Byrons Interviews

This week on NXT, Eva Marie made her highly anticipated return to the ring. A common target of both praise and criticism from the WWE Universe, the red-haired Diva claims she will do whatever it takes to ascend to the top of WWE. On the heels of her return, Eva speaks on her passion for sports-entertainment, addresses the words of her critics and explains why she plans on being one of the greatest Divas in WWE history.

WWE.COM: Eva, how did it feel to finally make your return to the ring?

EVA MARIE: It felt amazing! The crowd was awesome. The NXT fans are highly passionate and highly vocal. They let you know exactly how they feel about your performance. When I first came out, it was to a roar of boos, “you can’t wrestle” chants and a few cheers. However, as my match progressed, the crowd began to cheer for me and eventually the cheers were drowning out the boos. That was such a surreal moment for me. The crowd made my return an absolutely incredible experience and one I will always remember.

WWE.COM: Why did you take time away to re-train and work on your craft?

EVA: What most people forget is that I originally tried out to be a WWE Diva. I wanted to wrestle so that’s why I joined WWE. However, I was placed on “Total Divas” immediately after I signed my NXT contract and while that was incredible and a huge blessing, the filming and travel schedule all but eradicated my ability to train in wrestling. That never sat well with me because wrestling was why I joined WWE. But I was new and given an incredible opportunity with being on “Total Divas.” I didn’t want to seem like I was complaining or taking it for granted. When my health issues occurred, I promised myself that after my surgery I was going to make the time to work on my craft no matter what. I asked Triple H and Vince if they would be OK with me spending the next few months after my surgery training full-time and they supported me 100 percent. So with their support, I stepped away from TV (RAW, SmackDown), scaled back on filming “Total Divas” and made the decision to train full-time in Los Angeles and at the WWE Performance Center.

WWE.COM: Let’s backtrack for a minute. Why did you decide to attempt to become a WWE Diva in the first place?

EVA: I grew up watching WWF/WWE and have always been a fan of wrestling.

When the opportunity to enter the WWE Diva Search was presented to me, I jumped at the chance! “Total Divas” wasn’t on my radar or even anything that I had heard of. Immediately after my tryout with the WWE Developmental system, I was asked to interview for a WWE project but I had no idea what it was for. I interviewed on a Friday, got a call on that Saturday saying I got the project. Next thing you know, I was on a plane to WrestleMania in New York and would begin filming that Monday.


Byrons Interviews

In recent weeks, the NXT Universe has played witness to an attitude adjustment. No, not the maneuver made famous by the WWE United States Champion John Cena, but rather a change in attitude from WWE Diva Emma. Once known as awkward yet loveable, Emma has undergone a personality transformation in NXT. From targeting Bayley’s gullibility to teaming up with newcomer Dana Brooke, Emma’s self-serving ways have rubbed many folks the wrong way. This week, sits down with the Australian-born Diva to get her take on her newly formed career outlook and aspirations for tomorrow.

WWE.COM: You’ve clearly changed your way of thinking these days. What gives?

EMMA: I’ve had my fun here in the WWE. After a while, though, I realized having fun wasn’t going to get me where I need to be. Coming to NXT helped me find myself, and the real Emma has been able to shine through now.

WWE.COM: For those not familiar with your path, how did you make it to WWE?

EMMA: I have been a fan of wrestling since I was about 8 years old. In 2012, I went to my first WWE show in Melbourne, Australia, and knew that my already existing desire to be a wrestler wasn’t going away anytime soon. I became involved in the Australian independent wrestling scene between the ages of 13 and 19. When I was 19, I left home on my own and moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to train with my mentor and friend Lance Storm.

