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Byrons Interviews

Well-traveled, highly gifted in the world of martial arts and a familiar face to some of the top names in WWE today, Bobby Fish has joined the ranks of NXT. Despite seeing the new NXT Superstar fall short in his debut match against Aleister Black, most sports-entertainment aficionados agree that the addition of Fish to the roster is a win-win for both parties. Fish sat down with WWE.com to talk about his pre-NXT career and the impressive resume that preceded his arrival.

WWE.COM: How did it feel to walk down the ramp of Full Sail University in Orlando, Fla., for your NXT debut?

BOBBY FISH: Somewhat surreal because much of this has come together very quickly. I watched the success of former co-workers and peers, such as Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno and Hideo Itami, make that very same walk at Full Sail. At this point, I feel so prepared for this new challenge. In my opinion, this life is about the journey, and when mine ends, I expect that this vessel, my body, will be banged up, battered and beaten, which will be a clear indication of a life well lived. NXT represents the next step in my journey.

WWE.COM: You mentioned some of the names you came up with during your career. Who are some other current WWE Superstars you worked with along the way?

FISH: Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Luke Harper, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn. I’m bound to leave someone out because the list is a pretty lengthy one.

WWE.COM: Did you ever think you’d make it to this point?

FISH: At times, yes, and at times, no. I remember a conversation I had with Kevin Owens in a hotel gym in Chicago a few years back. We were both working for Ring of Honor, and at that time, it seemed like Kevin was headed toward the next step in his journey. I have immense respect for Kevin and all that he’s been through to find his success. He is not the prototype for what was rumored to be ideal here and neither am I. Understanding his drive to succeed here through that conversation made me think that if I want that — which I believe, in some way, anyone who laces up the boots to do this, does on some level — then I will create a similar opportunity for myself. So yeah, I did think I’d be here one day.
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WWE.COM: How did you get your start in the industry?

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Byrons Interviews

After suffering a shoulder injury that derailed her career for two months, Ember Moon is back. This week, Moon speaks to WWE.com about her injury, frustrations and her belief that she still has what it takes to defeat NXT Women’s Champion Asuka.

WWE.COM: How does it feel to be back on the active roster of NXT?

EMBER MOON: I feel like I’ve lifted a huge weight off my back. I’ve always known that every time you step into that ring, you run a huge risk of getting seriously injured. I’m just relieved my shoulder is 100 percent and I’m back in the mix.

WWE.COM: What exactly was the injury to your shoulder?

MOON: I had a grade-one AC joint tear or, in layman terms, a separated shoulder.

WWE.COM: Take us through that moment last May when your shoulder slammed against the ringside barricade, thus causing the injury.

MOON: When I hit the barricade, I knew that I was hurt. I heard something pop in my shoulder and I initially thought it was my collarbone. The pain didn’t hit until I rolled over onto my back. I remember telling myself that it hurts, but it won’t be too bad. As soon as the medical trainers tried to move me, I realized that it was worse than I thought. I remember literally hitting the floor with my hand, realizing that I was probably going to miss NXT TakeOver: Chicago.

WWE.COM: What was your rehab like?

MOON: The first two weeks after the injury, I was mostly only allowed to rest. Resting was the hardest part because I’m used to being in the game. I’m used to being at the WWE Performance Center six hours a day, training and working on getting better. After two weeks, I was able to get more aggressive with electrotherapy and light weight-training. I would start with two pounds and then bump up to five pounds, then 10 pounds, etc. It got to a point that instead of training six hours of day, I was doing therapy for six hours a day.

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Byrons Interviews

It was only a few weeks ago that the NXT Universe witnessed the debut match of one of the most offbeat and eccentric personalities to grace the roster, The Velveteen Dream, an individual one might describe as flamboyant, yet perplexing. We attempt to understand more about the entity known as The Velveteen Dream in this week’s interview. Prepare yourselves as we turn down the lights of clarity while flipping on the spotlight of intrigue.

WWE.COM: First off, let me offer my congratulations on your recent NXT victories on WWE Network. Tell us, just exactly who, or what, is The Velveteen Dream?

THE VELVETEEN DREAM: I don’t live in a prism, and I’m not afraid of anything. I haven’t built any walls around myself. I’m just like anyone else; I need love and water. I don’t really consider myself a “Superstar.” I live in a small town, and I always will because I can walk around and be me. That’s all I want to be; that’s all I ever try to be. If people dig it, cool.

WWE.COM: Is there a meaning behind your extremely unique appearance?

THE VELVETEEN DREAM: Prince played a big influence on my style. When I was 10 years old, my stepdad put me on the stage with him and I danced a little bit until the bodyguard took me off. As I exited the stage, I spotted the finest ensemble of backup dancers I had ever seen in my life. This is where I immediately felt his influence — the absolute control he had over this group and the beautiful women that always surrounded him.

WWE.COM: What does an individual like yourself enjoy doing in his spare time?

THE VELVETEEN DREAM: I don’t believe in time.

WWE.COM: Okay … What is your observation of the current NXT roster?

THE VELVETEEN DREAM: Can we be frank?

WWE.COM: Sure …

THE VELVETEEN DREAM: Top to bottom, left to right, the NXT roster reads, “complacency.” Then again, maybe it’s fear because if everyone isn’t happy with where they are in “Bobby Roode’s NXT,” then obviously they fear him because no one has successfully challenged him. Hello, Bobby.

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Byrons Interviews

“Fighting is my specialty”: Why getting paid to hurt people makes Sonya Deville happy

The WWE Universe was introduced to Sonya Deville via the reality show WWE Tough Enough in 2015. Since then, as seen on NXT Television, Deville has transformed herself into a hard-nosed fighter poised to make an impact in NXT’s Women’s division.

This week, Sonya spoke to WWE.com about transitioning from MMA to WWE and her goals for the future.

WWE.COM: Congrats on your recent NXT victory on WWE Network. You’ve had a very interesting couple of years under the WWE/NXT umbrella. What’s the difference between the Sonya Deville who first arrived and the Sonya Deville we see now?

SONYA DEVILLE: My first time being inside the Performance Center was for the WWE Tough Enough tryouts, and although I knew hardly anything about sports-entertainment, I knew I wanted to be a part of this place. All I knew was that I loved to fight, I loved to perform and I loved being inside the WWE Performance Center. Here we are almost two years later and my mindset is the same as day one: I love being here and I love fighting, and with NXT, I get to do that almost every single day of the week. My life is amazing. I get paid to hurt people.

WWE.COM: Speaking of hurting people, you did quite a bit of that prior to NXT. Tell us about your mixed martial arts background.

DEVILLE: When I was 14 years old, I said, “Mom, I want to fight MMA.” My mom hardly knew what MMA was because there was no women’s division in the UFC, and UFC president Dana White had said at the time, “Women will never fight for my company.” But I knew that wasn’t true, and I knew women in sports, in general, were on the rise. I knew I could be the next big thing in the fight world.

My mom drove me an hour away to a gym called Liberty Boxing. I walked in, asked to speak with the owner, and I’ll never forget the conversation. A little bald Italian guy named Phil came out of the back office. I said, “Hi, nice to meet you, I want to be a fighter.” He laughed in my face, then said “OK” and put me through one of the most vigorous workouts I’d ever been through. He tested me, and I passed. I started training judo along with boxing and, five months later, I entered an in-house grappling tournament against the boys in my gym. I ended up winning first place.

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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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