The Super Human: Cedric Alexander’s journey to WrestleMania 34
Cedric Alexander has an affinity for superheroes. Ever since youth, the North Carolina native has been drawn to watching everyone from Iron Man to the Green Power Ranger suit up, finding it impossible not to get immersed in their mythologically-rich worlds and journeys.
“Superheroes have always been my thing,” Cedric told WWE.com. “I’ve always loved their great allure, whether it’s your traditional superhero like Batman or Superman, or even Greek Mythology, heroes like Zeus. I’ve always liked their stories. Being triumphant, altruistic — having your views of justice or [what’s] right and wrong called into question and then standing up for those views and what you believe in … I’ve always been drawn to that.”
Watch Alexander compete in the ring or talk to him for even just five minutes and all of those traits are immediately on display. Whether he is taking flight in a way very few humans can on 205 Live or being as affable a guy as you’d ever want to meet during his downtime, it’s not hard to see why the superhero genre has intrigued him for so long — he embodies it. He also has a cause he very much believes in and fights for — the WWE Cruiserweight division — and he’s ready to take to the battlefield for it at WrestleMania 34.
Alexander’s passion for the Cruiserweight brand of sports-entertainment well precedes any 205 Live or Cruiserweight Classic appearances, however. Ask Cedric what drew him to wrestling as a kid and he immediately tells you that it was the WCW Cruiserweight division.
“Guys like Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, La Parka — they had the masks and the flashy costumes and could do all this [amazing] stuff. It was almost like watching live Power Rangers.”
Alexander was hooked and knew from an early age that he wanted to devote his life to sports-entertainment, but like any great hero’s journey, obstacles arose. In his case, it was dealing with severe asthma as a child.
“I remember they said athletics were out of the question for me because it was that bad,” he recalls.
Alexander, who comes from an athletically inclined family (his brother, Dominique Lindsay, had a stint in the NFL), couldn’t even play outside for extended periods of time without having an attack. However, despite trips to the hospital and carrying an inhaler on his person at virtually all times, his love of professional wrestling grew alongside his desire to overcome his condition. Alexander brazenly joined his high school wrestling team, and, in time, his asthma problems decreased and then were bested altogether.
“I think I just grew out of it,” he explained. “After about six months of being on the team, I realized I could go a little bit longer without using my inhaler. And, after my first year, I just stopped using it … and haven’t used it since.”
However, Alexander admits he only got into amateur wrestling because he initially thought it was WWE-lite.
“I remember walking into practice my first day going, ‘Alright guys, where’s the ring?’” he admitted with a chuckle.
Realizing the sport wasn’t what he thought it would be, Alexander almost walked away from his amateur career before it began, but at the urging of his high school coach, Cedric grew to fall in love with it. He’ll go as far to say that he still applies much of what he gained from his amateur days into his professional ones … as sports-entertainment was always the primary focus.
Alexander continued as an amateur for the first two years in college, but then stopped, mainly because he was applying to a new type of university.
“I made a deal with my mom after high school that I would do two years of college, and after that, I’m going straight to pro wrestling school,” he explained.
Cedric stuck true to his word on both counts, and at 19 years old, he enrolled at the Highspots Wrestling School in Charlotte, N.C., where he immediately began doing everything from in-ring training to selling merchandise. His mother continued to play a heavy role, often peeking into his early classes and getting a little too involved in the proceedings.
“The first match I ever had, I was wrestling my trainer, George South, and I was laying on the floor of the arena and my mom throws a chair at George and hits him in the back,” Alexander recalled wistfully. “I said, ‘mom, you can’t do that!’ [laughs] My mom is my biggest fan in life.”
Alexander would give her, and the rest of his family, plenty to cheer about as he embarked on his sports-entertainment journey. He would quickly make a name for himself on the independent scene in the greater Carolina area and then around the world, as his unique blend of aerial mastery and hard-hitting offense caught on with audiences and opposition alike. Long before ever stepping foot in WWE, Alexander would square off with the likes of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Matt Hardy and Roderick Strong, creating an impressive résumé that very much caught the attention of WWE personnel.
Cedric’s origin story with WWE would come together in a way unlike any other in WWE history. The day after his contract expired with another organization, Alexander reached out to WWE’s Talent Relations department and then, the day after that, was invited to a tryout at the WWE Performance Center.
“I thought I was going to have to wait like six months to get an answer, but no, I got one the next day!” Cedric exclaims, almost still sounding surprised at how fluidly it all came together. “It blew my mind. I guess I’m more popular than I thought.” [laughs]
Alexander impressed mightily at the tryout (which he cites as one of the toughest things he’s ever done), and it seemed like things were looking up, and they were, but with a catch. At the time, the first-ever WWE Cruiserweight Classic was approaching, and WWE scouts were looking for the best talent available across the globe. They approached Cedric at the tryout, expressing interest in him, but they were going to need the roughly 235-pound Alexander to shed some weight to get down to the required 205-pound weight limit for the tournament.
“I immediately went on the meanest crash diet of my life,” he said. “I thought cutting weight [would be] hard because I never really dedicated much time to it. I was always the guy that, if I’m hungry, I’m gonna eat until I’m full. That’s just my southern mindset — if there’s food on your plate, you finish all of it! But as soon as someone said, ‘Hey, you wanna be in WWE?,’ my attitude [changed], and it happened much faster than I thought. I wasn’t a big cardio guy, so I added an hour of cardio every day, drank a gallon-and-a-half of water a day and cut down on portions.”
