Ring of Honor star Tracy Williams talks to Daily DDT about feeling at home in the ROH Pure Championship Tournament, Lifeblood, his goals in the company, and more.
If Ring of Honor’s ongoing tournament to crown the first ROH Pure champion in over a decade was made for any one person, it would almost undoubtedly be Tracy Williams.
His style perfectly fits the vibe of what fans have seen so far from the tourney, not to mention that Williams has always aspired to be in such a spot since well before he joined the promotion in 2018. Now that the belt is back following a decade-long absence and he has a chance to capture it himself, he refuses to let the opportunity pass him by.
“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams was thrilled to hear of the title’s return when it was announced by Ring of Honor earlier this year. Of course, the pandemic put those plans on hold, but the time off from the squared circle merely motivated him that much more to win it once television tapings resumed.
“Being a part of the ROH Pure Title Tournament kind of means the world to me,” Williams revealed to Daily DDT in a phone interview conducted last Thursday. “It’s the kind of thing that someone in wrestling always hopes for. Everybody’s got their thing in wrestling that they’ve really latched onto and they have their own place where their puzzle piece fits and the Pure tournament is exactly that kind of thing for me. I’m not taking it lightly. It’s one of those things that really doesn’t come around that often, especially on a bigger stage. It’s pretty rare that you see one of the bigger doing something like this because pro wrestling has become so gimmicky and over-the-top that these stripped-down, fighting-based promotions have been pushed to the outskirts in wrestling. It’s a huge thing. To see Ring of Honor going back to their roots and giving this a shot on such a big stage is really, really cool to see.”
The Brooklyn native noted how he grew up loving the wacky world of wrestling but eventually fond a fondness for the more mat-based style of the sport. Honing his craft all these years has helped him stand out in a major way as one of the best technical wrestlers in the business today.
He elaborated that it was that realness of wrestling that led to his admiration for Ring of Honor, which exemplified that upon its launch in 2002. Thus, Williams signing with the company was only inevitable and now he’s exactly where he wants to be, somewhere he feels he needs to be.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a little kid, and when you’re a little kid, you love the over-the-top stuff,” he said. “I loved all the crazy storylines and all the crazy characters. That stuff definitely has a place and it definitely hooks people and it’s a big part of what professional wrestling is. As you grow up, especially as I physically started taking part in wrestling, I became laser-focused on the technique behind everything and the actual person-to-person combat aspect and I fell in love with that. It’s not that I think gimmicks are bad or anything because that’s what got me hooked in the first place, but I think so many people who have watched wrestling have watched for so long that now they can appreciate more of a technical-based style and it’s something different, too. It’s really nice that Ring of Honor has strayed true to their roots and specifically what made me fall in love with Ring of Honor in the first place, which was the in-ring competition.”
Based on his approach to wrestling, Williams is obviously considered a heavy favorite to win the entire tournament and be crowned the new ROH Pure champion. First, however, he’ll have to square off in the first round with newcomer Rust Taylor, a match that is set to air on the upcoming episode of ROH TV.
Taylor isn’t nearly as experienced as Williams but has an advantage in that Hot Sauce has never faced him before. Aside from Taylor and Matt Sydal, Williams has gone up against almost everyone involved in the tourney at least once. He’s been training extra hard for Taylor with this marking his first formal match in over six months due to the current circumstances.
“I think normally you have to rely on your instincts and your experience and just now that you can get the job done no matter who it is,” he said. “I have faced so many different types of people throughout my career that it’s gotten me ready, but it will also be the first time I step in a wrestling month in six months. That takes a little bit of that experience out of me because I’m going to be fighting not only Rust Taylor but also ring rust at the same time. It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s one that excites me. If I’m in a tournament like this filled with people I’ve already wrestled, I would choose to face someone I haven’t before to gain the extra experience and knowledge. I know Rust is up for the task, I’ve done a little bit of homework on him. He certainly belongs there, he certainly fits into the tournament, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The ROH Pure Championship Tournament is filled with exceptional competitors, all of whom Williams is chomping at the bit to step in the ring with again. If he can manage to advance against Taylor this week on ROH TV, he’ll still have another three rounds to go before he can call himself the ROH Pure champion.
Specifically, the two names he hopes to clash with in the tourney are Fred Yehi and Jonathan Gresham. Both won their respective first-round matches and could be feasible opponents for Williams eventually.
“Looking at the brackets and the way it could potentially go, there are definitely two names that really stick out to me,” he said. “Fred Yehi is one because we’ve always had such a history. We’ve been EVOLVE Tag Team Champions before, we’ve worked together a lot, we’ve fought each other a lot. He’s one of those people when as soon as they announced the Pure Tournament, he was one of the first names that popped into my head. I hate when people use the word underrated, but I think he’s one of the most underrated wrestlers out there for sure because he’s got such a unique style and he’s such an amazing athlete. He puts his body through a lot and is able to put on a unique kind of a show that a lot of people can’t because he has such crazy cardio and a really creative take on his offense. I’m really excited for the Ring of Honor audience to see what he can do.
