Feature Interview: Ring of Honor World Champion Jay Lethal

Ring of Honor prides itself on showcasing the best wrestling on the planet. It caters to the wrestling purists, valuing authenticity and skill over anything else. Jay Lethal is as authentic as it gets.

He’s a unique talent with a knack for tearing down the house in the ring and slaying you on the microphone and it’s one of the many reasons why he’s so highly respected in the industry.

Lethal is nearing a year since his epic ROH World Championship reign began. The return of a beloved icon in Colt Cabana, threatens to end this remarkable run. However, Lethal is the face of ROH for a reason. He’s not stepping aside for anyone and with Global Wars a mere days away, Lethal is primed and ready for this moment.

Global Wars and Colt Cabana

CraveOnline: What are your thoughts on facing Colt Cabana in front of his hometown for the ROH World Championship?

Jay Lethal: It’s always cool when the challenger is in his hometown. In the history of professional wrestling, most of the time when the challenger has the home field advantage, they usually win in most cases. Unfortunately for Cabana, this isn’t one of those cases. But I think it’s really cool that Colt Cabana has been gone for 5 years so him being back is fresh and exciting and everyone wants to see it because Colt Cabana is known around the world. He’s made a name for himself in this business.

I’ve known Colt Cabana for a long time and I’ve watched him before I even started wrestling and when I was just a fan going to these local wrestling shows. The coolest thing about him is that he’s always been the guy to make you laugh. This is a new Colt Cabana. There’s no more smiling or laughing. He’s very serious. I’ve never seen this side before.

CraveOnline: What can fans expect when you two step in the ring at Global Wars this Sunday?

Jay Lethal: Global Wars is a joint effort between the No. 2 and No. 3 wrestling companies in the world, joining up to produce the best professional wrestling on the planet and very seldom do you see wrestling companies join up. The only possible winners in this situation are the fans. If you could be there live, it’s going to be crazy. But on top of that, I’m wrestling the hometown guy, Colt Cabana, in the main event for a wrestling company known around the world for its wrestling. It’s going to be amazing.

CraveOnline: As a performer, does Global Wars make you want to kick it up a notch due to the rivalry with New Japan Pro Wrestling or is it simply another show for you?

Jay Lethal: The fact that ROH is on live PPV and just being able to say that is amazing. We’re going to be on live PPV this Sunday and everyone in the wrestling business knows that Sunday PPVs are a staple in wrestling history. Anytime you’re on television, you automatically step your game up and plus, that Chicago crowd, it’s going to be so exciting. Whether they’re booing or cheering, it fuels you. Not only the people in attendance are going to be excited but also every man and woman in the locker room is going to be excited. There’s no better feeling than getting to live your dream of being a professional wrestler while wrestling live on PPV.

Throwing the first pitch in Chicago

CraveOnline: I see that you’re throwing out the first pitch for Friday’s game between the White Sox and Twins…

Jay Lethal: Amazing, right? I told my dad about that and he about dropped the phone on the floor because he was so excited. It’s a big thing. Never would have I thought or imagined that I would get to do something like this but I’m excited but I’m also, a little nervous. I’m a pretty good wrestler but I’ve never played baseball in my life and I’ve seen some very horrible clips on the Internet of people throwing some very bad first pitches. I just don’t want to be added to that list so I’m about to go practice.

CraveOnline: You’re going to have to watch some old baseball moves to get amped up for that moment.

Jay Lethal: [Laughs] Yeah, one of my favorites is “Angels in the Outfield” so maybe I can have one of those angels help me throw the ball.

“You’re the No.1 guy and a world champion in a company known around the world for its wrestling”

CraveOnline: You have held the ROH World Championship for over 320 days. Do you feel a sense of having to be “the man” and does it ever feel like a burden?

Jay Lethal: I try not to let it get to me. It’s a bit nerve-wracking. You’re the No.1 guy and a world champion in a company known around the world for its wrestling. To get to this point, I trained hard and try to be on my A game all the time and when you become the world champ, that word ‘try’ no longer exists. You have to be at your best. It’s a bit nerve-wracking but I welcome the challenge. The way I look at is, obviously if I wasn’t doing something right, I wouldn’t have won the world title so why change anything?

