ROH’s Punishment Martinez Talks AJ Styles Praise, Chuck Norris Story and War of the Worlds Tour


ROH’s Punishment Martinez discussed his rise in wrestling, the time he met AJ Styles and the story of his father defeating Chuck Norris.

In 2017, one of Ring of Honor’s rising stars has been Punishment Martinez. His performance at the ROH 15th Anniversary Show drew a buzz on social media, which took place in a Six-Man Mayhem Match to determine the No. 1 Contender to the ROH World Television Championship.

Martinez is set to join ROH on their War of the Worlds tour, which is taking place throughout the week. As that’s ongoing, Martinez sat down with us to talk about his start in wrestling, a story about AJ Styles and how his dad once defeated Chuck Norris in an exhibition fight.

How did you get started in the wrestling business?

Around 2003, a buddy of mine and I were friends as kids and watched wrestling. We always loved it, talking about it, and doing it and being a team. One day, he said, “Why don’t we actually do this thing?” I didn’t have a clue how to do it, so I was like do you just show up? What do we do? He goes, “No, you have to go to the school. I saw some schools.” He goes, “I found one in South Jersey,” and we lived in New York. I asked, “Alright, what is it?” and it’s called the Monster Factory. Bam Bam and Ravens and a bunch of guys trained there — the Headbangers, too. I thought, “Oh, that’s cool.” So, we went, did a tryout and basically, that was that — I signed up.

Who trained you when you were there?

When I first started, Larry Sharpe was the owner of the Monster Factory at the time. So, he was there at the beginning but then got sick. The trainers he had at the time were Ed Atlas and Jim Molineaux, who used to be a ref in ECW. They’re the ones that got me started.

What eventually led to Ring of Honor noticing you or your path to getting there?

Well, I was in the business for many years; did tryouts for WWE and was building up a little rep for myself on the Northeast Coast. Finally, I decided to do tryout seminars, and after the first one, I started building a good relationship with Kevin Kelly and Delirious, and then started training at the ROH dojo. We went from there and I got opportunities in dark matches, that led to the Top Prospect Tournament and eventually led to me getting a full-time contract.

I was reading on your Top Prospect Tournament profile that it says you had to transform your body to get fit for wrestling and how you had to lose over 100 pounds. What was that process like?

I didn’t have to lose it. I did it for myself, you know what I mean? I was stuck in a rut doing indie wrestling. You surround yourself with the wrong people that say they’re looking out for you, but they’re not. They’re just telling you what you want to hear, and at the time, it was just, “Hey, man, you’re a big guy. You’re athletic. You can move. You’re athletic. You’re going to be a big name in this business.” But I was out of shape, overweight and I didn’t workout. I had stopped training and just showed up for bookings — that’s basically it. It showed when I had tryouts and when given opportunities, I couldn’t hang. I knew what I had to do, I just didn’t do it.

Finally, one day, it came down to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Do I just want to wrestle one the indies once in a while? Do I want to have a normal job? Or do I want to make this my career? So, I finally decided to fix my diet. I started working out, and in about a year, I lost 100 pounds. Then, I started getting amazing opportunities after that.

Since the end of 2016, your role on ROH TV and at the live events has increased. What has been the most exciting part of the recent opportunities you’ve received?

There’s a lot of parts to that question. Just traveling, alone, and seeing different parts of the United States. Traveling to Japan was amazing. The people I’ve been able to work with. Being in the ring with guys like [Chris] Sabin, [Frankie] Kazarian, [Adam] Page, Hirooki Goto, [Tetsuya] Naito and the list goes on.

As long as I’ve been in wrestling — and I coach now at the Monster Factory — I still feel like such a student, because while I’ve been around a little bit, I’m new there. So, it’s great as a learning experience to listen and learn from these guys and travel with them.

There’s so many answers to that question — I’m loving the entire experience of being in Ring of Honor and everything that comes with it.

Is there someone from Ring of Honor that’s helped you out the most?

Delirious has to be No. 1 because he was my trainer at the ROH dojo. He’s helped guide me, but he’s not the only one. Kevin Kelly deserves a lot of credit — BJ Whitmer and Steve Corino, too. Then, like I said, the boys are awesome. It’s the coolest locker room I’ve ever been in. Everybody is in there to help everybody for the product — no one is in there for themselves.

More from ROH

I remember my first dark match, I wasn’t too happy with my performance and everybody said it was okay, but I sat in the corner and AJ Styles walked up to me. Other than hello and goodbye, he had never come up to me. He was like, “Hey, man. I don’t know, not that my opinion matters, but I wanted to let you know that you looked awesome.” And that was it — he just walked away. I was like, “What?” He literally walked from one side of the locker room to the other just to tell me that and go right back. We didn’t know each other, and this is AJ Styles and he’s a huge star. It was when he was killing it in Japan and right before he left for WWE. So, that was like ridiculous for him to do that. But he wasn’t the only one to do that like the Briscoes have. [Adam] Cole has. Like I said, the locker room is really cool and everyone likes to help each other for the product because everyone wins that way.

Recently, at the ROH 15th Anniversary Show, your performance in the six-man match drew a lot of buzz on social media. How did you feel about your performance from that match?

