Oliver Newman sent this recap in:
ROH Commentator Lenny Leonard talks Starting out, ROH, FIP
My Interview with ROH Commentator Lenny Leonard
Lenny Leonard & Dave Prazak at the Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC.
Oliver Newman: Can you give the readers who are a little unfamiliar with Lenny Leonard, a little background information on yourself?
Lenny Leonard: I was born in New York City, I started watching wrestling as a very small child. I used to go watch to WWWF shows at Madison Square Garden. I think the main event of the first show I went to was Bob Backlund ? vs. Ken Patera for the WWWF title. I was hooked early on, I was an Apter Mag kid. I ran to the newsstand every month on the day they would come out and read them all that day. I was lucky enough to find Championship Wrestling from Florida in the early 80’s on a UHF Spanish language station and got to watch Dusty Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan, Barry Windham, Ric Flair, etc. Guys I had only read about for years, I became more of a fan of that style but still I was still a WWF fan as it was all we could see live.
I was always interested in the behind the scenes stuff as I got smart fairly early on by reading Meltzer’s column in the old “National” an all sports newspaper that was way ahead of it’s time and immediately subscribed to the Observer, which I can say I have read for over 20 years probably, there goes my job with Vince! I knew Chris Kanyon when we were kids, as he grew up with my Cousin and also with one of my best friends in High School who ironically is nowthe director of live event marketing for WWE (Ralph Morffi). I started going to Joel Goodhart’s Tri State Wrestling Alliance shows in the early 90’s in Philadelphia where I got to see amazing stuff from Terry Funk, Eddie Gilbert, and Cactus Jack in what was really a precursor to ECW.
I moved to Florida in ?93 where I was lucky to get Lawler’s USWA show, Smoky Mountain Wrestling andECW in a 3 hour block every Saturday, so I got to see a lot of great stuff there as well. I used to buy tons of stuff from Japan, Old Watts tapes and just devoured all the wrestling I could. In a lot of ways I was exactly like most fans of ROH (dedicated hardcore fans of the business). I started going to Indy shows in Florida in late 90’s and early 00’s I got to see guys like AJ Styles, Mike Sullivan, Scoot Andrews, Billy Fives, I loved the Florida Indy scene then too. I started attending IPW Hardcore shows in St. Pete and befriended Ron Niemi who was promoting those shows.
He and I shared a great passion for wrestling and are about the same age, so grew up watching the same stuff. We hit it off, but he kept me at arms length kind of like the fan I was. He still saw how much I loved and respected what he was doing and I helped him out when I could. I moved tickets for him at my job, helped him get some audio video equipment cheap (through my then place of business) because I loved what they were doing there and we were friends, but never had any designs on being in the business. I think because of that he kind of chose me to help when he needed it one night, because I wasn’t a guy who nagged to be involved, and he knew I would treat the business with respect like he did.
One night a ring announcer was running late and he asked if I could pitch in, so I said sure, even though I had no experience. I had gone to shows and watched sports for over 20 years at that point so it was no biggie, I did half a show then the guy showed up. The next month the same thing happened then he finally told the guy forget it and I took over full time with NWA Florida, because IPW had merged into it at that point. IPW also had TV then as well locally, a horrid Saturday 2 am timeslot that was one of the highest rated shows locally on broadcast TV here in that slot but their announcing was atrocious. It was just a bunch of inside stuff that was funny to the guys who knew what they were talking about but most fans were lost listening to. I made no bones of telling Ron that since he was one of the announcers, they were also putting out DVDs at that point as well and after months of me telling him that they needed to do something about it he basically told me to put up or shut up.
He invited me over to do commentary one night and the 2nd match he had me call was a 20 Man Battle Royal in a Cage with Weapons, it was 23 or 24 minutes long and I had to do it solo. So I’d never done commentary before and he was asking me to talk for 24 minutes by myself on my 2nd match it was a test obviously and I guess I passed because I did all of his DVDs from that point on. That got me in touch with Sal Hamaoui fromFULL Impact Pro who was restarting with Gabe Sapolsky booking in ?05, and I ring announced there for them as they were using Mark Nulty on both ROH and FIP commentary at that time. Gabe and Sal were looking to move Mark out and Sal asked me to start doing FIP commentary for him with Dave Prazak while Jimmy Bower took over for Nulty on ROH (wink, wink)
Well Gabe after a bit started wanting out of the booth because I think it was getting to be too much at that point for him (workload wise) and Sal pushed him towards me, I got a few tryout matches in ?05 on a few DVDs. Then I did half a DVD after that, then Gabe finally took himself out of the booth and put me with Dave full time and except a brief 6 month period I’ve been there since. The 6 months was mid to late ?06 because I blew out both of my knees in June of that year and couldn’t drive, I was in braces from my ass to my ankles on both legs and in pretty bad shape for a bit, I guess that’s everything.
