was letdown with a meaningless tag match. Not to say those 3 guys are meaningless, all of them are wonderful guys but I think they felt it was a throwaway PPV match. I had been with TNA in Nashville for years (Chris also worked Nashville for Bert Prentice & Mike Porter’s promotions). I think the fans wanted another bout with Storm. Then the open slot in KOTM came up which we all assumed was Jeff Jarrett’s. Well right before the PPV one of the agents called and said I was going into the main event. Jeff had personal reasons to take the step back. It meant more to find out that Jeff had pushed me into the creative mix above the other guys. It meant a lot to earn that spot to make or break into the next level. That was the biggest PPV of the year and I was with 4 other top guys, so I needed to live up to the hype.
Alan Wojcik: The TV taping right after Slammiversary saw you enter into a high profile feud with "the Instant Classic" Christian Cage who we spoke about in previous interviews. Were you told if the match at Victory Road (July 15, 2007) was going to lead somewhere or just help Dustin Runnels make his return to action?
Chris Harris: Once I realized the Slammiversary match would lead to a feud with Christian I was excited. He’s one of the top workers on the scene today and to work with him means you’re going to be in a main event style battle. We became friends over the months he was in TNA. You could day it was derailed by Dustin’s arrival. I like Dustin but as the level I was being put into work with Christian, going into a feud with Dustin was a step back. I am not too sure if the fans liked our work but I tried to make it the best it could be. I think it wasn’t fair for Dustin to walk into the promotion and be put with me.
Alan Wojcik: You and Dustin as Black Reign had two PPV matches. The 1st at Hard Justice saw him beat the living crap out of you. The 2nd saw you get some revenge. What was the Dustin Runnels working experience like; some have said he’s great some have said he’s an ass.
Chris Harris: Let me be clear I have no problems with Dustin. We all have demons and I think he was trying to put himself back on the map. I just happened to be the one creative put him with. I am not sure what they wanted to happen with our matches, it didn’t make sense. But I am a company man so I tried to make it work. I admit I was looking past him to see what was next either going back to Christian or ahead Kurt Angle. I wasn’t happy with any of the matches and I am sure the fans weren’t either.
Alan Wojcik: After the matches with Black Reign you seemed to be in a limbo, losing to every one you faced including the newly arriving Booker T. Did the creative office be it Vince Russo, Jeff, Dutch Mantel or whoever, did they have trouble matching you up with someone for a program or was there something else going on?
Chris Harris: To be honest I have no idea and I would be honest with you Alan. Once we finished with Dustin there were many directions to take since I was a newly minted single guy. Instead I got put into the Fight for You Right matches. I was one of many guys looking around wondering what was going on. I wasn’t complaining but even when I asked they didn’t know. Not at all do I expect to be on the top of the list. The fans were buying into me as a singles worker and we all know what happened next.
Alan Wojcik: Your release from TNA Wrestling was announced online January 10, 2008. Let’s deal with some rumors, #1 your on-air rants were work-shoots written by TNA creative?
Chris Harris: Work-shoot is the proper way to call it. I have never questioned my bosses/superiors like the character of Chris Harris did on-air. Anyone who knows me knows I questioned things but never took it public; until creative addressed it by saying lets take your stuff to the air. Everything about Kurt was pushed so far out of balance for TV. Kurt was on board with what I was saying and so were the other wrestlers. The work part is more in play than the shoot. I was trying to get a character across and the "crybaby" Chris Harris seemed to be working for me.
Alan Wojcik: Rumor #2 despite your character’s constant complaining about Kurt Angle’s seemingly endless TV time; you were going to be a surprise member of the Angle faction?
Chris Harris: I’m not sure where you got that one Alan. There was talk for me to complain about him so much that I ended up a part of it. There was so much going on that would have to be classified as rumor. I could have been partner or opponent.
Alan Wojcik: Rumor #3 there were rifts between you and several members of the TNA locker room and it was a catalyst for you leaving.
Chris Harris: As far as I know I had no problems with anyone. As I mentioned I was there from the opening show in 2002. Sure there are cliques but unless someone came out with a beef I want to call that 100% rumor.
Alan Wojcik: How soon after your TNA deal expired did you take calls from World Wrestling Entertainment and what promises were made, like no time in OVW/FCW and how soon before you ended up on TV, was it supposed to have been after WrestleMania 24?
