Inside The Ropes’ Liam Alexander-Stewart sat down with former Ring of Honor Television Champion Kenny King ahead of Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor PPV, on Sunday, September 12th, to discuss his career thus far, his “beef” with Jim Cornette, Bryan Danielson’s return to wrestling, the negative impact The Bullet Club had on the ROH locker room and much more!
Back in 2007 you appeared for ROH taking on Alex Payne & Mitch Franklin whilst teaming with Chasyn Rance as The YRR following an appearance in ’06 at a joint FIR/ROH Show, back in 2006/2007 what attracted you to Ring of Honor and now in 2021 15 years after first appearing for the company what still attracts you to Ring of Honor now?
“I think in the beginning Ring Of Honor was- the idea of Ring Of Honor was for the wrestlers, right? If you were a wrestler, and you really wanted to ply your craft and you really wanted to show that you could just wrestle then Ring Of Honor was the attractive place behind it. I mean the guys there were Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong you know that just the legacy of good, good wrestlers if you wanted to be good wrestler you went to Ring Of Honor so and that legacy has not really changed if you look at how many people that you see in other companies that were mainstream- the main season Ring Of Honor and how many people that you’ve seen come that you think would be a good fit for Ring Of Honor, but they couldn’t actually match up to the style. Fast forward 2021 it’s still the same place. It’s still a place where the best wrestlers go to show that they’re still the best wrestlers, it’s still a place where people come to prove, ‘hey, I can wrestle on any level’. So I think that is the you know, the niche for Ring Of Honor and the guys that stay and the guys that come and stay, pride themselves on being the benchmark for good wrestling everywhere.”
You mentioned that feeling of belonging and proving yourself, was there a particular match or opponent that made you realise that Kenny King did belong in the Ring of Honor locker room?
“I’ll say two matches one was my very first contracted match, my very first contracted match for Ring Of Honor, I went to almost a 15-minute draw with Bryan Danielson. And this is in the middle of you know American Dragon killing everybody. Cattle Mutilation Bryan Danielson. And I remember Gabe Sapolsky, he just looked at me said ‘you got 15 minutes with Bryan, go show why you’re here’. Okay, so after that match, and then there was a match, fast forward a few years later that Rhett Titus and I had with the Briscoes. And again, as much as Bryan Danielson is the benchmark for singles competition in really in any company on the planet. The Briscoes are the best tag team on planet earth, and have been for I don’t know, however many years you want to count, right? So whenever that Rhett and I had that match with the Briscoes and it just felt like we were on that level we kept up step for step and you know, just in that whole feud with the Briscoes was just yeah, ‘we’re here, we can do this’.”
Bryan Danielson recently returned to wrestling, is he someone you would be interested in facing off against in the ring and who would you like to see him face off against in ROH if the opportunity arose?
“I would cut three fingers off to wrestle Danielson and I can see that match happening at some point Jonathan Gresham is this generation’s Bryan Danielson no questions I praise him as much as you possibly can praise a guy because Jon Gresham is a guy who who said ‘okay, I’m not as physically gifted as these other guys. What I’m going to do is I’m going to turn my turn myself into a freakin’ machine and an animal’ and he, I mean, not only just physically right I mean, jeez physically every time he walks by me in locker room he’s like a little tank, walking by right? But just if you watch the way Jon wrestles and the time that he takes and the – I don’t know, man, he’s just so meticulous about the things that he does in that ring and he doesn’t waste any movement and he’s he’s, he’s great, and that would be an amazing match.”
Later this month at Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor La Faccon Ingonerable represented by yourself, Dragon Lee & Le Bestia Del Ring will take on the impressive Shane Taylor Promotions in an attempt to capture the ROH World Six Man Tag Team Championships. How have you been preparing to ensure you take him the gold and how much has the loss of Rush from the match impacted your preparations heading into the huge event on September 12th?
“I don’t think that we have to prepare any different. I think as you saw everybody saw on Monday LFI’s just got Shane’s, I mean I’ve got Shane’s number, right, so and I represent LFI that just is the whole thing we got these dudes, you know, to Shane’s credit, he’s an incredible leader. He has taken STP and turned them from something that was an afterthought to one of the main attractions in Ring Of Honor. But Shane, one thing about Shane and he seems to kind of know man, I might have taught Shane everything that he knows, but I ain’t teach him everything I know. And when you have one up on a guy like that you just gonna always be one up so even though we’re one man down with the former two time reigning world champion is going to be out for foreseeable future, probably the rest of 2021 and Bestia you know the patriarch of LFI winning over nobly he steps in and Bestia is more than capable wrestler got 40 years of pro wrestling experience. So I just feel like the game plans stay the same, you can’t replace a rampaging bull like RUSH. But you know dragon came up to me when after the show he was like ‘yeah man I don’t know Kenny, you know there’s not many of us I just looked at him and said less is more homey there’s plenty of us’. So we’ve got we’ve got what it takes man. You know Dragon is, as long as you got Young Dragon in your team, you got me, not only am I moving into a new phase of my actual wrestling career, moving into a new phase cerebrally as far as the way I approach wrestling matches, and then we got a damn a full on beast, a 50-year-old animal. So nah man, I believe that we’re cool, we’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle, and we got the game plan.”
