"The Octopus" Jonathan Gresham sat down with Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman on a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast to discuss a wide-range of issues, including Gresham's involvement in the ROH Racial Roundtables. Fellow ROH star Kenny King was also on The Wrestling Inc. Daily where he liked the discussions that were had in the Roundtables, and Gresham expressed those same sentiments on his appearance on The Wrestling Inc. Daily.
"I'm really happy that we're able to talk about it because I think it's one of those subjects that like before the current climate became what it is today, I think it was something that we all felt, but I'm going to speak for myself," Gresham said. "I didn't want to believe that the company that I have been in love with since 2005 had that kind of mentality in it, but then, it hit me like it might not have been malice intent, but sometimes, they're just unaware of the issues at hand, and so because of that, they don't deliberately put people in places that they should be put in.
"And saying that, I think it's a mixed bag of things because we want to speak up and say different things. In some cases, guys are afraid that saying something will get them suppressed even more, and then on the other hand, some guys like myself, I don't want my the color of my skin to be a part of me getting something more. I want to be looked as as, 'Jonathan Gresham is the best man for the job. So that is why we put him there.'"
Gresham also noted that hopefully, wrestling can move in a positive direction as more conversations are had. He expressed his desire to see more women of color in the ROH women's division noting that ROH has not paid too much attention to the women's division.
"So it's a lot of different reasons but I think it's really good that now, no one has an excuse to not know now that we've all come out and said our bit and told our stories, and hopefully for the next generation, things will be easier and more transparent for guys getting opportunities and being pushed to certain levels," Gresham stated. "And I'm really happy that a lot of the fans have taken to this movement and definitely the Roundtables and stuff. People of all denominations and backgrounds and races have taken to it, and this has been really positive.
"So I think if we can all, together, just keep moving in a positive direction man, like the sky's the limit because we can't leave out other nationalities as well man. We have to start looking at you more people from different backgrounds that are here in America that we can utilize as far as wrestling. I'm really interested in seeing more women of color in the women's division as well. That's something that we haven't really paid a lot of attention to, and I think we really need to do something about that."
Many fans have criticized the ROH Women of Honor division as weak, and Gresham agreed but added that the talent pool for women is smaller than for men. He pointed out that the big names from the indies have been signed to other promotions. However, he believes ROH should reset and find talent that can be a diamond in a rough. Noting that along with the Pure Title tournament, a women's tournament will also be held as well.
"I feel like what they see is reality, but you also have to understand that the talent pool for women is a lot smaller than it is for men," Gresham noted. "A lot of the women have been signed by TNA and WWE that like off the top of your head, when you think of women's wrestling, you think of certain names and those names are already signed.
"So now, for companies like Ring of Honor that are a little bit behind with using the women in the proper light, I think we have to reset, and we have to find those diamonds in the rough now because a lot of the main names that will make people automatically pay attention are all signed right now. But I think that's something that Ring of Honor is definitely moving forward with. I don't want to go into much detail, but we announced a women's wrestling tournament already. So I really think we're on the verge of really showing the world something different too."
On the topic of the Pure Title tournament, Gresham named some competitors that fans should keep an eye on. He praised his fellow tag team partner Jay Lethal, but he also highlighted Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta as two guys coming in from the indies.
"He's known around the world as being the best wrestler in Ring of Honor, and in my personal opinion the best wrestler in the world, Jay Lethal," Gresham named. "I really think people don't give him enough credit for his technical prowess, and I really think he's somebody to really watch out for because he's really good at reinventing himself over time. And I really admire that about him, but as far as independent talents coming into the tournament, men that I've worked with on the indies like Fred Yehi, I think the world of Fred Yehi.
"I really don't understand how he isn't signed somewhere. I really hope Ring of Honor hops on that. Wheeler Yuta as well, I've worked with him a few times and trained with him on the independents. I think the world of him as well. He's trained by 'Hot Sauce' Tracy Williams and Drew Gulak, two guys I have a lot of respect for in the business."
Gresham also highlighted Tony Deppen and his growth through his time on the indies. He admitted that he would like ROH to sign him, but he does not want to take him away from the indies removing a veteran that young wrestlers can learn from. He recalled asking guys like Cesaro and Chis Hero for advice when he was starting out and notes that those guys are important for younger wrestlers to navigate their way in pro wrestling.
"Tony Deppen is one of those guys... I was around when he first started arriving around like CZW and Beyond," Gresham recalled. "He's grown so much since I've been gone from the indies. So seeing him being apart of PWG and Ring of Honor just like it's just amazing to me how I took my attention off then when I pay attention again, he's come so far. The fans are really gravitating towards him as being one of the top guys on the indies. I really hate the idea of taking him away from the indies, but I think Ring of Honor needs guys like him.
"I really think, this is kind of getting off topic, but I really think the indies still needs guys that are growing like Deppen that can go back and kind of, for lack of a better way to say, mentor the younger guys coming up because if they're just left to their own devices, they have to kind of think for themselves. But when I was coming up, I had guys like Claudio [Castagnoli] and [Chris] Hero that I could message or see in person and ask them, 'what am I doing? Is this right? What would you do?' I did that to guys like [Colt] Cabana, and I would see him and Jimmy Jacobs on shows. And really right now, those guys are no longer available on the indies. Who do you have to go to, and that's what I mean by like taking guys like that thing off the indies, but hopefully, it works out, hopefully, he can probably do both."
The Pure Title tournament will feature unique rules. That aspect is what Gresham said fans can be excited for as he hopes ROH can be "the alternative to mainstream professional wrestling."
"I think they can expect something completely different, exactly what I've been hoping and praying for and pushing for since I've been here in Ring of Honor," Gresham said. "I think they're about to get that. I think they're going to get what I feel Ring of Honor has always been and still can be, is the alternative to mainstream professional wrestling. I think that in a nutshell is what you're going to get."
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.