Ahead of his one-time return to ROH for tonight’s Final Battle pay-per-view, Jay Lethal appeared on Talk Is Jericho. The interview was conducted before Lethal was added to tonight’s show as the replacement for Bandido.
Lethal talked about his time in Ring of Honor and going to AEW:
“I was with Ring of Honor for over 10 years. As most people know, they dropped a bomb on the roster letting them know they were not going to be renewing anyone’s contract. They were thinking about how they were going to revamp the company. They were going to take the first quarter off, and that was a big bomb, a real wake up call for a lot of people on the roster. As soon as I heard that, I started instantly thinking, ‘Well, I got two more checks in the can coming. What am I going to do?’ I always thought that I was going to have my last match with Ring of Honor. I started in Ring of Honor in 2002. Then Impact Wrestling offered me my first contract. While I was at Impact Wrestling for about seven years, there were two times that my contract came up and they were thinking about resigning me. I’ve always wanted to go to WWF/WWE and most people from my generation, that WWF/WWE helped create their love for professional wrestling. My dad was always like, ‘Don’t go there. Where you are is cool. They are using you. You’re fine.’ I was like, ‘You know what? I am’’, so I stayed with Impact for seven years. I’m an extremely loyal person. My dad was like, ‘I never want you to become the person who gets sold to the highest bidder.’
I stayed in Impact Wrestling and I literally thought while there I was going to stay there until the doors closed. I got to do that thing with Ric Flair which was awesome, and right after that, they called me and let me go. As soon as they got rid of me, I was good friends with the owner at the time of Ring of Honor. His name was Cary Silkin. I called Cary, and he said, ‘Yea, come on back.’ The Bucks were actually good friends with Cary as well, and they were like, ‘Yea, you should go back to Ring of Honor. Big things are about to happen.’ I went back to Ring of Honor and then they got bought out (Sinclair Broadcasting). That’s when people really started being able to make a living working Ring of Honor. Before, Cary was doing the best he could, but it was just the bookings were a little bit of money this month, a little bit of money next month, but now it’s owned by Sinclair and you could make a living. I stayed in Ring of Honor. There were two or three incidents where I could potentially try and go to the WWE, and of course, my dad’s voice was in the back of my head saying, ‘You already made it. People around the world know who you are. You’re living your dream, and Ring of Honor is treating you well. Why would you reward them by leaving?’ I said, ‘You’re absolutely right.’ My dad loved Ring of Honor ever since the first show I took him to. I stayed there, I thought I would have my last match there, and then they dropped the bomb on us letting us know they were not renewing anyone’s contract and they were going to take the first quarter of 2022 off. I was like, ‘Ok, what do I do?’ Of course being great friends with almost everybody here, it was almost like a no-brainer. As soon as they dropped that bomb on us, we were on a zoom call, a whole roster zoom call, in the middle of the zoom call I’m thinking, ‘What’s the next step for me?’ After the zoom call meeting, a day or two go by, and I decide I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to go to AEW. I asked for my release because of course nobody will talk to you, and that’s the thing, we’re still all under contract. I even flew myself out to Baltimore. I didn’t call them. I didn’t send a message. I flew myself to Baltimore so I could meet Joe Koff and the other guy’s name was Greg, because they had been so good to me. They treated me amazingly. It was very sad to have to do that. I flew out there, asked for my release, told them what a pleasure it was to work with them, and as fast as they could, they took a day or so because legal I’m sure was going crazy with all their problems, but took a day or so to get it finalized. I thought I had it, but then someone’s signature was missing. Then after that, finally I could have my talks. I didn’t even get to talk to Tony Khan. I talked to almost everybody except him. The first time I actually met Tony Khan was at Full Gear. That’s how I decided and how I came about being in AEW.”
Lethal was asked when he thought Ring of Honor was at its peak:
“I’m afraid to answer that because I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn here. I think if you ask anybody, they’ll have a different time, and that’s cool, but for me, it seems like 2015 when I won the belt. It was like the peak of business, especially for me. We were selling the most merchandise. When the Bucks and Cody were there, that was another high point. I was home probably one weekend a month if I was lucky. I thought that was good. We were doing great crowds. We were selling out. We weren’t running these massive venues obviously. The Hammerstein Ballroom always sold out. Then we stopped running Hammerstein I heard because they were charging so much.”
Lethal talking about the exodus of The Young Bucks, Cody, and Hangman Adam Page from Ring of Honor:
“That was a massive exodus of a good, solid group of people that were drawing the fans there. When this exodus, this massive leaving happened, my heart broke. This was also during a contract renegotiation time for me. An offer was made for me, and they extended the offer to me to say, ‘Hey, come with us (to AEW).’ I didn’t take it obviously, and here’s why. Throughout my entire Ring of Honor career, it really feels like they’ve laid out the red carpet for not only me, but my family. They’ve always gone above and beyond. I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about them. When all these guys were leaving, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m some savior, but when all those guys left, I literally thought about the state of the company, and not only that, but the state of that my friends would be left in because I’m friends with everybody there. I thought, ‘Well, I can’t do it all by myself, but at least if I’m here, I can try and help because I really feel like the company is going to suffer’. They have been good to me. Let me repay the favor. That’s the only reason that I stayed. I wanted to go so bad. I already knew from the start what was going to happen, but yea, my loyalty, even today I feel like it was the right thing to do.”