Posted by: Necci – May 17, 2013
This Saturday, Ring Of Honor brings its unique brand of professional wrestling to Richmond at the Greater Richmond Convention Center for what has to be a can't-miss night of excitement (purchase tickets here). Since its formation in 2002, Ring Of Honor (ROH) has built its name on an acclaimed in-ring product that prides itself on being the true alternative in professional wrestling; a strong contrast to the mainstream appeal of wrestling juggernaut World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). While a contrast to WWE, ROH has also become widely known as a place where young wrestlers on the rise can truly make their names before moving on to bigger opportunities. Former WWE Champion and main event star CM Punk was once the hottest act in Ring Of Honor, and formerly held the title of ROH World Champion. Daniel Bryan once wrestled under his real name, Bryan Danielson, in the company, holding the ROH World Championship for over a year and innovating his "Best Wrestling In The World" persona. Other current WWE stars, such as Seth Rollins (former ROH World Champion Tyler Black), Antonio Cesaro (former ROH World Tag Team Champion Claudio Castagnoli), and more, built their reputation on their work in Ring Of Honor, leading to the McMahons calling them up to the big leagues. ROH is known for being at the cutting edge of the wrestling world in terms of their product, and has had a very loyal fan base since its creation early last decade. The true number three promotion in America (behind WWE and TNA), and the top independent promotion as well, ROH boasts a style of pro wrestling most have never seen before. In the clip below, you get a sense that this is not the Hulk Hogan-style of wrestling that you associate professional wrestling with:
Saturday, ROH returns to Richmond for the fifth show since making their debut in the city back in 2010. Newly crowned World Champion Jay Briscoe takes on journeymen BJ Whitmer in the main event, while elsewhere on the card, local wrestler Adam Page takes on one of the brightest stars out there today: Adam Cole. Cole is a current World Champion for the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) promotion out in Southern California, a former Ring Of Honor Television Champion, the 2010 Wrestling Observer Rookie Of The Year, and someone rumored to be heading to WWE later this year after attending a try-out earlier this year for the global company. Adam was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us on his career, thoughts on the industry, and Richmond itself.
This Saturday, you'll face local wrestler Adam Page. Will this be the first time you two meet in the middle of the ring?
Yes, this is the first time I'll wrestle Adam Page, but I've heard a lot of really good things about Adam Page. The cool thing is I think Page is in the exact same position I was two and a half years ago when I started with Ring Of Honor. He's a really hot, young, upstart wrestler who's done really well for himself over these past couple of years. Now, he's finally starting to gain the attention of the ROH officials. I'm really excited because I know Adam is really hungry and motivated and it will surely be a really competitive match-up.
Can't wait to see it. Now, this will be your third trip to Virginia's capital with Ring Of Honor. What kind of memories do you have of Richmond? The crowd, the city, or anything?
It's always a blast to come to Richmond. The cool thing for me is that lots of times when you go to these markets like New York City, Chicago, or Toronto, they've been surrounded by such great wrestling for such a long period of time. Whereas, for Richmond as far as ROH goes, that's kind of a new market for us. So every time we come to Richmond, it feels like a brand new experience. I think it comes across that way with the fans' reaction to the ROH stars that come to town. I think it's really cool. There's a reason we keep coming back--because the city of Richmond has been very good to us. Definitely ready and excited for a really hot crowd in Richmond.
The first time Richmond saw you, you were in the tag team Future Shock with Kyle O'Reilly. What were your thoughts on that run?
I really enjoyed it. The cool thing about me and Kyle is that when we first came into ROH, we were two unknowns. We actually just randomly got paired up together as far as being a tag team goes. You know, it was just kind of thrown together to see if it would stick. Fortunately for us, we had very good chemistry as opponents, wrestling in other promotions like Dragon Gate USA and CHIKARA. In ROH, we had just as much chemistry as a tag team, so I think going in there and sharing the pressure and sharing the excitement with Kyle really made it an enjoyable experience for both of us. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I loved my tag team run with Kyle.
Do you think Future Shock ended prematurely as a unit?
