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They say it’s not often the loudest person in the room whom you should fear, but rather the individual whom subscribes to silence while watching the chaos of the world evolve around him. Enter NXT’s newest Superstar, Elias Samson. After a successful debut on the Dec. 23 edition of NXT, there seems only an added layer of mystery behind Samson and his purpose within NXT.

“So many on the NXT roster are face-value humans; not me,” the self-proclaimed “Drifter” told “No one has known me long enough to even get close, and they may never know because I keep my distance.

“Being The Drifter means I live on my own terms,” Samson added. “This is how I choose to see the world and live my life — wearing what I want, saying what I want, and making the music I want, and being true to myself at all times.”

The NXT Universe was first exposed to Samson thanks to a series of black-and-white videos in which he displayed his acoustic guitar prowess, plus spouted lyrics of masqueraders and the need for a liberator. Samson took things a step further by carrying his guitar to the ring as an eerie symbol of companionship.

“Creating music is the most liberating thing, next to what I do in the ring,” he said. “Free thinking, no rules, no regulations, no limits. My guitar is an extension of me. Who I am is wrapped up in my guitar. It’s my baby, and like my baby, I will not let anyone do any harm to it, nor let it out of my sight. The NXT roster is filled with masqueraders. People hiding behind masks, figuratively and literally. Personas that aren’t showing who they are. I will show them that. That’s why I am the liberator. I am who I say I am, and ain’t nobody know me better than me.”

Though his underlying feelings of judgment toward other NXT Superstars could be the source of controversy, it is Elias Samson’s conviction that is most striking. Samson truly believes NXT needs his presence now more than ever. With his guitar by his side, The Drifter plans to dish out his form of punishment to those he deems unfit to serve under the NXT banner.

“NXT is craving for someone to break out of the mold and give them something they can grab onto and believe, see, hear, feel and be captivated by,” Samson said. “It’s not something you may see at first; you may only catch glimpses of it here and there, but eventually, and undeniably, you will wonder how NXT existed before Elias Samson, before The Drifter. I go where I am needed, and I am needed here.”

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With NXT TakeOver: London in the rear-view mirror, it’s full speed ahead to the holidays. This week, some of your favorite NXT competitors take a trip down memory lane as they recount their own fond memories of Christmas past.

Jason Jordan
“My favorite Christmas memory is from when I was 7 years old. My family had just moved into a new house after staying in a two-bedroom apartment for some time. I remember waking up extremely early on Christmas morning and trying to wake my parents up. They told me to wait a little longer and go back to bed for a little bit. I tried to sleep but I was way too excited.

“Eventually, we all went downstairs to open presents. One present that stands out the most was this Fisher-Price three-in-one game table. It had billiards, air hockey (without the air) and ping pong. After opening presents, my parents started cooking a huge dinner because both sides of the family were coming over. What made this memory my favorite was that it was the first Christmas in our new home and the entire family was together! It was a great Christmas!”

Eva Marie
“My family wouldn’t ever decorate or get our Christmas tree until after Dec. 10, because my oldest brother’s birthday is on the ninth and we never wanted his birthday to pass like it wasn’t special. I was always responsible for putting Santa’s cookies and the reindeer food out on Christmas Eve.

“Once we did get to the celebration, one of my favorite memories was watching all the Christmas movies that came on. One of our favorite quotes was always from ‘A Christmas Story’: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out!’ Honorable mention also goes out to ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’! As a kid I just always remember Christmas as a time of all of us being together! It’s all about love, family and enjoying amazing food.”

Chad Gable
“My favorite Christmas memory was from a couple years ago, when I took my nephew sledding with my brother. I’ll never forget how funny he thought it was when my brother (a heavyweight) and I went down together on a sled and took a massive spill that actually hurt pretty bad. But it was hard not to laugh it off when we saw how happy it made him.”


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April 1, 2012, marked arguably one of the greatest WrestleMania main events of all time. In front of a capacity crowd of nearly 80,000 packed inside Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, John Cena went one-on-one with The Rock for the first time in WWE history. The match itself was dubbed “Once in a Lifetime,” but for Nia Jax, that one match would be enough to determine her future.

“I remember being ringside at WrestleMania 28, watching my cousin Dwayne (The Rock) face Cena, and thinking to myself, ‘I have to do this!’” Nia told

Working as a plus-size model while living in California at the time, this wasn’t the first instance Nia entertained the idea of entering the family business.