After this, I spent years living between Australia and Canada, where I traveled on my own dime to wrestle for independent promotions. I was able to meet people, make new connections and improve my skills in the ring. Through my ventures in Australia, I wrestled current NXT Assistant Head Coach Sara Amato, who helped connect me with companies in the USA, where I also wrestled on the independent circuit. After wrestling around three countries, I applied for a tryout at the WWE developmental school, and I paid my way there. My flights, my accommodations and the application fee were all paid out of pocket, and it was all the money I had. It was a five-day tryout with 50 people, working on every aspect involved in this business, and at the end of the week, one person received a contract. That person was me.

I first started in the WWE developmental school on July 16, 2012. I moved to the WWE main roster after a year and a half, in January 2013. I am now approaching my three-year anniversary with the company.


Byrons Interviews

NXT newcomer Dana Brooke has shown little reservation when it comes to expounding the virtues of her physical abilities in and out of the ring. Fresh off her tag team match at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, Brooke has fixated her aspirations on rising to the top of the women’s division. Brooke sat down with to discuss her rivalry with former NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte, her upcoming fitness competition and her outlook for her fellow NXT Divas.

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

DANA BROOKE: It’s been nothing short of the best experience of my life. I love getting to show the WWE Universe that anything you dream or put your mind to is possible. If you want something in life, you work that much harder to achieve it and in the end, it is that much better.

WWE.COM: How did you get your start?

BROOKE: I have always been active and into sports my entire life, and I’ve always wanted to be a star and inspire others. It all started when I was a little girl wrestling with my father and he became my manager; “Mr. Perfect” and I would hold matches with my stuffed animals. Soon I started modeling at a young age for little tikes where I became a little camera hog and loved to pose. I did gymnastics for 18 years but had a major ankle surgery that set me back. In college, where I graduated with a Fashion Merch & Business & Bachelors of Science Degree, I was bored. I just couldn’t work a nine-to-five job. I then started bikini competitions in 2010, where it was about training and looking good, but I wanted more. I ended up falling in love with fitness and earned my IFBB Pro card. Eventually, WWE contacted me but I was a bit hesitant because I had never wrestled a day in my life. But my motto has always been, if you want something, you will make it work and achieve anything you put your mind to. I started my journey and it’s been the best journey of my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself and life in general.

WWE.COM: Would you say that adjusting to in-ring competition has been difficult for you?

BROOKE: No. I feed off competition. Competing has been in my blood since I was very young. Competing makes me that much more driven and, honestly, I perform better under pressure. I love when it’s game time. You can’t duplicate that feel and that passion to do something youloveto do. I was born with that feel and passion, which makes me that much better than any Diva on the roster.


Byrons Interviews

If you have attended an NXT Live Event this year, you’ve likely become familiar with his personality as a host. If you are an avid viewer of NXT television, you’ve been privy his backstage interviews. This week, we take a closer look at the newest addition to NXT’s broadcast team, Greg Hamilton. From his most awkward moments in the ring to his passion for WWE, Hamilton opens the door to his background and his future goals.

WWE: Greg, tell us how you got your start with WWE NXT.

GREG HAMILTON: I started in mid-January, but the audition process for me started around September of last year. The way I found out about it was nothing more than luck, but I had my work cut out for me once I did. A friend of mine was playing a pick-up basketball game with a producer who mentioned WWE was looking for a host. My buddy threw my name out there and the producer said, “Sure, have him send me his host reel.” After that, I had to put together a pretty extensive audition video that showcased different skill sets. Finally in December they brought me along with two other guys to Orlando for a live, two-day audition at the WWE Performance Center. After the second day, I was on my way back to the hotel when I got a call asking me to drive back to meet with them again, and the rest is history.

WWE.COM: I understand you have an extensive television background, can you tell us what your experience entails?