ON: Were you a wrestling fan growing up if so who were some of your favourite wrestlers growing up?
LL: I was a big fan of Barry Windham, Rock ?n’ Roll Express, Superstar Billy Graham, and Dusty, but the man was and always will be Flair.
ON: Was there a defining moment/match when you thought I want to be a Pro Wrestling Commentator?
LL: I don’t think I ever had that moment really. As a kid I wanted to bea traditional sports announcer, but circumstances in life led me away from going after that goal. The wrestling thing really was a case of being in the right place at the right time on several occasions but once I got into it I immediately loved it
ON: Early thoughts on IPW’s shows?
LL: I first started going to them as a fan and actually used to sit next to Erick Stevens who was not yet in the business either. Roderick Strong wrestled there in a tag team with his “brother” Sedrick and even at that young age he was very, very talented. IPW shows were a lot of fun guys like AJ Styles, Jimmy Rave, Billy Fives, Shane twins (Formerly Gymini in WWE), Mike Sullivan, Scoot Andrews, Lex Lovett the list is so long. There were some amazing guys on these shows and the angles were really strong, it was just a really good time for Indy wrestling in Florida. If you talk to any of the guys who wrestled there they will tell you to this day it was some of the best times they had in their careers and being a fan there was just as good
ON: Did you ever think about being a wrestler?
LL: Never! I was too small, I grew up in a time where guys my size would never get near the business. I always admired what the boys did, and of course emulated stuff as a kid but never wanted to do it for real (I’d get killed) I played baseball…they usually don’t hit you back (you just blow your knees out apparently)
ON: Did you receive any training before becoming a commentator, if so who taught you?
LL: None whatsoever, I just got thrown into it like I said earlier they brought me in to see what I could do. They said here’s the microphone start talking?.I thought that I did ok for my first match. There were a few rough spots, hell there are still rough spots but that’s how you hopefully get better, finding those spots and smoothing them out.
ON: When did you decide to pursue a role in the wrestling business and how did you go about achieving this goal?
LL: I really don’t think I ever pursued a goal in wrestling. It seems more like a case of wrestling pursuing me. I went from NWA Florida, to FIP, to ROH rather seamlessly, and in each case it was never a flat out goal of mine to get there, things just happened to fall into place for me every time. It was a case of Ron Niemi seeing something in me and giving me a shot when he was in a bind, Sal seeing me there and giving me a shot in FIP, and Gabe seeing me in FIP and giving me a chance in ROH. I’ve been very lucky in a lot of ways.
Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi at FIP
ON: A two part question, who did you commentate on in that first match and what are your personal thoughts on the match?
LL: Ooh I am trying to think back, if I recall correctly the first match I did was a 4 way between Danny Doring, GQ Savagewood, Sedrick Strong, and “The Rat Magnet” David Babylon. I think it was ok, but it was so long ago I really can’t recall, It was your typical Indy 4 way car crash.
ON: Thoughts on the first milestone of your career?
LL: Well obviously the first match ever was a milestone because I didn’t quit and or get fired after I was done, so that was nice. I think my first ROH World Title change at Final battle ?06 was a big milestone I liked being a small part of Homicide’s big win over Bryan Danielson.
ON: Thoughts on the biggest match you commentated on at this point?
LL: I thought being able to call the play by play on the re-release of Joe vs. Kobashi was a big deal for me personally. I was disappointed we didn’t get to call it, because it was such a big match for ROH at the time, and I thought Dave and I had earned the right to be a part of that match. So it hurt when we were told “the action was going to speak for itself”… To me it implied we would have taken the match down a notch by commentating it. When we got to do it with commentary for the Koch DVD release I was happy but not as happy as I would have been originally.
I also thought being able to call the Dragon Gate 6 man and the Danielson vs. Morishima matches that won the Observer award for match of the year was pretty cool as well. Having the chance to announce some matches with guys like Jushin ?Thunder’ Liger, Cactus Jack, Terry Funk, Raven, Jerry Lawler, and Lance Storm were kind of cool things to be able to look back and say I did.
ON: Thoughts on your big break in commentating?
LL: Obviously outside of my original break from Ron Niemi and NWA Florida it would have to be Sal pushing Gabe to use me for ROH, and my first couple of tryout matches on DVD in ?05.
ON: What goal/s do you hope to accomplish before your career ends?
LL: I’m sure most people would immediately say to take Jim Ross or Michael Cole’s place and call a Wrestlemania Main Event but honestly I never expected to be involved in wrestling at all, so my expectations have already been exceeded by long-shot. I get paid to call the most exciting wrestling product in the world for some of the best fans anywhere, even the ones who hate me and Dave. Well mostly me, but that’s ok too, that’s what makes our fans great.
