The Week in Wrestling: Kurt Angle and Cody Rhodes on their upcoming steel cage match

1:52 | Extra Mustard
Diamond Dallas Page: Karl Malone could have had a career in wrestling
Wednesday March 1st, 2017

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling. This edition includes Kurt Angle and Cody Rhodes discussing one of the most heated active feuds in wrestling; The Shoot with Eli Drake; Sam Adonis responding to Brian Cage on the controversy surrounding his Donald Trump-loving character in Mexico; the weekly Top Ten; and Five Questions with Ring of Honor’s Bobby Fish.

Kurt Angle ends his indie career vs. Cody Rhodes

Courtesy of WCPW

Kurt Angle and Cody Rhodes are set to conclude their best-of-three series at Northeast Wrestling’s Wrestlefest XXI this Friday night in Waterbury, Conn. The series is tied, with one victory apiece, and this Friday’s steel cage match will determine the victor. The contest holds additional significance as it promises to be the final match ever for Angle on the independents. The Olympic gold medalist is returning to WWE for induction into the Hall of Fame during WrestleMania 33 weekend in Orlando, and Rhodes—who just returned from a weekend in Tokyo wrestling for New Japan—plans to send Angle off in style.

The most entertaining feud in wrestling is not currently airing on television.

Far away from a WWE camera lens, Kurt Angle and Cody Rhodes have built their own feud over the past six months, building to a crescendo in a steel cage match this Friday night for Northeast Wrestling’s WrestleFest XXI, which will take place in Waterbury, Conn.

“You usually don’t get this kind of attention for an independent match, but Cody and I have received a lot of attention for setting up our own program,” explained Angle. “That’s all because of Cody’s resilience. He didn’t let it rest, he kept coming up with ideas and concepts. Cody is a highly-driven individual, he has a lot of goals, and they exceed where he was in WWE. The way he’s promoted himself post-WWE has been nothing short of incredible. He makes everything mean something, and not just in the ring, but as an individual.”

Rhodes won the first match via pinfall in August at NEW’s Wrestling Under the Stars in Wappinger, N.Y., and Angle evened up the series with a victory at the WhatCulture Pro Wrestling in October in Manchester, England.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXEtHg8PXFg]

“Sometimes, when you work with the younger stars, and this isn’t a knock on anybody, it feels like you’re dancing,” noted Rhodes. “When you get into a match with Kurt Angle, and it doesn’t matter how old he is because he’s just as good as he ever was, and perhaps even better on some nights. Kurt is a wrestler’s wrestler. He hits hard, he ties you up tight in ways that are uncomfortable and in ways that, if he wanted to, it could be over right then and there.

“That’s the kind of wrestling I learned when my dad was training me during the time I first broke into the business. My dad had some of the guys roughhouse me at his school when I was in the ring as a teenager, and working with Kurt reminds me a lot of that. He’s an Olympic gold medalist. A lot of people always wonder the degree of reality involved in pro wrestling. There is a pretty high degree of reality with Kurt Angle, and you’ve got to keep up.”

The 31-year-old Rhodes is seventeen years younger than Angle and at the height of his talent as a professional wrestler. Rhodes, the grandson of a plumber, was born into wrestling royalty, having been raised by his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes.

“Cody can do it all,” said Angle. “I always had my eye on him. I just can’t believe what he can do at his size. He’s deceivingly big—the kid has got to be 6’2”, probably 230 pounds, and he can wrestle like a heavyweight and move around like a cruiserweight. Seeing him do the springboard jump off the ropes, and moonsault off the cage, he is just so diverse as a talent. I always wanted to work with him, and I wanted to have at least one match with him. He was one of the top five guys in WWE that I had my eyes on to work with, and we were able to set this up as a best-of-three, and I’m very fortunate to be able to work with him.”

Extra Mustard
Cody Rhodes: I know who I am now, I am my father’s son

Despite the lineage, notoriety, and prior success in WWE, Rhodes is still grateful to learn in the ring from Angle.

