Sam Adonis carving out his niche as heel
By Mike Pankow
September 19, 2019
There’s something to be said for great heels in wrestling and Sam Adonis fits the bill perfectly.
Whether with dastardly tactics in the ring or stinging words on the microphone, Adonis is one of the best bad guys around. Thus, he is someone fans want to see get beat up by the babyfaces on a regular basis. WWE Hall of Famer and current AEW announcer Jim Ross has stressed many times in media interviews the need for antagonists in wrestling.
“Most wrestling fans don’t even know how important it is (to have great heels),” Adonis said before Warrior Wrestling 6 in Chicago Heights on Sept. 1. “Most fans are so in tune in trying to control the show. They get angry when you control their emotions. That’s what wrestling is about, that’s what we’re supposed to do. You can love me, you can hate me. I’m Sam Adonis and I’ll be around whether you like it or not.”
Not many Americans know who the Pittsburgh native is as he wrestles only in selected independents in the United States, but he is a world-traveler, frequenting Mexico and Japan. One of the biggest American indies for which Adonis works is Warrior Wrestling, based in Chicago’s South suburbs.
Adonis, 30, has worked all six of the Warrior shows since the company debuted in May 2018. The diversity of opponents and types of matches he has worked have been amazing, from former NWA World Champion Nick Aldis to Chicago’s beloved Colt Cabana. He had a crazy match with Mexican legend LA Park (aka La Parka) at Warrior 4 where even the referee got hit with a strap.
“I do every style,” Adonis said. “I can do Lucha style, I can do the Japanese style, brawl or whatever.
Warrior Wrestling, run by Marian Catholic High School principal Steve Tortorello and raises funds for scholarships, holds a special place in Adonis’ heart.
“I have a blast every time I’m here,” Adonis said. “These guys put a lot of work into it. It’s organized very well. The really put the fans first. These guys branch out and bring something different, the luchadores from Mexico, some of the MMA guys, it’s kinda cool.”
Adonis’ most memorable match may have been the wild brawl he had against rising local independent star Pat Monix at Warrior Wrestling 5 in May 2019. The two men fought all over the school’s gymnasium, on the floor and up into the bleachers. Late in the match, A chair bounced off Adonis’ leg and ricocheted into his head, lacerating his face near his left eye. The referee tried to stop the match, but Adonis protested and quickly attacked Monix with several chair shots leading to a pinfall victory.
“It’s kind of the risk you have to take here in wrestling,” Adonis said. “We took it all around the house and I ended up with a little bit of blood. Went to the hospital to get some stitches, but luckily I made my flight that day and squeezed in Hooters and a few beers.”
Adonis initially was upset after the freak accident, but he took it stride.
“There’s no heat,” Adonis said. “It’s hard, because when you do get hurt, you get wound up. I was pissed off because I was bloody. It’s wrestling. If you’re not able to handle yourself and take care of business outside the ring, you shouldn’t be in the ring.”
At Warrior Wrestling 6 earlier this month, Adonis worked alongside veteran Chicago independent star Gringo Loco in a tag team match against Brian Pillman Jr. and Wardlow. In typical heel fashion, Adonis scored the pin on Pillman after Loco blasted Pillman with a chair while the referee was distracted.
Adonis and Loco also got into a couple of altercations with Mexican wrestlers from CMLL who were booked on the card, including Ultimo Guerrero, Caristico (fka Mistico and the original Sin Cara), Atlantis, Templario and Soberano Jr.
With his extensive background in Mexico, Adonis helped Tortorello get some of the Mexican stars to come to Chicago for Warrior shows.
A lot of the guys from Mexico are personal friends of mine, so they’re always trying to get up here to the USA,” Adonis said. “I’m always trying to get the boys some work and help Warrior grow by bringing some different stuff to Chicago.”
Adonis, a 12-year veteran in the wrestling business, is the younger brother of WWE commentator Corey Graves. Both were in WWE’s developmental system in Florida Championship Wrestling (precursor to NXT) about a decade ago. While Graves stuck around for few years in NXT, Adonis didn’t last long in Florida.
“It made me open my eyes in the wrestling business,” Adonis said. “I was there way too early. I was too young. I wasn’t able to play the cards I was dealt and ended up getting released. It was a valuable experience and opened my eyes to the business at a young age. It ultimately led to my success worldwide.”
Adonis set off to make his own name and went on to have success in Europe and later in Mexico before landing a deal with All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Just as WWE Network was born and NXT was starting to take off, Graves was forced to retire in 2014 due to the effects of multiple concussions. He has become one of WWE’s most recognizable voices over the last five years.
“He’s doing really well,” Adonis said. “He’s making waves for himself in the announcing industry. It isn’t what he wanted to do, but those are the cards he was dealt. He’s making the most of it. I would’ve been pissed off, because as a wrestler, I wanted to grow up and wrestle my brother at WrestleMania just like everybody. He’s making money and he’s able to put food on the table for his kids. I’m doing my thing in Mexico and Japan and here in some of the indies.”
Adonis is still young in the business, so the doors to a larger American promotion, like WWE or AEW, could swing open down the road, but for now, he’s content to continue his worldwide trek as an independent wrestler.
“Whoever pays me, I’ll go,” he said. “I’m a bit of a pain in the ass. I’m a diva, if you will. I’m not exactly the ‘It guy’ on the American independents, so I’m kind of outpriced for a lot of them. But I’m doing well and I’m happy where I’m at.”
Check out our video interview with Sam before Warrior Wrestling 6 below: