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Byrons Interviews

Bianca Belair’s boldest declaration yet: “Shayna is irrelevant to me” | WWE

Ask, earn and you shall receive. After months of stating her desire for a crack at the NXT Women’s Championship, Bianca Belair’s wish will now become a reality. At NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, Belair will challenge Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Title in what will be Belair’s first championship match. The self-proclaimed “EST of NXT” spoke to WWE.com about her impending opportunity to win the gold.

WWE.COM: How does it feel to finally have your first NXT Women’s Title opportunity at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix against Shayna Baszler?

BIANCA BELAIR: I’ve basically been begging for this title opportunity for a while, so I feel satisfied to finally get what I deserve, but I am definitely not content. Ever since walking into the WWE Performance Center two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve had one goal in mind, and that’s proving that I am the best. All I’ve been missing is a chance in the spotlight to shine. And now that it’s finally my time, I am fully prepared to take down Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship. 

WWE.COM: You’ve been to countless NXT TakeOver events in the past, but you’ve always had to watch from the sidelines. What went through your mind during those prior events, knowing you had yet to have your own match on the card?

BELAIR: I’ve had to sit back and watch TakeOver after TakeOver after TakeOver, champion after champion after champion. During my time in NXT, the champions have gone from Asuka to Ember Moon to Shayna Baszler to Kairi Sane and back to Shayna. I don’t have a jealous bone in my body, but every time I had to sit through another TakeOver, I knew it should have been me in the ring, under the lights, holding that title over my head. 

My pleas for a title opportunity were falling on deaf ears for a while and initially I felt slighted, but the more I thought about it, I realized every day they ignored me was just another day for me to get better and better. 

WWE.COM: You’ve had a highly impressive undefeated streak in NXT. How much pressure do you feel to deliver on such a big stage?

BELAIR: Pressure makes diamonds, so when I think of TakeOver, I don’t see it as a “big stage.” I’m not thinking about the bright lights or the thousands of people in the audience … I simply see it as an opportunity to compete, win, and have everyone watch me shine. I’ve been asking for this, basically begging for this opportunity, so I am fully prepared to remain un-de-fea-ted.

WWE.COM: How have your past athletic experiences prepared you for this moment?

BELAIR: Growing up, my parents made sure sports were a big part of my life, so I’ve played almost every sport in the book, from track to basketball, soccer, cheerleading, CrossFit, weightlifting, etc. Being an athlete has taught me to crave competition and it’s taught me how to work hard, how to be coachable, how to be mentally tough. All these attributes that have been instilled in me through my athletic career have been helpful in life, but I’ve learned from my experiences that sometimes hard work isn’t always enough. Being talented along with hard work is what is really essential to success. I have so many accomplishments in my past but what matters is what I did with them once I got to NXT. I started from ground zero when I walked into the Performance Center on April 11, 2016. I didn’t know anything about being a sports-entertainer in WWE and look how quickly I not only caught on to everything, but surpassed everyone around me.

At the end of the day, the only thing Shayna could possibly try to do is work harder than me, which she doesn’t, and I’m already way more talented than she is, so I don’t see my undefeated streak ending anytime soon.

WWE.COM: To that point, how would you respond to those who may believe you are not as accomplished as Shayna?

BELAIR: Last time I checked, I’m the one who was in WrestleMania last year and I’m the one that is un-de-fea-ted. Those are both accomplishments Shayna can’t add to her list.

I’m coming for that title and when I do, it will furthermore validate everything that I have been saying: I am the strongest, roughest, toughest, quickest, fastest, greatest, the best. The EST of NXT. I ain’t nothing to play with, and I am too determined and too talented to let Shayna Baszler take me down.

WWE.COM: Can you give us some insight into your preparations for the match? 

BELAIR: Being an athlete, you always stay prepared, so you never have to get ready. I am UN-DE-FEA-TED. What I’m doing is obviously working for me, so why would I change anything? I think people mess up when they start changing for their opponent and they end up playing their opponent’s game. There’s no need to panic or change anything. I know exactly what I am going up against. Shayna is irrelevant to me in the sense that all I see is a competitor that I have to go through to get what I want: the NXT Women’s Championship.



