ROH senior official Todd Sinclair talks about his love of Babymetal and the NHL, his favorite matches that he refereed, his most embarrassing moment in the ring (and who saved him during it), and more.
1. What’s the best advice you’ve been given about the wrestling business?
When I first started training at wrestling school, I was given the advice that no matter where I was refereeing, I should pretend that I’m refereeing on television. My ultimate goal was to referee on TV, but it wasn’t possible to get TV experience on every show that I reffed on. However, if I pretended that every time I was in the ring there was a hard camera, plus two handheld cameras on the sides of the ring, I would gain TV experience despite not yet being on television. So when I finally did get the opportunity to ref on TV, it would be second nature. It was such an important piece of advice that has helped me throughout my career. So if there are any referees -- or wrestlers, for that matter -- out there reading this, I extend the same advice.
2. What’s your earliest memory of pro wrestling?
I'm not sure exactly what year it was, but it was early 80s. I was outside playing with one of the kids in the neighborhood, and we stopped by his house to grab a drink or something. As we walked into his kitchen, there was a TV on the counter, and on the TV was the Magnificent Muraco versus Pedro Morales. Muraco was covered in blood, and I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it. I was hooked from that moment.
3. What’s on your bucket list?
An easy one that I’ll for sure do in 2021 is going to a home game for the new NHL team in Seattle. I’m a huge hockey fan, and I’ve been to a game at the home arena for all of the current 31 NHL teams -- as well as the defunct Atlanta Thrashers. So when Seattle starts up next year, that’s definitely on my list.
For bigger bucket list items, I’d like to someday visit the pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China. I’ve just got to figure out a way to get someone to pay me to referee in those places so I don't have to pay for the travel myself.
4. We saw your incredible leapfrog and chop combination at Unauthorized. Do you have any other hidden talents?
Well, the last thing I would call it would be incredible, but I appreciate the kind words. As far as hidden talents, I have a natural proficiency in mathematics. Not anywhere near “Good Will Hunting level,” but I've always had a knack for it. I’m also extremely great at napping.
5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I’m a superfan of the band Babymetal. I love everything about them -- the music, the singing, the dancing, the choreography. Listening to and watching them makes me very happy.
6. Do you have a favorite video game?
Every year I pick up the latest NHL game, and I play online with Fall River’s Bobby Cruise and his brother. It’s a fun time, but our team isn’t very good. We're very streaky. We’ll win four games in a row and then we’ll lose the next five. But it’s definitely fun. The game that I play the most these days is Star Wars Battlefront 2. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and I love playing the team deathmatch mode called Blast. I can’t get enough of it.
All-time favorites, I’d put the original Legend of Zelda, Tetris, and Red Dead Redemption in there. But I think my favorite game of all time is Dark Souls. I’ve never hated a game so much at times because of the difficulty, but I couldn’t stop playing it. It’s a master work.
7. What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had in a wrestling ring?
Back during the initial run of the ROH Pure Title, before every match I would bring the two wrestlers to the middle of the ring and would explain the rules on the mic. Now, the biggest fear I have in life is public speaking, so the last thing I want to do is to have to speak over the microphone in front of a crowd of people. When I’m in that situation, my brain shuts down. I can’t ad lib, I stumble over my words, I’m sweating like crazy, etc. So the only way I could get the rules out over the mic was to memorize word for word what I had to say. If I didn't say the rules in the exact order that I had them memorized, I would be lost.
So one particular match was Nigel McGuinness versus Austin Aries on Long Island at Unscripted 2. At the time, Nigel was bending the Pure rules to protect his championship, and was carrying an iron to the ring for every match. I brought both guys to the middle of the ring, and Bobby Cruise held the mic so I could explain the rules. I started reciting them exactly as I had memorized them. As I said the line, “There are to be no closed first strikes to the face,” Aries stopped me and asked, “What about irons? Are those legal?” To that question, I answered, “No,” and then my mind went completely blank. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to say next. I stopped talking for maybe three seconds, but it felt like an hour. I was completely panicked and I didn’t know how I was going to continue. But then, the hero of the day said, “Closed fists” over my shoulder. It was Bobby Cruise, and him saying those words helped me to remember my spot in the rules, and I continued on from there. Bobby saved me.
I’m begging the powers that be that when the ROH Pure Title is brought back, we remove the “rules said over the mic” aspect. It’s my hell.
8. What are some of your favorite matches that you’ve refereed?
I could list a hundred different matches here. I've been with ROH since the end of 2003, and I’ve been so lucky to be in the ring for some absolute classic bouts. Some of my favorites are CM Punk versus Samoa Joe, Joe versus Kenta Kobashi, Bryan Danielson versus KENTA, The Briscoes versus Kevin Steen and El Generico, Jay Lethal versus Roderick Strong, Marty Scurll versus Will Ospreay, and Matt Taven versus Mark Haskins. But my favorite match that I’ve refereed is Matt Taven versus Jay Lethal from the 17th Anniversary in Las Vegas. It was a wonderful hour that I wish kept going and going.
9. What’s the worst injury you’ve suffered refereeing a match?
I've been very lucky when it comes to injuries over the past 18-plus years of refereeing. No broken bones, no surgeries. That said, some part of my body hurts all the time, depending on the day, but nothing too bad.
I would say the worst injury I've had was a separated shoulder. Tyler Black versus Roderick Strong at Glory by Honor IX -- I mistakenly got in the way of a Roddy “Sick Kick,” and he nearly kicked my face off. That hurt a ton for about one second, until I crashed down on the canvas onto my armpit. My shoulder popped right out of its socket as I landed. Instant extreme pain. My shoulder still bothers me to this day because of that.
10. You always get a spirited reaction from ROH fans. What final words do you have for them?
Whether you’re cheering or booing, thanks for being a fan of Ring of Honor. I’ve been with ROH for as long as I have because I love it with all my heart, and I appreciate your support of ROH more than I can put into words. We’ve done great things for 18 years, and we’re going to continue to do so. I’m glad you've come along for the ride. See you out on the road.