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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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Byrons Interviews

As announced this week on NXT, Candice LeRae will join Bianca Belair, Nikki Cross and Kairi Sane in a No. 1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way Match next week to determine who will challenge Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn. With the potentially career-altering opportunity on the horizon, LeRae spoke with WWE.com about her in-ring goals, her journey to NXT and her marriage to fellow NXT Superstar Johnny Gargano.

WWE.COM: Candice, we first saw you in NXT a little over a year ago. What’s the difference between that Candice and the one we see here today?

CANDICE LERAE: My childhood dream was to be a WWE Superstar. Now that I am living that dream, I am discovering there is a whole new world of opportunity here in NXT. I have pushed myself to do things in the ring and in the gym that I used to be afraid to do or was uncomfortable with. I want to seize every opportunity NXT has to offer me, and when I do, I want to be ready for them. Being here has sparked something special in me to push me to the next level.

WWE.COM: You’ve got an opportunity to possibly challenge for the NXT Women’s Championship coming up. How poetic would it be to challenge Shayna Baszler, the same woman who eliminated you from the Mae Young Classic last year?

LERAE: I haven’t forgotten that match against Shayna in the Mae Young Classic. More importantly, I haven’t forgotten about how disrespectful Shayna was toward me and my husband after the match. Earning an NXT Women’s Championship opportunity is a reward, but to face Shayna, knowing that I could potentially be the one to dethrone her? it would be the cherry and sprinkles on top!

WWE.COM: Since we are on the topic of last year, you’ve obviously been through a lot with your husband, Johnny Gargano. To someone not familiar with sports-entertainment, what are the benefits and challenges of working alongside Johnny in the same company?

LERAE: A massive positive is that we can travel together! There were times before I got here where I would be wrestling in Japan or the United Kingdom for weeks at a time. Trying to talk to each other when I was basically a day into the future was challenging.

I half joke with him that my biggest challenge is trying to keep up with him. He’s just so talented. It puts this added pressure on me because I don’t want to be an embarrassment to Johnny. Plus, my husband worked so hard for his name, and I absolutely refuse to ride his coattails. I know I have a challenge in proving to the fans and my peers that I belong here too. I want to make a name for myself here in NXT because of my own work and not because of who my husband is.

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Byrons Interviews

The backdrop of war: War Raiders talk world domination and bringing the raid to NXT

The proverbial raid has taken full effect in NXT courtesy of Rowe and Hanson. Otherwise known as The War Raiders, the physically abrasive tandem has ruffled the feathers of the NXT Tag Team division since bursting onto the scene in April. This week, Rowe & Hanson spoke to WWE.com about their pre-NXT success, their distinctive looks and why both men feel poised to dominate the black-and-yellow chapter of their careers.

WWE.COM: How did each of you get your start inside the squared circle?

ROWE: Since I was 5 years old, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a wrestler. I used to watch every Sunday with my father. I pursued amateur wrestling and combat sports my entire life because I knew those skills would carry over from the mat to the ring. During my senior year of high school, I began my training in Cleveland, and for the next 15 years I traveled anywhere and everywhere following this dream.

HANSON: I fell in love with wrestling when I was young as well. I went to as many WWE and local independent events as I could. Eventually, I asked enough questions to find out about wrestling schools in my area. I worked two jobs over the summer in between my junior and senior year of high school and started training in the summer of 2001 at 17 years old. I flip-flopped schools for a while until I settled on Killer Kowalski’s school of Pro Wrestling, which was partnered with the Chaotic Training Center (now known as the New England Pro Wrestling Academy). The best decision of my life.

WWE.COM: What was it like training for a legend and WWE Hall of Famer like Kowalski?

HANSON: Kowalski was amazing. I was lucky to be one of the last individuals to train with him. Kowalski’s attention to detail has always stuck in my head. He was hard on us and wanted us to be the best in the industry. Walter said things to us like “Shoot for the moon; if you miss you may hit a star,” and “Make them notice you.” Those are words I think about all the time. I am very grateful for our time together.

WWE.COM: You both have certainly done a good job of getting noticed during your short time in NXT. How did this team come to be?

HANSON: Despite each being in the business for well over a decade, Rowe and I never crossed paths until we were on opposite sides of the bracket of Ring of Honor’s 2014 Top Prospect Tournament. We ended up meeting in the tournament final and beat the snot out of each other. We instantly earned each other’s respect.

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