EXCLUSIVE: Tracy Williams talks ROH’s handling of the pandemic, working with a torn labrum, EVOLVE being acquired

Ring of Honor's Tracy Williams spoke with Andrew Thompson about Ring of Honor's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, EVOLVE being acquired by WWE, working through most of 2019 injured and a good portion of ground was covered regarding Tracy's career as an in-ring performer.

 

February 29th was the last time that Ring of Honor hosted a live event before the COVID-19 breakout started in North America. Throughout the period between then and now, they’ve aired episodes of ROH television on a weekly basis on their syndicated network under the Sinclair Broadcast Group banner.

Prior to the pandemic, one individual who was making his presence felt in Ring of Honor was Tracy Williams who’s a member of the company’s ‘Lifeblood’ faction. Tracy debuted for Ring of Honor in late 2018 in their Survival of the Fittest tournament. It was not long after his debut that Ring of Honor offered Tracy a contract and he signed on with the company. I had the opportunity to chat with Tracy recently and he revealed that for the greater portion of his 2019 with Ring of Honor, he worked with a torn labrum in his hip. Williams feels that for months, he was not able to live up to his potential because of the injury and with the time off that he currently has, it’s bittersweet because he’s been able to rest and heal but a chunk of the professional portion of his 2020 has been taken away so he hasn’t been able to make up for 2019.

“In a way, but I spent a lot of 2019 working injured. I had a torn labrum in my hip that I worked through and that was like months and months of not being able to feel like I was living up to my potential and giving my all in the ring because I was held back by the injury but now that I feel healthy and I feel that I was actually fully healed up from that and ready to go, now I’m forced to have downtime so, while it is nice not to have to worry about being injured, the timing of it was a little like, ‘Oh, well now’s the time where I could have been going all out and doing that’ but instead, I’m like forced to rest so you know, you can’t complain about rest but having a 2019 that I feel like my performances in the ring were kind of marred by an injury, it’s rough to miss so much of 2020 now.”

POST Wrestling has an interview up on the site with Fred Yehi. During the interview, Fred shared kind words about his former tag team partner Tracy Williams as a professional and as an individual. Tracy returned the favor and spoke highly of Fred and mentioned how he hopes that down the line, Ring of Honor will follow up on their initial plans and bring Yehi in for the ROH Pure Title tournament when it happens. Williams reflected on he and Yehi’s time in EVOLVE and tied everything back around to where they are now in their respective careers.

“I think he’s one of the most slept on talents in professional wrestling. He’s got something like —

He’s a humble guy, but he’s got something that you don’t see that often and I feel like he gets it in a way that I wanna see so many other people get it and so, I was really looking forward to him having that platform in the Pure tournament and I imagine he still will. I know that’s the other thing that he’s a workhorse and he’ll do whatever it takes to get to where he needs to get to do these things so whether it means driving nine hours in the middle of a pandemic, I know he’s a guy that’ll do it and I saw him do similar things to that with that sort of tenacity and drive the whole time we were together in EVOLVE, and I found it really inspiring. I mean just even like seeing him, he was so dedicated. I would show up to the building at call time and when I walked in the door, Fred had already been warming up for like an hour. He’s already dripping in sweat in his warm-up clothes and I’m walking in the door and it was inspiring to see, so yeah that’s the kind of guy that coming into the Pure tournament, I was really excited to see somebody like that have that stage and hopefully get to mix it up with him again because in wrestling, your paths take you in different directions and you go from seeing somebody several times a month, like every week to not seeing them for a couple years and that’s what happened with Fred and I. Like we were stablemates for a long time, on tons of shows together and all of a sudden, our careers took different paths and so now for those paths to re-converge, if we could face off in the Ring of Honor Pure Title tournament, kind of a dream come true really. I think that’s where both of us should be so, it would be an honor. Sorry, pardon the pun, to cross paths with him again.”

While mentioning EVOLVE, Tracy Williams is a former two-time tag team champion in the promotion and was a member of the Catch Point stable that included the likes of Matt Riddle, Fred Yehi, Drew Gulak, TJP and Malcolm Bivens. Tracy debuted in EVOLVE in 2014 and was a part of the promotion up until he joined Ring of Honor.

EVOLVE was recently acquired by the WWE and Tracy was asked for his thoughts about his former home promotion being sold. Williams stated that it’s bittersweet because of all the memories he has with EVOLVE but it’s a good thing because of the opportunities that could arise for those who were working with the promotion prior to it being acquired.

