Ring of Honor powerhouse Moose on transitioning from the NFL field to the pro-wrestling ring

Ring of Honor Moose Lori Acken
Image: RIng of Honor

As a precocious eight-year-old, Quinn Ojinnaka was enthralled by the larger-than-life characters of pro wrestling. It wasn’t enough just to see. This was something the youngster wanted to do.

Photo: Lee South
Photo: Lee South

And so. after his time in the NFL the six-foot-five, 300-pound specimen changed his career trajectory from the gridiron to the ring. He decided to go all-in, finally pursuing his dream. Now Ojinnaka, better known as Moose, is quickly emerging as one of Ring of Honor’s premiere stars.

“Some people supported me. Others didn’t understand and thought I was being stupid,” he said. “All the responses I got motivated me, whether it was hate, love or uncertainty.

“The hardest thing was finding a school close by for me,” he continued. “The rest was history. Once I decided it was something I wanted to do, I was dedicated to do everything it took to make it.”

The driven upstart’s journey began with trainer Curtis Hughes and the WWA4 Wrestling School in Atlanta. For Moose, hitting the ropes was an adjustment. He didn’t realize it was so difficult; plus, it made his back hurt.  Within the last two years or so, Ojinnaka began to come into his own as a performer. The Moose character is an extension of himself, but turned up. ROH officials were impressed with his progress, as well as his ability to mix agility and power.

“The whole Ring of Honor staff has helped me,” Ojinnaka said.

“I’ve learned the importance of being patient. When you start out, you have this line of thinking that you should be wrestling in the best promotions from the jump. It’s not always like that. I had to be patient and keep working. Then once that time came, I got to work for companies like Dragon Gate USA and Ring of Honor…. I have my friends I talk to in the industry to get insight with Apollo Crews being one and Ricochet being another. Even some guys on the roster in ROH I talk to for advice. That’s the great thing about ROH is we are all there to help each other out.”

Ojinnaka’s biggest career highlight thus far was joining the ROH contingent in Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was also honored to face Kazuchika Okada stateside at ROH’s 14th Anniversary Show. The mutual respect led to the two teaming up against Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi at the company’s event featuring NJPW 8 p.m. ET Sunday, May 8 at Global Wars on pay-per-view.

Photo: Ring of Honor
Photo: Ring of Honor

“Japan was awesome,” Ojinnaka said.

“They treated me well. It was one of those things going there I didn’t know how they were going to take to me, but they accepted me pretty well. It was a little bit of a culture shock. But as far as wrestling, when you do it in a different country you acclimate quickly so it doesn’t mess up what you have to do in the ring. Then it got better when I wrestled Okada, which was my favorite moment so far.”

The 32-year-old’s football background helped prepare him from a conditioning standpoint. His success has made him a valuable asset to ROH. With his current contract coming up later this year, there is speculation about whether Moose will stay with the company or venture elsewhere.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “I’m just having fun right now and when the time comes up, we’ll see what happens.”

When asked about WWE talks, he responds with,  “I can’t talk about that.” But Ojinnaka did say he’d like to go there, sooner or later.

“I know there is no rush,” he said.

“WWE isn’t going anywhere. They will always be there. As of right now though I’m with Ring of Honor, and I’m not thinking about anything other than getting better in the ring right now.”

The committed ROH talent is driven to continue to grow and evolve as a wrestler. His social presence is proof of that. Whether it’s reflections on a past match, a look at his diet or a workout Instagram, Ojinnaka hopes to inspire others to do great things. Moose is humbled by the praise he has gotten from the likes of Kurt Angle, Santino Marella and Jeff Jarrett. It makes him work harder.

Another supporter is Scott Hall, who a young Ojinnaka idolized while watching him in WWE as Razor Ramon. “He is actually a good buddy of mine now,” he said.

Photo: Devin Chen
Photo: Devin Chen

“It is awesome feeling knowing you have a legend and WWE Hall of Famer on your side. His charisma was off the chain. He had this swagger about him. That’s something I try to emulate and make my own. His charisma and swagger is on another level. The best advice he told me was make everything you do in the ring mean something. You just don’t do it to do it. I always remember that when I go out there.”

  • Watch ROH at Midnight ET Wednesdays on Comet TV or in syndication via Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates. The company also recently announced a new partnership with Fight Network in Canada, which will air ROH 11 p.m. ET Tuesdays.
  • Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.