At Ring of Honor’s Best in the World pay per view tonight, Raymond Rowe and Warbeard Hanson, collectively known as War Machine, will be challenging for the ROH World Tag Team Championship. Coming hot on the heels of their IWGP title reign, the duo looks to once again garner the ROH titles and assert themselves as an international force to be reckoned with.
Despite their international success as of late, War Machine made its name wrestling with Ring of Honor, with Hanson having the distinction of winning the ROH 2014 Top Prospect tournament. After that accomplishment, he started tagging with Rowe and the two have adopted the look and snarl of teams of yesteryear, reminiscent of teams like the Road Warriors and Demolition, while possessing agility normally reserved for much smaller grapplers.
Paste chatted with the two about the success that they have encountered thus far during their careers, traveling the world and how they came to be known as War Machine.
Paste: Congratulations on your tour over in Japan. What was it like for you guys to go over there and be really successful and walk away as the IWGP Champions?
Raymond Rowe: I can speak for both Hanson and myself that going and competing in Japan has been a goal of ours since we first started wrestling. Hanson started in 2002. I started in 2003 and Japan and New Japan specifically has been a goal for us. To go there and have the success that we’ve started to have is literally a dream come true. Now that being said, we’ve won IWGP titles, we have never been so proud of a wrestling achievement, and then they were stolen from us at the Dominion Pay per view. So now, we have this kind of “dream come true” situation where everything is going right for us and we are succeeding beyond expectations, and then the Guerrillas of Destiny came in and played spoilers. Now we want to go back and really take some revenge on those guys for kind of ruining that perfect situation for us.
Paste: Does it add anything to your tag team title match coming up at Best in the World that the Young Bucks are part of the Bullet Club along with the Guerillas? Does that make it a little too sweeter?
Hanson: Well, yes. At the same time at Ring of Honor’s event in Japan upon arriving, we beat the Young Bucks, while they were the Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions. So, we’ve been on quite a roll. We’ve been kicking ass all over the world and every major opportunity we’ve had we hit a home run. And now we are getting in the ring with more members of the Bullet Club at the Ring of Honor pay per view this weekend and wrestling for the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship, we are looking to take them back. Take those championships back. We’ve proved it already once before that we could beat them. We already did it in Japan. Which they have already been rulers over quite some time. And now we want to take those titles back. The real goal is to hold the Ring of Honor Championship and the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Paste: I got a chance to be live in person for the War of the World tour show in New York and I’d seen you guys before and it seems you came in to that show with bigger fan fare there than you have before. You could kind of read it from the crowd that there was a heightened excitement to see you on the card. Have you guys noticed that same reaction when you came back from New Japan?
Rowe: 100 percent. Every time we go over for a tour of New Japan, we come home and our social media has blown up. The Twitter and Instagram will get 1000 followers. We will get like insane numbers. Everything is increasing. You know when we go over to Japan and we have a really good match on pay per view our Pro Wrestling Tees store will blow up. We get a bunch of new sales, we get all this new attention and new support. It’s not that these people did not know who we were before, it’s not that they didn’t see us. But we have been highlighted in a different way in New Japan. We have the opportunity to have some awesome matches. We have had the opportunity to have some really big time matches and we are hitting our stride at the perfect time to be getting those opportunities. You know, Hanson and I have been teaming now since 2014 and we are constantly evolving, we are constantly becoming a better team. We are constantly adding things on to the mix. Our chemistry just gets better and better and better. So when we are given opportunities like we did in New Japan to be exposed on a worldwide stage, no one should be shocked by the support that is followed by that type of success.
Paste: When did you guys come up with the name War Machine?
Rowe: War Machine was probably at bottom of our list of names that we thought of. We talked about a bunch of ideas. I had some ideas that were inspired by Nordic and Viking roots and mythology and stuff like that. And through legal teams and stuff like that, production teams were concerned that it would be hard for fans to say or that they wouldn’t understand what it was. So War Machine was what everyone settled on and now seven years into the run we have definitely grown into that name. That’s who we are. Now we’re know worldwide as War Machine. The only problem for fans is that if you Google “War Machine”, you will get that MMA fighter [who was just sentenced to life in prison for brutally assaulting his girlfriend Christy Mack], you’ll get War Machine the action figure, you’ll get War Machine the Netflix show. So it’s kind of hard for fans to search us out on Twitter or find news about us. That’s my big problem with War Machine and that’s why I always use the hashtag War Machine ROH to kind of separate ourselves from all those other things.
