In any war, unfortunately, there are innocent casualties. Having recently been released from TNA Wrestling as that company makes its offensive against WWE, one wrestler knows this fact first hand: Cody Deaner.
Deaner (real name Chris Gray) was let go in December, less than a year after debuting with the company. Originally introduced as a mulleted redneck fan who won a contest to spend a night with Knockout O.D.B., the character later joined the roster as a full-time wrestler. As a singles wrestler, Deaner never really got a chance to escape the comedy role, even feuding over the Knockouts championship.
“What can happen when you have a character that’s over the top like mine,” he told SLAM! Wrestling, “is that the character stood out so much as a gimmick, that they decided to run with that. As a result, I was never able to show them my wrestling ability — I was all character. Ultimately, the character has to go out there and wrestle. I would have liked to have been given more of an opportunity to show them what I could do in the ring.”
With many new names being brought into the company over recent weeks, apparently the company felt that trims to the roster had to be made.
“My character was filling a void. It’s what the show needed because nobody else was doing it. I was happy to do it — I did it to the best of my abilities, and I was told I did it well. But what happened is that with TNA so over-saturated with talent, and only two hours of TV, the role that I was filling wasn’t going to be given enough time on the show to warrant my being there.”
That reason isn’t entirely the case, according to some internet reports. Some websites have reported that it was Hulk Hogan who had recommended scrapping the character, labeling the redneck hillbilly as being too low-rent for TNA’s new direction. Deaner doesn’t put any stock into that theory, however.
“The thing about the internet,” he noted, “is that you never really know what’s rumour and what’s fact. I was told by TNA management what I said earlier, that creatively they didn’t have anything for me. Nobody in TNA management told me it was any other reason, and until I’m told otherwise by them or by Hulk Hogan himself, I’m not saying it’s true.”
In either case, and despite what happened, Deaner was overall very happy with his time in TNA, both from a professional and personal standpoint.
“I had the respect of my peers,” he said, and “knowing that is very gratifying professionally. Kurt Angle actually sat down beside me once and said, ‘You’re very entertaining. You’re great at what you do. I really enjoy watching you work.’ Coming from someone that has done so much in this business and someone that I really respect, that is very gratifying.”
“Other guys went out of their way to pull me aside and tell me I was doing a great job — guys like Kevin Nash, Mick Foley, Dr. Stevie, D-Lo Brown, Savio Vega, Raven … lots of guys. They didn’t have to go out of their way to say that, but they did. It’s one thing to gain the respect of the fans, but a whole other thing to gain the respect of your peers. To have them acknowledge my efforts was humbling.”
Personally, Deaner enjoyed getting to work with many of his close friends.
“The locker room was really the reason why I really wanted to work there in the first place. I have a lot of friends there, guys like ‘Showtime’ Eric Young who I grew up in the business with, and Bobby Roode, as well as guys who I’d wrestled on the indy circuit and established friendships with, like A.J. Styles, Abyss, and Christopher Daniels. Getting to go to work and hang out with those guys was one of the most positive things for me.”
Though understandably disappointed with the decision, Deaner sees his relase as a temporary setback only, and he’s confident that he will return to the national stage again.
“They’ve left the door open,” he said about potentially returning to TNA. “We left on very good terms. I spoke with Vince Russo, Terry Taylor, and Dixie Carter. They all said that they were very grateful for the job that I did when I was there, and that when the time is right, the door’s always open for me.”
In the meantime, he’s back on the independent circuit, wrestling recently at Great Canadian Wrestling’s New Years Evil show in Oshawa. Returning to his Ontario roots is always fun, he said, and he looks forward to getting the chance to perform in front of the fans who have seen him evolve in the business.”
“Wrestling in front of those towns across Ontario is always special, because I’ve wrestled here for a long time, and have established a following here. Tonight (in Oshawa), people were legitimately happy to see me. It wasn’t like they were seeing it as a guy from TV is here, but rather they saw it like a good friend coming back. That’s how I felt, too. That’s the great thing about independent wrestling. You get to establish yourself with the fans, and you get to wrestle in front of people that you know. They feel connected to you, and you feel connected to them. It’s a great feeling.”
On January 24, Deaner will be wrestling for Classic Championship Wrestling (formerly known as PWX) in Tilsonburg, Ontario, where he will be facing ‘Dangerboy’ Derek Wylde. Then, on February 13, he heads to Wyandotte, Michigan to take on the Sharp Dressed Man in a match for the Michigan Champion Wrestling Association championship. He is also in discussion with some companies in England and Australia for some international dates.
In the meantime, Deaner will be making some tweaks to his character, in an effort to one day get back to the big leagues.
“I’m not revamping the character entirely,” he said, “but reinventing Cody Deaner for my new fans that I got from being in TNA. Those newer fans don’t know me the same way the Ontario independent wrestling fans know me. I’m a funny guy, I can cut a promo, and I can work a wrestling match — they don’t know that. I’m going to do some YouTube videos, do a mini web series to show the fans something different. I’m still going to put a smile on their faces, but it’s going to be a bit of a new and improved Cody Deaner that they’ve never seen before. I’m really excited about it, and I look forward to moving onward and upward.”
Which is not to say that he’s going to forget the fans that have been following his entire career. Indeed, he’s very appreciative of their continued support, particularly the well wishes he received after the news of his release was made public.
“After the release, I got a lot of e-mail from fans, expressing their condolences to me, especially for being released right before Christmas. To hear that from the fans, was really nice. That makes you feel good, because for people to take the time to write me lets me know that I connected with them in some way. I hope they’ll continue to support me and follow me in 2010, because there are a lot of new things coming. You haven’t seen the last of Cody Deaner on your television screen. I promise you, you haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll be back. I’ll be back.”