Jay Lethal On Insight With Chris Van Vliet: Podcast Recap

Ring of Honor’s Jay Lethal was a recent guest on Chris Van Vliet’s podcast Insight. They talked about what Jay has been up to during the pandemic and how excited he is for fans to return. They also talk about his iconic ‘Black Machismo’ character in TNA, his interactions with Ric Flair and more. The most notable quotes can be found below:

On what has kept him busy while there has been no wrestling:

“Twitch. I have fallen into the Twitch. I stream anything on there, I am not a big Minecraft fan though [laughs]. Among Us is a great game though, it’s a great game of deceit. It’s easy to pass the time. Fall Guys is currently what I am playing. Easy to play but hard to master.”

On the impact of the pandemic and no fans in attendance:

“So here’s the thing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who did this but I put all of my eggs into the wrestling basket. I didn’t have a backup plan, it’s wrestling or it’s nothing. I hope that it isn’t nothing because I don’t want to live on the street. Because all of my eggs were in the wrestling basket, there was sheer panic in my life. I was terrified, because this pandemic had the ability to end wrestling for the foreseeable future. I was terrified, that’s an understatement. Then slowly but surely the shows with no fans became a thing. Wrestling hurts, no ,matter what they tell you. No matter how long you have trained, it hurts. The fans give you a boost of adrenaline, there is no match for it. Wrestling doesn’t hurt until you are back in your hotel room. When the fans are there, you can do this forever. But when they are not there you realize exactly what you are putting your body through. It is not fun. But whether there are 0 fans or 100, I’ve got to be wrestling. For me it’s wrestling or nothing, I am fine doing it either way.”

On how excited he is for fans to return:

“I have the same feeling as you do on Christmas Eve. I get to perform in front of people, I can’t tell you how excited I am.”

On how big wrestling is in his life:

“I have struggled to think of other things I could do. It definitely opened my eyes, especially as I thought COVID would end wrestling. Ever wrestler had to be panicking. We don’t want to think about life after wrestling, because then it’s real. When we wrestle, we can make up this world and control everything that happens. If you were bullied at school, you can go out and be the Macho Man.”

On when his passion for wrestling started:

“I think it was always there. My oldest brother got hurt in the living room wrestling. I can remember in school every report topic was wrestling. When we had lunch we would never eat sometimes. Me and my buddies would bring wrestling magazines and would sit there talking about RAW. In those moments I knew it would be tough to pursue it but that was my dream. The backup plan was going to be a carpenter like my dad. The moment where I realized I wanted to be a wrestler was where we went to a show with my buddies and they said there was this contest. If you won they would train you for free. From that moment on, I always knew I wanted to be a wrestler. When I told my parents, my mom looked like she wanted to say no, but my dad nodded. But they never said no to me once.”

On if there ever interest from WWE:

“So I think working for the WWE for most of the people of my generation, that’s why you go into wrestling. Most of us, along the way your goals kind of change and you realize there are other things besides the WWE. For me it was I can make a living and not have to go to WWE. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It wasn’t [then] but thank God it is now. There was a few times where there was interest, but because of contracts it wasn’t something that I could pursue. Part of me thinks it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Hindsight is 2020 but I became the face of a wrestling company, I was a World Champion. In Ring of Honor it’s like you worked so hard you got that corner office looking out over the water. Who knows what would have happened over there. Now I have that promotion, why would I give that up? I might as well have a big Ring of Honor tattoo on my back because I am going to be there until I die.”

On when people think of Ring of Honor they think of Jay Lethal:

“Every wrestler that is a dream scenario for them. You can get that on some of the smaller indie shows it won’t pay the bills. I have got that and financially pays my bills, so it’s a dream scenario. I have won the lottery, I got the chocolate factory.”

On being called ‘The Franchise’:

“I remember one day they just started calling me the franchise. Right away, because I am such a wrestling historian, I thought of Shane Douglas and thought he is not going to like that. But it was something that was brought onto me from Ring of Honor. I hate for anyone to refer to me as a veteran. We are all on the same playing field, we are trying to make ourselves and this company as big as possible. A lot of people call me captain in the locker room. If they had a vote they have told me I would be the guy. But that’s not me. Being the franchise is not something I said.”

On having imposter syndrome during his first Ring of Honor run:

“I have done so many interviews where they ask me what it was like my first time in Ring of Honor. In my first few years I was terrified. I was wrestling Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, all of the legends. I didn’t even finish training, because my school had closed down before joining. I couldn’t lay out a match because I wasn’t that skilled. Along the way someone thought I could hang here but I couldn’t. I felt like it was only a matter of time before I get exposed and someone goes ‘Hey, what are you doing here.’ That is a description of my first run in Ring of Honor.”

On his time in IMPACT and his view on the promotion:

“How do you mess that up?! That roster was stacked. Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe. We had this great relationship with CMLL, New Japan. They had Okada there for crying out loud. I’m there rubbing elbows with them all. I got to hang out at the bar with Ric Flair.”

On The Black Machismo gimmick:

“I didn’t want to do it originally. This impression was something that I was always able to do. Any time in a locker room if it was too quiet, I would bust out the Randy Savage impression. Kevin Nash would love to hang out with the X-Division guys. I think it’s because we laughed at everything he said. He is so funny, he is the funniest man I have met in my life. I remember one time he said to us ‘If you met me in WCW, you would hate my guts.’ Because he didn’t like the small guys. He heard me do the impression backstage and he said ‘Why don’t you do that on TV, that’s hilarious.’ I go ‘No, I don’t want to do it on TV.’ My fear was I was going to become the joke. No one wants to become the joke, they want to be this badass World Champion. Somewhere along the way, you realize not everyone can be Stone Cold Steve Austin. Everyone has a spot, you just have to realize what your spot is. He got me to realize that.

