POST NEWS UPDATE: Tony Khan talks 'strong' HonorClub numbers, rekindling ROH/NJPW relationship

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If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

** A weekly Ring of Honor series will be airing on the relaunched HonorClub streaming service. Khan commented on the relaunch of HonorClub while speaking to TV Insider. He said the membership numbers are strong as he understands it. He also added that they are looking to rekindle the relationship that ROH once had with NJPW.

As I understand it, the numbers we already reached in a very short time are strong in membership and customer base. More than ever before. It’s a great value to join HonorClub right now. We’re going to be following up soon to talk about when the weekly Ring of Honor TV will launch and stream on HonorClub for sure. There are a lot of interesting partnerships and possibilities with great wrestling companies. Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling had a great working relationship we are rekindling. We are looking to rekindle that long relationship. Ring of Honor may be in the strongest position they’ve ever been in its 20 years. It’s the perfect time to take the training wheels off.

We’ve created a lot of familiarity with the brand. It’s also beneficial to both brands [AEW & ROH]. For example, I had earmarked Claudio [Castagnoli] to be a top star for Ring of Honor, but when we had this mess of injuries back in June before Forbidden Door, he came to AEW. It really helped us and came in to debut with Ring of Honor. He ended up coming out a month earlier and cutting his vacation short. An example having the two companies benefited us.

** ROH Women’s World Champion Athena has addressed her change in on-screen presentation on several occasions. During her appearance on Talk Is Jericho, she credited Jody Threat for ‘making Athena-Athena’ again, referencing their match on Dark: Elevation that sparked the character change.

Honestly, I really do thank Jody Threat for making Athena ‘Athena’ again and maybe one day, we’ll get back to it but, without her, this wouldn’t have happened.

As she was recapping her journey to WWE, she recalled thinking she had a job secured with the company, but they relayed to her that they found someone who was a better fit and that turned out to be Trinity Fatu (Naomi). When she was invited back years later, she received a great deal of support backstage from Saraya, Natalya and Naomi. Athena admitted that she was not fond of Naomi for a long time because of the aforementioned opportunity. Present day, Athena said she and Naomi talk nearly every day.

So I had the [WWE] tryout and it was me and Nigel McGuinness at this tryout before he retired and he was like, ‘Oh! It’s great to see you’ because I hadn’t seen him since Ring of Honor and so, you know, everyone’s like, ‘You got this. You’re gonna nail this.’ Tom Prichard, ‘You got it this time.’ Norman’s like, ‘You look great. We got it!’ And I did a promo and Dusty [Rhodes] was there at the time, he’s like, ‘It’s great. No critiques’ and I’m like, oh my God, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this. The next week, there’s a lovely young lady who we all know and love [Trinity Fatu/Naomi] and she’s a sister from another mister. She came for a tryout and she can dunk a basketball and dance. I cannot dance, and they sign her and they’re like, ‘Well, if you want the spot, you can have it.’ Bam, she got signed, I get this phone call, ‘Ah, we just kind of found someone else that fit what we were looking for a little better. Keep trying’ and at that time I was like, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do, I’ve dropped my life for like three years at this time to do everything that you guys have told me to do. You know what? F*ck you guys. I’m out and so I was like, I’m gonna make it to where you’re gonna want me and I’m not gonna have to come knocking on your door for the opportunity so my next seven years on the indies, I just went and made a name for myself.

[I was invited back to WWE and] I go and do the Rosebud thing and Sara Amato’s backstage and she goes, ‘Oh my God. I’m so happy to see you. You look great’ and Saraya’s like, ‘Oh! Athena’s here. Hey guys, Athena’s here’ and she’s like my biggest supporter backstage at the time. Nattie’s there like, ‘Yes! You’re here again. How are you?’ And so it was really weird because it’s like, I didn’t know I made that big of an impression on people at that time. It’s just like, I’ve been doing the stuff out there for a little bit. I didn’t know anyone knew me here and Naomi walks up to me and she’s like, ‘Hey sis, I’ve seen all your DVDs, you’re so great’ and I’m like, this is crazy. This is really weird right now. Also, I’ve hated you for a very long time and you’re so nice and now we talk almost every day which is crazy.

She further expanded on how helpful Natalya was at a WWE tryout. This tryout took place during the period when NXT was a game show. Athena expressed how grateful she is to Natalya.

This [WWE tryout] was when they were doing that weird version of NXT with the obstacle courses and singing contests and it was like, okay, I’m gonna go do it and I remember I had made friends with Nattie. She was at my tryout and she’s like, ‘I’m gonna help you out girl. I’m gonna help you…’ I think she’s far more jacked in a good way but, she was like, ‘Girl, we’re gonna get you’ and she hooked me up with the gear lady, she hooked me up with a hair extension. She told me everything I need to do, how to do it, how to do it on a budget and I’m always internally grateful for that because she didn’t have to do that. She had already been signed, she’s Nattie Neidhart. She didn’t have to do any of that and it meant so much to me and even when I saw her years later, she was like, ‘Athena?’ And I was like, ‘No way. It’s been five years since I’ve seen –’ ‘Oh my God!… You look great’ and she has that memory that’s so good and it’s just like, man, she’s genuinely just a good person. They say don’t meet your heroes but that meant the world to me at the time because she’s the first person I kind of idolized for being different and she was willing to help me when she didn’t have to.