That was cool. I would say I’ve had a lot of good matches over the years and especially recently. Trending worldwide was something you never really think about to look forward to, but when it happened, I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” That means people know who I am and that’s what you want in this business — to be known and remembered. People can talk about money and whatever they want as far as goals in this business, but ultimately you just want to leave an imprint in this and I feel like I’m on my way to that happening. So, the feeling was pretty humbling. I didn’t even know about [trending worldwide on Twitter].

I’m in the back, getting changed and cooling down after the match, and one of the production guys walks by and goes, “Hey, Punishment, have you checked Twitter lately?” I was like, “No, I haven’t.” He goes, “You’re trending” and keeps walking. I said, “Huh?” I was shocked and was like, “Oh my god!”

It’s funny because I was trending during the match from one flip. If I would have known that…

Earlier this year, you competed in the Honor Rising event in Japan. What was that experience like for you?

Since I was a kid, I always wanted to go to Japan, before I even thought about wrestling or actually wrestling because I was into traditional Japanese martial arts. I was trained by my dad. I used to fight in tournaments and what not. The way he trained me was like somebody that trained in Japan, so everything was traditional. I loved the culture, and as a kid, I just wanted to go. Being able to go and being paid to do it, while performing in what I love to do, was a dream come true — the definition of a dream come true to the very “t.” That was amazing.

The experience out there and the way I was received was incredible. New Japan is a ridiculously professional organization that I would love to work for again and I can’t wait to go back. The guys I got to work with — Hirooki Goto and Naito — they’re really big stars there, along with the way they treated me as well. They didn’t treat me like some outside rookie. They showed me respect as I showed them.

The whole experience was fantastic and have nothing bad to say about that entire trip. The city, the culture, everything top to bottom — it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Coming up soon, you have the War of the Worlds Tour with New Japan. What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to about this?

I have a singles match with Naito. You got [Hiroshi] Tanahashi, who’s a rock star in Japan. He’s a movie star and the equivalent to a Hulk Hogan or John Cena. He’s a ridiculous star. Then, of course, [Kenny] Omega, [Kazuchika] Okada, but Naito is right up there with them, so to have a singles match with pretty much a legend is pretty awesome and he’s one of their top-tier champions. I’m looking forward to that. It’s probably the biggest match I’ve had in my career — it’s straight up been my biggest singles match. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most, but the entire tour is going to be amazing. We go from Toronto to Dearborn, to New York and Philly. We have four shows to break bread with these guys and just kill it in the ring.

Every time these tours come around, the attitude is “let’s leave an impression” and “no one can top this.”

Is there a dream opponent you have that you’d like to face one day or multiple?

There’s a lot of guys that I would like to one day work with. Speaking just Ring of Honor, [Jay] Lethal is definitely up there. That’s a guy I’ve looked up to for years, watched and always thought of him as being one of the best wrestlers in the world. Cole is up there. He’s got pro wrestling in his hands right now. That’s just Ring of Honor and there’s a ton of guys outside Ring of Honor.

Right now, I’d say Jay Lethal is my biggest dream match.

With the way this year has gone for you so far, what do you think you’ll be able to accomplish by the end of 2017?

My goal by the end of 2017 is to hold a championship in Ring of Honor. I have never bragged being the best at anything. I go about my business and just do what I do to the best of my ability. But I think doing that I can achieve championship status. That’s my goal this year, to hold some type of gold, or be in a position to be one of the top guys or main eventers in Ring of Honor.

By the end of your wrestling career, is there one thing you think you will have accomplished that you haven’t yet?

Oh, I’m sure. There’s a lot of things. I always set realistic goals and to get into the business, and the first day is, to say “What are your goals in wrestling?” And then, to respond with “Oh, I want to main event WrestleMania.” To be realistic, think about the number of guys that get to do that, compared to the thousands and thousands of pro wrestlers that there are in the world. So, that’s an unrealistic goal. For anybody, if that happens, great.

Mine right now is to achieve hold in Ring of Honor. Then, achieve gold in New Japan. From there on, we’ll see what happens. I set realistic goals, so it’s step by step. One of my goals was to make it to Ring of Honor and be featured in Ring of Honor, and I did that. Then, it was to get a contract, and I did that. Then, it was to go to Japan, and I did that. Now, it’s to be on pay-per-view, and I’ve done that. I set my goals one at a time, so I think that my next goal will be accomplished and the goal after that will be accomplished. I can’t say I have so many goals that by the end of my career I should have accomplished. I don’t know what they’re going to be, it depends on how and when I accomplish my next goal.

On ROH’s website, it listed that your father once defeated Chuck Norris in a Japanese Goju Ryu karate competition. Would you be able to explain more about that?

[Laughs] This question comes up a lot. It’s so funny. I mention it a lot in interviews. Goju Ryu is a style of martial arts that we fought in — that’s what we practiced. I was not even around — this was a long time ago. My father was competing at the time in a tournament and they had an exhibition fight, so there was no decision for a winner or loser, but anybody watching knows who won the fight because he hit him a lot more times. He didn’t knock him out or hurt him because it was an exhibition, but he showed in that sense of being a better fighter in that moment.

Next: All 26 Champions in NXT History, Ranked

Martinez is competing in multiple matches for ROH’s War of the Worlds tour. He’ll face Tetsuya Naito on Wednesday, May 10, in Dearborn, MI.

ROH’s War of the Worlds PPV will take place on Friday, May 12 at the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The show can be seen on PPV on, and you can also view the show via the Fite TV app.