I also didn’t want anyone to think I was mocking Randy. I idolized Macho Man and Ric Flair. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have become a wrestler. So I was like I don’t want to make fun of him. Kevin said to me ‘Think of this, no one is talking about The Macho Man right now. If you do this, at least people will be talking about him. If anything you would be helping him.’ With that logic I was like you’re right. I was all for it after that. Nash then went to Jeff Jarrett and Jeff loved it. Jeff said do your impression and I did. When they played it back it sounded just like him. I had never heard it recorded before. That character lasted way longer than I thought it was going to last.”

On Randy Savage’s family reaction to The Black Machismo:

“I became great friends with Lanny Poffo. Here’s a Macho Man story for you. I was doing the shows in the Midwest ran by a man named Ed Schumann. Ed would say to me ‘I know the Macho Man.’ He’s like ‘I know him, I told him about you, he wants you to give him a call.’ Of course there are ribs in wrestling. I thought I would call the number and someone would do a Macho Man impression. I can’t be the only one who can do it. I never called the number. I did the shows with Ed 5 or 6 more times and every time he would say to me ‘Macho Man hasn’t heard from you why haven’t you called him?’ The fourth time I would call him to get this over with and they can all laugh at me. So I called the number and I explained. The guy on the other end kept going [In Macho Man voice] ‘Is that right?’ I go ‘I’m a big fan I’ve been doing this thing on TV.’ [Randy] @I don’t watch too much TV but Ed showed me this thing on YouTube and it’s pretty good.’ [Jay] ‘Yeah I’m a huge fan it’s an honor.’ [Randy] ‘Is that right? Well me and my girl got to get something to eat so I’ll talk to you later.’ When I do the next show, I talked to him. I’m waiting for the ‘We got you!’ But I never heard anything about it.”

“3 years later I meet Lanny Poffo. Someone books me on a show with Lanny Poffo. He is such a cool guy. At the end of the day after I wrestle him I say ‘Hey man, do you know a guy named Ed Schumann.’ He goes ‘Oh Ed Schumann!’ And my heart started pounding too hard. I explained that Ed gave me Macho Man’s number and could he find out if that was actually him. The next day I got an email from Lanny and he said that was Randy. I wanted to cry, I found the number and called him 3 more times. Every time the conversation was only 10 seconds because he was busy. I just didn’t believe it was him. Then he passed away and you have no idea. I just thought I was protecting myself against being made fun of. There is no feeling to describe how I felt. I let that opportunity slip through my fingers because I thought it was a rib.”

On what he would ask Randy Savage if he could:

“There’s so many things. I enjoyed most of his heel stuff as opposed to his good guy stuff. I wanted to become better at wrestling so would ask for his advice. I wanted him to hear me plan a match and go what was good about it and could I try this instead? Because the way his matches came out to me when he was a bad guy was incredible. Him and Triple H, they never have bad matches. The way it is structured, the way it is planned out to me is flawless. I would have asked him to hear me plan this match, and then tell me what I should do and shouldn’t do.”

The Woo-off with Ric Flair:

“If you were to ask me what the scariest moment of my life is, it’s not any near death experience. The scariest moment of my life is that segment with Ric Flair. Vince Russo said to me ‘Bro I got this great idea. You’re gonna have this interaction with Ric Flair.’ Of course the little kid in me is jumping for joy. But then Russo continues ‘But bro, the problem is Ric Flair won’t let anyone write anything for him. When a wrestler goes to the ring for a promo, they have bullet points. But Ric Flair won’t even let us write bullet points. You got to go to Ric Flair and ask him what you want to do in the promo.’ So I go to Ric Flair and I go ‘So we have an in-ring segment, Russo told me to come and get you.’ So I am standing in a locker room, he stands up and says to me ‘I don’t talk about my promos, I’ll see you out there.’ He slaps me on the shoulder and walks out of the room. It was like a movie. In that moment, I was like I think he’s joking but I hope he’s not. I had been in IMPACT for 6 years, and they had never let me cut a promo in front of a crowd live on television. I was doing The Macho Man schtick. All of my promos were pre taped and I was told to say 1,2,3. If I said 1,2,7 in The Macho Man voice, they thought it was funny and they didn’t care. I could say anything in the Macho man voice and they would love it.”

“Going from that to live TV in front of Ric Flair, that was the scariest moment of my life. Literally, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Nothing was planned, before I went out my hands went numb. Simon Diamond said I looked so scared, I said I was. He said ‘You’re only in this position because you have this killer Ric Flair impression backstage. He [Ric] loved it so much that he wanted to work with you. Don’t go out there and do anything you wouldn’t do back here.’ That made me a little better. I knew I had to go out there and pretend to be Ric Flair, he was going to come out and we would go from there. Every promo between us was the same way. It was so terrifying. It panned out and I couldn’t believe it. I don’t want to mess up, and Ric is the best promo guy in the world. The whole woo-off was not planned, none of it.”

On ending The Black Machismo:

“I didn’t [decide to end it], they [TNA] told me it was time. I was just having so much fun. When it was over, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Raven had this joke. He goes ‘So the one thing I noticed, your Black Machismo impression is amazing. Your Ric Flair impression, spot on, it’s great. Your Jay Lethal impression, it needs some work.’ I agreed with him. I was so good at being other people I didn’t know how to be myself. It took a while to figure that out. I just wanted to be a mesh of all the things I thought were great about wrestling. When you watch me you’re watching some Macho Man, some Ric Flair, some Kurt Angle, some of everyone.”

On what he is grateful for:

“That I have a dream job, the fans are coming back and to be alive and healthy.”

Jay can be found on Instagram here and Twitter here.

Featured image: CBS Sports

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