“Maybe it’s just simply the fact that it’s Kurt,” said Rhodes. “This is Kurt Angle. When we first wrestled at Northeast Wrestling’s ‘Under the Stars’ in our first match, it had a lot of excitement behind it, and now Kurt is going into the Hall of Fame and there are so many implications, spotlights, and pressures to deliver in this match. Our first match got a lot of attention, and that’s where you want to be as a performer, and now it’s doubled. Kurt Angle has such a great reputation with all wrestling fans, from the casual fan to the hardcore fan to the really technical fan—the technical fan is always the hardest to please, but you don’t get any more technical than a gold medal Olympian. I don’t know anyone who says they don’t enjoy Kurt Angle’s wrestling matches.”

Angle holds Dusty Rhodes in high esteem, and noted that the “American Dream” will continue to have a presence that reverberates throughout the wrestling industry long after his passing.

“The impact Dusty had on wrestling was unmatched,” said Angle. “He also made it feasible for talent who didn’t look like bodybuilders to have success. He wasn’t just a great worker and a great wrestler, and obviously a great talker, but he showed that you don’t have to look like Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns to be successful. That’s where Dusty made such a huge impact, and people could relate to him.”

Extra Mustard
Kurt Angle on WWE Hall of Fame induction: The fans spoke and WWE listened

It’s rare to see a guy like Angle, who main-evented WrestleMania XIX against Brock Lesnar, on the indies but he has been grateful to work with a new breed of talent, as well as some stars whose paths he would have never otherwise crossed.

“I knew there were talents I’d never face again, like Rey Mysterio, [Alberto] Del Rio, and Cody Rhodes,” said Angle. “I also had my eyes on some talent in the U.K. that I believe WWE will pick up—Zack Sabre Jr., Joe Coffey, and Joe Hendry. I did handpick these guys, and I did do my homework on them to make sure they were good, they were safe, and they were viable opponents. I also didn’t want to get ring rust if I did return to WWE.

“There was a lot of meaning behind this, and it wasn’t money-driven. It had everything to do with the individuals and possibly returning to WWE, and I did want to go and thank the fans individually. I was really in awe of the crowds. There is a passion for Kurt Angle, and I didn’t know it existed if you weren’t wrestling behind the machine of WWE, or Impact Wrestling, or even Ring of Honor. I think social media makes it possible for us as wrestlers to individually connect with fans, and as long as you show that you are appreciative and humble, they show their gratitude. Right now, I just want to get in there with Cody one more time. We both have so much respect for each other. We’re just glad to be able to get into that ring three times.”

Since Ring of Honor’s Final Battle in December, Rhodes has aligned himself with New Japan’s Bullet Club and maligned opponents by any means necessary. Rhodes admitted that he plans to win at all costs on Friday against Angle.

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“I can’t put my game plan out there now,” cautioned Rhodes. “I’ll do my damnedest to honor the series we’ve had. You’ll notice that sometimes ‘The American Nightmare’ gets booed out of the building, like at Ring of Honor, most recently in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, but you’ll also notice certain places where that isn’t the case. The two matches with Kurt have been wrestling celebrations. I’ll try to honor the pure wrestling that comes with Kurt Angle, but it is a steel cage, it is Northeast Wrestling’s biggest show of the year, so you never know. I’ll be ready to pull out all the stops, and maybe all the tricks, this Friday against Kurt Angle.”

Angle promised that the affair is his final match ever on the indies.

“This will be my last match on the independents,” said Angle. “The opportunity was great, and wrestling is very strong right now. There are so many fans out there hurting and itching to see wrestling, wrestling, wrestling, especially if they really love an individual and they will show their loyalty regardless if it’s for a company or an independent.”

The million-dollar question is whether this will be Angle’s final match ever, or if he will return to the ring in the WWE.

“I don’t think I’m done,” said Angle. “I don’t think I’m close to being done. I’m not going to tell you that I will wrestle for another five years, but I believe there are numerous matches ahead of me. WWE has not given me any notification that I am going to wrestle, but I believe the fans will speak.

