I had a chance to talk with Ring of Honor's Matt Sydal, best known as Evan Bourne in WWE, before Ring of Honor's show in Baltimore on Saturday. We talked about his return to ROH, what ROH needs to do to take the next step as a company, the return of Samoa Joe and more.
You can see Sydal and the rest of the Ring of Honor stars at the William J. Myers Pavilion on Saturday. For tickets and more information, go to rohwrestling.com.
Ring Posts: Over the summer you were released from the WWE after spending seven years there, and quickly made your way back to Ring of Honor. What have these past six months been like for you?
Matt Sydal: It's been a real rush actually. Some of the coolest things about coming back are seeing all my old friends that I used to hang with all the time before I was hired by WWE. It's great being in Ring of Honor and getting to work with those guys, like the Briscoes, and getting to wrestle guys for the first time, like Jay Lethal. These guys are world class wrestlers that I get to work with.
How has this run compared to the first run you had in Ring of Honor?
The biggest difference is who I am and what my goals are. When I began in Ring of Honor, I was very fortunate to get on shows and get looked at and get the experience. I was working with a ton of guys who had more experience than me at the time, like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. Now, in this run, you're talking to a guy who is a future Ring of Honor World Champion. I am, without a question of a doubt, as high on that pecking order as you can get. I'm not afraid to brag about that.
While you were in a different place then, the company as a whole was in a very different place in your first run. Has anything been different from what you remember, whether it's the locker room atmosphere or anything else?
Locker rooms always evolve with the wrestlers that are in it. However, the locker room in Ring of Honor has to be the greatest locker room I've ever been in. The guys that make up the company, the spirit behind the entire product is exemplified in the locker room. It's truly special to be a part of. When you're in the Ring of Honor locker room, you feel like something special is happening every night.
What is it that keeps the locker room there so special?
We all just are who we are. We are simply expressing ourselves. Everybody in that locker room was put on Earth to be a wrestler, and they get a chance to do it every show. The result of that is all of these amazing live events and these amazing matches.
Do you have any favorite moments or matches since you came back?
Just two weekends ago, at a live event in Atlanta, The Kingdom vs. The Briscoes was the main event grudge match. Mark Briscoe jumped off the lighting rig and went through a table. Then, the Kingdom did a Doomsday Device from inside the ring to the outside. It was one of the craziest matches I've ever seen. And yet it was just another night in Ring of Honor. Jay comes to the back busted up, Mark comes back busted up, and both have smiles on their faces. It was a match that made someone that has been on the cutting edge of wrestling for the past 15 years get out of his seat and get as close to the match as possible without being seen.
So your favorite moment so far is just being backstage, not even in a match of your own?
I've had a lot of fun matches, but I'm telling you, what inspires me is watching people put on amazing matches on the same show as me. That raises the bar and let's everyone know that there's no such thing as treading water here. You have to be swimming, and you have to swim hard. If you're just trying to get by, you're going to be left behind. The caliber of shows I'm on are incredible, and it makes me just want to raise that bar even more.
There's been a lot of buzz over a recent match you had on Ring of Honor television that featured you in a six-man tag against the Bullet Club. What was that match like for you?
That was an amazing match. Growing up in the ECW era of wrestling, as I did, wrestling in the ECW arena is a big deal. It's no joke. You need to be extraordinary when you wrestle there, and that's what we set out to do. We had a sold out arena and the fans were on their feet at the end of the night. I couldn't ask for anything more. I got to wrestle the Young Bucks, who epitomize what ECW would be today and of course AJ Styles, who is incredible. It's everything that 16-year old me set out to do.
Speaking of the Bullet Club, what's your thoughts on the stable that seems to be infiltrating everywhere in indy wrestling these days?
I'll put it to you real simply. What's going on right now in Ring of Honor, and it's been evident since the days of Bryan Danielson and CM Punk, is that if you put the production and money into the guys at Ring of Honor, you have something that could make the same amount of money as WCW did in during the Monday Night Wars. The Bullet Club is the nWo. They could sell just as many t-shirts as the nWo did if they were on TBS going up against RAW. What we have is merely a lack of financial backing on a grand scale.
