Exclusive interview: Bobby Fish on his NXT debut
Well-traveled, highly gifted in the world of martial arts and a familiar face to some of the top names in WWE today, Bobby Fish has joined the ranks of NXT. Despite seeing the new NXT Superstar fall short in his debut match against Aleister Black, most sports-entertainment aficionados agree that the addition of Fish to the roster is a win-win for both parties. Fish sat down with WWE.com to talk about his pre-NXT career and the impressive resume that preceded his arrival.
WWE.COM: How did it feel to walk down the ramp of Full Sail University in Orlando, Fla., for your NXT debut?
BOBBY FISH: Somewhat surreal because much of this has come together very quickly. I watched the success of former co-workers and peers, such as Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno and Hideo Itami, make that very same walk at Full Sail. At this point, I feel so prepared for this new challenge. In my opinion, this life is about the journey, and when mine ends, I expect that this vessel, my body, will be banged up, battered and beaten, which will be a clear indication of a life well lived. NXT represents the next step in my journey.
WWE.COM: You mentioned some of the names you came up with during your career. Who are some other current WWE Superstars you worked with along the way?
FISH: Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Luke Harper, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn. I’m bound to leave someone out because the list is a pretty lengthy one.
WWE.COM: Did you ever think you’d make it to this point?
FISH: At times, yes, and at times, no. I remember a conversation I had with Kevin Owens in a hotel gym in Chicago a few years back. We were both working for Ring of Honor, and at that time, it seemed like Kevin was headed toward the next step in his journey. I have immense respect for Kevin and all that he's been through to find his success. He is not the prototype for what was rumored to be ideal here and neither am I. Understanding his drive to succeed here through that conversation made me think that if I want that — which I believe, in some way, anyone who laces up the boots to do this, does on some level — then I will create a similar opportunity for myself. So yeah, I did think I'd be here one day.
WWE.COM: How did you get your start in the industry?
FISH: I was trained by former ECW Superstar Tony DeVito in 2002-ish after starting my training with Jeff Libolt the year before, only to end that after a month when he had to stop training us. I lived in Albany, N.Y., and made the short two-hour drive to Newburgh two or three days a week. Tony was wrestling for Ring of Honor at the time, so I made the most of his road trips by riding along with other guys whom Tony was training. This was my first exposure to real independent wrestling. I saw guys like AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe, who not only impressed me athletically, but whom I felt athletically akin to. Frankly, seeing these guys do what they did was intimidating. Joe immediately captured my attention with his martial arts-influenced style, and I had a new favorite. I patterned much of my early stuff after Joe.
WWE.COM: What attracted you to the squared circle in the first place?
FISH: I'm not entirely sure. My first love was football, and as I neared the end of my college career, I was unsure what my path would be. I had a B.A. in English from Siena College but was certain that a nine-to-five was not the direction that would lead to happiness for me. Wrestling was something I joked about getting into with childhood friends because I was a fan, and they believed it matched my personality.
As I searched for my path, I remembered the wrestlers who really captured my attention as a kid. The Great Muta and Dynamite Kid were my favorites. I love the martial arts, I dressed as a ninja for Halloween every year growing up and was an undersized linebacker playing football. Dynamite's super-athletic, smaller-competitor shtick really resonated with me. I started to consider the notion in earnest after reading Dynamite Kid’s autobiography, “Pure Dynamite,” while working for a marketing company that had me on the road in a different city two to three nights a week. I told myself when I returned home that I'd investigate how to get this thing started.
WWE.COM: Fast forward and you’ve built quite a name for yourself over the years. How would you describe your in-ring style?
FISH: My style is a blend of the martial arts I've trained in over the years (I started taekwondo at 8 years old) and sound wrestling fundamentals. My strongest influence here is the hybrid Muay Thai and grappling elements, which I still train in to this day. As an experienced martial artist, I can watch someone throw a kick and know whether this is something they've trained in before or if they are faking the funk and merely throwing said technique because they've watched others do so. I want my in-ring style to represent the training I do outside of the ring.
WWE.COM: You also spent considerable time in Japan. How did that experience impact your career?
FISH: Japan will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the place where I received the first big break of my career when I was selected to travel to the island and begin competing for Mitsuharu Misawa's Pro Wrestling NOAH at the end of 2006. I worked eight years with NOAH and developed much of my style there. I learned from and tallied matches with Japanese legends like Misawa himself, Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama. I was also afforded the opportunity to develop alongside my Japanese peers like Hideo Itami, Atsushi Aoki and Naomichi Marufuji.
In 2014, I left NOAH with their blessing to pursue a career with New Japan Pro Wrestling. There is no question in my mind that this is the place where I truly rounded out my skillset. I cannot thank [New Japan matchmaker] Gedo enough for the opportunity he gave me when I was invited there to compete. I shared the New Japan ring with a living legend in Jushin “Thunder” Liger, UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba, Yuji Nagata, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi. The list is endless, and I am forever grateful. I am a better wrestler because of my time with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
WWE.COM: What does Bobby Fish bring to the table of NXT?
FISH: I am a duel student of both wrestling and martial arts. The latter of the two, in my opinion, is a life-long journey that will only end when I draw my last breath on this earth. The first I've grown to see as an extension of the second. Wrestling, to me, is its own martial art. The roots come from catch wrestling, and although the sport is quite a bit evolved at this point, I believe an adherence to some of these roots may usher in its next evolution. I am a practitioner of this concept. My style is a hybrid of Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo and grappling, wrapped up in a package of someone who's not afraid to tell you about it. These are the most educated feet in the industry today, and I'm more than happy to convince those who are reluctant to accept this fact.
Follow Bobby Fish on Twitter @theBobbyFish.