“If everything goes the right way with the physical, which I believe I would pass very easily, I believe there is an opportunity for fans to see Kurt Angle wrestle in WWE. But again, I have to reiterate, they have not talked about that at all.”

News of the Week

Impact Wrestling continues to make headlines in the wrestling community, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Hardys, Drew Galloway, and Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis all officially announced their departure from Impact Wrestling. As detailed in last week’s Week in Wrestling, Impact Chief Creative Officer Jeff Jarrett was not a fan of the Hardys’ “Broken Universe,” but the contract negotiations did not put Impact or Jarrett in the best of lights.

Jarrett offered contracts to his aforementioned free agents mere days before the upcoming Impact television tapings, which begin on March 2, effectively allowing no opportunity to negotiate. All the contracts included significant cuts in salary, and Jarrett is reportedly making bonus money from Anthem, Impact’s parent company, every time he significantly slashes salary at Impact.

Impact’s game plan is to gut the roster, cut costs, and deliver enough of a rating to justify their spot on Pop TV until a more profitable television partner is found.

While this may be an effective way for the company to save money, it is the wrestling talent that is completely overlooked. The Hardys generated enough buzz to help Impact stay in business over the past year, and Galloway – who had a run as world champ – as well as Bennett and Kanellis all significantly improved the quality of the programming.

Ultimately, it’s the wrestlers at Impact who are suffering while the executives look to profit.

In news directly related to the Impact Wrestling fiasco, reinforcements for the WWE roster are on the way.

Kyle O’Reilly and current Ring of Honor world champion Adam Cole are both expected to join the WWE, at April’s NXT Takeover: Orlando for O’Reilly and potentially in May for Cole, but the major story is that the Hardys are expected to rejoin the company on either the Raw or SmackDown following WrestleMania.

The Hardys would completely rejuvenate either the Raw or SmackDown tag team division. If they return to WWE, it will be very interesting to see if Vince McMahon is in favor of allowing the Hardys to continue their “Broken” gimmick, which is owned by Matt and Jeff Hardy.

In other news…

• The G1 Climax, featuring the coronation of Kenny Omega, is returning to AXS TV with a four-week special beginning on Friday, March 10 with back-to-back episodes at 7pm ET. The special features the top three critically-acclaimed matches, including Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega, and the G-1 final of Omega vs. Hirooki Goto.

“Nobody does tournaments like New Japan,” said Jim Ross, who will be breaking down the state of New Japan Pro Wrestling next week in the Week in Wrestling. “The journey is always unpredictable, but New Japan is booked in a completely logical manner.”

• Seth Rollins’ interview with Corey Graves on Raw finally took steps to building Rollins as one of WWE’s key babyfaces. Triple H also returned during the segment, and added the type of realism to WWE programming that is rarely witnessed in today’s era. I’d still prefer to prolong the storyline with Rollins until the summer and see Triple H and Shane McMahon wrestle at WrestleMania 33.

• As mentioned above, Drew Galloway announced he is leaving Impact Wrestling. The classy Galloway is destined for future greatness in wrestling, both in the United States and abroad, and he offered this exclusive statement directly to his fans:

“The reason I am in the position I am today is because of promoters, colleagues, my family, my unwaveringly supportive wife and, most of all, my fans,” said Galloway. “They have always had complete faith in my ability to lead the companies I represent across the world. Unlike many other sports where fans are known to turn on their teams for a win, they have always stayed 100 percent loyal to my success. Through all my highs and lows in this business, whatever the next step may be, I know they will always walk beside me.”

• Am I the only one who thinks that Gallows and Anderson are the most poorly booked act in WWE? If they’re not losing two-on-one matches to Roman Reigns, they are working comedy bits or dropping a match to either Enzo or Cass. Don’t get me wrong, the pair used some comedy in Japan—there was an entire storyline built around Anderson falling in love with Maria Kanellis—but the fashion in which the current WWE tag team champions have been booked underscores their talent.

