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By Mike Johnson on 2021-12-01 13:50:00

Pittsburgh-born Lee Moriarty was on the cusp of being one of the most in-demand independent professional wrestlers when he was offered a full-time contract with All Elite Wrestling.  Yesterday, Moriarty sat down with to reflect on his journey as he prepares to face CM Punk for the first time.

Mike Johnson:   We are just about 24 hours from AEW Dynamite returning to TNT and for the first time ever, CM Punk will step into the ring with Lee Moriarty, who has been one of the fastest rising independent stars for the last several years before signing officially with All Elite Wrestling earlier this year. Lee has a big day ahead of him tomorrow, so, sir, how the heck are you today?

Lee Moriarty: Going really well, it was a fun surprise to find out I was facing CM Punk this week. It's very surreal when it happened and it took me a moment to let it sit in and realize that. But just as excited as I am, I'm very focused.

Mike Johnson:  You mentioned on social media earlier today, that one of the interesting things about getting the chance to wrestle Punk is he's the one who kind of introduced you to the straight edge lifestyle and that's something that's a big part of your life. Thoughts about that full circle of him inspiring you at one point in your life and now you're going to be stepping in the ring and facing off with him for the first time?
Lee Moriarty: That's amazing because you're right, straight edge lifestyle was introduced to me through CM Punk and it's something I still apply to this day. And when I started training in professional wrestling, CM Punk was gone, he wasn't here so the idea of the match happening wasn't realistic. And as time passed, it became more and more [inaudible 00:01:38] because it didn't seem like he was coming back. And then this year, everything changed. He joined All Elite Wrestling, I'm signed with All Elite Wrestling and then a possibility becomes a reality. So it's very cool.

Mike Johnson: When you get the call and you find out, "Hey, tomorrow Dynamite live on TV from Duluth, Georgia, it's you and Punk." What's the first reaction when you're told this?

Lee Moriarty: I had to have it repeated a few times because I didn't feel like what I heard or what I saw was right. But once it set in, I was excited, I was ready and I've been preparing since then. I've been studying his matches since he's come to AEW, he's had seven and I've watched as many as I can until getting on my flight today. Just preparing. The interesting thing about Punk's matches is that every single one has been very different. And I think my style is something that's easily adaptable so we'll be able to contrast in a way that's going to be fun for people to watch and also fun to compete with.

Mike Johnson: I mentioned earlier you're from Pittsburgh, that's where you first broke in. In fact, the first time I ever saw you, you were very young in your career working for Norm Connors in the old IWC. So I've seen you literally going back to the beginning of your career. Obviously, Britt Baker has draped herself in the Pittsburgh flag in a lot of ways but thoughts on having come from the Pittsburgh area and getting a chance to represent the skill city?

Lee Moriarty: It means a lot to me because when I got into professional wrestling, one of the first things that was told as a wrestler from Pittsburgh was I was going to have to leave to break out because up until really Britt Baker there weren't a lot of mainstream wrestlers from Pittsburgh. There were a couple but they were very spaced out, and I did that, I broke out, I left Pittsburgh and did what I could but also I kept my roots there. So I always come back and work on the independent scene there. To now grow and be representing Pittsburgh on a national stage, being the second wrestler in All Elite Wrestling to do that along with Britt Baker means a lot to me because Pittsburgh is known for being a hard working town and that's what I did, I worked really to get where I am.

Mike Johnson: I've been told that one of the people that inspired you along your journey is the late Bruce Lee. One of the greatest, well known martial artists ever of all time. Great actor, very impressive thinker as well. I think a lot of people, if they haven't studied Bruce Lee, don't know how much the mind was a big part of what he did beyond just the physicality of martial arts and stunts.

Lee Moriarty: Yeah.

Mike Johnson: What was it about Bruce that kind of enticed you and that you found inspiration in his life and his work?

Lee Moriarty: So more so than the movies, it was like you were saying that mind and the philosophy of Bruce Lee. Some of the stuff he says lines up with also the straight edge lifestyle, removing the non-essentials from your life to better it and make it more valuable. And that's why I'm straight edge, I remove these things that I don't need and it allows me to focus on the things that are more important to me. Bruce Lee has all these different quotes and stuff that have inspired me and one of them is the Be Water quote, that's something I recite to myself before every match just to calm my nerves.

