Jeff Cobb has long been a standout on the independent wrestling scene. Whether it was wrestling as Mr. Athletic around the world or as Matanza Cueto in Lucha Underground, he always caught the spotlight as fans expected big things for him and waited for him to take the next step in his career.
Recently, he took that step, as he signed with Baltimore-based Ring of Honor. He made his official debut at Death before Dishonor on Sept. 28 in Las Vegas, attacking then-television champion Punishment Martinez. The next night, at the TV tapings, he won the TV title, a belt that has been held by Adam Cole, Christopher Daniels, Tomasso Ciampa and many other top wrestlers.
The Baltimore Sun talked to Cobb before he comes to the UMBC Event Center on Friday for Glory By Honor. Cobb talked about his signing with Ring of Honor, winning the TV Title, his desire to wrestle more in New Japan, his favorite place in Baltimore, and more.
What's the past month been like for you?
It's been a crazy crazy month. Big things have just constantly been happening. It's actually been a bit overwhelming at times, but it's super cool.
What was the weekend in Vegas like, showing up unannounced and then winning the Ring of Honor TV title the next night?
It was very shocking that I did that on my first official night in the ring for Ring of Honor. It was pretty surreal, actually, that I could come in and win the ROH TV belt in my first official match for them. Just crazy. I guess it's a good sign.
I think people expected that you'd have quick success, wherever you ended up signing. Did you know that they were going to push you this fast when you signed?
I didn't really realize it until the initially told me the plans. I didn't find out that I was winning the belt until Friday afternoon. I thought that was crazy. You can say stuff, but until it actually plays out, just going into the TV tapings and seeing for sure that I was winning, that's when it hit me.
When you flew into Vegas, you knew you would be involved, but you had no idea that you would be walking out with the title?
Yeah, originally I was supposed to feud with Punishment for a while. I guess plans change over time.
What was that moment like, to win the ROH TV tile, and where did that rank in your career?
That's definitely in my top-five moments career-wise. Just for the fact that it's Ring of Honor, and it's the television championship. It's been held of a lot of big names in our industry. To be able to win that specific belt in my first night, it's in the top five.
What else on that list?
Getting to debut for New Japan, wrestling in New Japan, winning BOLA [Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's Battle of Los Angeles], getting to wrestle in the Cow Palace. There have been a lot of cool things.
Why did you choose Ring of Honor instead of other companies that would have loved to bring you in?
I definitely want to wrestle more in New Japan. Ring of Honor has that great relationship with them. New Japan guys are on ROH TV, and ROH guys are out on New Japan shows. The schedules don't conflict that often. That's definitely a big factor that made me want to sign with Ring of Honor.
Why was now the right time to sign with a company instead of staying independent?
I just kind of felt that I've ran my course on the indies. I've been very fortunate to wrestle in all the top indies across America, Europe, Canada and Mexico. The next step to me was to sign with some sort of national TV company. Ring of Honor was one of my top priorities. The guys that are at Ring of Honor, I get along with all of them. It was another reason why I ended up signing.
Did you have any other concrete offers, or did you just really want to deal with ROH?
I had an Impact offer a couple of months ago. It just didn't really end up coming together, unfortunately. The New Japan thing definitely played a huge role in that. New Japan is something I really want to work with more, and ROH makes that possible. That was a tipping point for me.
You enter ROH and get immediately thrust into the spotlight at a time where ROH is running bigger venues, including the UMBC Event Center on Friday and of course Madison Square Garden in April. How excited are you to be a major part of that going forward?
It's huge to me, just as a confidence side. Being thrust into that spotlight, it's huge on my behalf, and I definitely feel ilke I can carry my weight. I'm really excited for all of these opportunities, especially Madison Square Garden. Hopefully I'm on that card. I amateur wrestled at Madison Square Garden, so to be able to professionally wrestle there would be absolutely amazing.
What was the experience like being able to wrestle at MSG as an amateur?
It was super cool. I've been a pro wrestling fan much longer than I've been an amateur wrestling fan. Being there, and wrestling in that building, I'm going around and comparing spots to how Wrestlemania I was set up, and seeing where their entrance was and stuff like that. I was always brought back to that pro wrestling side even then.
Has wrestling, professionally, in Madison Square Garden always been something that's on your bucket list, and who would you like to face in April if you had the choice?
Definitely. If I could choose anybody? That would be sweet if I could do title vs. title with Jay Lethal if we were both champs then. Or some big New Japan name, like a Kenny Omega or Okada or Kota Ibushi. Heck, even Cody if Cody wants to come after my belt now.
Right after you won the belt in ROH, you went right out to California to work the New Japan show there. You raised some eyebrows with the showdown you had with Hirooki Goto. How excited are you for that feud?
Goto is an underrated guy. When people think of New Japan, they think of a lot of other guys first. Goto is definitely very talented, and I think underrated. He doesn't have the NEVER Openweight Championship anymore, which is a bummer. I challenged for that once, and I did lose to him. For me, it's exciting to try to get my revenge. That result at the Cow Palace still stings to this day. So I'd like to get a win under my belt.
We've heard in the past that while people are still under contract to Lucha Underground, they've had some trouble signing deals with other companies. Did you have any issues here, since you are still on television with them?
No. As far as I know, everything that I was told was that I'd be clear out of my contract as soon as I finished filming season four. Unless they go back on their word, it seems fine. They've always been really good to me, so I don't see them going back on that.
Obviously the Matanza character is very different from Jeff Cobb. How has that run helped you, and what can you take from that into Ring of Honor going forward?
I think it helped me with body language. I had a mask and nobody could see my facial expressions. As Matanza, I had an opportunity to try to tell the story with my body instead of my face. I think it helped me overall with storytelling.
You're coming to Baltimore this weekend. You've come up in the past for other shows. Any great memories from your time in the area?
The best part was pretty much eating at Jimmy's Famous Seafood. I just caught up with their Twitter wars with PETA. That was a great read.
How important is this weekend for you, as it's your first official weekend as a member of the Ring of Honor roster?
I'm excited. It's officially my first real weekend as part of the roster, and it's my first weekend walking in with the TV championship around my waist. So it's a big one.
As you enter a new locker room, there's a lot of people you have faced, and a lot of people you haven't faced yet. Is there anyone you're really itching to get in the ring with?
I'm excited to work with everyone I haven't had a chance to work with yet. Obviously, Jay Lethal is up there because he's the backbone of Ring of Honor. I think I'd have some great matches with guys from The Kingdom, and The Beer City Bruiser. That would be a lot of fun. Two big dudes beating the crap out of each other would be great.
You've accomplished so much in 2018. What's still left on your checklist?
Definitely the MSG show. Holding on to the TV championship for a very long time is definitely up on my list as well. I wouldn't say elevate it, because there's a lot of big shoes to fill. But to try to hold it in high regard is another thing on my list. And yeah, just whoopin’ that [butt] in Ring of Honor.
Glory By Honor streams live worldwide for all HonorClub members Friday, Oct. 12, at 8 p.m. and is available at ROHHonorClub.com or the ROH App on all Apple and Android devices, and Roku.
Questions? Thoughts? Email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout