(CBS Baltimore/CBS Local) — Many who follow wrestling closely believe Jeff Cobb could be the next star at Ring of Honor. The former Olympic wrestler has already captured the ROH World Television Title and competed in the main event of last month’s Best In The World pay-per-view, where he unsuccessfully challenged Matt Taven for the ROH World Championship.
The 37-year-old is also busy building a solid reputation internationally, becoming a regular in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he recently squared off against Jon Moxley, better known to WWE fans as Dean Ambrose. Theoretically, the global notoriety will attract more attention to Ring of Honor, as streaming platforms have made it increasingly easy for international fans to tune in to promotions based halfway around the world.
But does he feel the pressure of being tasked with putting the company on his shoulders and building it back up after such a dramatic roster turnover? If he does, you wouldn’t know it. Cobb proudly wears an easygoing demeanor on his sleeve. It’s a trait he developed from his Hawaiian upbringing.
I had the opportunity to catch up with him, to get his thoughts on the state of ROH, the cone of uncertainty the entire wrestling industry is in at the moment, his feelings about being one of the featured talents on the roster and working with competing promotions.
I spoke with Matt Taven earlier this week, and I asked him about does he feel pressure now that he may have to shoulder this company, to be one of the faces of the company as it’s in flux. Do you feel you’re kind of in that same position?
No, because I feel we have the talent on the roster where everybody carries their own load. I carry my own load in my own way, in certain aspects of it, but I feel everybody is doing their part. So I don’t feel pressured, because if I have an off night, I know guys like Villain Enterprises can pick up the slack, guys in life probably can. Everybody on our roster that can carry something if one of us is literally a step off or something.
Do you understand that fans may have that perception that you are one of the faces of the company?
Yeah. I mean, I see it from the fans’ perspective as well, but from my perspective, I don’t see it that much. I don’t feel I carry the pressure to carry companies on my shoulders per se.
Where would you say Ring of Honor is as a promotion right now? Clearly it’s in flux, but where would you say that it is?
I think we’re in a good spot. A lot of people kind of have their naysayers, as when we had a core group of guys leave, and that’s totally fine. Every major sport has had that. Every major wrestling company has had that. Like LeBron left, “What we going to do?” So you start rebuilding. When they got Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin Love and all this.
So I think for that, in the short term, it’s not good. But in the long-term it’s beneficial, because now we have a new influx of talent coming in, like myself included, guys like Bandido, and RUSH, and Dragon Lee, and Brody King, and PCO, and all those guys. Now they’re stepping up into more prominent roles. And now, we’re giving our ring a modern audience, a brand new roster to play with and see new guys, and new wrestlers, and new matches, and just new everything. Where we’re at, I think we’re going to find spot, because now we get to showcase some more people who may have not had a chance before because we had star-studded lineup prior and we have a star-studded lineup now.
How would you describe the wrestling industry right now? It seems like it’s just such a weird time with so much change. And you have what I call “coopetition,” where promotions are working together, even though they’re competitors. Describe for me what it’s like right now as a talent in the middle of it.
I think it’s a great time in professional wrestling, not just in the indie scene, where I came from, but from top to bottom, from the indies to actual companies. For example, you mentioned… What was that word you used?
Coopetition! I think it’s great. I think it was in April when we had Ring of Honor entering the Crocket Cup Tag Tournament and we had a Ring of Honor representative win the NWA Tag Team titles. So I thought that was pretty cool. We have a great roster, but it’s also cool that we can wrestle our own guys and then also work with guys like CMLL or New Japan or NWA. And that’s coopetition.
It fuels us, because we get to see guys in the NWA, we get to see guys in CMLL, in New Japan and it kind of forces our group, our core roster, to step our game up. Because at the end of the day, we’re going to see them every so often, but we’re going to see our guys every show, every tour, every pay-per-view. So I think it’s good for us, because we step our game up, and then it just makes our product even better.
Do you find it beneficial to be able to have all those different promotions on your resume and be able to flip that switch and go from the Japanese style back to the American style or whatever it is?
Definitely. As a performer, I never want to stay stagnant. I don’t want to be me all the time. I love doing different styles. It’s the same with food. If I had to eat the same thing over… If I had to eat chicken and rice and broccoli over and over and over, I would hate life.
So now, it’s the same thing. If I had to just wrestle one style over and over and over, I probably wouldn’t be wrestling. So, it’s a good thing digging over here. It’s a good thing to have different tastes and flavors, get different spices thrown into your soup.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.