ROH star Jonathan Gresham joined Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman recently on The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast to discuss ROH's Pure Title tournament as well as the evolving wrestling styles of today. Before chatting about the returning Pure title Gresham was asked if ROH is restricting talent from using third-party platforms like WWE has done, as reported on Wrestling Inc.
"No, they are not restricting anyone," Gresham assured. "This company, it's a great company to be a part of. You have a lot of freedom with your character and what you do in other platforms."
Gresham's name recognition has grown over the past few years with many acknowledging his technical prowess. Gresham spoke on focusing on his in-ring work so that people would not notice his height or size. He said he gradually came to focus more on his character developing his "The Octopus" moniker.
"You know, earlier in my career, I was so focused on people kind of getting lost in what I present in the ring, so they wouldn't notice my height or my size. I feel like that was the biggest obstacle to get over," Gresham admitted. "People still kind of paid attention to it, but they also recognized what I was bringing in the ring. So as time went on and I finally joined Ring of Honor, and I was, in my eyes, I felt like I was able to have good or great matches with everybody I got in the ring with, I started to ask myself, 'why is it that I'm not being used in better situation to basically climb the ladder in professional wrestling?' And it hit me that over 10 years of my career, I've only focused on in-ring, and I never gave a lot of thought or a lot of time to promos and my perception as far as like my character.
"So in the last couple of years, I really started to think about presenting myself differently, and that was the start of 'The Octopus 'moniker and the look with the different masks I tried before. It was just literally trial and error, just trying different things, and things started to click when I just kind of stopped looking and just did the first thing that came to mind instead of overthinking things?"
The rules in the Pure title tournament put more of an emphasis on technical and grappling more than the mainstream style. Gresham noted that ROH has been the trendsetter in pro wrestling with the top guys in ROH borrowing AJPW's King's Road style made famous by The Four Pillars of Heaven, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue.
"I think people are now noticing that, and I can go more into detail on the pandemic and the effects of the pandemic to me on wrestling, but ultimately, I think Ring of Honor, since its inception has been a trendsetter," Gresham noted. "So I look back at the guys and if you really study the matches of like [Samoa] Joe and [Bryan] Danielson and all the early guys in Ring of Honor, they were kind of borrowing The King's Road mentality of professional wrestling that was popular.
"They would build with small stories of chain wrestling and feeling out each other and using signature moves first and then using their big moves and then the moves that nobody is supposed to kick out of, I call those 'the burning moves', kind of like Kobashi's f--king Burning Hammer. They borrowed it from them."
Gresham continued discussing how once Dragon Gate was brought to America along with wrestlers like CIMA, Shingo Takagi and Naruki Doi, that style of wrestling took over ROH then to other promotions in the U.S. as the ROH guys moved around. Gresham pointed out that many young wrestlers want to emulate The Young Bucks, but he tries to tell younger wrestlers to look at a different style of wrestler that differs from the Dragon Gate style of wrestling.
"Then around 2005-2006 Gabe [Sapolsky] had the idea of bringing Dragon Gate to America, and when that happened, the style changed on the independents, and if you notice, that style took over and we're still kind of living in that mindset of wrestling right now because its graduated to the point of all the guys that were on the lower-tier cards of Ring of Honor at that time, took that style to the next level," Gresham explained. "And it became the main style of Ring of Honor, and then those guys graduated and went off to TNA, WWE and so on and so forth. And they took that style along with them. And now that is a style that everyone is trying to do, so I believe that a lot of people are noticing that.
"And hopefully a lot of the younger guys noticing that, it's like, 'OK, well, there's so many guys doing this particular style of wrestling that I need to differentiate myself and do something else' because if you really look at wrestling as a whole, everyone is wrestling the Will Ospreay, The Young Bucks kind of style of wrestling. If you're not going to be the front-runners in that particular style, then why don't you hop in another lane? I try to tell all the younger guys that I work with like try to emulate guys like Necro Butcher. If you think about that style of wrestling, can you name five guys that are doing that style right now. Necro Butcher would just come out and fight people. You can't really name five guys that do that right now.
"The vintage luchador style, the Maestro way, Negro Navarro, there's no guys, besides those guys, that are doing that style of wrestling right now, presenting it that way. It's really important to differentiate yourself so fans can enjoy, on one show, different styles of wrestling. I think that's really important."
Gresham also discussed the way he sees wrestling saying that he was taught that wrestling is supposed to be a variety show filled with different kinds of wrestling. He noted that TNA was ahead of their time with the X-Division in the mainstream and with their own women's revolution with the Knockout's division and their women's tag division. However, he also pointed out that there came a point in time where every promotion sought to be a version of WWE.
"Ultimately, I look at professional wrestling, I like to think that I think of wrestling a little bit differently than most people," Gresham said. "I think a lot of people try to chase the current fad of wrestling, and to me, that's fine. A lot of people have success doing that, but when I grew up in wrestling, the trainers and the seminars that I went to, they would always preach this idea of wrestling is supposed to be a variety show, and as I progressed in wrestling and started doing seminars myself, I noticed that that was something that was preached but not practiced.
"And I feel, and hopefully I don't get any heat with this, but just to be as transparent as possible, I look at TNA back in the day of when the X-Division was really big, and they had the women's tag division and the Knockout's division, to me, they were, what, 10 years ahead of their time. If you look at professional wrestling now, I'm not sure but I think we're still in the middle of a women's revolution. They were ahead of the time, but then, for some reason, they decided to ditch that awesome direction and then go back to essentially being mainstream, WWE lite. They just mimicked WWE, and I feel like most companies do that instead of trying to figure out their own identity.
That brought Gresham to the Pure Championship that he said brings something different and makes wrestling a true variety show with the PURE division mixed in with the ROH World Title and ROH TV Title scenes. Gresham spoke on his efforts to bring the Pure division back to ROH.
"Now that brings me back to the Pure Championship. When you look at wrestling as a whole, everything is kind of the same," Gresham noted. "When you look at divisions, when you look at the Ring of Honor World Title Division vs. The Ring of Honor Television Division, there's no difference really when you look at it. It's just a secondary belt in the company. When you look at the world title in WWE, and you look at the United States division, it's pretty much just another division. There's no difference. So to me, to have all these belts in one company, what does it really mean? So in my mind, the Pure division and the way wrestling in Ring of Honor was when I first started watching, it was different than anything else. They presented it as a sport, and that attracted me to the company right away because it was different than TNA. It was different than WWE.
"It was different than anything else I was watching at the time, and so when I first joined the company, I thought to myself, 'OK, it's cool to be here. How can I differentiate myself and stand out?' I'm not going to stand out trying to do Young Bucks stuff. Those guys are the best at what they do, and then I looked at Cody arriving, and he was really charismatic and I was thinking, oh man, the only thing that's missing right now for this to be a variety show, because we have the guys that can go like The Young Bucks, we have the charismatic guys like Cody [and] we need the technicians now. We need a place for them to thrive, and the only way to do that is to bring PURE Wrestling back.
"To me, the Pure Title and the division is something that nobody else in the industry can try to replicate because it belongs to Ring of Honor so that's kind of a part of our big identity. If you want to see the best technical style wrestling, you have to come to Ring of Honor. So I made it my mission, like kayfabe and my character to somehow push to bring pure wrestling back. I would talk to anybody about it at any moment. I would always talk about it to management, to the referees [and] to fans even. I wanted them to believe in this because it's something I truly believe in."
Jonathan Gresham can be seen every week on ROH TV. For more information please visit www.ROHwrestling.com. Gresham's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.