• Kenny Omega and Ring of Honor world champion Adam Cole, who are both integral members of the Bullet Club, teased their inevitable split—and even a babyface run for Omega—this past weekend at Honor Rising in Tokyo. With Cole reportedly set to leave ROH in April, he will do the honors at some point before his exit for Omega, who should be backed by the Young Bucks.

Extra Mustard
Kenny Omega responds to John Cena-fueled rumors of a move to WWE

• Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis are the latest departures from Impact Wrestling. I have already learned from trusted sources within the industry that Ring of Honor is interested in a reunion with Bennett and Kanellis. Bennett, Kanellis, and Matt Taven were tremendous together as The Kingdom, and they could deliver some fantastic programs with the Young Bucks and Roppongi Vice, as well as the Briscoe Brothers and War Machine.

• Congratulations are in order for Zack Sabre Jr., as the “Technical Wizard” ended Timothy Thatcher’s record 596-day reign as the Evolve champion on Saturday night in Queens, New York. Sabre, who recently signed with New Japan, did not celebrate long, as he wrestled this past in Providence, R.I., for Beyond Wrestling.

• The Miz and John Cena began their build to WrestleMania 33, but it remains a mystery—as Cena even mentioned last night on SmackDown—why the 16-time world champ won’t be facing The Undertaker at ‘Mania. Considering ‘Taker has a limited number of WrestleMania dates remaining, why not finally deliver the dream match against Cena? Instead, worldwide audiences will be treated to a mixed tag match between The Miz and Maryse and Cena and Nikki Bella. As a fan of all four competitors, I am genuinely surprised we are seeing this match at WrestleMania and not instead on an episode of Smackdown.

• As Kevin Owens marches toward “KOMania II” at WrestleMania 33, the Universal champion will face his toughest obstacle in the WWE: getting a quality match out of Bill Goldberg. Owens is talented, but we’ll see if he is that talented this Sunday against a 50-year-old Goldberg covered in ring rust.

• Coming attractions: the feature interview with Triple H will run next Monday on SI.com.

Sam Adonis responds to Brian Cage

Courtesy of Sam Adonis

Brian Cage voiced frustration in last week’s Week in Wrestling over Sam Adonis’ decision to, allegedly, steal his pro-Donald Trump gimmick in Mexico. Adonis, however, felt quite differently over what he described as a misunderstanding.

“I had no intention of taking anybody’s stuff,” said Adonis, who wrestles for CMLL in Mexico while Cage works for the rival AAA promotion. “I never intended it to be that way. I don’t watch [today’s] wrestling. I’ve watched it my whole life and I’m very into the past, so, to me, this was easy—a foreign villain. That’s just wrestling. I never saw someone else doing it and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ If anything, I’ve ripped off Rick Rude. I have airbrushed tights with all kinds of stuff, and I got Donald Trump airbrushed on my tights. I didn’t think anything of it, I didn’t hear anything about it. Nobody said the name Brian Cage, and he had nothing to do with it.”

Adonis, who grew up in a wrestling family—his father was a promoter and his brother is WWE color commentator Corey Graves—has wrestled in Europe for the past five years for a company called All Star Wrestling as their resident foreign villain.

“I come to the ring with a flag,” explained Adonis. “Once that picture of Trump got so over on my tights, I waited to see what was going to happen with the election. If he won the election, I thought I’d get a picture of him on my flag. That’s what I ended up doing, and it ended up getting hot and taking off. I did it for about five months, and nobody said anything. Once it got to mainstream news, I offended Cage, which was never the idea.

“To me, it was just, ‘Why not?’ You go with what works. I didn’t mean to steal anything from anybody. I don’t know if that’s how he perceived it, or if someone is winding him up a bit, but to me, it’s merely coincidental. If you see Sam Adonis and Brian Cage side-by-side, you can’t compare us in any light. He’s a monster, he looks great. I’m a big tall heel. We can’t be compared in any light other than we’re both fans of Donald Trump in Mexico. To me, it was a misunderstanding, and I never meant to offend anyone. At the same time, I’ve been a professional long enough, and I’ve had a WWE contract. So, to me, it’s kind of hokey and tacky to get into that in front of the public.