Mike Johnson: When you mentioned calming your nerves, let's talk about this. There's an innate pressure coming from being an independent wrestler where every night you're doing a one night stand more or less, and then moving on the next town, many times these matches aren't even taped, sometimes they're streamed, sometimes they're not. But going from there to live television with AEW, whether it's wrestling CM Punk or anyone else, there's a difference in pressure there. What has it been like figuring out the proper balance to keep yourself mentally healthy and keep yourself ahead of the wave of the pressure that comes with, "All right, it's go time. Head out that curtain."

Lee Moriarty: The pressure's definitely there but AEW is a place where we take care of you so that pressure is not a negative feeling, the pressure I feel is good, it's fun, it's something I look forward to because I don't ever want to be complacent. I don't want to feel comfortable in the sense that I don't need to continue to work hard to grow. And with AEW again, the pressure is there but it's a good pressure because people are pushing me because they believe in me, they didn't just put me in this match to get buzz, they put me in this match as they believe that I can excel in it. And it's very different going from the independent scene wrestling in front of a hundred fans and maybe a few people who stream online to wrestling in front of thousands of fans and then millions watching at home. But it's something I've been learning to enjoy and have fun with.

Mike Johnson: When you look at the match tomorrow with CM Punk, do you feel pressure? Do you feel excitement? I dare say it's probably one of the bigger matches of your career thus far, but it's also got to be an extremely exciting moment for you given how he's inspired you in the past and he was someone that made you want to get into pro wrestling and all these other nuances that we haven't even touched upon yet. Do you feel pressure for tomorrow or is it more excitement than pressure?

Lee Moriarty: It's absolutely a feeling of pressure but right now the excitement's eclipsing that, I think once we get closer to the show I'll feel the pressure but the interesting thing is... Well, yeah I feel pressure because this is the biggest match in my career, I do believe there's more pressure on CM Punk because he's undefeated. So just imagine what it would do for my career and what it's going to do against his when his first loss in All Elite Wrestling is to Lee Moriarty.

Mike Johnson: That moment where you were offered the AEW contract, what was that like for you? Because I think AEW's changed the way that many wrestlers have a journey in professional wrestling because before AEW popped up, it was grind away in the independence, hope to get a tryout in the WWE Performance Center, hope to get signed.   That process led to wrestlers being a little bit older before they would end up on television. You're still in your mid twenties, you're still very young, boom, you're signed, you're right on TV, it's a sink or swim situation, no different than a young prospect being signed to a baseball team or a football team. When you think about that moment where you got the contract and you knew this was going to be my life full time going forward, was going to be devoted to this company. What was that moment like for you and how different do you think your journey would've been if there wasn't an AEW right now?

Lee Moriarty: It's very unreal because you dream about that moment, I've been wanting to be a professional wrestler since I was 12 years old. That's all I've been focused on when I was in middle school and high school, when I went to college, that's all I wanted to do was to be a professional wrestler. When you finally achieve that goal, especially on this level and this is my living, I don't consider it a job, it's my career, it's what I want to do for the rest of my life, is an unreal moment. And for it to happen, the way that it did with me having my third match on Elevation against my contemporary Daniel Garcia, walking back through that curtain and being called back out and offered a contract, that's special and something I don't think I'll ever fully be able to live... I don't know how to put it but it's just a feeling that'll never go away. I'm always smiling when I think about that moment.

Mike Johnson: Well, the second you're not smiling about it, something's wrong. So obviously CM Punk is a big deal tomorrow but any wrestler worth their weight in gold wants to hold the championship, they want to have goals of being on major pay-per-views, of having important programs, of having milestone matches. For you, and I know you just still getting going in the whole AEW gear of your career. What are the goals for Lee Moriarty once we get past the CM Punk match tomorrow? In a dream world, what's your dream pay-per-view opponent? What would you like to do? Obviously, you're still getting your feet wet in many ways in the company but there's a plethora of possibilities out there, a whole multiverse of things that could happen to you and with you in the months and years to come. When you think about the checklist or the goals, what would you like to accomplish over the next year or so in AEW?