Byrons Interviews

After making a bold, victorious statement last month, Dominik Dijakovic has put the entire NXT brand on notice. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Superstar comes to NXT armed with a vast array of experience, both in and out of the ring, and an unrelenting passion to sacrifice for all things family. This week, WWE.com sits down to learn a little bit more about one of NXT’s newest Superstars.

WWE.COM: Who is Dominik Dijakovic?

DOMINIK DIJAKOVIC: Dominik Dijakovic is the physical embodiment of a lifetime’s worth of struggle, discipline, sacrifice and failure.

WWE.COM: Prior to your debut, we witnessed a number of vignettes displaying your training techniques while speaking on your beliefs. One of those videos highlighted your willingness to fight for your family. Can you expound on this?

DIJAKOVIC: Family is everything. They gave me life, figuratively and literally. I owe them an unpayable debt. To succeed collectively, you must be willing to sacrifice individually. We will fight for each other and we would die for each other.

WWE.COM: What is your family’s ethnic background?

DIJAKOVIC: Croatian, Italian and Hungarian. Collectively unified in America. Symbolized by the family crest coat of arms on my right thigh.

WWE.COM: You display a very stern demeanor. What’s the motivation for such intensity?

DIJAKOVIC: There are many emotions evoked from the broad spectrum of humanity. In my experience, the only emotion that consistently delivers success is focus. My focus is channeled through my intensity, forged from a lifetime of despair.

WWE.COM: Your experience includes quite the athletic background.

DIJAKOVIC: Athleticism was a mandatory expectation in my upbringing. I competed collegiately at an elite level in both American football and basketball simultaneously. This afforded me the resources to attend university and receive an undergraduate and graduate degree in criminology.

WWE.COM: I understand you once worked as a criminal defense investigator. How was that experience?

DIJAKOVIC: I have been employed in every imaginable trade. On a farm, stocking liquor, as security, in social work, as a coach, in retail, even selling dog food. I worked three jobs at once for many years. This taught me discipline and humility. Anything for family. As a criminal defense investigator, it was my job to retrieve information by any means necessary from people who were often unwilling to comply. This taught me manipulation and relentlessness, both mentally and physically.

WWE.COM: What attracted you to the world of sports-entertainment?

DIJAKOVIC: The pursuit of prosperity for my family. Sports-entertainment is a medium, an untapped resource for someone of my skill set. There has never been a five-tool player like me in the history of this business until now. My successes will ensure the legacy of my family endures for many generations to come.

WWE.com: You initially had a WWE tryout several years ago before officially signing with NXT in fall 2017. Were there any other notable names at that tryout?

DIJAKOVIC: In June of 2013 I attended the final WWE tryout at Florida Championship Wrestling in Tampa, Fla. I don’t know who else was there because I don’t waste time worrying about the accomplishments of others as those are distractions which will deter my focus. My goal was to obtain a WWE contract and I failed. In my life, I have failed countless times. Over and over and over again. And that is why Dominik Dijakovic will succeed.

WWE.COM: I take it you were motivated by your inability to obtain a job with WWE after that 2013 tryout?

DIJAKOVIC: Failure is a catalyst. Failure is a motivator. Failure is perspective. Once you live it, you learn it and understand it. Then, and only then do you know exactly how to make sure that it never happens again.

WWE.COM: What makes you stand out from other NXT Superstars?

DIJAKOVIC: Dominik Dijakovic is a five-tool player unlike anyone else in NXT, Raw, SmackDown or the history of WWE. Striking — precision, accuracy and proficiency honed through countless fights and years of training. Technical — grinding, efficiency. I was trained by Brian Fury at the New England Pro Wrestling Academy, the disciples of Steve Bradley and Killer Kowalski. Psychological — intelligence, manipulation and focus. I’m a scholar and laborer, impossible to outwork or outlast. Athleticism — world-class, untouchable. The X factor. Power. I am 6-foot-7, 270 pounds. I am Dominik Dijakovic. Feast your eyes.



Byrons Interviews

Forgotten no more: The Forgotten Sons talk broken promises and creating a legacy of destruction

In the ever-evolving landscape of NXT, there are three Superstars who have bonded together to turn NXT on its head. Although they’ve all taken different paths to NXT, Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler & Jaxson Ryker — aka, The Forgotten Sons — have all vowed to no longer fly under the radar in the black-and-gold brand. This week, WWE.com gets some extra insight behind the team’s motivation and their collective message for NXT Superstars.