“It was a misunderstanding and nothing came of it until it got this national coverage. I have no harsh words. Brian Cage is an unbelievable wrestler and good at what he does. I never really thought anything of it, but if we can sell some tickets with it, let’s make it a match.”

Adonis plans to eventually return to wrestling in the United States, but first is pursuing his dreams abroad.

“Wrestling in the U.S. is designed more for the likes of TV,” said Adonis, comparing the wrestling scene in the United States and Mexico. “They want a drama that they can sell to the public, whereas Mexico is just chaos, it’s insanity. Mexican wrestling is more of an athletic contest with fewer rules, less sense, and it’s insanity. Ultimately, I want to end up back in WWE and American wrestling. My brother is a color commentator for WWE, and it’s one of those things where I’d love to go back and make it work. But my big objective is to keep wrestling all over the world and keep getting as good as I can, so if I do get another opportunity with WWE, I’m ready and I can be something bigger than what I am right now.”

Exclusive Lucha Underground clip

Lucha Underground, which is available on iTunes, is on its mid-season break, but will be reminding Sports Illustrated readers about what is in store once season three returns on May 31.

The Shoot: Eli Drake

Courtesy of Impact Wrestling

Eli Drake is the future of Impact Wrestling. The 34-year-old has already worked an entertaining program with EC3 and is currently involved in a storyline with Tyrus. The former NXT talent is entertaining in the ring and on the microphone, and he shares the story of his journey from the WWE Performance Center to Impact Wrestling.

Trust Yourself

I worked a two-on-one match with Jon Moxley—better known as Dean Ambrose—against the Big Show on a Heat back in 2006. I never thought of that night as “The Moment” I arrived in wrestling, but that was the beginning of my journey. That was the first time a WWE audience had ever seen me and the first time I had the chance to work in front of them.

Due to a bout of self-sabotage in 2008, it took me a lot of time, effort, and sacrifice to earn a real crack at WWE. In the meantime, I was working as a server to support myself and cover my bills in Los Angeles. There were many lean years and rough times, and I had expected to be in a different place in wrestling and in my life by that point. Regardless, I knew I had something to offer this industry, and I would not let anything stop me. I just had to trust myself and keep pushing.

As my 30th birthday was approaching in 2012, my frustrations were beginning to bubble to the surface following a batch of unfortunate luck and circumstances. I wrote an impassioned email to WWE’s Talent Relations director. I expressed all of my ambitions in the wrestling business and really exposed my dreams and desires. I didn’t hear back. Roughly a month later, I received the only response I needed.

I was asked, “Are you available February 1, 2, and 3 for a tryout?”

I’d already replied yes before I finished reading the email.

A friend of mine had also sent me a flyer for open call for The Rock’s reality television show “The Hero”. I went out and did the casting, and I garnered their attention as they kept bringing me back for interviews. By January of 2013, I was picked as a member of the cast, and we were going to start filming that February. So now I had a WWE tryout and The Rock’s show both happening almost simultaneously.

Throughout this entire process, I never forgot what I loved: wrestling. This is what I dreamed to do, and this was what I was going to do. I never wanted to be a reality TV star. That was never anything that interested me. I only wanted to be a pro wrestler.

I finally had my WWE tryout, and it was insane. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, but I was ready. The key is to ALWAYS BE READY. They have you do the most grueling blow-up drills ever, until you can barely breathe or move, and then you’re asked to go in the next ring and do it again. Then, if you’re able to finish that, they tell you to do it again in a third ring. So a lot of people quit or mentally don’t have the capacity to fight through that process, so WWE is looking for people with the heart and the talent. It’s rare if more than one or two people are hired out of a tryout, but we had a talented class—I was there with talents like Bull Dempsey and Kalisto. We ultimately became the first class to open the WWE Performance Center in 2013. Coincidentally, The Rock’s show, “The Hero”, began airing just a month before. Many people believe I was signed by WWE because of that, when really it was just a perfect windfall of these wheels all beginning to move parallel to each other.

