Jonathan Gresham, the current ROH World Champion will be defending his title this Weekend at ROH’s Death Before Dishonor PPV vs recent Tony Khan signing, Claudio Castagnoli.
Ahead of Jonathan Gresham’s huge match this weekend, @BackupHangman & @MontelWP spoke with him about a variety of topics including, wrestling styles and how they have changed over the years, what inspired his style, discourse surrounding wrestlers height/weight, wrestling in front of a new TV audience, his relationship with Tony Khan + More.
Full Video of our conversation with Jonathan Gresham is available on YouTube now.
Here’s some highlights from the conversation –
On how close his character and belief in Technical Wrestling is to the real him:
“Yeah man this is like what I believe. Like, you’ve got all these different genres of movies but now when I watch wrestling its like there really isnt anything different. When you look from WWE, to AEW, to IMPACT, theres really not a lot of real difference to me. Just the aesthetic of how its presented to you.
There’s not a different rule set, like when you look at the UFC and what K-1 was, they would go balls out in K-1, but a lot of that stuff isnt allowed in UFC. So I think a change of rule set, even if its just a division or just the company as a whole, i just think something needs to change so that was a genuine thing that I was trying to push in Ring Of Honor to help differentiate Ring Of Honor from everything else. I truly believe that ROH had the potential to do that, but I just believe the people in charge are… I dunno, too afraid to just try something different. It’s like, this thing works, keep doing it.– Jonathan Gresham
On his character having the ability to play heel or babyface and how wrestlers can become comfortable just collecting a paycheque:
“It definitely can. But the number one thing, well its two things that kinda go into it. One is just to me a fact, that for something like that to get over, the individual has to be given the stage, and oftentimes theres a lot of people in locker rooms that can do these different things but the promoters don’t really give them the stage to do it, so its best to just get in line and to be honest, a lot of guys are just happy with collecting a paycheque you know? And a lot of guys can’t do anything else, or they spent so many years trying to become a wrestler, they finally got to TV and its like “I’m just gonna ride this out for as long as possible, I might not be doing what I enjoy or love but I’m getting paid” you know? Some people are okay with that, some people aren’t.”– Jonathan Gresham
On ROH’s partnership with Dragon Gate being influential:
“With the way wrestling is now as opposed to how it used to be, I believe different styles were represented. I always like to go back to 2006 when Gabe (Sapolsky) brought DragonGate to America, Ring Of Honor. The style changed. I really, really believe Ring Of Honor kind of started these new trends but nobody really gives Ring Of Honor credit. But every time the style changed, it started with Ring Of Honor and then it grew. 2006, Dragon Gate came to America. Before that everyone was trying to be like Kenta Kobashi and all that stuff right, even all the Ring Of Honor guys, like the (Samoa) Joe’s, Low-Ki’s and all those guys. Then Dragon Gate came to America, boom, they had that dope ass 6-man match and then everyone started doing opening highspot, dropkick, pop, pop, pop, hit the ropes, dive. That became the standard for everyone.”– Jonathan Gresham
On finding his own lane with his wrestling style:
I think a lot of guys… I look at wrestling like lanes on a highway. You’ve got the fast lane over here that has Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay the Young Bucks, these guys that are running this new hot style, and you’ve got everybody in wrestling trying to get in the front of that line. Now when I decided to be, I thought to myself “I want to be a technical wrestler.” At the time, there wasn’t a lot of guys. Then I looked at “oh, how many black guys are known as technical wrestlers?” Well, thats what im gonna do because I like to do it anyway, so I got in that lane. At the time (Bryan) Danielson was out, (Nigel) McGuinness was out, but they were so far ahead. So it was like, under them, who is it? There wasnt anybody. We were all (Zack) Sabre Jr, myself and a couple other guys in the UK were all climbing the ladder at the time. So when I talk to young guys, I tell them you gotta look at these lanes. Now when you look at, and this nothing derogatory against the Lucha Bros but, Lucha Bros right? They don’t represent actual Lucha Libre, they do American Indy stuff. That’s just the way it is.
It goes back, not to keep jumping back but the 2006 Dragon Gate thing. Before that, you had like the striker which was Low-Ki, you had the submission specialist which was (Samoa) Joe, you had the American Technical Wrestler which was (Bryan) Danielson, you had the British Technical Wrestler which was Doug Williams. So they all had distinctive traits and characteristics, then 2006 Dragon Gate came and everyone wanted to be hybrid. Everyones doing superkick, a submission, a dive, even people who’s not supposed to be diving. So it’s just like, that’s when everybody became hybrids. So now Today when we’re talking about these lanes, let me ask you this… To me he was one of the most unique wrestlers, he might not have a great reputation but how many guys walking around right now are wrestling like Necro Butcher? I don’t know one, not one, and I think something like that would definitely get over now.