WWE.COM: How did the group known as The Forgotten Sons come to be?

JAXSON RYKER: Three men. Same frustrations. A so-called American “promise.” A promise that by doing the right thing, working hard and showing up on time, you will achieve everything you ever dreamed of. It’s a complete lie. The promise was tossed aside, cast out and forgotten. The three of us realized we all have the same ideals and goals here in NXT. We know we are unstoppable as a unit and we will not let anyone forget us again.

WWE.COM: Cutler, what personally motivated you to get behind the cause?

STEVE CUTLER: I pride myself on being self-motivated. I’m not here in NXT for mediocrity. Most people want to look back on a career and see a beautiful path that they left behind. I want to leave a path of destruction behind me. I want to look back and smile knowing I did it my way. With the three of us, we’ll leave a lasting legacy of destruction that will be remembered.

WWE.COM: What about you, Blake?

WESLEY BLAKE: What has motivated me is frustration. It’s frustrating that you’re giving me a Q&A because I was passed over and overlooked. Now you want to ask me about motivation, like I’m supposed to give an inspirational quote to help others?! I don’t want to help others! I want to help us, The Forgotten Sons.

WWE.COM: That’s understandable. Ryker, why do you believe The Forgotten Sons pose a threat to NXT?

RYKER: The Forgotten Sons have nothing to lose. And we have no mercy. We are a unit, a brotherhood with unsettling motivations. You’ll see.

WWE.COM: Why do you gentlemen feel you’ve all experienced the feeling of not getting the opportunities you deserve?

CUTLER: Opportunities we deserve? Ever since NXT General Manager William Regal gave us our first opportunity, we have done nothing except what we said we would do. That’s “do unto others” and never be forgotten again.

WWE.COM: Blake, we know you’ve had opportunities in the past.  At one point you and 205 Live’s Buddy Murphy held the NXT Tag Team Titles for seven months. What’s the difference between that version of Wesley Blake and the man we see today?

BLAKE: The difference is, Blake as champion was just that. A vessel. A marquee. Someone with no identity without that championship. Now, I have a family that’s a bond and our purpose is stronger than ever. The man, Wesley Blake, that you see now, is fulfilled.

WWE.COM: Cutler, how did your experience serving in the United States Marine Corps impact how you approach this new road in your career?

CUTLER: My experience? My experience in the Marine Corps is my business. Not yours and not the NXT Universe’s. For how it prepared me? It taught me tactics and skills that you should fear.

WWE.COM: Ryker, you’ve also served our country proud as a Marine. I direct the same question to you. How did your training affect your discipline as you aim to make a statement in NXT?

RYKER: All you have to do is look into my eyes. Does that answer your discipline question? I was a part of things in the Marine Corps that made me who I am. It fuels my rage. I believe The Forgotten Sons have already made a statement. Twitter and all of social media are talking about us. They want to know more. Who are we? What drives us? Know this: We will be forgotten no more.

WWE.COM: Blake, why have you referred to yourselves as the “savages of NXT”?

BLAKE: Our past experiences have made us this way — cruel, fierce, untamed men. We don’t care about the consequences of our actions and or anyone else’s opinion.

WWE.COM: What about critics who believe the future isn’t so bright for The Forgotten Sons?

CUTLER: Critics? We don’t cater to, nor care for, the critics. We do what is good for The Forgotten Sons and The Forgotten Sons alone.

WWE.COM: What message do you have for the NXT Universe?

BLAKE: It doesn’t matter what they tried to do, they couldn’t destroy us. We will stand strong. And we will simply do unto others and enjoy it.



Byrons Interviews

It’s been a long, winding road for NXT Superstar Mia Yim. After recently making her NXT TV debut as an official member of the black-and-gold brand, Yim spoke with WWE.com about her road to sports-entertainment, her unique upbringing and her powerful passion for domestic violence awareness.

WWE.COM: How are you settling into your role as an official member of the NXT roster?

MIA YIM: It’s a dream job come to life, although it doesn’t even feel like a job. I wake up every morning thankful for my life and that I’m able to go into the WWE Performance Center to train. I have tons of friends there, old ones from the independents and new friends that I have made since being on the roster. The work is hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

WWE.COM: It’s been a rather long road for you to get here. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get your start in the industry?