I started working at WWE in 2013, and I loved my time there. I got along with all the coaches, I got along with all the talent, but the one issue I had was butting heads with then-NXT head trainer Bill DeMott. We could not find ourselves on the same page. That ultimately led to my demise in August of 2014. I was thanked for my time and told I was an exceptional talent, but I needed to decide on my next step. Right around that time, someone from WWE who had a relationship with someone in Impact Wrestling recommended they take a look at me. I was brought in as part of One Night Only: Gut Check in 2015, and the rest is history.

The future of Impact is a blank slate. I want to help propel the company to new heights. I still have a lot of friends at WWE, and who knows what the future holds., but wherever I am, I refuse to be second best. People currently look at Impact as a second-tier option, but my goal is to help boost the company and make it a real competitor for WWE. That benefits the talent by giving us the power to choose where to make a living. The more options that we have, the better for the talent and the fans.

A main focus of mine is to be at the forefront of taking Impact Wrestling to a much higher plateau. My personal goal is to be World Champion, and to be recognized as the absolute best in the business. That does not happen by being quiet, so Eli Drake is going to make a whole hell of a lot of noise wherever I am.

~ Eli Drake

Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson

Courtesy of Conrad Thompson

Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard return to the MLW airwaves this Wednesday at noon for a special episode of the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast discussing Bruce Prichard’s 2008 exit from WWE.

“We discuss the rumor and innuendo of Bruce’s substance abuse issues, and whether he was railroaded by the WWE,” explained Thompson. “We also talk about ‘The Gun’ incident, and a lot of people don’t know about the gun. We tell the full story around Bruce being railroaded, his substance abuse, and [to the tune of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”] Brucie’s got a gun.”

With WrestleMania 33 on the horizon, Thompson was asked to break down and analyze his top five matches in WrestleMania history. Thompson listed his third favorite match as Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV.

“This match was just outstanding,” said Thompson. “I know Shawn has said, in years since, that that’s as close to a perfect match as he thought he could come. When you watch it back, it still holds up. It’s outstanding.”

Five Questions with… Bobby Fish

Courtesy of Bobby Fish

Bobby Fish headlines Ring of Honor’s “Manhattan Mayhem” this Saturday at the Manhattan Center in New York against world champion Adam Cole. Fish also partners with Kyle OReilly in the critically acclaimed reDRagon tag team, which is currently in a stalemate due toOReillys free agency. Fish is one of the most exciting, hard-working, and passionate wrestlers in the business, and his goal is to capture the ROH world championship this Saturday in Manhattan.

SI.com: There are more reasons why Bobby Fish shouldn’t have succeeded in wrestling than why you should have, but wrestling promotions cannot measure heart or desire. Your Ring of Honor peers—most notably, the Briscoe Brothers and Jay Lethal—claim that you are the hardest working man in the company. You were trained by Harley Race—is he the reason you are so hard-working?

Fish: More than anything, that comes from my dad, Richard Fish. My father was a marine, he fought in Korea. He was a fireman, and a lot of firemen would have more jobs than just the department. He was disability retired after he fell out of a window and shattered his hip, his knee, and his ankle, so the father that I always knew walked with a limp. Knowing that my father was a Marine and knowing all the sacrifices he made, and knowing that he doubled up on workload, that always gave me a reason to work even harder. He passed eleven years ago this September, and he is the reason I am the man I am.

Knowing that Jay Lethal and the Briscoes and so many other guys in ROH believe I’m hard working means something to me. To have that recognition from my peers means a lot, and is something I hang my hat on every day. I know, in my ways and for many reasons, that I wasn’t supposed to be in this position, yet you are not going to f---ing outwork me. It’s just not going to happen.

