ROH Exclusives Part One: Jay Lethal
Back in August, Ring of Honor came to the UK for their UK tour. I had the chance to sit down with some of the wrestlers prior to their show in London. In my first ROH exclusive, I talk to Jay Lethal about UK wrestling, Ric Flair, and his love for Gene Wilder’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory...
As Ring of Honor gears up for their big show Final Battle on December 15th, I felt it was only right that I release my three-part ROH exclusives. In my first interview, I speak to former ROH world champion, Jay Lethal.
Humza: Jay Lethal, how you doing?
Jay Lethal: So far so good.
Humza: The UK wrestling scene has gotten so big these last few years, as someone performing to the crowds, why do you think it has become so successful?
Jay Lethal: Well, I’ve actually been a professional wrestler for sixteen years now, and I have been travelling to the UK to perform for about... seven or eight years now. I can tell you that the UK wrestling scene has always been amazing, it’s just now more people are paying attention, especially after the WWE’s tournament.
So in my eyes, nothing has changed except the WWE got more people to pay attention to the UK scene. There’s always been amazing wrestlers here, like I said, I’ve been traveling to the UK to perform for about seven, eight years. Some of the greatest wrestlers I’ve ever seen are over here; it’s just that not many people knew about them. But since the WWE had their tournament, that opened more people’s eyes. To me there’s no change, except for now there are more people watching.
Humza: That’s kind of true, I agree with that. I also wanted to ask you what drew you to professional wrestling. Was there a moment when you were younger, and you thought “oh, man, I have to do this”?
Jay Lethal: Well, I think, my older brothers loved wrestling. So, in the beginning, it was a case of you always wanna do what your older brothers are doing. So somewhere along the way, my love for wrestling kept growing, and my older brothers stopped liking wrestling as much.
So, that’s initially what started it, but yeah, seeing the Macho Man and Ric Flair is what really had me hooked to a point where I, a few years later, would say to myself, “I think this is what I want to do”.
Humza: You touched on Ric Flair there. I just wanna say your impersonation of Ric Flair at TNA was one of the best things I have ever seen. It was hilarious. I just want to know, what did that moment mean to you and what does Ric Flair mean to Jay Lethal?
Jay Lethal: Well, that moment was one of the greatest moments of my life. I got to wrestle him live on pay-per-view...
Humza: Victory Road, right?
Jay Lethal: Victory Road, yeah. It all started because one day here in the UK, on one of our off days, a couple of the wrestlers went out drinking and I found I could do this really good Ric Flair impression.That’s how it all started, and then I would do it in the locker room, and then all of a sudden, Ric Flair shows up. Then they make me do the impression for him, and he loved it so much, that I don’t know for sure, but what I think happened is he went to the office and said: “I would like to work with this guy”.
Ric Flair’s a legend, he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t wanna do. Especially at that point in time. So it had to be a thing where he requested to wrestle with me because he was so moved or touched, or he liked the impression so much. I remember before the match started, thinking about years ago I’d watch the WWF pay-per-views at the time. Sitting on my mum’s couch in the living room with all my other brothers and sisters watching, let’s say, Royal Rumble where Ric Flair won.
And then fast forward, my brothers and sisters are probably in that same living room watching me wrestle Ric Flair. Man, it was the greatest moment of my life, it was incredible.
Humza: That’s an awesome story; I have to say (laughs).
Jay Lethal: (laughs)
Humza: I just wanna finish off with a few questions on some of ASBO’s other interests. We love music at ASBO. So, I just want to ask when you’re at the gym or on the road, what type of music do you listen to?
Jay Lethal: You know, my favourite song changes depending on the mood or depending on the month. And there’s always new music coming out, so it’s hard to say I have a favourite. But right now, my favourite group is Jethro Tull. You know Jethro Tull?
Jay Lethal: I’ve been to three of their concerts; it’s actually the only concert I’ve ever been to. I’ve only ever been to three, and they’ve all been Jethro Tull concerts. I probably know most of the songs, and when I say I know the songs, I know, word for word.
Humza: Oh, wow.
Jay Lethal: I have this uncanny ability if I like a song - just a few listens, I know all the words. Just like movies too, if I like a movie, I can remember large parts of the movie. Quotes, word for word. So, yeah, they’re probably my favourite band right now.
In the gym, I don’t really listen to music. Just because I sweat a lot, and I don’t want to sweat all over my headphones, especially, I have a pair of beats headphones; I don’t wanna get those all sweaty. I don’t know how guys do that. I got a cheap pair of in the ear ones, but I’m so paranoid that I’m gonna get so sweaty that it’s gonna shock me.
In the gym, I don’t really listen to much music except if the loudspeaker is playing something. But right now my favourite is probably Jethro Tull.
Humza: This is a big question; this is a very big question actually.
Jay Lethal: Okay...
Humza: What’s your favourite movie?
Jay Lethal: Favourite movie of all time is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The one with Gene Wilder, not the...
Humza: I was about to say, not the one with Johnny Depp?
Jay Lethal: Not the one with Johnny Depp. Although there was a story out saying that the Johnny Depp version was closer to what Roald Dahl envisioned than the Gene Wilder version. Which to me is crazy because I did not like the Johnny Depp version. He’s a great actor, but I just didn’t like that – just because I think I fell in love with the Gene Wilder version. He’s amazing. Favourite movie of all time.
Humza: That’s a good choice (laughs).
Just one final question, fashion is a big part of ASBO, so I want to know how much do you focus on how you look and what you wear to the ring? I know at one point you were impersonating Macho Man, so that must have been a big thought in your mind.
Jay Lethal: (laughs), right. So coming to the ring when I was Machismo, yeah, I really paid attention to every little detail because I wanted to, not fully copy all of his outfits, but I wanted to make it look similar, and still be my own person.
Nowadays, I am not good with fashion. The wrestling gear that I wear, I literally go to my gear lady and I tell her: “I need something, please”. I give her freedom to create anything. I am not really good at the fashion aspect. If it were up to me, I’d go, “oh this is red, oh this is red, that must match”. You know (laughs), that be the end of it for me. Thank goodness my gear lady is good with coming up with designs for me.
Humza: Because, I thought, the Macho Man character, he must really think about that (laughs).
Jay Lethal: No, not at all, not at all (laughs).
Humza: Well, I really appreciate the time Jay. Thank you so much.
Jay Lethal: Thank you very much.
Fans can watch Ring of Honor Final Battle on December 15th by ordering it on the FITE app.
For more information go to: http://www.rohwrestling.com/
Written by Humza Hussain – Entertainment and Sports Editor.
Image by Humza Hussain