Jay Lethal on why he left TNA and the rise of ROH Submitted by Aaron Rift on 09/11/2017 at 11:51 AM
Thanks to James Walsh for passing this along:
Show: Interactive Wrestling Radio
Guest: Jay Lethal
Your Host: James Walsh
Ooo yeah! The former Black Machismo joins Interactive Wrestling Radio for the first time to talk about his upcoming ROH Death Before
Dishonor match with Silas Young. He also discusses talking to the "Macho Man" Randy Savage about his parody/tribute gimmick in TNA,
working with legends such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, and we also discuss his long and incredible reign as ROH World Heavyweight
Champion. There are a lot of gems here.
On his match at ROH Death Before Dishonor on September 22nd:
"It has been announced that it will be myself against Silas Young in a "Last Man Standing" match. This will be my first ever last man standing match! I'm a little excited, a little nervous. It is live on pay-per-view. Everybody always ups their game for pay-per-views. It is just kind of a wrestling tradition."
On Silas Young being underrated:
"100 percent! That is an understatement. He is definately better than he is given credit for. I hadn't met Silas until my second time back here (ROH). My second run, as they say, in Ring of Honor after I left Impact Wrestling and came back to Ring of Honor, there were faces that I had to learn. Silas Young was one of those guys. In the ring, I've got to tell you, he is one of the guys who represents Ring of Honor well. In the ring, he is literally one of the best wrestlers in the world. He plays the role, he plays it right. I just love everything about him... Even that look! He's got a unique look with that mustache. I love him. Sometimes I think he was born just a little too late. He'd be a millionaire if he was born just a few years earlier. But, I think he is amazing in the ring."
On what sets ROH Apart from Other Companies:
"The fact that there are no pee breaks or filler matches. I think you have to do that to stand out. With Ring of Honor, it isn't about the bells and whistles. It isn't about "This wrestler has the coolest entrance" like Bray Wyat, I think he's got one of the best entrances ever - cool song. Not taking anything away from that aspect of wrestling. You know, we're (ROH) not pumping money into our entrances like the other companies do. No reason to play to our weakness there. We've got to play to our strengths which means we have to focus our product on the in-ring action. We've got to do that from the minute each episode begins to the minute each episode ends. It is the one thing the other companies don't do. Wrestling is called a soap opera. The last thing you want to see from a show that is new and innovative, the last thing you want to see is someone in the ring with a microphone saying someone stole his girlfriend when they were in the 3rd grade and he's going to get revenge and the tables will be turned. We think the minute you turn on that program, we've got to give you action to hook you and make you want to sit and watch the entire show and not give you that match, that segment, that break that makes you think, "OK, this is my chance to go pee." We want you to hold your pee until the show is over! (laughs) That's what helps us stand out above the rest. Also, we have one of the greatest rosters currently going and for years, Ring of Honor has always had one of the best rosters going. The proof is in the pudding because other rosters constantly pluck from the Ring of Honor roster.. For years! For example, look at WWE. Most of their champions and top guys came through Ring of Honor at one point. Those are the key reasons why Ring of Honor is standing out among all the other wrestling companies out there."
On GFW Impact Wrestling's recent rumored troubles:
"We are, and I consider Ring of Honor the #2 wrestling company in the entire world. Some people might take this the wrong way. Some people might take this out of context. So, if someone hears this, please listen to the whole thing. With the thought process that you are the #2 wrestling company in the world, you really don't look under you to see what the #3 wrestling company in the world is doing. You look up to see what the #1 wrestling company in the world is doing so that you can better yourself and not work down. That is in no way a knock on TNA, it is just a logical way of thinking. Take out the company names from the equation. The #2 doesn't look at the #3, they look at the company that is in the #1 spot and that is all I'm saying. With that said, I did work for Impact Wrestling at one time. I had a great time there. They gave me one of the greatest days of my life when I wrestled Ric Flair live on pay-per-view. To see that they are going through such hard times, I don't get joy from this though some people might think that my thought process would be, "Yeah! This is what they get for letting me go!" No, no, no. I made a lot of great friends, a lot of great relationships from working there many of whom are still there. I have some great friends that just joined there. It hurts to see them going through any down or hard times because as we all have learned, the better each wrestling company does, the better the wrestling business as a whole does."
