The Power Players
Power Is Thicker Than Water
Natalya & Curtis Axel & The Usos—WWE is full of rich bloodlines, and for Superstars such as Natalya, The Usos and Curtis Axel, family ties bind the roots of their power.
Growing up in a WWE family powers a Superstar or Diva to the bright lights of the squared circle because they knew the life of sports-entertainment well before ever lacing up their boots.
As the son of “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and grandson of Larry “The Ax” Hennig, Curtis Axel was exposed to his dream career early.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve known the sport of professional wrestling,” the current Intercontinental Champion says. “I’d hear my dad talking about it. My grandfather teaches me different things and he’s a huge supporter, along with my mom, my two sisters and my brother. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.”
Daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Natalya says it’s the lessons—not the name—that drive her.
“People can think or assume that I’ve gotten to where I have in WWE because doors were opened by my family,” Natalya says. “But the most powerful tool I have is the work ethic I’ve inherited from my grandfather and my uncles.”
The Usos look at the path paved by their father Rikishi, and know they have to raise the bar.
“When you look at the whole family, they’ve achieved so much that it’s hard to sit back and just be a mediocre performer,” Jey Uso says. “My family is put on such a high pedestal that it makes my brother and me want to write our own chapter in the book, and exceed those expectations.”
Although they sometimes have to deal with the pressure of living up to the family name, second- and third-gen competitors enjoy easy access to a wealth of knowledge from families well-versed in the struggles of a career.
“If we have ever got a problem on the road, or ever need any kind of advice, it’s only a phone call away,” Jimmy Uso says. “My dad, he’ll never steer us wrong. I believe that. A lot of people in this business don’t have that luxury.”
This guidance often comes from looking at the rough roads faced by relatives. Natalya finds the Hart family’s history of overcoming challenges and obstacles to be empowering.
“One of the most beautiful parts of my family is that we’ve had so many trials and triumphs,” the star of Total Divas says. “The reason why that’s beautiful is because it’s given me so much depth. It’s important to have roadblocks and to go through challenges in our life like our family has had. We’ve had a lot of hardships in our family, but the challenges made us who we are. That’s what makes the Hart family—overcoming all the odds, rising above, never giving up and believing in ourselves.”
Power is Deceptive
Who would have ever thought that a diminutive Jersey girl would become one of the most powerful women in WWE history? AJ Lee, that’s who.
Built more like a punky little sister, AJ Lee is well aware that she’s no proto-Diva. But since bursting onto the scene, her quest for power has shown that she doesn’t care. At all.
“I’m the smallest person on the roster,” AJ admits. “Yet, I’ve been the Raw GM and am now the Divas Champion. I had an uphill battle, which forced me to find the power in my mental game.”
AJ has used her physical stature to her advantage, welcoming in-ring competition, and using it to sharpen her in-ring IQ.
“I’m not afraid to have my butt kicked by everybody,” she boasts. “I know I can get the upper hand on other levels. I’m more evolved than they are. I just learn to play harder.”
She’s toyed with the WWE Universe just as much as many of her fellow Superstars. And that’s a power trip she doesn’t seem to want to end. “I can see further ahead and make a game plan far into the future,” AJ reveals. “That’s how I exert my power. I always have a plan. As for the Superstars, I’m not the girl that would normally have a lot of guys falling at her feet. But, I’ve been able to spin plenty of Superstars around my finger...and slowly ruin all of their lives.” [Laughs.]
When she arrived, AJ was just happy to be here. Now, she’s not happy unless she’s twisting the wills and ways of everyone in her path to suit her interests. “I spent about a year when everything I did was about somebody else,” she laments. “I used all my power and skills to try and get everyone else’s attention. It wasn’t about me. Now, after that year, I’m at a point where it is all about me. I’ve got to take advantage of each and every situation and make it work for me.”
Power Is Confidence
Between rises and falls, The Miz has maintained a confidence that has bordered on cockiness. The differences are subtle, but the power’s undeniable. He’s his own biggest fan. And, according to the former WWE Champion, that’s the way it should be, even when his confidence is shaken.
“Every time I go out to the ring, I have butterflies,” Miz admits. “I second-guess myself. Can I really do this? But once I hit that stage and get that adrenaline rush, hearing that audience either booing me or cheering me, it all comes together. And no matter what, I will try and remain confident in what I’m doing.”
