I spoke with ROH star Roderick Strong earlier this week, who will face Cedric Alexander at ROH's Best In The World pay-per-view this Sunday. We will have live coverage of the pay-per-view this Sunday.
Strong has been with ROH consistently since March of 2004, and is only the second Ring Of Honor Triple Crown Champion. He also wrestled for TNA, has been part of every booking regime in Ring Of Honor and also recently completed a WWE tryout camp. Here is the full interview.
Wrestling INC: It seems right now with wrestling, a lot of people are doing the craziest moves and you've been more old school relying on brawling and backbreakers to have great matches. Would you agree that you're a throwback to more of an old school type of wrestler?
Roderick Strong: I guess in a sense. There are modern day things that I do, but for the most part I follow the basic mentality of the old school wrestlers where intensity and aggressiveness are my strong points. It helps me feel comfortable and standout.
Wrestling INC: You're not the biggest guy in the business, but you're recognized as a tough guy who can brawl in the ring. How much work do you put into your character to come off with that vibe about taking on guys bigger than you?
Strong: It has been built over the years where being in the right situation where you can showoff what you have. When I first went to Ring of Honor, a lot of other Indy [promotions] put me in spots where it helped build me in that manner. It took time to develop the style of a wrestler and you want to be able to wrestle with anybody. I've been working on it my whole career.
Wrestling INC: You've been on and off with Ring of Honor for 11 years now. How has the growth of the company been since you've been there?
Strong: I've never been off, only on. Growth wise, it's amazing. I said it a million times before and I'll continue to say that's why I wanted to be a part of Ring of Honor—to watch and help it grow. Everyone said it has the potential to be this, that, and the other. Through time, it has gotten recognition. The right people have seen it and bigger doors have opened for Ring of Honor to be on a bigger platform. It's amazing and surreal to watch sometimes how far it's come and how far it can go.
Wrestling INC: When you had the stint with TNA, were you still working for ROH at the same time?
Strong: I was.
Wrestling INC: So once ROH started doing pay-per-views, that when they stopped allowing ROH talent to work for TNA, correct?
Wrestling INC: What was your experience with TNA like during your stay?
Strong: It was great to perform on a weekly basis at a national level. I was rather young being 21 or 22 to perform at that level. Being the first match on Spike TV for them against AJ Styles is something I'll never forget. I got to wrestle my friends and it was amazing being able to make an impact all over the world.
Wrestling INC: You were suspended by TNA for arriving late to a pay-per-view. What exactly happened?
Strong: Yes, I was fulfilling a commitment to Ring of Honor at the time because a bad storm was coming in the day before a pay-per-view. Myself and Austin Aries have a commitment to Ring of Honor, just like TNA, because the company was going through a time when many of the guys did work for TNA when they got pulled off. Low Ki pulled himself a couple of weeks before the event so we felt we didn't do Ring of Honor justice by not fulfilling our commitment to them. We made it to the TNA pay-per-view a few hours late and got suspended.
Wrestling INC: Did that lead to your tenure with them ending early?
Strong: Not at all. We had a mutual respect. TNA never did anything wrong and I understand the suspension on both ends. I had the opportunity to stay there and just didn't feel it was best for my career. I felt I needed more growth and I wasn't sure if TNA was the place to do it. It was a judgment call at the time. I have a lot of respect for TNA and I hope they never thought I meant to disrespect them.
Wrestling INC: It feels ROH had been low-key the last few years, but they seem to be getting their buzz back. Do you sense this year as almost a turning point?
Strong: Yeah, of course. We had to go through a learning experience on many levels. We were purchased by a broadcast group [Sinclair Broadcast] that had never broadcasted wrestling. We were going to a larger platform we'd never been on and sometimes you need to dial back to realize you made mistakes. Ring of Honor did that and right now everything is firing on all cylinders. It's about time people are paying attention to Ring of Honor the way they should have because we've been doing good throughout that time. Now we're going on pay-per-view and the timing couldn't be better.
Wrestling INC: Do you sense there's more of a competitive rivalry between ROH and TNA now? TNA is contacting ROH talent and the company also has an upcoming pay-per-view. It feels like there's more of a rivalry than before.
Strong: I guess. There's no rivalry between me and TNA. I know nothing about TNA contacting anybody. Ring of Honor's goal is to become as big as we can. The bigger every company becomes, the better it is for the wrestling fans and wrestlers. I want nothing but success for everybody. I think that goes around the board.
Wrestling INC: For awhile, it became common for ROH wrestlers to leave for companies such as the WWE and TNA. Now with wrestlers like AJ Styles, Chris Hero, and Christopher Daniels coming back into the fold, how does it feel having them mixed with the younger guys?
Strong: It's great. Those guys are super talented and I don't think anybody would be upset with super talented guys back in the mix tearing it up. I'm excited for Ring of Honor and excited those guys have the opportunity to comeback. People are excited for them coming back to face the current Ring of Honor talent. I think it's a win-win for everybody.