I think lots of times I'll battle with that in my head, saying, "What if Future Shock would have stuck around a little bit longer?" It's funny because when me and Kyle first started as tag wrestlers, both of us envisioned ourselves as being singles guys. When it finally came time for Future Shock to break up, we didn't want to break up. We wanted to keep tagging! I think it completely varies. Of course, you can say, "What if me and Kyle stuck together a little bit longer?" But me and Kyle are very happy with the position that we're in now. Obviously Kyle is one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions with Bobby Fish (as reDRagon) and I have a nice little singles run that I have going on for myself. I don't think we'd change anything, but we will definitely wonder, "What if Future Shock would have stuck around a little longer?"
Well, you have had a good singles run that recently allowed you to headline ROH's last iPPV, Border Wars, against newly crowned ROH World Champion Jay Briscoe. What were your thoughts on that experience?
That was a competitive one. It was interesting going in obviously with two babyfaces. Jay Brisoce just recently won the ROH World Championship and I was going into my first major iPPV championship match-up. It was certainly a big one. Jay Brisoce is a tough guy and I knew he was going to bring his best and I was going to bring my best. It was just a real competitive match-up that Jay came up on top in. I think it will turn out differently in the future.
It took you a little over four years to get to that point after you debuted in Ring Of Honor back in early 2009. How have you enjoyed your run with the company?
I love working for ROH. When I first started wrestling, ROH is the company I always wanted to work for and be part of. The entire roster is literally composed of the best athletes in pro wrestling. The chance for me to get in and work with these guys and, more importantly, work with some of the veterans has been an absolute pleasure. It's been a joy. I've really enjoyed my run in ROH and I think it has a lot to do with my growth as a professional wrestler.
Is there anyone in the company you haven't gotten a chance to work with and would love to?
I'm trying to think because I've worked with quite a few guys, actually, all of which I've enjoyed. I tell you one though: a new guy who's come in, ACH. He's a guy I'd really like to wrestle in ROH, because I think he's everything ROH stands for and everything ROH is all about. I'd love the chance to get in there with him because he's just an incredible athlete who's done amazing so far in his tenure with ROH.
What pops out as a favorite match from your time with ROH so far?
The Hybrid Fighting Rules match I had with Kyle O'Reilly in New York City at Best In The World 2012 where I got my face split in half has got to be my breakout match. Not just in ROH either, but in pro wrestling. It's so crazy that some accident like that really caused the beginning of the peak of my 2012. To go on to win the PWG World Championship and the ROH TV Championship, that had a lot to do with it. I think that match-up for me probably holds the closest to my heart and the most special for breakout reasons.
You mentioned 2012 and it truly was a breakout year for you. With multiple title wins and main events, what was it like living through all of it?
Things definitely have happened very quickly in 2012. A lot of things changed and a lot of motions were made going forward. So for me, I didn't even really have a chance to mentally process the whole thing because wrestling is so "bang, bang, bang, go, go, go" all the time. If you sit back and smell the roses, sometimes that can hurt you. Sometimes you have to constantly focus on moving forward getting better improving. So I definitely knew that 2012 was a special year for me in the way everything was going in ROH, PWG, and everywhere else. Right now, I'm just constantly focused on the task at hand, and that's making sure I continue to grow as a performer and get better each and every step of the way. Try to make sure 2013 is even bigger than 2012 as well.
Well, from word around the wrestling community, it does seem like 2013 is going to be even bigger. There's been a lot of speculation from the wrestling press that you're WWE bound pretty soon. What can you say on those rumors?
All I can say is as much as I know and that's nothing. It's widely known that I went down and did that try-out. It went very well. Only time will tell where I'm going to end up, but I can tell you I'm very happy with my position in ROH. Nonetheless, whatever happens, happens at this point. I'm not going to sweat it or fret. Not sure what my future holds. All I'm going to do is make sure I continue to get better and improve.
About five years ago, WWE was the place for Indy superstars to see their careers absolutely nosedive. With the recent success of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and other former Indy stars, it seems like the times are a-changing. Are you more optimistic about a future with the biggest wrestling promotion around?