Chris Harris: There were discussions with both TNA and WWE. Since I was under contract to TNA I couldn’t negotiate with WWE so I hired an agent. Nothing got set into stone until my TNA deal expired. WWE’s deal came shortly afterward. I wanted to stay with TNA, it was my home. But I had a chance to leave and whether it was for money or career choices, I felt the time was right to go there. TNA wasn’t using me and they never told me their plans. I was told by WWE that I was going to WrestleMania and I would start a few days later. And we all know something told to you in this business is gospel, insert sarcasm here Alan. I was cut off the travel plans for WrestleMania and got asked to head to Tampa for a week. You asked about developmental, well one part of the deal was no time down in OVW/FCW. I’ve been on TV since 2002 and did Nashville and other territories before that. The last thing I needed was to go there. Their way out of it was instead of moving to Tampa, they sent me there for conditioning. I had been out of the ring so getting the rust off was fine with me. It was the beginning of the deception and lying that was my WWE career.
Alan Wojcik: You signed in February but sat on the sidelines for months except for a dark matches with Shelton Benjamin, Ron Killings and a match with FCW. What were the reasons given by Johnny "Ace" Laurinitis, WWE creative and how long before the name Braden Walker came into existence?
Chris Harris: You might need a second tape for this one. I spent time in Tampa getting the rust off before a trip to Stamford to meet the writing staff which was many people. Ideas were put out there by them and me, some were good and some outright sucked. All I can say was everyone was happy with the plans we set up. Within weeks the whole thing got shut down. I wish I could have proven the rumors wrong but everyone in WWE is two-faced. I went out and bought some outfits to test out the characters. The agents in Tampa wanted to get the plans going. But nothing we talked out ever came to be. I’ve seen the DVD’s and heard stories of guys having their stuff run into the ground. I had a different name, look and zero back story. That name makes me cringe. They came to me 20 minutes before my debut and said you need to pick a name. I talked to Tazz and Mick Foley and got some good notes. The list was filled with real garbage and I tried to be a team player since I was new to the company. There were better names ran by Vince but he shot them down. I realize when you go to a promotion you are going to begin with a clean slate. But when I couldn’t be Chris Harris it didn’t feel like right. I had to toss my entire ring style out the window because my move set was too similar to other established people. Look at my last match I think I threw 500 clotheslines because I was told by several people I couldn’t do anything else. It was horrible.
Alan Wojcik: On July 8th you made your WWE TV debut on the ECW brand defeating Armando Estrada. What were the noticeable differences between the WWE & the TNA locker rooms other than the McMahon’s or Jeff and Dixie Carter?
Chris Harris: To be honest I had zero problems with any of the locker room members. I heard stories of new guys getting their gear being tossed into the hallway. Everyone is trying to make their name but keep clean. TNA was my home but the WWE guys welcomed me in. But it’s more cutthroat in WWE and the guys walk around knowing they could be canned tomorrow. The guys knew who I was so they felt threatened and I could say the same being nervous. I was never near a McMahon’s long enough to get friendly.
Alan Wojcik: On the July 29th ECW you did a quick segment with Matt Hardy where he said," I hear you’re quite the Wildcat." Was there going to be an alliance between the two of you or did the creative team keep you in the dark?
Chris Harris: Matt came up with that on his own. I have no idea if that was to lead somewhere. Matt was open to the chance of working as a team. He threw the comment in there and to tell how ignorant the writers were I don’t think they caught the reference. The TNA fans totally got it and I had a good laugh. I wish it had gone somewhere because Matt & I became friends during my stay in the WWE.
Alan Wojcik: Before your release former ECW/WWE star Lance Storm had some disparaging remarks about you in his online column, Storm wrote, "Speaking of huge wastes, quite the debut for Braden Walker. I don’t know Chris Harris but anyone who shows up for their WWE debut in the worst shape of their career, deserves to be fired. Wellness policy aside, I don’t believe the treadmill is on the banned substance list!" Do you have any response to Lance Storm’s comment?
Chris Harris: First off I have no problems with Lance. I respect his opinion of the most part. As far as showing up in the shape I did, I’m not 25 anymore we all get older. It shouldn’t be an excuse but I didn’t think I was in horrible shape. When you are out of the ring as long as I was it wears on you. Being in ring shape and cardio shape are different. When you put on muscle you put it on all over. I wasn’t the biggest guy in WWE but I wasn’t the smallest. I came in at around 275. If Lance has a problem with it, I don’t think his career lasted all too long.