“I’m so fond of my whole time there. I mean it’s just like nothing but gratitude for that platform and it was another place where similar to Ring of Honor now, I felt like I really had some of the freedom and space to do what I wanted to do and I felt comfortable bringing anything to the table and pitching anything. There was no glass ceiling so-to-speak or anything like that and I think that’s really important for professional wrestling because at the end of the day, we’re all creative people, we’re all artists for lack of a better word and so, it really created a space for people to shine and it did that up until it got acquired and it got acquired for a reason, because it was the place where people took that next step and took that turn in their career and we’re given that spotlight to do what they could do and they did that for me and I have nothing but gratitude. I mean, especially, you know I worked up to the position of running the seminars and tryouts for EVOLVE for a long time and even though I was in the position of leading the in-ring stuff and all that but it was really a learning experience but I got the opportunity to speak with and listen to so many great minds that were brought in to do those seminars with me and to really fill that mentor role as the true vet. Norman Smiley came through and spoke, William Regal came through many times and those guys — Robbie Brookside came through and all those guys, especially Regal just like, they have such a wealth of knowledge that they can dip into and pour out and so, to have the opportunity several times throughout my career there to sit and experience guys like that, share their knowledge and view on professional wrestling was really a learning experience. It is values and knowledge that I take with me wherever my path leads me and I’m grateful for that so, in a way it’s bittersweet to see them get acquired because the company itself will no longer exist but, it’s kind of a positive end to it really. I think a lot of people that were working there currently will also get some good opportunities out of it-it seems. I think I just saw like Anthony Greene got signed by WWE. You know, that’s awesome. That’s the kind of guy where if it wasn’t for a place like EVOLVE — they’re the ones that gave him that spotlight and that opportunity.”

The likes of Joe Hendry, PJ Black, Session Moth Martina and several other Ring of Honor talents have spoken about how well the company has treated them and taken care of them since they signed on and through the pandemic. Williams spoke about his experience with ROH thus far and praised the vibe that comes from the locker room and added that there’s no tension backstage from what he can tell. Tracy added that he’s always felt that he can go to the powers that be in Ring of Honor and pitch an idea and there’s always an open discussion in response to his request[s]. He further detailed his experiences with ROH when asked about how the company has treated him throughout his time there.

“I only actually got through the door in Ring of Honor a little over a year ago, taking into account the whole pandemic thing but I had a little over a year actually like in-ring, in the locker room there so I don’t really have an idea of how it was before then but it’s definitely like, I really value the fact that there’s no sort of tension in the air backstage. You don’t feel like somebody’s looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to slip up and mess up, which is really valuable to feel like you have [that] comfort and that freedom and that everybody back there really just wants the company to be the best that it could be and to put out the best product that they can and so, that sort of vibe and that sort of environment really helps. It’s nice showing up to work and feeling that way and I’m not talking down to any other promotions. I’ve never really worked for a promotion that had that sort of level of tension, but it just stands out in Ring of Honor how sort of together everybody feels backstage and how everybody really just wants this to work and to succeed and you know, to back everybody up, to back their peers up and yeah, so along with that lack of tension comes a lot of creative freedom which is really nice. Like I said, I always feel like I can pitch something if I want to pitch something and there’s that sort of open forum of discussion which is really great and yeah, like you said, they’ve done an amazing job of handling this pandemic situation I think. It’s a bit of a bummer I think probably for the viewers at home that there isn’t that live wrestling content but, it really says something that they’ve — ROH has taken the opportunity to really look at the situation and evaluate things before rushing back and that’s no shade to anybody that’s out there wrestling. I’d be wrestling right now as well, but it’s just nice that they’ve taken care of everybody, they’ve taken their time with the pandemic and they’re being very patient and I think when they come back, they’re gonna have a much better grasp of things and really kick it off so…”

In between his late 2018-to-now stretch in Ring of Honor, New York’s own Tracy Williams got the opportunity to wrestle inside of Madison Square Garden at the G1 Supercard show that ROH put on with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Tracy Williams was the 19th entrant in the ‘Honor Rumble’ battle royal that featured Minoru Suzuki, The Great Muta and Jushin Thunder Liger. Tracy explained how much it meant to him to wrestle inside of a building that he attended shows in as a child and walked past quite often as a teenager. It was a “cathartic” moment as Tracy described it and a moment in time that he initially found hard to put into words.

“It was… it’s hard to put into words how it was. Especially, I grew up in New York City, you know? I was born and raised here so the first wrestling show I ever went to was a WWF house show in Madison Square Garden, and that was when I was first really falling in love with wrestling and it’s this place that I’ve walked past 1,000 times in my life, you know? You catch the train there, it’s like right above Penn Station. It’s just this monster that’s looming over your whole life as a New Yorker and it’s this place — they call it the Mecca, and to get the chance to do that, earn the chance to do that and then have that be a part of my career and for it to be a sold-out Madison Square Garden, not under the banner of the one company that’s run that building for so long and sort of had the grip on that building, it really just shows like I was saying before how the doors are blown open and now anything can happen and that arena was sold-out to see people from New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor wrestling in Madison Square Garden, and even the day before, we did a press conference in the building that’s now called the Hulu [Theater], it’s attached to MSG. I walked in there and I had the realization when I walked in like, ‘Oh, this is where the Lions Den match was held between Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart’ and all that kind of stuff is just like, ‘Oh, this is history’ and then to walk down the aisle, slide in the ring and to square off with Minoru Suzuki in the middle of Madison Square Garden in front of a sold-out crowd…

It was a taste. It was like, ‘Oh, this is what it should be and this is possible and this is real’ and yeah, it was a really cathartic experience and it’s kind of that feather you have in the cap that it just kind of legitimatizes a lot of the work that you put in to be able to explain to people, ‘This is what I do and this is what it is.’ It was amazing.”

The video version of this interview can be watched at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel. Tracy Williams can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @sauce_williams.

Tracy Williams also has a merchandise store on the Big Cartel site that can be found at this link.

About Andrew Thompson 540 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.