Daniel Garcia Q&A: AEW Star on Being a Sports Entertainer vs. Pro Wrestler and More
All Elite Wrestling has some big storylines taking place right now that will come to a head at All Out on Sunday, and one of those revolves around a 23-year-old man named Daniel Garcia.
Despite being the youngest member of the Jericho Appreciation Society, he has already carved out a reputation for himself as one of the best technicians in the company after less than five years in the business.
Right now, Red Death finds himself between a rock and a hard place. His current mentor, Chris Jericho, wants him to remain in the JAS. However, Garcia's boyhood hero, Bryan Danielson, wants to pull him in the direction of Blackpool Combat Club.
Last week's Dynamite did not definitively answer the question of where Garcia's allegiance lies, so Jericho will attempt to slay The American Dragon on Sunday.
We had a chance to speak with Garcia after last week's Dynamite to discuss this whole situation and many other topics such as the difference between pro wrestling and sports entertainment, the most painful submission holds, and how he prefers BBQ-flavored wings over buffalo wings despite being from Buffalo, New York.
Is Garcia Still Part of the Jericho Appreciation Society?
Last Wednesday's Dynamite opened with Garcia coming to the ring to talk about what happened between himself, Jericho and Danielson during the prior week.
Both former world champions joined him and made their case for why he should side with them, but Garcia ultimately left without making a clear choice. That led to Danielson and Jericho agreeing to a match at All Out.
With all of this still up in the air, we had to ask Garcia if he still considers himself part of the JAS.
"Yeah, I am still a part of Jericho Appreciation Society," he said. "It's not something that you just say that you're in or out of. It's a brotherhood, and sisterhood, because we have Anna [Jay] and Tay [Melo] in the group. And it's a group that's been there for me for the past couple of months."
When Garcia was in a bad car accident in 2019 that resulted in both of his legs being broken, Jericho was one of the people who stepped in to help despite not knowing the young grappler at the time.
"Chris has been there for me for a very long time since the car accident that I was in," he said. "It's a group of people that I'm very loyal to. It's hard for you to walk away from them, and I'm not ready to make that decision."
Working Alongside Chris Jericho
When a company forms a stable such as the Jericho Appreciation Society, one of the hopes is that the veterans in the group will help the younger stars grow.
With someone like Jericho as the leader of the faction, it would be hard not to pick up a few things by osmosis.
"Chris has taught me a lot about the entertainment aspect of wrestling," Garcia said. "Something that I really admire about Chris is you can watch his segments, his matches and his promos with no sound. And you could still tell what points he is getting across with just his face.
"That's the biggest thing I learned from him: How to portray a story and how to portray emotion without necessarily having to state it abruptly and so broadly to the audience. I think he's a master at telling the story through his body language and pushing narratives forward without having to say it so straightforward."
Working with His Childhood Hero
Garcia is still a young man at 23, so he grew up watching stars like CM Punk, AJ Styles and of course, Bryan Danielson.
To date, Garcia has had three singles matches against The American Dragon on AEW television, and one additional multi-man Blood & Guts bout that included both men.
Being able to work with someone whose career has meant so much to him is not something Red Death takes lightly.
"I think Bryan is the greatest wrestler of all time," Garcia said. "I think his body of work speaks for itself. His longevity, the matches he's had across different countries, different promotions, different areas; it really speaks for itself. And being able to share the ring with somebody with that wealth of knowledge, and in a style that I've always appreciated so much, is really special to me.
"And I think that even if I never had another match with Bryan again, the matches that I've had with him will continue to make me better. And I'll just keep learning from those experiences I've had with him, even though they're over."
The 41-year-old doesn't just mean a lot to Garcia because he grew up as a fan. He also served as a big inspiration for him to not only pursue wrestling but also how to craft his own in-ring style.
"Bryan was my favorite wrestler," he said. "When I was a kid in high school, he was my favorite. I looked up to him so much. And when I started wrestling, he was one of my biggest influences and still is. He's probably the wrestler I watched the most.
"Brian is probably top three, Chris is probably another top three. So being able to learn from those two people who I have watched probably the most out of any other wrestlers, sports entertainers, in my lifetime is really special to me."
Pro Wrestling and Sports Entertainment
A big part of the storyline with Garcia, the JAS and Danielson is the difference between pro wrestling and sports entertainment.
The American Dragon wants him to embrace the wrestling side of the business, but Jericho is all about the sports entertainment in this incarnation of his character.
We asked Garcia if he sees a difference between the terms and if he has a preference.
"I do think that pro wrestling and sports entertainment are different things," he said. "I know you've heard people even say it on podcasts. You've heard Triple H say it on Logan Paul's podcast that there's a difference between a sports entertainer and a pro wrestler. And I think I'd be lying if I said there wasn't any difference.
"I think that sports entertainment is maybe more challenging than pro wrestling, to me anyway. I never grew up saying I want to be a sports entertainer. When I grew up, I wanted to be a pro wrestler. And then when I went to wrestling school and started to learn different styles of professional wrestling, I really realized what the difference was.
"Sports entertainment, people think it's more consumable to a wide audience. And it's not. Pro wrestling can garner just as much emotion and as much storytelling as sports entertainment can, if not more. I think sports entertainment can possibly be limiting.
