On Friday, March 9th, Ring of Honor celebrates its 16th anniversary with the aptly named 16th Anniversary PPV event in Las Vegas. The card boasts matchup like Ring of Honor World Champion Dalton Castle vs. Jay Lethal, Tag Team Champions Motor City Machine Guns vs. The Briscoes, 6-Man Champs The Young Bucks and Adam Page (Hung Bucks) vs. SoCal Uncensored, Tenille Dashwood (formerly Emma of WWE) vs. Brandi Rhodes and Sumie Sakai vs. Hana Kimura in the Women of Honor Tournament, Cody Rhodes vs. Matt Taven, Flip Gordon vs. Hiromu Takahashi, and last but not least, something of a grudge match between Punishment Martinez and "The Villain" Marty Scurll, where the winner could have the next shot at the Ring of Honor World Championship!
It's on the subject of that last match that Bleeding Cool spoke on the phone with Punishment Martinez (@ROHPunishment on Twitter), who's coming off a great career year in 2017 and looking to even bigger things in 2018. Martinez talked with us about 16th Anniversary, his influences, what it's like being a big man in wrestling today, wrestling around the world, Ring of Honor's new subscription service The Honor Club, and, of course, what superhero he'd play in a movie if given the option. Check out the interview below, and order ROH 16th Anniversary here.
Or Mr. Martinez? I make it a point to respect the preferences of anyone over 6'5".
(laughs) Fair enough.
What can we expect to see in your match Friday at ROH 16th Anniversary against Marty Scurll?
As usual, Sin City is a special place for me. I've had really good performances there. So I expect to do the same. With Marty, I expect to, if not have match of the night, be one of the matches of the night. With his skill set in mind combined, I think we can do something special and being that it's Vegas where I, for whatever reason tend to have special moments, I really think it's gonna be something to look out for.
What is it about Vegas that makes it so special?
Man, I don't know. It's just, I guess Lady Luck's on my side when it comes to Vegas. Maybe I should go gambling this time around. I never have. I'm not a big gambler, but, every time I'm in Vegas, things just click. The first pay-per-view, I believe it was 15th Anniversary, I trended worldwide. I had a great match Jay White. I defeated Hanson in a singles match. So, yeah, Vegas has been really good to me.
Are you planning to top your 15th Anniversary match?
Yeah, big time. I mean, trending worldwide was pretty cool. Having one of the best matches of the night was pretty cool. Now, if I could combine all of those along with a nice, hard fought victory and earn myself another title shot would be would be great.
What are some of the other matches you're looking forward to on the card besides your own?
Two in particular that really stand out to me, besides the world title match because that's obviously going to be a great match — Jay Lethal, Dalton Castle, especially Castle at the top of his game, and Lethal is by far one of the greatest in-ring performers ever. So I expect that to be top notch. But besides that match, I'm looking forward to the tag team title match with the Briscoes and Motor City Machine Guns. My two favorite tag teams of all time going at it. I think this is going to be something really special. And then you have Matt Taven versus Cody. I think that's just so personal, and I think that they are also looking to steal the show with their match.
You came up just short in January in your ROH World Title shot against Dalton Castle, thanks to a roll-up. What have you learned from the match, and why will you win the next time you get a shot at the belt?
Well you can't be lucky all the time. I showed that not only can I hang but I'm also easily main eventer status. In that match, I showed dominance. I showed that I can go. I showed that I could beat him. Just, next time around, he just won't be lucky with a lucky roll up. You know? I had him. In my mind, I thought I had him beat, and I may have taken a little too long. So maybe in our next match, I just won't take as long. I'll just beat him.
I've heard that you were a fan of wrestling as a kid. What did you watch?
At the time it was WWF, and WCW obviously was around, but I was more of a WWF guy because they had, basically, The Undertaker. That was my guy. So, growing up that's who I was into: Undertaker and Ultimate Warrior.
What's it like, going from being a fan as a kid to being in the wring, wrestling with a high profile for one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world?
