Jonathan Gresham Breaks Silence On ROH And AEW Exit – Exclusive

Last year at ROH Death Before Dishonor, Jonathan Gresham lost the ROH World Championship to Claudio Castagnoli in the opening match. It was a head-scratching turn of events for fans of Gresham’s who had enjoyed his work as ROH’s top guy.

Shortly after the event, reports began to emerge that Gresham had gotten involved in a heated conversation with ROH and AEW owner, Tony Khan, backstage at the show and asked for his release, which he was granted.

In an exclusive interview for Haus of Wrestling, Gresham breaks his silence on that meeting with Khan as well as his release from ROH and AEW. The full interview is available in the Haus of Wrestling podcast feed.

“I was pretty much conversating with Christopher Daniels back and forth,” Gresham began, describing his relationship with ROH and AEW management prior to Death Before Dishonor. “I forget the timeline but I was signed with AEW for a while. There was a time that I was going back and forth with Progress and then WXW, and I believe I was under contract with them at the time. TK, AEW, could have completely decided to pull me from those events and they allowed me to continue what I was doing and to honor those commitments that I already had after Ring of Honor initially went down.

“So, I was already in contact with Christopher Daniels, not so much with TK, so I thank them a lot because I have built, over the years, really good relationships with all these companies all over the world and I wanted to keep it that way. I knew canceling on them last second would have put a sour taste in our relationship and I didn’t want to do that. So, I really am grateful to them for allowing me to honor those commitments that I made.

“So, that is why I was gone, I would like to think I probably would have been seen on TV at the time because I know a lot of people were asking, ‘Why isn’t that person here?’ Blah blah blah. So, that’s pretty much why, because I was honoring those commitments. I was, to be honest, overseas the entire time between Germany and Ireland, and stuff, I was always gone.

“Fast forward to when I am finally back and finished up with Progress and WXW and everyone. For the most part, I think I really need to say that I am a very passionate person. I believe everyone that knows me and has trained with me at seminars and worked with me in the ring would agree. Along with that is the on-screen persona that I play as ‘The Foundation.’ This character and the character’s message is very close to how I actually view wrestling. This character also took years for me to develop and I am very protective and passionate about it.

“I can admit that I was acting very unprofessionally while trying and failing to convey the message to my former employer. After weeks of feeling like I wasn’t being heard or blown off, I was frustrated, to be honest. All I wanted was to be heard and for the communication to be had. If they had agreed and liked my ideas and what I wanted to say, great, if not, I would have appreciated the time and just accepted the outcome.”

Gresham took a moment to clear his throat before giving more insight into where his mind was at heading into the confrontation he eventually had with Tony Khan backstage at ROH Death Before Dishonor. Reporting regarding that meeting described it as heated and loud enough for others in the locker room, and security, to hear it outside the door.

“Now, speaking about the actual meeting, leading up to it, I felt like I was blown off in different ways,” he said. “I had made contact with my employer and me coming from, like I mentioned before, under the last regime with Ring of Honor, I had a really good relationship where we could talk over the phone. If I texted them, they would get back to me relatively quickly. It was just a really good back-and-forth communication. So, I think, for me, I was expecting the same thing and maybe I shouldn’t have.

“I know TK is a very busy guy, owning a lot of different businesses, and I am a very small gear in this machine. That just came after so much time thinking about it through therapy and things of that nature. I felt like I was blown off, we made contact, and I was flown into a show.”

“I showed up, this is a new environment for me,” he continued. “I wasn’t really used to these big shows and so much going on. I arrived, I’m waiting and I never really got a time or anything about when we were going to meet. I just figured, ‘Hey, I know how wrestling is so I’ll just wait until he has time.’ I was there pretty much the entire two days, the fly-in day and then the day of the event where everything is filmed and then the next day.

“The gist of this is, I never got the chance to see him. Even when I went to a, say, Sonjay or QT to ask, ‘Hey, man, I’m supposed to have a meeting with Tony. Can I get it?’ I didn’t get it. So, the first time I felt like, ‘Okay, the dude is busy, whatever.’ I think I messaged him or he messaged me but I remember him saying something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry we didn’t get together. Let’s meet another time.’ Something like that.

“So, I fly out again and the same thing kinda happens. I’m not sure if I should say this part but this is what made me kinda feel like I was being blown off. I had to, for lack of a better word, hunt him down. When I finally get a chance to have a face-to-face with him, he introduces me to someone he is close with and as I go to shake her hand, I turn around and TK, from the way it looked to me, was walking away from me.

“So, at this point, I am thinking to myself, ‘This guy must not respect me at all.’ I just started having things roll around in my mind and I think, at the time, I was my own worst enemy with this. There was a lot of stuff going on personally with me. Nobody but the Progress guys know that my Mom had a really bad incident, she was in the hospital for like a week and it was the first time I had ever seen my Mom so vulnerable with tubes going through her face and stuff. A lot of this was just me under a lot of stress, I believe. But, I really felt I was disrespected.”

Gresham continued on discussing how he had felt the need to prove himself in the world of pro wrestling. Conceding that not all wrestlers achieve success or accomplishments at the same rate, something he had struggled to deal with. Having found success after years of hard work, he grappled with the fact he could not get a few minutes of time to speak to his boss about his future.

“I shouldn’t have yelled or cursed in a professional environment and I deeply regret my behavior,” he said, beginning to recall his actual meeting with Khan. “Since then, I’ve gained some introspection through therapy, like I was saying before, and self-reflection and I just want to set the record straight. That day at the meeting, I wasn’t supposed to have that meeting, actually. Like I told you before, I’d been asking for meetings with TK and it was finally where we were both at a Ring of Honor show and he was like, ‘Oh, let me talk to Gresham.’ When he finally had time, I imagine.

“I remember getting a text from Sonjay and I was sitting with one of my buddies in the bleachers and, at that time, I had already checked out. I knew I was going to leave. I knew that I was going to ask for my release. The other thing that really bothered me was, a lot of people were under the impression that I left because I lost the Ring of Honor title and that’s not true. I’ve been wrestling for a long time and I’ve won championships and had to lose championships, that’s just part of business and life in general. You can’t be the champion forever, so, that’s not what it was.

“It was everything I had mentioned before so, I had already kinda checked out and I had told myself that I was going to ask for my release and leave. I already kinda knew what was going to happen and I was okay with that. Like I said before, I shouldn’t have yelled or cursed in a professional environment. The whole meeting just kind of got away from me, I was really emotional. That’s pretty much the gist of it.”

In regard to the match against Castagnoli where he dropped the title in less than a minute, he said he would like to “publicly apologize to Claudio,” noting how difficult that day was for everyone, especially with the state he was in. As for his relationship currently with AEW and ROH, he hasn’t had any contact with anyone there since, with the exception of a few texts with QT Marshall.

“After my match with Claudio, I was kinda booking it out of there, I couldn’t be there,” Gresham revealed as we began to close our conversation. “Claudio did come up to me and say some things, along with Mr. Regal, who was there at the time. But, before I did get out of there completely, my wife had my bags and stuff, and TK, he didn’t have to, but he came over to me and said some really nice things. He told me that no bridges were burned, he shook my hand and he said he knows that I am not a bad person.

“I can only imagine him dealing with athletes for so long. He kinda understands how things are, how people are. He deals with people from all different backgrounds. I’m pretty sure he probably saw where I was coming from and he just granted me my release. That was it.”

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