As Ring of Honor deals with the latest wave of "talent raids" from the WWE, the departures of several other talents and rumors of other potential defections, the on-screen product continues to motor on as the company enters one of its biggest months of the year.
With a big Manhattan card, its 15th Anniversary show in Las Vegas and a WrestleMania weekend showcase featuring The Young Bucks against new free agents the Hardys, there's a lot to get excited about when it comes to the immediate future of ROH.
But the most exciting development of all, especially in the long term, has been the emergence of "The Villain" Marty Scurll, the English wrestling mainstay who has made a tremendous impact in the three months since winning the company's television championship against countryman and fellow breakout star Will Ospreay.
Scurll's charisma bleeds through the screen, and he helped make circular spectacles and a black umbrella cool as part of his unusual, over-the-top persona. ESPN.com spoke to Scurll ahead of Saturday's ROH Manhattan Mayhem show at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
ESPN.com: If there are wrestling fans who maybe only watch the WWE or only watch what's available on their respective TV screens, give me the two-minute version of why "The Villain" is such a compelling character.
Marty Scurll: It's hard for me to answer that without writing a 15,000-word dissertation. But I think with me, from what I can see and what I understand, I feel like despite being "The Villain" -- in the wrestling sense, I am the antagonist -- I feel like I probably have more of a connection with my fans than the majority of the wrestlers out there.
At end of the day, I think people buy me. I think people think I'm organic, I'm authentic. And the messages I spread and choose to tell, I think most people agree with me. You look at the normal wrestling fans, they might be a little bit out there themselves. They probably have a chip on their shoulder like I do. In this wrestling and entertainment stuff, we're all a bit different.
I feel like my character, in particular, I think a lot of fans see themselves in it. They don't see themselves as the good guys, they don't see themselves as the guy that everybody likes. They've normally got more in common with the guy that everyone dislikes. So me being like, "Yeah, I'm a bit of an a--h---, but I'm a villain, yeah. And yeah, I am an outlaw. And a lot of people are like, "Yeah, damn, that's like me."
Do you feel like some of your success is attributable to what you're doing in the ring beyond just flips and strikes?
MS: I mean, I'd like to think my match is as exciting as anything else, but it's less based on the kind of moves there are and more about the whole kind of overall presentation. And I wouldn't say it's an act, because it's very much me. But I guess the whole kind of package and the production and everything behind it, again I feel like it's something fans can easily resonate with and get behind.
I feel like for years and years it's been where fans are supposed to cheer a really good-looking, bodybuilder type. And that's just not who wrestling fans are or who they relate to. They're normally dressed in black and nothing like those traditional good guys. What do they have in common with a jacked bodybuilder? Why would they want to get behind them? What I represent is something the fans can get behind more organically.
You spent several stretches in North America, between your time with TNA and your relationship with PWG and a few other independent organizations. Now that you're with ROH and have become their TV champion, what has your life been like, going back and forth?
MS: I've always been wrestling every week, [since I started]. I guess now it just seems quite a lot more extreme because, obviously, there's a hell of a lot more of these longer flights involved.
Let's say, living in the U.K. as well, if you put the dates down on paper, it might look easy. But then, for example, let's say Ring of Honor has shows on a Saturday and Sunday, they might want me to fly in on a Friday to do a day of pre-tapes. Being the TV champion, I have to be there.
I'll probably leave on the Thursday morning, get to whatever state the show is in on a Thursday night. Go to bed so I'm up ready for pre-tapes on the Friday and then do the show Saturday, do the show Sunday. Fly home that Monday, and obviously because of the time difference, don't get back to England until Tuesday, still jet-lagged. Wednesday to myself, and then it's Thursday again. There's a lot more that's involved than just kind of putting on a pair of pants, showing up and beating someone up for 15 minutes.