I think guys like Punk and guys like Bryan have certainly changed the game for everybody. Exactly what you said, five-to-seven years ago this would not have even been considered. Now, these guys who have done so well have opened the eyes of a lot of people who have a lot of power within the WWE to make a decision of hiring some smaller guys. I have no problem being on the road 300 days a year, and really understand the art of what we do. At the same time for me specifically, I never get my hopes up, because I've seen it happen to so many guys before. So you never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to that, if that makes sense. You always just move forward and do what you can, but I certainly think everyone's chances are greatly increased with the success of The Shield, Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk.
Is there anyone in WWE right now you're friends with or keep in contact with?
Me and Dean Ambrose are pretty close actually. Me and him knew each other from back in my starting days of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW). We definitely keep in contact. I think it's fantastic that he's doing as well as he is and I couldn't be happier for him. I watched WrestleMania from my house and seeing him open WrestleMania this year was the coolest thing ever. I'm so proud of him and he totally deserves it. It's so neat just to see him turning into this star that he's going to become. I'm very excited to see where Ambrose is going to be a year or two from now.
Now, I know the Indy scene for wrestling is better than it was twenty years ago, but it can still be a rough place to make money. Are you able to support yourself full-time wrestling?
Yep! I would say probably as of a year and a half ago, when things in Ring Of Honor started getting really steady and I started getting steady work overseas and on the independents too. When I re-signed with ROH, that was pretty much the kicker for me. At that point, I was wrestling two-three times a week. When you establish your name as a Ring Of Honor guy, fortunately financial perks come with that. It's the dream. It's all you ever wanted to do when you're nine years old. You would just sit back and go, "Man, I'd just love to be a wrestler and that'd be it." It's really cool to wake up every day and all I have to worry about is my wrestling career. I don't have to try and balance another job on top of it.
It's pretty well known that you cite Shawn Michaels as a major influence. Who else out there influences your ring work and who else did you grow up a huge fan of?
I was a giant fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin growing up. He was actually the guy that first got me into wrestling. I thought it was so cool, this guy coming out and beating up his boss. I think any wrestling fan in 1999 was a giant Austin fan. Other than Shawn Michaels, I liked Kurt Angle. Punk's independent work was the first time I ever really started following the Indys because I heard so much about Punk so I really started watching him. I really enjoyed him a lot. Those were pretty much the main guys I was really, really into and, in some cases, influenced by going forward.
What were your first impressions of Ring Of Honor early on?
I loved it, because up to that point, I had just watched WWE, So I was very accustomed to that WWE style, which I still enjoy to this day. But I never had seen so much athleticism and so much action like you could find in ROH. More important than that, the crowd was just rabid. I remember being a middle & high school kid and just being blown away by this style of wrestling because it was just so different than anything I'd ever seen prior. I was totally blown away by the style and from that point on I was a fan of the Indys. Also, that was the first time I really discovered there was so much wrestling talk going on online too. I found this website Obsessed With Wrestling (now called Online World Of Wrestling). I remember hearing all about this CM Punk guy so, of course, that was the start with Ring Of Honor. Then there was just so many other wrestlers and so many other different promotions, like your New Japan, and AAA down in Mexico, and your Indys over in Germany and England, that I was just so into and so captivated by. I really started following PWG, CZW, Jersey All Pro Wrestling, and ROH. The internet is what really exposed me to a lot of different wrestling.
I guess you do come from the first generation of wrestlers to grow up with the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) in full force. What are your takes on the criticism the IWC gets?
Actually, for people to talk about the internet negatively... in some cases, there are certainly guys who will just go on there and hate everything. They can't stand this and they can't stand that; they're just negative. But you can find that not [just] on the internet, you can find that in real life too. On the internet though as well, you can find people who will give you genuine opinions and honest feedback. There's a real community there so I think to ignore that in some cases is ignorant. I don't think that people should obsess over the things that are said on the internet, but I certainly think there is the market there for understanding your audience and understanding who you're appealing to.
Even though you defended the internet just there, I'm sure you've had a bad experience. What's the worst thing you've ever read about yourself?
Let me see. Well, there was one case where I guess someone had written I was the Indy version of Shawn Michaels and I was the worst wrestler they'd ever seen. That to me was such an oxymoron because if I was the Indy version of Shawn Michaels, that would mean I'm pretty darn good and I don't even consider myself close to his league. So I just thought that was really funny that I was the Indy version of Shawn Michaels, but also the worst at the same time. I can't imagine what that guy thought about Shawn Michaels.
