As one of Ring of Honor’s most tenured roster members, Kenny King has seen the promotion go through significant changes over the years. While wrestlers come and go, one of the most unpredictable shifts ROH has had to make has been running shows without a live audience.
King joined Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman on the Wrestling Inc. Daily recently to discuss this new era of ROH, noting it’s an unfamiliar feeling due to the pandemic and lack of fans.
“It’s the first time, definitely,” King said. “You know, hearing music, you hit the stage, you look out and normally where there’s a reaction, there’s nobody. There’s places where if you’ve been wrestling a long time, or you’re in a match, you know, if I hit a nice move I’m looking for a reaction, and crickets, right?”
Due to the global pandemic, wrestling promotions have been forced to pivot away from their normal set-ups. AEW has turned to bringing their roster ringside and allowing limited socially-distanced fans while WWE has created the virtual ThunderDome. ROH restarted their run in complete empty arenas and King applauded the environmental upgrades they’ve made in the time since.
“What I will also do is give big props to the ROH production team, because they have, since the beginning tapings and the subsequent times, they really learned how to create an immersive environment,” King said. “So when you look out, you see video graphics and whatnot, so you’re not looking at empty seats. It doesn’t really take you out of what’s happening at hand. So it actually focuses me even more on the TV cameras. I always play to the camera. But now it’s one of those things where everything is for you guys at home. Since it’s been immersive, I think the product has looked better and I just think it’s easier for the boys and the ladies locker room to work.”
With the fresh set helping elevate the at-home experience, ROH has turned to the past to up the in-ring action. This past September, the promotion resurrected the ROH Pure Title and crowned a new champion in a 16-man tournament. King was unable to get past the first round, but his loss sparked some controversy.
“I was the only person to lose a judge’s decision,” King said. “A judge’s decision? I got the guy in a half-crab on top of the fact that I almost knocked him out with my finish? That’s what you got lawyers for bro. I don’t have time.”
As for where he goes from here, King made clear that he’s after gold.
“I am interested in all facets of the game,” King said. “I want the Pure Championship. I want the tag championships again. I want the six-mans. I want, you know, the TV and I want the world title.”
The established championships have King’s eye, but he did emphasize he really wants the Pure Title above all else. According to King, he sees the Pure Division as what sets ROH apart from other companies.
“The Pure Title literally almost vaporized before I got to Ring of Honor. I came in in 2008, and the belt hadn’t been retired, but there were like, remnants of it still,” King said. “You know, still remnants of matches and people were still kind of high on the pure style. It had gone away for so long, and I think it has been one of the best things that we could’ve done. Reset that style with the sports presentation, with the sit-downs and really get to know the guys that are going to go out there and wrestle, and then, go out there and wrestle a pure, technical, no nonsense no thrills kind of style. That was just one of the things that kind of turned the perception around on Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor wasn’t just floundering. We got a new direction, and it’s working out really well.”
The Pure Tournament was eventually won by Jonathan Gresham, who is enjoying a 180+ day reign as of this writing. Speaking on The Octopus, King praised the current ROH Pure Champion for his evolution as a performer.
“It’s just the maturation process,” King said. “I’ve known Jonathan Gresham since he was Jonathan Davis, way back when on the Florida indie circuit. So to see him, I’ve always thought he was always one of the most creative and just special people to watch in the ring. He’s just so fluid. The way that he just… there’s no wasted motion. He ties people up. He uses his size, which a lot of people would consider his size to be a disadvantage, he uses all of that to his advantage. And now, well, he’s definitely been hitting the gym. He’s so jacked.
“But I think there comes a time in every man’s life where you got to step up. This was Jon’s time. He saw the opportunity. I mean, the Pure Division is tailor-made for Jonathan Gresham. He’s still gonna lose to me when I get a shot, but it’s tailor-made for him. He is what you would consider, when you look at the Pure Division, you think about a guy like Gresham. You think about a guy like [Alex] Shelley, a guy like Nigel [McGuinness], a guy like [Daniel] Bryan. So in 2020, 2021, I couldn’t think of a better guy to lead that division and to step up. And he did it.”
King doubled down on his high-profile comparisons to Gresham, saying his style reminds him a lot of both Daniel Bryan and Nigel McGuinness.
“I’ve seen him, right? I’ve watched these guys. I’ve watched Nigel with my own eyes. I’ve watched Bryan in awe with my own eyes,” King said. “I’ve wrestled Bryan. If you watch these guys, the styles and the fluidity is very, very similar. It’s a credit to Jon that he’s taken his craft so seriously that he can be put in that kind of category.”
You can find Kenny King every week as part of ROH TV. For more information on how to watch ROH please visit www.ROHWrestling.com. You can follow Kenny on Twitter @KennyKingPb2. The full audio and video from Kenny’s interview can be found below.