I want to step back to 2002 and your time as part of WWE Tough Enough, specifically I would love to know if the roles swapped around slightly and now as a near 20 year veteran of the industry you were coaching 21 year old Kenny King on the show what advice would you give yourself and what would you alter early on in your career if you had the ability to?
“Ah, wow, that’s a good question. Probably, if I were to go back and really kind of hammer some shit home for myself, I would say look unrelentlessly, relentlessly, rather, relentlessly. promote yourself relentlessly don’t be you know, sometimes your humility can be an albatross, right. And you don’t want to be the guy who goes and talks about how great he is. And, and you know, if I’ll do this, and I can do that, but that’s alright sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with letting the world know that how great you are, especially you can go out and prove it. So I feel like that would be something that I would use to maybe just accelerate certain parts of my career.”
We mentioned earlier that you are a former IMPACT X-Division Champion, how did you find your time in IMPACT/TNA you were there during two major periods in the company 2005/2006 and your main run between 2012 and 2015 how was the experience, the locker room and your relationship with management etc was that en enjoyable period in your career for yourself?
“Well, I remember when I first started with TNA in 2005 2006, it’s really it’s where I wanted to be, I wanted a match with AJ Styles, I wanted to run in the X Division, I wanted to show that I could like go in the X Division. And, you know, just was not to be, for you know, a myriad of reasons, I guess. But one thing that I will say about the IMPACT and TNA locker room from like, 05-06 even, you know, my stint in 2012-15 there was like, the locker room was always the best part of being there. Everybody, you know, there was- the locker room was never a problem. In any of TNA’s success stories or failures, whatever you always had a group of people, men and women that were just willing to go out there and set themselves on fire, to make sure that the people were getting the best possible show, that people are getting the best possible storylines you know, the team, the problem with TNA is always the office. But it was a very tight knit group. Even I mean, you know, even periods of time, I mean, I was there when Hogan and Sting and Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy and these mega mega stars were there, but it never ever felt like they were two TNAs like it felt like when there were ROHs when a certain club was there. You know, it never felt even with, you know, Hulk Hogan and Sting in your locker room and it was felt very much I mean, you know, Hogan and Sting would very much come in and be like to the boys, even though they had their own spaces, they would come in to where the rest of us would be at and they would, you know, make themselves you know, make themselves part of the squad, it was not very clearly shut off. And you know, I don’t know how to compare that to Ring Of Honor. Ring Of Honor’s just a family there it really really is. It really is just a group of, a crew of people that when people come in and they fit that mould and they just get sucked right into it. You know, there’s people that come in and they don’t fit it and they can’t really get down with it because it’s not you know, it doesn’t, it doesn’t fit but it’s the TNA locker was always working toward, look, ‘whatever you got going on there, we’re just going to make this the best’, you know, and Ring Of Honor is, it’s very much like, ‘well, it’s us against everybody else’.”
You mentioned there, so the certain club, and those are two locker rooms? What was that sort of experience, like being within the company at time? What effect do you think that had within the wider locker room?
“I mean, it was just, and I don’t want to get too deep into it. But it was just, there was just division where there had never been before. You know, if the Briscoes don’t want their own locker room, then nobody ever deserved one, right? The Briscoes built Ring Of Honor, right? So it’s just one of those things where people had just, you know, I don’t know, started smelling themselves a bit, and it just made the whole feel of the locker room a little different than it had ever been. And it just, there wasn’t a community and it wasn’t the cooperation, you know, everybody wasn’t hitting on all cylinders, like I feel like we had before and after. So it was definitely something that I feel like we all needed to experience to know that that that something like that was possible.”
You have previously discussed the role Jim Cornette played in your decision to leave ROH in 2012 and return following his departure in 2015. I want to ask about his tenure with the company your experiences with it, your thoughts overall on Cornette and any particular interactions you can remember that really helped you make that decision to leave ROH in 2012?