SI.com: The free agent process in professional wrestling is shrouded in mystery. What can you share about the process? And are you currently a free agent?

Fish: I’m in some limbo land at the current moment. I’m under an extension with Ring of Honor, and I’m still trying to sort things out. From my years in the business, I don’t know of anyone who has an agent. I get asked that by people outside of the wrestling business all the time, especially now that contracts have become bigger and you can make a living from wrestling. We don’t have agents, but it’s an industry practice that there are no agents involved. There are booking agents, like Bill Behrens, who have been in the business for a while and are well-respected, and guys allow the booking agents to book them out. Obviously there is a percentage worked out, though I’ve not used one in the past, but you can. For a lot of guys, the scuttlebutt in the locker room is that the percentage involved for a booking agent is so worth it. It’s different for everybody, but I’ve always negotiated my own contracts. I certainly have advice from some friends, obviously from Kyle O’Reilly and my friend George Carroll who works for New Japan. The actual negotiation is me and them, or me and Kyle and them.

SI.com: You mentioned Kyle O’Reilly, whose status is also an unknown. Will reDRagon ever team together again? Who would you like reDRagon to wrestle?

Fish: There is so much up in the air right now. There are no conclusions just yet. This limbo will come to an end at some point, I just don’t know when. Without a doubt, there is no question that Kyle O’Reilly and I will forever be linked as long as we are both in this business. I speak for both of us when I say that you’ve not seen the last of reDRagon. It could be years down the road or it could be months down the road, but I guarantee we’re going to get it sorted out and it’s not the end of us as a tag team. reDRagon is not finished.

We haven’t worked with the Hardys, though we’d love to. When reDRagon was really hitting its stride, we were exclusive and have been exclusive to Ring of Honor. We’ve been away from the indies for three or four years, so we have not had the opportunity to cross paths. I’ll speak again for Kyle and myself when I say that’s a matchup we would like to have happen. reDRagon versus the Bucks will never get old. Wrestling them feels like home. When we wrestle, anything is possible. Bucks-reDRagon needs to happen again and will happen again.

SI.com: You enjoyed a tremendous 2016, particularly heating up when you defeated Tomohiro Ishii for the ROH Television title last May. You closed out the year working with Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, and Dragon Lee. Have you enjoyed working with this crop of young international talent?

Fish: Immensely. Working with Will in Japan and England and working with Lio Rush recently in Dallas, I love it. I love the enthusiasm, I’ve really enjoyed working with both of them. The match with Lio in Dallas confirmed, for me, that the fire is still lit. I’ve been through some personal stuff that started at the end of last November, and I never questioned my desire or ability to do this, but I internally questioned myself. Some of that was answered after the match with Lio. I know I can go, I can bring something to the table, and I look forward to working more with Marty moving forward. It’s exciting to be doing this, and I’m motivated and I just want to produce. I’m grateful for the support from the wrestling fans. For them to gravitate to me, I couldn’t appreciate it any more than I already do. When I wrestle for the fans, it’s not me – it’s we.

SI.com: What do you have in store for Ring of Honor world champion Adam Cole in your match together this Saturday at Manhattan Mayhem at the Manhattan Center in New York?

Fish: It’s the biggest match, it’s my biggest match, and it will be my arrival. I’ve got a list of goals for 2017. At this point in time, those goals will stay upstairs in my head. I will tell you that I will accomplish each of them. I will knock them down, one by one, and 2017 will surpass 2016 for me.

Adam Cole is certainly not doing enough to keep his world title. Adam Cole is not working harder than me. I will not be outworked, and Adam Cole will not outwork me. As a result, that world title will come to me on March 4. This is the biggest match of my life. I’m the guy that wasn’t supposed to be here, but you cannot deny me when I put that world championship around my waist. I’m going to make that world title mine. I can no longer be denied.

Tweet of the Week

If you haven’t already, it’s worth the listen.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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