Jonathan Gresham Details Getting His AEW Release, Backstage Confrontation With Tony Khan

Jonathan Gresham has spoken of his heated confrontation with Tony Khan ahead of his AEW release

When ROH went into self-administered hiatus in Q1 2022, ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham kept the promotion’s spirit alive, touring the indies and defending the biggest prize in indie wrestling wherever he could.

When Tony Khan bought ROH, Gresham returned, continuing on as champion before dropping the title to Claudio Castagnoli at Death Before Dishonor, with Gresham leaving the promotion afterwards having reportedly had a ‘heated’ conversation with Khan ahead of the show.

After taking a brief hiatus from wrestling, Gresham signed with IMPACT Wrestling where he is currently feuding with Mike Bailey, and during a discussion with Haus of Wrestling, Gresham spoke on the nature of his AEW/ROH release:

“I was pretty much conversing with Christopher Daniels back and forth,” Gresham began, detailing his relationship with ROH/AEW management. “I forget the timeline but I was signed with AEW for a while. There was a time that I was going back and forth with Progress and then WXW, and I believe I was under contract with them at the time. TK, AEW, could have completely decided to pull me from those events and they allowed me to continue what I was doing and to honour those commitments that I already had after Ring of Honor initially went down.

“So, I was already in contact with Christopher Daniels, not so much with TK, so I thank them a lot because I have built, over the years, really good relationships with all these companies all over the world and I wanted to keep it that way. I knew cancelling on them last second would have put a sour taste in our relationship and I didn’t want to do that. So, I really am grateful to them for allowing me to honour those commitments that I made.

“So, that is why I was gone, I would like to think I probably would have been seen on TV at the time because I know a lot of people were asking, ‘Why isn’t that person here?’ Blah blah blah. So, that’s pretty much why, because I was honouring those commitments. I was, to be honest, overseas the entire time between Germany and Ireland, and stuff, I was always gone.

“Fast forward to when I am finally back and finished up with Progress and WXW and everyone. For the most part, I think I really need to say that I am a very passionate person. I believe everyone that knows me and has trained with me at seminars and worked with me in the ring would agree. Along with that is the on-screen persona that I play as ‘The Foundation.’ This character and the character’s message is very close to how I actually view wrestling. This character also took years for me to develop and I am very protective and passionate about it.

“I can admit that I was acting very unprofessionally while trying and failing to convey the message to my former employer. After weeks of feeling like I wasn’t being heard or blown off, I was frustrated, to be honest. All I wanted was to be heard and for the communication to be had. If they had agreed and liked my ideas and what I wanted to say, great, if not, I would have appreciated the time and just accepted the outcome.”

Gresham continued, speaking on the eventual meeting with Tony Khan:

“Now, speaking about the actual meeting, leading up to it, I felt like I was blown off in different ways. I had made contact with my employer and me coming from, like I mentioned before, under the last regime with Ring of Honor, I had a really good relationship where we could talk over the phone. If I texted them, they would get back to me relatively quickly. It was just a really good back-and-forth communication. So, I think, for me, I was expecting the same thing and maybe I shouldn’t have.

“I know TK is a very busy guy, owning a lot of different businesses, and I am a very small gear in this machine. That just came after so much time thinking about it through therapy and things of that nature. I felt like I was blown off, we made contact, and I was flown into a show.

“I showed up, this is a new environment for me. I wasn’t really used to these big shows and so much going on. I arrived, I’m waiting and I never really got a time or anything about when we were going to meet. I just figured, ‘Hey, I know how wrestling is so I’ll just wait until he has time.’ I was there pretty much the entire two days, the fly-in day and then the day of the event where everything is filmed and then the next day.

“The gist of this is, I never got the chance to see him. Even when I went to a, say, Sonjay [Dutt] or QT [Marshall] to ask, ‘Hey, man, I’m supposed to have a meeting with Tony. Can I get it?’ I didn’t get it. So, the first time I felt like, ‘Okay, the dude is busy, whatever.’ I think I messaged him or he messaged me but I remember him saying something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry we didn’t get together. Let’s meet another time.’ Something like that.

“So, I fly out again and the same thing kinda happens. I’m not sure if I should say this part but this is what made me kinda feel like I was being blown off. I had to, for lack of a better word, hunt him down. When I finally get a chance to have a face-to-face with him, he introduces me to someone he is close with and as I go to shake her hand, I turn around and TK, from the way it looked to me, was walking away from me.

“So, at this point, I am thinking to myself, ‘This guy must not respect me at all.’ I just started having things roll around in my mind and I think, at the time, I was my own worst enemy with this. There was a lot of stuff going on personally with me. Nobody but the Progress guys know that my Mom had a really bad incident, she was in the hospital for like a week and it was the first time I had ever seen my Mom so vulnerable with tubes going through her face and stuff. A lot of this was just me under a lot of stress, I believe. But, I really felt I was disrespected.”

Reports at the time stated that Gresham ‘cussed out’ Khan, with the meeting said to be so heated it could be heard from adjacent rooms:

“I shouldn’t have yelled or cursed in a professional environment and I deeply regret my behaviour,” Gresham said. “Since then, I’ve gained some introspection through therapy, like I was saying before, and self-reflection and I just want to set the record straight. That day at the meeting, I wasn’t supposed to have that meeting, actually. Like I told you before, I’d been asking for meetings with TK and it was finally where we were both at a Ring of Honor show and he was like, ‘Oh, let me talk to Gresham.’ When he finally had time, I imagine.

“I remember getting a text from Sonjay and I was sitting with one of my buddies in the bleachers and, at that time, I had already checked out. I knew I was going to leave. I knew that I was going to ask for my release. The other thing that really bothered me was, a lot of people were under the impression that I left because I lost the Ring of Honor title and that’s not true. I’ve been wrestling for a long time and I’ve won championships and had to lose championships, that’s just part of business and life in general. You can’t be the champion forever, so, that’s not what it was.

“It was everything I had mentioned before so, I had already kinda checked out and I had told myself that I was going to ask for my release and leave. I already kinda knew what was going to happen and I was okay with that. Like I said before, I shouldn’t have yelled or cursed in a professional environment. The whole meeting just kind of got away from me, I was really emotional. That’s pretty much the gist of it.”

When Death Before Dishonor aired, fans were quick to notice that Gresham seemed agitated, forgoing his usual entrance theatrics ahead of his title match with Castagnoli:

“After my match with Claudio, I was kinda booking it out of there, I couldn’t be there,” Gresham revealed. “Claudio did come up to me and say some things, along with Mr Regal, who was there at the time. But, before I did get out of there completely, my wife had my bags and stuff, and TK, he didn’t have to, but he came over to me and said some really nice things. He told me that no bridges were burned, he shook my hand and he said he knows that I am not a bad person.

“I can only imagine him dealing with athletes for so long. He kinda understands how things are, how people are. He deals with people from all different backgrounds. I’m pretty sure he probably saw where I was coming from and he just granted me my release. That was it.”

H/T: Haus of Wrestling

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Written by Jack Atkins

Scripts, news, and features writer. Anything with words, basically.