“I always had a love for the business,” she said. “I remember hearing the stories about the patriarch of our family, ‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia, starting out wrestling in a rundown gym back in Auckland, New Zealand, then traveling the world, wrestling all over. I considered wrestling at a young age, but I never could relate to any of the Divas. I have always been a bigger girl, and I did not think that WWE would want a girl my size, so I never expressed my dream to wrestle.”

It was only after speaking with The Rock and his mother, whom Nia affectionately refers to as “Aunty Ata,” that her concerns of being a larger woman in sports-entertainment were quickly dispelled. After researching a host of wrestling schools, Nia found herself with a prime opportunity to try out at WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

“I remember arriving to my tryout and being extremely nervous, but the second I stepped in the ring, I knew this was where I was supposed to be,” she said.

It is that same confidence that Nia has now brought to NXT for the world to see. Despite being a rookie in one of the most competitive divisions in the world, she credits her humble beginnings as motivation to succeed.

“Growing up, we were a poor, yet tightknit, family. My mother worked multiple jobs and always made sure that her kids never had to want for anything.” Nia recalled. “My parents always kept my brothers and I in sports to keep us out of trouble. Having two brothers made it tough and very competitive. My dad always had me play sports with the boys because he believed that it made me more aggressive and fearless.”

Both attributes will come in handy as Nia continues to make her mark on NXT’s women’s division. In fact, some would say she already has with her undefeated streak, which has been aided by impressive displays of strength and dominance. It’s all part of seizing an opportunity Nia says she is beyond thankful to have.

“NXT women have literally changed women’s wrestling, and being able to be a part of the division is great for me,” she said. “I am completely different than any other Diva that we have in NXT, and having the advantage of being unique allows me to expand the revolution even further by showing people what a woman of my size can do. Ultimately, I want to convey an image of a beautiful, strong and confident woman. I want young girls to be inspired to love themselves and strive to follow their dreams no matter what.”

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For the third year in a row, takes a haunted trip down memory lane as we reveal the childhood costumes of some of your favorite NXT Superstars and Divas. Which costumes were a trick-or-treating hit? You be the judge. The flashback starts now!

Bull Dempsey as Mankind
We start with the owner and founder of Bull-Fit, Bull Dempsey. Before he spread his new craze to the NXT Universe, Dempsey chose to emulate Tthe Hardcore Legend, Mick Foley.

“I was a big Mankind/Mick Foley fan,” Dempsey said. “He had a different look and body type than everyone else, so being different was cool. He wasn’t afraid to be himself and was successful because of it. You can say Mick Foley was an ancestor of Bull-Fit.”

Eva Marie as a cowgirl
The resident “Queen of Red” and “Total Divas” star sported a quite different look in her younger years. Will we one day see Eva Marie the Cowgirl in NXT? Probably not, but it’s fun to imagine.

“Growing up with three older brothers, I was destined to be a tomboy,” Eva Marie said. “I was 2 years old and this red cowgirl costume was my mom’s favorite, and my dad’s cowboy hat was mine at the time. My parents actually still have both items. I guess you could say I started #AllRedEverything at a young age.” [Laughs.]

Solomon Crowe as Pugsley
Before he spent his time residing in basements and embracing the role of society’s outcast, Solomon Crowe chose to take a page out of one of his favorite television-turned-movie franchises.

“I was Pugsley from ‘Addams Family Values,’ from the Thanksgiving summer camp scene,” Crowe recalled. “The outfit was homemade because my dad always said he could make a better outfit than we could buy. My dad was always the type of guy who wanted to make Halloween costumes for my brothers and me. One year I was the Tin Man, another year I was ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Some years the outfits where epic; on that fateful year, it was not.” [Laughs.]

Carmella as a witch
The Princess of Staten Island had one goal in mind on this particular Halloween night. The mission? Strike fear in all trick-or-treaters who dared to cross her path.

“I was 4 years old and wanted to be the scariest witch anyone had ever seen,” Carmella said. “My mom painted my face green, darkened my eyebrows and put a mole on my nose so I could fully look the part. You can totally tell I’m saying ‘Boo!’ when she snapped the photo. So scary.”

Dana Brooke as a witch
It seems that witch outfits were a popular choice, as Dana Brooke also hopped on the bandwagon. The self-proclaimed “Total Diva” went all out on her favorite holiday of the year.

“Halloween is my favorite time of year,” she said. “Just like sports-entertainment, we get to be larger-than-life characters and create a unique look. When I was a child, it was always a huge decision of what costume to pick, because I had to be in character from head to toe, inside and out. With this particular outfit, I wanted to be a witch because I never was able to be mean, ever, or cast spells. Being The Total Diva I am now was probably inspired by my childhood when I always wanted to do crazy-fun, extreme makeup, as we can see from this photo. Being able to create a character in my head and live it for a day is what made me love Halloween. Now I get to live it and love it every day for the rest of my life!”

