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Byrons Interviews

Lacey Evans may be one of the newest additions to NXT’s Women’s division, but her entry into the world of sports-entertainment is both inspiring and heartwarming. Find out how the proud mother and former Marine turned into an NXT Superstar.

WWE.COM: You started at the WWE Performance Center a year ago. What has the experience been like to train and perform under the WWE umbrella?

LACEY EVANS: Amazing! (The trainers) really push you to do your best. They are always there for anything you need, but for the most part, they expect you to take the initiative and I love that about this company. It is different from the life I’ve lived because everything in the Performance Center is top-notch. The medical care, gear, training equipment and facility are the best in the world. I came from a background where I had to share everything with seven other siblings. From hand-me-downs to sleeping in tents, we had to make what we had work. With WWE, they give you everything you need to perform at your best.

WWE.COM: You have a very unique background as a former Marine. Tell us about the time you spent serving our country.

EVANS: I served for five years. My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was Military Police 5811 with a secondary MOS Special Reaction Team 5816. I loved the Marines. I loved being a police officer and I loved the non-stop challenges that I had to face. I graduated as the company’s highest shooter out of boot camp. From there, I had MCT (Marine Combat Training), where I graduated as squad leader, receiving a Meritorious Mast award. I was in charge of an entire squad for 30 days. It was my job to keep accountability, task out jobs to complete missions and make sure we were all on the same page before responding to scenarios that were put in front of us.

From there, I went to my MOS training. By the end of the nearly year-long stay in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., I graduated top of my entire class as the Honor Graduate and was stationed at Parris Island, S.C. My job was to make sure the base entrances were secure, that people entering were scanned and cleared and that people within the bases were safe and abiding by the rules set forth by the Marine Corps. I became part of the Special Reactions Team (Military SWAT), where after my training, I became the assistant breacher. My duties during this time were responding to active shooter and hostage situations, barricaded suspects, terrorist threats, suspicious packages and felony stops, to name a few. I also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health administration management. Before leaving the Marines, I was the Training Non-Commission Officer, where it was my job to set up all training scenarios each week that my unit would partake in. I was in charge of all administrative and logistics of getting the training planned, scheduled and the accountability for the Marines involved.

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Byrons Interviews

Since joining the ranks of the announce team last October, Kayla Braxton has quickly become a staple of NXT broadcasts. This week, we take a closer look at what brought Braxton to the world of sports-entertainment, as well as the highly inspirational message she has for anyone who reads her story.

WWE.COM: What has your NXT experience been like so far?

KAYLA BRAXTON: Absolutely surreal. If you told me a year ago while I was working in a newsroom that I’d be working for WWE, I would have laughed at you. And now, I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else.

WWE.COM: Let’s talk about that. Tell us about your life before WWE and NXT.

KAYLA: I graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. with a degree in broadcast journalism. During my time in college, I began to create content for the web. I had a couple digital entertainment shows for the school and also for the city of Nashville. By the time I graduated, I had my sights set on a bigger stage, and that was television. Six months later, I was hosting my own entertainment web and TV segment in the top-20 television market of Orlando. Little did I know how this move to The City Beautiful would eventually set up my career here at WWE.

WWE.COM: How would you compare working in the TV news and entertainment business to WWE?

KAYLA: Coming from a newsroom, where I predominately speak to a camera, to WWE and speaking in front of thousands of people live, it gives me a high. It’s absolutely indescribable. Yes, at times I’ve been nervous, but it was the excited kind of nervous. There are so many eyeballs waiting for you to tell the story of these Superstars they’ve come to watch, and you better do a darn good job if you want to be accepted by the WWE Universe. But I will say, the fans of this company have been so welcoming, so encouraging and so loyal, and I am so honored they have allowed me to be their host and ring announcer for the last several months.

WWE.COM: Let’s go way back to before you started working. What was your upbringing like?

KAYLA: One of the primary reasons I’ve wanted to work in television was to have a platform. When I was 9 years old, my mother went to prison and I entered into the foster care system. Prior to that transition, I lived a very difficult childhood. I was discouraged and put down. I don’t blame my mother because she did her best, but poor decisions led her to poor relationships with men, and they were the ones who were physically and emotionally abusive. I was told I would never be anything or anyone of significance. I began to believe that.

But once I moved into the foster home and was nurtured by my new parents, I realized that I could become somebody, and I wanted to have an impact on kids that went through similar situations as I did. At a young age, I began participating in public-speaking competitions to tell my story. Eventually, I began traveling the country to speak in front of predominant businesses. When I was 17, I spoke in front of President George W. Bush at the White House and then began my college career, which led to my actual career. I want to be an example to anyone I meet that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what negative things people have said to you; we are all on this earth for a reason. Television just gives me a bigger platform to spread that message.

WWE.COM: Now you certainly have the incredible platform of WWE and NXT to spread that message. How did your family and friends react to your new career?

KAYLA: I gotta admit, my parents were a little skeptical at first. They didn’t know much about WWE, and I think when I told them I was going to be working as a ring announcer, they assumed I was saying I was going to be a ring girl who would be holding a sign in a bikini. [Laughs] But they get it now and they are so proud. My foster family was located in a tiny town in Alabama where you can’t even find a stoplight. But you will find a huge following of WWE. My friends that I grew up with have been reaching out to me so excited to see me on WWE Network. It’s definitely a proud feeling for me and, I know, for my friends and family as well.
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WWE.COM: What was your initial impression when you attended your first NXT show?

KAYLA: “Wow, these people are passionate!” That’s really the only impression I needed. I consider myself to be very passionate, and when I surround myself with passionate people, I feel right at home. The question I’d like to know is what was the first impression that people had of me at my first NXT show? I had never ring-announced before, and I’m fairly certain I was screaming at the audience through the mic! I even forgot how to say, “The following contest is scheduled for one fall.” But, you know what was so cool? They helped me through it. They applauded. They came up after and hugged me and told me that it’s okay that I messed up and they still wanted me to be there. I instantly felt right at home!

WWE.COM: Not only can we see you on NXT’s road shows, but you’ve also started announcing at SmackDown LIVE events and even participated in your very first WrestleMania. What was that like?

KAYLA: I don’t even have the words. WWE proved that they spare no expense to provide the ultimate experience for its fans. These Superstars are put on one of the biggest stages in the world and given the freedom to live out their lifelong dreams. I was rubbing shoulders with WWE Legends and that is a feeling that cannot be duplicated. I was able to host my first WrestleMania Axxess. One of the coolest parts of that was surprising a few unexpected fans with tickets to WrestleMania. Oh, the emotion! I may have shed a tear or two during those moments. The deep loyalty and love the WWE Universe has for this company was so apparent during WrestleMania Week, and I felt myself falling more in love with the company in those moments.

WWE.COM: Any final words for the WWE Universe?

KAYLA: I want to make the biggest impact I can on this company. I want to be the best host and ring announcer I can possibly be. I want to be the best backstage interviewer I can possibly be. I want to be the best coworker I can possibly be. I want to curate genuine relationships with fans. I want the McMahons to recognize my appreciation for what they’ve created and realize that I am here to positively represent them and the entire WWE Universe. I hope that, during my time here at WWE, I can be living proof that no matter where you come from and no matter your situation, this company brings together people from all over the world and creates a culture where everyone belongs, everyone is welcome and everyone is passionate about the part they play here.

Follow Kayla Braxton on Twitter @KaylaBraxtonWWE.



Byrons Interviews

Career-changing matches don’t come along every day, but for NXT’s Ember Moon, that is exactly what lies ahead. After becoming No. 1 contender to Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship, Moon is poised for her toughest challenge to date. This week, The War Goddess reveals her concerns and shares what motivates her heading into the title match at NXT TakeOver: Orlando.

WWE.COM: Ember, congratulations on earning the right to challenge Asuka at NXT Takeover: Orlando for the NXT Women’s Championship. How pumped are you for the match?

EMBER MOON: I’m extremely ecstatic about the opportunity. I feel like I’ve earned it. A lot of people are given things and a lot of people try to take things, but I can safely say I’ve earned the right to be the number one contender.

WWE.COM: What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced over the last year to get to this point?

MOON: One was just getting the people to believe in me. I wanted them to truly believe that I have the passion and the drive to set the bar higher than it’s ever been set in this division. In addition to that, I had to overcome people like Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, who have made a habit of taking opportunities and beating people down. I had to keep myself focused because I knew my destiny was to be in this match with Asuka.

WWE.COM: Since you brought them up, what are your thoughts on Kay and Royce attempting to have your finisher, the Eclipse, banned?

MOON: It’s never my intent to hurt anyone. It sucks that Billie Kay suffered an injury, but I think they’re just crying over spilled milk because they aren’t the ones getting the match with Asuka at TakeOver.

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Byrons Interviews

When you make a return, do so with a bang. After a several-year absence, Kassius Ohno has done precisely that with his return, and by setting his sights on NXT Champion Bobby Roode. One week before his first match back – a championship showdown with The Glorious One – Ohno opened up to WWE.com about his time away from NXT, making his return and his agenda for the future.

WWE.COM: Now that you’ve had time to settle back into NXT, what has returning been like for you?

OHNO: I think “surreal” is probably the word that most accurately describes how it feels to be back at NXT. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the environment is a very positive and inspiring one. I’m extremely excited at the possibilities.

WWE.COM: It took you over 12 years to get an opportunity to join NXT. How did you deal with the emotions of seeing that dream slip away?

OHNO: I had a feeling things were heading down that path. I had a few weeks to internally address the frustration and disappointment, so the moment I knew I was leaving, I got right on the phone and started making calls. I didn’t give myself a second to dwell on it. I was too busy ordering merchandise, taking bookings, reserving flights and visiting friends.

WWE.COM: You had already made quite the name for yourself on the independent scene. What was it like to go back on that circuit?

