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Byrons Interviews

Since the WWE Brand Extension last summer, connoisseurs of WWE programming have witnessed an influx of new Superstars inside the ring. The same can be said for the landscape of WWE announcers. This week, we take a look at NXT ring announcer, host and Raw interviewer Mike Rome, and his unique path to sports-entertainment.

WWE.COM: It has been eight months since you first joined WWE as an announcer. How did this opportunity come about for you?

ROME: Honestly watching WWE as a kid, it’s one of those things where you go, “That’s awesome, I want to do that!” However, when I was older, I didn’t think it was actually an option, or even know where to start. My friend, [SmackDown LIVE ring announcer] Greg Hamilton, and I used to host together, and when they wanted to expand the NXT team, he opened the door for me to audition. After a video audition, a live audition, lots of communication, patience and roughly a year, I got the job! Patience and persistence was key.

WWE.COM: Who were some of your favorite WWE Superstars when you were growing up?

ROME: I was, and always will be, a big Ultimate Warrior fan. I also enjoyed watching Superstars like Jake “The Snake” Roberts, British Bulldog, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Junkyard Dog, Dusty Rhodes and Jesse Ventura. Later on, it was guys like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kane, The Rock, Big Show and Triple H. I enjoyed tag teams like The Rockers, The Hart Foundation and Too Cool. However, The Undertaker will always be at the top of that list. I remember being mesmerized by his first appearance. His entrance still gives me chills.

WWE.COM: I understand you had quite the extensive background in entertainment before joining WWE.

ROME: Well, I started in singing — I was in a boy band. [laughs] Then I stumbled into hosting, and was fortunate enough to work for Nickelodeon for a long time and learn from some amazing talent. I also got to work for the likes of Universal Studios and Disney…

WWE.COM: Wait a minute. Tell us more about the boy band!

ROME: I was part of a boy band for a couple of years, but that’s all I will say about that.[laughs] I also got to sing in shows at Universal Studios, which was a cool experience, especially when you get to do it as The Grinch.

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Byrons Interviews

The Authors of Pain have quickly defined a role for themselves as one of NXT’s most unstoppable tandems. With their sights set on the NXT Tag Team Championship, WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering dishes on his team’s motivation to succeed and the impact he’s had on their careers.

WWE.COM: Mr. Ellering, you’ve been guiding the Authors of Pain for the past seven months. Why have your men been so successful under your tutelage?

ELLERING: When I first met Akam and Rezar, they had one thing on their mind: being great. There’s a million wrestlers out there who will do whatever it takes to make it, but only the ones who are willing to go above and beyond actually make it big. Being great is more than just reading books and training, it’s about what you are willing to give up. The great ones give up friends, family and temptation to be completely committed to their craft. The great ones are willing to wake up four hours early just to out-train their competition. When I knew that Akam and Rezar were willing to do that, I knew they would be successful.

WWE.COM: You’ve managed many teams throughout your nearly 40-year career. Most notably was your time guiding the careers of The Road Warriors. How would you compare The Authors of Pain to Hawk and Animal?

ELLERING: Both teams have two totally different styles. Hawk’s first line to someone with an amateur background was, “Can you take a punch?” The Road Warriors were brawlers and fighters. Rezar has a mixed martial arts background and fought for Bellator. Akam is a former Olympic freestyle wrestler. I believe The Authors of Pain have the balance and toughness to make it to the levels of success that Hawk and Animal reached.

WWE.COM: Speaking of Hawk and Animal, you had a reputation for taking a very active role in not just managing their professional life but personal life as well. Have you assumed that same role with Rezar and Akim?

ELLERING: I have. We’ve only been together since June but we get closer every day. We have respect for each other and our families. I believe you have to go further than just business to understand your team. You have to dig into what it is to be a man. I’ve been there and I’ve seen everything. I know all the detours and curves. I can take them from chapter one to chapter 17. With their background and my genius, I believe I can do for them what I did for The Road Warriors.

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Byrons Interviews

Adapt and overcome: NXT Superstar Steve Cutler on his journey from Marine to the squared circle

If anyone in NXT has flown under the radar over the last couple of years, Steve Cutler would certainly fit the bill. It has only been over the past few weeks that Cutler not only secured a big win on NXT television, but also entered the highest-profile match of his career in a bout with NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. This week, we delve into Cutler’s journey to NXT. From his former life as a Marine to the training that earned him an NXT contract, Cutler’s story may surprise you.

Follow Steve Cutler on Twitter @SteveCutlerWWE

WWE.COM: First off, congrats on your recent opportunity to face NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. What was the experience like for you?

STEVE CUTLER: Having the privilege to be in the ring with Shinsuke was a moment I won’t soon forget. The only way to make an impression anywhere is calling out the best, and that’s what I did. I lost the match, but I also won, and here’s why: If you learn in defeat, you really don’t lose — you gained a valuable experience. Anywhere you go in life, you want to test yourself, and that’s exactly what I did and I will continue to do. Each match, I’ll get a little better until, one day, someone is calling me out.

WWE.COM: A week before your match with Shinsuke, you picked up your first win on NXT. How important was that first win to you?