"Pro Wrestling itself is very different than sports entertainment. I think sports entertainment, if not done perfectly, holds pro wrestling back severely; I think sports entertainment, when it's great, is amazing. But when it's bad, it's bad. It holds pro-wrestling back a lot. It can if it's not done correctly."
Being Trusted with Big Matches and Segments
If you have been watching AEW programming since at least the beginning of 2022, you may have noticed Garcia is one of the most frequently used performers on the entire roster.
In that time, Tony Khan has put Garcia in some high-profile bouts against the biggest names in the company, and Red Death spoke about what it means to him to know he has the boss' trust when it comes to working with guys like Danielson, Jon Moxley and Jericho.
"It's really special to me," Garcia said. "Obviously, wrestling is an interesting sport, where it's not like basketball where if I'm getting the most points, I get the most playing time. Your shot percentage isn't calculated. You don't have any stats to prove yourself. So when I first got to AEW, me and 2.0 were put together, Daddy Magic and Angelo Parker.
"The momentum just kept rolling. And the big one that made me realize it was when I wrestled Mox in the main event of the CM Punk return show at the United Center. And I remember after the match just being eternally grateful of the position that I was put in. And that was one of the first times I thought to myself, 'Man, I'm really blessed to be put in this position so quick.' And then over the past year.
"I think a lot of people thought it was going to slow down at some point, but it really didn't. It just kept happening. You know, I wrestled CM Punk. I wrestled Bryan three times. I main-evented the first show in L.A. with Mox at The Forum. Pay-per-view matches, Blood & Guts, dark matches.
"I'm not sure if it's 100 percent accurate still, but for a while, I had the most televised main events on Dynamite and Rampage over the past year. That shows the trust Tony puts in me. But the coolest thing about Tony to me is that he doesn't store people away in a warehouse for five years and wait until they're ready. If he likes you, he believes in you as a performer. Obviously he does if he signs you. Why wait?
"Why make it a grooming process of making somebody pay dues for years upon years if they're ready now? Let them prove they're ready now. If they're not, back to the drawing board, but luckily, I think that I've knocked it out of the park every time. I think that I always deliver. And I'm going to keep continuing to do so."
Before we get to our pro wrestler movie review, we asked Garcia a series of quick questions to give readers a better sense of who he is outside the ring.
What is your typical cheat meal?
"I’m from Buffalo, so I like to indulge in chicken wings. Barbecue chicken wings. That's my thing."
What is the most painful submission?
"So it's person by person because people master different holds. So, one of the holds that I think people have mastered that has been the most painful and I've been put in, is when Mox put me in the Bulldog choke. That one hurt. I thought he's about to rip my head off. And when I was on the indies, WALTER [now Gunther in WWE] put me in a Boston crab that almost broke my back."
What would you be doing if you weren't wrestling?
"I have a communications degree, so I'd probably be doing something in PR or marketing. Something along those lines. I could see myself doing OK."
What is your current workout album?
"So lately, I mean, it's summertime, you know? I'm enjoying the nice weather. So the Bad Bunny album has been on repeat for me non-stop. I've been listening to it when I drive, when I'm at the gym, when I go to sleep. I've been doing everything to the album. That's been my workout album over the summer for sure."
If you could have a match with any Hollywood actor, who would it be?
"Oh, maybe somebody who can draw a lot of emotion. Somebody who can make people feel because I think that's the most important aspect of pro wrestling. So maybe Jake Gyllenhaal. I think he is somebody who is transformative. Whenever you're watching his movies, it doesn't ever feel like you're watching Jake Gyllenhaal.
"And usually for those high-level actors, like when I watch Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio, I feel like watching Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio. But Jake Gyllenhaal really immerses himself in the characters. Watching him, I feel like I'm watching somebody I've never seen before. And it feels like I'm really watching a real character. And I feel like me and him could probably do some fun, emotional storytelling."
We always end our AEW interviews with a movie review to give the wrestlers a chance to talk about something outside of the business and to give readers a glimpse into their personal tastes.
When asked which film he wanted to talk about, Garcia brought up the recently released Bullet Train with Brad Pitt.
"So I don't watch a ton of movies," he said. "But I did recently watch the Bullet Train movie with Brad Pitt with my friends. Actually, it was really good. Bad Bunny was in it. That's what drew me in to go to the movie. Obviously. I'm a big Bad Bunny fan so I wanted to see it.
"And I'm not gonna lie...I fell asleep at one point for about 20 minutes. But the parts that I did see were very good [laughs]. It's a movie that takes you into the universe. I love movies that make you feel like you're part of the the universe of the film, something where it doesn't feel like you're watching a movie.
"And for the parts that I was awake for, Bullet Train definitely felt like an immersive experience. And it was just like a funny movie that's not too negative. It didn't feel like it was a chore to sit through. I didn't feel depressed or achy watching it. It was a good summer movie. It was a good way to just spend a nice evening with my friends watching a pretty lighthearted action-packed movie with Bad Bunny in it."
All quotes were given directly to the author by the subject and edited for clarity and conciseness. The main picture was designed specifically for this article by @MelColemanArt. You can follow Garcia (@GarciaWrestling) and Chris Mueller (@BR_Doctor) on Twitter.