Ring Rust Radio with Jay Lethal
Hosts: Donald Wood, Mike Chiari, and Brandon Galvin
Audio available at Blogtalkradio.com/ringrustradio
On his journey from being injured to regaining the ROH Championship: Well, to answer the second part of your question first, I say absolutely everything was worth it. I know this is a cliché answer, but I eat, sleep, and breathe wrestling. When I am not around wrestling, I don’t know what to do with myself. I love the entire environment, the travel, the crowd, the performance and everything. I couldn’t wait when I was injured to come back and push myself to the point of becoming the world champion again. It certainly was a mentally and physically hard road coming back from the three surgeries on my left arm and even recently when I had a bout with pneumonia and lost 17.5 pounds. It was tough, but being able to stand in that ring in Las Vegas and say that I have become the Ring of Honor world champion for a second time and getting a second chance to be with in my opinion the most prestigious title in pro wrestling is really cool. If you look at the list of Ring of Honor champions, that list is very thin and filled with the best wrestlers in the world. The list of guys that have held the title more than once is even smaller. I am the third guy in history to do that. It is pretty awesome and really surreal.
On being the guy picked to end Jay Lethal’s long run and maintaining the momentum that he generated: First of all, I just want to agree with what you said. To me, Jay Lethal is by far one of the best wrestlers in the world. Anyone who has seen Jay work or talk knows how talented he is. The run he was able to have like you said, just completely elevated the championship even more and everyone knows how prestigious the Ring of Honor title is. For me to be picked as the guy to dethrone Jay, that motivated me a ton; especially going forward. A few months before this I was handpicked by New Japan Pro Wrestling to be a new featured member of the Bullet Club. Then to have Ring of Honor say that I was going to be the new Ring of Honor champion. To me, this is that pressure I have been look for and I thrive on. Back in 2013 when I was the Ring of Honor champion and the Pro Wrestling Guerilla champion at the same time. The advantage to this is the pressure I feel is something I am more prepared to handle. When I was 23, it was a lot for me to process and to have that responsibility of being the guy in Ring of Honor. With me being the guy to dethrone Jay, and I know how good of a run Jay Lethal had, I definitely feel the pressure. I feel all of it, but I feel prepared. I am more confident this time around. Seeing the places the company has gone, being able to be at the forefront of that, and to think that I am the guy to lead the charge is very cool. It’s something I am ready for.
On how his state of mind changes now that he’s the champion of the company: Yeah, it is much different and not even with your own mindset, but the audience’s perception of you. I think that’s the biggest thing I noticed. Lots of times when you are champion, you have to work twice as hard to make sure everyone is invested in you and going along with your stories. When you’re not champion, everyone is rooting for the challenger. Everyone wants the guy challenging for the title to be the guy to take the title or win it for the first time ever. When you are in the championship role, you have so many different opponents, so many different styles that you have to adapt to and prepare for. The schedule gets a lot busier and that goes for wrestling and media. So the different mindset really is just preparing as much as you can for as many different obstacles and opportunities that are thrown your way. Anything and everything will be thrown your way when you are the Ring of Honor world champion. I know this from the first time around. The company has grown, the championship has grown, and the roster has grown even more the second time around with the New Japan and CMLL relationships. There are a lot of high pressure situations for sure when you are the champion and you are the guy carrying the ball.
On taking over as the leader of the Bullet Club: Well, New Japan Pro Wrestling has been toying with the idea of bringing me in and doing something with me for a long time. A lot of people were questioning why I wasn’t in New Japan earlier. I did one show for them back in 2014 and then with the combination of scheduling conflicts that I had with needing to be on Ring of Honor shows or with injuries and things like that. It was just a situation where New Japan was waiting to give me something to dig my teeth into. Then this Bullet Club opportunity came up and they said, ‘OK, this is going to be it.” To get to do that on PPV and go in as a surprise was really cool. Especially at the time I was off of Ring of Honor shows for about a month so people were questioning where I was going to end up or what my future held. So to be able to come out and actually surprise everyone and joining the Bullet Club was really cool. To go off the second part of that question, to be a part of the Bullet Club is probably one of the biggest things I have done in my wrestling career. Just for how impactful the Bullet Club is. I think it’s fair to say the Bullet Club has been the most impactful wrestling faction in years. You see its influence in Ring of Honor, New Japan and even see it in the WWE. They can call it something different, but it’s the same thing. You see it everywhere and the Bullet Club is everywhere. The moniker of the Bullet Club is “We are taking over the world,” and I think it’s safe to say we are doing that. To be able to be a part of that and in a forefront role, not only as a leader, but also Ring of Honor champion, that further puts the ball in the court of the Bullet Club.
On how being in a leadership role in the biggest stable in wrestling helped him grow as a performer: I think the biggest thing is who I am surrounded with. I look at Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, just to name a few that are in the Bullet Club. These are some of the best performers in the world. So I am now forced to be surrounded—which I love by the way—by some of the best wrestlers in the world to bring out the best in each other. I like to think I bring a special spark out of the Young Bucks that they don’t normally have and Kenny Omega brings something out of me I normally don’t have. I think the reason why the Bullet Club thrives so well is because everyone in that group is genuinely friends behind the curtain. We all share the exact same passion for pro wrestling and we want to push the envelope and go as far with this thing as we can. That’s the biggest thing for that I take away from being in a group like this. Being surrounded by really talented guys that just push us to change, to be different, to evolve and to bring the best out in each other. I think that really shows.
Whether there are other goals or accomplishments you’re looking to achieve on the independent circuit: I wouldn’t say it’s an independent because New Japan is such a large company, but I would really want to have a great run in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Ever since this relationship started, New Japan had always been a company I wanted to be a part of. To me, it’s excellent that this relationship has started and now that I have joined the Bullet Club I have a great fresh start. I am going to be going there pretty consistently for the remainder of the year, hopefully more so in 2017. My biggest goal besides having the best Ring of Honor championship reign that I can, it’s also making a name for myself and establishing myself over in New Japan. To me, they are the two best companies in the world and if I can stake my claim and make a name for myself in both places that would be the ultimate goal for me going forward.