Armed with a new name — ReDragon — for his pairing with Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish has his sights set on the World Tag Team Championship this Saturday at the Ring of Honor 11th anniversary iPPV from Chicago.
Standing in their way are the always unpredictable champions, Mark and Jay Briscoe.
“I can certainly respect the Briscoes and their history in the company and everything else they’ve done. To be honest with you, I can’t think of a bigger challenge that would face us in the tag division,” Fish told SLAM! Wrestling this week.
He has a lot of confidence in his partner and believes they have the skills to wrestle however the bout goes.
“If they want to brawl, then we’ll get down and dirty and brawl with them — and I know the Briscoes are certainly comfortable doing that,” he began. “If they want to go technical and match us move for move, Kyle and I will put our abilities in that up against anybody. If they just want to throw it all out the window and go traditional Ring of Honor style, we can do that too. There’s really no part of today’s pro wrestling that I feel we’re compromised in any way, and I think that’s what makes us different than other teams in the parts. And different than any teams that the Briscoes have faced in the past.”
While the anniversary show at the Frontier Fieldhouse in Chicago Ridge, Ill., is headlined by Kevin Steen defending his ROH World title against Jay Lethal, there are three tag team matches on the card — Briscoes versus Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly; The American Wolves (Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards) vs The Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov); and SCUM (Jimmy Jacobs & Steve Corino) vs Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander.
A fan of tag team wrestling from the days of the Hart Foundation against the British Bulldogs, Fish is pleased with the direction of Ring of Honor.
“It takes a commitment on the company’s part, and I think Ring of Honor has made that commitment to get people familiar with some of the tag teams so that people care about those matches,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what pro wrestling is supposed to be — let’s give you more than just the athletics that takes place in the ring to identify with.”
Unlike the bigger companies, WWE and TNA, where the emphasis on the tag team division seems to ebb and flow, ROH has always been a place to showcase the action of four men in the ring.
“Tag team wrestling has such a rich tradition, but over the years, the way that pro wrestling has evolved to now, it seems to be neglected in a lot of other places,” Fish said. “But Ring of Honor still puts focus on it, and that’s one of the coolest things about being in Ring of Honor, having been such a big fan of tag team wrestling myself.”
Fish’s road to Ring of Honor is long and winding.
A native of Colonie, N.Y., after graduating from Siena College in nearby Loudonville, he learned pro wrestling under trainer Tony DeVito, and debuted in 2002. Thanks to connections of DeVito’s, Fish got into ROH early, as Jerk Jackson.
“I’m sure at the time you couldn’t have told me this, but I was not ready for that level,” he admitted.
Instead, Fish toiled away here and there, and hit ROH on a number of occasions from 2007-09, but never stuck.
The real education had begun for him in Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, and he has been a regular there since 2006.
“I think it was really when I started working for NOAH that things started to click for me,” said the 33-year-old Fish. “I really started to fill out my abilities.”
Where was that improvement?
“I think from Japan, the most growth that I saw in myself was definitely in-ring,” he said. “But as far as those other skills that round you out as an all-around performer, especially in the States, I’d say that I picked up that stuff here, because you really don’t pick that stuff up in Japan.”
Like cutting promos and interacting with the audience. Over the years, Fish has picked up a lot of the Japanese language, but “even with the language, the opportunity isn’t always presented to you” to showcase your personality on television.
Fish has also done a lot of training in mixed martial arts. He earned a black belt in Tae Kwan Do at the age of 14, and has competed in Muay Thai events. As well, he has studied under MMA pioneer Erik Paulson’s CSW system.
All of it comes to the pro wrestling ring, and Fish dismisses anyone who thinks there shouldn’t be any overlap between MMA and pro wrestling.
“At the end of the day, pro wrestling’s roots are back in catch wrestling. To anybody who is a purist on one side or another, I think it’s just ridiculous, because they are so intertwined,” he said, using some examples.
“There are a multitude of kicks that I throw that come straight out of Muay Thai,” he said. “Some of Kyle’s submissions come from jiu-jitsu. I use a knee bar myself a lot of times, which transfers easily into a heel hook. These are all things that you will see in MMA, and I think they translate directly to pro wrestling.”
He became friends with O’Reilly, a native of British Columbia, when they were matched against each other in the very first bout for Evolve Wrestling, the promotion that former ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky started after he parted ways with the company. When Sapolsky’s journey led him to establishing Dragon Gate USA as well, Fish couldn’t stick around.
“When they started into the Dragon Gate thing with Evolve, I really couldn’t follow because I had contract obligations with NOAH that prevented me,” Fish said, though he did get permission for a few Dragon Gate USA shots on WrestleMania weekend last year in Miami.
It was also around that time that he heard through mutual friends that Ring of Honor was interested in his services again.
Having worked in the various eras of Ring of Honor, the current one, with Sinclair Broadcasting owning the promotion, is decidedly different, said Fish. “Things, top to bottom right now, with Sinclair just seem well put together. It seems like all things are possible there now.”
He sees the same thing in O’Reilly.
“The sky’s the limit for Kyle,” Fish said. “When the Ring of Honor thing came about and different ideas were discussed, Kyle and I had actually talked about it privately prior to me even signing a deal with Ring of Honor. Everything just kind of came together and it came together in the way we had hoped. I think it’s going to be great for Kyle’s career; I think it’s going to be great for mine. I think Ring of Honor on a whole is on a definite up-swing, and Kyle and I plan on being a huge part of that up-swing.”