Kenny King has been with ROH off and on for over a dozen years. He has seen many faces pass thru the locker room and one of the stalwarts within the promotion has been Jonathan Gresham, who is not only a talent but also a trainer.
King talked about Gresham as an ROH leader when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast to discuss ROH's new Roundtable series regarding racial issues in America.
"Gresh is not a rookie. Gresh has been around for a long time. I worked FIP shows in 2008 when John Gresham was still wrestling as John Davis," recalled King. "So, Gresh has been around.
"Initially it was supposed to be myself, Caprice and Shane [for the ROH Roundtable]. But the more we talked about it, we would be absolutely remiss if we didn't include Jay Lethal who was Kofi Kingston before Kofi Kingston; let's call it real. Then Jonathan Gresham who is on that level who has been around as long and who people may not be as familiar with.
"Gresh has, I wouldn't say stepped up, but he's stepped in his role. He is universally recognized as an amazing pro wrestler and people are now starting to hear his voice as a leader and it's just as strong."
King mentioned Jay Lethal was, "Kofi Kingston before Kofi Kingston," and he was asked to expand on those comments.
"Jay Lethal was ROH World Champion in 2011 or 2012 and he was a double champ. He held both singles championships. So, what I mean by that is when people justly give Kofi his due for being the first black champion in WWE history and that's a huge thing in itself, but Jay Lethal was doing it in ROH," said King. "I wouldn't say it was to a little fanfare but it was less fanfare as what Kofi Kingston got. ROH never had an issue with that – Xavier [John Jirus] was the first ROH world champion. I think Xavier is Puerto Rican; he's someone of color. It's not a situation where you have to go back years in the history books to find anything like that. It's always kinda been the culture."
The ROH Roundtables address racial issues in America head on and he talked about what ROH is looking to accomplish with these sessions.
"One of the most important things I felt we did is we asked questions. We had people ask questions that you would maybe be too afraid to ask in person. Send it into whoever was moderating this and we wanted to hear them all because these are questions that everyday people have that shape the way they think or look at things," stated King.
"A lot of this is based off not real information or something they heard, so that was the No. 1 thing. I wanted to get people's 'Ask a black dude questions.' Let's get it out on the table. Let's talk about black on black crime and the Confederate Flag because when we get those things on the table and iron them out, then we can move forward. Then we stop with pre-conceived notions and stop with, 'Well, I heard this or I always thought this.' Okay, well this is what I'm saying so now you can hear it from me and now we can move forward in that direction."
There has been civil and social unrest over the last several months in the United States. King was asked by host Nick Hausman if a genuine conversation about racial issues is genuinely being had in America.
"I honestly believe it's more genuine now than it was a few years ago. 2015-2016 when the phrase Black Lives Matter came out it was, 'Oh' and there was a visceral reaction. People took it as an argument and an affront to their own self. This time around you're seeing a whole lot more people that don't take offense to that," said King. "They see it for what the slogan, phrase and movement actually mean. Everywhere from Disney to Apex Legends to FIFA, you turn on any sort of media and you see the words Black Lives Matter and four years ago that wasn't the case. I feel that even though there is loads of white noise and opposition, I feel like the percentages have swayed and a lot of people have stopped being so offended and have taken the time to listen. They're like, 'Oh, okay well I can get down with that.' That's why we're seeing it being a little more well-received this time around."
Kenny King is a panelist on the new ROH Roundtable sessions addressing racial issues in the United States of America and pro wrestling. You can check out the debut ROH Roundtable by clicking HERE. Kenny's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.