“Family is Everything”: Rich Swann and Sami Callihan’s History Spans Nearly a Decade

Sami Callihan and Rich Swann
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It all started on December 13, 2018. After an Ultimate X qualifying match between Dave Crist and Rich Swann (that was won by Swann), Dave’s brother Jake joined him in a post-match assault that was shockingly stopped by oVe’s leader, Sami Callihan. But as that was happening, Swann’s friend and partner Willie Mack made his way down to the ring, laid out the Crist brothers and attacked Callihan before he too was pulled off. Swann held Mack back and Callihan ordered his boys to the locker room. Later in the show, Mack asked Swann why he prevented him from attacking Callihan, to which Swann said he knows how dangerous Callihan can be and just didn’t want to go down that road.

The next two weeks were clip shows but when IMPACT Wrestling returned on January 3, 2019 for their final show on POP TV, the plot thickened. Swann and Mack teamed with the Rascalz to defeat oVe, Ethan Page and Matt Sydal but it was what happened after the match that added to the intrigue. The Crists and Callihan attacked Mack but when it seemed like Callihan was going to attack Swann as well, he held off. With issues between Callihan and Mack bubbling, IMPACT management booked the two in a match at Homecoming which was won by Callihan. But the ongoing angle between Mack/Swann and oVe was far from finished.

On January 11, during IMPACT’s first show on Pursuit, oVe interrupted Swann’s promo as the new X-Division champion as Callihan made an offer. Saying, “Family is EVERYTHING” and alluding to a history between himself and Swann, history the fans weren’t yet allowed to know, Callihan said Swann should “come home,” and offered him a spot in oVe. Before Swann could respond or accept the shirt Callihan offered, Mack came to the ring and he and Callihan had a rematch of their Homecoming grudge match, but this time Mack won. But as he and Swann left the ring, things were still very much unresolved with oVe.

The following week, after Swann’s match with Trey Miguel, once again Callihan implored Swann to do the right thing and come home. Once again he threw Swann an oVe shirt that once again, the X-Division champion never had a chance to accept or decline. Before Swann could respond, the oVe/LAX match began, once again leaving this storyline with more questions than answers.

It all started on December 13, 2018…well, actually, it all started on February 13, 2010, when Callihan and Swann met on the indies for the first time.

Both members of the Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) roster since 2009, it’s likely Callihan and Swann’s history can date back to then. Callihan, having wrestled since he made his debut in 2006, joined CZW two years later, at a time when Swann’s own career was just beginning. In 2009, Swann began training at the CZW Dojo under DJ Hyde and Drew Gulak. A few months later he made his main roster debut.

It wasn’t until 2010 however, when Swann and Callihan crossed paths in the ring for the first time as Swann’s Irish Driveby with Ryan McBride defeated Callihan’s Switchblade Conspiracy with Joe Gacy. The victory gave Irish Driveby a chance to challenge for the tag team titles while Switchblade Conspiracy (Callihan, Gacy and Jon Moxley, aka WWE’s Dean Ambrose) went back to trying to make life a living hell for CZW management. Callihan and Swann went their separate ways in CZW as Swann remained in the tag title picture and also challenged Drew Gulak for his CZW Wired title on more than one occasion while Callihan flirted with the world title picture. But outside of CZW, the two met on five additional occasions in 2010, including in their first ever singles match at Force One Pro Wrestling in October and in the Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup. Both matches were won by Callihan.

Moving into 2011, Callihan and Swann continued their separate paths in CZW at least in terms of wrestling each other in the ring. But backstage, a mentorship was developing between tow young guys, who were coming up in the industry together. As Swann said on a recent IMPACT Wrestling media call upon joining the company, it was Callihan who took him under his wing when the two were in CZW and it was Callihan who he wanted to wrestle the most with the two of them now in IMPACT Wrestling. This Saturday, at IMPACT’s One Night Only, he’ll get that chance. But we’re somewhat jumping ahead of ourselves here as we’ve only scratched the surface on the history these two have.

As mentioned, in 2011 in CZW, Callihan and Swann’s paths didn’t cross, though the two did have three matches elsewhere for Maryland Championship Wrestling (now MCW Pro) and Dragon Gate USA. Two were singles and both were again won by Callihan. In 2012, Callihan and Swann had their first-ever CZW singles match and it was a big one as Swann challenged for Callihan’s junior heavyweight title at An Excellent Adventure. Swann didn’t spend much time in CZW that year as he went off on an excursion with Dragon Gate in Japan, while Callihan continued to carve his place among CZW elite by winning Best of the Best 11. But the two still found time to wrestle both against and with each other that year an additional eight times, including in another championship match, this time in International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) for Callihan’s IWC Super Indy title. The two even formed a tag team briefly in Squared Circle Wrestling, where they feuded with Super Smash Brothers (Player Dos & Player Uno) over the 2CW tag team titles.

The two would meet just one more time on the indies, in 2013 at EVOLVE, as in the ensuing years, Callihan would join WWE/NXT (from 2013 to 2015) and Swann would do the same shortly after (2015 through 17). All the while the two friends continued to support each other as they carved different paths for themselves. But there is only so far a path can go before it’s met by another path and in 2018, in IMPACT Wrestling Callihan and Swann’s two paths crossed yet again. Both Callihan and Swann had joined the same promotions, IMPACT and Major League Wrestling (MLW), and were back working similar indie circuits as well. It was only a matter of time until the mentor and his mentee were back in a ring together. Fans didn’t have to wait long either as shortly after Swann’s debut with IMPACT, he teamed with Fenix and Pentagon Jr. to wrestle oVe. Back then, however, Callihan’s credo about the importance of family wasn’t his priority, it was beating Pentagon Jr. and anyone else who stood in the way of that.

The two wrestled six matches in 2018, including in the Jim Lynam Memorial Tournament for All American Wrestling (AAW) and Main Event Wrestling, where after seven tries, Swann finally got a singles victory over Callihan. As mentioned, he’ll another chance to do exactly that on Saturday at New Beginnings. But before then, another episode of IMPACT Wrestling will air tonight and that could perhaps mean some answers as to this history that Callihan is referring to.

A few years ago, RF Video created a series called Wrestling’s Best Unsigned Talents and the first volume featured Callihan and Swann. The two took part in one-on-one interviews, had an empty arena match with Ricochet as special guest referee and had a face-to-face sitdown where they shared stories from their time on the road together and in shared locker rooms throughout the indies but especially in CZW. Their talent was featured but perhaps more importantly, so was the friendship, a friendship that at least kayfabe wise, now hangs in the balance.

With tons of real-life history to draw from, including 24 matches with or against each other over the last eight years, as well as a friendship spanning nearly a decade, IMPACT has the potential to really make this a compelling angle, no matter what Swann decides to do regarding joining oVe.