They all love this company as much as every one of us does, and we all want ROH to succeed, we all want to look back one day and see people call SuperCard of Honor “The granddaddy of em all”. So my goal is to see ROH grow and for me to be in the chair next to Dave for as long as they’ll have us. Besides Vince would never hire me any way, I read the observer and they already have a guy exactly like me under contract, (short dark hair, glasses, NY accent, actually calls wrestling moves during a match) and they love him as an announcer so much they made him in charge of the internet and only put him on TV because he punched out the guy who wrestled John Cena at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Title.
ON: Best Commentator (all promotions) of all time according to Lenny Leonard?
LL: I’d have to say David Crockett. “Ricky Morton… Look at him Tony!” No seriously, Jim Ross. I loved Gordon Solie too but Ross was as good as anybody in history in a big match environment and I thought Joey Styles was good. Also Lance Russell, Bob Caudle, there has been a few really good announcers throughout the years. I thought Scott Hudson was really underrated, Mike Tenay when he is on top of his game is great also.
ON: Best Ring Announcer of all time?
LL: Howard Finkel is the man and I like Bobby Cruise a lot too, though this will swell his head even more, kidding I love Bobby.
ON: Toughest match to commentate on in your career so far?
LL: Oooh, I think any match where the crowd isn’t that into is tough because we can try to bring emotion into the match with the call, but if the crowd in the audience isn’t buying it, it comes across as phoney on our part, so that can be really tough. I can’t really come up with one but some of the shows when FIP was in it’s growing pains stages and we were running in Latino’s and The Sugar Shack in front of tens and tens of people those were rough to call, because even when the action is good in the ring if no one in the building reacts or there isn’t anyone in the building to react it is very hard.
ON: Biggest match/es you have commentated on to date and thoughts on them?
LL: I am a big fan of Bryan and Nigel McGuiness, so anytime those two are in their together it is a big match and usually a great match as well. I thought their PPV match from Philly was amazing, and I was glad to be a part of that. Also Roddy Strong vs. Matt Hardy was a big deal to me personally, I’ve known Roddy for a long time, and consider him a good friend. When I got the chance to call that match as one of my first in ROH it meant a lot to me since he was in there with a star in Matt Hardy and he won in what was the best of Matt’s 3 matches in ROH. It really solidified Roddy as a big time player in this business in my eyes so I was really happy for him on a personal level.
Anytime the ROH World Title is on the line for me it’s a big match I think our belt means something in wrestling and the guys who have held it are among the best anywhere. So anytime I get a chance to call an ROH World Title match it’s special to me because we’ve made that belt mean something not just in ROH but everywhere.
ON: Thoughts on the current state of Pro Wrestling?
LL: Well obviously things are pretty tough right now. Vince is Vince, but obviously even they are not immune to the current economic climate, more to the fact that there are not a ton of young guys ready to break through and be that next generation of stars. So wrestling is in a tough cycle right now in general, TNA has so much potential they have great TV clearance, a TV network that is behind them obviously, some really good talent (many of which were successful in ROH before heading south) and they have a dedicated fan base for their TV show. I hope they can hit on a formula to increase that fan base, but right now it doesn’t seem like they’ve found it, the ratings are pretty much identical every single week, which says they have fans that are going to watch no matter what they put on the screen but have not been able to draw any new fans over.
I think a big part of it is the lack of ?action’ in their total non stop action TV show, there just isn’t enough wrestling on the show for my tastes. ROH is going through some growing pains now with the change in philosophy at the top, but everyone is committed to making this company grow, and whether it means TV, new markets or whatever, the people in charge are committed to doing the best thing for ROH long term and that has never changed.
ON: Do you have a favourite Wrestling promotion/s to watch in 2009?
LL: Obviously I watch ROH, but I am a big fan of what’s going on down in FIP. I think we have a lot of cool stuff planned for this year, and people who don’t watch it are really missing the boat on some fun stuff. I keep up with WWE and TNA of course as well but I don’t have a ton of free time for TV so honestly I usually end up watching more old school stuff when I have the time.
ON: What Old School stuff do you like to watch in your spare time?
LL: I love old Mid South/UWF Watts stuff.. I watch 90’s Japanese stuff, old ECW, back when it really was ECW… I?ll watch pretty much anything I can get my hands on when I have the time…which unfortunately isn’t often.
ON: Favourite Wrestler/Wrestlers now you’re in the Industry?
LL: Like I said I am a big fan of Bryan and Nigel’s stuff. I like watching Tyler Black’s athleticism, Chris Jericho is still awesome as well. Down in Florida in the short time I’ve seen them in FIP I think Brad Attitude is really good, as is Shawn Osborne, (both ex WWE developmental guys) and Rhett Titus is a guy to watch (the sky is the limit for him) as well as Erick Stevens and of course my old pal Roddy.
ON: Favourite match as a fan in 2008?
