In 2009 Gabe Sapolsky brought professional wrestling a new promotion, with a new perspective for the fans and roster, where wins and losses actually mattered. If you continually won, you continually featured. If you lost a couple matches in succession and failed to impress you may not feature for a little while. It was because of this promotion that I got my first true glimpse of Bobby Fish.
Standing 5 foot 11 inches, weighing approximately 200 pounds, Fish hails from Albany, New York, with over a decade of in-ring experience under his belt which includes an extensive career in Japan working for Pro Wrestling NOAH. The event was Evolve 4, the match pitted Fish, a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, against a man known by some as Bryan Danielson, but by millions as Daniel Bryan.
Bryan had recently been released by WWE after the tie incident with Justin Roberts during the debut of The Nexus, returning to the independent scene and competing with the promotion he had named, and the promotion he was intended to star for. The spotlight was on in Union City, surely under the conditions you’d be nervous, you’d show fear, but not Bobby Fish.
For twenty minutes Bobby Fish and Bryan Danielson competed in a competitive match which featured some magnificent technical maneuvers, meshed in with hard-hitting kicks and what would be to your average man, deabillitating falls. In the end Danielson took the victory, but it was Bobby Fish who left the match having made a mark, being received by the fans for what he is – a fantastic wrestler.
Fish primarily featured for Pro Wrestling NOAH, until October, when he shockingly showed up in Ring of Honor at the “Killer Instinct” event in Rahaway, New Jersey, defeating QT Marshall. Since this Fish has became a big part of the Ring of Honor product, teaming with Kyle O’Reilly as tag team reDRagon, feuding with O’Reilly’s former mentor Davey Richards, and Fish’s former NOAH partner Eddie Edwards.
Now, O’Reilly and Fish prepare themselves for a huge task tomorrow night in Chicago, Illinois when they challenge The Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Championships. I recently spoke to Bobby in what was to say the least, an interesting interview, where he disussed a number of topics, ranging from his work in Japan, what was it like working with Bryan Danielson, tomorrow’s event and more!
Q) What are your earliest memories of professional wrestling?
Probably “Saturday Nights Main Event.” Definitely have vivid memories of the Bulldogs vs the Hart Foundation. Loved their matches. I was very into Dynamite, but felt drawn to Bret Hart as well; although I couldn’t have told you why until years later. Dynamite looked like this ‘tough – ass’ gymnast, and I loved gymnastics/tumbling, etc. I started training martial arts as a kid and fell in love with everything Japanese. Deciding at that point to change my desired, future career path; from fireman to “ninja.”
It was around this time that I saw The Great Kabuki on World Class. He had nunchakus; I had nunchakus – done deal. I saw what they were doing with Ricky Steamboat (WWF) at the time and despite thinking his actual “martial arts technique” was a little suspect, I became a life time fan of his. So there were these two separate wrestling worlds between WWF and the ‘grittier’ company’s like World Class and NWA.
I stumbled onto NWA because of Dusty Rhodes, The Horseman and Sting. Immediately identified the difference between they and WWF. NWA became real wrestling to me at that time. A ‘collision of worlds’ for me occurred in the NWA; when I saw The Great Muta for the first time. Forget about it! His rise in the company during, what I think was 89′ to 90′ was all I needed to see. FAN!
Q) When did you decide to pursue wrestling as a profession? Was it an easy decision for you, or were you reluctant?
After playing college football I knew I didn’t want a “9 to 5.” I tried out for some Arena Football teams, but nothing worked out. I started working for a marketing company which had me traveling through some of the southwest. To pass time I read a lot. One of those reads was “Pure Dynamite.”
Re-connecting with that particular sliver of my childhood caused me to conside pro-wrestling as a career path. From ninja to pro wrestler – I’ve always been a realist. When I got off the road I researched and found Tony Devito. And so it begins…
Q) Primarily trained by Tony Devito, but you also had some training from the legendary Harley Race. What was it like training with Harley?
I think Harley took a liking to me because of my solid fundamentals. Those came from Devito. To be honest I wasn’t aware of a lot of these things until years later, when opportunities were coming my way. Devito’s attention to those details began to pay off for me on a number of occasions; the first of which was with Harley.
The King was a traditionalist and he helped to get me seen by “the Japanese,” who offered me an opportunity to go to their country and work for Pro Wrestling NOAH. This being the biggest break of my career at the time, and really a childhood dream to visit ‘the homeland of the ninja.’
Q) You’ve worked for some of the top indy promotions in America. What was it like working for IWA Mid South, and specifically Ian Rotten, who really gains a lot of various reactions from people?
I worked for IWA five times I believe. Ian treated me good, at first. I was warned by many, but had always judged people on their interactions with me, as opposed to what I’d heard. I enjoyed going out for the TPI and other bookings I did there, until Ian offered me a check for my pay. I knew better, but let the “carny” work his magic.
Sure enough, a month later while I was in Europe, my wife informed me that his checked had bounced. Cocksucker!
Q) In 2006 you began touring Japan for Pro Wrestling NOAH, and did so for many years. What are the differences between working in the United States, to working in Japan?
Fan appreciation, I think.
The fans there are really very respectful of us and the business as a whole. This would not be my assessment of the Amercian audience for the most part.
Q) What is your fondest memory of your time in Japan?
