Every time All Elite Wrestling (AEW) brings its larger-than-life show to Indiana, it’s a homecoming for the only Hoosier on their full-time roster. AEW is the company that just ran the biggest pro wrestling show in history, with more than 81,000 paid ticket holders at Wembley Stadium in London just over a week ago. Ruby Soho, a native of Lafayette, Indiana, is one of their biggest stars. She spoke to WFYI’s Ray Steele via Zoom ahead of AEW’s show at the Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum.
RUBY SOHO: Thank you for having me!
RAY STEELE: Pro wrestling draws all different types of people from all different walks of life. Growing up in Indiana, what type of person were you? And what made you want to be a pro wrestler?
SOHO: Growing up in Indiana, I was a very lost young kid. I didn't know what I wanted to be or who I wanted to be. And because - you're in a little bit of I wouldn't say a small town, but a smaller community. I wasn't really exposed to a lot up until I found pro wrestling. And once I found pro wrestling and punk rock, both around at the same time, it helped me really find myself because I was exposed to people from all walks of life, I was exposed to an industry that kind of gave you the freedom to be whoever you want it to be. So, it took me a while to be able to truly find myself and to accept myself for exactly who I was. But I have wrestling and punk rock to thank for that.
STEELE: Not to play amateur psychologist, but do you feel pressured when you're young like that on who you’re supposed to be or who you really are? I mean, do you feel pressured to be another way? Because I'm from small town Georgia, and I know that kind of pressure was there when I was that age.
SOHO: Absolutely. I think it's a very common thing for young people to know who they are kind of right out the gate based off their surroundings, and you know, how they grow up and who their family is. I think it is a pressure, but I think that's one thing that I hope I hope wrestling actually shows, you know, because we have so many different people and, and so many people to like or to dislike I think that you know hopefully that relinquishes that pressure a little bit, because you're just a kid you know and you could just focus on being a kid instead of who you're going to be forever. That's a pressure that you can tackle down the road, but I think when you're a kid you can just focus on being a kid and going to wrestling shows.
STEELE: Long story short, you were trained by Billy Roc, well known wrestler and trainer in Lafayette. You went to WWE for a while. That ended, and then AEW came calling. Going to AEW also meant you got to use your current ring name; Ruby Soho, also the name of the song from the punk band Rancid. How in the world did that happen?
SOHO: Oh, my goodness. This is one of my favorite stories in the world. I was in search of a new ring name. But I still wanted to keep Ruby (she was known as Ruby Riott in WWE) because Ruby fit and Ruby actually came from the song “Ruby Soho” after I left my previous employer. I wasn't really doing a lot of media. But I had managed to become acquaintances with Lars Fredericksen of Rancid, and he asked me to do his podcast. And because he is, you know, a hero of mine. I absolutely said yes. I said this is going to be the only one that I'm doing. And on his podcast, he did ask me, you know what I was going to be called? And I told him I wasn't sure. But I wanted to keep Ruby because of “Ruby Soho.” And his exact response was, why don't you just use that? And I said, Well, I didn't know that was an option. And he said, Yeah, I know a couple guys that we could get maybe the rights to the song and to the name and I was ‘Oh, wow!’, and I'm obviously I'm on camera. So, I'm you know, I'm dying inside. But yeah, it was just a few months later that, thankful to (AEW founder and CEO) Tony Khan and Lars and the whole team of Rancid for allowing me to do it, because it changed my life. You know, months later I was able to come out (to the ring) to “Ruby Soho” played by live by Rancid at (AEW premium event “Double or Nothing.” It was a 5-year-old small town kid from Indiana's dream come true.
STEELE: Pro wrestling is the most misunderstood form of entertainment. It's entertainment, but it's also very dangerous. Almost exactly one year ago, you suffered an injury I don't think I've ever seen in 45 years of watching wrestling. There are broken noses, and then there's what happened to you. Now, I’m glad you're okay. But you had to have some serious surgery after that.
SOHO: Yeah, it was probably the most painful injury I've suffered in 13 years of pro wrestling, and I've had quite a few of them so I have a lot to compare it to. But basically, what my doctor had said was that my septum was just sideways, and I managed to get that in Chicago taking a knee directly to the bridge of my nose and it was right in front of my dad to which was even better.
STEELE: What did your dad say after the match?
SOHO: He just he came to the back and saw me all bloody and everything he's and - we have something in our family that's it's basically like Murphy's Law - anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Basically, he said ‘Murphy's at it again.’
STEELE Well, like I said, glad everything came out okay, I know that that took you out for a while. Now of late on screen, you've aligned yourself with a faction called the Outcasts, usually doing your best to get booed by the fans as opposed to when you first started. Is that more fun as a performer?
SOHO: It's a blast. It's my favorite thing in the world. I enjoy it thoroughly. And I like I said I think it does take the pressure off of having to be liked. You can just kind of go out there and have fun. And alongside Toni Storm and (AEW Women’s World Champion) Saraya, it’s an absolute blast. They are two women that I idolized. And they are two women that I have a great deal in common with, we're all three at very similar points in our career, where we just want to have fun at wrestling and I think that that translates onstage and on TV. I think because all we do is just try and get ourselves into trouble.
STEELE: You've traveled the world now, thanks to pro wrestling. What do you take with you from here on out from the place where it all started, Lafayette, Indiana?
SOHO: I think I take a sense of community with me. I think one thing about Indiana as a whole, and you know, being trained in Lafayette, and Indianapolis was actually where I was introduced to pro wrestling, being able to always feel like you have a sense of community with you. Pro Wrestling, like we've talked about, is a hodgepodge of different walks of life. But you always, even with the fans, always feel like you're never alone. And I think that that's something that I've had from a very young age because, you know, Indiana is one of those places that you always feel like you're at home. Because you always know somebody, and we have a lot of pride in where we're from. And so that sense of community I think I've taken with me into wrestling, and I think I'll take with me you know for the rest of my life.
STEELE: You were introduced to wrestling in Indianapolis. What was the first match that you remember seeing?
SOHO: I believe it was actually a gentleman by the name of Sami Callihan and (AEW star) Jon Moxley that was actually in Indianapolis. Jon Moxley was a big deal at this promotion that I went to see. It wasn't a higher-level promotion. It was an indie (independent promotion) at the time, and it was one of the most incredible matches I've ever seen. I do believe there was a great deal of hardcore (wrestling) and you know, not much has changed for our good friend Mox.
SOHO: But I just I was I was enthralled with everything about it about, you know, these two gentlemen and what they were doing and the crowd interaction with it and it was intoxicating for me.
STEELE: The last time AEW was in Indy, Moxley talked about wrestling at Fountain Square, just down from here.
SOHO: That was probably the show I watched (laughs).
STEELE: Ruby Soho, best of luck both inside and outside the squared circle.
SOHO: Thank you so much for having me.
Lafayette's Ruby Soho is appearing with AEW, Wednesday at Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum In Indianapolis. Information is available at AllEliteWrestling.com.