LL: Umm best of ?08. I loved the Dragon Gate 6 man from Orlando, Flair vs. Shawn Michaels for the emotion, Austin Aries vs. Nigel in Orlando, Stevens vs. Strong from Redefined in FIP, Jericho vs. Michaels at No Mercy, Samoa Joe vs. Sting in TNA, Tyler vs. Nigel, Tyler vs. Bryan, Kenny King/Jason Blade vs. Roddy and Stevens in FIP last month as well… It’stough to pick out a handful when you see so much good stuff all year.
ON: Why didn’t you enjoy Michaels vs. Flair for the wrestling?
LL: Because Flair is so obviously past his prime. Michaels did what he could to make it memorable, but Flair while still good, isn’t Flair anymore. It was the drama that made it memorable not the wrestling.
ON: Thoughts on one of if not Lance Storm’s favourite ROH match of 2008, Kota Ibushi vs. Davey Richards?
LL: I really liked it also and if I didn’t I am smart enough not to disagree with a guy like Lance Storm as well. No seriously, I am a big fan of Davey Richards, and since he came back from his long tour of Noah he has grown by leaps and bounds in the ring but Lance was spot on about that match. It had everything, but not too much of everything in it.
ON: ROH Match of the Year 2008, according to Lenny Leonard and why?
ROH ‘Take No Prisoners” DVD Cover
LL: Too hard for me to pick one, as I could name 10 but if I had to narrow it down. I would say in no particular order: Tyler vs. Nigel at Take no Prisoners in March (Nigel made Tyler a real player in this match in one night), Ibushi/Kenta vs. Naomichi Marafuji/ Katsuhiko Nakajima at Tokyo Summit, the politics involved made it a big deal there and the guys really delivered an amazing match. Bryan and Nigel at Rising Above in Chicago of all the great matches these 2 have had with each other, this one may be the best of the lot.
ON: Match of the Year 2008 all promotions?
LL: I think you’d be hard pressed to find one much better than any of those right there, but I did love Jericho vs. Michaels as well
ON: When you started out, what was your ‘goal’ to achieve in the Wrestling business?
LL: My goal was to make it through that first show really (nothing more nothing less). I never thought in a million years when I did that 4 way match we talked about earlier that 5 years later I would be talking to you about being on PPVfor a company like ROH. So really how could I not say I’ve more than achieved my goals considering I never had any expectations when it came to being in wrestling in the first place.
ON: Any funny road stories?
LL: I actually usually travel by myself a lot but I had the opportunity to go to WWE’s Deep South Developmental Deal in Atlanta a couple of years ago. Ron Niemi and Frankie Capone were both doing stuff up there then and they talked to Bill DeMott and Jody Hamilton about me as they were about to start doing TV up there. So they brought me up to call some dark matches for them get me on tape what have you, and honestly, now that I think about it, that story isn’t really that funny….LOL so I will say no. No funny road stories from me.
ON: Thoughts on ‘The Wrestler’ movie?
LL: I had the chance to do some voice over work for it in NY this summer and I thought Darren Aronofsky was a great guy. I did some stuff with Dave and some stuff with Kevin Kelly up there, and then he had me do some ring announcing stuff and do a scene where I was talking on the phone with Randy the Ram, which actually made it into the film, so it was a really fun experience. To see how that all works, I thought the film was tremendous. I saw it with 3 non wrestling fans and they all loved it. Mickey did a good job because he pulled off the aging wrestler to a tee.
ON: Thoughts on the rumoured Chris Jericho vs. Mickey Rourke match upcoming at Wrestlemania 25?
LL: If anyone can pull it off it is Chris Jericho, he is an awesome talent. Wrestlemania has seen its share of matches with guys having much less training than Mickey Rourke had, so I would expect Chris to take this as a great personal challenge and do well with it like he does everything else. I am a big Jericho fan and just like him I used to go watch his Dad play Hockey at Madison Square Garden.
ON: If the fans could listen to Lenny Leonard commentate on one match to see you at your best, which one would you recommend?
LL: I thought we did a really good job on the main event at Rising Above between Nigel and Bryan (airing now on PPV, check your local listings for time and date in your area.) But actually I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve been at my best yet. I have a lot to improve on and hopefully I get better each time out.
ON: If you could commentate on a dream match who would be the participants?
LL: If it’s a match between guys now, I would love to call a match with Nigel defeating Sting, John Cena and Jeff Hardy with jawbreaker lariats for all of them! If it’s any match, any guy, at any time in history then I would love to call Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, those guys were just magic in the ring together in their primes.
ON: Thoughts on WWE as we stand in 2009?
LL: Well they are the biggest game in town, and nothing is going to change that. I enjoy a lot of what they do when I see it, but some things make me scratch my head also. But at the end of the day how do you argue with the success they have? They are the global brand when it comes to wrestling. When people think of wrestling they immediately think ofthe WWE, so how do you argue with that kind of success?
ON: Thoughts on TNA as we stand in 2009?
