A global pandemic is hardly the ideal backdrop for an independent wrestler’s breakout year but somehow Danny LimeLight is making it work. Ahead of competing in the finals of New Japan USA’s Lion’s Break Crown tournament, Inside the Ropes’ Liam Wyatt caught up with ‘The Boricua Grim Reaper’ to discuss his journey to New Japan and more.
Danny, you’ve shot to notoriety over the past weeks, particularly due to your appearances with New Japan USA. How have the past few weeks been for you?
Yeah man, it’s been wild but it’s been the good kind of wild, you know from New Japan to Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and Primetime Live, I’ve basically been on TV three times a week for the past month and a half now. It’s been awesome dude, like this is everything I’ve wanted, everything I’ve worked for and you know, I’m having all these people wanting to interview me, all these people wanting to talk to me and it’s just been fun man. Creating the time that I need to be able to talk to everybody, get back to everybody and make time for those that obviously have been there from the beginning as well. It’s just been been a thrill ride and I’ve really, really been enjoying this.
Now to the untrained eye, it feels as if you’ve come out of nowhere, but that of course is not the case. For people that are less familiar with you, could you tell us a bit about your background, where you trained and how you broke in to wrestling?
So know my name is Danny Limelight Rivera. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I left New York City when I was 17 because I joined the Marine Corps. I did 10 years in the Marine Corps and in between my time in the Marine Corps, I found independent wrestling.
I was with my daughter in Target and she knocked over some DVDs in the store and as I was picking them up, one of them was the Rock’s DVD. The Rock was my favourite growing up so I bought the DVD and went home and sat my daughter down, turned it on and we started watching it. Her mom comes in and her mom had never really seen wrestling, so I looked online to see when WWE was coming to town because I thought it would be a cool little date night for us. And so they would come into the Valley View Casino in San Diego the next week!
It was perfect timing, so I bought tickets and when we went, I ran into somebody else that was training to be a professional wrestler and they told me to train to be a professional wrestler. I laughed because I thought it was funny – I was still in the Marine Corps at the time and I didn’t know that you could just train to be a pro wrestler!? It’s one of those crazy jobs that people just don’t know how to get into.
So he gave me the address and location, I showed up to this school and I started training. I don’t really give credit to the school for training me because they ended up kicking me out of their school nine months in and the guy told me I’ll never wrestle again. He blacklisted me all over Southern California and nobody wanted a book me.
But then I got a call from David Marquez and this is the man that I give credit to for everything in my wrestling career because when everybody was trying to close their doors on me based off the word of another promoter, he opened his doors to Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, which was national television, you know? I was about 10 months in a business at this point, I was green and I didn’t know anything about wrestling for TV. I was still basically learning how to wrestle in front of an audience but I came in there, we started rocking and rolling and from there, a lot more doors started to open.
I started getting a lot more independent bookings. Then I started getting a lot of out-of-state bookings and somewhere along the line in 2016, I had a great match in San Diego where Konnan was present and he basically brought me into to The Crash in Mexico. And so, I opened a show at The Crash in Mexico, which had El Hijo del Santo in the main event, Rey Mysterio on the card, Lince Dorado, Fenix, Pentagon, Willie Mack, Rich Swann all on the card. It was a huge show that kind of got more eyes on me and then I started getting a lot of bookings and yeah, it’s just been a blast from there.
You mentioned performing in Mexico with The Crash and I think I’m right in saying you’ve wrestle for Triple A also. How did you find wrestling in Mexico?
I love wrestling in Mexico, there’s amazing talent out there. It’s part of that pride, that feeling of being able to wrestle the Lucha Libre style in Mexico. I’ve been very blessed to have a good relationship with Konnan, who brings me out there from time to time and once Triple A is back on, I’m down, I’m ready to go. Whoever they got, you know, I want the best and I’m sure I’ll get it.
So how did the relationship with New Japan USA come about?
Again, going back to David Marquez, if he had never brought me to Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, I would never have met Rocky Romero, who was the one that kind of connected with me. We hit it off just on some vibe and shit. He’s a cool dude, he’s Puerto Rican, you know, he got the sauce! I’m very laid-back, like to have a good time, bring good energy and stuff, so we hit it off and he ended up inviting me out to the New Japan try out last fall.
I showed up, showed out and then quarantine happened! But the thing was, he liked what I did at the trial and gave me some really good feedback. Shibata was there as well and training with the Young Lions was dope.
The month after the try-out, I separated my shoulder in a match and I was supposed to be out for like six months. But the week after the injury, I was involved in a car accident where my shoulder sort of jolted back in to place. It kind of gave me back my range of motion so I started going back to the gym working out and one month after separated shoulder, I got back in the ring and things really started picking up. I came back to Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, started taking a lot more out of state bookings.
And then Rocky gave me the call during quarantine, which had kind of shut down wrestling for everybody, but I got the call and he said “we’re bringing you in”.
I had my debut against TJ Perkins, who I had wrestled a year prior in San Diego after he came back from WWE. And once I had the match with TJ, I think a lot of people saw it and it really kind of just gave me momentum. Then Championship Wrestling from Hollywood started filming pre-tapes and Primetime Live started!
It’s interesting you mention getting the call from Rocky during quarantine. Independent wrestling has been badly affected by the pandemic and yet, there still appear to be opportunities out there.
Yeah, absolutely. So the last, I want to say since June, so about three and a half months now, it’s just been a roller coaster for me wrestling wise – the best three months of my career.
