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Bobby Fish on his future in NXT: ‘Right now, this is a time of exploration for all four of us in the Undisputed Era’
Bobby Fish continues his relentless chase of the NXT tag team championship on Wednesday night’s episode of NXT.
Pursuing those titles is nothing new to a man who has stood for tag team excellence in NXT, New Japan, Ring of Honor, and Pro Wrestling Noah, but the familiar face of Kyle O’Reilly won’t be beside him in this pursuit. Instead, he will be teaming with fellow Undisputed Era mate Roderick Strong as they challenge reigning champs Fandango and Tyler Breeze.
“There is such a different flavor with me and Roddy,” Fish says. “It’s different than me and Kyle, but it works.”
One of the unique elements to the Fish and Strong is their shared history, which dates back to their time together a decade ago in Pro Wrestling Noah.
“There is a lot of history predating this, and a lot of that was working with each other in Japan,” Fish says. “Then we worked against each other a lot, and we were opponents numerous times in Ring of Honor. That’s a big part of the Undisputed Era. Kyle and Adam Cole have history, too, when they teamed as Future Shock, and then me and Kyle with reDRagon. Our history together is a big part of who we are.”
Perpetually overlooked and underrated, Fish has been an anchor in the ring and in the corner for the Undisputed Era. Now 43, the product of Albany, N.Y., has overcome immeasurable odds to succeed as a college football player and now as a star in one of the globe’s premier destinations for pro wrestling.
A lack of height and size served as a deterrent for Fish in his football career, until he stepped on the field. While he was undersized at 5' 8", his finesse at tackling and bloodthirst in hitting allowed him to stand out as a linebacker, eventually landing a spot at Division I-FCS Siena College.
“Throughout my football career, all I heard was guys say, ‘You’re too small,’” Fish says. “It’s the story of my life. I was the youngest of three siblings, so I was always chasing, and I’m not the tallest guy in the world. In football, that helped me realize the only way to truly be successful was to turn my body into a projectile and throw every bit of what I did have at you.
“Wrestling has been the same thing, and it’s a microcosm for life. There will always be an obstacle, or someone that brings up why you can’t, but there is no unwritten rule that says you have to listen to that. Don’t accept what you don’t want to accept.”
Fish has already exceeded career expectations. There was a point early in his wrestling journey when he was opting to sleep in his Corolla instead of on a motel mattress to hold on to any extra money he could, and his sacrifices have paid off. Fish and O’Reilly are an established commodity throughout the industry, each blending and thriving off one another’s style.
“Our styles are different, but there is a common thread between what we both do,” Fish says. “There is a discipline to pro wrestling and martial arts, and there is no substitute for repetition. MMA has a strong influence on pro wrestling these days, but if you’re going to do that, you can’t fake it. You need to know your stuff. We’ve been sharpening that sword over two continents in multiple companies. A culmination of that was Kyle’s TakeOver match with Finn Balor. Kyle blends the two worlds, and that’s also what keeps my flame burning.”
Fish began learning martial arts over three decades ago, and his in-ring style is as authentic as it is realistic. Those are also the same qualities that resonate with him about O’Reilly’s work as a wrestler, which was never more visible than in his battle with Balor at the recent NXT TakeOver 31.
“I’ll be honest, Kyle is my favorite wrestler,” Fish says. “He’s going to astonish people with how well he does what he does.
“Right now, this is a time of exploration for all four of us in The Undisputed Era. We’re seeing where this leads us. These are my best friends in wrestling, and my best friends, period. For Kyle and me, we will always be known as a team, but that doesn’t mean we’re not capable of doing individual things. You’re seeing that right now with Kyle.”
The O’Reilly–Balor bout for the NXT championship was physical and hard-hitting, leaving both men with injuries requiring some time off from wrestling. It also drew criticism from Chris Jericho, one of wrestling’s biggest stars who is currently bringing life to AEW in its weekly head-to-head battle against NXT.
Following a tweet recommending that Jericho take notes from the O’Reilly–Balor match, Jericho responded by tweeting, “Sure! How to f--- each other up during a match so they can’t work again for months.”
In response, Fish noted that Jericho’s legendary body of work, and his willingness to embrace physicality, continue to serve as inspiration in his work.
“I watched Jericho and Eddie Guerrero growing up,” Fish says. “Their style was physical as hell. And the viewer is supposed to lose themselves in what they’re watching. I’m sorry, but if you see a s---load of daylight in between things, you’re going to have a hard time losing yourself in what’s being presented to you. I’ll take that fat lip. I’m sure Finn’s jaw is killing him right now, but I would imagine he wouldn’t take much back from that match. That’s how we go.
“I would not feel like my body or my well-being was in danger in the ring with either Finn or Kyle. Both guys work a style that I like, one that I’m preferential to. The three of us all did some time in New Japan. Having come from football and college, I got into pro wrestling because it wasn’t ballet. I’m not looking to maim anybody, but the strikes I’m looking to throw, I take a certain level of pride in that.”
The year 2020 has wreaked havoc on the world, but a wrestling highlight has been watching Fish elevate himself both in the ring and on the mic to a level that few ever believed was possible.
