By Chuck Carroll
My conversation with Kenny King didn’t begin like most that I’ve had in my career, or ever, really. Typically, when I say “Hi, how are you?” I’m told “good” or “great” or “not bad.” King was a little different. When I inquired about his well-being, he laughed and told me that he was scaring the hell out of himself.
It turns out he was watching the vegan diet documentary What The Health on Netflix. He was ready to throw out everything in his pantry and refrigerator. At first, all I could think was that Austin Aries would be proud. Then I wondered if this was what all of the contestants on The Bachelorette were like.
A revamped diet would be just one of many shakeups the Ring of Honor star is hoping to make in the near future. King, a former WWE Tough Enough contestant and longtime Impact Wrestling roster member, has his eyes on Japan. He’s hoping to follow in the recent footsteps of others in the locker room by splitting his time working stateside and in New Japan Pro Wrestling. That’s what makes Saturday such an important day for him — it’s an audition for his dream.
Ring of Honor’s current Television Champion is Yujiro Kushida, whose in-ring acrobatics and Marty McFly Back To The Future-inspired gimmick is making waves on multiple continents. Internationally, Kushida is one of the biggest names in wrestling, and King just happens to be his opponent Saturday at the ROH TV taping just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.
A strong showing would indeed serve him well.
You’ve recently stated that one of the goals you have for your career is to work for New Japan Pro Wrestling. In some regard, do you see Saturday’s match against Kushida as an audition?
That’s a pretty good way to put it. The only way to make a name for myself or make any noise is to go up against one of the best they have. Not as far as one of the junior heavyweights or the heavyweights, but Kushida is one of the best they have in the company. So for me to go out there and make my stamp on this by taking the TV Title off of Kushida, that’s definitely got to open some eyes in New Japan.
With a desire to wrestle in the Tokyo Dome, you have to be excited about the strengthening ties between NJPW and Ring of Honor.
You’ve got two of the most dynamic wrestling promotions that are based on actual wrestling. New Japan does have their theatrics, and the Wrestle Kingdom shows are very much a spectacle, but their bread and butter is in between the ropes, just like Ring of Honor. That’s what would make it a good and seamless transition. Wrestling in Ring of Honor is a very high-impact style, and New Japan is the same way.
Are you envisioning working in New Japan full-time, or would you prefer a split schedule, where you have some dates in Japan and also work stateside, as we’ve seen happening more frequently?
This is me future-casting and projecting my own future, but I’m looking at a similar situation as the War Machine or Young Bucks. Ring of Honor is my home promotion, and it’s going to stay that way. But I would like to be able to show what I can do in New Japan on a more consistent basis.
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This is your second stint with Ring of Honor. The first ended on maybe not the best terms. You were quoted as saying the company did a poor job of trying to retain you. How does this go-around compare to your first?
My first stint was a lot about me finding myself as a wrestler and coming into my own. I was trying to find out where I belonged in the hierarchy. Let’s look at who was on the roster. You’ve got Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Jerry Lynn, Nigel McGuiness. These were the best of the best of the best. If you wanted to see your name on the card, you have to be willing to compete. The ending of that was just that I felt that I had shown that I could compete and earned my right to see if there was interest in other companies, or if I’d increased my worth in the company.
This time around, as a veteran, the communication is a lot better. There’s no insinuations about what I want or what their expectations are. The communications are right there on the table. That’s how you breed happy employees. Having open lines of communication was one of the reasons I chose Ring of Honor to come back to. I always had such an open line of communication, even when I wasn’t there, with guys like [COO] Joe Koff and Hunter [“Delirious” Johnston]. This is the manifestation of that. We have great relationships, and whenever there are any concerns, we just come right out and talk about it.
You were a contestant on ‘The Bachelorette’ this season. You’re no stranger to reality TV though. How was that experience for you?
I’m no stranger to reality TV, but I was definitely a stranger to that type of experience. Tough Enough probably prepared me for 10 percent of what I experienced. It’s one of those things where when you walk in blind, you learn a lot. I learned a lot about myself. When you don’t have a phone or any outside experiences, there’s no TV, no Internet, no music… you just have to sit in your head and think about things. You put them together and break them down and reprioritize. That and being able to travel all over the world and meet this amazing woman. It’s was once in a lifetime for sure.
What effect do you hope the notoriety gained from the show will give you as far as your wrestling career? Is this also something you hope will open the door to other endeavors?
I would hope that it would open some other doors and just allow me to be shown in front of a larger audience, get my face and name out there. But right now, I’m just focused on wrestling and broadening people’s horizons. Maybe people who watched The Bachelorette will wonder what this whole wrestling thing is about, and that will bring them to Ring of Honor.
Are you completely finished with ‘The Bachelorette’ or is there still something that needs to be filmed?
The reunion show was actually filmed last week. It airs this Monday. It’s called The Bachelorette ‘The Men Tell All.’ We get back together, rehash what happened, see if anyone still has an axe to grind or any dirty laundry to put out there. For the most part, it was a great time.
I know you had beef with at least one of the guys on the show. What was it like seeing him again?
There was only heat with one dude. For me, the heat ended the minute he went home… I knew I was going to get asked about it, but I was over it. I was over it while it was happening. I’m such a drama-free type of person. I wasn’t trying to rehash it. We got to it, and got to the point pretty quickly.
You did a couple of tours with TNA Impact Wrestling. You were there when a lot of the problems were going on, and a lot has happened since you left. Does the way everything played out surprise you with the new owners and changing of the guard?
It’s a really bold move to switch the name and the lineage and erase the past. It’s a strong move, and I respect it. Unfortunately, the in-ring product was never the issue. The brand had just taken hits time and again over the years. When I was there, we tried to blow the roof off the place every night. We can’t control what the office was doing. My job is to show up and wrestle. It seems as though they finally want to establish a solid brand and move in a positive direction. I’m all for Global Force being successful. I know a lot of people there, have a lot of friends there. I don’t want anybody to be out of business. I want the wrestling business to thrive.
This Hardy Boyz versus TNA battle is just wild. Without getting into specifics, what are your thoughts as a performer about cultivating your own character and gimmick in one company and wanting to carry it over with you to the next and not being able to do so?
It can be a frustrating situation, but it can be two ways. Contractually, there is a thing called intellectual property. When I entered into my contract with Impact Wrestling I was asked to list the intellectual property that I owned and claimed going into it. That’s what I entered with. Anything that came after that is their stuff.
But The Hardyz had a sweetheart of a deal. They were pretty much able to do whatever they wanted and work with whoever they wanted. I don’t know how their intellectual property was worked out. But for a long time The Broken Universe was the only reason why anyone was watching Impact. I can understand why Matt, Jeff and ‘ole Rebby are frustrated. When there wasn’t a whole lot going on [beyond] what they were creating, The Final Deletion was this crazy creative art that was creating buzz around the company. That’s why they pay dudes in suits and carrying briefcases to sort these things out.
Rebby has turned into must-follow on Twitter.
Indeed! That’s why I call her ‘ole Rebby. I see her tweets, and I’m just like “’ole Rebby!” She’s a Boricua from Queens, buddy. You better watch out!
Ring of Honor will hold its television taping, Queen City Excellence, July 29 at The Cabarrus Arena in Concord, North Carolina.
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.