Chad Gable as Popeye
The former Olympian had to start his successful string of winning competitions somewhere. Perhaps it all started with this costume choice.

“I always entered the costume contests in my grandma’s town growing up,” Chad Gable remembered.” We wanted to go all out this year, so she hand-made me this Popeye outfit and I ended up winning the contest!”

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“I just want to fit right in and bring what I can to the table.”

Those were the hopeful words of Apollo Crews shortly after signing his official WWE contract to join the ranks of NXT this past April. Fast forward to a thrilling debut at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, along with an undefeated streak to match, and it would seem that Crews is doing much more than just fitting in.

“To me, it still feels like a dream,” Crews told “To debut in front of almost 16,000 people was an amazing feeling that I can’t describe in words. I wish that everybody got to experience what I got to experience in their lifetime. The fact that it was my birthday made it that much better because it was the best birthday gift I’ve ever received in my life. Sometimes I still wake up and feel like it never happened.”

Fortunately for Crews and the rest of the NXT Universe, not only did TakeOver: Brooklyn happen, but the journey in NXT is only beginning for the man who aims to be the brand’s most complete Superstar.

“I often get told by many they’ve never seen a guy who can do what I do in the ring,” Crews said. “I want to be to the complete package by having all angles and aspects covered. I don’t want to do all things well — I want everything I do to be great. Some people like to settle for less, I always have to strive and keep pushing for more.”

From NXT Champion Finn Bálor to Samoa Joe to Tyler Breeze, the NXT roster’s highly acclaimed talent level continually forces its Superstars and Divas to raise their game. As a direct result, any new Superstar who joins the roster is often filled with intimidation and nerves. Though Crews can vouch that he has experienced similar emotions, the chiseled Superstar says that the NXT environment has been extremely encouraging.

“I can tell a lot of the boys and the coaches want me to do well,” he said. “A lot of the feedback I get is honest, which I appreciate. There’s nothing worse than somebody telling you what you want to hear and not being 100-percent honest with you, so I am glad to have that here.”

After earning a successful win this week against Solomon Crowe, Crews’ sights are set on NXT Takeover: Respect on Oct. 7. While Crews’ potential involvement at the event is still unknown, expectations for his career trajectory have clearly been set high. Crews sees it as the ideal situation to use as a tool of continued motivation.

“All I can do is go out there and give everything I have,” he explained. “My mom watched me at Takeover: Brooklyn and said she was amazed, and it was only the second time she’s seen me wrestle. My dad very frequently lets me know how proud he is, and extended family in Nigeria, that I don’t even know or have met, have also reached out and expressed how proud they are. My kid sister, who isn’t even a fan of wrestling, watched me. The NXT fans have shown me nothing but love, too. I appreciate all the support, and it makes me push that much harder.

Follow Apollo Crews on Twitter @ApolloCrews.

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“All I could do was cry. I was crying because of everything I’ve been through to get there, how I got there, who I was in there with, how many people were there with us, how important it was and because I was literally living the dream.”

These reflective words of Bayley recount her emotional reaction to winning the NXT Women’s Championship just two weeks ago. In an unprecedented event for the brand, NXT Takeover: Brooklyn represented the largest crowd to ever view a live NXT event, with nearly 16,000 strong packed inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Even more astounding? The co-main event featured a much-anticipated match-up between then-Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and the challenger and No. 1 contender, Bayley.

“It was a huge honor,” Bayley told “It was an accomplishment in itself that the company would trust me in a spotlight like that. Sasha and I are officially a part of history.”

In what was her first trip to Brooklyn, New York, Bayley decided to forego the opportunity to sightsee, opting instead to keep to herself. The day before the match, Bayley’s activities consisted of watching tape, eating well-portioned, nutrient-rich meals and pushing through an extended late-night cardio session to prepare her for the rigors to come in less than 24 hours.

“In the past two championship matches I felt like I may have let some fans down who believed in me because I just couldn’t get it done,” she revealed. “I felt like my family just felt sorry for me because I couldn’t get the big one. I needed to prove to them and to myself that I could accomplish my dreams.”

Since making her NXT debut nearly three years ago, Bayley’s support among the NXT faithful has been nothing short of prodigious. While labeled a super fan for much of her NXT career, the San Jose, Calif.-born Diva continually displayed the one intangible that seemingly endeared her to the entire NXT Universe. Some might say it was that continued support from the NXT Universe that helped propel Bayley toward the moment that she would stand behind the curtain, just seconds away from entering the biggest match of her career.

