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Jeff Cobb discusses new ROH contract, NJPW, WWE, goals for 2019, more

RING OF HONOR/Devin Chen

Jeff Cobb is red hot right now. The former Olympic amateur wrestler just inked a new deal with Ring of Honor and is getting a big title push in that promotion. Plus, he has more tours on the horizon in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and just became the PWG champion.

Ahead of ROH’s Survival of the Fittest this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, Cobb chatted with Cageside Seats about all of the above, including Matt Riddle and other potential wrestlers heading to WWE, his feelings on Michael Elgin and more.

Marc Raimondi: How have things been so far with ROH? It hasn’t been that long, but obviously a lot of responsibilities already for them, you’re the TV champion right off the bat.

Jeff Cobb: Yeah, I’m having a blast. I mean, it’s super cool. Everybody backstage is really cool, all the guys in the locker room, the production guys. Everything, man. It’s been an easy transition and I’m liking it — a lot.

MR: There was something, it might have been a few months ago now. There were reports that you had signed with ROH and you kind of clarified that, saying you didn’t sign, but you were working with them. What is the situation now? Are you fully signed?

JC: I just signed with them. When people were reporting that, I was just like, ‘Stop it.’ Unless I say it, people can speculate all they want.

MR: Were you surprised that ROH was going to push you almost immediately as TV champ? Is that something you were surprised with?

JC: Definitely. I kind of assumed I was coming in with a good storyline. But I didn’t expect it to be this right off the bat. I was super excited about that.

MR: You’re still working with New Japan, of course. You’re working with Hirooki Goto at the Lion’s Break show in Anaheim next week. Would you like to do more with them? ROH has that relationship with New Japan. Does that mean more New Japan for you, less New Japan? The same?

JC: I hope it leads to more New Japan stuff, because that’s one of the factors that made me sign with Ring of Honor, because they do have that relationship with New Japan. If you look at the Global Wars tour next week, it’s a lot of crossover between Ring of Honor and New Japan guys. That’s one of the reasons. I hope it opens more doors for me to go over more open.

MR: NJPW World Tag League again this year for you?

JC: They haven’t officially announced it, but I have a ticket, so I hope so [laughs].

MR: Who’s your partner? Michael Elgin again?

JC: I have no clue. I heard one of the bookers tell me that it was Elgin again, but I was hoping it was a joke. We’ll see.

MR: Are you and Elgin cool after that drama last year?

JC: I don’t care either way. All the stuff that happened at last year’s Tag League, it didn’t really bother me. It made him more worried, I guess. As for me, I could care less. I don’t have a job with them, so my goal is to go out there and be the best performer I can be. I don’t care about pleasing him.

MR: Also in the very recent past, you won the PWG title after winning the 2018 Battle of Los Angeles. PWG is not New Japan, it’s not WWE. But as far as “indies” go, it has been a standard bearer for a good amount of time in the United States. Where does the last few months for you there, winning BOLA and becoming PWG champ rank for you as far as your pro wrestling career?

JC: Huge. When I first moved to California to continue my pro wrestling career, everybody talked about Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. I had seen a couple clips prior and I started seeing more, because I was living in California. It’s pretty much like a who’s who of wrestling that comes through PWG. Everybody that’s at the top in WWE has been through — or at least 95 percent of the people at the top of WWE have been through PWG at one point, so it’s pretty cool to be on a short list of BOLA winners and a short list of PWG heavyweight championship winners.

MR: It’s been a few years now since you wrestled in the Olympics. When you were doing that, did you envision that you would be doing this right now in 2018? That you’d be working with ROH and New Japan and PWG champion? Was any of that on your radar at that point?

JC: Well, I always wanted to be a pro wrestler, since I was a kid. Amateur wrestling was just kind of second nature. I always wanted to do pro wrestling, but amateur wrestling came along and I was pretty good at it, so I stuck with it for a while. When I finished college [at Missouri Valley], I was like, ‘next.’ It’s gotta be pro wrestling now.

MR: So pro wresting was the always the end goal for you? Amateur wrestling was just something you did in between before you could be a pro wrestler.

JC: Amateur wrestling, I started my freshman year in high school, because I actually thought it was like WWF pro wrestling. I never said I was a bright kid [laughs]. I never knew what amateur wrestling was until I showed up to practice. Like, wait, there’s no ring. It was a lie. I was so upset. But I saved up pretty much all my money at the time on wrestling shoes to do this, so I stuck with it. I told myself I’d do it at least one year.

MR: But you still did it for a number of years after that, so you ended up liking it I’d imagine.

JC: Oh, definitely. Definitely the toughest and I believe the greatest sport for anybody to participate in.

MR: After high school in Guam and while you were in college, was pro wrestling still the dream? Is that something you still felt like you’d be doing as a career?

