In an exclusive interview with SlamWrestling.net, Cody Deaner announced that he has re-signed with Impact Wrestling, extending his tenure with the company where he has been since 2018.
Deaner cited various reasons for re-signing, particularly expressing his admiration and respect for the other members of the roster and a desire to continue working with them.
“I believe that we have the best roster in professional wrestling,” Deaner said, “both in terms of the talent, but also in terms of the morale of the company. Everybody gets along, and it really feels like a team, it feels like family. So I definitely wanted to stay with my family.”
While specific terms of the deal weren’t discussed, Deaner (real name Chris Gray) did say he didn’t rule out moving to other companies before making his decision.
“I mean, as a professional wrestler, I’m also a businessman,” he shared. “I’m always open to exploring talking to other companies. A businessman is always going to ‘take the meeting.’ They’re not going to close the doors.”
In fact, Impact’s willingness to allow talent to walk through the “Forbidden Door” was also a compelling factor in Deaner’s decision to stay on.
“It’s a real interesting time in Impact Wrestling,” he said. “One of the big advantages of being here is that you have access to these ‘Forbidden Doors’. There are multiple doors, with many companies working together in ways that haven’t been done in wrestling in many, many years. And Impact is one of those main places that gives you access to those doors. That played into my thought process, for sure.”
Another compelling factor was that Deaner is now getting a lot more creative input into his character and storylines than ever before.
In 2018, Deaner’s character was that of a fun-loving redneck – basically a continuation of his persona that he used in 2009 when the company was known as TNA. He and his partner, Cousin Jake – now known as Jake Something – were very much a comedic team that weren’t really positioned high on the card.
But in 2020, Deaner underwent a significant transformation, splitting with Jake, becoming more intense and seething as a member of the cult-like faction Violent By Design. As part of the evolution, Deaner shaved his head and trimmed his beard, which were distinct hallmarks of his Deaner persona.
“That was all my idea,” he revealed. “All the ideas that I had for how (the change) should transpire, that was a team effort. It wasn’t just a piece of paper that was handed to me saying ‘you’re gonna do this now.’ I was part of that process. They’re really giving me opportunities to be heard, and opportunities to show the different skill sets that I have.”
Those skills have resulted in both a more prominent position on the show, including championship gold (although he wasn’t he and his VBD stablemates defended the titles under “Freebird” rules). While regaining is certainly on Deaner’s – and VBD’s – agenda, he’s hoping that his contract renewal will allow him to achieve even more goals, whether as a tag team or a singles star.
“This time around, not only am I getting to show multiple sides of my character, but also multiple sides of my skill sets. Being a one-time Impact Wrestling tag team champion was really awesome. Now that I’m back, the goal moving forward is to start putting my name down in the history books with more championship wins.”
While he wants to carve out his own legacy, Deaner is also looking to help elevate the careers of others. As a veteran in the locker room – he’s been wrestling for 21 years and counting – Deaner acknowledges that giving back to the business is his responsibility.
“It’s always been my philosophy,” he confirmed, “that in professional wrestling, no matter what you’re doing – whether it’s a match, or an angle, or you’re promoting something – there’s a way to do it where everybody looks better and comes out better on the other end of it. In my opinion, that’s what professional wrestling is all about. That’s doing business the right way.”
In that light, he’s very proud of Jake Something’s rise as a singles wrestler, the genesis of which came from Deaner turning on him and violently breaking up their team.
“Seeing how well Jake is doing, knowing how things are going for him, it makes me feel great to have been a part of what he will do in the professional wrestling world.”
And while the two may someday clash yet again, right now Deaner’s focus is on continued success with VBD. The group has been in the mix in the family feud between Bullet Club and the Good Brothers, acting as hired muscle. But Deaner notes that they aren’t going to be satisfied in playing a strong supporting role. That’s a sentiment, he stresses, that’s not just part of the storyline.
“Now that Eric (Young) is back in the fold after coming back from his injury, we have our eyes on multiple goals. As a group, we’ve got three top guys in Eric, Joe (Doering), and myself. We want to take over, and there’s no reason we can’t. It’s not just a catchphrase when we say ‘The world belongs to us.’ All three of us have been in this business longer than most guys on the roster. The amount of years combined that we have – the chip on our shoulders is real. It’s legit.”
As passionate as he has with respect to his in-ring success, Deaner is just as passionate about his work as a motivational speaker. In his downtime from violently beating up opponents, Deaner spends a lot of time talking to students, community groups, and charities, sharing his experiences and teaching them to overcome adversity with positivity and dreaming big in order to achieve their goals.
“Being able to continue with the professional speaking business was a huge factor in my decision to re-sign with Impact,” he confirmed. “With Impact Wrestling, we have the freedom to follow our passions, and do things outside the bubble of the company. We can be our own businessmen and businesswomen and do these other projects.”
“We don’t have these thumbs squeezing you down, saying ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ If anything, it’s encouraged get out there and positively represent Impact. It was very important for me to have the freedom to do the professional speaking and the charity work that I do.”
Having those types of experiences and opportunities will also help him transition to his next career when and it he decides it’s time to hang up the boots. But the plan isn’t to supplant wrestling as his primary career. Indeed, Deaner intends to stay in the wrestling business for life.
“Eventually, I would definitely want to transition to a backstage role. I like to think I have a lot to offer, whether as a producer, creative, potentially doing some writing. That’s something that we’ve definitely discussed,” he said.
“I love every aspect of professional wrestling, not just the performing. What I’ve really come to appreciate – and what a lot of people don’t realize – is the amount of work that goes into putting a show together, and making a wrestling promotion operate at a high level. And that’s what Impact Wrestling is doing. So being a part of that machine is something that I’m very interested in. And I’ll definitely be looking at transitioning into those areas as my career progresses.”
“I want to be a part of the professional wrestling business until my heart stops beating,” he affirmed. “I love this too much. And I want to be a part of it for as long as possible.”
TOP PHOTO: Cody Deaner. Courtesy IMPACT Wrestling