“I was confident before I walked out there but so nervous that I was sick to my stomach,” Bayley remembered. “I couldn’t even watch the promo package leading into the match because I was so emotional.”


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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s a phrase that has become a staple of society, applicable to those both young and old. However, the statement has also become a rallying cry for one of NXT’s newest faces, Chad Gable. After months of trying to convince Jason Jordan that both men could form a highly successful tag team, Jordan finally agreed. The team hasn’t looked back since.

“Even though it took some convincing for him to give me a chance, I couldn’t be happier with the results,” Gable told “We just clicked from the moment the bell rang. It’s not very often that a team has chemistry from the very first moment. Beyond our chemistry, we have enough credentials between us to make any team jealous.”

The collegiate exploits of Jason Jordan have been well-documented. But what was it about Gable that qualifies him as such a credible partner? For starters, try two decades of wrestling experience, with Olympic success.

“I amateur wrestled for 20 years,” Gable revealed. “Most people identify amateur wrestling as folkstyle wrestling (i.e., collegiate style), but my focus was on Greco-Roman wrestling. I trained and competed in all three styles of wrestling — folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman — growing up, but nothing felt as natural or enjoyable to me as Greco-Roman did.”

After winning state high school and individual championships in folkstyle, Gable went on to capture seven national championships in Greco-Roman wrestling. Following his exceptional success, Gable then made a decision that would change his life.

“I chose not to pursue collegiate wrestling in college but instead to train at the United States Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University,” Gable remembered. “We basically took on a full Olympic training schedule while receiving a scholarship to NMU.”

After more than five years of training at NMU, Gable took another risk and relocated to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I got married in June of 2011 but lived across the country from my wife who stayed in Minnesota with a great job opportunity,” Gable said. “I took what I consider a drastic risk in my final summer training camp leading to the 2012 season by deciding to travel to Europe and train with different countries’ national teams in order to get a different perspective on their training and preparation leading in to the World Championships.

“I have trained and competed in over 30 countries with my teammates before, but I was essentially alone on this trip,” he added. “I stayed in Budapest, Hungary, followed by a month in Istanbul and Turkey during Ramadan. I credit this trip and experience with giving me the confidence to reach my ultimate goal.”

“In April of 2012, after eight years of training and competing all over the planet, I qualified for the United States Olympic Wrestling Team by winning the Olympic Trials in Iowa City, Iowa,” he said. “I competed at the London Olympics in August 2012 and ended up in ninth place.”

Though one might consider the Olympics to be the pinnacle of an athlete’s career, there was one more accomplishment that Gable harbored: a career in sports-entertainment.

“A lot of people don’t realize that my dream was to wrestle for WWE long before I ever had visions of the Olympics in my head,” Gable said. “During my junior year of high school, a wrestling school near my house hosted their own version of ‘Tough Enough,’ which I won. I got the rest of my training there for free as my reward. The training mostly consisted of myself and my friend Kurt Pope going there by ourselves and rolling around after school and just trying to teach ourselves. I had a few matches, but had to stop when the high school wrestling season came around.”

After setting the dream aside to pursue his Olympic aspirations, Gable returned to goal No. 1. During a WWE tryout in June 2013, Gable’s performance impressed WWE officials enough to earn him a contract. Three months later, the onetime Olympian began training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

First inspired by the WrestleMania VII match between WWE Hall of Famers Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Gable has made improving his craft the focal point of his life.

“I always loved watching guys like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and essentially the entire WCW Cruiserweight division,” Gable said. “As my friends and I got older, I would dig a little further and find matches from these guys in Japan, which, in turn, led me to discovering guys like Jushin Liger, Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa.

“It got to the point where I had custom singlets made with similar colors and designs as these guys and I would wear them at my amateur wrestling tournaments,” he admitted. “I remember getting a tape of a British wrestler named Johnny Saint and it blew my mind. He was doing all these fancy tricks and things I envisioned myself doing if I ever became a wrestler. It opened my eyes to how someone can really individualize a style and make themselves stand out.”

Coincidentally, it is now Gable’s opportunity to stand out. Though his relationship with Jordan is tumultuous at best, the team’s early successes have shown glimpses of greatness. According to Gable, it’s only a sign of what their future truly holds.

“I want to get involved in the NXT Tag Team Championship scene immediately, and when I say ‘get involved,’ I mean take the championships,” he said. “I have never said I’m going to do something and not done it. This will be no different. Ready, willing and Gable.”

Follow Chad Gable on Twitter @WWEGable.