Is there anything besides the money that you think Ring of Honor needs to take that next step as a company?
All it comes down to is production and distribution. It's really simple. Ring of Honor puts on the best shows, and they're running at an optimal level right now. Their TV show is excellent, the stories are great, but it's not a fully national or international level. To compete with WWE, you need to be more visible. I just went to Costa Rica. When I turned on my TV, NXT was on there. Those are the guys that were basically in Ring of Honor last week. Now they're on international TV on NXT. All someone has to do is realize there's a ton of money to be made in wrestling, come in there, and do that for Ring of Honor.
Do you think that if Ring of Honor got a big cable deal, that they'd be able to compete with WWE?
It's not about competing, it's about putting on a product that people enjoy, and fostering love for this wrestling art that we all do. If anything, it would probably boost WWE's numbers because wrestling ebbs and flows together. So if somebody comes in and lights a spark in wrestling, which is what Ring of Honor does, then we light a fire for the entire industry. Wrestling has the ability to get red-hot again at a moment's notice. Ring of Honor could be the coal that gets that done.
Ring of Honor made two big announcements recently. The first was that they are going to partner with New Japan Pro Wrestling again to put on a series of shows. What are your thoughts on that, and is there anyone you'd like to work with on those shows?
I think New Japan is a place where pro wrestling is a beautiful art there. Their talent is amazing. Their top guys like Okada and Tanahashi are men whose careers I've followed and really enjoyed. I've always thought about Okada's time in TNA and how everybody knew how good he was, yet nothing happened. Now he's an absolute all-star. He's a guy I'd like to get in the ring with. Of course, I'd also love to get into the ring with someone like Jushin 'Thunder' Liger, one the original junior heavyweight guys. So there are legit legends I could wrestle. Or I could wrestle an up-and-coming guy, like Kenny Omega from the Bullet Club. There's nothing but opportunities abound with these shows.
The other big announcement of course was the return of Samoa Joe, who made his first appearance back at the 13th Anniversary Show, and he'll wrestle his first match back here in Baltimore on Saturday. What was your first reaction when you heard he was returning?
That is so huge. There's not a lot that makes me grab my phone and start texting out text messages, but that was an announcement that made me. Samoa Joe is a legend. He's been a legend in my book since I started and having someone like him come back to Ring of Honor, a place that he helped build and give life to, is going to be an unbelievable asset. He's going to keep lighting that fire, and keeps raising the bar for everyone.
I know you've been in tag matches with Samoa Joe, both teaming with and competing against him, but I don't believe you've ever wrestled him in a singles match. Is that something you'd want?
Absolutely. I would absolutely love to wrestle him. Give me that match. Now that you've mentioned it, I'm not going to be happy until I get it.
I don't want to look back too much, but I did have a question about your time in WWE, specifically the end of your run, where you spent two years essentially in "wrestling purgatory" between injuries and suspension. How hard was that for you?
Forget wrestling purgatory, I was in life purgatory. One of the hardest things, as someone who has based his entire life on being an agile athlete, was to be literally stuck on a couch for two years. Going from ninja-like agility to unable to walk up the stairs for 18 months. It was very much a trial of my will and forced me to adapt to a whole different life that I never experienced. I wasn't traveling on the road. I wasn't wrestling. That's something I hadn't done since I was 17 years old. It's hard to change your trajectory in life, and very rarely do you get the chance to sit back and think about where you've been and where you want to go. That's what I was able to do. Being injured physically reminded me that your body is a temporary vessel. However, you have many things that can last a lot longer, like your mind. If you exercise your mind as much as your body, you're going to get a lot more mileage out of everything. I was able to gain certain valuable insight that I was able to use to become the best wrestler I've ever been.
So, with that in mind, what is the rest of 2015 going to bring for Matt Sydal?
You're talking to a future Ring of Honor champion, and I also plan to go to the Best of the Super-Juniors in New Japan and take that tournament too.
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster