Byrons Interviews

Exclusive interview: Shane Thorne confesses “I’m jealous” of Breakout Tournament Superstars

In an industry where opportunity means everything, it seems only appropriate that NXT General Manager William Regal would institute the first-ever NXT Breakout Tournament. With the competitors given an opportunity for not only television exposure, but also a potential future title match, the NXT Universe has already been introduced to tournament standouts like Joaquin Wilde, Cameron Grimes and Jordan Myles. The tournament has also received intense scrutiny from NXT Superstar Shane Thorne. Contrary to the opinions of others, Thorne sees the tournament as a platform to give exposure to underserving competitors. This week, Thorne sits down with to discuss his tournament gripes and his critics.

WWE.COM: You’ve verbalized a strong distaste for the NXT Breakout Tournament. What is your primary issue with the concept?

SHANE THORNE: My issue with the concept is that it’s taking TV time away from far more exciting and talented people who have been waiting longer. People such as myself.

Shane Thorne interrupts Cathy Kelley to complain that athletes like himself are being overlooked while new Superstars are to be featured in the just-announced NXT Breakout Tournament.

WWE.COM: If you were an NXT fan, don’t you think it would be exciting to see so many new faces in a tournament setting?

THORNE: None of them have struck me as anything remarkable, but if I was a fan, sure, maybe. But here’s the big thing: I’m not a fan; I’m a Superstar, so I’m not going to think like that. If I thought like a fan, I would just keep letting people shine in front of me. You know, like for a month or so, ’til I got bored and wanted the next new unimpressive thing.

WWE.COM: You’ve spent four years as a member of the NXT roster and you’ve certainly had your share of breakout moments. How do you respond to those who say that you are jealous of Superstars who are receiving a similar opportunity to what you had?

THORNE: Yeah, I’m jealous, and anyone who’s in a similar position as me would be a dirty liar if they said they weren’t too. And let’s back up a second. This isn’t the same opportunity I had. My first match on NXT TV was against two men who would go on to become champions. It’s not like these Breakout guys who are being thrown softballs with flash-in-the-pan opponents who will never go anywhere.

WWE.COM: Is your anger perhaps rooted in your own career frustration?

THORNE: Anger? Calm your farm, mate. Frustrated? Sure, but angry? Nah. I’m in complete control of my emotions, and yeah, sure, my career hasn’t gone exactly the way I had planned, but that’s not my fault. 

WWE.COM: It’s no secret that you consider yourself a world-class talent. Why is that? 

THORNE: Because I’ve displayed my talent around the world, duh. Look, it’s not hard to see why. I’m in great shape, heaps athletic and as charismatic as a movie star. I’m the kind of person people want to see. Even if they’re too ignorant to know it.

WWE.COM: If you were NXT management, how would you treat Shane Thorne?

THORNE: With much more respect! I’m talented, entertaining and damn dangerous. I’m a wanted man who should be the one in the spotlight, who should have the cameras on him and who should be getting the opportunities. If anything, these so-called “Breakout Superstars” should be working their tails off for the opportunity to face me!

WWE.COM: Where does Shane Thorne go from here?

THORNE: To the ring.

Byrons Interviews

Exclusive Q&A: Street Profits reflect on their championship triumph, look to the future

After The Street Profits scored the victory of a lifetime at NXT TakeOver: XXV, the three-year tag team journey of Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford culminated in earning the right to be called NXT Tag Team Champions. This week, spoke to The Street Profits about their monumental victory, what it meant to their families, and their goals for the future.

WWE.COM: Now that you’ve had time for it all to digest, what does it mean for you to finally call yourselves NXT Tag Team Champions?

MONTEZ FORD: God is good, from the number of moments and journeys we experienced with our families, to separately in our lives and together as a team. So for our families to be there when we won made things come full circle. It’s a moment that lets them know, we may not be around all the time, but we are working for them and the future, and that’s the beauty of it all.

WWE.COM: Dawkins, how did your family and friends react?

ANGELO DAWKINS: Outside of being scared ’cause it was a ladder match, my mom lost it. She was jumping up and down, yelling. My mom was so happy that she couldn’t believe it. It was cool to see and share this moment with her and to let her know this doesn’t happen without her being in my corner and showing the love and support that’s she’s always shown me.

WWE.COM: Now that you are indeed the NXT Tag Team Champions, what’s one aspect of your lives that has changed?

FORD: I’m taking a lot more photos now [laughs]. But people are starting to see us and are more aware of who we are now. We love all aspects of culture and people, so we are just vibing with everyone right now. People’s champions.