Man, it's crazy. When you think back, as a kid, play wrestling and beating up my friends or kids I didn't know, practicing wrestling moves, to now actually doing it on a professional level, is surreal. You know, every time I sit back sometimes, like, we take what we do for granted and we complain and let little things that others could only dream about, let little things bother us. But when I really take a step back and think about the whole picture, it's so special and little me is very proud and very happy. I've been blessed.
I also heard that, before you were signed to Ring of Honor, you dropped a lot of weight. How did you do that?
Well, for many years, I was just coasting on my size, not realizing that I didn't have or was the complete package. I was just a package, and, just surrounding myself around the right people telling me hey, you're a big guy, you're athletic, you're good, but you don't look the part. And it came down to, what do I want to do for the rest of my life? I want to be in this industry. No matter what it is, what job, but first I have to work for a company and I had to really give it 100 percent.
So, just started watching what I ate, started working out, and, I get asked all the time by people, how did you do it, or some guys that want to work out and want to lose weight and ask me for advice, and I tell them: we're all adults, you know? We know what's good for you. We know what's bad for you. I stopped eating the stuff and drinking the stuff that's bad for me, and started doing everything the right way. Add that plus working out, I made a huge transformation and lost over 100 pounds in a year.
Do big men get a bad rep in wrestling?
Not necessarily. I think individuals could earn a bad rep and that's based on what they do and how they do it. But, you know, yesteryear, pro wrestling was full of the big guys that were very robotic, didn't really move much, but, over time, look at the big men that have succeeded to a different level. Like, for instance, The Undertaker. He wasn't the typical big man that just stomped around threw punches and kicks. No, he could move. And I think now, just training has changed so much that it's not just so much about guys that can throw hands and throw kicks and a few moves. No. Now we have to actually be full athletes in every sense of the word.
You gotta walk the part, talk the part, and basically be the part. So that's why you see an influx of more athletic big men, from Braun Strowman to myself, [Donovan] Dijack, who's in NXT now. There's so many guys that are bigger, but don't move the same way because we had to evolve.
Pro wrestling has changed so much, and, like I said, it's more about athletes and being able to move and just do more. And when you have rosters full of guys like that, that can do so much, what can the big man do to stand out? Well we have to adapt and, not to say that I'm flying out there doing 450s or shooting stars, but I'm doing more than the typical big man. And so are a lot of other big men. And that's why they stand out. I mean, these guys, Jeff Cobb, Keith Lee and guys like that doing their thing and making a name for themselves because they stand out and they're more special than just a guy that just coasts on his size, which, like I said before is what I did for many years.
What was it like getting to work so early in your career with veterans like Kevin Sullivan and Steve Corino? How did that help shape you as a performer?
It helped me a lot because those guys, they weren't there to receive a paycheck and go home. They were so hands-on with wanting to help and wanting everybody to be better for the betterment of our business. So every night that we were together it was like pretty much class was in session. I mean, they would sit down and just talk to me and explain things to me and just always want to help and, after every performance, after every match, after every promo they would sit with me and speak to me and how to make it better. And like I said, I was just blessed to be a part of that and be so close to them and work with them because in turn they just pretty much took me in as like their pupil and just: knowledge knowledge knowledge. That's all I experienced. And like said I was lucky and very grateful for that opportunity.
When you're not crushing your opponents' skulls, what do you like to do for fun? Any hobbies?
Besides violence. (laughs) I like watching movies. Usually violent movies but, I'm pretty mellow to myself. So, when I'm, like I said, in a non violent atmosphere, I tend to just watch movies or study. That's that's my hobby. I mean, I love my job, so it becomes where I'm just doing this all the time, so I'm just, the tape study or training, you know, those are basically my hobbies.
Do you still watch a lot of wrestling?
