Nigel McGuinness on finally making it to WWE, reuniting with friends and the United Kingdom Championship
The WWE Universe was surprised when former independent wrestling star Nigel McGuinness was revealed as the newest member of WWE’s broadcast team during a press conference announcing the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament. However, no one may have been more surprised than McGuinness himself.
A contemporary of several Superstars in promotions like Ring of Honor – including WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, WWE Champion AJ Styles, SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan, former NXT Champion Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Austin Aries and Cesaro, among others – McGuinness was seen as one of the best indie wrestlers in the world until an injury cut his in-ring career short. He later found a new way to share his unique take on the mat wars with fans, joining ROH’s broadcast team before finally making his way to WWE last month.
As he prepares to start a new chapter in his storied career, McGuinness sat down with WWE.com to talk about his journey to WWE’s broadcast booth, and what he’s most looking forward to from his new job.
WWE.COM: How does it feel to be a part of WWE?
NIGEL MCGUINNESS: Everybody keeps asking me that – “How does it feel?” It’s surreal. I remember when I stood out there for the press conference, it felt like [I] was somebody else. I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, but it didn’t feel like it was me. This has been such a whirlwind, from getting the call from Michael Cole, to being here now. It still feels a little otherworldly.
This was always my childhood dream, to work for WWE. I’m happy to be here and really excited for the future.
WWE.COM: Did you ever think this was going to happen?
MCGUINNESS: I’ll be honest – in the last three to four years, no. When I was actually competing, there wasn’t any doubt that I was going to get here eventually. I knew that I would have to pay my dues, struggle, learn the art form and eventually get here.
I think that was what really made it so difficult for me, when I didn’t get here, to accept that. It’s funny, isn’t it? F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” It feels like this is.
WWE.COM: What was it like for you to transition from being an in-ring competitor to an announcer?
MCGUINNESS: It was very difficult at first. Often times, you’ll watch announcers and it will seem easy, because they’re so good at it. They’re so seamless in the way they talk and string everything together, and keep things succinct. But when I was put in the booth, it was a baptism by fire, so to speak. It was tough for me to find my voice.
I often say to younger wrestlers that once you get in the ring, you have to find your voice, your brand. The same applies to announcers. It took me a while to understand … what my value was, which was the fact that I’d been in the ring myself and understood what was going on. I had a lot of help in Ring of Honor – Jim Cornette was there, and Kevin Kelly was very instrumental in easing me in and feeding me the right spots. I was lucky to have those people around to support me.
WWE.COM: Your first assignment as a WWE announcer is the United Kingdom Championship Tournament. What does that mean to you, as a former competitor from the U.K.?
MCGUINNESS: This is going to be a huge thing for WWE. To be a face on that brand, right from the beginning, is huge for me. I may not have ever been in the ring here, but to be a part of this, as an Englishman, is cool.
WWE.COM: Having been on the outside looking in, how have you seen WWE change over the past few years?
MCGUINNESS: It’s night and day. I couldn’t imagine five years ago who the champions would be here. A guy like Seth Rollins, from the first time you see him, you go, “Yes, that’s a Superstar,” without a doubt. I always saw Kevin Owens in that same vein, but 10 or 15 years ago, you wouldn’t imagine him here. Same with Samoa Joe. AJ Styles, I’d always hear, “Nah, you’ll never see him [in WWE].”
It’s fantastic for WWE and sports-entertainment in general. You’re seeing all of these guys that have spent 10 or 15 years cutting their teeth and developing their style and brand, going out on the biggest stage in the world and blowing the roof off the place. I’ve been watching WWE Network extensively over the past week or two, and seeing so many of those guys that I buddied around or got in the ring with do their stuff is fantastic.
WWE.COM: Now that you’re a part of WWE, is there anyone you’re particularly looking forward to catching up with?
MCGUINNESS: It’s going to be good to see a lot of my old friends. Kevin Owens was a guy that I always got on well with; I loved doing magic tricks for him. Sami Zayn is a bit of a goofball, but he’s a great guy. There are so many people here that I’ve met at various places around the world. Adam Pearce, behind the scenes [as an NXT trainer], it’ll be great to see him. And William Regal and Fit Finlay are two guys who are such inspirations to me and my generation from the U.K.
WWE.COM: What should the WWE Universe expect from the United Kingdom Championship Tournament?
MCGUINNESS: I think they’re going to see a lot of passion. The thing about the U.K. is that it has always been a wonderful breeding ground for WWE fans. They’ve always been passionate about the product and supported it. I did when I was 14, spending my pocket money on posters, figures and Lord knows what else, which explains my difficulty getting a girlfriend at that age. [Laughs]
I also think people will be impressed with the talent and skill level of the competitors. A lot of these guys are 5, 10 years in the job already and have been all over the world. They’re ready to go, I guarantee it. Whoever comes out on top is going to have a very big name in this company going forward.