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Exclusive Interview: Ring of Honor’s Punishment Martinez comes full circle

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Since winning Ring of Honor’s Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2017, Monster Factory graduate Punishment Martinez has been making quite the name for himself in the world of professional wrestling. Just a couple of days out from one of the biggest matches of his career with New Japan legend Tomohiro Ishii at Supercard of Honor XII this coming Saturday night in New Orleans, we had the chance to speak with Martinez about a variety of subjects including his mixed martial arts background, the pressure of being a “big man” in pro wrestling, his first experience in Japan earlier this year at Honor Rising and Ring of Honor’s new streaming service, Honor Club, being a game changer.

FightBoothPW: I understand you came into wrestling from a mixed martial arts background, which makes a lot of sense watching you wrestle. What was it that got you into MMA in the first place?

Punishment Martinez: At an early age, I started training mixed martial arts because of my father. He was a martial artist most of his life and had his own martial arts school in New York. I come from a broken home so my parents were split. I was raised in Puerto Rico with my mom and New York with my dad. My dad passed on his passion for fighting and martial arts when I moved in with him in New York. He taught me how to fight and trained me at a young age. Anyone who watches me wrestling can blatantly see the influence martial arts has on my wrestling. I throw a lot of kicks and a lot of strikes in my offense. The entire mental aspect of it as well — focus on one thing at a time — one opponent at a time and then cater to that person as far as coming up with a way to combat their styles. I’ve included that, not just with kicks and strikes but if you watch me work, I’ve included that mentality in every aspect of pro wrestling whether it’s high flying or mat wrestling or just in general. Any style — Strong Style, Lucha style — I train in different styles and that comes from the martial arts mentality of training every style possible to be ready for any type of opponent and I’ve implemented that into pro wrestling as well.

FBPW: Tell us a little bit about the psychology behind the Punishment Martinez character.

Martinez: What you see on TV is really close to who I am in real life. I’m a different type of person, I live my life differently. I was always drawn to things that are different, the weirdness and the dark, all the things that most people fear and try to stay away from, I’m drawn to. That aspect of me is real. Combine that with my martial arts background —that’s real. Everything about me is very real.

FBPW: Tell us a little bit about your experience at Honor Rising in Tokyo, was that your first time wrestling in Japan, or had you wrestled there previously?

Martinez: That was my first time. The experience of going to Japan was huge for me. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to go to Japan, at first for the martial arts. The style of martial arts that my father trained me in was Gōjū-ryū, which was a traditional Japanese style of Martial arts. I was raised in that background and we practiced and even in the Dojo when we practiced, everything was in Japanese, everything he would yell at me and all the instructions were in Japanese. So from a young age, I always loved the culture and I dreamed of going there. At first I dreamed of going there to study martial arts and be a part of that life and that combat style. Then, later in life as I morphed into a professional wrestler, it became my dream to wrestle in Japan and just because they have a big culture in Japanese wrestling as well. And then finally we come full circle and I’m able to go there through the partnership with New Japan and Ring of Honor. It was a dream, a dream come true. I don’t like that term, it was more of a goal achieved of mine since I was a child and I was very proud of it and the experience was amazing. I can’t wait to go back to be honest.

RING OF HONOR/James Musselwhite

FBPW: It’s goes without saying then that you’d probably be interested in doing an extended stint there in the future, maybe something like a G1 Climax run? Because it seems like the crowd really reacted well to you and there’s so many good match ups for you there.

Martinez: Ya, you’re spot on. Having a little bit more time over there, like you said like a tournament, would be great. I was well received with the crowd, outside of the arena and in the public everybody seemed to be really happy with me. Their tradition and the way they act and the way they carry themselves is parallel to nobody to be honest. The way everybody responded to me was very positive and they were very appreciative and very thankful for us just being there for their entertainment. It goes without saying that I’d love to have more opportunity with New Japan. I can’t control that, but hopefully somebody is listening that might want to put me into a certain situation that would benefit everybody and especially, like you said, there’s so many dream match ups that I could have over there. I know we’re having some here, I’ve already faced Naito and I’m about to face Tomohiro Ishii at Supercard of Honor, which is a great honor. There’s still so many great match ups I could have in New Japan that hopefully we can do. 

FBPW: So, since you brought up the name, tell us a little bit about your upcoming match with Ishii at Supercard this Saturday night.

Martinez: We’re mirrors of each other for our respective companies. We’re known as the guys that are the most feared and baddest men. When you’re going to be in the ring with us you know you’re in for a fight. That’s pretty much the consensus on either one of us in our respective companies. So you put us together against each other, you’re just going to get a hoss fight, basically. We’re going to go at it, we’re going to throw every thing at each other as hard as we can. Don’t look forward to a mat classic or a traditional pro wrestling match because that’s not what you’re going to see. I know from what I’ve heard that he’s looking forward to a fight and so am I. It’s going to be as physical as physical gets and I’m going to love every second of it to be honest.