On why TNA/GFW Let Him Go:
"Again, not to talk negatively about them. I don't want this to be taken out of context like, "Jay Lethal says they got rid of him for no reason." But, there was no reason given to me. Only speculation. A few things that I've speculated. One was they had already gotten rid of my buddy Sonjay Dutt and they were already trying to make some budget cuts for guys, when your contract comes up for renewal, you get a little bump. They were trying to limit those bumps. I also heard a rumor that Dixie's mom came into the office because too much money was being spent and she made cuts. I also heard that, at the time, Jeff Jarrett was trying to start a new wrestling company up called... Something to do with NASCAR. Legally, guys who worked on that show could not work for Impact. I heard a rumor that was the reason I was let go. That one kind of made sense to me because shortly after I got released, I was contacted by Jeff Jarrett to work on that NASCAR show. I was never given a direct answer. They say things happen for a reason. When one door closes, another one opens. Everything they allowed me to do in the company prepared me for what I'd get to do in Ring of Honor. Lead the roster as the World Champion of a company that is recognized for its wrestling. That is one of my career highlights right there!"
On his stint as ROH World Heavyweight Champion:
"Oh my Gosh! I loved it, I loved it! It's a sick reason that I loved it. Here's the reason. You've got guys on the roster like the Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, and you've got those guys and they should be in the main event. But, they're not. They're in matches, 3, 4, 5, and 6. And you've got to follow them! Because you're the World Champion, you've got to dig down deep and come up with something as entertaining or better than what they just saw. That will drive you crazy because it did drive me crazy for some events. The fact that I had to dig down deep and pull out something... People will go "The World Title match was good but this other match was better." I never wanted to hear that. I always wanted people to leave thinking, "Wow, what a main event!" That really makes you pull an extra something out of yourself that you didn't even know existed. I always enjoyed those moments where I'd leave the ring thinking, "Wow, I just followed all those amazing matches." That is the hardest part of being a part of the Ring of Honor roster. Our roster is full of literally the greatest wrestlers in the world. You've got to keep up or you've got to get out!"
On speaking to Randy Savage about his "Black Machismo" Character:
"Unfortunately, I did not ask him too much about it because, and this is an interesting story here. I worked a few shows, I wrestled a few shows for a man named Ed Chuman. Ed Chuman would always tell me, "You know, I'm friends with the Macho Man and his brother Lanny. He'd like you to call him. He saw a few clips on YouTube and he'd like you to call him." I knew Ed Chuman but I guess I didn't really trust him. I figured, "Sure, he's trying to get me on the phone with someone who does a good Randy Savage impression like myself so that I'd ask him a bunch of stupid questions." So, I didn't believe him. Everytime I'd get to his show, he'd say, "Hey, Randy Savage said that you didn't call him. He really wants to talk to you." So, during the peak of my Black Machismo gimmick, I got booked on a show for Pro Wrestling Syndicate in a match with Lanny Poffo. At the end of the day, I remember he was talking to my parents, he gave them 2 of his books. I pulled him aside and I said, "I've been working for this guy named Ed Chuman. He says he knows you and Macho Man. He says he wants me to call him. I don't believe him. Is this true?" He said, "Oh yeah, we know Ed. But, I don't know if Randy told him to call. When I get home, I'll check." When he said he knew Ed Chuman, I was kind of like, "Oh no, this could be legit." Literally, when I got home, the next day in my email was Lanny saying "Yeah, that was Randy. He wants him to call him. Here's his number." I call him... Right away, I'm a fan now. I'm a fan getting to call his idol. You could tell I was interrupting him. I'd always call at weird times. He'd always go, "Is that right?" The conversations would only last 2 or 3 minutes and he'd say, "Me and my girl are about to go eat." Had I known or believed that Ed Chuman had been telling the truth, I'd have called him a long time ago. But Lanny did tell me, "He is a big fan of your character. He doesn't watch on TV but somehow he did see some of it on YouTube and he is a big fan of it." That is as far as it went. So, I never got to talk to him about his thoughts. But, Lanny told me that he actually enjoyed the character."