LL: TNA is like I said earlier a company with so much potential. They have the TV slot, the hardcore diehard fan-base and immense talent inside the ring. For whatever reason something is keeping them from breaking through to the masses. I don’t know Dixie Carter or Jeff Jarrett or Vince Russo, but for everyone’s sake I hope they find whatever it is they are missing right now, because the more successful wrestling companies there are, the better it is for everyone involved.
ON: Thoughts on ROH as we stand in 2009?
LL: I think this is a very exciting time for ROH. The change philosophically at the top if you want to categorize it as such, is going to lead to a bit of a different in ring product for sure in some cases, but if anyone thinks that a philosophical change is going to stop Bryan, Nigel, Tyler, Jerry Lynn, Brent Albright or Roddy from doing what it is that has made them so successful in the ring. I think they are in for a surprise. People are still going to get great action in the ring, and the best value for their dollar anywhere in wrestling on PPV.
ON: Thoughts on the TV Deal that ROH has signed?
LL: Well we are still waiting for the details to come out, so no one knows much except what has been announced yesterday. It will be a 1 hour show weekly, I am hearing they want to start fairly soon so that’s good. It means everyone is excited on the network side which has to be good. HDNet has a limited clearance in terms of households that get it, but it is somewhere in the 6-10 million household range right now, and as HDTV becomes more a necessity than a luxury those clearances will grow. If only 1 percent ofHDNet households watch the show that is 60,000 households per week (low estimate) watching ROH. If we can get some of those people hooked on the product and buying DVDs, Tickets or PPV’s it’s a win for us. I see no downside personally. It is going to be shot in HD so the production will look top notch, we aren’t going to have WWE pyrotechnics and stuff like that but visually it will look like any top level sporting contest held anywhere in the US on TV today and it will be awesome.
ON: Thoughts on Steve Austin and Bill Watts upcoming inductions to the WWE Hall Of Fame?
LL: You couldn’t have 2 more deserving guys go in to a hall of fame than these two. The man who was the catalyst for the biggest boom period in the history of this business in Steve Austin and a man who has literally done it all in wrestling from being successful in the ring, booking a successful territory, owning his own company and producing some of the best weekly wrestling television in history in Cowboy Bill Watts. Two great choices, forget Austin’s accomplishments in the WWE for a second too, if there is one reason and only one reason to put him in the hall of fame, it is this. The man had a perfectly good match with PN News of all people. He should have retired right then and there with a star on the walk of fame in my opinion.
ON: If you could pick anyone to grace an ROH ring, who would it be and why?
LL: Well obviously being a huge Flair fan I would love to see Flair in ROH
but if I could have 2 guys in their primes put on a match in an ROH ring it would have to be Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart vs. Michaels.
ON: Realistic ‘dream’ match you’d like to see in an ROH ring?
LL: Hmmmm, I think Paul London vs. Tyler would be an awesome match or maybe even a Ibushi vs. Tyler match and I’d love a Danielson vs. Nakajima rematch.
ON: What do you make of the latest WWE releases especially Paul London, Val Venis and D?Lo Brown?
LL: I wasn’t too shocked by it (Venis’s release). He’s been there forever but they don’t really do anything with him anymore so it’s kind of just spending money with no real return on the investment. I have no idea if he would be considered to be brought into ROH, like I said I am notprivy to any of that stuff or if he would consider coming in if he was even asked. Paul London is a guy who I would love to see back in ROH. He is so talented, and obviously as one of the founding fathers of this company ( I think he debuted on ROH’s 3rd ever show ?Night of Appreciation? back in 2002) he holds a special place in the hearts of many fans here, so he’d be a great guy to bring back if he was open to it. D-lo is an interesting choice, I personally am a big fan of his. I was shocked they brought him back to be honest, as they didn’t do anything with him once he was back, so his being let go wasn’t really shocking. I think D-Lo still has a lot left in him, he always works hard, and I think fans wouldn’t reject him automatically as a sports entertainer in ROH because the guy has so much personality he wins people over.
ON: Thoughts on D’Lo Brown’s upcoming ROH debut?
LL: I think it will be great. He is really talented, lots of charisma, and he did a lot of wrestling for All Japan. So he can do the style ROH fans like as well as being “entertaining”.
ON: How has ROH changed under the tutorship of Adam Pearce?
I don’t believe any comment from ROH was ever made with regards to that subject and I can guarantee you the first one won?t be coming from me. All I can say about the change from Gabe as booker is that my job hasn’t changed much at all. I maybe try to pay attention more to things to help out during the production process, like try and catch little things that Gabe use to do, help with certain things Gabe would handle normally, so more of the production responsibility is falling on Sal, Dave and Me, since we were the ones most involved in the process before. But I think we’ve done a good job of making that process as seamless a transition as we possibly can, and a big pat on the back for that should go to Sal. He works tirelessly, and if people were able to see how we crank out the product we do, they would be amazed.
ON: Best ROH match you have witnessed as a fan?