I know pro wrestlers often don't keep current on other products, but what's your take on the product from WWE and TNA these days?
Actually, I always make sure that I kind of keep in tune with what's going on in mainstream wrestling. Like, I try to make sure to watch Monday Night RAW every week. I try to watch TNA when I can. I certainly try and keep up with what's going on in mainstream wrestling, because I feel that's very important on your decision of what you do on the independents, kind of to see what's working and what's not working, and how you can be different than what's going on in the mainstream. I think if you're a real student of the game, you need to constantly be paying attention to what's going on, especially in mainstream wrestling. I definitely make sure I'm very adamant about checking up on what's going on with them. I think WWE is great. I've always been a fan of the WWE style. I've always loved their ability to draw people in with the characters that they have. Look at WrestleMania 29 this year. Biggest grossing WrestleMania ever, I believe. Obviously WWE is doing something right. It always cracks me up when people trash the WWE, because they're doing so well financially and continue to do so. They're very good at creating emotion and they're very good at bringing the people in. I've always been a fan of WWE. I can't give a fair assessment on TNA, to be honest, because I don't follow [it] as much as I do WWE. I'm not even sure if they're doing better or worse.
Any current wrestlers going today that you're a big fan of? Besides Dean Ambrose, of course.
Man, I'll tell you what; I think Jonny Gargano is fantastic. I recently worked with him I think a week or two ago for the first time in probably three years and I just think he's fantastic. Everything that he does and all his matches are great. I think certainly as his name grows on the Indys, he's going to continue to become a bigger and bigger star. I certainly think that someday on a national stage, he can be a major player.
Outside of wrestling, what type of things do you like to do in your free time generally? Movies? Music?
Yeah, pretty much the generic things you just mentioned. When I'm at home, I'm so lazy. I just want to lay on my couch and not do anything. Lots of times I'll catch up on movies or television shows. I'm a giant fan of the Walking Dead. I love music. I love pretty much doing anything that requires me to relax and lay back and chill before I get back on the road. I also really like hiking and being outside. I rarely get the chance to do this, but I love the chance to scuba dive, get out on a boat, or be out on the water. Anything that allows me to relax, really.
Relaxing or not, everyone in the business has a funny road story, so you've got to share one with us.
Here's one. I think it was the third time I went to Europe. It was me, Sami Callahan, and Devon Moore; we were travelling together. I think it's pretty apparent now that a lot of times when you travel to Europe, the guys will not pay for work visas for you to be there. Many cases, you have to lie about why you're there. You have to say you're visiting friends or on a school trip, whatever it is. So you dress up as much as a college kid as possible, but when you're with Sami Callahan and Devon Moore, it's tough to do that. Obviously, we got stopped at the border by border patrol. They put us in some room and came over to us forty-five minutes later, and the first thing the guy says, "What's your connection with the Filipino government?" We all looked at each other and said, "What?!?" He replied, "Yeah, do you know anyone from the Philippines?" Sami Callahan went, "Well, I might know someone from the Philippines..." We're hitting Sami going, "What are you talking about?!?This is going to dig us even deeper!" So long story short, we got held in the room for five hours, got finger printed, got pictures taken of us, and we're thinking we're going to get arrested, kicked out of the country, and never be allowed back. Fortunately, some phone calls were made to some promoters and we got let through.
Well, I doubt the ride to Richmond will be as eventful than that trip, but what can Richmonders expect from Saturday's ROH show?
I think the fans can expect what Ring Of Honor always delivers: the hardest hitting, the highest flying, and the most exciting pro wrestling that you can find. The coolest thing about ROH is it's like a rock concert rollercoaster. The fans are just as much a part of the show as the wrestlers are. It creates a really genuine, authentic atmosphere. ROH is going to deliver the best wrestling on the planet, like we always do.
Ring Of Honor will be at the Greater Richmond Convention Center (403 N. Third St) on Saturday, May 18 beginning at 7:30 PM. They'll be taping for their Road Rage TV series at this event. For full details on the scheduled wrestling matches, or to buy tickets to the event, click here: http://www.rohwrestling.com/live/events/2013/may/18/051813-richmond-va
By Doug Nunnally