YIM: I started training at the end of 2007 and made my in-ring debut in 2009. I began my wrestling journey in Northern Virginia. Soon after, I branched out to the Philadelphia/New Jersey/New York area.

WWE.COM: I understand you started training right out of high school. What attracted you to the sport?

YIM: My parents didn’t like the idea of wrestling just because of the intensity of the sport, along with how some women were portrayed in wrestling at the time — mud matches, etc. I made a deal with my father that I’d make college a priority and graduate if I’m allowed to train and pursue wrestling. I’ve always been a tomboy since I was a kid. I would play football and street hockey with the neighborhood back in California. So, when I first started watching wrestling and saw Lita and Chyna go toe-to-toe with the guys, I knew this was the sport for me.

WWE.COM: What was your upbringing like, especially having a father who was in the military and then later worked for the FBI?

YIM: My parents were strict, especially my father. Growing up in California, my dad was in the field most of the time. We weren’t allowed to tell anyone what our dad did growing up just in case the criminals he put away would come after us. Once we moved to Washington, D.C., he grew a bit stricter when it came to boys, grades, friends, etc., just because we were getting older. He became a part of the Missing & Exploited Children unit in D.C., so our online activity was closely monitored. But I thank him for it; I wouldn’t have the discipline and work ethic if my dad let me do whatever I wanted growing up.

WWE.COM: I assume your dad’s job led to your own personal interest in IT/cybersecurity.

YIM: I’ve always been a techie. Computers, coding — it all came easy to me. After wrestling, that’s my backup plan. My dad played a big role in the FBI using computers to catch kidnappers and predators. I want to follow in his footsteps. He’s my hero.

WWE.COM: What is your ethnic background?

YIM: I am African American and Korean mix. My father is black, and mother is Korean.

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Byrons Interviews

All hail The King of Bros: Matt Riddle on his NXT debut, his royal nickname and the first time he “Bro”-ed William Regal
Last week, the NXT Universe got its first taste of royalty (kind of) with the television debut of the self-proclaimed “King of Bros,” Matt Riddle. An accomplished mixed martial artist and former UFC fighter, Riddle made the decision to follow his childhood dream and embark on a career in sports-entertainment. Now firmly in the mix as one of NXT’s newest competitors, Riddle sat down with WWE.com to talk about his background and this new chapter of his athletic career.

WWE.COM: Congrats on your recent NXT TV debut. How did it feel?

MATT RIDDLE: I had fun. The crowd was really hot. Everything went according to plan—I got to show a taste of my skillset, and I think people can see that I’m not just a normal wrestler.

WWE.COM: From where exactly did you get your “King of Bros” nickname?

RIDDLE: It was a name that was given to me because I say “Bro” a lot. The first time I was in a ring with William Regal I called him “Bro,” and from there, everyone just kept saying “Bro” to me. I kept saying “Bro” and before I knew it, I was deemed The King of Bros.

WWE.COM: When did this initial meeting with NXT General Manager William Regal occur?

RIDDLE: I was on a show for EVOLVE. Regal was talking to one of the guys about a possible opportunity to work with WWE when I stepped into the ring and said, “Yo, Bro, why aren’t you talking to me?” Some guys thought I was being disrespectful, but that was the first time I met William Regal. It took a little bit of time and persuasion, but they finally let me in the door at NXT.

WWE.COM: You have an extensive MMA background, including several fights in UFC. What lead to your decision four years ago to begin training for a career in sports-entertainment?

RIDDLE: I always had watched pro wrestling. I happened to be watching the WWE Network one day and started watching differently. I wasn’t watching it as a fan, but instead I was watching it as something that I could possibly be a part of. I thought to myself, “I can do this,” and it was something I always wanted to do. In fact, pro wrestling was the reason I pursued amateur wrestling when I was 13 and eventually trained in Jiu-Jitsu. It was sort of like I came full circle, because I watched as a kid and then learned all these different styles and made it to UFC. But I almost felt like I was limited in MMA. In sports-entertainment, you can be larger than life. That was the day I decided to call my buddy who’s a lawyer and get his opinion on me leaving MMA and training full time to wrestle. He was all for it. I trusted him and I trusted my gut feeling, and as you can see, it all worked out.
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