On a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, ROH Director of Operations Gary Juster was on to chat with Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman about his career in the business as well as today’s ROH. Juster noted on the podcast that he had worked with WCW from the beginning all the way until the company’s end. He discussed his post-WCW career saying that he did not work at WWE, but he did work at other places.
“I never worked at WWE or WWF. When WCW closed, I did some lucha libre shows,” Juster revealed. “In fact, one time, we held the record, I think, for the biggest indie show at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia. We had El Hijo El Santo, La Parka and a bunch of others. We did about 4,000 people. That was our first show, and that was our best show.
“I also booked some buildings for a circus for a while. I booked some buildings for Dodge World’s Toughest Rodeo for a while, and finally, I was able to reconnect with my old friend Jim Cornette, as he used to sometimes call me, ‘my old friend.’ And we kind of had this idea of doing something with Ring of Honor, and I had known Joe Koff for 25-30 years from way back when he was the GM of WNUV channel 54 in Baltimore. Long time wrestling fan, as I was and we were able to interest Sinclair Broadcasting in Ring of Honor, and here we are 10 years later.”
Hausman asked if ROH COO Joe Koff was also a wrestling fan and not just a business person. Juster revealed that Koff is a long-time wrestling fan and had been working as a promoter at a young age as well.
“Joe grew up in New York going to watch Bruno [Sammartino] at The Garden, the way I grew up in Minneapolis going to watch Verne Gagne, and Joe was a lifelong wrestling fan,” Juster said. “Joe got into the television business as a young man, and when he worked in Tampa, he helped put together a real kind of seminal show called ‘The Battle of the Belts’ where they brought in champions from various promotions and did a live wrestling show.
“That was back with the old Florida office with Duke, and Herro and Eddie Graham, and that was how Joe got started in wrestling. So Joe goes way way back as a fan and kind of as an early television producer.”
Juster also gave his quick thoughts on what it’s like to work at ROH now. He talked about how they have small staff that is well organized.
“It’s great. We have a small staff,” Juster stated. “We work together very well. Mark Davis, our director production, Hunter Johnston, our executive producer, Greg Gilliland, our GM [and] Joe, of course, I’d known for all these years, and we have a really good organization. It’s a lot of fun.”
Earlier this year, Koff was on The Wrestling Inc. Daily where he confirmed plans for ROH to run weekly live TV. On his podcast appearance, Juster revealed that the plans were for weekly live TV to start in July, but the pandemic forced ROH to change plans.
“We had, fortunately from our corporate owners, been given the go-ahead, and you’ve seen now, create a new set to really upgrade our look. We had plans to do a live show, and we had a big plan for 2020,” Juster revealed. “And then everything came to a screeching halt in early March when the pandemic took over. We were tentatively looking at that (a live weekly TV show) to start in July, and of course, like I said, everything got sidelined.”
Current AEW star Matt Sydal was on The Wrestling Inc. Daily a few months back when he was competing in the Pure Title Tournament where he spoke highly of the protocols that ROH had set for their tapings. Juster also spoke on the precautions ROH has taken during the pandemic and how they have adjusted to the pandemic.
“Well, it’s obviously very strange with no crowd,” Juster admitted. “We put safety first. Our corporate parent and our company, it’s always been safety first in terms of the wrestlers the staff [and] the arena people. I think we test probably more than anybody. We create a very firm bubble when we do our tapings, and it’s worked for us. We’re under the auspices of the Maryland State Athletic Commission in the state of Maryland, and we have worked with them in terms of drawing up protocols to give kind of a maximum protection we can give considering what we do. And it’s been successful for us.”
The biggest buzz-worthy moment ROH has done during the pandemic is not only bring back the Pure Title but also have Jonathan Gresham, who spoke highly of the Pure Title on his Wrestling Inc. Daily appearance, win the title. Juster praised Gresham on the podcast pointing out that Verne Gagne loved putting a spotlight on amateur wrestling before noting that he is not involved on the creative side of things in ROH.
“First of all, Jon’s a great performer, and he’s a terrific technical wrestler, so it plays to my old school prejudices,” Juster noted. “The Verne Gagne days were the days where the amateur wrestlers were the ones that Vergne put on a pedestal, and actually, Verne was active in the amateur wrestling game up until his dementia set in. He couldn’t be himself, but he was always pushing it on TV.
“So Jon is a pure technical wrestler. So I thought that was great. Past that, I don’t get involved in talent [and] in booking. I leave that to Hunter and others. I learned at an early time in my promoter career to stay away from the booking side, and I have been pretty successful at doing that.”
All of Gary Juster’s “Old School Sessions” are now available via Ring of Honor’s YouTube channel. For more information please visit www.ROHWrestling.com.