“There has always been doubt about my career,” Fish says. “I’ve got a good buddy, George Carroll, who’s like a brother to me. When I was still doing indies and Ring of Honor, we put our heads together and launched these little gimmicks inside of angles to make people notice that there was more to me than what they were willing to see on the surface. I’d like to think we were successful with that, and now to have Triple H and Shawn Michaels co-sign on the success of my career, and to be invested in my direction, it’s surreal.”
Fish has found validation in NXT. His next step is unknown, but he looks forward to tackling it head-on beginning tonight in his tag with Strong against Breezango.
“One of the reasons me and Roddy are so close is that we’ve beat the hell out of each other,” Fish says. “That’s what my older brother and I did to each other as kids, and it bonded us. There is a chemistry between myself and Roddy, one that people are going to see.”
‘The Masked Wrestler’ opens with successful premiere
IWTV debuted “The Masked Wrestler” last Wednesday, an eight-person mystery wrestling tournament.
The winner of the tourney receives a shot at the IWTV independent wrestling championship, which is a chance to wrestle the extraordinarily talented Warhorse. Before arriving at that destination, eight different masked wrestlers are now part of a unique endeavor, with the loser of each bout forced to unmask.
The first to unmask was Logan Easton Laroux, who fell short in his attempt to defeat masked wrestler Genkai.
“I was really happy with it, and I hope people enjoyed watching,” says Laroux, who teaches full-time in addition to his pro wrestling profession. “There is a different vibe to this show. It’s such a fun concept, and so different from everything else in pro wrestling right now.”
Laroux wore a green mask and wrestled under the name of Barf, which drew instant attention on social media as the match aired.
“That was on the list of names I sent in,” Laroux says. “I really liked ‘the Amazing Zorro,’ but obviously that wasn’t the one [IWTV president] Gerry Durling chose. But I knew my color was green, so that’s how I came up with barf.”
The premiere episode was outstanding. It was also the hardest for the wrestlers to make their mark.
In order for the show to resonate, the two masked, mystery wrestlers were asked to put on an entertaining match without the benefit of either the spoken word or facial expressions. Laroux admitted to slightly altering his style to avoid any obvious tells that he was working the match. Yet the match delivered, and it was only enhanced by the commentary team of Dylan Hales and “Denver Colorado” Drew Cordeiro. The addition of a three-person panel, featuring AEW star Kris Statlander, Billy Dixon and Mr. Brickster, also brought intrigue to the eventual unmasking as they analyzed the potential identity of each masked wrestler.
Hosted by the talented Larry Legend and officiated by IWTV senior official Kris Levin, the show stood out for its high-end production level while never losing the charm of independent wrestling. In just over 22 minutes, the opening episode was a hit.
“I was a little nervous taking off the mask. People there didn’t know who was under the mask,” says Laroux, who hinted that his next appearance will be for Beyond Wrestling’s Tournament for Tomorrow show in November, while he is also training for his first jiu-jitsu competition. “The concept is great, and I’m really happy I could be part of it.”
Robin Christensen-Roussimoff reflects on her father Andre the Giant’s role in The Princess Bride
For those seeking a movie recommendation to pass the hours indoors, a safe bet is The Princess Bride, which features wrestling icon Andre the Giant.
The fairytale of a film hit theaters in September 1987, only months after Andre wrestled Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania III. He was perfectly cast in the role of lovable villain Fezzik, a giant who plays a critical role in the capture of the princess bride Buttercup.
When the film hit theaters, moviegoers and critics alike were happily surprised at the levity and joy Andre brought to each of his scenes. And one person in particular was especially surprised to see him star in that role.
Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, who is Andre’s daughter, first learned of her father’s role while sitting in the theater.
“I was eight years old, and the funny thing is I didn’t know about it until it came out,” Christensen-Roussimoff says, brilliantly capturing life prior to the invention of social media. “My mom took me to see the movie, and I still remember the scene when they were about to kidnap Buttercup. Very loudly, I said, ‘That’s my dad!”
No matter where wrestling took her father, which often was far out of the reach of his loving daughter, Christensen-Roussimoff delighted in watching the trials and tribulations of Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, Fezzik and Miracle Max as the pages of a grandfather’s story to his grandson came alive on-screen, with her own flesh and blood playing a key role in its success.
“My dad was extremely, extremely proud of that role,” Christensen-Roussimoff says. “In a way, he kind of got to be himself as Fezzik. He was very lovable. Everyone put their whole heart into their roles, and it showed.”
Longtime Andre fans will know that his only tag team title reign in WWE took place alongside Haku as part of Bobby “the Brain” Heenan’s Colossal Connection. That run ended spectacularly in an all-time great moment at WrestleMania VI when Andre definitively decided that he was going to ride away alone following a title loss to Demolition. But it is not inconceivable to think he had an even more dynamic tag partner in the ambidextrous Inigo Montoya, who added his own unique blend of magic to the film.
“He was paired with such wonderful actors, like Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes and even Billy Crystal,” Christensen-Roussimoff says. “They all fed off of each other.