“The other one was Jonathan Gresham,” he added. “He has been carrying the flag for technical wrestling in ROH for some time. He’s been here longer than I have and has a similar mindset. If I envision my path in this tournament, I think he’s the number one name to prove yourself as far as technical wrestling goes in Ring of Honor these days. I’m very familiar with Jonathan Gresham as well, we have a lot of history and it would be cool to carry that sort of rivalry onto a stage like this because we’ve fought each other all over this country.”
While speaking out on his time with ROH overall since signing in late 2018, Williams praised the promotion and it was always the endgame for him. Now that he’s arrived, he’s aiming to impress any way he can and follow in the footsteps of ROH icons who came before him, in addition to holding gold before long.
He believes that his strong work ethic stems from being extremely hard on himself and constantly pushing himself to be the best that he can be. Although he’s enjoyed his stint with ROH up to this point, he doesn’t think fans have yet seen all that he can do and how far he can truly go.
“I expect a lot out of myself and sometimes don’t give myself the credit that maybe I should because I think that’s what pushes me forward,” Williams admitted. “I can’t help but look at my time in Ring of Honor so far as I haven’t yet reached my potential. The timing is sort of cool because I think things are started to pivot because when they announced the Pure Title Tournament, I was really excited because this is the opportunity now. I feel like I’ve been bouncing around a little bit and looking for that opportunity here, but this is it. There aren’t any excuses anymore because it’s up to me to show what I can do. It’s been a really great experience to reach this level and start to see what I can do with it, but I look at it as I have not reached my potential and hopefully the time to do that is coming now.”
Before entering the ROH Pure Championship Tournament, Williams had been a staple of ROH’s tag team division for the last year alongside Mark Haskins in Lifeblood. He occasionally competed for the ROH World Championship and ROH World Television Championship but was primarily slotted in the tag team ranks, challenging for the ROH World Tag Team Championship a time or two as well.
The faction wasn’t able to reach the heights it arguably should have due to Juice Robinson staying in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Tenille Dashwood departing the company, and David Finlay suffering an injury. Williams confirmed that his sights are firmly set on becoming ROH Pure champion at the moment but hinted at there being unfinished business with Lifeblood.
Once everyone in the group is ready to return, it’s possible the ROH World Tag Team Championship could be in their future.
“It’s been a real interesting experience,” he said. “It was great meeting everybody that was involved and forming some new relationships and getting to feel out some new dynamics. But I think as everyone knows and can see if they’ve been paying attention to Ring of Honor, we’ve been thrown a lot of curveballs and there’s been a lot of changes with people’s status in the company and people’s status in the country. People can’t even get into the country right now. There’s been people who have been injured. There’s been a lot of roadblocks that have been in the way of making Lifeblood something concrete and something effective. That’s another one of those potentials that hasn’t been reached yet and it will interesting to see once Haskins get back into the country and all that. It’s been interesting and, like I said, I’m really thankful for the relationships I’ve formed and everything and teaming with Haskins has been really great. The focus right now is definitely on my path and right now that’s the Pure Tournament. Everything else is kind of the in the distant horizon and kind of a question mark.”
Right now, Williams’ sole goal is to win the Pure Championship. He mentioned that it likely would have been the first thing he gunned for had it been around when he initially debuted two years ago, even over the ROH World Championship.
Hot Sauce also aspires to continue bringing ROH back to its wrestling roots and reach the levels legends such as Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson and CM Punk have in the promotion’s past.
“There’s some concrete goals and then there’s some more abstract ideals,” Williams said. “The concrete goal is, everybody wants to be the world champion. Everybody wants that, but seeing now that the ROH Pure title is back in the picture, that’s the concrete goal for me. It would’ve been the concrete goal from the jump had it been still around when I joined the company, but it wasn’t. Everybody wants to be at the top and be the world champion. To me, the Pure title is the top title in Ring of Honor for sure. World champion is one thing, but Pure champion means you are the best wrestler and to me that’s what the top title is in Ring of Honor.
“That’s my concrete goal,” he continued. “The more abstract goal is just to live up to the legend of Ring of Honor, live up to the people who made it what it is. Even I’m really getting lofty goals, then to surpass them and see what I can do beyond that because the standards are so high here.”
You can watch episodes of Ring of Honor every week on your local Sinclair station, as well as Charge TV, Fite TV, HonorClub, and ROH Best on the Planet. Visit ROHWrestling.com to see where ROH TV can be seen in your area.