Inside Roderick Strong’s weekend agenda to win the EVOLVE Title and "break" Darby Allin
On the heels of Undisputed ERA declaring that they’ll be “draped in championship gold” in 2019, Roderick Strong plans to get an early start when he heads to New York this weekend to compete for EVOLVE Wrestling.
The Messiah of the Backbreaker and reigning NXT Tag Team Champion is set for action at EVOLVE 117 on Saturday at La Boom in Woodside, N.Y., where he’ll challenge EVOLVE Champion Fabian Aichner in a Triple Threat Match that also features Austin Theory. For Strong, who has held nearly every major heavyweight championship on the independent scene other than the EVOLVE Title, the match represents an opportunity to further cement his legacy on the indie ranks he once dominated.
Win or lose in the EVOLVE Championship Match, Strong faces a brand-new foe, Darby Allin, Sunday night at EVOLVE 118 at the NYWC Sportatorium in Deer Park, N.Y. The acclaimed daredevil, who’s been hunting for the EVOLVE Title, called out Strong for a match after the Undisputed ERA member challenged Aichner.
Ahead of his EVOLVE comeback, Strong spoke with WWE.com about his goal of putting a new title around his waist, his excitement to “break” Allin and why the influx of NXT Superstars in EVOLVE benefits everyone involved.
WWE.COM: You generated quite the buzz when you issued a challenge to EVOLVE Champion Fabian Aichner on Twitter. What led you to call Aichner out in the first place, and why was now the right time to do so?
RODERICK STRONG: I don’t know, I guess I was feeling froggy. I have a long history with EVOLVE, and obviously with them using NXT talent, I looked at it as an opportunity to get some more gold for The Undisputed ERA. That’s one of the titles that eluded me when I was on the independents, and I just thought right now it’d be something fun to do.
Thought of the day- NXT Superstars holding #EVOLVE titles? Well there are no bigger Superstars than the #UndisputedERA and I’ve won just about every @WWNLive title but the #EVOLVE title. So Maybe Dec. 15th I come to La Boom and #ShocktheSystem? #OurERA— Roderick Strong (@roderickstrong) December 1, 2018
WWE.COM: In addition to your fellow NXT Superstar Fabian Aichner, your title match also involves Austin Theory, who’s become a breakout star on the independent circuit since you joined NXT. How familiar are you with Theory’s body of work?
STRONG: Slightly. I hear more than I’ve actually seen, to be completely honest with you, because I’m extremely focused on NXT and WWE as a whole – but I also talk to a lot of people who still wrestle on the independents. Once you start hearing a buzz about somebody, you want to check them out because you never know if, and, or when exactly, they may come to NXT because NXT obviously has the best talent in the world. From what I’ve seen and heard, he’s amazing. He’s super young and he keeps getting better. He’s in a position that I feel like I was [in] when I was on the independents, of just being put in tough positions. You either bust or you don’t, and Austin’s a guy whose name keeps coming up, so obviously he’s handling himself well.
For me, as someone who’s been doing this for so long, that kind of stuff excites me. It’s a new match-up against a younger guy that’s making a name for himself, and I like to consider myself the measuring stick of wrestling in general. Fabian’s doing a great job himself, but I plan on pushing those guys at a pace that they’ve never really had before, and we’re going to see what those guys are made of.
WWE.COM: As you mentioned, you’re also focused on NXT, where you’re the reigning NXT Tag Team Champion. Is there any part of you that wonders if you win the title on Saturday, you risk spreading yourself too thin?
STRONG: If I win? It’s when I win, and no, never. I’m made to do this. I’ve been around wrestling since I was 12 years old and I really believe I was put on this planet to wrestle and that’s what I love to do. It would be just another opportunity to sharpen my skills because I always have that white-belt mentality, and I’m trying to learn and to become the best that I possibly can be. The more I do it, the better I become, and that makes me a very dangerous man to the wrestling world.
WWE.COM: Your tweet to Aichner also garnered a response from Darby Allin, setting the stage for your match against him this Sunday at EVOLVE 118. How do you prepare for someone like Allin, who’s known for his daredevil, high-risk style of wrestling?
STRONG: I’m always prepared. I’ve wrestled every kind of wrestler that there is, I’ve been in every situation that there possibly has been. If you look at my history, I fare very well against guys like Darby — the smaller risktakers. I guess this sounds sick, but my thing is, I’m just excited to see how much pain he will put himself through before he breaks. He’s wrestled a lot of guys, but there’s not anyone on the independents, or in WWE, that wrestles like me and is as relentless as I am, because I don’t care. I really don’t care. I will break him.
WWE.COM: Some of the biggest matches of your career prior to NXT happened in the EVOLVE ring. During your time there, you wrestled the likes of Apollo Crews, Oney Lorcan and Matt Riddle, and had a major rivalry with Drew McIntyre. What do you think that list of talent says about EVOLVE’s track record when it comes to featuring the best independent talent?
STRONG: The thing about EVOLVE is that it’s always had the ability to get guys that are right on the cusp of becoming big stars, guys that are driven, hungry, thirsty. You name it, that’s them. Their willingness to do anything to get to the next level is infectious. It’s kind of like NXT now. You’re just in a locker room full of animals that want to be the top, want to be the best, and EVOLVE always had that feeling to me of young guys who haven’t really been there yet, but are going to get there. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to do it.
WWE.COM: Your participation this weekend is only the latest example of the influx of NXT Superstars in EVOLVE. As someone who’s been on both sides of the fence – an established NXT Superstar and an up-and-coming independent wrestler — what are your thoughts on the current relationship and the kind of opportunities it creates?
STRONG: From the young guys in NXT, to the guys on the independents, it’s a priceless experience. Some of the guys who are coming to NXT never had the opportunity to go and wrestle in the independents to see what that’s like, and the guys who are wrestling for EVOLVE are now having the opportunity to do some of the NXT stuff. To me, honestly, that’s a priceless experience that a lot of these guys are very lucky to have. I’m excited just because of my long history to come back to the independents, which is something I never thought I’d ever do again, and just show them again why I’m one of the best that does this.
#UndisputedERA talks about how @roderickstrong plans to #ShockTheSystem at #EVOLVE117 this Saturday in Queens, NY and #EVOLVE118 this Sunday in Deer Park, NY! Tix and info at https://t.co/crhuZM0bZn. #RoddyVSTheWorld @AdamColePro @theBobbyFish @KORcombat pic.twitter.com/BvLpYYbT6V— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) December 11, 2018
WWE.COM: What should fans expect from your return at EVOLVE 117 and 118 this weekend?
STRONG: What they should expect is to see the absolute best. I personally get to prove that I’m everything that I say I am, that Undisputed ERA are everything that we say we are. No matter if we’re headlining a TakeOver or at La Boom, we’re going to tear the house down, and there’s nobody that does it like we do.