Alan Wojcik: Your last ECW match was against former OVW and Nashville wrestler KC James Curtis. Two days later (August 7th) WWE.com listed you as being released and the usual "best in your future endeavors" tagline. According to the "Words from Wildcat" column on your site (www.wildcatchrisharris.com) you said, "I wanted to send out a quick message to let everyone know that I am ok. Getting my release was the best thing that could have happened. If you could have seen the condition I was in every day you would understand. I now need to pick up the pieces, make myself better, and find my passion again. Thank you for the support and as soon as I can collect my thoughts you will hear from me again." What led to your release, was it your call or did something happen that made WWE want to go in another direction?
Chris Harris: At the time my last match went down I had been on the roster six or eight months and I had enough. I began staying home with my girlfriend and then I was put on the road then attending TV and PPV’s. It was the most miserable time in my life and career. It could have been them not using me, me missing home or just wanting out and wishing to take the move there back. I know what I was going through. It was a dream job shot to work 14 years and sign that deal, yet I was so uncomfortable. By the time I got to that match people could see I was not the same person from eight months back. The writing was on the wall before that. You can mask it by smiling but the thick skin you have gets chipped away by the office. I didn’t want to be there. I mentioned it before my name; look and mindset were all taken away. I was a blank slate and they didn’t do anything with it. I had a talk with Dusty Rhodes one day and he asked "where did the Chris Harris I knew from TNA go?" I told him he’s not here and I don’t know where he went. Tuesday night after that match I talked to the writers and said I will try to make it work. But they could see my body language I was done. By Thursday I was gone. Most people who get their release go into a depression. When Johnny called me I said thanks for being honest with me. My girlfriend asked what happened and she saw me smile. She said that’s the first time I’ve seen a smile on my face in six months. That should give you some insight how things ended.
Alan Wojcik: There was a YouTube.com parody called "the Definitive Braden Walker 3 Disc DVD Set." Do you have anything to say to the fans who decided to mock you after the release?
Chris Harris: I heard about it but never got around to seeing it. Between you and me, Braden Walker was a joke and if they can laugh at it, great it won’t hurt my feelings. Can I send $10 to a site and score my copy? There are fans that say I failed and that’s ok. The loyal fans out there know Chris Harris could have been a great fit. Let me give an example of things going right for someone, my friend Ron Killings. We signed around the same time and had traveled together. I am so happy at his success there. Look at the character R-Truth, looks an awful lot like TNA’s Ron "the Truth" Killings. They gave him I think six months of vignettes and all that time doing dark matches to fine tune the character. They went to his hometown to help establish the character. People cared about him after all those TV spots. Braden Walker had zero background. His debut was walking into Teddy Long’s office for his match with Armando. When you program the fans to care about you it works. No one cared who Braden Walker was. Thank god Braden Walker is put to rest, let’s drop the name please.
Alan Wojcik: In August you made a surprise appearance at a Kentucky based NWF event (search for it on YouTube) where you gave a heartfelt speech to the fans and a challenge to NWF champion Ryan Stone. Was that something that you wanted to do or was part of a process getting you over the WWE situation?
Chris Harris: Alan in a way it was. I went through the "I failed" phase and I managed to get myself up off the floor and decided to see if the passion was there to keep going. I turned down several indy bookings and tons of interviews before agreeing to this one with you and the radio show I did Monday. I didn’t want anything to do with the business. My family and friends were telling me put the WWE behind you and to take it one step at a time. NWF was local and my home promotion. We went out there not knowing how the fans would react to my search for the passion. I walked out there and gave a heartfelt unscripted speech. Ryan is their top heel and he jumped on my ass. I took it one step further by testing the waters with him. I got a great response from the fans.
Alan Wojcik: I guess the obvious question is what’s next for Chris Harris, could there be a return to TNA or is there something else on the horizon you wish to announce here?
Chris Harris: I wish I could give you a definitive answer; I am still dealing with getting past the WWE road block. Some people want to crawl under the rock and die. If I want to get back on track it could be going overseas or working in the indies. I hope the TNA door isn’t shut but I haven’t talked to Jeff and Dixie. I am sure they weren’t too happy with me leaving. We’ll see I hope that door is open but I think Chris Harris can’t go back unless its’ to make TNA better, I shouldn’t be there unless it makes me and them better. I want to keep my career going by getting into the bets shape possible. I am working local to home to get in ring-time. Tomorrow’s a new day and I want to prove everyone wrong that Chris Harris isn’t done.