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Byrons Interviews

It was only a few weeks ago that Tye Dillinger was on the receiving end of the biggest opportunity of his sports-entertainment career. As a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match, Dillinger fulfilled one of his childhood goals of competing at the legendary event. But as the old saying goes, with success comes tribulation. In Dillinger’s case, being embroiled in a convoluted conflict with NXT’s unorthodox juggernaut known as SAnitY, The Perfect 10 must now bridge the gap between experiencing a career high and fending off the threat of a menacing foe in order to reach the next level of career success.

WWE.COM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Tye. Let’s start off by revisiting the Royal Rumble. Take us through the events of that day and your eventual entry into the match.

TYE DILLINGER: The day leading up to the Royal Rumble was pretty routine. I got up early, went to the gym, got a good meal in and then packed my bags to head to the Alamodome. The only thing was, I had no idea what was going to happen or just how busy it was going to get. A few months prior to the Royal Rumble event, I began to hear rumblings, no pun intended, on social media about this concept of me entering the Rumble, and entering at the 10th spot.

Slowly but surely, that idea began taking a life of its own and before I knew it, a great deal of the WWE Universe thought it was a great idea and began to voice that opinion. I toyed with the idea all day, thinking, “what if?” By the time I got to the Alamodome, I was beyond excited but I didn’t want to get my hopes up as things always change in the entertainment world. However, if I did get the green light, you can bet your a** I was going to be ready for it.

WWE.COM: Once you found out you were going to be part of the Royal Rumble Match, how did you mentally prepare yourself for the experience of performing at one of WWE’s biggest pay-per-views of the year?

DILLINGER: I don’t know if I could fully mentally prepare myself for that moment. I’ve replayed it over and over in my mind countless times and even now, it still feels surreal. Once I found out that I had officially been entered in the Royal Rumble, I took some time to myself to sit down and try to comprehend what was going to take place later that night. I couldn’t.

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Byrons Interviews

It’s rare in life when you get a second chance to pursue your dream. However, that is precisely the case for “Showtime” Percy Watson. Originally setting out to pursue an in-ring WWE career, Watson thought his dream was all but gone when he was released in 2013. However, it was a chance phone call that gave him another opportunity to live his WWE dream. This week, Watson sat down with WWE.com to talk about life after WWE, and his new role as a WWE NXT broadcaster.

WWE.COM: First off, congratulations on joining the NXT announce team. What has the experience been like thus far?

PERCY WATSON: I feel privileged and honored to be a new addition to the announce team. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot to learn. Nonetheless, I look forward to being around as long as I possibly can.

WWE.COM: You initially joined WWE in 2009 after playing in the NFL. How would you sum up your first stint with the company?

WATSON: It was a huge learning experience and the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. There’s no business in the world like WWE. I felt like I had more to do as a wrestler, but things happen in life and you move on.

WWE.COM: Was it hard adjusting to life after WWE?

WATSON: It was tough at first. I loved being a sports-entertainer and there was literally nothing I could replace that feeling with. You’re performing in front of 10,000-plus people. You walk down that ramp and your music is playing, people are screaming. There’s so much energy in the arenas.

WWE.COM: What lead to your return after being away for more than three years?

WATSON: I’ve missed WWE since the day I left. I got a random call out of the blue and was offered the commentary opportunity, so I jumped at the chance.

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Byrons Interviews

Last October, Roderick Strong joined an increasingly talented roster of NXT Superstars. Unlike most newcomers, though, Strong’s impact has already been felt, as he nearly became the No. 1 contender to the NXT Championship. Driven by the motto, “Roddy vs. The World,” Strong sat down with WWE.com to speak on his road to NXT and his aspirations for the future.

WWE.COM: You’ve had the chance to settle into NXT life for the last couple months. What has the experience been like for you?

STRONG: It has been fantastic. Everything from the coaches, the facility and the camaraderie of everyone training there is amazing. I feel like it has helped me grow so much already in the little time I have been here.

WWE.COM: You joined NXT as a 16-year-veteran. During your pre-NXT career, you’ve competed against everyone, from Kevin Owens to AJ Styles to Seth Rollins. What was it like for you to see these men eventually make it to WWE and achieve top tier success?

STRONG: I couldn’t have been happier for them. They all worked very hard to get to where they are and to see it pay off is great. I look forward to wrestling them again, but this time on the biggest stage of them all.

WWE.COM: Was your goal always to make it to WWE, or were you happy with what you had achieved?

STRONG: Honestly, it has always been a goal, but wasn’t always my top priority. Like a lot of the guys that I looked up to in the business, I wanted to travel the world and establish myself. As a competitor, I always have to test myself on the biggest stages and against the best there is to offer. The only place for me to end up to truly fulfill that goal is WWE and NXT.
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WWE.COM: So, we’ve established it was your goal, but did you really think you would end up here one day?

STRONG: Yes. When I first got into wrestling, guys my size weren’t really being signed to WWE like they are today. But deep down, I knew if I worked as hard as I possibly could, it would eventually happen. Timing is everything, that’s for sure.

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