Circling back around to Athena’s first tryout with WWE, she was kicked out of her parents home because she used her college tuition money to get to that tryout.

I end up getting kicked out [of my parents home] and I learned how to survive on my own. Oh yeah [they kicked me out].

So I dropped out of college because I had a WWE tryout. I think it was the first one at FCW and I had to use my tuition money to pay for my way to get there.

** On the latest edition of The Tyrus and Timpf Podcast, NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Tyrus told the story of when Edge was initially against working with him in-ring in WWE. Per Tyrus’ recollection, Edge referred to him as a ‘fast-track guy’ and was not sure if he wanted to work him. After some back-and-forth conversation, they eventually had the match and Tyrus said it went well.

I had to want it [success in WWE] because I was ‘fast-track guy’ and fast-track guys burn fast, if they don’t humble themselves real quick. My first match with Edge, Aron [Stevens] will tell you, he was like, ‘I don’t know if I wanna work you or not. I don’t know if I like you’ and I was like, ‘Well, can I ask what I did wrong?’ He goes, ‘Well you’re a big guy, you’re a fast-track guy’ and I had to literally say to him, ‘First of all, I was also the biggest failure. I was fired once. Never saw TV, I was the shortest giant in the room.’ I said, ‘I’ve worn a lot of hats here man but arrogant fast-track guy was never one of them. So, I’m ready to go. It would be an honor to work with you. If you don’t, I understand. I’ll go tell Road Dogg. You don’t even gotta do it. I’ll do it myself’ and then eventually we did and we end up having a really good match or whatever.

** Speaking on Busted Open Radio, show host Mickie James revealed that she needs surgery on her nose from when it was broken in 2020. James plans to have the surgery after her in-ring career is done.

I can’t breathe out of one side of my nose. I remember the last time I had my nose broken and I filmed the whole thing of where they reset it and put it back in place, but I still can’t — and it’s crazy and I look forward to having the surgery one day when I stop wrestling to fix my nose so I can breathe out of it again because apparently, that’s what it’s for. It’s for breathing and smelling… It’s not just there for aesthetics, you know? [James laughed]

** Former NXT U.K. talent Sam Gradwell guest appeared on the Wrestling With Johners Podcast. He recounted working a WWE house show in May of 2018 and putting his belongings in what he thought was an ‘out of the way dressing room’. Gradwell soon discovered that Roman Reigns had that area. As Gradwell was getting ready to leave, Reigns came in the room and told him to stay. He also gave him feedback on the match he had. Gradwell said Roman couldn’t have been more down to earth.

For the [WWE] live tours, one of my clearest memories of this was when I did the Dublin live event versus Jordan Devlin… I think the reason I ended up getting asked to do that was it was supposed to be Jordan versus Pete Dunne, but Pete had just gotten so popular in NXT because he started going over there at that time that I just think they decided they just wanted him in Florida. So, they asked me to go and do the Dublin live event and I got to the arena super early and I think one of the ring crew said to me, ‘Just go find somewhere quiet in the dressing room and just sit your bag down and chill out’ and so I went and found what I thought was a real quiet, out of the way dressing room and put my bag there, got into gear and I had to go down and film a promo that they were gonna film for the live crowd that night just to explain who the hell I was. When I got back to the dressing room that I had my bag and gear at, I sat down and I looked at the chair in front of me and I realized that Roman Reigns had sat his gear over the chair in front of me so I was like, ‘Oh sh*t. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get out, I’ve got to find a different room’ and I go to pick up my bag and leave and Roman walks in and goes, ‘No, no, no. You sit there, you’re good’ and he just sat chatting to me all night. Couldn’t have been more down to earth, couldn’t have been more cool and then he watched mine and Jordan’s match and he gave some of the most helpful feedback I’ve ever had. It’s one of those things, I don’t have any negative stories to tell about my time there at all which a lot of people always find quite boring or they think that I’m lying or they think that I’m just, I don’t know, a political move by not saying anything bad but, I had a great experience with them… I think that was the biggest crowd I’d ever worked in front of as well. I think there was 11,000 there that night which was pretty wild.

Another name Gradwell spoke highly of is William Regal. He remembers prior to joining WWE, Regal keeping an eye on him, monitoring his progress and making sure Sam had a ‘foot in the door’. He described Regal as one of the most influential people in his life over the last decade.

