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Byrons Interviews

In the infamous words of Rocky Balboa, “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” Truer words cannot be applied to the career of Johnny Gargano. After suffering a painful loss to his former best friend Tommaso Ciampa at NXT TakeOver: Chicago II, a shocking defeat at the hands of Velveteen Dream and a growing reputation as a failure, Gargano has been on the hunt to regain the competitive fire that endeared him to the NXT Universe for years. This week, Gargano spoke to WWE.com about his latest career trials and why Johnny Wrestling is poised to make a comeback.

WWE.COM: You’ve obviously had a very difficult month or so. Where is your mind at now?

JOHNNY GARGANO: I feel like I’m in a good place. I went home to get my head right. Ever since TakeOver: Chicago, things have been spiraling out of control. I wanted to sort through whatever issues I needed to address on my own terms. I think I did that, and I’m ready to get back to work. Like I said, I can’t be Johnny Wrestling just sitting on my couch.

WWE.COM: You recently said on NXT that you are going to be the man you were meant to be. You earned a victory over 205 Live’s Tony Nese this week in the process of achieving that goal. In your mind, does that win get you back on track?

GARGANO: I hope so. It’s been a tale of one step forward and two steps back for me recently. I’m just trying to take things one baby step at a time.

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Byrons Interviews

Exclusive interview: Kassius Ohno on NXT’s “bias problem,” becoming NXT’s gatekeeper

Bitterness or truth? Jealousy or conviction to a cause? It is those questions that have seemingly found an appropriate target when it comes to NXT’s Kassius Ohno. Ohno has been quite vocal in recent weeks regarding his displeasure with the attention given to NXT’s newest Superstars. This week, WWE.com speaks to Ohno about his frustrations, his purpose and his plan to teach the NXT Universe to think for themselves.

WWE.COM: How do you feel about the state of your career since returning to NXT nearly two years ago?

KASSIUS OHNO: Contrary to popular belief, I’m exceptionally happy with my career. Surely there have been moments of frustration, but after 20 years in the ring, my body of work speaks for itself. My focus lately has been to identify the source of these frustrations and confront them head on.

WWE.COM: What exactly is the source of your frustrations?

OHNO: There’s a recent bias here in NXT. No one wants to partake in that difficult discussion, so I’m here to force everyone to face the truth. New isn’t always better. And when respect is given rather than earned, it certainly isn’t appreciated. That’s a problem.

WWE.COM: Specifically, you’ve claimed the bias nature favors a number of NXT newcomers. Why is this?

OHNO: When you give a child a new toy every day, some toys will inevitably find their way to the bottom of the chest. For what? The child doesn’t know any better. Plus, lots of these new toys are cheaply made and easy to break. It’s a waste of money, and I think that it’s time to start taking some of these toys away.

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Byrons Interviews

Exclusive interview: Keith Lee on overcoming failure, the advice that changed his life and how he developed his “Limitless” ring style

Since his NXT television debut earlier this month, Keith Lee has undoubtedly created his own unique buzz throughout sports-entertainment. Like many Superstars, Lee honed his craft throughout the world to earn his WWE NXT contract. But it is Lee’s story of family inspiration, advice from WWE Legends and a willingness to accept failure which has now given him a new platform to display his skills. This week, Lee speaks with WWE.com about his story and what it means to truly be Limitless.

WWE.COM: Tell us, who is Keith Lee?

KEITH LEE: Keith Lee is everything you see. A happy guy, positive man, leader, trendsetter, businessman, goal-chaser, always hungry for more. More challenges, more opportunity, more competition. But most importantly, he is a man who knows failure very, very well. And that is something that has shaped the person I am.

WWE.COM: We will touch more on the topic of failure later, but first, let’s talk about your life growing up.

LEE: I was born and raised for 12 years in Wichita Falls, Texas, until I moved in with my father in the Dallas area because my parents were divorced before I even have memories. The first time I recall meeting my father, I believe I was 9 years old, and I had no idea who he was. It’s a sad thing to consider, but also something that plays a role in who I am.

WWE.COM: At 6-foot-2, I understand you’re the shortest person in your family?

LEE: Ahh yes. My father is 6-foot-7, most of my uncles are 6-foot-5 or more. My father’s youngest brother is about 6-foot-11, and my mother is almost 6-feet tall. I have no idea what happened to me. (Laughs) The only one not taller than me is my 11-year-old brother Marcus, but he is already almost my height … the little, err, big Munchkin. (Laughs) I’ve got three younger brothers. Can’t really call them little because they’re all big, strong guys.

WWE.COM: You’ve finally made it to NXT. How are you settling in?

LEE: Wonderfully. There is so much to learn and a lot of training to be had. Being intellectually stimulated is something I enjoy greatly. I was rather imbalanced when I first came here. But the training has been efficiently bringing balance my way. I’ve regained a lot of strength that I was unsure would return, so I am more than grateful for that. I can’t wait to see how much further I progress.

