New ROH Pure champion Jonathan Gresham recently spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss his big title win, and how he hopes to restore the honor of pro-wrestling with his incredible technical agility. Highlights of the interview can be found below.
How he hopes to bring ROH back to its roots of pure technical wrestling:
I always gravitated to Ring of Honor because of its style and presentation, but over the years it moved away from what it was. Stylistically, everything changed, and the main guys in the company changed. I decided to stick with it. I stayed persistent. Ring of Honor, it’s all about sport. That’s the genre, pure wrestling. That is what makes us unique, and I kept telling the office that we needed this market of our own. A lot of fans feel the same. They want their wrestling to be pure, technical wrestling, so let’s fill that void.
Says wrestling needs rules to help establish babyfaces and heels:
When you take rules away from professional wrestling, there is no story, no heels or faces. We need rules for people to get up in arms over something. Every sport, fans yell at refs for missing technicalities of rules. Wrestling doesn’t have that anymore. It’s so easy to tell stories with technical wrestling. That goes deeper than fireworks or cool moves or title changes. Everything is so instant, so this is a different flavor of ice cream and a different identity for Ring of Honor.
On the different styles of technical wrestling:
Some people think technical wrestling is slow and boring, but there are so many different styles of technical wrestling. There is the swift and quick style of lucha libre, like Negro Navarro and Blue Demon Jr., as opposed to the Karl Gotch style that is popular in Japan, which is mixed in with Antonio Inoki hard strikes. The British have the Lancashire style and the Americans have the American style mixed in with mixed martial arts. This tournament opened a lot of eyes about technical wrestling.
Shares a story of how he wanted to represent black professional wrestling at its best:
I was really good friends with tag-team wrestlers called the Hooligans [Devin and Mason Cutter],” Gresham says. “Sometime around 2007, we were on a trip. I was being used on the undercard, but I’ve always been ambitious, and I remember saying I wanted more. I’ll always remember what Devin said to me one night, how it was going to take years for me to get known as one of the better technical wrestlers in the world. First, he pointed out that I was small, and he also said in the history of African American wrestlers, this community isn’t always known for technical wrestlers. When you look at the best technical wrestlers in the PWI 500, how many of them look like me? That’s when I started to think of wrestling in a deeper manner. I began to compare wrestling to different forms of entertainment, like movies and music. There are different genres in those fields, whether it’s comedy or horror in movies, or different types of music. There are enough options for people to find what they like. So I asked myself, why can’t wrestling be the same?
His goal to restore honor to the wrestling industry:
Our goal is to restore honor to the whole industry, and that’s not exclusive to Ring of Honor—it’s all over the world,” Gresham says. “I am the Foundation, but so is everyone else that sees the injustices and suppression of the pure technical wrestler throughout the industry. The pure technical wrestler has been suppressed for so many years that you only see one or two at a promotion, like Timothy Thatcher at NXT or Zack Sabre Jr. or Minoru Suzuki in New Japan Pro Wrestling. This new superkick-throwing, always-diving wrestler is the front-runner of our business. But there is hope, the Foundation is growing. For Ring of Honor, the next step is to purify the company, every division. More pure wrestlers will be revealed, and they will become part of The Foundation. The tag-team titles are about to become purified and only defended under pure rules. That is going to happen in every division.