LL: I am a huge fan of Dragon Soldier B so I loved the Best of the American Super Juniors Tournament! No seriously, I thought the CM Punk vs. Joe trilogy was awesome and I was a big fan of the main event of the first ever ROH show between Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, and Bryan.
ON: Best ROH World Champion in Lenny Leonard’s opinion?
ROH ‘Undeniable’ DVD Cover
LL: I don’t think I can pick between Bryan and Nigel. I think Bryan really took the belt to a new level with his reign, the old school champion having great long matches in the main event on every show type of reign but Nigel as a villain has been really special to watch. Especially since he had the fans in the palm of his hand the night he beat Takeshi Morishima. He was absolutely beloved and in such short order to reverse course and become such a strong villain with the belt has been really fun to watch and that’s not taking anything away from guys like Joe and Punk and Aries and James Gibson (WWE’s Jamie Noble) or Homicide and Morishima either. Who’d I leave out? Oh yeah, Xavier.. Not to slight those guys… And Ki I’d say obviously his reign was special because it was the first one. All those reigns had something special about them, but those 2 really stand out.
ON: Best ROH World Tag Team Champions?
LL: The Briscoe’s have done it all, so they have to be right at the top as well. I thought Tony Mamaluke and Sal Rinauro were really underrated as well, LOL. It begins and ends with the Briscoe’s. But Roddy and Aries’ reign is a very close second, they really raised the bar when they had the belts.Actually I love Sal Rinauro, he is so fun to watch I’m only messing with him here.
ON: Best ROH Pure Champion?
LL: Nigel was the best ROH Pure Champ, I think part of it was that he held on to the belt for so much longer than the other guys and had a lot more defences than everyone else who held it.
ON: Best ROH World Title match?
LL: Way too many to pick a favourite and that’s what makes the ROH World Title so special. There have been so many classic title matches it is impossible to pick one favourite out of them all.
ON: Best ROH World Tag Title match?
ROH ‘Man Up’ DVD Cover.
LL: I thought obviously ROH PPV ?Man Up’ Steen/Generico vs. The Briscoe’s ? Ladder War was a great, great, match on a lot of levels. I also enjoyed Aries and Strong vs. Cima and Naruki Doi that was great. I thought the Briscoe’s vs. Jimmy and Tyler from Final Battle weekend was great, Steen and Generico winning the belts in Boston from Tyler and Jimmy was really good. I think the same applies to all our belts the guys cherish being Champions in this company and always try to tear the house down when the belt is on the line, Tag, World or otherwise so it’s tough to pick a favourite match in any of those categories.
ON: Best ROH Pure Title match?
LL: I loved the ROH Pure/World Title Unification match from Liverpool, England in ?06.
ON: Best ROH match in the company’s history?
LL: I don’t think we’ve had one yet, we have had some great matches but I don’t think we’ve had our best because once you’ve done that where can you go from there? If you can’t get any better than something you’ve already done, you better just pack it in and go home because then you are just hanging on and this company is not hanging on we are all still trying to be better than we were the last time out.
ON: Lenny Leonard’s favourite ROH Show?
LL: I think Respect is Earned is way up there, because it was my first appearance live at a show, it was our first PPV, and it was in my Hometown of New York City. It was such a big moment for the company too, the guys were all nervous. Gabe had to wear a sports coat and bought the most ridiculous hat you’ve ever seen (It was like a dark version of the one from the scene in Caddyshack that Ted knight was wearing when Rodney Dangerfield said he bet if you bought a hat like that you get a free bowl of soup but it looks good on you though). Everyone was just so excited/nervous/but really focused and prepared on making it a success and I think it was on a lot of levels so that show is always going to be special for me.
ON: Biggest disappointment match/segment in ROH History?
LL: Clearly it had to be the thing I joked about earlier, the best of the American super juniors show. Certainly one of the more forgettable shows in ROH history.
ON: Favourite segment in ROH History?
Lenny Leonard & Dave Prazak at ROH Man Up.
LL: I loved the opening to the Man up PPV with Tyler jumping out of the crowd and grabbing the microphone from Dave before security dragged him away to debut the Age Of The Fall. I loved the end of that show with them debuting Necro Butcher as well, I thought that was really well done. I also loved the whole Claudio Castagnoli turn for the CZW feud too.
ON: Who is MR. ROH for Lenny Leonard?
LL: Bryan with no hesitation at all. If you put up an ROH Mount Rushmore he is the first face carved into the rock hands down. More big matches on more big shows than anyone in the company’s history, he can give you whatever you need on a show in any spot against any opponent. He is one of my favourite people to watch perform in any company. I am very lucky to get to see him work so often.
ON: Best FIP match you have witnessed as a fan?
LL: I thought Roddy and Erick for the FIP World Title in NY was right up there. The Mad Man Pondo/Necro vs. the Briscoe’s matches was among the craziest and the Punk/Homicide stuff was really fun in the beginning.
ON: Best FIP Show?