WWE.COM: Dawkins, you have the distinction of being the longest-tenured Superstar on the NXT roster. Describe the Dawkins who walked through the doors of WWE’s developmental system seven years ago to the Dawkins of today.

DAWKINS: When I first started, I was really nervous because I had zero experience in the ring, so I had to start everything from scratch. With that being said, my confidence started to grow slowly but surely thanks to people like Aiden English, Rusev, Viktor, Xavier Woods, Tyler Breeze, Scott Dawson, Jason Jordan, Kassius Ohno, Norman Smiley, Robbie Brookside and Sarah Amato helping me out and showing me how to go about being a professional in and out of the ring. Fast-forward and I’m a lot more confident in my abilities now than I was when I first started. I’m a lot looser when I’m out in front of everyone, and you can tell I’m having fun out there. It feels amazing to have championship gold around my waist. Just knowing how long and hard the journey has been to finally achieve my goal of becoming a champion is a blessing.

WWE.COM: With teams like The Forgotten Sons and Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch gunning for you, how do you and Dawkins plan to keep the titles?

FORD: We plan on keeping the championship gold the same way we got it, by always being steps ahead of all the other teams. These types of opportunities come few and far between, and Dawks and I haven’t planned on NOT being champions.

WWE.COM: How do you feel you will match up when you compare your reign to the legacies of NXT Tag Team Champions before you?

DAWKINS: With great champions that were before us, like The Revival, American Alpha, AOP, #DIY and even Undisputed ERA, Tez’s and my goal is to go down as the best tag team in NXT.

FORD: Being a champion is something to celebrate, but also a responsibility. Give back to the people that helped you become a champion, because everyone that’s ever become a champion had champions around them. If you have been grinding for years and lost touch with some people, showing up as a champion completes the explanation on both ends. My hope is that kids see us and want to work the smartest, no matter the situation, because that’s a championship mentality.

Byrons Interviews

Tyler Breeze on his decision to return to NXT and what’s different this time around.

When NXT formed a partnership with Full Sail University in 2012, the move marked the beginning of a pivotal chapter in sports-entertainment. But to put the brand on the map, it took the effort and determination of the Superstars who dedicated themselves to the craft. Enter Tyler Breeze. Prince Pretty can lay claim to being one of the proverbial founding fathers of the black-and-gold brand. So much so that after several years of competing on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown LIVE, Breeze felt a calling to return to the brand where it all began. After a highly praised matchup with North American Champion Velveteen Dream at NXT TakeOver: XXV, Tyler Breeze is indeed back, and he speaks with this week about the reasoning behind his return.

WWE.COM: What has it been like for you to return to NXT?

TYLER BREEZE: Ha! The hot question everyone is asking me. How do you think it’s been? My music hits and I’m treated like a star. The loyal NXT crowd remembers who exactly Tyler Breeze is, and in one night we created interest for a dream match people had been wanting to see. I guess to sum it up, it’s been amazing.

WWE.COM: Why did you decide to return to NXT full time after so many years away?

BREEZE: So many years? It’s been four, OK? I decided to come back because I’m appreciated here. My work is appreciated here, and the crowd appreciates me here. There comes a time in everyone’s careers when you need to re-evaluate where you’ve been, where you’re heading and decide for yourself if you’re satisfied with life or if it needs to change. I said I was “inspired,” but we all know what I mean. I’m tired of being pushed to the side for other people with half, and that’s being generous, the talent I have. It’s time for Prince Pretty to take what he wants.

WWE.COM: How difficult of a decision was it for you to leave the WWE roster to return to NXT?

BREEZE: One of the easiest choices of my life. I was built here. I was born here. Anytime I’ve ever questioned where I’m going, I head back home to NXT to get clarity. I head back home to recharge and reassess. And every single time it’s paid off. I trust myself. I trust my skill. I trust my passion. I trust NXT. 

I trust myself. I trust my skill. I trust my passion. I trust NXT.

– Tyler Breeze

WWE.COM: How much of a life adjustment has it been?

BREEZE: Let me just say this: In one night, at NXT TakeOver: XXV, I refreshed everyone’s memory and that right there lies the problem, or at least one of them. More than anything else, people said, “Wow, I forgot Tyler Breeze was capable of that.” You know who didn’t forget? Me. Imagine trying to tell everyone what you know is true and everyone calling you a liar. Now imagine everyone suddenly believes you. How would you feel? Do you side with the fair-weather masses and smile for the short time before people “forget” again? Or do you stand on your feet like you have the entire time and continue to show what you’ve known all along. That is the only adjustment for me.  

WWE.COM: You mentioned your match at NXT TakeOver. What did it mean for you to compete at the 25th TakeOver after having competed at the first one in 2014?