So, whoever coined together the phrase, ‘Don’t meet your heroes because they’ll disappoint you’ has never met William Regal because hand on heart, he’s probably one of the most influential people in my life in certainly the last ten years or so. So when I first met William Regal was my first WWE tryout and he was the first person to kind of pull me aside and say, ‘I think you’ve got something here’ and when you’re a young lad and someone like William Regal, in his position who’s been around as long as he has, as someone that you’ve looked up to, when someone says that to you, it’s hard to say without sounding a little bit cheesy and cliché but it does mean a lot and it really does empower you beyond what you already thought you were capable of and what William Regal did for me was he put me in touch with Marty Jones and Johnny Saint who then kind of re-trained me. He kept in touch with me. Kept in touch with me at times when he didn’t have to. He responded to my every silly email and I would send him matches, send him promo pictures and whenever they had anything come up in the way of extra work or tryouts or there was one time when I helped out with the drills at one of the tryouts, he would bring me in. He’d bring me in just whenever he could, just anything so that I could keep that foot in the door and so that he could keep monitoring my progress and he was also probably the first to tell me or figure out I could talk, when I really do think back. So yeah, he was helpful and influential and a real sort of mentor and friend to me before I got signed and even more afterwards… When the first U.K. tournament was happening, he was the person that made that phone call and asked me to do that.

Looking back at the first-ever WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament in 2017, Gradwell commented on the match he had with Saxon Huxley when the crowd began to chant, ‘Let’s go Jesus, Jesus sucks’ at Huxley. Sam said he was trying to hold his laughter in as that was happening.

I do remember when I was wrestling Saxon Huxley on night one [of the WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament] and the ‘Jesus’ chants started… I just about held it together for the ‘Jesus’ chants, but when they started going, ‘Let’s go Jesus, Jesus sucks…’ If you watch my face, I’m like [trying to hold it in].

** In Sports Illustrated’s ‘Week in Wrestling’ column, there’s an interview with Sami Zayn. He expressed to the outlet that he’s more locked in on wrestling than he’s ever been. Zayn recalls being on the independents and thinking of himself as someone who wrestled as opposed to being a wrestler.

Wrestling is more on my mind now than it’s ever been. I used to think that the hard work is in getting here, and then you feel like you’ve made it, but the last few years is when wrestling has been on my mind more than ever during the week. Early on in my career, I’d always felt this strange distinction from other wrestlers on the indies. I always felt like I was a guy who wrestled, not a wrestler, if that makes any sense. So during the week, it was kind of on the shelf. But these past few years, there’s been a direct correlation with the amount of input that I’ve been able to get through onto the show and the amount of time it’s consumed me during the week. Once upon a time, I didn’t sit around all week thinking about what I was going to do that weekend. The past few years have been a great collaboration, and when ideas start to work, you start to think, where else can we go? Think of how invested people are with The Bloodline. People are already at a 10. That’s very creatively stimulating. It’s really, really fun.

** Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick welcomed Ricochet onto WWE After The Bell. He stated that he’s now getting to show the audience what he’s about and who he is. Ricochet added that he has not been in the right spot for the last several years and had not shown the audience much outside of him getting beat in the ring.

I’m like rocky road, I’m Oreo cookies and cream, I’m a specific ice cream that a lot of people, probably the majority of people like. But I think the ones who aren’t on yet haven’t really had an opportunity because I will say, the past two years, they really haven’t had much to grasp onto Ricochet other than coming out and getting my butt beat because obviously, not in a right spot but right now, I’m just thinking about things totally differently. I’m trying to think about grabbing that brass ring as you’d say, you know what I mean? So I think the ones who aren’t there yet, either aren’t there because I haven’t had the opportunities to draw them in and show them and tell them why they should be.

** Kazuchika Okada’s appearance on the ‘AMUSE’ YouTube channel: 

** Pro Wrestling NOAH is hosting a press conference on December 24th to promote their January 1st show which will feature Shinsuke Nakamura versus Great Muta (Keiji Muto).

** All Japan Pro Wrestling Xmas EVE 4 Results (12/21/22) Shinkiba 1stRING in Tokyo, Japan
– Dan Tamura & Masao Inoue def. Masao Hanahata & Ryuki Honda
– Takao Omori def. Suwama by DQ
– Voodoo Murders (Jun Saito & Rei Saito) def. TAJIRI & Yoshitatsu
– Black Menso-re vs. Izanagi – Double KO
– Atsuki Aoyagi & Hokuto Omori def. Rising HAYATO & Ryo Inoue
– Shuji Ishikawa def. Yuma Anzai
– Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura vs. Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi – Time Limit Draw (30:00)

** Counted Out With Mike & Tyler has an interview on their podcast feed with Blake Christian.

** MCW Backstage Pass featuring ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey.

** December 21st birthdays: Former wXw World Tag Team Champion Michael Schenkenberg, Rick Boogs, Otis.  

If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.