CUTLER: Picking up my first win meant everything to me. It means I’m on the right path with all the hard work, time away from family and grinding away at the WWE Performance Center. I took orders for years in the Marine Corps. I didn’t always like following those orders, but I knew that’s what had to be done. The work I put in now at NXT is no different. I know where I want to be, so I’m going to listen to those who can help me get there. I simply adapt and overcome.

WWE.COM: You mentioned proudly serving your country as a part of the Marine Corps. How long did you spend there?

CUTLER: I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was honorably discharged after four years of active duty, from November 2007 to November 2011. I proudly served this country as a Machine Gunner/0331 Infantry with Second Battalion 8th Marines Weapons Company. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

WWE.COM: Describe the experience of serving.

CUTLER: I served at a time when the war in Iraq was transitioning back to Afghanistan. My time in the service is everything that I wanted to get out of it. I loved being on the front line. I know it sounds crazy, but why serve this country and not want to fight?

No fault to other MOS [military operation specialists], but if you weren’t infantry, you existed only to support it. I learned what it was to be a grunt in the military and at life, how to deal with having nothing and making the most of it. It all goes back to my philosophy to adapt and overcome. The most important thing I learned was how you fight for the ones that are to the left and right of you before anything else. Being a Marine is being a part of the biggest brotherhood there is and a bond that cannot be broken. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

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Byrons Interviews

Mysterious, intriguing and ultra talented would be accurate descriptors for NXT’s Ember Moon, who created a well-deserved buzz for her successful debut against Billie Kay at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II. She opens up to WWE.com about joining the NXT Women’s division and the incredibly long road it took to finally make it to WWE.

WWE.COM: First off, happy birthday! Tell us what was it like for you to make your debut inside Barclays Center at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II?

EMBER MOON: Thank you! It was absolutely incredible and surreal. TakeOver: Brooklyn was a justification that everything I went through on the independents wasn’t for nothing. There were fun times and great times, but there were just as many bad ones. I had to fight my way for recognition and respect out there. Now, I’m starting all over again and I’m ready rise to the challenge.

WWE.COM: Although you made your TakeOver debut in Brooklyn, you actually signed with WWE in August 2015. What has it been like to hone your skills at the WWE Performance Center in preparation for your debut?

MOON: I was doing two to three times the amount of training just to burn off extra energy. I would get up at 5 a.m. and do a cardio session before going to the Performance Center. After our normal training session, I’d stay late just to get extra ring training. Then after I’d leave the Performance Center, I’d go back to the gym for another workout. I was determined to prove I belonged here in NXT.

WWE.COM: I understand you had a number of high-profile trainers prior to joining NXT?

MOON: My first trainer was General Skandor Akbar from World Class Championship Wrestling. I started to train with him in April 2007. I trained with Akbar Monday through Friday for about four to five hours each day. I learned the old-school way. I didn’t even touch a ring until a month and a half later, when he felt I earned my way into it. Before that, I would have to run down the side of the freeway in 100-degree weather, hoping that it would be the day I was able to get into the ring.

WWE.COM: How did it feel to finally step into the squared circle?

MOON: When that day finally came, I was ecstatic, but before I could leap for joy, I had to learn to endure the brute force of landing and being thrown around on concrete. Akbar made me appreciate everything I did in the ring. Right before Akbar’s school shut down, I actually ended up getting invited to train with former WWE Superstar Vance Archer. That’s where I learned a lot about power moves and strikes. I only trained with Vance once a week, but I used to go to the ring by myself for extra training two to three times each week. I loved the alone time. That’s when the ring became a home away from home.

WWE.COM: What led you to Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling?

MOON: After training with Vance, I drove five hours for a tryout and made the cuts to be part of Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling promotion in Houston. In addition to being able to work his shows, I received full access to his training facility. Booker was the one who helped me hone in on the high-flying aspect of my move set. Even though I was really comfortable in the ring, Booker gave me the confidence and motivation that I really needed to succeed in the wrestling world. Booker even suggested that I try to broaden my training by traveling around the world.

WWE.COM: And you followed his advice?

MOON: Yes, I traveled and I ended up meeting former WWE Superstars Rodney Mack and Jazz. They were phenomenal people. Jazz mostly taught me to not be afraid to break barriers and be different. After that, I drifted on my own, learning whenever and wherever I could. I traveled across the United States, Canada and Mexico to wrestle.

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Byrons Interviews

Find out how Andrea D’Marco went from Miami Dolphins cheerleader to NXT backstage reporter.

The New Era of WWE has brought us new rivalries, new opportunities and, in one case, a new announcer. Meet Andrea D’Marco. Since joining WWE NXT this past spring, Andrea has served as a ring announcer, host and backstage interviewer, even recently taking her talents to Monday Night Raw. Now, WWE.com talks to Andrea about everything from her experience in the National Hockey League to her most embarrassing moments on NXT as she embarks on her new exciting path in sports-entertainment.

WWE.COM: What has it been like to be a part of WWE NXT?