The changes helped him lose the 30-someodd pounds (and then some) in an astonishing three months. Cedric would keep the WWE offices updated on his progress via email and, clearly impressed with his dedication on top of already being a fan of his in-ring work, WWE officially announced Alexander as one of the 32 competitors for the first-ever WWE Cruiserweight Classic. When speaking on what getting entry into the CWC meant for him, Alexander can’t help but reflect on the urgency of the situation.
“I was freaking out so much about it. I have a daughter who I gotta provide for, so when I left [the other organization] I was like, ‘Damn, I can’t make a decent living on the independents; something’s gotta happen here,’ and boom. I was shocked. It was like a call from the heavens.”
One would naturally guess that any shock would only amplify as the CWC kicked into gear, but Cedric remembers being “strangely comfortable” as the festivities kicked off, citing that a good chunk of the field he had either met previously, knew personally or already wrestled. With this strange comfortability in place, Alexander faced Clement Petiot with no reservations in the first round of the tournament, advancing and gaining the WWE Universe’s favor. Moving on to the next round would grant Alexander two things — the opportunity for more invaluable exposure, as well as access to the opponent he wanted to face above anyone else in the tournament, Kota Ibushi.
“That’s when the nerves kicked in,” Cedric says, sounding as amped speaking on it today as he did when found out the match would be happening two years ago. “I was like, oh man, that’s Kota Ibushi!”
The match against Ibushi was truly an instant classic, putting Cedric, despite a losing effort, on everyone’s radar in a bout that many thought was not just the match of the tournament, but the match of the year. Even today, Alexander can’t help but crack a smile when he thinks back on it.
“I think people were shocked to see me in WWE, and then to watch me go toe-to-toe with Kota Ibushi and have one of the best matches that year? Who would’ve ever thought that in 2016, one of the five best matches of the year would be me vs. Kota Ibushi. Kota was on a whole different level of international stardom, and I was still on the cusp. So, once I had that breakout performance it was like, ‘Yo, Cedric is a star now.’ [That match] literally made me a star.”
That star would skyrocket literally minutes after the match concluded when the crowd drew Alexander out for a curtain call, giving him a standing ovation and adorning him with a “Please sign Cedric” chant. Triple H then emerged from the backstage area to shake his hand and signal to the crowd that the Age of Alexander was just beginning in WWE, a fact that The Game all but confirmed for Cedric a few moments later.
“When we walked back through the curtain [Triple H] kept shaking my hand and congratulating me, [telling me] this was my moment,” Cedric recalls. “And then, right before he went back to the production area, he grabbed me by the head and said welcome to the family.”
That family would become the Cruiserweight division and, more specifically, WWE’s newest brand, 205 Live. Cedric attempted to carry the momentum he gained following the star-making match and moment against Ibushi during the CWC, but new challenges entered the equation, both for himself personally and 205 Live.
Alexander tore his meniscus in January of 2017, an injury significant enough that the recovery time following the surgery would make it impossible for him to be ready to compete at WrestleMania 33. Although devastated by that news, he worked diligently to come back from the injury, but the landscape of 205 Live was utterly transformed by the time he returned, and often, through no fault of his own, difficult to navigate. But with no hesitation, Cedric will tell you he never lost his belief in the brand.
“I never once lost faith. I know a lot of people just thought the whole show would be killed off, but I never thought that. The way I look at it is, 205 Live is a new thing. Everybody always thinks it’s cool to bully and pick on the new thing,” he says with conviction. “Even when the Women’s division had its resurgence, at first people weren’t too sure about it, but then they gained traction. They started putting on stellar matches and showing that they can do everything the men can do and then some. And eventually people just kind of kicked over and went, ‘OK, they did it.’ I feel like the Cruiserweight division is the exact same thing.”
Alexander believes 205 Live is the best in-ring product in WWE and feels as though that’s been more obvious than ever throughout the Cruiserweight Title Tournament, or as he calls it, “Cruiserweight Classic 2.0.”
“I immediately looked at the [Cruiserweight Title Tournament] as the chance to go back and win the tournament that I should’ve won two years ago,” he states boldly, as he now sits in the final round against Mustafa Ali at WrestleMania 34 with the vacant Cruiserweight Title on the line. In envisioning the match, he gets incredibly excited, but also a bit emotional, thinking about what competing at The Showcase of Immortals will mean not just to his career, but also to his family.
“Even if this is the one and only WrestleMania I have, it’s still gonna mean I was on The Show of Shows and that I can put my name in the hat with some of the greatest Superstars of all time,” he said. “I intend to make my moment. And to have my family there, it’s surreal. It’s one thing when I’m a kid to have my mom saying, ‘Oh, baby, you’re gonna be great,’ but to really sit back and go, ‘Oh, man, my mom was right, I’m going to WrestleMania.’ I’m going to perform in front of her, my daughter, my fiancée … it’s something you really can’t put into words. You almost think it’s too good to be true, but it is true. It’s scheduled. It’s happening.”
It is happening, and it’s safe to say that no force in the universe, WWE or otherwise, will stop Alexander from bringing his best to New Orleans on April 8 as he fights for his family and the honor of the brand he’s never stopped believing in. The WWE Universe can unquestionably expect Cedric to put on a showcase of superhuman proportions when they select “Watch now” on WWE Network that night. However, through every set of checks and balances he’s had to sift through, every goal he’s checked off the list and every breathtaking Lumbar Check he’s delivered, it hasn’t been the superhuman qualities — as amazing as those are — that have driven Cedric Alexander to success.
No, it’s because through all of it, he has remained a super human being — one that is ready to suit up and triumph on The Grandest Stage of Them All.