I would say Unstoppable ?08 last month was a really, really, good show. I was very happy with that show and ?In full force’ from may of this year was also really good.
ON: Best FIP Champions?
LL: I liked Homicide’s FIP Championship reign a lot. I thought that Roddy was really strong as well (pun intended) I wish Stevens had had a better chance to run with things though, I think we really missed out there. I thought that the Heartbreak Express were really good as tag champs. Sean Davis is very entertaining in that old school chicken s*** villain style and Phil is so underrated as a worker since he rarely talks but he is the glue that holds them together as a team.
ON: Best FIP/ROH moment working with Gabe?
LL: I think just being able to see how hard he worked at what he did and how much he loved what he did. Each show was like one of his children he remembered everything about every show he ever wrote, and when we needed a detail about a past result or how many times guys wrestled, and when and where each show was, he had it off the top of his head. it was remarkable to watch. Dave asks me whatI had for lunch yesterday and I can’t remember it, forget about asking me who AJ Styles defended the NWA X Title against in ROH back in 2002. Which for the record was Adam Jacobs and David Young…but I had to look it up. Gabe would have known it off the top of his head.
ON: Best FIP/ROH show working with Gabe?
LL: I liked all the PPV’s we did, as well as the Orlando shows last year Mania weekend a lot. Tough to pick one favourite.
ON: Biggest FIP disappointment match/segment?
LL: I don’t think there was a biggest disappointment of a match. I was disappointed that more people didn’t come out and watch the early stuff when we were running night clubs and dives, because a lot of fun stuff was on the shows then. Segment would have to be the show I blew the ring announcing and gave away a surprise match later on in the show that had Gabe FLIPPING out backstage (that was the Gabe flipping out story told by Punk and Joe on the straight shooting DVD). It was me, I screwed up and sent Gabe over the edge. That was disappointing for me. I don’t like making mistakes, especially not as a ring announcer, they should be completely anonymous. You only notice them when they screw up so when I do that I like not to be noticed.
ON: Experience being a Ring Announcer?
LL: That’s a lot of fun and now I see it as so much easier than doing play by play. It is almost like a night off for me when I do that which is not much anymore. I learned a lot doing it, it is harder than it looks especially when you have those indyriffic technical difficulties that can pop up on smaller shows, and you just stand there feeling like your naked because the music isn’t working or the microphone is out.
ON: Favourite Segment in FIP History?
LL: I loved the Homicide vs. Punk fights in the strip club and in a hurricane, they were really fun. I also loved the Tyler/Sean/Baby Doll/Larry Zbyszko stuff we just did last month too it was fun to write that segment. I never thought I’d be going over promos with Baby Doll and Larry Zbyszko in my lifetime. The Dark City fight club segment where they beat up Milo Beasley as Santa Claus and Leva turned on Rain to go with Dark City and Rain getting laid out by them was really good too. It finally got Dark City booed in Crystal River which we had a hard time doing this past year people didn’t want to boo them because they kicked so much ass, fans liked them but fortunately if you can show kids them beating up women and crippled Santa’s you can get them booed in Crystal River… not Philly though, that would get them cheered.
ON: MR. FIP?
LL: Roddy again, without hesitation fans love him to death. He’s always going to give you a great match, he can do so much in the ring, just a tremendous talent and a good friend. If you had to pick one person not a wrestler it would be Sal the owner of FIP. He has gone through so much this past year or so and for him to be as committed as he is to making FIP work and to keep going is amazing. I love to work with him, he has given me so many big opportunities he deserves all the success in the world.
ON: In ROH 2009 will be the year of……?
LL: Television! I’m very excited about the new deal. HDNet is not in 80 million homes like some other wrestling companies, but HDNet is taking a chance on us, and giving us an opportunity to show people what we can do better than anyone else on the planet, put on great wrestling. Wrestler wise, Davey and Tyler these guys are both ready to break out in a big, big, way this year not that they were not great before but Davey since going to Noah for 3 months has been phenomenal. Tyler has got it all, the people just love this kid and I thinkhe has that natural charisma that transcends the wrestling portion of things.
LL: See above and Jigsaw, I really want to see him breakout this year
and Rhett Titus he is going be big in FIP.
ON: Lenny Leonard’s breakout star/s in Pro Wrestling (all promotions) in 2009?
LL: I would love to see some guys break out in TNA but it looks like there is a bit of the old WCW glass ceiling in play over there. The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley/Chris Sabin) have done a nice job of standing out there amongst the younger guys, but I think they missed the boat on So Cal Val big time, she is a star. In WWE I hope MVP gets back on track because I really like him personally, he is a really good guy and works so hard to be where he is, I am proud of what he’s done but they need to give him a real chance to run with the ball up there. I also hope Evan Bourne (ROH’s Matt Sydal) gets a big push when he’s healthy enough again, I would hate this injury to put a stop to what looked so promising between he and Rey Mysterio.