“The film gave him an opportunity to relax. He felt like he was a farm boy again. He was able to be himself.”
Despite the passing of over 30 years, The Princess Bride has aged like a fine wine, remaining a timeless story of the roving identity of the Dread Pirate Roberts, the quest for true love and a reminder that, unless someone is trying to sell you something, life is pain.
“Almost a year ago, I went to a screening in Brooklyn when I was in the area doing a convention, and Cary asked me to come by,” Christensen-Roussimoff says. “My favorite scene is when they’re at Miracle Max’s place, and Carol Kane comes out screaming, ‘Liar!’ All these years later, I still love that film.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- WWE’s two best storylines are Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman on SmackDown and the Fiend and Alexa Bliss on Raw. There is clearly a well-laid plan with both of these storylines, which is great to see—though equally frustrating with the lack of cohesive stories elsewhere on the shows.
- Another highlight from WWE programming was the incredibly compelling New Day segment from SmackDown.
- Three WWE facilities appeared on a list of 17 businesses currently being investigated by the Orange County (Fla.) Department of Health as potential sites of significant COVID-19 spread. WWE provided a statement to ABC affiliate WFTV.
- For the second straight year, Kota Ibushi was victorious in the G1 Climax. Next up for Ibushi is a matchup against “Switchblade” Jay White on November 7 at the Power Struggle show, where his contract for a shot at both the IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental championships will be at stake.
- In addition to crowning its new G1 winner, New Japan Pro Wrestling also made news by announcing that the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom will be a two-day event for the second straight year, taking place on Jan. 4 and 5, 2021.
- One more NJPW note: Could this interview be hinting at a Hiroshi Tanahashi–Jon Moxley match for the IWGP United States championship? And where would Kenta factor into the equation?
- Cody Rhodes and Orange Cassidy delivered an old-school collar-and-elbow lock-up in their match last week on Dynamite. The match also showcased both talents, ending in a 20-minute draw that keeps Cassidy’s momentum alive following his pay-per-view win last month against Chris Jericho.
- As Sasha Banks and Bayley build to a must-see match at Sunday’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, it was also special to see the two grace the cover of Pro Wrestling Illustrated for their annual Women’s 100 edition.
- Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view takes place this Saturday, and there is a lot to like on the card. I’m really looking forward to watching how Eric Young defends the world title against Rich Swann. Impact continues to elevate its status in wrestling, and a show-defining world title match in the main event would definitely add to that cause.
- A.J. Styles has a new bodyguard: the 7' 3" Jordan Omogbehin, who played college basketball at South Florida.
- How much would this sell for on eBay?
- Did anyone else enjoy Elias’s concert? All these years, I thought heel wrestlers’ concerts were supposed to be bad.
- Congrats to those at the Dark Side of The Ring series, who will have ample opportunity to share more stories in their 14-episode third season.
- For those interested: I had the chance to join longtime friend Jimmy Stewart on his Wrestling Inside the Ropes podcast.
- Personal story: I lost a close friend in high school to brain cancer. He was a devoted wrestling fan and received an incredible boost while he was sick from his phone conversations with Mick Foley. Decades later, as I was interviewing Mick for a story, I mentioned the connection—and he still remembered details about his conversations with my friend Mike.
Conrad Thompson previews this week’s edition of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard
A new episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard is set for this Friday, as Prichard and co-host Conrad Thompson discuss the fourth-ever In Your House, which took place in October 1995.
The show was headlined by “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith challenging WWF champion Diesel, a match that runs nearly twenty minutes yet ends in a disqualification. But this show, which took place in Winnipeg, will be forever remembered for the rumors surrounding Shawn Michaels’s absence.
ECW pillar Shane Douglas had recently signed with WWE, working as Dean Douglas, and he was in the midst of a high-profile program with Michaels, the intercontinental champion. That match never took place as advertised, as Michaels was allegedly beaten up by a group of Marines leading up to the show.
“It’s impossible to tell the story of this pay-per-view without getting into the details of that story about Shawn,” Thompson says. “It’s bigger than the show.”
Michaels relinquished the title, which was awarded to Douglas, before he quickly dropped it on the pay-per-view to Razor Ramon.
The story goes that there was palpable friction between Douglas and Michaels, to the point where Michaels, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall used their backstage sway to squash any potential plans for Douglas.
“It looked like Douglas was a can’t-miss talent, but all WWE did was miss on him,” Thompson says. “Even that Dean Douglas character seemed silly. I really want to hear Bruce talk about that.”
Thompson is eager to hear Prichard explore this era for WWE. While it was only a few years removed from the peak of Hulkamania, this marks a definitive down time for WWE.
“They’re really on the decline,” Thompson says. “Vince had just beat the federal government and it feels like that’s a victory, but he comes home to a broken home. He’s losing all kinds of money with his company, and it’s not going to turn around anytime soon. This is one of WWE’s worst years. Vince kept betting on himself and eventually it paid off, but that’s hard to tell from watching this show.”
Tweet of the Week
I hope wrestling brought joy to Amanda, who courageously fought cancer on four different occasions.