On April 5th, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling held their G1 Supercard Festival of Honor at Madison Square Garden to celebrate their milestone event on the eve of G1 Supercard. Fans packed out the Hulu Theater to partake in Q&A sessions and meet-and-greets with a variety of RoH and NJPW’s most bankable superstars. Among the personalities in attendance were New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr., and Jushin “Thunder” Liger – drawing crowds that stretched out of the Hulu Theater’s auditorium in some cases.
The stars of Ring of Honor took the time to speak with the press about the significance of the G1 Supercard emanating from Madison Square Garden. Jay Lethal, the defending Ring of Honor World Champion, and Matt Taven, one of the challengers to Lethal’s title, offered some poignant thoughts on the eve of their triple threat main event in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Defending Champion or New Champion?
“To me, and there’s been this big debate, especially in my house. The debate was: ‘Isn’t it cooler to win the belt at the big one versus going into the big event as the champion?’ Now, I’m a big believer that going into the event as the champion is the cooler story.
Sure, if you’re the underdog and the cameras are following you around – you can get some good footage of you walking around without the belt and then you can finally do it. But to me, there’s never enough stories about following that champion around. He’s about to go into the biggest show that he’s ever done, in the company’s history, and that, to me, is so much cooler.
They’ve got to beat you! You’re the man and you’re walking into the big one as The Man! Forget about the last thing they see – you’re the first thing they see, walking out with that belt.”
Combating the Plateau
“That’s terrifying. As the Ring of Honor Heavyweight Champion, I’ve got this extra added stress. I had this stress even when I wasn’t champion. With the belt, it’s more stressful to me to make sure the company doesn’t plateau. To make the company keeps on producing matches people consider to be legendary. That’s a big fear of mine. That’s one of the things that’s on my back.
Every time I go to the ring, I don’t want to consider myself a failure for allowing the company to plateau or go down this downward trend when I’m at the helm. I’m the champ and I’m the one leading the charge. I can’t let that happen on my watch.
How do I not plateau or go on a downward slope? It’s to conduct business as usual. That’s because every wrestler on this roster, myself included, we’ve got one main goal in mind: make the company as big as we can possibly make it. You don’t do that by phoning it in or because there’s five or ten people in the crowd. You have to give everything you got knowing everything the guys gave before you that came here.”
Finding The Moments
“With wrestling, you never really have the chance to be like, ‘Oh okay, that’s cool that I did that’ because it’s on to the next thing. Joe (Koff) was talking about how as soon as it’s over, it’s on to Pittsburgh and Columbus, and it’s like ‘Wow. I really won’t have much chance to eat ice cream and have a pizza” because that’s all I’ve been looking forward to once Madison Square Garden’s done before the next thing happens.
I feel like I’ve truly, honestly, felt like the Ring of Honor Champion for the past 9 months. At the same time, none of that I’ll be able to look at fondly if I don’t take the title from the top of the most famous arena in the world. It would feel like a mission incomplete. Yeah, it’s been a great year, but there’s only one way it can end to truly feel like I accomplished my goals in the way I wanted to.”
The Spirit of Bret Hart
“If there’s a picture of me, on top of a ladder, in a sold out Madison Square Garden, taking down the Ring of Honor title, could I ask for much more than that? It just happens to have happened in the same building that Bret Hart won his title at ‘WrestleMania X’. I’ve been a lunatic fan my entire life. I’ve seen a million matches happen in Madison Square. So, for me, to finally have one of those memories that you and all your wrestling friends talk about – if I can have that moment, it’ll feel like this journey has come to this place for a reason.
I don’t really collect a lot of memorabilia from my wrestling career. But you better believe the picture of me taking down the title from Madison Square Garden will be framed in my living room for everyone in my house to see.”
G1 Supercard airs from Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 6, 2019, at 7:30 PM ET/ 4:30 PT. The show will air LIVE on pay-per-view via cable and satellite, as well as on pay-per-view via FITE TV and through RoH’s Honor Club.
All pics courtesy of Anton Jackson