HAMILTON: I’ve had a wide variety of television hosting gigs, but primarily involving some form of entertainment; I’ve never been a hard news guy. My first television experience was as co-host of an entertainment/lifestyle morning show in San Antonio, Texas, called “Great Day San Antonio.” I learned so much there and my executive producer, Luis Munoz, is still one of my best friends and a mentor. I also had a weekly segment at Fox35 in Orlando, Fla., called “Hot In Hollywood,” where I reported on entertainment news as national hosting for GAC-Great American Country. One of my favorite experiences, however, was hosting a pilot for a celebrity cooking show in Los Angeles called “Celebrity Eats.” I’ve also done a ton of live event hosting including in-arena hosting for the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

WWE.COM: Your role as an exclusive host at NXT Live Events is a pretty new venture for the company. How does it feel to be the first person to assume that role full time?

HAMILTON: This has been incredibly fun so far. What I find most appealing is the fact that as you mentioned this is a new venture. So I feel like a prototype, which is fun. I get to be a part of creating and molding whatever this becomes and I think that’s pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what else we come up with for this hosting role and be a part of its growth.


Byrons Interviews

Few would argue that Solomon Crowe hasn’t made an immediate impact on the NXT Universe. In the short time Crowe has spent on NXT television, his actions inside the ring have been just as buzzworthy as his behavior away from it. After all, it’s not every day that an episode of NXT is interrupted by color bars and warning signals, but somehow Crowe has repeatedly been able to infiltrate broadcasts with this unique form of communication.

In an effort to delve deeper into the mind of the man some would refer to as NXT’s resident hacker, sat down with the tech-savvy Superstar. But as is quickly becoming obvious with Crowe, nothing, in fact, is normal.

“I used to be a 325-pound kid who was always picked on. My best friends were my computer and wrestling,” Crowe said during an interview that he insisted be conducted via Skype. In fact, the term interview must be used loosely, as the conversation with Crowe vacillated between informative and ambiguous depending on the minute. Then again, would you expect anything different from a man who hails from Anonymous, Ohio?

“I was the kid at home on my computer making films, editing and disappearing into the dark nest of the Internet,” Crowe said. When asked about his computer projects, Crowe responded with silence and a stare that would’ve shaken the confidence of The Incredible Hulk.

So just who is Solomon Crowe? We know he has extensive in-ring experience acquired during successful tours across the globe, from Mexico to Japan, England to Australia, and everywhere in-between. Prior to his NXT debut, Crowe had already developed a significant cult following of fans anxious to see him compete in NXT for the first time.

His appearance is that of a classic nonconformist. Wearing labels like “outcast” and “loner” like a proverbial badge of honor, Crowe’s affinity for corruption is of the greatest concern. It’s a trait he says said he learned during his childhood.

“My family was all over the place,” he explained. “My father was a sergeant who served in Vietnam and my mother was a street-smart saleswoman,” he said. “My oldest brother was pretty much Captain America and works for the government, and my middle brother was an ex-con with the attitude of a pit bull, so I got the best of both worlds.

“I understand how corrupt this world can be,” he added. “My mother and father passed away a few years back, and I don’t really have that voice of reason anymore.”

When Crowe first appeared on the scene, he chose former NXT Superstar CJ Parker as his initial target, only opting to inform the NXT Universe that they could return to their “regularly scheduled programming” following the attack. Though we know he’s present backstage at NXT events, finding Crowe’s daily location is a mystery better left untouched. It would seem that much like his childhood, distancing himself from his peers in the NXT locker room in favor of an iPad is where the cryptic Superstar feels most at home. For a man who once hacked his school’s mainframe as a freshman, what does Crowe have in store for NXT?

In true Solomon Crowe fashion, he emailed us a binary code and insisted that our effort to decode it would give us the answer to our question. Luckily for you, we’ve completed the decoding: Click here to see Solomon Crowe’s answer.

Follow Solomon Crowe on Twitter @WWECrowe.

Byrons Interviews

In the first installment of this in-depth interview with Alex Riley, A-Ry opened up about defying expectations en route to finally making it back into the ring. In part two of’s exclusive interview, the former analyst speaks on the emotions of his first match back, the #FreeRiley social media campaign and plenty more.

WWE.COM: Let’s talk about your first match back, where you faced CJ Parker. Describe that experience.

