It's 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. Sitting inside of a busy terminal at Boston Logan Airport is a wide-eyed young man chasing a dream. In a short time, he'll be boarding a plane and embarking on a 14-hour journey to the Land of the Rising Son. It is the next stop in the quickly blossoming career of Flip Gordon.
It's hard for the 26-year-old to fathom he'll be stepping inside a New Japan Pro Wrestling ring in a couple days. It was less than a year ago that he made his Ring of Honor debut. The crowd in Baltimore that day had no clue who Flip Gordon was when he walked through the curtain. But when the bell rung on the match, they were rallying behind him like lifelong fans.
"Please sign Flip! Please sign Flip!" echoed throughout the building. No one cared that he lost that day. They wanted more. In its 15 years of existence, ROH has built its reputation on mind-blowing high-risk moves, and fans have become accustomed. The acrobatics never get old, but to a certain extent have come to be expected. Fans have seen it all. And then came Gordon. The Army reservist brought his own bag of tricks that were looked upon with virgin eyes.
After the show I spoke with ROH COO Joe Koff and inquired about whether he heard the chants. He said he got the fans' message. About a month later Gordon put pen to paper on a new contract.
Since then, his stock has climbed to record levels. Chock it up to his dedication to honing his craft. The Massachusetts native has made special arrangements with the Army to allow him to complete his reservist commitments while not missing any ring time. He couldn't stomach the thought of not being on the road one weekend a month. Instead, he puts on the uniform on weekdays when few promoters are running shows.
His dedication to the squared circle has landed him in a coveted storyline with Bullet Club, easily the most popular global wrestling faction at the moment. This Saturday at Ring of Honor's Manhattan Mayhem, he'll go toe-to-toe with Cody, the former WWE Superstar, who is easily the biggest name in the company. It's a huge vote of confidence for a guy who made his pro wrestling debut less than three years ago. It's a monumental match not only for Gordon, but for ROH, which is unveiling its new streaming service.
I had the opportunity to speak with Gordon as he waited to board the Japan-bound plane to write a new chapter in his young career. He was anxious to get over there and didn't know quite what to expect. On his first trip last April, he left Japanese fans with the same feeling as those in Baltimore. The only difference was that he won that debut.
Flip Gordon's future is bright. But where does it lie?
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Flip Gordon (Photo Credit: Ring of Honor)
I was at the Baltimore show. I believe that was your first match with Ring of Honor. The fans were eating it up. They start chanting, "Please sign Flip. Please sign Flip." You must've heard that too when you were in the ring, right?
Yeah, it was surreal, because obviously it was my first match at the Ring of Honor. I'm going against a guy with so many accolades. He's done so much, and he's done so much for guys like me on the smaller side. To be in there with somebody like Matt Sydal as my very first match. It was really cool to hear "Please sign Flip," because that was huge, because that was a goal of mine, to get signed under two years. For the fanbase, their first time seeing me in a Ring of Honor ring, to chant, "Please come back" was a huge deal for me.
It wasn't too terribly long after that show that you actually were signed. What was that process like between that day and when you actually put pen to paper?
It was crazy, because I remember reaching out to them after I had gotten an offer from another company. I was like, "Guys, I feel like I really want to sign with you. I hope you guys feel the same way." Then, they were like, "Of course we do." Then, we just started negotiating. We came to the terms that we both agreed on, and I guess the rest is history.
What's it been like since then? You've ascended the ranks pretty quickly.
It's been super surreal. I was just thinking last night, as I was packing for Japan. I was like, "Man, I'm heading to Japan." I've been lucky enough to perform in six different countries already. I'm literally living my dream that I dreamed about since I was a little kid… I'm not there yet. I'm not finished. I'm still just scraping at the bottom. What I've done already is nothing compared to what I can do and what I will do. I want to learn as much as I can from as many people as I can, whether that's people in New Japan, CMLL or Ring of Honor. Those three companies are the top companies in the world right now right behind WWE. They're giving them a run for their money.
New Japan is making highlights globally. Ring of Honor is growing month after month. NXT is running the same towns as us, because they see us as the competition. That means we're doing something right.
From day one, when you step in the ring for that first day of training, do you remember what your career goals were? Were you like 99% of the people that get in the ring and say, "Hey, I'm going to WWE" or were you that 1% that saw things a little bit differently?
When I started training, my goal, my mindset was, "I'm going to train as hard as I can, get a WWE tryout and go there." But along the way, I fell in love with professional wrestling so much that I want to grow so much as a performer that I don't want to go there. At least not right now. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm having so much fun, and I'm learning so much, so why would I leave?
Flip Gordon (Photo Credit: Ring of Honor/Cory Tatum
You're getting this opportunity with New Japan, but now also we've seen you a lot recently on Being The Elite. The Bucks have that series going on YouTube, and it has quite the following. How did you get to be involved in that?