So if you think about, theres two different of Lucha Libre. You’ve got the Maestro, the way I like to say which is like the old school way of Solar, Negro, whatever. Then you’ve got the newer version of like Jorge Riviera, the Skayde stuff where its more quick and fluid, you know what I mean? But when you think about those styles, how many guys in America on National Television are using that style?”– Jonathan Gresham
On being a Black technical wrestler and not following some of the stereotypes for a black wrestler:
“It bothers me that you can have White guy no.1 with no character be great, but then you’ve got Black guy, same. “Oh he needs a character” But why? Why can’t he just be a good wrestler? You’ve gotta be so much more than the other guy that’s World Champion, doesnt have a character, he’s good on the mic, sure, but he doesn’t do anything other than wristlocks, hammerlocks and some kicks. But Black guy that does the same thing, I need a fucking character, I need all this extra stuff, like thats just the thing.”– Jonathan Gresham
On discourse around height and physique:
“It really is (interesting). I got out of really interacting with the fans a few years back because I realised that they just wanna spew whatever they believe as the Gospel, and they don’t understand that you go on Wikipedia right? The stats on Wikipedia they take as the Gospel. But the thing is, that Wikipedia could’ve been made seven years ago. Since then, of course the person probably didn’t grow in height but his weight has changed. Also, me, I have never been embarrassed of my size. So when Wrestling Promoters are like “what’s your height?”, I was like “5’4”, and they’re like “you want me to say like 5’7?” And I was like “No. 5’4. People are going to stand next to me, they’re going to freaking know (laughs)
I hear this thing a lot, I’m smaller than Rey Mysterio. I can assure you, I’ve met the man on three occasions, we are the exact same height. But for some reason I’m 4’9 or whatever the fuck (laughs). My mom is 4’10, I can see on top of her head, so its just ridiculous what people wanna believe. You know what I mean?
My Wikipedia might say I weight like 160 something, but I literally, I almost weighed 200lbs a few months back. I’ve dropped, I’m literally like 180 something right now.– Jonathan Gresham
On Wrestling having variety:
“When I was coming up, it always preached that wrestling shows are supposed to be like a Circus, they’re supposed to be a little bit of everything. But that’s a lie, it doesn’t happen anymore. Everything’s the fucking same. So the thing is, this is going to evolve, to what point? We’ve gotten to the point where Promotions are now aiding people in being ADHD. You know what I mean? We got from a freaking singles match, to all of a sudden you’re in a God damn crazy fuckin’ whatever the fuck gotta kill each other match, within two weeks. So its just like, theres no build to anything anymore”
I have this theory that eventually wrestling is going to become subscription based kinda like Netflix, Hulu and stuff like that, and theres gonna be “We Present: This”, this is wrestling, this is wrestling over here, its gonna be like Comedy, Sports Presentation, whatever the fuck that is, and just different stuff. To me that’s what it’s getting to, I hope thats where it gets to because then certain people will have places to go because right now the Pure technical and classic style wrestler is getting suppressed. There’s only a few of us that are getting the time of day of being on Television or even just the opportunity to make a living.”– Jonathan Gresham
On how unsustainable the modern style of wrestling is
Everything is this, this, this, this, but we keep going in this direction, when are we going to revert back to where things are safer? I keep hearing people getting hurt, concussions, broken arms, all this stuff, its because the style is just not sustainable to work every week that way.
Think about the guys back in the 80’s and stuff, they used to work loops and be on the road for 14 days. I was just talking to Tully (Blanchard) the other day about it, they were on the road 14 days with 3 days off. Imagine they wrestled the way we wrestle Today. Their careers would be 5 years.”– Jonathan Gresham
On his relationship with Tony Khan and if he believes Tony Khan is a fan of technical wrestling and his style:
“To be honest, Ive not really talked to him. I don’t know what he thinks about me. Ive had very short conversations with him, when I say short I mean short. So I dunno. I would hope that he values me, I don’t know though. So we’ll find out in the coming weeks, months I guess.”– Jonathan Gresham
On the decision behind him joining Tully Blanchard enterprises:
“I arrived at TV one day and then I was told thats what I was doing, then I was like “okay”. I dont know if it was super thought through, I dont know anything. All I know is that’s what I was told, alright lets make it work.”– Jonathan Gresham
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