Champ Jay Lethal on Re-Signing With Ring of Honor & His 'Final Battle' Clash With Cody
Every year, Jay Lethal goes with his family on a Disney cruise. It’s a chance for the Ring of Honor champion to unwind. And on this year's trip, the 33-year-old had much to celebrate, including the fact that this franchise player has inked a new deal.
“I’m sure every wrestler on our roster would say this, but I love Ring of Honor,” Lethal said, on making the decision to stay with the promotion. “The company has given me so much. The company is putting all their stock in me to represent them both in and out of the ring. They did that two times.”
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Another big reason for the top star’s choice to stay is ROH’s collaborative atmosphere. Writers, producers and bookers are genuinely open to their roster’s creative input.
“When I have an idea about wrestling, they seem to stop everything to listen to my idea,” Lethal said. “Even if they don’t use my idea, the fact they stop everything to listen to really ponder about it. Nine times out of 10 they do allow me to run with my ideas. There is nothing better than that. I think it’s a dream situation for every wrestler.
“I also think it’s how you see what a wrestler can do. When a wrestler comes up with an idea and you allow them to run with it, they are going to try and put their heart and soul into the idea. That’s because it came from them and they want to prove they has good ideas. That’s what you get to see what a wrestler is made of. So, re-signing was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”
With WWE and other organizations within the industry providing viable opportunities, Lethal remains loyal to ROH. The veteran would go as far to say he wouldn’t mind finishing up his career there.
“I had a conversation a few years ago with my dad about what making it in the business means,” Lethal said.
“…If my career had to end tomorrow, I’d be more than okay with it ending in Ring of Honor. Looking back, I’d have no regrets. When you look at everything I’ve gotten to do, it’s like I won the lottery.”
The Jersey native isn’t above sharing his wealth of knowledge and putting effort into helping take emerging talent to the next level. One example came a few months ago when Lethal defended the gold against Jonathan Gresham in a 30-minute iron man match.
“If I have done anything to make more people see how good a wrestler Jonathan Gresham, then I am more than happy with that,” he said. “I like to think we are all on the same field trying to live our dream and be the best we possibly can and help the company along the way.
“Some of the newer guys like Jonathan Gresham is so smooth and one of the greatest wrestlers I’ve seen in my life. Anything I can do to help people realize that I’m down for. I’m also a big fan a big fan of Will Ferrara. He has yet to have that breakout moment. He hasn’t had that moment. Hopefully, it happens soon.”
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Come 2019, there are prime chances for Ferrara and others to step up with several names potentially finishing up with ROH. It’s clearer the company is on the verge of another rebuilding phase. For Lethal, it’s nothing new and is confident the cream will continue rising to the top.
“Think about how many times Ring of Honor has gone through a rebuilding phase,” he said. “It seems like they never exit that. With Ring of Honor becoming a destination for other wrestlers to come to, it’s not an independent promotion anymore. It’s a destination spot for wrestlers all over the world.
"Think about all the people who have come through. Many of them have become champions in other companies. Think about if you ran a promotion, how do you pick up and carry on after you lose an AJ Styles or a Samoa Joe? How do you pick up and go on after you lose a Bryan Danielson, CM Punk or Adam Cole? You just do it.
“You don’t try to replace those guys, but pick up and move on because those guys are irreplaceable. The winning formula is you don’t try to replace them. You just have to pick up and move on and add another piece to the end of the puzzle…It’s going to hurt and impact us a lot. Most of these guys were in the main event. It’s going to be a hit, but we are going to do what Ring of Honor always does and carry on. We always produce one of the best wrestling products out there.”
Among the colleagues Lethal is referencing is Cody, whom he faces at the Final Battle Pay-Per-View event on December 14. The lifelong fan was taken aback the first time he faced the son of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. The stakes are higher than ever for Lethal this time around.
“There is even more pressure, because the first time we weren’t the main event. This time it’s the main event on Pay-Per-View,” he said. “Think about the matches we have to follow. It has been one of the toughest parts about being the Ring of Honor world champion. You have to follow some of the greatest matches in the world.
“And I can’t think of a better person to do it with than Cody. Wrestling is in his blood, and we both have this burning desire to leave the wrestling business with our mark. Once we are gone all we are basically is memories. We both want to leave that mark. When you put us in there under this kind of pressure for the Ring of Honor championship, something special is going to happen.”
Beyond Final Battle, Lethal hopes to keep the championship and eventually face off with Impact Wrestling champion Johnny Impact, a concept that began percolating during Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea. Lethal, an Impact alum, hopes to see ROH work with more pro-wrestling companies.
"I really love it, because you get some fresh matches you thought were never possible. I would like to see Ring of Honor open the doors more, especially with a lot of the Impact Wrestling roster being ex-Ring of Honor guys like Moose, Eddie Edwards.
“I think there could be some cool matches that were not possible before. So, I would love it. I hope something happens soon…”
ROH Final Battle, Friday, December 14, 8/7c liveAlertMe