Ring of Honor’s Roderick Strong recently took some time to participate in an exclusive interview with PWMania.com. Strong reveals his past training under Jim Niedhart, his time in TNA, his present with Ring of Honor and the recent deal struck between Ring of Honor and Destination America. He opens up about how he’s grown and developed in the ring, his previous accomplishments and why he’s remained so loyal to Ring of Honor. Check out the complete interview below:
The early part of your training and career is synonymous with the Hart family. How can describe how that training came about and the relationship that’s followed? Has it been maintained to this day?
It came about because my dad and dad’s buddy’s wife worked at a doctor’s office and she was actually the front desk receptionist. Jim Niedhart would come in there because it was his local physician and one day my dad’s buddy called him and said hey, do you want to be a pro wrestler and my dad was sure. My dad had an athletic background so even though he was a little bit of an older man about 38-39 years old, he was why not it would be a good hobby and was always about trying to stay in the best shape as he possibly can. I didn’t know who the trainer was at the time. Being a big wrestling fan and being so young 12 at the time, my parents were separated so my dad said I’m going to bring you to this practice but you have to be well behaved. I started freaking out when I realised exactly who it was and that I would be going there 3 times a week. Eventually from going and watching Jim just saw how excited I got about going. He eventually let me get in the ring and play around. It was just something from watching it visually and studying it so much that it I was able to do at the moment and something I saw that it was something I could do. He saw a little something in me and with the Hart’s starting so young Harry Smith living relatively close and he said my nephew is close and he knows how to wrestle. He said maybe you should wrestle around. I was 12 at the time and I believe Harry was 10 at the time and I was the first guy that he wrestled around with.
Relationship wise, we’ve all been busy doing are own thing and we run into each other we keep up with each other’s career’s and it’s interesting to see people from that long ago and how well their doing. I spoke briefly when KES was in Houston, it was a pretty busy day. I’m sure they’ll be back around at some point. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him (Harry) and we’ve trained together other a few times here in Tampa because he used to live here. We would train, grapple and stuff. We talk as much as we can.
The Jester. What was the thinking on that character? What influenced? Why did it end?
I was a kid and when your 12 or 13 years old your just trying to think of whatever. My dad was an impersonator and a very successful one at that. I was like ah the king has his court jester and I should just be the jester because I was a kid. I had to wear a mask at the time just because I was so young. I was just messing around. I was just being a 13 year old kid that sounded good at the time. The funny thing was Matt Sydal’s name when he got into wrestling was The Jester as well. It’s a popular name when you get started.
The growth and Evolution of Roderick Strong has seen a number of tremendous matches and development. What would you say stood out about your TV, tag team & world title runs?
The tag run was with (Austin) Aries and it was something we were both very passionate about and we wanted to make an impact on wrestling. We both wanted to get back into the forefront and to understand that it is very very entertaining and can be extremely special when done right. Making history with him and having the longest run at that time with the tag titles was awesome because it was something we both loved and we accomplished that was great. I really enjoyed it and we both became really good friends along the way and you can’t beat that. The TV title, was just something I was just starting to get comfortable with and something I could have obviously done a lot more with that. The stuff I did with Adam Cole was good and it helped him and it helped me. It was enjoyable. Winning the Ring of Honor World Title is very special, the fact that they believed in me enough to be put in a position and seize it and capture the belt meant a lot to me and they had a lot of trust in me. It felt very special. I felt I would have been more successful with it at this point. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder and something to prove when people were saying I wasn’t championship material. I think my matches as champion proved that. At the time, I was exactly what and who needed to be champion.
You’ve had the opportunity to compete for 2 prominent promotions in the U.S (PWG not withstanding) what did you find were the differences between your early time in ROH & your time in TNA?
Well obviously the way I was used in both companies was vastly different. To me that would be the biggest thing that stood out. I thought my time in TNA went about as well as it possibly could for what it was. With me being as young as I was and them trying to highlight the x division like they did. I had an opportunity to have some really good matches there. I was blessed and lucky to be put in divisions where I could showcase my talent at both places.
On different occasions you worked alongside Austin Aries & Alex Shelley. Describe the relationship and how each time came about between ROH & TNA?
