When Ring of Honor emerging star Josh Woods was released from WWE, he was devastated
The days that followed were rough for the collegiate amateur turned pro. However, there came a point where he came to the realization that he was down but not out. Woods was determined to follow through on his career aspirations.
“I grew up always wanting to be the best,” he said. “I had already put the time in there, so it didn’t make sense for me to quit after I invested so much of my own time. I talked to Sami Callihan, who is a great guy and was there around the same time in NXT. He just told me there were a lot of opportunities out there and to not be discouraged.
“A lot of guys told me the same thing and reached out to me. I didn’t come from the indies, so I didn’t know much about it. Being in developmental, I had already started that path and didn’t want to quit just because they told me no. I’ve been told no for a bunch of things, but you keep going.”
Woods isn’t quite sure why he got the walking papers from the company. He remembers posing storyline pitches to officials about working with the likes of Tyler Breeze, Tye Dillinger, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. The student of the game kept a notebook and filled it with ideas at the suggestion of Bill DeMott, the head coach at the time. Ideas he may go back to one day. Looking back, he ultimately respects their decision.
“I can speculate, but there are so many people coming in and out. It’s the way it works in this business,” he said.
“There are a lot of guys there, and if they don’t have anything for you, they will release you. I feel that is kind of what happened to me. They are big on the independent circuit and bringing those guys in now. I have a very unique background, so maybe it was hard for them to pitch that a certain way. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
“I was always pitching things and creating ideas for myself. When they released me and told me it wasn’t about my performance, they just wanted me to try to make a name and they would consider bringing me back. It wasn’t on bad terms. It kind of sucked. I was pretty excited to be there. I stuck with it though when others may not have and tried to make the best of it.”
A driven attitude and competitive spirit were instilled in him by parents who served in the military. His dad was in the Navy while mom and stepdad were in the Air Force. Conveniently enough Woods’ mom is an E.R. nurse. Expect family and friends to be in attendance when the Orlando resident joins the rest of the ROH roster for a live event in Fort Lauderdale and television taping in Lakeland on November 11 and 12.
The up-and-comer is always looking to improve, showing the fans he does indeed have “The Goods” to succeed. The nickname he adopted from his high school wrestling coach Rich Mendelson. From those days to MMA and now pro wrestling, it’s something that stuck.
The transition from WWE to the independent scene took some time to adjust. He missed the state-of-the-art Performance Center and the top caliber athletes he trained alongside. There were also the different styles and other aspects of his new environment to get acquitted with. A few months after the WWE exit Woods found out about a Ring of Honor camp. He decided to make the most of the opportunity, investing in himself.
“I put my own money to go to this tryout. I paid for my own hotel, my own flight. I flew up there,” he recalled.
“I did well and got some positive critiques by the guys that were there. Christopher Daniels was one of the guys that were there. B.J. Whitmer, Delirious, Nigel McGuiness. I kept what they said. I call B.J. a lot. He probably gets annoyed when he sees my number pop on his phone. I hit him up all the time about what I can improve on and ask him questions. I always want to learn. I don’t ever want to be stagnant in my career.”
The decision to go to the camp was just the foot in the door he needed. Woods went on to wrestle on ROH shows. He not only competed in the Top Prospect Tournament but won the thing. The upstart joined victors including Mike Bennett, Matt Taven and Donovan Dijak.
“I don’t what I was going to do if I didn’t sign with them,” Woods said. “It’s great to be considered among those guys. I’ve been on shows with winners like Lio Rush and remember watching Taven and all those others. It makes me want to step up because you are considered among the elite guys.”
Woods has not rested on his laurels, hungry to grow and evolve.
“There are so many things that go into being on TV,” he said. “I just learned at WWE and NXT when you are live you’re toward the crowd. When you are on TV, you work the camera a little bit more for the people at home with thousands and millions watching. You don’t want to leave anyone out and when you are wrestling to get the right camera angles. It’s a lot to think about.
“I think it helps me a lot in ROH and with my background. If I just walked out there punching everyone in the face, it would be these two or three-minute matches. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to wrestle. I want to mesh my style with the Ring of Honor style and try to make it my own. It has been a little challenging because you don’t want to make mistakes. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and want to be perfect, so I’m hard on myself. I want to keep up with the pace and adapt. Slowly but surely I’m coming along.”
He is proud of what he has accomplished in the past year since winning the tournament. For Woods, a highlight was facing Kenny King, the Television champion.
“That was a really good match,” Woods said.
“Kenny is really competitive, so it was fun to work with someone who is like that. But ROH can line them up, and I’ll knock them down. I don’t care who they put in front of me. Not sure how humbly I can say that. You have to have confidence because if you don’t believe in yourself, who is going to believe in you?”