The city of New York is an interesting one as it breeds some of the most talented people in the world whether its athletes, actors, musicians, etc. One of the biggest markets for wrestling is New York so if you live there, nine times out of ten, you have either watched it growing up and/or still watch it.
I know what you’re thinking: Why is there an article about wrestling on a boxing website? It’s simple, Danny “Limelight” Rivera, who is from Brooklyn, NY, recently debuted on a national platform, TNT, which is viewed by millions across the world.
He is a Marine Veteran who dedicated ten years of his life as an active-duty member of the military. Why not shine some light on someone from NY who is doing positive things with his life?
Danny was born on September 2, 1991 and was raised in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in NY isn’t an easy task and anyone from there will tell you the same. There are challenges that come along with it, whether within the household or outside on the street. For Danny, the challenges came from both directions.
He comes from a humble Puerto Rican family that saw a father who was a drug dealer and a mother that was a college dropout. Aside from that, he had his challenges in school, where he labeled himself being a “shithead” during that time. Danny also found himself not being tight with his three younger siblings or his older step-brother.
He did play sports growing up but consistently found himself hanging with the wrong people and doing what he describes as “dumb stuff in school.” After finding himself in consistent trouble, he joined the Marine Corps in 2009 in order to seek a better life for himself.
I wanted to start there with Danny and ask him about the Marine Corps, wrestling and the special person in his life.
AG: Danny, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You spent 10 years as an active-duty Marine. During this time, you were a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. It was there you transformed over 350 men into Marines. With all of that time and experience in the Marine Corps, what lessons did you learn that helped prepare you for life after your active service?
DR: The Marine Corps believes that they are the best, so they train us that way. I’ve learned the ability to adapt to any situation, perform under pressure and stressful environments, which prepared me for life, period. It has taught me to also find alternative routes to getting things done and just in general, paved the way for me to do anything I want to do in this world.
AG: You have navigated and performed a lot in the independent wrestling circuit. At what moment whether a match or event did you realize your career as a wrestler had the potential of going really far?
DR: I think it was the first time I wrestled Pentagon & Fenix on the independent scene. They were the first real superstars I had wrestled. I knew then that I could hang with the best of them. Then I made my debut with Impact Wrestling, which was my first match on a major promotion. That match was my coming out party for a lot of people who had not watched me in the past. Then I tried out for New Japan Pro Wrestling and was then booked to wrestle T.J Perkins on my debut for them.
Everyone really got to see me and once I had the Twitter world talking, I told myself I can do this. After that, I saw constant improvement and every match was getting better and better. Fast forward to the phone call from AEW, it was evident that my consistent performance got me that opportunity. I did two tag team matches before they started to place me in singles matches with their top guys.
AG: Last night was arguably the biggest moment so far in your career. How did it feel being in a match with one of the biggest wrestlers in the world? Also, what was your reaction to all of the positive feedback and messages you received on social media from fans and people involved in the wrestling world?
DR: It was 100% the biggest match of my life. I was in the ring with the AEW Champion, who is the best wrestler in the world. People say he is arguably the best but I’m saying he is the best in the world. Kenny Omega has been doing this a long time. With him was the tag team “The Good Brothers,” who are one of the most talked about teams in wrestling right now.
Making my AEW Dynamite debut, people were expecting them to just run through us. I went in there wanting to show the world that I am elite. Yesterday, I was able to show just a good taste of what I can do in order to have people wanting to see more.
AG: You have a daughter (Khaleesi) who is an actress at the young age of 6 going on 7. You have been a positive role model and influence in her life. What are some of the things she has going on?
DR: My daughter had an amazing 2020. It was her first year in acting and she booked two national commercials. One was in the beginning of the year and the one in December was a McDonald’s commercial. In between the two commercials, she also was involved in three short films. I just tell her to have fun in life. Her mom is very serious with her going to school and getting good grades which is great, but I also want her to enjoy life.
I used to take things so seriously when I was in the Marine Corps, but it wasn’t until I got out where I started to really have fun with life. I also just want her to work hard in whatever she is doing. She tends to put a lot of pressure on herself because she wants to do good, but I have to remind her to have fun with it.
AG: What do you say to those out there who want to pursue or are pursuing a career in wrestling?
DR: Last night, wrestling legend Jim Ross was commentating on my match and six-year-old me would have never believed that. When I was a kid and I told teachers that I wanted to be a wrestler and actor, they laughed at me and told me I was crazy.
If you want something in life, you have to want it as bad as you want to breathe. If you work your ass off, nothing is going get in the way but yourself. Follow your dreams and do not let anyone talk you out of it. The people trying to talk you out of it are probably not happy and aren’t doing what they want to do in life.
My Three Cents:
Whether you watch wrestling or don’t, it’s hard not to root for a guy like Danny. He volunteered part of his life to the military and is now pursuing his dreams of becoming a wrestling star.
He is a Father, Marine Veteran, Wrestler and Actor all balled into one. Will we see Danny’s face on a billboard in a major arena in the future? Time will tell but if I was a betting man, I would place all of my chips on that bet!