WWE.COM: You’ve had quite the road to get here. I understand you had your first WWE tryout 10 years ago?

LEE: Indeed. It’s been eventful, long and educational. I had a five-day tryout in 2008, a three-day tryout in 2011, and in 2013 I was part of the first tryout group at the WWE Performance Center. I believe there were 32 of us there.

WWE.COM: What kept you motivated to keep trying?

LEE: For a long time, it was merely my own drive and wishes. Eventually, that would fade, and other inspirations would take place. Sometimes it was people I admired and would study. Kurt Angle, early Brock Lesnar, Kevin Owens, Shelton Benjamin, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe were all people I watched and studied greatly. I also gained a lot of knowledge from William Regal. In 2013, if it weren’t for Dusty Rhodes and William Regal’s encouragement, I might have stopped wrestling. Since then, I’ve also befriended one of the big kahunas in fitness motivation, CT Fletcher, or as I like to call him, Pops. We have traded merchandise; I’ve signed his Wall of Fame, and he let me train in his gym. I cheer for him, and he kept me uplifted. He knew I’d be here before I did. Big shout-out to Pops; this grind is also for you! Time to #WorkForIt.

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Byrons Interviews

Exclusive interview: Tommaso Ciampa on overcoming obstacles, turning NXT into the “A-show” and more

Tommaso Ciampa’s shocking procurement of the NXT Championship has not only served to further distance Ciampa (who is arguably the most disfavored Superstar in all NXT) from the endearment of the NXT Universe; The Blackheart has also used his reign to reinforce his self-proclamation of greatness. With his NXT Title Triple Threat Match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 against Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black fast approaching, Ciampa spoke to WWE.com about his newfound championship status and his plans for the future of NXT. [Ed. Note: This interview was conducted prior to the mysterious events of Wednesday night, which resulted in Black in winding up in a medical facility.]

WWE.COM: My first order of business is to congratulate you on becoming NXT Champion. How do you feel?

TOMMASO CIAMPA: It’s good to be champ, and right now, there truly is no debate. I am the champion of champions. I’m the main event. I’m untouchable. I, Tommaso Ciampa, am the greatest sports-entertainer of all time.

WWE.COM: How do you respond to Johnny Gargano’s claims that he’s the reason you became NXT Champion?

CIAMPA: Who? There is a reason why the name plates on my NXT Title say Ciampa. One person is responsible for my success. One. And his name is Ciampa.

WWE.COM: You’ve managed to elicit a rather passionate response from the NXT Universe, especially by your earlier claims of being the greatest sports-entertainer of all time. Where does this belief come from?

CIAMPA: I am a realist. I call it like I see it. I have the best physique in all of WWE; this is not by accident. I am the best in-ring performer in all of WWE; this is not happenstance. I am the best on the microphone in all of WWE; this is not a debate. I am your NXT World Champion. I am a god. You want something to believe in. Believe in me.

WWE.COM: You’ve been very vocal on social media regarding your self-professed prowess. Specifically, you recently claimed you were the perfect role model for kids out there. Why is this?

CIAMPA: In a society that believes every child deserves a participation award, one man sets himself apart, and that man just so happens to be the NXT World Champion. I am not interested in participating. I am interested in winning. If you are teaching your child to be content with a participation award, then you already failed at life. If you want your kid to be a winner, then tell them to look at Tommaso Ciampa for inspiration.

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Byrons Interviews

Armed with a microphone and an incredible zest for life, Sarah Schreiber is gaining some notoriety among NXT viewers as the newest addition to the brand’s broadcast team. It seems only fitting that Schreiber, whose life has been synonymous with entertainment projects, would make her foray into the world of sports-entertainment. This week, WWE.com talks with Schreiber to discuss her past, her present and the excitement surrounding her WWE future.

WWE.COM: You’ve been with NXT for nearly five months now. Tell us what it was like making your debut during WrestleMania weekend.

SARAH SCHREIBER: It was an incredible time to start. Such a thrilling opportunity and to begin on the biggest weekend of the year was beyond exciting. Sitting in the crowd of over 78,000 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, watching The Undertaker’s entrance, texting my brother the entire time, it was something out of a dream.

WWE.COM: What made you want to pursue the opportunity to join the WWE/NXT umbrella?

SCHREIBER: Coming from a theater background, it reminded me so much of why I love live performances. The thrill of being in front of the crowd, the adrenaline and excitement of the show. I also grew up watching WWE with my older brother Mark. I would be the only girl watching the pay-per-view events, and I was so captured by it.

WWE.COM: What were you doing before you entered the world of sports-entertainment?

SCHREIBER: I graduated from the University of Miami — go, Canes! — with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater. I lived in New York City and Los Angeles performing in theater, TV and film. Most recently, I have been guest-hosting at HSN, talking all the latest trends in jewelry and shoes at all times of the day… literally. Also, I just shot an ABC pilot produced by Eva Longoria, “NCIS: New Orleans” as well as “Bloodline.”

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