Ring of Honor press conference notes: Castagnoli, Shibata, Athena and Tony Khan speak

Image Courtesy: ROH

Claudio Castagnoli

Castagnoli largely spoke in character, saying that the Blackpool Combat Club were “on a different level” and that he would still hold the ROH World Championship a year from now.

He commented that Eddie Kingston “wasn’t ready” and nor was Mark Briscoe, but was happy to get his hands on PAC.

Castagnoli said that the BCC had a group chat where they exchange new moves and new ways to improve. He added that he had to be on his toes being in a group with two of the best wrestlers in the world in Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson, and with someone as hungry as Wheeler Yuta.

When asked whether he was aware of the impact he had on international fans as a Swiss champion, he answered:

Yes, I am and I have always been very conscious of the fact that there are a lot of international viewers, especially from Europe, especially from Switzerland and Germany — but I feel like all over the world — that kind of look up to what I’m doing because it’s a crazy thing to do for a Swiss person and it’s a crazy thing to do for a European to do this.

I feel like a lot of people who have dreams that may seem completely out of reach, they see me do it and they feel that’s something they can achieve as well, and it’s those little things that motivate me, it’s those little things that keep me going.

On keeping the Blackpool Combat Club name after William Regal left, he commented:

There was not one second of us thinking of changing the name. That’s who we are and that’s our identity. I mean, if one of your friends moved away, you wouldn’t just not be friends with him anymore, right? Especially if you’re going through the stuff that we went through.

Katsuyori Shibata

Shibata spoke a little English, but mostly answered using a translation app on his phone or allowed Tony Khan to speak for him.

On his increasingly hard-hitting style, Khan commented:

Having him as one of the top stars in Ring of Honor and as part of our locker room, it means the world and I think you’re seeing a great champion come alive. The performances we’ve been getting, like you said, they’ve been getting harder and harder hitting but like you said I think that speaks to the revitalization of the great Shibata and he is a great champion in wrestling and so you’ve seen the performances get harder and harder.

It was noted that Shibata had stepped back from his work at the New Japan LA Dojo and was more focused on being an ROH champion.

Khan added that Shibata’s match with Orange Cassidy in Atlantic City with Mike Tyson on commentary was a great way to reintroduce Shibata on American television:

Certainly, we’ve taken it step by step. But like he said, he’s come back. He’s alive. And he feels like, I think, like he said, he’s back. I think the matches have gotten harder-hitting and more impactful. But that speaks to, like, he’s gotten more and more comfortable, which was the goal. And I think it’s gone as well as possible.


Athena admitted to feeling quite emotional about the ROH Women’s World Championship match main-eventing the show:

I’m just very thrilled right now and it’s very hard for me to articulate things. So, I’m trying not to cry. I’m trying not to be a sad sap. But this meant the world to me. I’ve never gotten a main event in my entire career on a pay-per-view.

When Tony approached me a couple weeks ago about, like, “Hey, this is it, we’re giving you the ball,” it meant so much to be given that opportunity because it felt like me and Willow earned something.

She was asked about the significance of two women of color being in the main event:

I’ve said it before — representation is key, right? When I was starting out on the independent scene, I remember being the only African American woman on every show I was on and they were like, “No, you’re that person. You’re an African American woman on this show.” And it was just a niche thing.

And to see how much it’s blossomed, it’s not about race, it’s about your ability and your talent in the ring, it’s awesome. And to be given that platform, not only as an African American woman, as a woman, as a performer, in being able to deliver, that’s what matters.

And everyone that’s looking at home, whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, I want everyone to take this opportunity and look and say, “I can do it. I can do anything I set my mind to.”

When asked about the “love letters” to former female ROH talent during the match, Athena said:

I ended up having the pleasure of getting to wrestle MsChif in Texas on a show for ACW for the American Queen of Queens Tournament. And she enjoyed that match so much, she actually got me to Shimmer and Ring of Honor. So MsChif basically made Athena a bigger name, not to mention women like Sara del Rey, who was a force to be reckoned with. She wasn’t your normal wrestler at that time. She was powerful. She was strong.

You have Alexis Laree, which was the whole reason that Ring of Honor started having women’s wrestling because they saw something special. There were so many other women as well. We even did a shout-out to Daffney. Like Allison Danger, these women inspired me, Sumie Sakai, these women inspired me to be more than just a pretty face, that women could be gorgeous and beautiful, strong and powerful and go out there and just kick ass. And to me, those women don’t get enough credit.

We talk about the Ring of Honor Championship when that was introduced, and Maria Kanellis. Alexis Laree is Mickey James, a woman that transformed this industry. Sara del Rey, who is now coaching, has transformed this whole industry.

I felt that it was so necessary for us to have that love letter to them. Daizee Haze, like these women inspired everyone. And you can see just across the board, if you go look up just one of these women, you can see how that evolution has turned out.

We forget sometimes about what came before. And it’s so important to see those building blocks and just remember that we need to say thank you to them.

