It's been a wild summer in wrestling. However, nobody in wrestling has had a crazier summer than Ring of Honor star Kenny King.
In case you missed it, Kenny King was one of the suitors on the latest season of “The Bachelorette.” While he didn't win Rachel Lindsay's heart, he did become one of the most talked-about contestants on the season, both for his interactions with Rachel and the way he dealt with other contestants. However, “The Bachelorette” wasn't his job, and after his time on network primetime, he now has to settle back into his life with Ring of Honor, which includes their big pay-per-view Friday night, Death Before Dishonor.
At Death Before Dishonor, King will be facing KUSHIDA, one of New Japan's top stars, for the ROH TV title. Not only that, but he gets to do it in his hometown of Las Vegas. Before the show, he caught up with me and Glenn Clark on our podcast, Jobbing Out. Here's what he had to say about being on “The Bachelorette,” getting back to wrestling, wrestling in Japan and more.
What has this summer been like? How did you get involved with The Bachelorette and how did it all play out?
It's been an insane summer. I blinked and then it was over. It's been amazing. The first thing I have to say though, is that I had never seen an episode of “The Bachelorette” before. I get a phone call from an ABC producer asking me about “The Bachelorette.” Me being a jokester, I responded, “You know I'm black right?” They joked back and said that yes, that's why they were calling. But I just put it aside after and went ahead and did my normal schedule and lived my life. As the steps kept going forward, I still didn't really think about it, and then boom, one day it just happens. Then it's a real thing out of the blue. Then I did the show, and that whole experience of meeting Rachel and fighting for roses and all the other crazy things that went on. The whole experience was surreal at times. Even watching it back was surreal. The people have been very very supportive and the love has been real. And I'm extremely appreciative of that.
Was there any point where you were second-guessing what you were doing, especially knowing that you had to step back into the ring at the end of this?
I think the only time I ever felt like that was just in the beginning. If I got sent home on the first night, first off, I gotta take a vacation for two weeks just so people at home don't realize I'm a loser that got sent home on the first night. No offense to all my loser friends who got sent home on the first night. That was the only thing. I knew I'd be absolutely destroyed if I got sent home on the first night. The rest of it is just a crapshoot though. I had no idea what she was going to be like, or what the experience was going to be like. In that, I wasn't worried about what anyone was going to think. I wasn't worried about anyone doubting my abilities in the wrestling ring because I went on a tv show and got dumped on national television.
You did catch some flack though after you, a pro wrestler, lost a mud wrestling competition. What happened there?
I don't know if you know this or not, but there's no real rules in a mud wrestling competition. There's no pinning, I couldn't stretch him. Even if I choked him to death and made him eat a pound of mud, it was just up to the drunk girls that were in it deciding who won. I did get all the way to the end, I got to the championship match. Then two things happened. I was like “Man, this is kind of dumb.” And two, I realized that if I mess around and hurt myself doing this dumba-- mud wrestling challenge and I can't go back to work, then I'd be real upset. So your boy kind of pulled up on the throttle after I thought about my check versus a mud wrestling championship belt.
How has this changed your life, especially as you go out in public?
This is a strange thing, because I didn't know about Bachelor Nation. I didn't know that was a real thing. It really is. People do come up and tell me what they thought about my time on the show. Especially when I'm with my daughter. We were at Target the other day and we were talking and looking for some things. All of a sudden I hear her talking to someone. I forget about “The Bachelorette” thing so I'm having a real papa bear moment where I'm about to bust through the aisles to find out who's talking to my kid. It's just some lady talking to her about how much she loves her and loves me. I forgot there's this thing where people recognize my child now. It comes with the territory. People are very passionate about the show, and passionate about the people they watch on it. And the love has been real, and I have nothing but love so far.
Have you noticed that translate to Bachelorette fans showing up to watch you wrestle?
Absolutely. There were three girls that came to the pay-per-view in Boston that had a “Kenny will you accept my rose?” poster. The biggest thing for me was in Mexico. I recently went to Mexico to wrestle for CMLL [Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre] and there were people there that had watched “The Bachelorette” that somehow knew I was going to be wrestling for CMLL and went to go watch lucha shows to see me. When you talk about that kind of reach, it's kind of insane. That is the surreal part about it.