MS: I like it, I embrace it. I get bored when I'm at my house for more than a day, in that I've told everyone that I want to get the Villain out there and I want to set my mark, not just in the wrestling landscape, but in the world, in life in general. Obviously I can't accomplish too much sitting on my sofa. I'm not happy unless I'm out there trying to make things happen and trying to kind of achieve my goals.
What do you think about the current surge in guys from the U.K. going out and taking over the wrestling world? You were kind of on the leading edge of that over the last couple of years with your work in PWG.
MS: I guess when I sit down and think about it, it is quite extreme to think there wasn't a British wrestling scene 10 or 15 years ago, and how things have changed. Guys are becoming wealthy now from wrestling, and we are changing things. We can be seen all across the world. I guess it is kind of a mind-blowing kind of concept to get my head around.
At the same time, because I am so busy, and because I am so kind of active and kind of in the zone of doing my own thing, I never really kind of stop just to take everything in. Everything's moving so fast now. Everything's so quick. I'm kind of just on that ride. You don't get a lot of time to kind of stop and process it all.
So when you do get that rare moment to appreciate everything you and all of your compatriots have been able to do? What do you enjoy the most about where your career is right now?
MS: It's probably less what happens with the wrestling bit and more like a moment outside, things that people say or things that you hear. With PWG for example, I was always kind of a big fan, and I always felt like I would be amazed to wrestle there. I used to think, "I want to get good enough to wrestle there." Now I've been wrestling there for maybe year and a half now, or something along those lines.
I remember having a conversation a while back with Cody Rhodes, and I was asking if he was doing the next show for PWG. He said, "Oh, I'm not sure about this date, but I presume you'll be there?" And I was like, "Yeah, of course." He said, "Yeah, because when you think of PWG, it's the [Young] Bucks, it's Zac [Sabre Jr.] and it's you. Those are the four guys you think of."
"Are we?" I thought. I guess it's kind of cool. I still feel like a fresh talent, but I guess, now I'm that guy there. Like I guess the mayor and I do what we want, and no one else has that freedom. A fan, it was very kind of them. They gave me these trading cards from the weekend of the Battle of Los Angeles, and I actually have them near me now. It's every participant in the tournament, and looking at them it's Chris Hero and Jushin Liger and Ricochet, Cody Rhodes, Matt Sydal and Zach Sabre, amazing guys. Then I'm like, "S---, I won this tournament." That's pretty incredible, you know what I mean?
Now that you've spent a little time with ROH, is it what you expected from the experience? What are you looking forward to during this busy month of shows?
MS: The whole concept of Ring of Honor, to me, is super exciting, because it is a whole new fan base of wrestling fans who have no idea who I am. And that's why it's so good for me to go on to something with a bigger platform like the Ring of Honor.
Whereas fans in the U.K. maybe saw the character, the production of "The Villain" in its earlier stages, now it's a much more polished act, and these new people are getting to see it for the first time. It's really cool for me when people say, "What the hell is this guy?"
It makes me laugh when I hear fans be like, "Oh, I want to see you wrestle on TV for this company or that company." Watch me on Ring of Honor. Right now, I'm wrestling the best wrestlers in the world. The wide range of places I am going and people I am wrestling, these are people from all different areas and different countries.
In New York, I'm wrestling Sonjay Dutt, who I used to watch when I was 13 years old. And it's in New York, so I'm flying my mom and my auntie here to come watch me as well. And then the end of the week after, I'm in Las Vegas, which, again, is crazy. Never been there. Lio Rush, the guy's like 21 years old. I'm going from wrestling someone who's been wrestling 10 years longer than me to someone who's been wrestling 10 years fewer.
What is really fun about Ring of Honor is that I came in and won the Ring of Honor TV title, but I feel like we've just kind of scratched the surface with the kind of different characters, the amount of opportunities that I can have there and directions I can go in.
I told Ring of Honor when I signed, I'm coming to help Ring of Honor more than I am to help myself. I want this company to grow, and I'm going to help it do so. I'm going to [make it] the product that everyone in the world wants to see, and if you're not watching it, you're missing out.