FBPW: Do you think there’s more pressure on the bigger guys today as opposed to the “olden golden days” when just being big was enough?

Martinez: Absolutely, because in today’s world, where everything is expected to be faster paced and more action packed when you hear “big man match” in wrestling automatically, more fans tend to think that it’s this going to be slow and boring. So for us big men, people don’t realize, it’s a lot harder for us because everything that you see, all the falls and everything, it hurts more because of that extra weight, extra height coming down. Like that old saying ‘The bigger they are the harder they fall’ – yah it’s true, we do fall harder. So it’s a little more taxing on bodies but by the same token, if you want to achieve a certain amount of success you have to work hard at every aspect. I’m not saying that big men have to fly or anything, there’s a ton of big men that are successful without having to do the things that I do, or let’s say that a guy like Donovan Dijak does. There’s a lot more pressure on big men because you can’t just coast on your size. For years that’s what I did, I thought that I was going to successful because of my size because that’s what I used to hear all of the time but it wasn’t the case and I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I adapted, until I studied different styles and tried to become a hybrid of every style that I became successful. It’s all case by case and everyone is different but absolutely, in the viewers eyes it’s harder for a big man to become successful in pro wrestling because of that demand of guys just not being boring or slow, you just want guys to be a lot more entertaining and just wow the audience.

RING OF HONOR/Rich Wade

FBPW: Are you taking in any shows in New Orleans?

Martinez: I’ll be out and about. This is a special time. I know that the week is referred to as WrestleMania week but to me it’s becoming more pro wrestling week just because there’s so much talent, there’s so many shows, there’s so many successful events, there’s so may fans from all over the world that aren’t there just for WrestleMania. They’re there for Supercard, they’re there for indie events. I’ll be out and about enjoying it because there’s nothing like that feeling of sharing the same passion and love for this business with so many people — you don’t really get that too often — I want to feel that. I want to be a part of it. I won’t be hidden. I’m not going to stay in my hotel room until showtime or anything like that. I’ll be out there mingling and trying to take it in. If I get the opportunity to take in show shows I will. I’m not opposed to it.

FBPW: What matches on the WrestleMania 34 card have your interest?

Martinez: I think obviously the AJ Styles versus Nakamura match is going to be the show stealer. Then you also have Seth Rollins versus Finn Balor and The Miz, I think that’s going to be really, really good too. They have a hell of a card there. Every event this weekend is a hell of a show. I love this week in pro wrestling just because there’s so much good in our business going on at the same time it’s just a great time to be involved in pro wrestling.

FBPW: It really is, it just seems like every year it just keeps getting better and better. Everyone’s just at the top of their game and everyone seems to be inspiring everybody.

Martinez: It gets better and better every year. For instance, us with Supercard, it’s the biggest attended Ring of Honor event ever and now there’s going to be more eyes on us than ever with the Honor Club subscription system where guys can view it for free if you’re a member. It’s incredible and now we’re doing the Festival of Honor before with a meet and greet with basically everybody on the roster. The avenue of watching pro wrestling, especially Ring of Honor, has become so wide and so easily accessible that, like I said before, it’s not just an exciting to be in pro wrestling, it’s an especially exciting time to be in Ring of Honor.

FBPW: What kind of effect has Honor Club has that had on the roster with everything be streamed live? Has it been a subject in the locker room?

Martinez: We pride ourselves in being the best professional wrestling company. We go out every match, every show, everybody on the roster goes out to try to put on the best performance possible. But there’s that extra added adrenaline when you know it’s live. When you know there’s a bigger crowd, it just amps you up a little bit more, it doesn’t mean you’re not trying hard when it’s not, it just gives you that extra feeling and that extra energy boost and now we get to experience that every show. That definitely brings up the intensity level. It’s talked about in the locker room, there’s a different aura. We’re even more amped up than we were before. You can imagine what an event like Supercard is going to bring out when you have the first ever Women of Honor champion being crowned, it’s all main event level matches. Everybody on the roster is looking to steal the show and looking to put on the best performance possible, not just for themselves but for the company and the business. So Honor Club definitely changes the game for us because we know so many more people are watching.

Supercard of Honor will stream live and for free to ALL HonorClub members at 830e/730c! Fans can sign up at ROHHonorClub.com. The Supercard Pre-Show will stream on ROH’s Facebook Live at 730e/630c, featuring the semi-finals of the Women of Honor Championship Tournament and a special press conference featuring Cody and Kenny Omega!

Dave has been covering Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts for various websites since 2010. He currently runs both FightBooth and FightBoothPW with the help of some lovely and talented people.

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