Athena added that she would love the opportunity to wrestle Giulia, KAIRI, and Mayu Iwatani, saying that it was a dream of hers to get over to Japan to wrestle.

Firmly back in character, she said that Willow is not in the picture any more and that she would be the “forever ROH Women’s Champion.”

Tony Khan

Khan began by saying that the preliminary buys for the show on HonorClub were “good.” The show was available for purchase on HonorClub, Bleacher Report, FITE TV and traditional PPV. He added:

I think this will end up being one of the most successful shows in the history of ROH. But a large percentage of the most successful shows in ROH’s 21-plus year history have been in the past year that I’ve been owning and running and presenting the company. I think that’s come from having a great roster with AEW and also great relationships and wrestling we’ve been able to tap into, including stuff that Ring of Honor has done well in the past.

I think we took it to another level with one of the best main events in ROH and one of the best pay-per-views and certainly, like I said, top stars from New Japan, some top women wrestlers and lucha stars.

He noted that, despite it being a hard-hitting and physical show, everyone was “okay.”

He then promoted some of the upcoming AEW programming, noting that Dynamite was approaching its 200th episode.

On taping ROH episodes alongside Collision, rather than studio tapings, Khan said:

I’m very open to utilizing studio tapings, but I think there’s a lot of benefits to having the ROH crew traveling with the Collision crew. You’re seeing people get opportunities, like the rising stars.

I think I’d be open to going back there [Universal Studios, Orlando]. But I definitely really like doing it at Collision. I think there’s a lot of veteran stars. And when you have some top names that could appear in both, I think that’s great. I probably wouldn’t change much because I think the Saturdays have gone really, really well and that part of that has been shooting the ROH shows and having a mix of veterans and young stars around Collision, which is also a great mix of veterans and young stars.

Khan was asked about the “point of Ring of Honor” in the grand scheme of all the wrestling that is available. He answered:

It’s got a different mission. It’s got a different audience than AEW. It’s maybe more focused to a hardcore audience and I can do things programmed to the hardcores and deliver the kind of wrestling that I know a hardcore fan is going to want to see.

I think AEW speaks to maybe a broader, definitely a bigger and broader worldwide audience. Ring of Honor has a great 21-year history and was at one point in my opinion the number two wrestling company in North America if not the world.

I didn’t want the promotion to disappear because there’s a lot of Ring of Honor fans. And the success of AEW probably changed the course of where Ring of Honor was going to go as a pro wrestling company. But I’m very glad to be the owner of Ring of Honor. And I enjoy booking Ring of Honor, I enjoy booking AEW. They’re different things to a different audience in some ways. And I have different expectations. There’s different business expectations. But they’re both great. And I think they exist very well. And I think they’re very complementary.

He added that the differences between AEW and ROH can be nuanced, but in the case of ROH, highlighted the international cooperation among promotions, a lack of time constraints, and minute-by-minute ratings concerns.

In answer to a question about utilizing Kota Ibushi on the show, he said that Ibushi had only just been introduced in AEW and that it would have been very quick to bring him into ROH.

On narrowing the gap between the number of men’s and women’s matches in both ROH and AEW, Khan said:

I think both companies have featured great stars, great women’s champions. I think most of the Ring of Honor pay-per-views, Athena has now been involved in several great matches, but this was probably the best one yet, so it was very fitting it was the main event. Mercedes Martinez had been a great champion too in ROH.

We’ve had some great women’s champions in AEW. I think it speaks to the quality of the ROH women’s wrestling that the main event tonight was one of the best pay-per-view main events we’ve ever had, and the shows have all been great and it stood there with one of the great matches.

So, you know, hopefully we can continue. I think it takes a great rivalry and a great match to build to that.

On providing a platform for up-and-coming indie talent, Khan commented:

I have always wanted to feature the top independent wrestlers, people on the cutting edge and we’ve been able to make a lot of stars that way. Take people that have done well in the independents, also take people that were, more frankly, obscure as far as national recognition, and then package them up and have them be very successful.

Some of them are champions in AEW and now in Ring of Honor too. And I think there’s a lot of people that came up that way. So whether in Ring of Honor, it’s the Gates of Agony or, in AEW, Powerhouse Hobbs, The Acclaimed, and many others, and then giving opportunities to people who are heralded independent wrestlers like Eddie Kingston, Ricky Starks, Willow Nightingale, and a lot of other people, a lot of great people in AEW over the years with really good eyes that brought people to our attention.

And when I’ve seen people, whether it was in AEW or ROH, that clicked with the audience, that clicked with the company, that made sense on the TV and for pay-per-view shows, we wanted to give them those opportunities and put people in the spotlight.

About Neal Flanagan 822 Articles
Based in Northern Ireland, Neal Flanagan is a former newspaper journalist and copy editor. In addition to reporting for POST Wrestling, he co-hosts The Wellness Policy podcast with Wai Ting and Jordan Goodman.