There are a lot. From a wrestling stand -point sharing the ring with guys like Misawa, Kobashi, Taue and Akiyama. Just amazing. Outside the ring the camaraderie that develops over the course of multiple tours together is something I cherish. The late Bison Smith was a man I spent some good times with.
Bull Bucanaan, D-lo Brown, Eddie Edwards. Really too numerous to mention. Also, being afforded an opportunity to experience another culture under such unique circumstance is something I could never put a price tag on.
Q) In the beginning of Evolve Wrestling you really were one of the stand-out performers. What was it like at that time working as Evolve took off? What did you make of the innovative concept?
Personally I loved the concept. I thought it helped to give a new company direction. I had come into wrestling under Tony Devito, who was working for Gabe (ROH) at that time. My dealings with him early were limited; to say the least. But I developed a respect for what he did and hoped to cross paths again down the line.
Evolve was that divergence. We talked briefly about how we would start me off and things rolled from there. He and I were happy with how things began to play out. I think I delivered on most of the opportunities I was given and under Gabe I became a better pro wrestler. I would say my time in Japan and with Evolve/DGUSA is what helped shape much of what I do now. This whole thing is one big ‘work in progress,’ and that was certainly a period of tremendous growth for me.
Q) What was it like working with Bryan Danielson at Evolve 4?
Evolve 4 was special. I had worked with Bryan on previous tours for NOAH. I spoke of the camaraderie that often develops on these tours earlier, and this was one of those instances. I certainly had a healthy respect for what he had done in the ring and privately hoped to go head to head at some point. That point came in the main event of Evolve 4. I think I gave Bryan the best fight I could give at that time, and I’m proud of my effort. I’m not as proud of the outcome, but I believe round two is in the cards.
Bryan is every bit as good as I had anticipated, however the wrestler who writes these words today is a far evolved (pun intended) version of the one Bryan faced that night in Union City.
Q) Now you’re in Ring of Honor, having made a return a couple months ago and quickly forming a team with Kyle O’Reilly known as reDRagon. What drew you back to Ring of Honor?
I said earlier I had ‘cut my teeth’ with ROH while Devito was there, under Gabe. My appearances had been sporadic though, and that led me to feel that there was ‘unfinished business’ with me and the company. Having been on TV in Japan since 2006 I realized that there was no substitute for TV time here in this country. The opportunity presented itself and it made total sense. I love working in Japan, but as ‘foreign talent’ you are not afforded many opportunities to be heard.
I have a B.A. in English/Theater, and a lot to say. My time in Japan led some to believe I was a guy who could only do his talking in the ring. ROH and Sinclair Broadcasting are helping me to inform the wrestling public that, that wide spread belief is about as accurate as saying ‘Davey Richards is a team player.’ Whatever you have seen so far; I’m just getting loose.
Q) You and Kyle put on a great showing against Davey and Eddie, The American Wolves in December at Final Battle. What’s it like working with those two, as I know you teamed with Eddie in NOAH?
Eddie is incredible inside a wrestling ring. That was certainly no surprise to me. What was even less surprising; was how selfish and ego driven Davey Richards was. If you watch closely in that match it’s Davey’s ego which brings Kyle and I closest to pulling off the win. It happens more than once, but I’m not here to outline where that match went wrong, because this interview is about me; not Davey Richards.
Honestly, does anyone even remember that match at this point? Kyle and I returned to TV, earning our first tag team title shot by beating the Wolves, so there you go, let’s move on. Thanks.
Q) This Saturday, March 2nd, reDRagon face The Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Championships. How you feeling going into the match?
I feel like I can do anything. Our training has been spot on for the lead up to this thing. We are peaking at the exact right time; reDRagon is something different than anything ROH has seen before. We represent a problem that The Briscoes will simply not solve. Today’s tag teams are a more complete version of our predecessors.
There is not one aspect of professional wrestling where we feel compromised. In Chicago we will outwork the “workhorse” of the ROH tag divison and take away the most significant symbol of their credibility.
Q) I have a couple questions here from Twitter and Reddit, DoinItDirty asks what was it like working with Gabe Sapolsky? How much credit, if any, would you give him for your current place as a wrestler?
See earlier question about Evolve.
Q) Brian Craven asks, you were listed in one of the brackets for TNA’s online Gutcheck Challenge before they took it offline. Like Sami Callihan and others, were you unaware of this, or did you know TNA had this plan?
I had no idea until some people contacted me online, to say they were voting for me to be the next “TNA wrestler,” etc. I knew nothing prior to that.
Q) And finally, where would you like to see Bobby Fish next year?
In the next year I may become the biggest thing this industry has ever seen or I might be shot dead robbing a “7-11.” Really, who knows. What I do know is I’m a better father today than I was yesterday, and that’s job number one. Pro wrestling is way up on my priority list, but it certainly doesn’t define who I am. My progression will continue in earnest and I will attempt to force the evolution of myself as a man.
There is a good chance (if history is a true indicator) that I will be a better pro wrestler next year, a better kickboxer, husband, trainer, roller skater, driver, test taker, crossfitter, javelin thrower, actor, commentator, nunchaku(er), pitcher, catcher, puncher, punchie, reader, writer etc., etc. Stay tuned man, I’m blessed and will use each day to honor that with improvement.
Thank you Bobby, its been a pleasure!