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MATT RIDDLE DISCUSSES HIS JOURNEY TO PRO WRESTLING, JOINING WWE NXT, HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE AUDIENCE, WHY PRO WRESTLING CAME SO EASY TO HIM, NXT ON USA NETWORK, FLIP FLOPS & MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2019-10-08 10:58:00

The following interview was conducted the morning of 10/2 at the WWE Performance Center.

Mike Johnson: All right, Mike Johnson here with Matt Riddle, who's going to be headlining NXT's first live act, live two hour episode tonight against Adam Cole. In an alternate universe, you might be working the Tokyo goal, but instead you're here. Talk about the journey that brought you to NXT and this win tonight.

Matt Riddle: You know, I think for me it's been a long journey in the sense with my UFC career and then making the transition to pro wrestling but not being a big enough MMA star to get the round of publicity. So you're still going to have to grind through the Indies and just honestly was years and years on the Indies where I just kept working, UK shows, Canada, Mexico, America, Ireland, Germany, until the point where it was my goal because I knew I needed to do this is, that's where I had the trial with WWE earlier, they're like, “we can't sign you because of your past” but then I knew I had to become undeniable. I knew I had to make everybody want me or need me to get a job. And that's what I did until I worked hard enough for every company under the sun was offering me a contract.

Mike Johnson: Was there a moment where you recog nized it was happening or did it just seem to spiral as things went on?

Matt Riddle: Well I noticed, I think a lot of my friends were getting signed in and I wasn't yet and I was like “son of a bit.” But then I also realized, eventually, it's going to come to me. But I was like, when? Because, when I found the UFC, one of the things you always talked about are, Daniel White would say or one of them said it, "When you start here, your career's on a Stopwatch and it clicks the second you walked through the door and the second you have your last point, it clicks off and you're done, it's over."And it's the same thing with anything, including wrestling. You don't know how much time you have, you don't know your shelf life. You don't know what your health's going to be, there's certain things you can do to take precautions, but you never know. So I had pull, I was a little worried, but then once I got a call from like New Japan and other companies, and then I told Gabe from Evolve and minutes later I was talking to Triple H, and now we're here and I went this route more so because I can hang out with my family a little more. Last week was brutal, but usually I can hang out with my family a little more and stuff like that. So it made more sense.

Mike Johnson:  So what does it mean to you to know that the first two hour show, you're in the main event, you're in one of the biggest money matches a company could present and that's the first step that they want people to see when an excuse making memories for the largest audience that'll ever watch it. What does that mean to you on a personal level with everything you've gone through, the grind that you've experienced to get here?

Matt Riddle: It means a lot, I've worked really hard and I know they've all worked really hard for something like this, especially Triple H and everybody. So to not only get here, which is awesome, but then in this one year time period get a TV deal, and then from the TV deal to be in the main event or in one of the biggest main matches, with Adam Cole for the NXT championship, it's pretty outstanding, on the USA network, for their first two hour show. So it's good.

Mike Johnson: You built this really incredible relationship with your audience, the bro thing, just this sort of expectation that you're the guy that'll hang out in the crowd and be one with them. What do you owe that to? What do you, why do you think that connection was made, and it was so organic and so easily made?

Matt Riddle: I think the connection was made and it was organic just because they know my story. I know a lot of people like you, they might not know. But if one fan knows, he's probably going to tell another fan and another fan, and I think people can relate to me. I think a lot of people have had an opportunity or break and something went wrong or they made a mistake and that's it for them. And there's never a rebound, there's never a comeback, there's never anything. So I think for me, that part of my story is motivating and people like that. Plus, like you said, I'm the kind of guy that would go in the crowd, hang out with everybody. I'm extremely friendly with people and I also think I'm pretty good at pro wrestling so I think all those things help out.

Mike Johnson: Why do you think you were able to pick up pro wrestling so well? How much did the MMA background help you cause I feel like there's very few people who know the second you see them, that they're a natural at this, like Kurt Angle is the obvious immediate example, but why do you think you were able to pick it up so quickly in such a short amount of time?

Matt Riddle: I think because I really enjoy pro-wrestling, always have as a kid. And then when I was older, and I was getting tired of MMA, just tired of the cutting way and everything else that was involved with it. And I was watching the WWE Network, and I was like, “You know what? I've always wanted to do this” and then just listen to the legends talk. And then there's just everything. I was like, you know what? I want to do this. I started training, and it's just something that I always wanted to do, and I felt like my life was coming full circle when I started. I felt like amateur wrestling, pro wrestling, amateur wrestling, jujitsu, MMA, back to pro wrestling. And I feel like it's the most, you can do any move in pro wrestling. It's not, hey, if you look at it like amateur wrestling, there's moves that you can't do. Jujitsu, you can't punch people and then maybe you could almost do everything, but everything's not going to work. Pro Wrestling, now you can do every move and everything can work, maybe.

Mike Johnson: And if It doesn't work, it might work the next night.

Matt Riddle: Exactly.

Mike Johnson: So, you're a family guy. How excited are your kids about the fact that dad's going to be on the USA Network now?

Matt Riddle: They're excited. I was on TV last week, they were there in the crowd. They'll be in the crowd tonight. They're not really the biggest wrestling fans. They love me though, So that's all that matters.

Mike Johnson: You've been in big fight situations, how do you compare the energy today going into a main event for a show like this to preparation and waiting to go out to fight in the octagon. I know in different genre, but very similar in some ways. How do you compare the energy?

Matt Riddle: They're actually similar, but the actual performance is much different. This can be a little more exhausting at times cause there's more to remember certain things, you're working with somebody, while with MMA you're working against somebody, you got to have a game plan, you can do whatever you want, you can get punched once and just fall down. So there's differences in that. But the preparation for UFC fights way more grueling and intense because you focus on one pipe for eight weeks. While here, I wrestled four times this past week and plus the street fight last Wednesday and now I'm wrestling Adam Cole so preparation, it's, I woke up this morning.

Mike Johnson: Just will yourself through.

Matt Riddle: That is correct.

Mike Johnson: So last question for you. When are we going to see WWE merchandise, the flip flops? Because it seems like that's just a natural thing.

Matt Riddle: We were talking about It. It Just hasn't happened. I don't know what to do. I can make my own but I don't want to go out of pocket.

Mike Johnson: I don't blame you. What's your message to everybody who's going to be tuning into NXT every week, especially the fans who are going to be watching it for the first time?

Matt Riddle: Hey, if have you like pro wrestling, if you like entertainment, you're going to probably like NXT and don't miss it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be like, “Where were you when this happened?” And I know where I'll be.

Mike Johnson: Center of the ring.

Matt Riddle: That's it.

Mike Johnson: Well, sir, we wish you nothing but continued success and we look forward to talking you down the line.

Matt Riddle: Thank you. Thank you so much

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