Paste: Did any of the other names have anything to do with being handsome at all?
Hanson: None. None whatsoever. I would’ve loved that. I would have been a great fan of that, but no none. Unfortunately, none.
Paste: When you were wrestling as Handsome Johnny, did you ever think that you were going to develop this persona that is completely different from what you were doing earlier?
Hanson: Yeah, no. I didn’t think that this would ever come. And there were people during my career who wanted me to become more like a vicious character, kind of like Buzz Sawyer or someone like that. They really pushed me hard to do that, but that’s not really my personality, but it’s what I look like. So, when I went out for surgery at the very end of 2011, I just decided that I was going to re-package myself. That was the route I took. I grew out the beard and I embraced kind of the vicious brawler, the way that I look, exactly what I look like. I created what I am now—War Beard Hanson. But I never thought that I would stray away from the arrogant, cocky Handsome Johnny past. But I am happy I did.
Paste: It’s working for both of you guys. When you guys are working in Ring of Honor, you are generally working with teams that are a lot smaller than you. Does that allow you to become more creative with your tag team power move?
Rowe: It doesn’t really matter if the teams are bigger than us or smaller than us, we’re gonna hit our tag team power moves on everybody. We hit on Shane Taylor and Keith Lee who are well over 350 lbs. a piece. Just the same as we hit them on the Young Bucks or Cheeseburger and Will Ferrara. The only difference is maybe the height that we can achieve when we throw these guys in the air. But our opponents don’t really change our approach or what we are going to hit. I don’t care how big you are, I will pick you up and throw you.
Paste: What was it like for you guys to be able to work with Shane Taylor since you have a history going back? Was that a special moment for you to be able to work with him on the bigger stage of Ring of Honor?
Rowe: Absolutely. The crazy thing is that Shane is like a little brother to me. I was the one that pushed for him to get in to Ring of Honor. I was the one putting him in my car and I turned down a couple of fights and we would drive 15/16 hours for him to get an opportunity to be on the show before he was a full time member and he was still trying to get a job. I inconvenienced myself to help Shane get there. It’s really important for me for him to get a job, and in many ways he’s like my little brother. But just like little brothers sometimes they get jealous and that’s what kind of led to that feud. So I think it’s a love/hate thing. You know, it’s always going to be there, that rivalry will always be there. We want to find out who’s better. It’s a fight that’s not going to happen. That’s really special for me to be able to do that on a Ring of Honor scale. It’s similar to, not nearly as prolific, but Generico and Steen when they were 16 and 17 years old, and in Wrestlemania they crossed swords again. I kind of see Shane Taylor and Raymond Rowe in that same type of mold. I’m not saying that we are on that level yet, but that’s kind of where it’s going.
Paste: In the next couple of months, do you see yourselves going to New Japan or do you see yourselves settling in to the tag team division in Ring of Honor a little bit more?
Hanson: Both. We are going back to Japan a lot, but we are also going to be home for the majority of the Ring of Honor dates. We are settling in the Ring of Honor quite nicely, but we are still going to be making the tours over in Japan. Not only Japan, we are going to Mexico, we are going to England, we are going to Ireland. We’re going all over the world. But we are still keeping the Ring of Honor dates and we are still keeping the New Japan dates. We keep saying it, in all of our promos—it’s War Machine and world domination and that’s what this year’s all about.
Paste: Where is the best place that you guys have traveled to? At least in the last year, you guys have been all over the place, is there a best place that you guys enjoyed?
