Mike Bennett is back.
November saw Bennett made his long-awaited return to Ring of Honor following nearly six years away from the promotion. Even despite Bennett’s oft-quoted statements that an eventual return to ROH was inevitable, the former tag team titleholder’s return was still shocking, earning Ring of Honor’s “‘Holy S**T!’ Moment of the Year” Award for 2020.
“How does it feel to be back in a place that has got to be super familiar, but also very, very different?” I asked him as part of our upcoming conversation on Love Wrestling. “You look at the roster and [there are] some great members there, but not a ton really that you’ve had the opportunity to work with before.”
“Yeah! You know, it’s been awesome, first of all, just right out of the gate,” Bennett replied enthusiastically. “It’s reinvigorated my love of wrestling. It’s made me just like – I look forward to going to work. Even though we get put in the bubble where we’re away from our family, I look forward to it because that’s what I fell in love with with wrestling when I was at Ring of Honor the first time. Everything about that company is what I love about wrestling. And then, when I went to IMPACT it was the same thing.”
Bennett continued to discuss the sheer amount of brand-new opportunities and potential opponents there are now that he’s back in the promotion he’s often referred to as his home.
“Being here back at Ring of Honor, like you said, the roster is different,” he commented. “Now, there are obviously guys I recognize when I come back. I see Jay Lethal and the Briscoes and Dalton Castle and these guys. Of course, those are my buddies and guys that I’m like, ‘oh, this is like a family reunion. This is great!” But then, that roster is full of guys that I’ve never actually – some I’ve never met, some I’ve only met in passing. And then, some I’ve never even seen, ever. I’m just like, this is awesome because for me [and] where I’m at in my career, I’m literally just trying to have as many matches as I can so I can try to rebuild what my brand is [and] what my reputation is.”
“So it’s exciting,” said the former Top Prospect winner. “It’s exciting to think I can go get back in the ring with these guys that I know, and then get back into the ring with guys that I have, you know, have never worked before. We’ve never even crossed paths. So I’m super excited about it.”
Bennett then went on to reveal the process behind his return to ROH. Given the circumstances of the pandemic, he says, it wasn’t just essential to have somewhere to wrestle, but somewhere that could provide a safe environment for him to do so.
“You know, to me, it was always Ring of Honor,” he began. “I’m glad you touched on it, because there have been other companies – like, I think AEW’s handled this pandemic wonderfully. They’ve done great things with it. They’ve taken care of their talents. They’ve tested people. I think we need to talk about – we’ve got to stop talking about the companies that did it bad. Let them do it bad. History will look back at them and go, ‘wow, you really screwed that up.’ Right now, let’s talk about the companies that are doing it well, and that’s these companies like AEW and Ring of Honor.”
“But for me, coming back, it was always Ring of Honor,” Bennett elaborated. “Me and Taven are best friends. In real life, in the ring, on TV. We talk all the time. We’ve been planning me coming back for the longest time. Any time I was unhappy at WWE, I would always talk to him and I’d be like, ‘how do we make this work? What do I got to do?’ Then, it finally happened where they released me and Taven was like, ‘alright, now we can do it. Let’s do it.'”
“To me, Ring of Honor’s always felt like my home,” commented the promotion’s former Top Prospect winner. “They were the first ones that gave me an opportunity when nobody knew who I was. I was there for five, almost six years before. It’s my family. Everyone there was at my wedding. It was like I left and I went for I thought what were greener pastures, and then it’s like when you leave home and then you’re like, ‘you know what, homes really not that bad at all. It’s great!”
I laughed. “College sucks!”
“Yeah!” affirmed Bennett. “There’s no greener pastures. The greenest pastures will always be where you’re happiest, and where I was happiest was always Ring of Honor. So to me, it was never any question.”
“So when I got released in April, Ring of Honor wasn’t running,” Bennett said, circling back to the process behind his return. “They had completely shut down operations and [were] trying to figure out what we were going to do. But, I had been in touch with them after. I mean, I had been in touch with Taven forever. So like, when I got released, the first person I called was Taven, and we were like, ‘alright, let’s figure this out.’ And we were both kind of like, ‘well, we’re not running anywhere.’ I mean Ring of Honor is not running, but when they do, eventually, let’s figure this out. Then, I got on the phone with the management of Ring of Honor and they’re like, ‘yep, we want to bring you back. It’s just a matter of when we can do it.’ And so it was just this constant like, ‘when’s it gonna happen? How’s it going to happen? What are the protocols gonna be? How do we do it?'”
“So pretty much I would say from the summer to when I came back, which I came back in November, but I actually filmed it in October,” he confirmed. “So I would say anywhere from like May until October, we were figuring everything out and just trying to – and then, of course, they had the Pure Tournament, which I wasn’t going to be involved in. So we had to wait until that all blew over. And also, Taven had to make a return before I could come back.
“So it was like all these inner workings of trying to figure everything out,” Bennett concluded, “but like, that’s why I say, even the five years I was gone I feel like I was always planning my return. And then, after I got released, it was just like, all right, it’s a matter of when this is going to happen.”
Please credit Spencer Love/Love Wrestling with any transcriptions used.