Last week, the NXT Universe got its first taste of royalty (kind of) with the television debut of the self-proclaimed “King of Bros,” Matt Riddle. An accomplished mixed martial artist and former UFC fighter, Riddle made the decision to follow his childhood dream and embark on a career in sports-entertainment. Now firmly in the mix as one of NXT’s newest competitors, Riddle sat down with WWE.com to talk about his background and this new chapter of his athletic career.
WWE.COM: Congrats on your recent NXT TV debut. How did it feel?
MATT RIDDLE: I had fun. The crowd was really hot. Everything went according to plan—I got to show a taste of my skillset, and I think people can see that I’m not just a normal wrestler.
WWE.COM: From where exactly did you get your “King of Bros” nickname?
RIDDLE: It was a name that was given to me because I say “Bro” a lot. The first time I was in a ring with William Regal I called him “Bro,” and from there, everyone just kept saying “Bro” to me. I kept saying “Bro” and before I knew it, I was deemed The King of Bros.
WWE.COM: When did this initial meeting with NXT General Manager William Regal occur?
RIDDLE: I was on a show for EVOLVE. Regal was talking to one of the guys about a possible opportunity to work with WWE when I stepped into the ring and said, “Yo, Bro, why aren’t you talking to me?” Some guys thought I was being disrespectful, but that was the first time I met William Regal. It took a little bit of time and persuasion, but they finally let me in the door at NXT.
WWE.COM: You have an extensive MMA background, including several fights in UFC. What lead to your decision four years ago to begin training for a career in sports-entertainment?
RIDDLE: I always had watched pro wrestling. I happened to be watching the WWE Network one day and started watching differently. I wasn’t watching it as a fan, but instead I was watching it as something that I could possibly be a part of. I thought to myself, “I can do this,” and it was something I always wanted to do. In fact, pro wrestling was the reason I pursued amateur wrestling when I was 13 and eventually trained in Jiu-Jitsu. It was sort of like I came full circle, because I watched as a kid and then learned all these different styles and made it to UFC. But I almost felt like I was limited in MMA. In sports-entertainment, you can be larger than life. That was the day I decided to call my buddy who’s a lawyer and get his opinion on me leaving MMA and training full time to wrestle. He was all for it. I trusted him and I trusted my gut feeling, and as you can see, it all worked out.
WWE.COM: Were there any specific Superstars you really enjoyed watching?
RIDDLE: I always enjoyed the intense wrestling style. My favorites were guys like Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, Rob Van Dam, Jerry Lynn, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. I liked guys that pushed the pace with so much conviction and intensity.
WWE.COM: What similarities have you found between the MMA world and sports-entertainment?
RIDDLE: In my opinion, MMA is a little faster, while sports-entertainment gives you more time to show off your character. A fight on the street can be quick and unorganized, and even fights in the UFC could be that way. With a wrestling match, you’re presented with everything.
WWE.COM: Speaking of character, when we see you perform, you come off as a pretty laid-back guy. Where does your demeanor come from?
RIDDLE: That’s just exactly who I am. When I first started, I had a mullet and I was trying to play a hillbilly persona. While it was fun, it wasn’t me. I decided the best move was just to be me and turn it up a little bit. I’m 100-percent me when I’m out there. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even be getting paid because I’m just being myself all the time.
WWE.COM: In the four years that you spent competing on the independent circuit, you created quite a buzz for yourself. What made you want to make the leap to WWE and NXT?
RIDDLE: Opportunity led me to NXT. I was happy on the indies and having a great time, but I think at some point everyone wants to get to the big show.
WWE.COM: You’ve had a few months now to settle into the NXT lifestyle. What has it been like for you to train at the WWE Performance Center?
RIDDLE: Dude, it’s awesome. Before I got to NXT, I was lucky to get a couple days in a gym, let alone a ring. I was flying from Florida to Germany, Germany to England, England to Boston, Boston to California, then back to Pennsylvania where I’d sleep for a few days, and then be somewhere like Iowa or Indiana next. Now I get to train full-time and learn from the best coaches in the world. I went from doing push-ups on a wrestling mat in my house when I had spare time to training with the best of the best. It’s a good feeling.
WWE.COM: What does The King of Bros do in his spare time?
RIDDLE: I hang out with my wife and my three kids. I play a lot of video games, watch a lot of cartoons, eat a lot of junk food and that’s about it. Find me a good BBQ joint where I can get some good hot wings! I get to fight people in my underwear every weekend—I’m living the dream.
WWE.COM: What message do you have for the people who are watching you live the dream in this world we call sports-entertainment?
RIDDLE: I wanna take over and change the game. If you don’t know who I am, by the end of my match you will. By the end of my match, you’ll be saying “Bro” just like everyone else around you.