Yeah. Yeah, every day. I can't go a day without having some type of professional wrestling in my life. So whether it's sitting down for a couple of hours just watching stuff or practicing something or getting in a ring and doing things. Yes. I feel like I'm wasting my time if I'm not doing something wrestling related. Sometimes sitting back and just watching and taking notes, you can learn just as much as you can being in the ring and doing things.
There's a ton of competition out there these days, on television, on the internet, maybe more than ever before. What sets Ring of Honor apart?
The talent. You could talk about competition and talent, but Ring of Honor does its due diligence to make sure that it lives up to the hype where it's the best wrestling on the planet. That's how they do their tryout seminars, who they scout. They reach out to people that they feel belong or can make a presence in professional wrestling, so they bring them in. Plus, their partnership with CMLL, New Japan, and promotions and the UK. Who else is doing things like that? They're innovators if you really think about, because, while in the past you've seen companies work together, not to this level where it's on a yearly basis where we're doing conjunction, working together with tours, whether they're in Japan, Mexico, UK or here in the United States. On a regular basis every year multiple tours.
You can't see that anywhere else. So, right off the bat, that's different. That sets it apart from anything else. Combine that with our in-ring product. And the people that are coming in and make appearances… There's just so much to Ring of Honor right now.
Plus it's still growing. You could tell by Final Battle's production side, how it's completely different from a year ago. Forget about the very first Final Battle. I'm talking about one year's difference. It's a huge difference. And it's going to continue to change and continue to grow. Our fan base continues growing, so the company will. A lot of companies don't have that and cannot give the fans that. So while there is competition, there's a lot of talent, there's a lot of available wrestling nowadays, They're not Ring of Honor.
Ring of Honor recently launched the Honor Club. Can you talk about that?
Yeah. Well, the Honor Club system is a combination of different ideas and different forms of streaming service that we're gonna combine to make something special. It's still at the beginning stages. We're still working on a lot of things, but it's going to be something really special for wrestling fans where it's not just gonna be, hey pay and then you get to watch. No, you're gonna get deals where you can purchase tickets earlier than the open public. You could save save money on merch, save money on DVDs, save money on pay-per-views. There's there's a lot more than just, hey, look at our video archive.
We're gonna give incentives for things. There's fan interaction because there's gonna be these polls and contests. It's gonna be so much more than just, hey, watch old wrestling on our streaming service and pay money. No, it's gonna be a lot more to give back to our fans that have been so loyal. So I'm excited because I really believe that it's gonna bring in more new eyes to see our product. I think people are going to be satisfied with it. I don't think we're going to have really complaints because, for the price, what we're gonna be giving is worth so much more.
And if you would have bought a few PPVs in a year, the VIP membership pays for itself.
I'm glad you brought that up. It's not just one price and this is what you get. You have options to fit budgets and fit needs, which is something else that's different as well.
Is the PPV business dying?
I mean, things have changed. I wouldn't say it's dying, but it's definitely changed because there's different forms to watch content. So, yes, while on paper there's less viewers purchasing pay-per-views, but then there's an increase in members to the Honor Club , where now we have subscription holders that get the pay-per-view as well. So they're not going to order the pay-per-view because they have that subscription.
So, it affects the numbers, but I don't think that it reflects that that industry is dying or dead. I still think pay-per-view is a positive commodity where you're basically paying to view one event, and usually those events are special. But now, like I said, Ring of Honor is bringing you options. So you could watch that special event, or you could buy the VIP package and have that included as well. So I don't think it's d ying per se. It's definitely change, just like the world has changed in every aspect.
So I just think it's a matter of new things new things and new services coming out, so you see a drop in numbers, but it's not that it's dead, it's just different.
When you have the opportunity to travel around the country or the world to wrestle, do you get much time to explore the different cities, or are you kind of in and out?
Usually, when we do international tours, we usually have a little bit of time. So, in our own ways, we do try to take advantage of that time as best as we can. My last jet Japan trip, I made it a point to walk around and visit some places and see different things because I had never been to Japan. And now, next time I go, I'll try to explore different places. So we do get a little bit of time. Of course, if we want even more time, then we'd have to make it on our own as far as planning trips or whatnot.