The Miz is also aware that his caustic personality can rub people the wrong way, causing some to love him, and some to abhor his brash antics. “It all depends on who’s talking about me,” he says. “If they like me, they’ll say it’s confidence. If they don’t like me, they’ll say it’s cockiness. I always look at it as confidence, and having confidence in yourself often strikes a lot of other people as cockiness. That’s fine. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Once on top of the world as WWE Champion, Miz also knows how to ride out a slump. “You just have to live with it,” he advises. “Whether you’re losing or winning, you still have to be proud of where you’re at and what you’ve accomplished in your life. Too many times I’ve had slumps where I just looked at myself and thought, “What am I doing? Why am I even here? People don’t like me. People are booing me.” But, at the end of the day, I get to do what I love. That definitely outweighs the depression of a slump.”
Power Is a Numbers Game
The Shield—WWE’s first legitimate three-man militia—know that a three-pronged attack means the statistics are always in their favor.
Three is the magic number, especially if you’re part of a make-our-own-rules outlaw faction of Superstars who fights for nothing but justice. And according The Hounds of Justice, their numbers equal well-rounded power.
“We each bring intelligence and athleticism, but the main thing that The Shield excel at is intensity,” asserts loose cannon Dean Ambrose. “We force our opponents to keep up with us. It’s fight at our level, or else get swept up. Thanks to our endurance, we can drag our opponents into the deep water and drown them.”
The fact is, historically speaking, strength in numbers doesn’t always work—just ask the oversaturated iterations of The nWo. However, The Shield have the formula figured out.
“If one of us has a shortcoming,” admits the group’s airborne anarchist, Seth Rollins, “We can rely on each other to fill the void. If we need power, that’s Roman’s thing. He’s the tank. If we need an aerial attack, I can take care of that. I’m the kamikaze pilot. If we need cunning, or need to out-fox someone, Ambrose has that covered. He’s the solid machine gun. We’ve got a three-headed dog, ready to attack from any angle, not just a one-pronged game plan.
”In most cases, different personalities and skill sets naturally would clash, but not so with Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns.
“Three alpha dogs in a pack? Normally that wouldn’t work,” Ambrose admits. “But we all know it’s us against the world, and this whole company. One guy doesn’t need to control the group, the group needs to control the industry. We’re all working for the same thing.” Rollins confirms that egotism and one-upping isn’t an issue for The Shield. “Egos?” he scoffs. “There aren’t any. We’re all talented singles competitors with bright futures. But, for the greater good, and so we can dominate WWE, we’ve come together to create this unit, this unstoppable force. We figured that it’d be easier to infiltrate the system together, so we can tear it apart from the inside out.”
With such a solid foundation, will The Shield ever build its ranks?
“No,” Ambrose clarifies. “We would never want to add any more people because nobody can make us better than we are right now. We don’t need any dead weight. You see these groups in the past, like The nWo, come out with 30 guys, and it doesn’t work. Three is the perfect number—we always have the numbers advantage, and there’s absolutely no room for cracks in the foundation.”
Power Is The Company You Keep
Association with Paul Heyman means power—for him, and for you. WWE’s savviest manager has no doubt that being in his company is the place to rise to greatness.
How does it benefit a Superstar to be associated with the power of Paul Heyman? And how can Paul Heyman benefit likewise from a Superstar whose fierce loyalty and talent will protect and serve his own interests? According to the mad scientist behind Brock Lesnar and Curtis Axel, it’s a mutual relationship.
“I’ve been a mover and a shaker and a power broker in this industry since I was a teenager,” Heyman says. “I didn’t inherit that position. I forged my way through hard work, dedication and manipulation. When a sports-entertainer wants to rise to the top, navigate the landmines, or swim with the sharks, who better to have by that sports-entertainer’s side than me?
As someone who gets under more skin than a splinter, Heyman is well aware that surrounding himself with like-minded Superstars is essentially a blanket insurance policy.
“Though I walk through the valley of the McMahons and all my other enemies,” he preaches, “I feel no ramifications of my evil doings, for I walk through that valley with the baddest dude on the planet, Brock Lesnar, by my side. I remain the greatest talent scout and developer of new talent in sports-entertainment history. I am the person who holds the key to the future of WrestleMania main events and every one of my enemies and detractors knows it.”
As brazen as he may be, even Paul Heyman knows that his power and his cohorts can only go so far. That is, until a true revolution dawns.
“There’s only one man with power in WWE, and that is the Chairman of the Board, who is also owner, lord and master of the entire industry. That person is Mr. McMahon. And he will remain in that position until the day someone figures out a way to overthrow him, period. Just give me a little more time.”
To find out more about the current WWE roster’s power rankings, strengths, career ups and downs, statistics, possible futures, and the reason Ryback means POWER, get the September issue of WWE Magazine or SUBSCRIBE HERE and save 70 percent off the newsstand sale price.