Jay Lethal was a recent guest on Busted Open Radio, and during the interview, he talked about how the ongoing pandemic has impacted Ring Of Honor. Lethal admitted he was extremely worried once shows started to get cancelled, and ROH ultimately cancelled their pay-per-views and initially thought the pandemic would shut down professional wrestling completely.
“The craziest time for me was once shows started getting canceled, and we got canceled and shut down our pay-per-views,” Lethal said. “Then, for a brief moment, maybe a whole hour, I was in panic mode thinking this virus can really be for an unseeable time and maybe end professional wrestling. This could’ve shut down all wrestling everywhere. I mean, the fact that it didn’t and we’re still able to safely do this, as safe as we possibly can anyway, it really warms my heart. But for a second, I was in panic mode because this could’ve ended wrestling. Man, what a scary thought.”
Lethal also recalled Ring Of Honor’s COO, Joe Koff, making the decision not to risk the safety of the performers. However, he still granted them continued paychecks during the time off. Lethal called it a blessing, and also said it gave ROH the desire to check out what the other promotions were “doing wrong” so that they could make sure they did it right.
“When they shut that pay-per-view down [18th Anniversary Show] and we all got home, we had emails saying we’re going to have a Zoom call,” Lethal recalled. “Of course I feared the worst, but essentially, in that Zoom call, our boss Joe Koff was saying, ‘There are other companies still running and nothing against them, nothing against the empty arena matches, but I just don’t want to be putting my wrestlers at motels and on airplanes right now. So, you guys just sit home. Sit tight. No one’s getting their checks canceled. You’re all going to get paid, but just stay home and be safe and wait for the call to see how we’re going to proceed after that’.
“I mean, you can’t ask for a better– you can just sit home and collect money. That’s outrageous and such a blessing, but also a lot of us were kind of saddened because we wanted to get paid. We were getting paid, but we still wanted to wrestle.
“Although the empty arena matches weren’t looked upon as the best, we were still getting to wrestle. And we all kind of voiced our opinion to Joe and he felt like, ‘Well, maybe if you guys all want to do this, I could look into it’,” Lethal added. “Then there were so many calls to see if the athletic commission would approve it. But yeah, they got to sit back and also watch and see what other people were doing wrong so that we could do it the right way.”
Lethal went on to say that even though the pandemic has been bad in a lot of ways, it’s probably been good for ROH because they essentially get to hit the “restart” button and re-introduce the Pure Championship.
“Essentially, we got to hit the reset button if you like to think about it that way as well,” Lethal said. “We kind of wiped the slate clean and started fresh with these new matches. We started with the Pure Title, introducing those new belts, but with the reset button, with no introduction, this is all happening for the first time. I’m not really focused on the fact that this title was a thing before, but yeah, I really think this pandemic – as sucky as it is to say, it might have been a really good thing for us.”
Lethal would then go on to describe what the Pure Championship is all about. He said it’s less of another championship belt but rather represents who the most pure athlete and professional wrestler is. Lethal also described the different rules that go into those matches.
“Ring of Honor used to have the Pure Title but they got rid of it,” Lethal said. “Now they’re bringing it back. But essentially, it’s a match designed to show who is the best pure athlete, pure wrestler, pure professional wrestler, so we got a couple of rules to these matches and this title. For instance, there’s a 20 count on the floor. When the wrestlers go outside, they get a 20 count. On the inside, it gets really interesting because there are no closed fists, which is– I was making this joke, and Tommy and Dave, you guys would appreciate this. There was a point where the closed fist was illegal and you couldn’t do them, and now, there’s this thing where closed fists are legal as long as there’s no ill intent behind it. The second you do it with some kind of malicious intent, then that closed fist become illegal and that has been tickling me about wrestling lately.
“Well, for the Pure Title, closed fists are illegal,” Lethal added. “You use a closed fist once, it’s a warning. You do it again and you’re automatically disqualified. Another rule is if anyone interferes with you in the match, they’re automatically fired and you lose the match. And the coolest rule for me, I think, is you’re only allowed to use the ropes as a rope break three times.
“So if I’m in a submission or pinfall, I can put my foot on the rope or grab the rope to escape the hold but I only get that three times,” Lethal continued. “So after I use all my rope breaks, you can have me in figure four. I grab the ropes but you don’t have to let it go because it’s legal after that. And one of the coolest things about it is, I think, the opportunities for the wrestler to be super inventive.
“For them, that’s never been done or seen before in there, or existed in these types of matches. When different funky rules aren’t too complicated to follow, then you’re just going to get these unique matches you didn’t think you could do before. So this is definitely going to be something, especially during this pandemic. And after it’s going to stick around too, but I think it’s definitely going to be something very interesting.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.