Hanson: That’s difficult. We love Japan. We love being tourists there. We love the temples and seeing everything that they have there. I mean even the crazy markets they have and trying all of their food. But also same goes when we are in England. We go to all the castles we can and the same thing with Scotland, we try to see as much as we can. We love traveling all over the world and seeing everything we can. Is there a favorite spot, do you have a favorite spot?
Rowe: I don’t think there is a favorite spot as much as favorite things we have found in different places. Like we went to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. We went to Osaka-jo in Japan. We have gone to the Tower of London. Hanson hasn’t gone yet, but I got to go to the Mayan temples in Mexico. It’s the little highlights of those things. Hanson talked about it, it’s totally like a world domination view. We like going to explore, so no matter where we go we are going to find the history, we are going to find the tourists stuff, we are going to find things to see and memories to make that really make that part of the job great. A lot of guys travel and it’s a problem for them because they are away from their families and it’s hard to travel as much as we do, but we try turning that traveling into a positive by going to visit those places and see those sights and make those memories where we are fortunate enough and blessed enough to take these journeys. I don’t want to just sit inside of a hotel room and every town that I go to just looks like the inside of a hotel room.
Paste: Do you have any problem traveling because of the slander campaign run by Steve Corino of Ring of Honor television?
Hanson: Yeah, you can’t get to Canada—son of a bitch.
Rowe: Steve has been accusing me of serving time in jail based on the tattoos that I have and the violence that I have in the ring for about 10 years now. Steve is one of my good friends and he has known me for about 10 years and he has been accusing me of being a convict as long as I have known him. Now when we came to Ring of Honor and he had that personal platform, to continue his joke. Of course, in a very Steve Corino fashion, he didn’t miss that opportunity once. At every point he tried to work it in and now fans ask me about going to prison. People online have accused me of being some kind of convict or criminal to the point where we have been worried going through customs (well, are they going to pull me aside?). Will they think I’m a criminal? So it’s kind of this constant joke and Corino has taken it so far to talk about it, he actually had to apologize to my Mom on national TV because my Mom got feelings. She was like “ you have never been to jail. You have never served time in jail.” So she threatened Steve and then Steve quickly backed down and apologized. Smart man, you don’t want to mess with Mom Rowe.
Paste: You’ve been really successful together as a team. One question on a lot of people’s minds is, with the success that you have had so far, do you have aspirations to move out of Ring of Honor one day and wrestle elsewhere?
Hanson: Maybe when the time is right. You can answer, Ray.
Rowe: Wrestling is a never say never thing. We love what we are doing and where were doing it. We love being in New Japan, we love being in Ring of Honor and I think that is what we are focused on. Any type of combat sport, you look too far in the future, that’s where people sneak up on you. You know, if you overlook your next fight, that’s when you are going to lose. But right now we are focusing on exactly what’s in front of us. Exactly what we are doing and we are taking it as far as it goes. Any opportunity that comes down the road, whether it’s in film, in different companies, we are definitely looking to expand and grow and explore. So, you never say never. But at the same time we are really happy doing what we are doing. We really love where we are and we are really proud to represent the companies that we represent.
Hanson: We got some huge matches coming up. Huge matches. We got Young Bucks this weekend for the Ring of Honor. We got Guerillas of Destiny in LA. We got the Machine Guns, we got the TV [tapings] coming up on Saturday. We got so many matches coming up all over the world. We are feeling it right now.
Rowe: I was just going to say, we just got announced for a massive six-man tag in Ireland with OTT, teaming with Jeff Cobb vs. British Strong Style. There are an unlimited amount of dream matches coming up for 2017. 2017 is the craziest time for wrestling that I have ever been a part of. I have been wrestling since 2003, Todd since 2002. This is the most exciting time that we have ever been in wrestling. So I think that is really exciting and that’s part of why we are open for every opportunity that may come and we are really excited about the future of War Machine but the future of wrestling in general.
Best in the World airs live on pay per view tonight, June 23, 2017.
Rich Laconi is a writer whose specialty lies in professional wrestling. Aside from his work being found regularly at PWPonderings.com, LastWordOnProwresting.com and ROHWorld.com, you can follow him on Twitter and listen to him on RunningWildpodcast.com.