JC: Oh, definitely. But Guam doesn’t have professional wrestling, so I was trying to figure out how and where I’m going to go about doing that. So I went to college to probably get a better job and I’ll be in the mainland where I can find a wrestling school.

MR: Did you ever think about MMA at any point?

JC: No, I don’t like getting hit in the face.

MR: But you get hit in the face almost every match [laughs].

JC: Yeah, but these guys are really trying to kill you. That’s not my cup of tea. I just never wanted that. It takes a different breed to get punched in the face and for you to keep going. Like, ‘Yeah, keep hitting me in the face, man.’ After getting hit in the face once, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’

MR: I know you tried out for them a few years ago, but is WWE still something that’s on your radar. Is that still a goal at this point or are you just focused on what you’re doing now?

JC: I never like to say never, but right now my goal and my focus is revolving around Ring of Honor, New Japan and PWG. That’s my focus and I try not to take too much focus away from it. I did sign a one-year contract [with ROH]. You never know what the future holds, but right now I’m very happy with where I’m at. I put all my effort into these three companies.

MR: It seems like it’s a very good time to be an quote-unquote indie wrestler. Are all of those things enough to make a decent living?

JC: Oh yeah, definitely. This year, I’ve been super busy, just working every weekend and whatnot. It’s kind of taxing on the body sometimes, but the amount of days I really have to work compared to a WWE schedule, well I can’t complain too much. I can choose where I want to go. In WWE, it’s like today you’re in New York, tomorrow you’re in North Carolina. Whereas now, I can choose. Maybe I don’t want to go here. So I like being my own travel agent, it’s pretty cool.

MR: One of the big stories in wrestling is where the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega and Cody — The Elite — where are they going to end up in the next few months. Is that as big a of a topic in the back with the guys? Or is that mainly just a media and fans curiosity?

JC: No, I mean a lot of the shows I’ve been on recently, a lot of people are talking about it backstage. Even guys that aren’t on Ring of Honor, even local indies and whatnot. They talk about it, so it’s gotta be a big deal. It’s pretty much transcending all the companies, or all the independent wrestling companies. I like all those guys, so I’m never one to say, ‘No, don’t go here, don’t go there.’ I think for them, it’s whatever is going to benefit them and their families is more important than anything.

Same with [Matt] Riddle. He was kind of torn where to go. I felt super cool that he asked me for my opinion. I pretty much told him, ‘Dude, go where it’s gonna benefit you and your family the most.’ He has a wife and three kids. Go make that money, man.

MR: I guess the key for all you guys is you have to go where it makes the most sense for your life. Everyone has a different life situation. Some people have kids, some don’t.

JC: At the end of the day, you can go to WWE for two years and if you don’t like it, you can leave. If you sign for two years. You can leave or you can stay. The indies will always be here, WWE will always be there. Go make the most money and if you don’t like it, you can leave and you’ll be an even bigger commodity on the indie scene.

MR: Is right now the best time on the indie scene since you’ve been doing this?

JC: Oh, definitely. There’s just so much buzz every where. A lot of the shows I’ve been on are either sold out or pretty damn close to sold out. The fans are just crazy rabid. Friday I was in Chicago and Saturday I was in Seattle. Two different parts of the country, but both were sold out, both had crazy ass crowds. It’s a good time.

MR: And just lastly, and thanks again for the time, one year from now, what will you have hoped to accomplish? What goals do you have? Let’s say November 2019. What do you hope you’ll have done in that time?

JC: Probably three or four goals that I have in mind. Definitely the [ROH/NJPW] Madison Square Garden show. I would love to be on that. That’s a goal. Either defending the Ring of Honor TV title or defending my Ring of Honor TV title against the Ring of Honor heavyweight title in a champion vs. champion match. Either one. Or someone from New Japan that I haven’t wrestled like an Okada or a Naito, someone who wants my belt.

Wrestle at WrestleKingdom. That’s kind of close, so I’m hoping they like what they see on this next tour, if I could be a part of that. Wrestling in the G1 Climax. The G1 tournament, I hear it’s crazy, hard and grueling, but I think I’m built for tournaments.

And the last one would be to have an opportunity to win the Ring of Honor heavyweight title. So, four goals. Hopefully I can knock off a couple of them — half of them at least.

MR: There were rumors you were going to be in the G1 this past year. Was that ever close?

JC: There were a lot of rumors. A lot of people kept telling me I was gonna be in it, but nobody from the New Japan office. So I didn’t really believe it. I figured I was still brand new and they’ve got a bunch of contracted guys they’ve gotta use. I understand it. I wasn’t ticked off I wasn’t a part of it. I was kind of bummed, but at the same time I understand. That just made me try to focus and work harder and try to raise my stock even more. Hopefully next year when it comes down, they won’t have to be, oh maybe we should. They’ll just be like, ‘Yeah, let’s get him.’

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