By Chuck Carroll
In a week full of twists and surprises, there was a major one in Ring of Honor. It seemed like a forgone conclusion that Tenille Dashwood would become the promotion’s first-ever Women of Honor Champion. But that wouldn’t be the case. Dashwood lost to veteran Sumie Sakai in the tournament semifinals. Sakai went on to capture the title later that night at Supercard of Honor.
Dashwood has quickly become one of the fan favorites on the roster since her February debut. Many of the 1.5 million social media followers she amassed during her time at WWE, where she performed under the name “Emma,” followed her to ROH. More than a handful of them are now sampling an alternative to what they see on Monday and Tuesday nights for the first time. That’s what ROH officials were likely hoping for when they brought her in. And she’s delivering.
But for now, her championship coronation will have to wait. After all, it’s a ready-made storyline to keep the new viewers around for a while. The next chapters will be written Saturday at the “Steel City Excellence” television tapings in Pittsburgh and the following day in Columbus, Ohio at the “Masters of the Craft” show. The latter will be streamed live on the promotion’s HonorClub platform.
For now, Dashwood is signed to a short-term agreement and will be around for the foreseeable future. The two sides are currently working on a long-term contract, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Dashwood recently as she reflected on her career to date and the opportunities that lay ahead.
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This had to have been a pretty interesting five-month ride for you. Heading into last fall, did you have any idea that you would be embarking in such a huge career change?
No, I actually didn’t. I was kind of surprised by it, but I also saw a lot of positives, and opportunity that came from that. I was excited to take a look at everything that was coming my way and to jump on the opportunities.
Was Ring Of Honor something that you were able to keep your eye on a little bit before you had the opportunity to go work there? Were you able to check it out while you were on the road previously?
Yeah. Ring of Honor is one of the top companies in the world. Obviously, I knew of them. Friends of mine, Cody and Brandi [Rhodes], had recently started with Ring of Honor as well. The timing of Ring of Honor actually giving a push to women’s wrestling and starting the Ring of Honor women’s tournament worked out well. It was good timing with all of that around me being a free agent.
How did you get into contact with the company? Was that through Cody or Brandi, or did they reach out to you, did you reach out to them?
It was a bit of everything. I think there was a number of people that I had worked with in the past that had reached out to them, saying Tenille’s available now. And then vice versa, I’m using a booking agent, and I think they reached out to him and they spoke as well.
Heading into your debut at ROH specifically, talk to me about the emotions that you felt.
For sure there were butterflies. Wrestling means a lot to me, so I think I’m always going to have the anxious excitement right before I go out the curtain. It meant a lot to me, because I’ve never been in front of a Ring of Honor crowd before, and it’s a little different than the WWE. They’re very passionate wrestling fans. As far as what you actually bring into the wrestling ring, it’s not so much about the entertainment as far as storylines and characters and all that. I was wondering whether they knew my background. You know, I’ve wrestled for over half my life. So it was an opportunity for to me showcase what I know as a wrestler, and to have competitive matches with women for longer periods of time, with that freedom and control to do what I love and showcase that to everyone. It’s an opportunity, so I’m very excited.
This is your second time being part of the women’s movement. The thing about Women of Honor tournament that I find particularly interesting, is that it was the Ring of Honor brass, the top officials right up to Joe Koff, who challenged the women on the roster to come up with an idea to introduce this title. Can you compare your experience with this women’s movement with your previous experience?
I was with WWE for about six years, and NXT was a big part of that, especially engaging the fans. I think getting the following that I have still to this day was basically having those matches like I did back in NXT. Basically, with Paige, I used to have those matches. It was when wrestling started being showcased as main events on the NXT Arrival. Women from then on started to have, I think, bigger matches, more opportunities, and were showcased in main events and started to get chances they hadn’t had before. I think that kind of translates, for me. It feels like a similar thing is happening now [in Ring of Honor], and it’s a chance for me to be a part of that again, and to elevate the women and to showcase that to the world. Ring of Honor is that platform where we’re able to do that, and so it’s an opportunity for all of us.
Back to your former employer for a moment. Are you surprised that Daniel Bryan got the clearance to return and maybe slightly disappointed that it doesn’t appear, at this point, that he’ll be in an ROH ring any time soon?
Well, he’s obviously under contract with the WWE, so that stops that part of it with Ring of Honor. I guess we always thought that he would never wrestle again, so to hear this is amazing news… As a wrestler myself, to think that you could never wrestler again when you love something like that… I can’t imagine how hard it has been for him and for Brie and the family. I was so excited and just so happy for them when I heard that he could wrestle again. I don’t know what the circumstances are as far as being cleared or anything, but I’m just very happy for them and excited. To be able to do that again is very special.
I’ve heard from the wrestlers that I’ve spoken to about the creative freedoms that you are given working for Ring of Honor. What are some of the things that you’ve been able to do since you’ve been there that you haven’t necessarily been able to do in the past?
Right now in Ring of Honor, I think my character and everything I’m doing, it’s me, it shows my love for wrestling. There are things you can’t control, depending on what companies you work with. But, for instance, in the past, you can’t control necessarily how much time you have on TV or how much you’re able to show in a five-minute match. So now one of the things maybe having more time to showcase what I can do. Yeah, it’s just a different platform, where I’m able to wrestle and do things, depending on time or the storyline or whatever it might have been in the past, that wasn’t able to do.
News and Notes
ROH is moving forward with plans to stream Sunday’s live event from Columbus despite a rocky launch, in which technical glitches prevented a large number of HonorClub subscribers from streaming Supercard of Honor last week. The hiccup couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the show had been built up as the largest in the promotion’s history and set a record for live attendance. The company is working with the streaming vendor to correct the issues prior to this weekend’s events. I am told that a fallback plan is also being crafted in case the problems, which are described as being out of ROH’s control, remain unresolved.
Meanwhile, the HonorClub app remains under review for iOS, Apple TV, and Roku platforms and will be released once approval has been granted. However, a beta version has been made available for Roku users. The app for Android devices went live last week.
WWE continues adding big names to the forthcoming Greatest Royal Rumble event. The Undertaker is now set to face Rusev in a casket match on the April 27th show. Chris Jericho will also appear. The event is the first in a long-term partnership between WWE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The partnership is believed to be extremely lucrative for the Stamford, Connecticut-based wrestling giant. WWE financial executives declined to reveal the value of the deal during a post-WrestleMania conference call. However, the amount is expected to be disclosed when second-quarter earnings are released this summer.
In addition to The Undertaker and Jericho, WWE has also announced more than a dozen participants for the first-ever 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match, including Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman.
Following their bloody battle at WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar will defend the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns inside of a steel cage at the event. Among the other matches, John Cena will face Triple H, while The Usos will seek to regain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship from The Bludgeon Brothers in another WrestleMania rematch. Five other title matches are on the card.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.