ALEX RILEY: I have always respected CJ Parker and the work he has done in WWE. When I called his matches, I genuinely enjoyed his talent and the type of man he is outside of the ring. When I had the opportunity to face him the first night back, I was more than pleased. Coming through the curtain at Full Sail University was surreal. It was something I was told over and over that I would never do, so it was special to me in a lot of ways. In my mind I had never left, so I was prepared for the situation and thrilled to enjoy the ride.

WWE.COM: Following your return match on NXT, you got a little choked up. Can you explain what led to that moment?

RILEY: I certainly was not planning on getting emotional after the match was over. I am a professional wrestler and realize I am being paid to be cold and calculated, but I couldn’t control myself. When the dust settled after Kevin Owens came out and I had realized what had just happened, I was too overwhelmed to hold it back. I had spent so many Monday nights walking the halls of WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Conn., thinking I would never step foot in a ring again. Walking by the posters of all the guys that would continue their wrestling careers, I can’t put into words how painful that was. If you looked at it mathematically, I had zero chance of joining the men on the wall but for some reason, I just kept working out.

I just kept showing up to the WWE Performance Center, even though I was told there was no room for me on the shows. People used to say, “Why are you beating yourself up for nothing? Why don’t you just enjoy getting paid and having a job?” That blew my mind! I genuinely love to wrestle. I love being at practice, and I love the brutality and the contact. My job always has been to wake up and do everything I can to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Until that happens or my knees give out, that will always be my job, even if the company has me doing something else. When I had realized that all the work that I was doing for seemingly no reason finally made sense, and although the logical thing to do by anyone looking at the situation would be to quit and give in, on faith I didn’t stop. I realized I had truly resurrected myself, and the emotion was too much for me to keep inside.

WWE.COM: You mentioned that you continually worked out during your time away from the ring and we clearly saw the results when you returned. What does your time in the gym mean to you?

RILEY: I have always believed that is part of being a WWE Superstar. Keeping yourself in the best shape possible comes with my job. I want to be the best at my job, so I do it. I am blessed that I find comfort in the weight room. At times I needed a place to put my pain and the weight room was always there. I have always told people I lift weights more for my mind than my body.

WWE.COM: You received a lot of traction on social media from what’s been called the #FreeRiley movement. How did that begin?

RILEY: #FreeRiley came from a WWE fan that had written a review of a match I had with Tyson Kidd in Fairfax, Va. He spoke about how good the match was and the potential I had in WWE. He suggested putting me back in the ring and hashtagged #FreeRiley. When I saw it, I loved it. I had been feeling somewhat bound to that desk but because of my desire to still wrestle, I ran with it.

WWE.COM: Prior to your two-year hiatus from the ring, you suffered a serious shoulder injury. Now that you are back, do you have any concerns in the back of your mind about getting hurt again?

RILEY: No. I signed up to get hurt. I signed up for physical contact. I enjoy it. The only thing that is more fun than hitting someone is getting hit. I have always enjoyed the brutal nature of this business. I joined the WWE to be a high-impact athlete. The world without things like that is very slow to me.

WWE.COM: Imagine we’ve never met. At his core, who is Alex Riley?

RILEY: I couldn’t tell you exactly. The face I see in the mirror is not the man that looked back at me when I started in this business. It’s strange sometimes when I feel like I am losing control and the barriers come crashing down. Three years ago, I was a kid that most of the time was scared and timid. That kid is now dead. He needed to go. He was not built to survive here. If I did not destroy him, I would not be doing this interview. I would be back selling medical devices to doctors and that was horrifying to me. I am truly fearless. I can say that with all honesty.