But considering that we're there just to work, the fact that the companies give us a little bit of time because they know, and they want us to be happy, so to speak, and I think the companies do a really really good job at helping us to also appreciate culture. And sometimes that affects our performances, as well, just the respect for the audience or the building or the region we're in.
So I really do enjoy our trips overseas because we do get a little bit of a downtime. Maybe not as much as we'd like, but, at the end of the day, we're still there to work. So any time that we get extra is great.
Do you have to adjust your style much wrestling in other countries?
Well, wrestling's wrestling. I could wrestle 10 different people here in the United States, and they're gonna have 10 different styles as it is because of their influences and favorites and where they learned and trained. So for me personally, I can't speak for everybody else, but I tend to… I don't change my style, I just adapt theirs, where I'm still gonna do what I do, I'm just going to better prepare for what the other person does and how to counter and whatnot. So I'll do my due diligence and study and tape study and do what I have to do to prepare. But I don't necessarily change my whole style. And, like I said, speaking personally, that's one of the things I'm very proud of is that I'm able to perform differently than everybody else where I don't have one set style. I'm not a high flyer. I'm not a brawler. I'm not a technician. But I can do all of them. So I'm like a hybrid of every style, basically. So it's easier. I'm not saying it's easy for me, but it's easier possibly because of that for me to work with pretty much anybody from anywhere.
So you're obviously planning to win on Friday. After that, what's next? Another title shot?
Yeah, that's a goal for this year. The goal for this year is gold. And obviously, being the world heavyweight champion, that's the top prize. But there are other prizes. We've got television champion and then you never know if I end up bringing in some members of my legion and going for the multi-man titles like the tag or 6 – man. So, world title's obviously the ultimate goal because that means you are the top person. Everybody else is underneath you. So yes, this year, the goal is the championship, from there on just keep cementing my name in this industry. At the end of the day, that's all we can strive for is just to leave our names in history.
I like to ask everyone this question because it's good for clickbait headlines. If you could play any comic book character in a TV or movie, who would it be?
Oh boy, comic book character. Depends on the situation. Obviously, it's hard to go against someone like Batman who, he's similar to the Punisher where they're just guys that are vigilantes but, they don't do things clean and easy and they're not thinking just about the overall good. They're just punishing those who did wrong the way they see fit. And I always liked that mentality. But then, selfishly you, know you're gonna want superpowers. Captain Marvel has pretty good ones. Superman so it would be hard to pick one. I think, for me, it would depend on, what am I going for here? But if I had to pick one, I was always a big fan of Batman.
Well, Ben Affleck is almost certainly done with the role, so you could get your shot.
Yeah, that would be cool.
Ring of Honor 16th Anniversary takes place on Friday in Vegas. It's sold out, so fans who want to watch will need to watch it on PPV (or get an Honor Club VIP subscription). Any final words to convince fans who might be on the fence about buying the show?
If you've seen our product before, you know that we deliver on every single pay-per-view. And if you haven't, now is the perfect time to start watching. Because it's our anniversary and it's the first pay-per-view of the year.
Trust me when I tell you that this is gonna be an event that you will not want miss because it's gonna be special. I can tell you why, but it will be. And then, the very next night, we do have a television taping that, I believe, tickets are still available for. So that's also for somebody that's in the Las Vegas area, they might want to check out.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck in your match on Friday. I hope you win.
My pleasure. Appreciate it.
Ring of Honor 16th Anniversary takes place on Friday, March 9th, in Las Vegas. The show is sold out, but you can order it on PPV from your cable provider, or from Ring of Honor's website. Members of the Honor Club subscription service, in addition to access to video archives, live broadcasts, advance ticket sales, and merch discounts, get a discount on the PPV. VIP members who pay $120 at once for the whole year can watch all of the PPVs for free on the service. You can get tickets to the TV taping the next night in Vegas here.