BREEZE: To me, it’s very fitting. There’s only a handful of special exceptions that have passed through NXT, and I believe I’m at the top of that list. So add another first to my résumé. See you at NXT TakeOver: 50. 

WWE.COM: What is the primary difference between the NXT experience of your first time around compared to now?

BREEZE: The difference is maturity and priorities. When I was here before, I was a pillar helping to build NXT, and I was involved in every first imaginable. I built this brand into an empire … my empire, until I was plucked from my empire and unable to reap the benefits of my hard work. This time I’m not building anything. I’m not helping anything. I’m here for myself, plain and simple. 

WWE.COM: Who are some of the NXT Superstars that you look forward to facing the most?

BREEZE: Honestly, I don’t care who is in NXT. I’ve been here before, and it’s always been the same story.  We glorify everyone else in NXT, except for Tyler Breeze. The new flavors of the month come and go, and we’re told they are the next best thing. Why ignore the staple? Put me in there with anyone you want. I don’t care, because you’re only going to be focusing on me. 

WWE.COM: How would you describe your current level of competitive fire?

BREEZE: My competitive fire?! [Laughs] Do you want a scale from one to 10, or would you prefer a thumb’s up or stars approach? At TakeOver, I showed just a preview of the new Tyler Breeze. The better, smarter, more focused Tyler Breeze. And as much as I’ve changed, one thing remains the same: I’m still a dangerous Tyler Breeze. 

WWE.COM: What does your future hold?

BREEZE: Look I’m not a fortuneteller here. I don’t know what the future holds for myself or anyone. I just know I have unfinished business in NXT, and I don’t plan on going anywhere until I take care of that. Any other “hard-hitting” questions? 

WWE.COM: Yes. Do you feel …

BREEZE: [Interrupts] Didn’t think so. Prince Pretty … out!

Byrons Interviews

Making an impression: NXT newcomer Mansoor recounts his unlikely journey to WWE

A new face with a big dream, NXT Superstar Mansoor has already made history as the first Saudi Arabian-born Superstar in WWE history. After Mansoor scored his first televised victory on NXT recently, spoke to him about his career progression and his aspirations for the future.

WWE.COM: You recently earned your first victory on NXT TV. How did it feel?

MANSOOR: Surreal. That match was a really important benchmark for me here in NXT. My first televised match was against Jaxson Ryker, and I got absolutely destroyed. It was also something of a welcoming party, my way of realizing that if I wanted to be successful in WWE, I was going to have to step it up big time. I went to the WWE Performance Center every day, took extra classes and watched more footage. I did anything that could improve me as a wrestler and as an athlete. When I found out my second match would be against another monster in Dominik Dijakovic, a little part of me thought, “Does someone in the company have it out for me?” But I was determined to show that I was not just another victim to be thrown in the lion’s den. I took the fight to Dijakovic. The man chucked me out of the ring like an empty soda can, but I got back up and gave him everything I had. After losing that match, I decided if everything I had wasn’t good enough, I was just going to have to get more. I promised myself that every time I was given an opportunity on NXT television, I would be better than the time before. My victory is only going to push me harder to achieve that goal.

WWE.COM: What has life been like for you since signing your NXT contract a little over a year ago?

MANSOOR: I can’t even begin to explain how much I owe WWE. Before getting signed, I was living in an apartment that was falling apart. The heater was broken during winter, mildew was growing all over the bedroom, a hole opened up in the bathroom ceiling from a leaky pipe dripping down. It was bad. I was determined to make a living wrestling full time, so I worked part-time jobs in order to keep my schedule open for training and bookings. I thought it would be years before I even got a shot at a tryout here.  Even when my older brother told me about the one in Jeddah last year. He thought this was the perfect opportunity for me, but I was so entrenched in my pessimism that I believed I didn’t have a chance.  Luckily, I was convinced to apply, and what followed was the craziest two weeks of my life. I went from struggling to pay rent in Oakland to standing before 60,000 people in King Abdullah Stadium. What I’m most grateful for is now having the means to support my fiancée, who sacrificed everything to be with me and believed in me while I was working on the indies. My life has completely changed.

WWE.COM: You mentioned working on the independent wrestling circuit. How did you get your start inside the ring?

MANSOOR: I wasn’t allowed to start until I was 18, so I had to wait a little. As soon as I could, I contacted a promotion called Hoodslam, asking if I could help set up the ring or assist the show in any way possible. The owner, Sam Khandaghabadi, directed me to Dustin and Derek Mehl’s school in Oakland, Calif., and the rest is history. I started during my senior year of high school, so it was like my school away from school. I was very committed to wrestling. Every day I would just count the hours until training. It was incredibly fulfilling to learn something I knew would help me achieve my dream.