ON: Next big thing on Florida Wrestling scene?
LL: I have so little free time now that I don’t get to see a ton of Florida Indy stuff, but I think Chris Jones is as promising a young guy as you can see anywhere. He’s only 18 and is going to get better and better also I have quickly become a fan of both Brad Attitude and Shawn Osborne (both ex WWE developmental guys) they are really, really, good wrestlers the both of them, and guys we are lucky to have in FIP as well.
ON: Favourite moment working with Adam Pearce thus far?
LL: I loved Adam’s stuff in FIP when he was in there for a while.. Great old school villain, good mind for the business, and agreat guy to have in the locker-room.
ON: Favourite show working with Adam Pearce thus far?
LL: I really liked the Florida Rumble show from FIP in 2005. he had a great match with Sean Waltman in the main event on that show…..See where I went with those 2 questions??? Good. Because I see where YOU went with those 2 questions…lol
ON: Thoughts on Pez Meriwether as a Referee?
LL: He’s the s****! I am kidding, he is young and getting better… refereeing is hard stuff..and i certainly would not have taken the beating he took in the match with Necro/Pondo vs. the Briscoe’s… that was sick..
ON: Cary Silkin has hinted at an ROH legend/s returning in the next few months, do you care to share your view on who it might be?
I have no idea. I live in Florida, and the office is in Philly and they don’t really check in with me about stuff like that. I find out stuff like everyone else does, when Meltzer, Alvarez, Keller, or Mike Johnson reportson it.I am here to call what I see and that’s it. I like it that way. Of course that being said there are a ton of guys who could come back and it would be good to see them wrestle in ROH again obviously.
ON: Are there any upcoming ROH shows?
LL: This coming Friday (30th January) we are in Detroit, and Saturday (31st January) in Chicago is the next PPV taping ?Caged Collision’ featuring Sweet ?n’ Sour Inc in a Steel Cage vs. Albright, Strong, Stevens, Jay Briscoe and a mystery partner. Feb 6 and 7 are ROH’s Florida Debut, Proving Ground weekend 2009. Tons of local talent from Florida getting a chance to shine in ROH and make an impression on the office and possibly earn a roster spot. March 14 ROH makes its debut in Indianapolis, March 21st back in NYC at the Hammerstein Ballroom and of course there’s a big weekend of stuff going on in Houston the weekend of April 3, 4, 5 and ROH will be debuting there on April 3 and 4. Lots more shows of course than those I mentioned, and you can check out rohwrestling.com for the complete schedule of events.
On a personal note: I am also really pumped about FIP’s show in February, the Eddie Graham Memorial battle of the Belts show. It’s a 1 night tournament with Stevens, Strong, Nigel, Generico, Davey, Jones, Aries, and Necro. Also MsChif vs. Mercedes Martinez for the Shimmer Title, and Tyler will be defending the FIP World Title vs. Delirious. I have been helping out booking FIP and have had a lot of fun with it so far, I think this show is going to be really, really good.
ON: Thoughts working as a Ring Announcer for Xtreme Fighting Championships?
LL: I’ve done one show for them so far here in Tampa..They average about 11 thousand fans per event, use mostly younger guys starting out. The next show is in Knoxville,Tn in February and the first show live on HDNet will be from Knoxville as well in April.. I think it’s a deal with HDNet for 4 live MMA events per year. I would also like to add that the show in February is the first legally sanctioned MMA event in TN history under the Tennessee State Athletic Commission since it was legalized there.
ON: Thoughts on Shimmer Wrestling?
LL: Dave does a really good job with it, and I am happy for all his success there. He has a real passion for that side of our sport and it is great that he gives these girls a chance to show off how skilled they are.
ON: Any websites you’d like to mention?
LL: I am a big fan of Bryan Alvarez and Dave Meltzer’s site/publications. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been reading Dave’s stuff for over well over 20 years now, and Bryan is a supremely talented guy, and one of the funniest/brightest guys in the business, so check out f4wonline.com for your news (that was an unpaid plug BTW.. I pay for my subscription like everybody else….)and of course rohwrestling.com and fullimpactpro.com to find out all the news on ROH and FIP.
ON: Any final words for the readers?
LL: Thanks for reading this, and keep supporting wrestling. I have 2 kids to put through college and need the money. Seriously though, thanks for everything, and keep watching ROH and FIP, you can not find a better bang for your buck anywhere and if you haven’t checked out either ROH or FIP, go to rohwrestling.com and grab a few DVD’s you won’t be disappointed.
WOW! That was a great interview, Lenny was informative, funny, witty and just well a real character. We had talked about doing this interview a good while back and I?m really glad we finally sat down and did it, I?m impressed with the results and I hope you are too.
Feel free to share your thoughts,
If you?d like to see more of my work/add me as a friend/contact me I?m on myspace: http://www.myspace.com/brummieol.
Thanks for reading,