Quarantine has done amazing for me. I feel very unfortunate and sorry for people that the quarantine has screwed over but it opened up so many doors for me and led to everything that I’ve ever wanted as far as where I wanted to go my career.
I came into this year having a 20/20 vision and things really, really took off.
Going back to New Japan USA, had you been familiar with many of the guys from the LA Dojo prior to the try-out?
I only knew Karl Fredericks from the independent scene and seeing him in Championship Wrestling of Hollywood a few times, being social media friends – things like that. So he was the only one that I really knew (beforehand).
Then at the same try-out that I was at, the Regal Twins were there, Barrett Brown was there, Misterioso and The DKC were there and out of that try out, those were the only (external) guys that ended up being used later down the line.
So I didn’t really know anybody but steel sharpens steel – I’m all about the competition and that was best group of people to be around and this (NJPW Strong) is proof.
It’s been great man. I go to the dojo every now and then, just to get back in there and train hard with these guys because you know, I’m not a Young Lion but the door is open for me to come in and train. They follow a very good code of precautions – we all get tested before every time – and it’s been blessing.
What is it like to train alongside the Young Lions in that notoriously challenging system?
It’s different for me, you know, I don’t have a programme. I’m one of the guys that I would say wasn’t professionally trained by a school, I don’t have a home school. But my home promotion is Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to train with Mariachi Loco, train with Lil Cholo (of Lucha Underground). I’ve been fortunate enough to train with John Morrison, Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, Jake Atlas, and that’s pretty much what helped me take my game to the next level.
It really goes to Mariachi Loco and Lil Cholo, because I went away from wresting for a little bit when I was a Marine Corps drill instructor, but when I came back, they opened their doors to me and they started teaching me Lucha Libre and helped me mix up the hybrid style of American wrestling and Lucha Libre.
Then hanging out with my boys who, when I went away, really took their game to the next level like Jungle Boy and Jake, being able to work with them one on one, work on new moves and stuff like that. And then you go John Morrison, who is obviously the man, a very good human being let alone amazing wrestler – he helped me a lot and then working with Damien Sandow and his mindset, that helped me a lot. Working with Luchasaurus on strikes.. So it’s been it’s been a great time, man, it’s been a blessing being able to work with so many different people and wrestling so much that I’ve been able to like get to this point.
And now that I’m stepping into the LA Dojo every now and then and training with the Young Lions – that training is no joke man and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s been noticeable since as New Japn USA has progressed that the physical condition of the roster continues to improve week on week. How much of that is down to the Young Lions style of training?
A lot of it comes down to Young Lion style of training, but also it’s just steel sharpening steel. Being in the ring with guys like Blake Christian, Fred Rosser, PJ Black, Rocky Romero, Chase Owens – the Bullet Club is there!
You have all these guys there that we’re wrestling on the show, and they’re amazing wrestlers that have done it all, been around the longest and that just brings out the best of everybody. Everybody is trying to prove themselves with this Lion’s Break Crown tournament – you all want to win. So it brings out the fight in us.
And I think that, yeah the training is important obviously, but then when it’s a game time situation, it’s about how bad you want it.
Speaking of the Lion’s Break Crown tournament, has New Japan established what’s at stake for the winner?
It’s the Lion’s Break Crown tournament. It’s being crowned Champion and being crowned the king of that tournament. That’s what it’s about. You know, you don’t do anything if you don’t want to win, so if I’m in the tournament, if the prize is a heavyweight title shot or just a pride thing, I want to win. There is a Crown Trophy and this week it comes down to me and Clark Connors in the finals. He’s the clear-cut favourite to win, I think in the polls I was second.
So, you know, you got the two picks for the top spot, me and Clark, this weekend and he’s a heavy hitter man! He just recently made his debut with Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. He’s been running through everybody over there. He’s the real deal, Clark Connors is the real fucking deal man.
I got a big fight up ahead but I’m also feel like I proved my worth and we’re just going to go in there and throw down.
Do you have any idea on what the the plans are for New Japan USA moving beyond the tournament?
I don’t have any idea what the plans are, I just know that we want to the best hour of pure wrestling on TV every Friday night. I know that I want to be a mainstay on that roster. I know that I want to be a face that everybody sees on that roster every Friday night and my plan is to just come in every time my name is called, have my hand raised in victory and continue to prove that I belong. So I don’t know what the plans are long-term. I just know that this is the place to be, at least for me, and I’m loving it.
Do you have hopes of eventually heading over to Japan to wrestle under the New Japan banner there?
Definitely. That’s all God’s plan right there. You know, I would love to go to Japan to wrestle and if the opportunity may arise, I’m all about it. If not, I’ll continue to work until it does happen. But I definitely want to get over there and wrestle in Japan.
So for anyone reading this and wanting to get more familiar with your work, are there any particular matches that you’d recommend they seek out?
I mean any match from the Lion’s Break Crown tournament. My match with TJ Perkins from my debut on New Japan Strong. If they want to see some stuff before the New Japan, they can go watch any of my Championship Wrestling from Hollywood matches – there’s a lot of those on YouTube.
I have a whole playlist on YouTube, if you look up ‘Danny LimeLight’ there’s a bunch of my stuff.
If you go to see cw30 wrestling, they got a Danny LimeLight playlist there for a lot of my matches at Hollywood. So I’m not hard to find, my stuff is out there.
Final question, if you had your pick of anyone from the entire New Japan roster to have a match with, who would you go for?
Right now, there’s three guys that I want to wrestle. I want to wrestle Jay White, I want to wrestle KENTA and I want to wrestle Will Ospreay.