When Dalton Castle walks into Supercard of Honor XII on Saturday, he will face the biggest challenge of his career. Once the hunter, now the hunted, the Ring of Honor World Champion finds himself trying to retain the most coveted prize against a ruthless villain— “The Villain” Marty Scurll.
Castle already faced “The American Nightmare” for the world title at Final Battle 2017 and captured glory but Scurll, perhaps Bullet Club’s most popular member, has ridden a giant wave of momentum over the last year as the ROH World Television Champion and even winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Scurll wants to return the gold to Bullet Club but Castle has no intentions of stepping off the top of the mountain.
“The fans are going to get one hell of a performance. This is the biggest show in Ring of Honor history. As a performer and as ROH World Champion, I have never stepped in that ring and not set to put forth the greatest performance of my life,” Castle said. “Each match I do is going to be better than the last and against Marty, it’s no different.”
If it were up to Castle, he would be facing Flip Gordon for the championship at ROH’s biggest show of the year but given his fictional status and the way the cards have fallen in 2018, Castle believes Scurll is the perfect opponent for his latest conquest.
Still, being champ has been a whirlwind for Castle given the international travel and the challengers gunning for him. Even when he accomplished his lifelong goal of being world champion at the expose of Rhodes last December, the man who loves sparkles, still couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
There was so much going on that evening just leading up to the match, Castle had media to do in the morning and had to find time to corral volunteers to orchestrate his Liberace-like entrance, which consisted of Castle, in his golden jumpsuit and tassels being rolled out along with “The Boys” and stepping down on the backs of men to get to the ramp before spreading his wings in the middle of the ring.
There would be anxiety leading up to his match but as Castle described it, once he pinned Cody for the title, it was a moment of relief and surrealism all mixed into one. He had to go back and see the footage to understand it really happened. He was left with a feeling of gratitude and happiness but asked himself, “What’s next?”
“It’s hard to put a label on what the next step is. I sometimes don’t know what it is until I actually start making that move,” Castle said. “Being world champion is excellent and it’s incredibly flattering to know that a company would trust me in such a position. But with that, I get the other side where I have doubters and get fans questioning why I’m world champion or people in the locker room, wondering why it’s me in the position and rightfully so. Every wrestler should want to be world champion. Unfortunately, there can only be one and that happens to be and now as world champion, my job as world champion is to remind everyone why I’m world champion.”
This was what “The Peacock” always wanted though. His path to become a pro wrestler and world champ was formed long before he ever joined the ROH roster or before he locked up with an opponent.
He can still tell you the earliest memories he had of falling in love with pro wrestling was seeing Shawn Michaels superkick Marty Jannetty and throwing him through the barber shop window.
His love of showmanship, bright colors, masks and tassels was beginning to grow. Little Dalton Castle loved “Macho Man” Randy Savage. “He fits the mold of bright colors and sparkles and high energy, man. He drew me in like a moth to the flame,” Castle said. Even the most random moments stuck out to Castle.
“I think one of the Killer Bees was wrestling as Yellow Dog. As a little kid, he was the coolest to me just because he had a mask on and then they took his mask off, I was like, ‘Oh no’ and then boom, he had another mask underneath and I was like, ‘This guy is the greatest wrestler of all-time’” Castle laughed.
“If the Young Bucks were around when I was growing up, I would worship them.”
Many of his peers grew up idolizing the pro wrestling industry but very few had the type of athleticism and talent it takes to become division one wrestler at the collegiate level. The New York native did just that when he wrestled at SUNY Cortland.
He found success even when it was a struggle to balance the schedule of a college athlete, with classes and practice taking up all of his time and trying to cut weight. There was even a time where Castle lost eight pounds in six hours. Still, he embraced the grind and bonded with his teammates who shared his passion for the sport.