Lee Moriarty: So the goals I have after beating CM Punk tomorrow night are, one, to enter the rankings, wins and losses matter in All Elite Wrestling and I need to enter the ranking system to accomplish even more goals. Of course, I want the championship, I want to represent TNT, of course I want the All Elite Wrestling Championship. Me and Matt Sydal have been working well together and a shot at the tag titles mean something to me but it's more than just that, I want to bring in and create new wrestling fans, which is why you see a lot of hip hop influences because I feel like [Peach Street 00:10:58] Wrestling and hip hop have always kind of been close to intertwining but not fully yet and I want to bring over those fans, I want to create new wrestling fans. So that's a big goal for me in All Elite Wrestling.

Mike Johnson: When you think about all the time that you've spent in AEW thus far, who are some of the coaches or some of the producers that you've been able to kind of pull some knowledge out of? Who are the ones that you've enjoyed working with the most that have kind of brought you some unique, different ways of looking at the business or how you perform in the ring, maybe some life lessons? There's so many great veterans there that you can pull knowledge out of, who are the ones that you've leaned on thus far in the company?

Lee Moriarty: So the good thing about All Elite Wrestling or the very cool thing about it is how many different perspectives there are to learn from and not just the agents but the other talent there. But the agents I've been able to work with so many in the few matches that I had. And two I've worked with multiple times have been Sonjay Dutt and Dean Malenko. And it's very interesting to see how differently they coach their match or Jerry Lynn or QT Marshall. It's a lot of fun. And then I'll get advice from guys like Eddie Kingston backstage, I've talk to Eric Starks a bit about learning, how to be a professional wrestler on a national television stage compared to an independent stage. There's all these little things that I'm still learning and I'm still growing with. It's like you said earlier, I'm growing on a national stage, in a sink or swim environment but so far I've been swimming because I've had to help with the coaches and the other talent in the locker room.

Mike Johnson: What's it been like dealing with Tony Khan thus far? Everyone talks about how excited he is and how supportive he is as a boss, which is a different way of handling his talents than some other promoters on the national scene do. What's it been like working under him and getting to know him over the course of your AEW run so far?

Lee Moriarty: It's probably, aside from being in the ring, the most fun part of working with All Elite Wrestling, because he's always excited, he's always energetic, he's always in a good mood so it puts you in a good, excited mood. It's like you can literally see him running around, just happy, hyped up, you can hear him yelling when a match is going really well and it's something special and I'm very grateful that I get to be working under Tony Khan and learning. In the locker room again, because I think his energy kind of trickles down to everyone else and we all get this positive energy, we all get this excited energy and it's a fun environment to be in.

Mike Johnson: Well, it's going to be a fun environment tomorrow in Duluth, Georgia and on TNT when you step in the ring with CM Punk. For those of you who are not regularly watching AEW, I want to give Lee a chance to give his pitch why they should make sure at eight o'clock tomorrow, they are making sure that they're watching you against CM Punk on TNT.

Lee Moriarty: Yeah, we can just get straight to it. I know when a lot of people saw this match, they kind had a perception of how it was going to go. A lot of people don't think that I can win this match, a lot of people don't believe that I can win this because of CM Punk and him being better can jump off a car. But the thing is, I don't go into any fight believing that I'm going to lose, I understand that there's a possibility of me losing but that just makes me want to win even more. So tomorrow I'm going to beat CM Punk, I'm going to be the guy that hands him his first L and I'm going to prove anyone who doubted that fact wrong. I'm confident in my abilities and I'm confident in what I bring to the table and I'm ready for tomorrow.

Mike Johnson:  Sir, I know it's going to be an important moment for you, I thank you for sitting down and reflecting on it before you even get a chance to step in the ring and I hope it's everything you want it to be on a personal level, I know it's a match that I got very excited for when it was announced earlier today and I really appreciate you sitting down so quickly after it all got set up for us to sit down and do this. So best of luck to you in everything in the future and we look forward to when we get you on here again.

Lee Moriarty: Thank you very much. I definitely appreciate you having me and giving me a chance to talk and express my feelings about this.

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