Aside from Daniel Bryan, it could be argued that no one in professional wrestling had a bigger 2014 than Ricochet.
Need proof? Consider the titles and the tournaments he won.
– In March, he became the first gaijin (non-Japanese) to win Dragon Gate’s Open the Dream Gate Championship.
– In April, WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans, Ricochet defeated Johnny Gargano to win the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.
– In June, he won New Japan Pro Wrestling’s 2014 Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
– In August, he won Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament.
– In October, wrestling as Prince Puma, he became the first Lucha Underground Champion.
– He toured China with WWNLive.
“At the beginning of the year, I was just focused on going to Japan and killing it over there,” Ricochet told SLAM! Wrestling before his match with Chris Sabin at a December Squared Circle Live! show in Toronto. “But I would never have guessed Lucha [Underground], BOLA, or whatever. I was just going to focus on making money in Japan. I’ve had a great year, all over, and I’m pretty happy with it.”
In person, Ricochet (Trevor Mann) comes off as both confident and nonchalant about his career, joking one moment and serious the next.
“I’m really good, so I can beat anybody,” he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, when asked about his ability to match-up with different opponents. “I’m kidding. I’m really strong, so … no, I guess I’ll know in advance, like today, here in Squared Circle, I knew I was wrestling Chris Sabin a couple of weeks ago. Even on House of Glory, I wrestled A.J. Styles. I’d never wrestled AJ Styles before, but I’ve watched him since I started wrestling, so I knew his stuff. I guess it’s more of a mental thing, I guess, than a physical thing right now.”
He insists that he doesn’t change his style to reflect his opponent or the promotion. “I do the same stuff everywhere I go. I guess it’s my style that got me to where I’m at, there’s no need to change it. I do my own thing, my style, wherever I got, whether it’s Japan, or England, or America, or wherever, here in Canada.”
The WWN tour of China was not the first-ever pro wrestling show in the country, but the four-show tour was ambitious, and the current technology allowed fans around the world to see the action from the cards. Along for the tour were Ricochet, Johnny Gargano, Trent Baretta, Caleb Konley, Fire Ant, Silver Ant, AR Fox, Rich Swann, The Bravado Brothers, Chuck Taylor, Biff Busick, Timothy Thatcher, Jody Kristofferson, Earl Cooter, Larry Dallas, and women wrestlers Ivelisse, Su Yung, Lacey, Allysin Kay and Mia Yim.
What was the tour like?
“It was a huge learning experience, because they don’t know anything about wrestling. They don’t know Johnny Gargano or me. Johnny Gargano couldn’t just go out and open his arms and get the Johnny Gargano chants, the fan appreciation he usually gets, because they don’t know Johnny Gargano. I can’t go out there and do my stupid pose that I always do, or whatever. They don’t go, ‘Oh, Ricochet!’ because they don’t know who I am. Same goes for AR Fox or Rich Swann, they don’t know who any of us are. It was a learning experience. We had four shows, and we had to take those four shows and figure out what they liked best, what they didn’t like, what got them into it. It was wild. I really enjoyed it. The whole group of guys was really cool.”
The first three shows were in Grand Epoch City, Chengdu City, and Emeishan City, but it’s the fourth show, in Beijing at the venue formerly known as Wan Shi Da Stadium, that stands out. “The MasterCard Arena, built for the 2008 Olympics. It was crazy.”
While the promotion is planning on returning to China in May, Ricochet thinks he’ll be back in Japan at that point. “If anything in May, I’m going to try to go to Japan again. I haven’t been there since July. The Lucha tapings, I think we’re going to tape or April or something, I’m not really sure. But whenever they stop taping, if we get another two months off, I’m going to try to go back to Japan.”
Ah yes, Lucha Underground.
It’s fair to say that at the beginning of 2014, no one saw the promotion coming, at least certainly not as a national presence with a significant buzz from the fanbase.
And its champ, Prince Puma, is one who is very happy it came along.
“It came out of nowhere, but it came with a bang. I really like it so far. We just had our mid-season finale, or whatever you call it, last week. We start up again January 7th, I think, is the next episode that airs,” said Ricochet. “It’s been so fun with Big Ryck / Ezekiel Jackson, [John] Morrison, even having Chavo [Guerrero] back there, Konnan and stuff, it’s so cool.”
Lucha Underground airs in English on the El Rey network and in Spanish on UniMás, and the station is actually run by director Robert Rodriguez. That means there are a lot of ties to his films and his friends. Ricochet mentioned meeting actor Danny Trejo (Machete) and Drake Parker (Drake Bell) from Nickleodeon’s Drake & Josh.
The production for Lucha Underground feels very different than a lot of wrestling shows he’s been on.
“It definitely is a television show, that’s what I tell people. They want a television show, but with wrestling. They don’t want another wrestling show on television. You know what I’m saying? They don’t want a wrestling show on television, they want a television show about wrestling. It’s first television, about wrestling.”
The matches, in the one-hour format, have been tight and entertaining. The champ revealed a not-so-surprising secret: “It’s all pre-taped so they edit it how they want it be, so they can fit it within the timeframe that they need. We still try to hit our times and stuff. It just comes out really good, everything from the matches to the promos, to everything. So far, it’s just been so awesome, and I have no complaints so far.”
With such a great 2014 in the books, what’s up for this year? For one thing, he’s chasing the EVOLVE title this Saturday on live iPPV at EVOLVE 37, taking on Timothy Thatcher.
“Hopefully in 2015 is when it starts paying off, with the Lucha and everything. I have some freedom now, so I can take some time off, hang out with my little boy. This whole year, I’ve been so busy, I didn’t really get to see him too much. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I really didn’t have any plans for 2014 either, and it just kind of blew up.”