WWE.COM: What made you want to step inside the ring in the first place?

MANSOOR: It wasn’t easy to get wrestling in Saudi Arabia, but what was always accessible were the video games. No Mercy, Here Comes the Pain, the Smackdown vs. RAW series, etc. Those games were how my friends and I learned almost everything we knew. If you had a pay-per-view DVD, you were the king! Nothing beats the real thing. We would dream about a WWE show in Riyadh, where we grew up, but it always felt like a pipe dream. That’s why it means so much to me that we get these Saudi shows and why I so desperately want to wrestle on them. When I was out there at the Greatest Royal Rumble, I saw kids who looked like me, like my friends, who huddled around the PlayStation creating ourselves in games, dreaming one day that would be a reality. As I grew up and became more cynical, that dream faded away. I wanted to be a part of the business so bad, but I didn’t think a person like me could make it to WWE. I thought I could be a manager or a referee. That all changed for me when Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2013. That match was like a revelation. I realized the only thing keeping me from achieving my dream was myself. I was 17 at the time, and if you told me then I’d be in NXT by the age of 23, I’d call you a liar and a phony time traveler. 

WWE.COM: How have your family and friends reacted to your opportunity?

MANSOOR: It’s crazy. I’ve been talking about wanting to be a WWE Superstar for so long that every time someone I knew finds out about where I am now, they message me about how excited they are. My childhood friends ask me if my moves are the same as my Create-a-Wrestler’s moves from the video games we played. My high school friends remind me of the time I made an assembly announcement in a Macho Man costume. My family brings up the broken furniture from attempted elbow drops and Swanton Bombs. They all say they knew I’d end up here eventually. Maybe they’re just being nice, but that means a lot to me. No one was a bigger fan of me my entire life than my older brother, Talal. He’s responsible for getting me into wrestling; seeing him with the rest of my family at the Greatest Royal Rumble, finally watching me in a WWE ring, was a magical moment.

WWE.COM: How much pressure do you feel to succeed?

MANSOOR: It’s so much pressure my brain refuses to absorb it. For some reason, I can objectively confront the gravity of this position, but it’s so monumental that it isn’t even understandable. I’m going to do my best with every opportunity, and I hope to make people proud. My greatest ambition is to inspire a generation of kids to believe their dream isn’t impossible.

My greatest ambition is to inspire a generation of kids to believe their dream isn’t impossible.

– Mansoor

WWE.COM: It’s no secret that between NXT Live Events and training at the Performance Center, you’ve got a pretty hectic schedule. What do you like to do away from the ring?

MANSOOR: I go to theme parks with my fiancée a lot, mostly because I have a deep appreciation for finely crafted experiences. I’m obsessed with animatronics and other in-ride special effects, as well as making her go on rides that terrify her because it amuses me. I’ve loved video games ever since I had the ability to coordinate my hands with my eyes. Board games are fun, too. Every week we go to Brennan Williams’ house for game night, where everyone will work together against me because supposedly, I’m a “sore winner” who lacks “sportsmanship.” They fear me.

WWE.COM: Finally, what can the WWE Universe expect from you over the years and months to come?

MANSOOR: What’s so exciting — and sometimes frustrating — for me is that I haven’t even scratched the surface of things I can do in that ring. I think people have been surprised recently as I’ve had more opportunities to show off what I can really do, and I can promise you that is only the beginning. I also want to emphasize that I acknowledge the special circumstances surrounding my being here in WWE. I know being Saudi got my foot in the door, but I’m determined to prove it’s my skill and talent that kicked the door wide open. I want to show the world I belong here as an athlete and a performer and that even if I wasn’t Saudi, I’d be an asset to this roster. I’m proud to represent my country, proud to represent myself, and proud to represent anyone with this wild and crazy dream. I promise I won’t let you down.

Byrons Interviews

The circumstances may have been unexpected, but the opportunity is available to be seized. A week from this Friday at NXT TakeOver: New York, Johnny Gargano will face Adam Cole to crown the next NXT Champion. Ahead of the high-stakes match, Gargano sat down with to discuss his NXT career, Tommaso Ciampa, his impending matchup with Cole and why it’s a mustwin championship match.

WWE.COM: You have the opportunity to win the one title that had eluded you for the duration of your NXT career. How does that feel?

JOHNNY GARGANO: It’s a mix of emotions, honestly. I feel like everything I’ve been through — not just this past year, and not just the past four years for me in NXT, but since I was 8 years old, when I had this crazy dream to become a wrestler — has built to this one moment in Brooklyn.