“Um, well, that’s okay. Um, to be fair, and to be completely honest, I didn’t think Jim Cornette was a piece of shit until after I left Ring Of Honor, the times that we worked together I didn’t really have any you know, didn’t really have any issues with Jim you know, I don’t say that we saw eye to eye on everything, but for the most part, we had a pretty decent working relationship. And, you know, at one point I even confided in him before any of that like ‘well, you know, I don’t know maybe if I may even want to retire from wrestling’ but at some point we had a long conversation about that. The issue was I just I wasn’t- there just, you know, there was a lot of issues that kind of forced my hand in that you know, contract negotiation issues I didn’t really dig the way those were going, I didn’t really like the way Jim would, you know, everywhere every promoter or booker has their favourites or whatever, but the booking it just didn’t line up with the way that I was feeling the Midnight Express was cooking. You know our beef really didn’t start until I left you know, and then and then because in my opinion, he just he felt like he got outsmarted, he underestimated me and I didn’t trick or do anything, but I did what’s best for me and my family. I didn’t you know, we never had f***ing handshake deal. It was ‘hey, okay, I might do this or I might not’ and that’s all it really was and to be fair, you know, I did everything that I was supposed to do, I even called when I was doing a TNA trial like who’s gonna call another company and say ‘hey, look, I’m doing this and you know I’m not under contract and I’m not going to throw the Ring Of Honor titles in the trash but if you see me pop up on IMPACT tonight, this is what it is right?’ And that’s really where it started. And he felts outsmarted by me, and he put some press release that sounded like a 16 year old girl that had seen her boyfriend at the mall holding hands with another girl and it was so stupid that Joe Coff made him take it down and you know it just was the precursor to his all his lame ass behaviour these days and all his stupid ass outdated views and all this dumb sh*t that he does now it was just you know, I’ve been telling people you know Jim Cornette is an asshole and you know, and so the negative effect that it has because he has a large group of people that listen to his bullsh*t, without any kind of critical thought or so it did have somewhat of a negative effect on my career like you know I had. It would be dissing Beyonce right. If you diss Beyonce you’re gonna have a million freaking drones buzzing in your ear. So yeah, it did affect slightly, but the people that were fans of my work and people were fans of me and had ever heard me speak on the situation realise that I never did anything wrong. If I did anything wrong, well, here’s the number one test between, you know, whether this whether who did something wrong or not? I’ve been back Ring Of Honor for going on six years now, I’ve signed for contracts. Jim can’t even come backstage. So you know what I mean, when Joe Coff reached out to me and said, ‘are you ready to come home?’ That’s how I know I did everything the way I was supposed to do and business is just business, and Jim was just a butthurt little b*tch. That’s all I got to say about that.”
Do performers take not of the negative or critical content put out there on social media or is it something you have conditioned yourself to ignore? What impact does social media have on the mental health of athletes such s yourself and how difficult is it to manage?
“I mean, yes and no, right? I mean, you know, so the first half of that is, well, once you become a public persona, you kind of open yourself up to any, you know, idiot with a keyboard and a telephone that wants to tell you, that you suck on a Tuesday morning, you know what I mean? And people only see what they see. They don’t see the person they don’t see the struggles and you know, rest in peace to my friend, Shannon, you know, rest in peace Daphne. We don’t see the sh*t that goes on behind those people behind the personas, right, people don’t see what was happening with Shannon, they only saw Daphne, right and whatever was going on with with Shannon was completely separate from what’s going on with Daphne. What was going on with Hana Kimura you know what I mean? These things, people don’t really understand that sometimes your favourite performer doesn’t know how to disassociate themselves from the, from your words, right? Sometimes your favourite performer is having a bad on Tuesday, and that you suck at life to tweet is really hitting them in a different way. So I feel like it’syou know, it’s the downfall it and the issue social media in general is that now everybody has access, everybody has reach and everybody that can, can get to you. You know, and we try to we try to within reason, listen to our fan base, our reasonable fans, and you know, wrestling isn’t, and can’t just be well, what I say goes right as far as like the performers, and then the companies. It has to have a synergy with our fans. And we have to have some kind of, you know, back and forth with, Alright, you guys aren’t feeling this. I mean, just like to be fair, like it even happens in certain wrestling matches. I promise you as a fan, you’ll never know how many matches were changed right then and there because the reactions weren’t getting what we were trying to get. So now we have to as professionals, go in there and try to get that reaction anywhere that we know how. so your feedback, and your input as fans does we do weigh it. But you also have to say there’s a lot of answers out there that that we ignore, that we ignore some of the good stuff too, to kind of, you know, becomes noise after a while.”
In ROH you are part of a dominant faction in LFI, but it’s not your first time dominating a division as part of a faction, we previously saw yourself team with Bobby Lashley and MVP in the feared Beatdown Clan. Since then Lashley and MVP have gone on to do some incredible work over on Monday Night RAW, how impressed have you been by the work of your former stablemates and did MVP ever reach out to you and try and poach you for The Hurt Business over in the WWE?