On his promo with Ric Flair:
"That promo with Ric Flair was probably the scariest promo of my life. I was never, ever in TNA given a chance to, first of all, cut a promo, a live promo, in the middle of the ring with a live microphone. I was never, ever given this opportunity. When I was doing the Black Machismo character, all my promos or interviews were done backstage. Even if I didn't say the right word or the right thing, it didn't really matter so much because it was more of a comedic role. I could get away with it. I never had to do more than 1 take as my Black Machsimo character. But, this Flair thing possibly could require a couple of takes. But, they didn't care. They put me in the middle of the ring for the very first time, not knowing how I would do... It is like, "We didn't trust you before but now that Flair wants to do this program with you, we have 100 percent confidence in you." Then, when you go on top of that, I have to go back and forth on the microphone with someone who is considered to be greatest promo guy in the history of this business. That made it the scariest moment of my life... All of the time I had to be face to face! I remember being so nervous, my hand went completely numb!"
On if TNA got all they could have out of his feud with Flair:
"No, I don't think they got everything they could out of me versus Flair. Not many people know this and I don't really know why the answer was no. But, shortly after my second match with Ric Flair which was a "Hardcore Match", and I remember within 2 minutes, he was in his underwear and bleeding (laughs) which I appreciated. After that match... Ric Flair had a stable called Fortune. It was AJ Styles, Nigel McGuinness, Christopher Daniels, Kazarian... After that match, Tommy Dreamer was creating his own stable to rival that group. He had requested me to be in that group and they told him no. The only reason I found this out is Tommy came to me and told me, "I don't really understand. You're in this program with Ric Flair. It would be perfect because you could go against him again. But, they told me no." I really didn't understand why the answer was no. I don't even really think they know that it got back to me. I definitely think there could have been more especially if they let me join that group with Tommy Dreamer that was going to rival the Ric Flair group."
On working with Hulk Hogan in TNA:
"Oh man, it was amazing! He's got a great Macho Man impression! Almost better than mine! It was a surreal moment standing next to him for the first time, getting to meet him. I did a little thing in the center of the ring where he came out, I think he made the match with me and Ric Flair. All I could think of was, "When this airs on TV. Man, my brothers are going to be watching me interact with the same people we watched when we were growing up when my Dad would order those werestling pay-per-views for us." Sometimes I got lost in that thought rather than thinking, "Wow, I'm getting to meet Hulk Hogan, I'm getting to meet Ric Flair!" I'm thinking about what happens when my brothers see this!"
On who is left in ROH that he wants to work:
"That is a great question. I am not a tag team specialist but if I was, my answer would be the young Bucks. But, as a singles wrestler, I wouldn't be able to do it. They are at the top of the list. Not only are they red hot right now but I'm really good friends with them and I think in the ring.. A lot of people think they do a little too much. But, I think wrestling changes with the times. They are of my generation! And, I'm not that old! They are the tag team of my generation! I'm always ready to get in there with anybody. Some of the younger card guys that I probably wouldn't get to be in the ring with too often would be Will Ferrara. I'd love to be in the ring with him. But, I think at the top of that list would be the Young Bucks. In order for that to happen, I need a partner! Which is also, coincidentally, one of the only titles I have not held in Ring of Honor, the Tag Team titles."
On Samoa Joe saying he wants Jay Lethal in WWE:
"Samoa Joe is a big bully and he just wants me on the same roster he is so I can carry his bags. (laughs) Joe is amazing! I've had very, very, very limited conversations with anyone from the WWE. Neither of whcih lead to anything major or with any kind of promise. Mostly because, I'm extremely happy with where I am right now. I think every wrestler has different goals as to what making it is in wrestling and that will make you persue options a little bit more. I'm extreley happy with everything that I have been able to do in wrestling which makes me extremely happy where I am right now which is in Ring of Honor."
On throwing out the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays game:
"That was nerve racking. Before you do that, you hear horror stories about awful first pitches. Then, you go on YouTube and you watch people throw really bad first pitches. You don't want to be on that list. And, you don't want to be on ESPN and be on SportsCenter although they say most publicity is good publicity. I remember thinking, "Wow, celebrities get to do this. I'm getting to do this? This is something celebrities do." That was really cool. They gave me a jersey which my Dad has and refuses to let go. So, I guess, I don't have a jersey, my Dad does. (laughs) He's my biggest fan!"