WWE.COM: You will share that moment in Brooklyn with your opponent, Adam Cole. How do you feel about Cole?

WWE.COM: I have nothing but respect for Adam Cole. I’ve known him for a very long time and he’s one of the best in the world. He not only has my respect, but he also has the fans’ respect, as he should. Cole’s earned that. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been successful, and he’s been a champion. Cole expects to be NXT Champion, and he has expected to be champion since the moment he debuted in the Barclays Center and held the title above his head. Adam Cole always felt like it was a matter of time. I never expected any of this. None of this was ever supposed to happen for me. Our paths here were vastly different, but destiny has brought us together for this match.

WWE.COM: It was Tommaso Ciampa who was forced to vacate the NXT Championship after suffering a neck injury, which subsequently gave you the chance to compete for the title at NXT TakeOver: New York. What are your thoughts on how things went down?

GARGANO: It breaks my heart for a lot of different reasons. Some could say that everything I’ve done for the past year was for the sole purpose of getting another chance at Tommaso Ciampa and that NXT Championship. But I don’t want to beat Tommaso Ciampa at 25 percent … I want him at 100 percent. I’m sure that day will come one way or another, because in my heart I feel like we’re destined to do this forever. The journey may have changed, but the end game remains the same. The end game was always the NXT Championship.

WWE.COM: You’ve had the chance to compete on Raw and SmackDown LIVE recently. Despite experiencing this new career chapter, why is winning the NXT Championship still so important to you?

GARGANO: NXT is my life. Plain and simple. I’ve put my heart and soul into this company, and I truly love it and its fans. I wanted to build something here and my legacy feels incomplete without that NXT Championship. It’s about more than the accolades, though, it’s about what it stands for. I want to go from a guy who was told “no” at his tryout, a guy who was told he wasn’t good enough to be here, to the most decorated champion in the history of the company. I want to show the world that anything’s possible if you never stop fighting.

WWE.COM: Let’s revisit the beginning of your NXT career. How did you feel when you first walked through the doors of NXT four years ago?

GARGANO: Scared. Intimidated. Unsure, but ready. I was hungry. You’d think that after four years, two titles and 12 TakeOvers I’d be satisfied, but I’m not. I’m still that same kid that walked in that door four years ago. That drive, that want, that hunger drives me every day. It’ll carry me to Brooklyn.

WWE.COM: You mentioned earlier that you never expected to be where you are now. What were your goals when you first got to NXT?

GARGANO: Honestly, just to get on the show. [Laughs] I didn’t have a contract for the first year of my time in NXT, and that was very stressful. I had to send an email every few weeks just to see if I was needed for anything at TV. I was still traveling around and doing indies, but NXT was where I ultimately wanted to be so I took every opportunity, whether it was an untelevised match or a Battle Royal, and I fought like it was my last, because honestly, it could have been. I truly feel like the “Johnny Wrestling” chants that filled Full Sail and ultimately the Barclays Center at my first TakeOver helped me get my contract here.

WWE.COM: How are you different, both professionally and personally, from the man who walked through the doors of NXT four years ago?

GARGANO: I’ve grown, both as a wrestler in the ring and as a man outside of it. I believe that everything happens for a reason. For the longest time I was horrified to hear the word “failure,” but I’ve come to realize that we all fail. It’s just a part of life. We all fall. It’s how you rebound that shows the type of person you are. That’s what makes you a champion. Fun nicknames and chants aside, I could never truly be Johnny Champion until I experienced Johnny Failure.

WWE.COM: What can we expect from you at NXT TakeOver: New York?

GARGANO: You can’t call yourself Mr. TakeOver and not deliver something special, right? One thing I’ve learned this past month is you can’t control the future. You can only control the now. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? So, for me and the NXT Championship, it’s now or never. I believe it is my destiny to be NXT Champion. I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match against Adam Cole in a building where I’m 0 for 3. Plus, we all know that when you fight one member of Undisputed ERA, you’re essentially fighting all of Undisputed ERA, so this could essentially be four-on-one. The odds aren’t in my favor. But I’ve been an underdog my whole life – I wouldn’t have it any different!

This has been building for a very long time, and to return to the Barclays Center, which is the site of my very first TakeOver, with the whole world watching during the biggest wrestling weekend of the year, with my friends and family in the crowd, it’s shaping up to be the biggest match of my life. This has the potential to be the biggest night of my life. I’ve been dreaming of this night since I was a kid and the only thing I can guarantee, the only thing I can promise, is I’m going to give everything I have on April 5. I know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere, but to the people riding with me in the Barclays Center, I won’t let you down.