“I used get a phone call like that, like once a month with The Hurt Business ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m still under contract’ You know if Vince wants to come buy me out my contract that I’d be there in a minute. But look, I’ve always known that Bobby Lashley was World Championship material. His work in the last year and a half has been out of this world. I was one of the people that turn my TV off when I saw him bending over pointing at his ass because he’s just not a bend over. He is an absolute, he’s an animal, he’s a walking tank, he can fight you beat you up for real. So there’s not too many guys in pro wrestling that you would be like it realistically, even if I didn’t want to let him win, I couldn’t do anything about it. Right? So that is it’s a no brainer in the sense that when you look at Brock Lesnar, that’s the WWE Champion, you know, so we just had a little out in three of us, and we were just sitting there talking about how, you know, just the chemistry was just so natural, and it works so well. And there were just so many places that, you know, we can all cover some of the different areas with three of us and with our characters andwith our wrestling, and it just covered everything. So, you know, we talked about it quite often, you know, with with contractual obligations and things, politics and all the bullsh*t. It is what it is. We never rule it out. Because it is one of the I mean, the three of us together would, it’s always going to be money. It will always be money, it was always money. So, you know, you never know what might happen in the future.”
Anyone who has seen your social media will know you are quite the UFC fan, so I want to two parted question, firstly has MMA ever been something you considered pursuing outside of wrestling and which MMA Athlete do you think would do the best in Pro-Wrestling and which Pro-Wrestler do you think could do the best in MMA?
“Wow, okay, well the number one name I’d bring in, just but then you said pure division so I got to think about that a bit. But I just thought number one they might bring in who would fit in the Ring of Honor locker room immediately would be Israel Adesanya. He’s just… when you think about a guy who can do everything I mean I think about like he reminds me of a Dragon Lee or a Bandido or like a or like a Lethal a guy who can do absolutely everything and for the name value that he brings. He’s he’s kind of on the same fan base like you like he’s into Animes into hip hop. He’s into like, you know, kind of pop culture things so he would definitely fit in. But if we’re talking about a guy who’s coming from the pure division guy can I bring back GSP? [Yes, yes you can]
Yeah, I can bring back GSP for sure. I mean, we talked about a guy who’s just technical you know that we can we can bring back the patriarch of the whole thing Royce Gracie if necessary, right. And for as far as MMA fighting is concerned, there was a period of time where I considered it like I’m good friends with King Mo and I was training King Mo to wrestle here in Vegas for a little while. And while we were training he got a he got a call from from Bjorn and Scott Coker that we developed for guys and that info Scott Coker we started talking to you and this is when TNA was we’ve had a loose partnership with Bellator and and started talking about finding the fight and putting the vino putting together fight for me and that didn’t didn’t pan out because of TNA fell to a relationship got destroyed, but I’ve had to train with with Mo and and Jeff Mayweather for a little while to kind of get my hands on my skills up.”
Finally. ‘The Forbidden Door’ is well a truly knocked down with ROH talent such as Chelsea Green also popping up in IMPACT and NWA and talent sharing seemingly a focus of modern wrestling. If I offered you one match against anyone in the industry who are you choosing for that match and why?
“Well, I mean there’s a lot of guys that I would like to see come into Ring Of Honor. I mean, if we’re just fantasy booking I’d like love to do LFI versus The New Day, I think that would be an amazing match. I’d love to step in the ring with Kofi Kingston. I Would like to see a guy like Eddie Edwards come home, you know. Eddie Edwards Kenny King, and Eddie Edwards Jay Lethal, and Eddie Edwards Jay Briscoe match I mean, those would be outrageous. I’d love to see a guy like Chris Bey. Who selfishly is one of my students. I love him to death. I’d like to see a guy like Chris Bey come in, and wrestle a guy like Bandido you know, so the things that are happening now creating these amazing matches into creating these amazing kind of like, what can we do? I mean, to be fair, like the the only two teams that aren’t participating as much as they should are us and WWE and I feel like maybe it’s about time, right? Maybe it’s about time to bridge over to start working with NXT or working with some of the guys on SmackDown because, you know, it’s just time, right? It’s just time for all of these things to kind of switch up and I feel it feels like we’re entering into a new era of pro wrestling.”
“So it’s why not just knock down some of the old stigmas whatnot. I mean, think about what the the buzz would be, you know, just what the reciprocation would be, you know, AJ Styles shows up to challenge Jay Lethal if you know what I mean? Like, just our MVP comes, you know to rescue me from from getting beat down from Shane Taylor. I mean, Bobby Lashley against SOS, you know? So these these are just things that that that make people go ‘wow,’ that would be amazing and realistically it’s possible, there’s nothing that would stop it other than the regular old pro wrestling BS, which I feel like the people that want to survive we’re gonna have to get over.”