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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.

ROWE: There’s nothing quite like the respect that is built when you face a worthy adversary and throw every ounce of strength, skill and intensity at each other. At the end of the match, we were both exhausted and beaten up. We shook hands, and we quickly became friends. We knew that if we were that dangerous against each other, we could carve a path of world domination working together.

WWE.COM: You’ve competed all around the world. How did your experience in places like Japan and the United Kingdom prepare you for your NXT career?

HANSON: Rowe and I had the privilege to navigate our way across the world, taking on all comers and the best each country had to offer. In every location, their styles are different. The cultures, the fans, the athletes are all different, but we were able to dominate all the competition. The world has prepared us for this. Our slogan for the last couple years has been “World Domination”; now the raid has come to NXT.

WWE.COM: That raid has included a very distinctive look, which you both sport inside the ring. What inspires your chosen appearance?

ROWE: Our unique look draws inspiration from the legendary Vikings who explored and raided across the seas for centuries. In many ways, we have become modern-day Vikings. We traveled all over the globe and conquered. We took championships and gold everywhere we went. We wear the armor and the paint just as the Vikings did in the past to inspire fear in all who challenge us.

WWE.COM: How would you describe your style?

HANSON: Smash-mouth and surprising. A**-kicking and athletic. Just by looking at me, it’s easy to see I’m ready to beat people up, but at the same time, I’m not afraid to take to the air. Not a normal thing for a man well over 300 pounds. That’s why a lot of things I do have earned the hashtag #305Live on social media.

Two of the black-and-yellow brand’s toughest tag teams collide. Video courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

WWE.COM: Rowe, I understand part of the War Raiders’ fearless mindset comes from your brush with death a few years ago?

ROWE: Yes. My life should have ended on Aug. 14, 2014. I was in a motorcycle wreck that every medical professional agrees should have killed me, but I survived. The surgeons and doctors told me that I would never compete again. I returned bigger, stronger and more motivated than ever.

WWE.COM: How did that incident change your frame of mind?

ROWE: I now live completely without fear. We all will die, but not many of us truly live while we are alive.

WWE.COM: How does your in-ring style complement your personalities?

ROWE: Hanson and I are both no-nonsense, straightforward people. We will not hesitate to turn brick walls into doors if one is standing in our way. That’s what initially drew us together. And that smash-mouth intensity is displayed in the ring.

WWE.COM: What sets this team apart from the rest of the NXT Superstars?

HANSON: There is so much that sets us apart. Things like our look and our intensity set us apart, but perhaps the most notable is what sets us apart from not just our competition, but from every tag team in history: our unique dynamic. Rowe, the smaller Raider, is the powerhouse of the team, and myself, the larger Raider, is the high flyer. We know how to shock and awe. There is no way to prepare for what we bring to the table. With almost 35 years of experience between us and the long, winding rocky bumpy road we have taken to get here, we are truly battle-tested and ready for war.

ROWE: A lot has been said about our past. A lot of people talk about what The War Raiders have done in Japan and across the globe. But talking is not what we are here to do. This is now, and we are here, NXT. The raid has begun.