When you have things taken from you or you lose them for whatever reason — your identity included — it is very scary. When you’re truly not happy with what you see in the mirror and you can’t find a way out or a way to fix the problem, it creates a lot of anger. I don’t know how I got set on this path or where it began, but the product of that road traveled is truly a caged animal. Somebody that thrives on anger, emotion and lives for one reason, and that is to protect what he loves at all costs. At this point in my career, I make no apologies; I will not be held responsible for my actions. I am in survival mode until the last of my days as a wrestler and anyone that tries to take what I love better be ready to be put in a life-or-death situation because that is what it means to Alex Riley.

WWE.COM: What’s does your future hold?

RILEY: Rage.

Byrons Interviews

Alex Riley has finally parted ways with the suit and tie of his commentary duties, opting instead to again don the trunks that were once a mainstay on WWE’s flagship programs. Despite suffering a loss to NXT Champion Kevin Owens this week on WWE Network, Riley has stepped out of his cage, making it clear to the world that he is indeed ready to rage.

WWE.COM: In back-to-back weeks, we’ve seen you return to the ring. Most recently, you battled NXT Champion Kevin Owens. What is your take on the situation that led to Owens snapping at you while you were doing commentary, which itself eventually led to a match?

ALEX RILEY: I have said this from the start: All I can ever say to Kevin Owens is thank you. I had been looking for a reason to break free from the desk. I loved doing commentary for WWE, but at times I felt like a caged animal. Kevin Owens unlocked the door. He unchained me and now I will not be held responsible for my actions.

WWE.COM: Did you foresee things going down the way they have over the last couple weeks?

RILEY: In all honesty, no. I was unsure about everything, including the fact that I may never step foot inside a WWE ring again. You need to understand that I bleed WWE and when my time here is done, I will never put on another pair of boots again. I did not want it to end the way it did two years ago and I never want it to end now. If it was up to me, WWE would be the last thing I ever do with my life. Not knowing if you will ever regain your purpose in life is something that is extremely scary and it changed me forever.

WWE.COM: Up until last week, it had been two years since you had a televised match in a WWE ring. What was the reason for your long hiatus from the ring?

RILEY: The company asked me to play a role for them behind the desk as a commentator, which I was more than happy to fill. For me, it was an incredible opportunity. When WWE Network went live for the first Raw Pre-Show, I was a part of it and I was honored.

WWE.COM: You racked up quite the resume as a commentator from working the Raw Pre-Show, to “WWE Superstars,” Main Event and even pay-per-view panels. What did you take from all those experiences?

RILEY: Commentary and working as an analyst gave me a chance to stay as close to the product as I could. I love sports, I love competition and it is very easy for me to talk about it. I watched every moment of WWE programming for two years with an unbiased eye because I was removed from the ring. I learned a lot in the process.

WWE.COM: Your father has had an extensive career in broadcasting as well. Did you take a page out of his book?

RILEY: I grew up watching and listening to him. He always has been a good man, so I watched him closely to learn. The broadcasting was part of many more things that I took from my father.

WWE.COM: You had a very unique path to start your WWE career, from NXT Rookie in 2010 to The Miz’s protégé. What goes through your mind when you look at those experiences?

RILEY: Growth. The Miz was great but I am not The Miz. For whatever reason, people thought we were similar years ago and I never understood why. It was frustrating. I believed I was something that the company did not. This time there will be no grey area. There will be no doubt or confusion on who Alex Riley is.

WWE.COM: You touched earlier on having doubts about the likelihood of returning to the ring. At any point did you accept that you would never possibly wrestle again?

RILEY: It was never over in my mind. Although I had people in WWE and in very high-powered, prominent positions telling me I was never going to wrestle again. I heard things like, “if you have anything in common with Alex Riley, you should be worried.” Honestly, hearing those things was more painful than I can put into words. But in my mind, I lived everyday like I was hours away from WrestleMania. That’s how you know you love something. It’s when there is zero chance of you ever getting to see it, touch it, do it again and you go on faith and never stop pursuing it.

NEXT WEEK: Riley talks about the emotions of his first match back, staying in shape and the #FreeRiley social media campaign. You can follow Alex Riley on Twitter @AlexRileyWWE.