In his Florida return, Bull James encounters quite the task, wrestling Ring of Honor’s best on Friday, Oct. 21 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.
Bull James vs. Ring of Honor Champ Adam Cole
It’s their first matchup but not the first time they’ve shared the same ring at the same time.
“Adam Cole and I were at the same WWE tryout in 2013,” said Bull James, formerly WWE NXT Superstar Bull Dempsey.
Never miss a local story.
“With everything I’ve done -- being in front of my hometown crowd with 18,000 people in Brooklyn to wrestling at Wembley Stadium in London in front of a soldout crowd -- I would say this has to be the most important match of my career, thus far, after 11 years in wrestling.”
“Well, because Adam Cole is at the top of his game right now; he is the top of the Ring of Honor food chain,” Bull noted. “Ring of Honor for years has been looked at as the hidden gem of pro wrestling. So having the opportunity to not only come into Ring of Honor like the way I did as a surprise in the Honor Rumble and then have my first [ROH] match against somebody like Adam Cole, it really is special. He’s at the top of his game, and right now I’m at the top of mine.”
Bull, 28, made his Ring of Honor debut in September in Lockport, N.Y. as a surprise entrant in the “Honor Rumble” to determine who gets a future shot at Cole’s title. Bull did not win, but he reached the Final Four, impressive enough to earn a chance at Cole in Fort Lauderdale.
“I think that it’s gonna to be something good for the Ring of Honor fans,” Bull said. “It’s gonna be something good for Adam Cole and something good for my career as well.”
After that tryout in 2013, Bull signed a developmental deal with WWE, assigned to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. He became the monster Bull Dempsey in WWE’s NXT and then turned 180 with a comedic role under the Bull-Fit persona. His stint with NXT ended in February, and he returned to the indies, before recently landing with Ring of Honor.
This marks his first match in Florida since his departure from NXT.
“I flew down [New York to Florida] a week early,” he said. “I’ve been training with my old strength coach at the Performance Center Matt Wichlinski at his Strength Shop Gym in Orlando.
“I’ve done some in-ring stuff with Billy Gunn, and I’ve also been catching up with some old buddies of mine -- like former head coach at the Performance Center Bill DeMott -- just trying to kind of get myself back into that mentality that I was in, when I was grinding every single day at the Performance Center and putting forth my best effort everyday at the live events and on TV and on the overseas tours and the out of state shows and the Florida shows.”
Bull will wrestle on Ring of Honor’s two Florida visits - Fort Lauderdale (Oct. 21) and Lakeland (Oct. 22).
“Florida is special to me, because I went through a lot there,” he said. “So to come back and have this opportunity to prove myself to everybody on this [ROH] stage, I want to make sure that my mind is right.”
The 5-11, 210-pound Cole is a two-time Ring of Honor champion and a key member of the famous Bullet Club, competing for Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
“Adam Cole is right on that level with the best in the world,” said the 6-2, 300-pound Bull. “So I need to put myself in the right mental place, where I can compete with him and know I can. It’s not that I have confidence issues. I’m very confident in what I can do, but I feel with a big match like this, it’s something you need to prepare extra for.”
Bull made some good friends throughout his pro wrestling journey, thus far.
“That’s the most important thing for me,” he said. “Some guys can sit there and say, ‘I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to make money,’ and that’s good for them, but wrestling is networking.
“Billy Gunn and everybody at the Performance Center..I have a relationship with Norman Smiley and Robbie Brookside...These are guys who I have the utmost respect for. They’ve been in this game for a long time, and it’s not by luck. It’s because they put the work in and did the right thing, and they just were professionals.
“To kind of earn their respect to the point where I can always turn to them for help is something that’s invaluable to me.”
Originally from Brooklyn, where he currently resides, Bull made his wrestling debut on Oct. 28, 2005 for East Coast Professional Wrestling. Trained by a collection of guys, i.e. Matt Borne, Kodiak Bear, Danny Doring, Tommy Dreamer, Danny Inferno, Judas Young, Mikey Whipwreck, and Taz, he worked the indies including NWA New Jersey. His indie experiences grew following his release from WWE NXT.
“There’s two ways you can look at it,” he said. “You can look at it one way where you get depressed; you’re upset, and you kind of just give up. Or you can take the route that I went, which is, ‘Well, OK, that’s in the rear view. That’s over with. It’s time to move froward.’
“My future is with Ring of Honor, and I’m excited to be here and excited to have the platform with them to wrestle a guy like Adam Cole and to prove myself that I can be more than just what you saw on the WWE Network.”
Taz said: “"Bull is a very hard worker with loads of passion for the business. One of the many elements that makes him successful is that he is a true student of the game with fire to be the best.”
Bull appreciates his trainers as well as the fans. NXT elicits fond memories for him, especially working the Havert L. Fenn Center in (South Florida) Fort Pierce.
“I want to mention something about Fort Pierce,” he noted. “The fans there always went above and beyond to support me. They would come out full force, and they even dubbed Fort Pierce ‘Bull Country,’ which I was really proud of. Even the locker room, when we were going to Fort Pierce, they would say, ‘Oh, we’re going to Bull Town.’
“I know Fort Lauderdale isn’t too far from there, and there’s a bunch of people who go to those Fort Pierce shows who are going to come out and support me, and that means the world to me that I can reach those people on another level, where they may take their NXT loyalty and put it aside for a night to come and support me. To me, that’s bigger than anything.”
- Ring of Honor in Fort Lauderdale
Friday, Oct. 21
War Memorial Auditorium
4800 NE 8th St.
Fort Lauderdale 33304
7:30 p.m. Bell Time
Bull James vs. ROH champ Adam Cole
Jay Lethal, Alex Shelley and Silas Young vs. Jay Briscoe, Christopher Daniels and Colt Cabana
Hangman Page vs. Dalton Castle with The Boys
Kazarian vs. Mark Briscoe
Also, The Cabinet (Caprice Coleman, Rhett Titus and Kenny King), Kamaitachi, Chris Sabin, Shaheem Ali, Leon St. Giovanni, Will Ferrara, Punishment Martinez, Kennadi Brink and more.
- Ring of Honor in Lakeland
Saturday, Oct. 22
Lakeland Civic Center
701 Lime St.
7 p.m. Bell Time
ROH World Championship: Adam Cole (champ) vs. Silas Young
The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian) vs. Colt Cabana and Dalton Castle.
Kamaitachi vs. Jay Lethal
Hangman Page vs. Mark Briscoe
Bull James vs. Punishment Martinez w/ BJ Whitmer
Also, Jay Briscoe, Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin), The Cabinet (Caprice Coleman, Rhett Titus and Kenny King), Will Ferrara and more.
ROH on TV
Ring of Honor is on Comet TV at midnight Wednesdays.
In South Florida, Ring of Honor is also midnight Saturdays on WPEC Ch.12 and WBFS MyTV33.
- The TAZ Show
The TAZ Show: Bodyslams and Beyod podcast is a live audio and video show from 7-9 a.m. Monday-Friday
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)