I don't know if it was by fluke or if they planned, but we were down in Mexico for this company called The Crash, and the Bucks came up to me and asked me if I could be in a short clip. I didn't even know what Being The Elite was at the time, to be completely honest. I was like, "Oh, yeah, sure. Whatever." They had found out I had just signed with Ring of Honor, so they included a "Welcome to the Ring of Honor" bit in that. Then, the final edit was Cody saying, "Who the F is Flip Gordon?" There's so many bits from that first episode I was in that took off with the fans.
It doesn't sound like you had any idea that it was going to pay off with a match against Cody in New York.
No. I had no idea. But I'm very excited, and I think it adds a cool dynamic to the match. Me and Cody have had very little interaction in Ring of Honor, but we already have this story to go off of, because it's been built on Being The Elite. The fans already have something to get behind.
Interesting twist to this match. The fans get to pick the stipulation. When they booked you on that, did you know that this was going to be a thing, or did they come at you guys later and say, "Hey, this is what we want to do"?
No. I think that was a thing that was kind of added later, because I think Ring of Honor sees what's happening with Being The Elite. They see the attention it's getting. They see how popular it is, and they see how it's creating storylines naturally. I think they're just being smart and going off of it. They're like, "Hey, why not play off of this?"
You've worked Marty Scurll, you've got Cody coming up, Jay Lethal. Who else in Ring of Honor would you like to check off of your list there?
Christopher Daniels. I feel like that'd be a lot of fun. He's been very helpful to me in particular ever since I started. Any time I have a question, I know I can go to him. It's really cool. I grew up watching him on TV back in the day. It'd be kind of cool to finally get in the ring with him.
You, you're doing a little bit of a juggling act, balancing your time between the Army and wrestling. What's that balance been like for you?
In the beginning, it was really hard, because I was working another job five days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Then, Saturday, Sunday, and most Fridays I was wrestling. Then, I'd have to take one weekend off a month to do my Army duties. It was really tough because I was like, "I want to wrestle. I want to wrestle."
Then, I was trying to take local shows on the weekends that I had Army. On those weekends, I was literally leaving, they would let me leave, thankfully, I would drive to the show, wrestle and have to drive straight back. Then, one night I accidentally fell asleep in my car at the gate of the base, because it was locked. I didn't call anybody to let them know that I had arrived back there, and I fell asleep and didn't wake up to my alarm clock. Then, it was like, "Oh, yeah, you can't leave on weekend drills anymore."
Then, for a couple months, I had to take time off, one weekend a month from wrestling to do my Army. But then I had two opportunities two months in a row actually. I was actually considered AWOL because I had a huge opportunity to go over to England, and I let them know. I asked if I could make up the time and they never got back to me, so I just went on the tour to England. Then, while I was over there, they called me. They were like, "Hey, where are you at?" I was like, "Hey, I told you I couldn't make it because I'm wrestling." They're like, "Alright. We're going to have to consider you AWOL. I guess when you get back, let us know. We can make that up."
Then, the next month was actually the first month with Ring of Honor after I signed. I wasn't going to miss Ring of Honor. I had let them know and same thing. They didn't get back to me and then they called me the day of, "Hey, where are you at?" I was like, "I'm in Chicago. I told you guys that I wasn't going to be able to make it and I wanted to see if I can make it up and I never heard back from you guys." They were like, "Okay. We're going to have to consider you AWOL again."
Eventually, I get it all figured out where now I'm at a training unit down in Cape Cod. I get to make up my time whenever I want, whatever days work best for me. I get to do it during the week. That way, I'm not missing weekends when I'm making money wrestling.
That just seems like a huge exception that not everybody would get. It's the Army, and you would think that they're pretty strict about those things.
Yeah. I got really lucky, because the command sergeant major was actually an independent professional wrestler over in the Tacoma and Seattle area, back when he was stationed at Fort Lewis. I had met him on a previous drill in Pennsylvania, when we went on our annual training. I met him and talked to him. He saw that I was considered AWOL and gave me a call and was like, "Hey, what's going on?" I explained the situation. I was like, "I'm trying to work with them, they don't want to work with me", so he transferred me to his unit and helped me work through it. I've got two months left now on my contract. Thankfully, I didn't get kicked out or AWOLed out because of him. It's definitely a blessing. It was really cool.
You hit the lottery with that one. You've got two months left on that contract. What about with Ring of Honor? How many years did you sign with them?
I signed a one-year contract back in May.
No talks of renewal yet?
Not yet. I would love to. Like I said, I don't plan on going anywhere, so hopefully they'll talk to me, we can negotiate something else.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.
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