Matt Sydal sat down with Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri on The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast to talk about his involvement in the ROH Pure Title Tournament as well as the current state of wrestling today. Late last year, Sydal wrestled for EVOLVE, and he revealed on the podcast that it was the lowest pay he had ever gotten in five-six years but said he did it because there was nothing else for him that weekend and it gave him an opportunity to wrestle in front of the New York audience.
"I mean that was all EVOLVE had left. It wasn't very successful, and it was the lowest pay that I've ever gotten in five or six years," Sydal revealed. "I just did it because I didn't have work that weekend, and it would have been cool, like there's good wrestlers there. At that time, I was running the WWN training school while co-running it with some bum, but yeah, it just was easy.
"It was good work, and I really like Leon Ruff and AR Fox's guys. So I just wanted to go in there and work with them. I wasn't trying to get anything out of it or do anything. It was just a match. People try and make it a big deal, but a show's a show, work's work, if you haven't wrestled in New York in a couple months, it's always good to take a booking there because there's a lot of great wrestling fans up there."
WWE purchased EVOLVE last month, and Sydal commented on the deal while also talking about his respect for those trying to forge their own path in wrestling like he does. He talks about his DIY style where he sews his own gear at his house and has his own dojo where he can create what he wants in wrestling with his students.
"I'm just glad for EVOLVE to get that deal," Sydal said. "We were talking earlier about how indie guys want to get a contract now, like that's sort of the goal. When I started, there was no hope of getting a contract. There was no hope of doing anything. The only hope you had of becoming a star was taking your own organization and growing it to be the next ECW or something like that, which for example, PWG got started around the same time, and they grew their own things so big that it basically expanded to its own TV deal with TNT through AEW.
"So I always respected the guys who were trying to do it on their own without taking a handout from a big organization. They were trying to create their own thing, the DIY style, which is sort of always been my style, kind of a makeshift survival mode and really just kind of forging your own path. I mean, right now, that's exactly what I do. I kind of do my own thing.
"It may not be the most popular thing online, but I believe in what I'm doing. I believe in what I'm creating at my dojo. I believe in what I'm creating and sewing in our sewing room right over there, where I'm working on a new pair of tights for myself for my upcoming ROH stuff and making my own ring jacket and just really having my hands in every stitch of everything that I do."
Sydal also commented on how the major wrestling companies have handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and he praised NJPW for handling their return very well. He noted that two of his students from his dojo have competed on AEW Dark and have received a COVID-19 test each time they go for a taping.
"I think New Japan handled it extremely well and professionally. I know they were very cautious," Sydal stated. "The Japanese style, they really do have concern for their neighbors kind of more than themselves. So I think they did a really good job of that. From what I've known about WWE, it doesn't seem like they were too concerned about the wrestlers getting sick. I think they kind of downplayed the illness.
"I don't think they were putting the safety of the wrestlers first or even their fans out there, but I mean it seems to not have too many side effects, plus we know that all these corrupt politicians are fighting so that way companies don't have any responsibility even if people do get sick. AEW, two of my students have been going up there to do AEW Dark. Faboo Andre and Tony Donati, I'll just name drop them because they're really hard-working students of mine at the Sy Tojo, and they've been going up there and they've been getting coronavirus tests every time they go up."
ROH have released their COVID-19 protocols as they are set to run TV tapings soon. Sydal revealed on the podcast that he will be taking three COVID-19 tests over the course of the tapings as there is no worry when they are wrestling.
"That's what you have to do to run a show, and I'm not going to release the entire Ring of Honor protocol, but there is no company that is taking this more seriously than Ring of Honor. And also the Maryland State Athletic Commission is really holding them to the highest of high standards," Sydal revealed. "Crazy things from like changing the canvas between every match at their upcoming tapings. To only allowing two wrestlers in the in a locker room at a time. Coronavirus tests, I took one on Friday, and then I'll take one when we fly out on Monday and one when I depart on that Sunday, so I'll be doing three tests for Ring of Honor just to really make sure that we're safe and everything's going good.
"That way, we can really just let loose and wrestle without any kind of thing in the back of our head, but it's disappointing to not wrestle in front of fans because I don't wrestle for myself. I really do wrestle for them, and so I'm just glad that the Ring of Honor stuff we're doing will be on TV so that way everybody can see all the hard work we're putting out next week."
As mentioned before, a new ROH Pure Champion will be crowned for the first time since the title was retired in 2006. Sydal noted that wrestlers of his size were never in contention for the Pure Title at the time because Nigel McGuinness was reigning as the top star at ROH holding the longest Pure Title reign at 350 days. Sydal talked about how he can now create his own niche and thrive in the his pursuit for the Pure Title.
"I was in Ring of Honor like 2004 to 2006 when it was is like Nigel McGuinness vs. Chad Collyer," Sydal recalled. "I witnessed a lot of really good Pure Title matches, and to be honest, back then, I wasn't even in the contendership for that belt. I've always prided myself on my technical abilities, but it really came down to a size and strength thing and just guys like Nigel would just kind of run through me at that time. A lot of things have changed. I really feel like this is a championship that I kind of belong with, I vibe with.
"When I went to Impact, I went straight after that X-Division title. When I'm going to Ring of Honor this time, I'm really going directly for the Pure Title. Previously, I went after the the TV Championship, the ROH TV Title, and I lost to Jay Lethal. And I also went up against Marty [Scurll], and I lost to Marty. Gonna go find a nice niche for myself inside this Pure Title bracket and this kind of focus on in-ring wrestling which is my specialty, but the beautiful thing is with the Pure Title, they add in a lot of rules.
"But it actually opens up a lot more doors, or if that door shuts, it's going to open up windows for us, and I'm really good at, let's say, bending the rules in my favor. And I think it provides a creative opportunity for me because the more rules there are, the more rules that I get to bend."
When Sydal left Impact in 2019, it was reported at that time that WWE and AEW had offers for him. Sydal was asked on the podcast about his current contract status. This interview was recorded before Sydal's AEW debut at All Out, but Sydal said that while he is not under contract with ROH, he still considers ROH a home calling it "a lifelong gig" because of how much the promotion has meant to him and how he always finds his way back to ROH.
"So ROH is a lifelong gig for someone like me," Sydal stated. "I started indie wrestling in the year 2000, and there was only one mecca. There was only one iconic place where wrestling was respected and revered and honored, and I got into wrestling based on that like pursuit of respect. I got into it based on that respect and I mean ironically, the pureness of the wrestling of Ring of Honor. That's what really attracted me to it, and I was the kid in college day dreaming of getting to Ring of Honor.
"Actually, I think it was my sophomore or my junior year, I kind of got my first opportunities to start working at Ring of Honor, and I was there for about two years. And then I started doing Dragon Gate, went to WWE, left there [and] came back to Ring of Honor. So I mean Ring of Honor has just been this constant thread in my life that always has pushed me, and I've always found great opponents there and great talent there. So while I'm not under any contract right now, it has always been a home for me and a place where I felt really comfortable and really respected. There's the office, the wrestling and the fans. So it's a respect on all three of those angles.
"A place like New Japan does that really well, honoring their fans, honoring the wrestlers and honoring the traditions that came before them while still trying to push the envelope of the present as far as you can go. So I really feel like Ring of Honor is an ideal place for me, and I wrestle on a lot of the indies around the country. And I wrestle a lot of young up-and-comers, but I really don't think anyone can push me like the talent that's in Ring of Honor right now."
Sydal's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.