There’s going to be a lot of action in Brooklyn this Saturday night.
Everyone knows about the WWE’s events at Barclays all weekend long. In addition, wrestling promotion Ring of Honor is hosting its second annual Field of Honor show at MCU Park. New Jersey native Jay Lethal, who captured the Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship in a fight at Terminal 5 earlier this summer, is returning to the area to take part.
amNew York spoke with him about being the face of a wrestling company and more.
What was the first thing your parents said to you last June when they saw you win the world title live atTerminal 5 at Best in the World?
There were really no words. My mother had no voice left, she was screaming, and my dad was so proud. He was there from my first training session, my first match, he saw Ring of Honor grow with every champion that was crowned, so it was a really cool dream to have him be there to see me win the world championship. That was my favorite part about it. Any time I wrestle in the New York/New Jersey area, it’s always something special because I grew up in New Jersey and all of my friends from high school and almost everyone I’ve ever known lives in that area, so whenever I wrestle they come out to see me.
Did you come into New York much to watch wrestling growing up?
Unfortunately no because my parents had six kids and you couldn’t take one to a show and not take them all. It never worked out financial-wise for them to take us to a show. It was only when I got older and right before I decided to pursue a career in wrestling that I saw some shows on my own.
Now that you’ve been performing so long for New Jersey and New York audiences, do you see a difference between the two crowds?
No, though I actually see a difference between New York / New Jersey crowds and every other crowd. In New York, the fans are brutally honest. If they don’t like something, they really do let you know. In other places, they may give you a sympathy clap or some sympathy praise because they’re wrestling fans and like wrestling. In New York, if they don’t 100% agree, they’ll let you know. It’s kind of fun and kind of nerve-wracking because it keeps you on your toes. I love it though.
This is Ring of Honor’s second Field of Honor event at MCU Park, and last year you opened the show in a steel cage match against Matt Taven. How different is it wrestling in a ring on a baseball field than a more conventional building?
That was my first time performing at a baseball stadium. I got to say, for me, it’s a little weird if I got to be honest, because there are only fans on one side of the arena, so to speak, and you can’t turn around and do a 360 spin and see the audience the whole time. They’re only on one side, which is a little weird for me. That’s just how baseball stadiums are built. I got to say, it’s a cool environment, the shows have great turnouts. It’s just, as a performer, it’s a little weird because the performers are just on one side.
With the Field of Honor show being announced several months ago, what was the locker room’s reaction to the WWE announcing they were going to run a show at Barclays Center on the same night?
I mean, is it a coincidence? I’m not so sure, but it actually made me happy. It made me feel we must be doing something right if the show’s running head-to-head with our show conveniently. We all share the same reaction in the locker room, we love it.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly reported that Lethal was defending his title at the Brooklyn promotion. That is not the case.