It’s been noted that in Ring of Honor that it was Gabe Sapolsky’s idea of putting us together as a group and none of us really knowing each other, other than saying hello at different shows. We did that and it was as fantastic opportunity for me and the others. He thought we were ready for that but it says a lot about him (Gabe). We made history together as a team. The four of us together including Jack Evans helped to save Ring of Honor and it always holds such a special place in my heart. In TNA, it was something where they saw how hot Generation Next was and they wanted to do something similar but I felt they wanted it as proactive and putting in themselves in people’s faces because we had some fantastic chemistry. I had fun doing it and the fact that every single one of them are great wrestlers. I can’t really complain being in the ring with those guys.
A number of names have come through ROH and moved on to different places. What would you say has been your primary reason for remaining with the company?
Opportunity and to be in a position to have bigger high profile matches and grow as a performer. As a performer, sometimes it really isn’t understood that I started with Ring of Honor when I was so young that I experience outside of the local Florida Indies was not very high. When I travelled with Ring of Honor, I had go to CZW and learn a lot. When I was TNA my time there was great but at the time putting me in a bigger position there was not going to happen so wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to travel the world and I wanted to grow as a performer every way possible and I didn’t feel that was going to happen there when I was there at that time even though I appreciate my time there. Ring of Honor allowed me to do that and they’ve allowed me to find my place in wrestling and find out who I am. Some roads are longer for some than others and I think the last couple of years I’ve had an opportunity to come into my own.
As part of the Decade, you, BJ & Jimmy had a great chemistry? Did your role end earlier than anticipated or what may have led to the change in direction?
I think everything happens for a reason. If it is meant to be a certain way than it is and that was meant to end when it did. It wasn’t exactly what I sought it out to be. It had ran its course. I had fun doing it alongside those guys. I’ve been lucky to be grouped with some guys that I really get along with and we have a very similar mindset when it comes to our work. It definitely was fun but I’m liking that it ended when it needed too.
Were there factions/stables/tag teams/managers that you were a part of that you felt could have been flushed out more or ended as they should?
I felt that Generation Next could have gone a little longer. People’s priorities changed and it needed to happen the way it happened. It was something that was kind of sad to see because it had legs and could have gone for a very long time, I feel. In that itself I feel it could have gone longer. Being with Truth (Martini) was great. The fact that I barely knew him and we had a some really solid chemistry was really awesome because he has a great mind for wrestling and I learned a lot from him and he gave me honest opinions which I appreciated because I’m the same way back with people. It was a good relationship while it lasted, I really appreciate my time with him.
Over the span of a 13 year career in a promotion lends itself to some great matches. If you could point out a match for any fan to watch of yours that you’re proud of what would that be?
There are quite a few that I am proud of. I think me and James Gibson that I would show people just from a pure wrestling aspect. One that I felt was one of my most complete matches. The crazy thing is that I feel I have yet to be anywhere near or had anywhere near as good of a match that If I could say is really my best match ever.
The recent announcement of ROH being on Destination America says a lot about the growth of the company. What are your thoughts on the deal and what this means?
My thoughts are its great. What it means for Ring of Honor is 40-50 million homes get a chance to tune in and watch us do what we do best. That is be the best pure wrestling company on the planet. I think it can open a lot of eyes and help with this continual growth that Ring of Honor has been on the last couple of years. The timing of it couldn’t be better I feel. Sinclair is a company that has a better understanding of what who and what Ring of Honor is. I think Ring of Honor is just starting to hit its stride and I think the next six months is going to be really interesting for us.
Moving forward what do you foresee for Roderick Strong both as a singles and potentially tag team wrestler?
I don’t see myself going into the tag team division. I see myself winning the number one contender’s match that I have June 19th live on pay per view and then I see myself going on to beat whoever is world champion either Jay Lethal or Jay Briscoe. So I see being the Ring of Honor world champion again in my future.
Was there anything you’d like to promote yourself?
June 3rd Wednesday night at 8:00, Destination America, Ring of Honor premiers. It is something that as a company we are very excited about. We’re just trying to get the word out on that and I think that’s going pretty well. I know we were trending on twitter pretty heavy. You can follow me on twitter @RoderickStrong Instagram @roderickstrong and prowrestlingtees.com/Roderickstrong.