Professional wrestler Jeff Cobb has wrestled all over the world, and even competed in the 2004 Olympics, but there's another arena he's aching to get into: superheroes.
Cobb, who carries the moniker of "Mr. Athletic" and currently holds both the PWG World Championship and Ring of Honor's Television title, has been wrestling full-time since 2009 and has been on WWE's radar going back to 2014.
Newsarama spoke with Cobb by phone as he was preparing to leave for a Northeastern tour with ROH to discuss his love for comic books and the superhero genre, his aspirations for acting in such roles, and whether he recommends getting chopped by Hirooki Goto (hint: he wouldn't recommend it.)
Newsarama: Jeff, 2018 is a huge year for you with the PWG and ROH titles, along with winning this year's Battle of Los Angeles Tournament. We reached out to you today to talk about your passion for comics, but I have to ask - do you feel like you've finally "arrived" in professional wrestling?
Jeff Cobb: I think it was maybe more about a year and a half or two years ago when I started with PWG and I think PWG is a place that once you’re a regular there you’ve "arrived" as well. I was beginning to get more noticed there, too.
Nrama: Recently you’ve tagged with ROH's World Champion Jay Lethal and really establishing yourself as a singles star coming from the tag scene with guys like recent WWE signing Matt Riddle, what’s it like tagging with a veteran like Jay going up against guys like Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels?
Cobb: Well, now Jay is sort of like the big dog in the yard. As you said, he’s the Ring of Honor World Champion and on paper, it looks like we’re two singles guys but I think we can come together for a common goal.
Nrama: You also had this match recently with New Japan Pro Wrestling star Hirooki Goto. I’ve seen this match and just, wow. What can you tell us about that match and going up against a guy like Goto?
Cobb: Yeah, it was fun! It’s always great to be on any sort of card like that and have a singles match. I think it was maybe only the second or third singles match on that card, which was a huge honor for me. I didn’t win as I wanted to, but there’s a rematch down the line. Leading up to our singles match, we had a few multi-man matches so I could get a sense for him. Very hard-hitting.
Nrama: Let's talk about your Lucha persona, Matanza, and and working with Lucha Underground. Now I know you wrap up with them this year, but what was it like switching up characters traveling? You'd do some Lucha tapings then head back as yourself. Was there anything you'd do differently in the ring?
Cobb: Pretty much just getting comfortable working with the mask. We’d tape for a few months then travel again and getting back to that was rough at times. It was fine though, but the breathing was difficult to adjust to after so long.
Nrama: We've been told you're a huge Marvel fan, and we're both in our mid-30s, so I wonder if it was the same stuff that got us into comics. What was the first big series you got into it?
Cobb: Well, my big brother is ten years older than me and he was into the darker stuff. He gave me an old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue, like the old black and white stuff and he took me to this comic book and music shop and I saw all those trading cards series and got hooked from there.
Nrama: What are you reading right now that is at the top of your pull box?
Cobb: Right now? Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read but I follow up on things online. I used to have a good friend when I lived in Sacremento that would hit up his store every week and when we would travel together, I’d go through what he bought. A lot of change since I was reading them religiously. When I went to college, I had to stop going to shops altogether since the nearest one was about two hours away.
Nrama: What were you a fan of?
Cobb: It was weird because I did like the mainstream guys like Spider-Man and all those titles like Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Amazing, but with Web, they always had the weirdest team-ups. Like Sleepwalker or Darkhawk would show up for some reason and I love those more obscure characters.
Nrama: Can’t fault you there, all my friends know how much I love Moon Knight.
Cobb: Right? There was this time around like ‘93 or ‘94 where Marvel had these annual editions that came with cards for new characters and I don’t think any of those guys are really around anymore, but really loved that whole idea of getting new and unknown characters that might not have gotten all the notoriety or fame.
Nrama: Did you have any big issues in your collection? Any cultural milestones or just stuff you really enjoyed having?
Cobb: So I had a whole bunch of comics at my mom’s place when I was actually collecting, but my main thing was having all of the "Onslaught Saga." That was crazy. It jumped all over the Marvel Universe and I think it’s still over there, but that’s my big thing. I do have some of the "Heroes Reborn" stuff, but I’m not too sure.
Nrama: With your traveling and schedule, do you have time to go to conventions? Or did you before your career?
Cobb: Two years ago, I got booked for a show in San Diego during Comic-Con and was actually given a day pass for the show. I felt like I could have spent all day there since I had a signing and that gig I really only had maybe two hours to walk around and see things. It was super overwhelming.
Nrama: Was there something you incorporated from comics into your performance?
Cobb: Not really, but I know a couple of buddies that go all out. Some of my shirts are Avengers-based and I’m working on a Spider-Man one and a Thing one, too.
Nrama: Do you have any opponents you’d still like to go after in 2019 that you haven’t faced off against yet?
Cobb: Obviously Kenny Omega. Maybe Cody. Those are two guys I’d love to get in the ring with.
Nrama: Going back to guys like Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, they have written comics with the Aw Yeah guys Art and Franco. Is it something you’d have an interest in?
Cobb: I don’t know, that just seems so difficult to keep coming up with stories on the regular. I’m sure if I had a team to help me, I’d be down.
Nrama: Several wrestlers have done movie and tv work on the side, as stuntmen, body doubles, and even actors. Is this something you'd be interested in - especially in terms of comic book adaptations?
Cobb: Oh definitely. I haven’t had the time to commit to something. Next year though, I’m really looking more into that. Because if I could do something on Lucifer, that’d be great. Something like that. I think Preacher has been great to get into as well, even just as a demon or something in a one-off. I actually talked to somebody from Lucifer. Dropped their name during an interview and they contacted me and told them if they want somebody crazy, I’m going to do it.
Nrama: What does 2019 look like for Jeff Cobb? G1 Tournament entry? Tag-titles?
Cobb: Definitely one goal would be to be on the Supercard show during WrestleMania weekend. You can wrestle in arenas across the country, but the Garden is the Mecca. I’m about to be in more New Japan tours and yeah, would love to be in the G1.