CraveOnline: When the world title is not at an event, where are you keeping it?

Jay Lethal: I keep the title in my guest bathroom/office area. There’s this cool shelf I have with a bunch of Jay Lethal shirts and it’s right next to my closet with all of my wrestling gear. If someone ever broke in here they would be wondering ‘What is going on here?’ However, it’s rare that I don’t have it at a show. It’s like, I have this cool watch and I want to wear it everywhere because it’s nice. I can’t really do that with a belt. I can’t take the belt to a supermarket so every time I get to use it, have it, hold it and wear it when appropriate, would be at the shows so I would never leave home without it.

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Beyond the ring

“I’m a really big bowler”

CraveOnline: When you’re not in the ring, what are you usually doing?

Jay Lethal: When I’m not in the ring, my biggest hobby is relaxing. When I’m home, I have a wrestling school and I’m there almost every day so combined with being in the ring at home and being in the ring on the road, I really do try to rest. I’m so afraid of overworking my body. I have become quite a bit paranoid. But I like to do normal stuff. I go to the movies. I’m looking forward to the X-Men movie that is coming out and the Captain American movie. I’m a really big bowler. When I lived with my family, my parents had four boys and two girls and every Sunday all of the boys would go bowling. I still play video games here and there as well.

CraveOnline: A lot of talent is very superstitious. Do you have any quirky routines before a match?

Jay Lethal: I always wanted some quirky superstition. I’ve seen some weird ones. My best friend has this figurine in his bag and can’t go anywhere unless that figurine is in his bag. I’ve seen guys who wear the same underwear under their gear because it’s lucky. I’ve seen lucky praying rituals. I don’t have one but I’m in the market to pick up some funny habits before a match.

House of Truth Jay Lethal -3 Photo Credit--Marvin Atwell

Crave Online: The House of Truth is down a member. What does that do for you going into Global Wars?

Jay Lethal: Truth Martini, the leader of the House of Truth, just had neck surgery. It couldn’t have come at a worse time because this is a high profile event and we needed the House of Truth in full force. I never said this fight would be easy. Colt Cabana is a great wrestler and I’ll never demean anything he’s done by saying this will be easy. I will say that I’ll be the winner but I won’t say it will be easy. I won’t sI could use Truth Martini there. Taeler Hendrix and I are just waiting for his return and to be cleared. That’s our No.1 priority right now. 

A legacy to remember

CraveOnline: What do you ultimately want out of this ROH title reign? What do you want for your legacy?

Jay Lethal: It’s actually a goal I have set for myself. All up until now, I have been afraid to set goals for myself because I’m afraid I’ll jinx myself and I’m afraid they won’t come true. Thinking about everything I have gotten to do, I have yet to set a goal for any of it. I’ve worked hard; I have gotten lucky and just nailed that role or nailed that spot and got that job or wrestled that opponent. I’ve got to rub elbows with my idols growing up. I’ve never set any of these goals.

For the first time, I’m actually setting a goal and what that goal is to be one of the best ROH World Champions ever and how I do that, to me, is very simple. Whenever you hold any championship no matter what sport you’re in, people will mention past champions. ‘You’re as good as blank had the belt’ or whatever it may be. My goal is to be so unique or so entertaining and people are so thrilled with it, that no one bothers to mention anybody who had this championship before me. I think I did that with the ROH Television Championship. If I can do that throughout my whole title reign as ROH World Champion, then my mark has been made. I’ll be happy with what I have done.

 


Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a surfing enthusiast, an avid basketball fan, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like”CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

RING OF HONOR & NEW JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING PRESENT
GLOBAL WARS
SUNDAY, MAY 8TH, 2016 – CHICAGO RIDGE, IL
LIVE ON PPV @ 8PM EST / 5PM PST
Photos by Ring of Honor