“What I miss most was having unlimited access to a training facility, trainers and doctors at no cost and unlimited athletic tape. That I miss. I don’t miss having to go to class early in the morning and then having to find time to work out and then go to practice and then having to find time to work out at night. I don’t miss cutting weight,” Castle said. “But I did love training every day and competing and being a part of a team. You’re surrounded by all of these likeminded people who love the same thing you do. To compete in wrestling at the college level, you have to love it because it’s so demanding. It’s why I get along with so many pro wrestlers in the ROH locker room. I love wrestling and the people I surround myself with love it too.”
While wrestling in college, Castle majored in broadcasting and theater. If you do the math, those are the exact skills you’d want for a pro wrestler. He’s exactly where he’s supposed to be. Although, according to Castle, his high school aptitude test told him that he should be a zoologist.
After Castle’s collegiate career ended, he made the jump to pro wrestling where he would have stints in Next Era Wrestling, Empire State Wrestling and Chikara before joining ROH. But when it came to his first match, all he can remember is that he knew what he had to do but he was rushing through it and “It felt like someone hit fast forward on me. I just totally forgot that people were trying to enjoy a match.”
However, Castle was at a great advantage when he first started out when compared to most people that enter the pro wrestling world. It seemed every move he made was to get him to this point—a master of his craft.
“My best friends were training to be pro wrestlers and when they were starting off and traveling the independent circuit, I would hop in a car and travel with these guys and hang out with them at shows all the time and get a backstage view of how things worked,” Castle said. “When it came time for me to train to be a pro wrestler, learning the moves was easy but learning how to use the moves or understanding how to tell the story in the ring to get the appropriate reaction out of the crowd, that stuff took a long time.”
Ring of Honor fans have come to love Castle’s flamboyant personality and showmanship. His versatility of skills that allow him to blend in and out of seriousness and comedy makes him a unique talent in the pro wrestling world.
Every show, he and “The Boys” (twin brothers Brandon and Brent Tate) get a reaction from the crowd that would cause envy from most pro wrestlers. His two-man entourage that are always by his side to help and fan him down, are a perfect complement to his style. But as Castle tells it, “There’s only one of them. He’s just moving back and forth really fast” Castle laughs.
How he keeps it together without constantly bursting out laughing is puzzling. Nonetheless, Castle’s best moments are when he’s truly enjoying himself. He loves the ridiculousness of it all.
One of the most memorable moments for him was when he and Bobby Fish did an in-ring talking segment, his ‘Fish Tank’ segment.
“It was pretty long but it made me enjoy it so much because it was ridiculous and fun and we both knew how ridiculous it was,” Castle said. “Keep your eyes on me when I’m wrestling. I laugh all the time. I love wrestling. I’m enjoying it in there, I’m not afraid to burst out laughing when something genuinely makes me laugh. I’m not going to get in trouble for having a smile.”
His connection with the fans certainly wasn’t lost on Ring of Honor’s management. They wouldn’t have taken the title off of Cody if they didn’t know how beloved Castle was to the audience.
This is a guy who loves Frisbee and going to the zoo to see animals (Red Panda is his favorite) and loves to wear outlandish outfits to work and ROH fans can’t get enough and Castle’s ability to play to the crowd regardless of who’s in the seats, is telling.
“You can’t write a script and expect them to react the way you want them to,” Castle said. “Pro wrestling is such a great form of art because it’s so many different things all blended together. It’s theater, it’s immersive theater, it’s improve, it’s sports acrobatics, it’s comedy, it’s drama, it’s everything all wrapped up in one.”
For the world champion, the feeling of being the top guy is euphoric. He’s reminded me of his status every time he sees a TSA agent pull that title from his bag or when he sees kids in the hospital light up when he visits and they get a glimpse of the gold.
He’s not ready to let that go, not for “The Villain” or for anyone. Supercard of Honor XII is a chance to answer any remaining doubters of his talent. It’s a chance to remind them why he’s the world champion. Castle has a legacy to build. He’s thinking long term and “The Peacock” intends to fly sky high.
“I want people to look at it and go, ‘Man, can you believe he’s still going with that title? It’s been like 13 years. I can’t believe he hasn’t lost once.’”