Wrestling INC: When you first debuted in ROH, you were with Generation Next, which was a group looking to make a name for themselves. A decade later and you're pretty much the opposite. How do you contrast those two ideologies?
Strong: I think there's a misconception about us protecting and helping the company that we love. I think we all have different viewpoints on what we are trying to do. All three have a common goal to protect Ring of Honor, no matter what it takes. Now, we're trying to make these guys better. Some people may not like how we're doing it and are pointing fingers that we're the bad guys. I guess we're going to be considered bad guys to some. If I had a wife I was protecting, people would think I'm a great guy because people are high on the latest flavor and we're not publicly doing things, which then makes us bad. I can understand that, but at the end people see what the big picture is. Generation Next was a different situation. We were there to save Ring of Honor, which was going through a tough time and they needed something and we didn't want to go through the process. So we took things into our own hands to help save Ring of Honor. We wanted the best for Ring of Honor at the time when it came to Generation Next.
Wrestling INC: You've worked at a lot of places like ROH, TNA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and Pro Wrestling Noah. With today's talent, many are going straight through the WWE Performance Center. People feel the talent isn't as well-rounded with their style since they don't work all the different territories. How do you think working in so many different places has shaped your skills and quality as a performer?
Strong: Obviously, if you have an opportunity to travel the world and wrestle against the best wrestlers, you're going to get better. If you don't get better, you probably shouldn't be wrestling. At the WWE Performance Center they don't get the opportunity to travel and get all the great experiences. They do have an advanced range of coaches there and they try to bring in the best of their knowledge for those guys in that situation. They're not going to get the knowledge or experience that I've had by traveling the world, but for the most part it can't be that bad to have all those amazing coaches in one spot.
Wrestling INC: You had a WWE tryout this past spring. How did that go and what was the experience like?
Strong: It was great and one of the best experiences of my life. To be in a competitive nature with a bunch of other athletes, it was awesome. The WWE Performance Center was fantastic and those guys are lucky what they have there. They have the chance to become very good if they want to. I can't say enough good things about it.
Wrestling INC: Have you heard from the WWE since the tryout? We've heard that you and Kevin Steen were the standouts at the tryout.
Strong: I've had some communication with them.
Wrestling INC: You had a tryout with them about 10 years ago when you took part in the open challenge with Kurt Angle.
Strong: I wouldn't necessarily call that a tryout, but I did accept Angle's challenge. It was kind of a one and done thing. I actually went there to hang out with some friends the day it actually happened. It wasn't planned to happen, but it was a great experience to step in the ring with Kurt Angle. I've been waiting since then to step in the ring with him again. Whenever Kurt's knee is better, I'm waiting for him.
Wrestling INC: You're currently not under contract with ROH, right?
Strong: No, [I'm not currently under contract with ROH].
Wrestling INC: Is there a contract in the works or are you playing it by ear right now?
Strong: Things are day-by-day. Everything is done for a reason. I'm letting the pieces fall where they may and we'll go from there.
Wrestling INC: We've had ROH talent go onto superstardom in the WWE. If Kevin Steen was to go to the WWE, how do you see him faring there?
Strong: Kevin will do as well as he would anywhere. He's a super talented guy and he knows exactly what he needs to do. His willingness is what makes him so successful. He loves wrestling and he'll be as successful as he wants to be.
Wrestling INC: For fans who have never ordered an ROH show, what can they expect from the Best in the World pay-per-view this Sunday?
Strong: People try to compare us to the WWE. We all bring something different to the table. You're going to get guys giving it their all in every match. They're going to be intense, passionate, and when they leave the ring you're going to see guys who gave everything they had. They get you emotionally invested in these matchups. The Ring of Honor guys want to be the best. The wrestlers that step out there will be passionate ones that love the company and want to be the best.
Wrestling INC: You're going to be facing Cedric Alexander in a submission match at the upcoming pay-per-view. Is that a style you requested? It seems right down your ally.
Strong: No, Nigel [McGuinness] brought that idea to me. I love it. We are putting Cedric in a situation he's uncomfortable with and seeing if he has enough heart to get out of it. That's what I've been trying to do with Cedric. I've said in previous interviews that I only want the best for him. He needs to be tested to grow and if he fails, he fails. I want him to understand that everything I've done is to make him better. Live on the pay-per-view, I'm going to embarrass him because it's an uncomfortable situation for him. I just don't think he's ready yet, so it'll be a fun one for one.
Wrestling INC: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We're definitely looking forward to the pay-per-view on Sunday and I urge all our readers to check it out. Is there anything you'd like to plug?
Strong: I'm on Twitter at @roderickstrong and head over to ProWrestlingTees.com for my t-shirts. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram [#roderickstrong] for some insight on how my life is around and outside of wrestling. Make sure to go to ROHWrestling.com. If you don't have cable to order the pay-per-view, there will be a live internet pay-per-view as well. Go to ROHWrestling.com for those details.
Jesse Collings contributed to this article.