ATHLETE APPRECIATION: The Unprecedented Significance of Jay Lethal

roh-0204There’s no mistaking it.

Despite network swapping of WWE, the precarious yet triumphant futures of both NXT and Lucha Underground…the mergers of TNA and Global Force Wrestling…we’re at a surprising renaissance of independent pro wrestling.

This is a world where both athletes and fans must accept the non-WWE Universe as the ‘Universe.’ A world of ignoring divisions and leagues for a greater good. Where The Rainmaker headlines a Sinclair Broadcasting TV taping. Samoa Joe gives a much-needed push to an up-and-comer. An extraordinarily talent named ‘Cheeseburger’ receives a tip of the cap from Tokyo’s finest.

This is today’s wrestling world. At its arguable center is Jay Lethal.

Fronted and backed by top talent and trainer Truth Martini, supported by one of the next great stories in Brian Fury protegee Donovan Dijak, and with full advocacy of the Ring of Honor brand behind him.

Jay Lethal is holder of two titles yet – unlike what befell Seth Rollins – partnered with a league unabashed in recognizing his courage. His admirers boo but throw streamers. His opponents know he wins in questionable methods…but could care less. The ‘Greatest First Generation Wrestler’ is a prescriptive example of the present and future of the pro wrestling landscape. Kids, adults…men and women all respect what he represents. He is both the Clouds and Aristophanes.

See, Jay Lethal is not what he should be. He’s not gargantuan. Nor part of a seeming ‘revolution.’ At 30, he’s tried and tested in seemingly deeper waters but emerged the biggest fish despite. He knows what he is…and is simultaneously unashamed to admit he’d listen to a WWE phone call. Black, white, young, old, who cares. He’s the anti-stereotype in the best of ways.

Why Jay Lethal is so important is that he represents what makes indy pro wrestling so wonderful. As the next great talent longs for a shot, some recognition…they see a man who has given it all. He’s been tossed some bad luck, but keeps coming up with a pair of face cards. He’s unapologetic in providing knee brace commercials, followed by a full hour of PPV wrestling against Red Dragon’s finest.

Jay Lethal perseveres. He runs a very successful wrestling academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, a regular at FIP and Evolve events to support his area’s athletes. He recognizes that family he represents at the head of the table, also menus he hopes to partake in.

Jay Lethal is an anomaly. When everyone else is reaching for a brass ring, he is both the grasp and said ring. He is unafraid to continue and seek excellence. We spend so much time focusing on the struggle. Jay Lethal, however, is the epitome of the excellence of the journey.

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