Will you start incorporating The Bachelorette into the gimmick? Will we see The People's Bachelor Kenny King at all?
I don't think I'm going to do that. Obviously this is a part of pop culture and what I did on it is a part of my life. You can't keep it separate. Ultimately though, I went on “The Bachelorette” as myself, as Kenny Lane. Kenny King is the guy that you watch in Ring of Honor. It's a thing where I'd be an idiot if I didn't incorporate something when people are yelling “Get that rose!” at me. I have #Roseboys on my trunks right now. But I'm not going to turn into the cheesy guy from “The Bachelorette.” I'm not going to turn myself into The Romantic Touch.
At Death Before Dishonor, you get to face KUSHIDA for the ROH TV title. How excited are you for that?
I get to stand across from a guy like KUSHIDA, who not only is one of the best cruiserweights in the world, he's one of the best wrestlers in the world. I get to prove myself. I get to test myself and show whether I belong on that stage or not. That alone is going to make it epic for the fans. Anyone who watches it is going to be in for a treat, for sure.
Do you hope this match could be a showcase that leads to more opportunities with New Japan?
That's a goal for me. I love New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I have a lot of respect for all the guys that are there. I would have to imagine that should I be victorious over KUSHIDA for one of his world titles, that would make New Japan kind of sit up and take notice. Whether it's with ROH at first or not, I definitely want to get to Japan and work over there.
Do you feel ROH has solidified itself at this point as the #2 promotion in the US?
That's the biggest difference between my first time in Ring of Honor and now. I think before it was always the little promotion that could. Before it was something that you check out if you want real wrestling, if you want a break from WWE. It was always in this place that it had to prove itself using WWE as a model. Now ROH is in a place where it's carved its own niche. It moved from being a niche promotion to really carving its own niche for itself. Wrestling in general is at a place where people are seeking out wrestling that isn't WWE. If you're doing that you're looking for something. People keep finding Ring of Honor, and loving Ring of Honor, because people love wrestling. Yes people love the theatrics and the storylines and the promos and all that other stuff too, but people love wrestling when it gets down to it. Ring of Honor has established itself as a place where if you love wrestling, you have to check that place out.
You've been in many locker rooms, you were affiliated with WWE for a short time, spent time in TNA, of course ROH, and around the world. What's the big difference between ROH and the other places?
I think the big difference is the crowds. Ring of Honor just as an atmosphere, the electricity of it, that's hard to replicate anywhere. I've been blessed to have wrestled all over the world. I've wrestled in Wembley Arena (in London), I just was blessed enough to wrestle in Arena Mexico. But if you get 3500 in the Hammerstein for a Ring of Honor show, it just feels like a whole other planet. People are invested emotionally, physically, they are willing to give everything. They're willing to give as much energy towards the ring as we are giving in the ring. You can ask guys who have wrestled at Wrestlemania and other places like that. They'll tell you the same thing. It's hard to match or emulate the atmosphere at a Ring of Honor show.
You get to wrestle in your home town of Las Vegas. How cool is that for you, and with Ring of Honor running so many pay-per-views in Vegas lately, what makes it such a good city to run shows in?
I've been in Vegas for a really long time. I remember when there was no wrestling here. You couldn't beg companies to come out here. Over the past couple of years though, every major company, and a lot of indies are making their way out here. It's a good hub for the west coast. It's not all the way to California but it's sort of central to a lot of fanbases. We have people from California and Arizona and Colorado and Utah that can't make the Philly or New York shows, so Vegas is a good way for them to come out. For me, I've been wrestling here since after Tough Enough, so it comes full circle for me to wrestle where I can drive, wrestle, and then be back to my house that night. It's a beautiful thing as a pro wrestler to be able to be in your bed after working. But also, this is one of the biggest matches of my career and my family is going to be there. My daughter is going to be there. It's in my life contract that I can't get beat up in front of my daughter. It just means a lot to me to be able to be from Vegas and have a show of this magnitude come to Vegas and tear this whole place up.
Death Before Dishonor is Friday night at 9 EST on pay-per-view, and can also be found on the FITE TV app, and the Playstation Network.
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout