Ring of Honor’s Jay Lethal on making history at All-Star Extravaganza VII PPV

Scott Fishman

Jay Lethal will tell you the greatest night of his life was when he won the Ring of Honor world championship on June 19, 2015 in New York City.

It was a culmination of hard work and sacrifice for the 30-year-old who began his journey into professional wrestling 15 years ago. Lethal, real name Jamar Shipman had the support of his parents Ronald and Shirley when he decided to pursue his dream.

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The performer’s family was ringside to witness the milestone moment as he celebrated holding not only the ROH television championship, but securing the world title. He will defend both prized possessions in two separate matches at All-Star Extravaganza VII live 9/8CT Friday, Sept. 18 on pay-per-view.

“I’ve never been married. I don’t have any kids. So winning the Ring of Honor world championship was the best,” he said.

“To top it off, my parents were in the crowd. That was the coolest part about it because from my very first day of wrestling training I ever went, my dad was there. He sat in the back and recorded it. He would go to every single practice that I had. Literally, starting on day one, my dad has been there. I’ve been wrestling for about 15 years now, and for six whole years straight, every single show that I had ever been on. Whether it was a five-minute car ride or 15-hour car ride, my dad went to every single one of them. It wasn’t until I started getting booked in Florida that he couldn’t make that drive all the time. He was there on the road with me.

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“We’ve both seen Ring of Honor from. We’ve seen Ring of Honor grow. We’ve seen different champions. We’ve seen different people come in and out of Ring of Honor. So it was so cool to finally have my moment. A moment that I’ve watched every wrestler I looked up to like Samoa Joe, CM Punk and Brian Danielson have. I watched them make their speech after the match and winning the championship, what a feeling. I got to do that.”

Lethal recalls the days when his father would take off work or leave early just to drive him to Jersey All Pro Wrestling’s school.

“After I won, my dad was crying because he was so proud and happy for me,” he said.

“My parents are the kind of people that, even though it’s available to them, they don’t like knowing what was going to happen. They want to be fans. They said any time they’ve been involved in any angle that I’ve done, which has been a few times, or I let them know ahead of time what is going to happen so they don’t get worried, they no longer become a fan. Then they are working so to speak. They hate it when they can’t be a fan and enjoy the show. That day I didn’t tell them what was going on, which was cool.”

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After spending much of his career as a fan favorite, Lethal took a different turn by joining up with the villainous Truth Martini and heading up “The House of Truth.” He has enjoyed the transition.

“In wrestling being the good guy is the harder of the two,” Lethal said.

“What a world we live in where it’s easier to get someone to hate you than it is to get them to like you. So being the good guy I think is harder given human nature. I have had years of practice, and I feel I’ve gotten good at being the bad guy. But deep down inside, we all want to be the bad guy at a certain point of time. Since I’ve been a good guy for so many years, that meant I’ve been in the ring with many of the bad guys. Guys like Ric Flair.

“After all these years, I got to compile a list of the things I loved from some of the guys that I wrestled. So my heel character is little bits and pieces of what I liked from that particular person. I’m also a huge fan of Ric Flair. He was one of my idols growing up. I wanted to be Ric Flair. So it’s easy to see a lot of his influence with what I’m doing now. My second run in Ring of Honor I didn’t know Truth Martini until I got here. I fell in love with his work. Who is this guy? I loved what he was doing and begged to work with him. That was turned down a few times. In wrestling, you just keep asking and finally get it.”

JAYLETHAL_2The dual-champion has flourished working against a diverse mix of opponents, from emerging talent to established names.

When asked who in particular he has been impressed by Lethal doesn’t want to give one answer. He describes ROH as a team effort with the talented roster trying to climb up the figurative hill. With WWE at the top, he says it’s a grittier climb where everyone in the company is willing to go further. It drives them. Spoken like a true quarterback.

“There is still a lot that I don’t know. There is still a lot that I’m learning. You are always learning in wrestling,” Lethal said.

“I feel like nobody should be referring to me as the locker room leader or veteran, but it’s almost that role I’ve fallen into because of the spot on the show that I am on. I get to work with a lot of the up-and-comers or younger guys on the roster or guys not mainly featured as much. I love the role that I’m in. I just don’t like the name. There is still a lot I don’t know. You are always learning. One of the hardest things to nail down is learning how the crowd will react to certain things because there is no 100 percent on that.”

Audiences watching Destination America 11/10CT on a recent Wednesday night were treated to Lethal’s incredible ROH title defense against Roderick Strong. The two have been in a series of competitive bouts, going the distance and turned heads.

“Every time I step into the ring with Roderick Strong he brings it out of me,” Lethal.

“I feel like I have to step up my level of everything. Roddy is one of the greatest performers ever. His cardio and conditioning, he is an athlete. I’ve been in the ring with guys like Kurt Angle. They refer to guys like him as a machine. Roderick Strong is definitely cut from that same cloth. Sometimes you just can’t explain it. You just have to be in the ring with him. If you were to list wrestlers who are the best athletes, Roderick Strong is at the top of the list. He is just a natural born competitor. He is an athlete who gives it his all. Every time we wrestle, I love it. We have such great chemistry. We’ve known each other for a long time. Not many people know that. I’ve known Roderick Strong for 13 years.”

ROH_All_Star_Extravaganza_VII_posterThe self-proclaimed “Greatest First Generation Wrestler” will have his biggest test at All-Star Extravaganza VII. He puts the TV championship on the line against Bobby Fish and then the ROH world title versus Kyle O’Reilly.

“I’m a little nervous,” Lethal said.

“This Friday I have a chance to make history because I hold the number one and number two championships in Ring of Honor. On Friday, I have to defend each belt separately. I don’t think in the history of professional wrestling this has ever been done where a champion successfully defends both championships in two separate matches. So if I can do that, I believe I will be in a boat of my own.

“Although guys like Rob Van Dam had the ECW television title and tag team title. That doesn’t really count because I’m not a tag team wrestler. I’m talking about the number one and number two belts. Mike Awesome also had the world title and tag team title. I’m not sure if they defended them separately in two different matches on the same night. If I can do that, I will be in a boat all my own, which is a little nerve-racking and cool to think about. If it doesn’t happy, it’s still making history because it’s rarely done.”

ROH alum Seth Rollins will be in a similar situation when he defends the United States title against John Cena and the WWE world title against Sting two days later at the Night of Champions.

“If that is actually where WWE got the idea from, I’m honored,” Lethal said of the coincidence.

“I’m honored they saw something that was cool and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ There would be no way I could be upset at that. It would be like when I did my Ric Flair impression if he told me he hated it. Thank God he didn’t because he saw it as me honoring him.”

Speaking of WWE, the internet talk has been the sports entertainment juggernaut is interested in Lethal.

“I’ll say also if that is true, I’m honored,” he said.

“To be wanted in professional wrestling, that’s all a wrestler can really ask for. Just to be wanted, it’s a great feeling. So if that’s true, I’m honored. I haven’t heard anything about that myself. Would you work for WWE? I’ve answered this question before. To me the answer is still the same.

“When I became a fan, it was because I watched the WWF as a fan growing up. It helped create this love growing up that I have for professional wrestling, much like everyone from my era. All the guys I’ve wrestled today. To say it wouldn’t be cool to work with or for the company that helped create my love for professional wrestling, I would say that I was lying. So given the chance and if the timing was right, sure I would definitely work for or with them. I got to say by the same token, I’m on cloud 9 right now. I’m undisputed champion of a company that’s known around the world. Not for its storylines, music or entrance. I’m the world champion of a company known around the world for its wrestling. What an honor to get to say that.”