ANDREA D’MARCO: Being a part of WWE NXT has been absolutely amazing. I’m especially fascinated by the coaches and the Superstars. Seeing them train, day in and day out, gives me a whole new level of respect for these tremendous athletes. I also very much love getting to know our fans at the Live Events. Their energy is infectious and their passion for the product makes my job incredibly rewarding. I am truly fortunate to do what I love with NXT.

WWE.COM: You’ve had a pretty extensive broadcasting background prior to joining WWE. Can you tell us about your background?

D’MARCO: I spent four seasons as the digital reporter and arena host for the NHL’s Florida Panthers. I have also hosted for Fox Sports, Florida Atlantic University football, CBS 4 [in Miami] and CNN en Español. When I’m not hosting sports or entertainment, I’m a travel host for Walt Disney World/About.com.

WWE.COM: Speaking of the entertainment aspect, you’ve also had some acting and dance experiences as well. What inspired you to try so many different things?

D’MARCO: Growing up, I wanted to do everything! But, I’ve always had a passion for the arts. I have been truly blessed to receive so many favorable opportunities. My parents taught me that there’s no such thing as a small job, so when I found the chance to learn and become a better performer, I immediately went for it.

WWE.COM: Is it true that you’re a certified Zumba instructor?

D’MARCO: Yes. After making the decision to retire as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, I auditioned for a unique opportunity with Zumba. They were looking for a spokesperson that danced professionally, had a hosting background, and was also bilingual to lead their dance fitness campaign with Kellogg’s. Fortunately for me, I met all of those requirements and after a long audition process, I was hired to be the national spokesperson for Zumba and Kellogg’s. I toured the country promoting a Zumba dance fitness video that I hosted, while educating people about fitness and eating right.

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Byrons Interviews

NXT Tag Team Champions, travel partners and best friends are just a few titles that Blake & Murphy have earned over the last couple of years in NXT. But these days, it seems the term “dysfunctional tandem” might be more appropriate.

Blake & Murphy attempted to get back on the same page this week on NXT, only to have those plans gored (literally) thanks to the return of Rhyno. Afterward, WWE.com caught up with both Superstars, who did their best to shed light on the current state of their tag team alliance.

“The state of our partnership is frustration,” Blake told WWE.com. Yet, after his suggestion for he and Murphy to give it another go this week backfired, it seems that Blake still sees hope for the troubled team.

“I would never turn my back on my brother, Murphy,” he continued. “We are just going through a rocky time right now, which is frustrating because we know how great we are as a team.”

On the flip side, Murphy expressed a rather significant opposing view.

“Our status is unknown at this time!” a heated Murphy yelled. “I’m here in NXT for greatness! And last year, Blake & Murphy were greatness. But as of late, things haven’t been there. Blake’s accidents keep costing us wins. If I can’t win with him, I’ll win by myself, and that NXT Title would be nice around my waist!”

Conflicting viewpoints aside, let’s take a look at the history between these two men. This time last year, Blake and Murphy had a firm grasp on the NXT Tag Team Championship. One might say losing those titles led to the team’s rollercoaster status. But, perhaps, one must also look toward their former partner in crime, Alexa Bliss. After all, Bliss has openly claimed responsibility for the team’s past success, only to decide recently that she would much rather focus on her own NXT aspirations. Was Alexa the glue that kept the team together?

“All I have to say is she is a manipulative little Bliss!” Murphy shouted. “She came to us while we were the champions, then once she comes in, we lose the titles! Somebody say gold digger?”

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Byrons Interviews

What led to the split of the once-thriving Blake-Murphy-Bliss triumvirate, and why should the NXT’s Women’s division be very concerned about Alexa’s plans for the future?

For what was once one of NXT’s most promising factions, the trio of Blake, Murphy and Alexa Bliss seems to have permanently dissolved. This week, WWE.com sits down with Alexa to discuss the split and her impending plans for the future. Needless to say, Miss Bliss holds nothing back about her views and goals.

WWE.COM: For the record, how would you describe your relationship with Blake & Murphy?

ALEXA BLISS: Let me put this in terms so that even you can understand. I’ll describe it in one word: over. Blake, Murphy and I used to be best friends. They helped me discover who I am. They taught me that Bliss was good, but bad is better. Because of the boys, I was able to really express who I am, instead of being the pixie princess I was pretending to be.

Blake & Murphy were winners, I was a winner, and winners usually gravitate toward each other. They helped me, so I helped them in any way I could. I knew they were able to retain their NXT Tag Team Championship on their own, but when the matches weren’t going the way they wanted, I made sure to step in. We were an unstoppable group. We worked well together, we all trusted each other, and we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s what made our relationship good in the beginning.

WWE.COM: I noticed that you stressed “the beginning.” What led to your decision to disassociate yourself from them?

ALEXA: After a while, I felt I was being taken for granted. Blake & Murphy didn’t seem to appreciate who I was and what I was doing for them. After losing the NXT Tag Team Championship, they went on a long losing streak. They needed me, yet just used me as an accessory. I was the third member of that team, not just a piece of arm candy. Blake & Murphy stopped utilizing me and stopped appreciating what I could do for our group. I did everything in my power to give those boys opportunities to win in their matches.

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