Roderick Strong opens up on his goals and adjusting to life in NXT
Last October, Roderick Strong joined an increasingly talented roster of NXT Superstars. Unlike most newcomers, though, Strong’s impact has already been felt, as he nearly became the No. 1 contender to the NXT Championship. Driven by the motto, “Roddy vs. The World,” Strong sat down with WWE.com to speak on his road to NXT and his aspirations for the future.
WWE.COM: You've had the chance to settle into NXT life for the last couple months. What has the experience been like for you?
STRONG: It has been fantastic. Everything from the coaches, the facility and the camaraderie of everyone training there is amazing. I feel like it has helped me grow so much already in the little time I have been here.
WWE.COM: You joined NXT as a 16-year-veteran. During your pre-NXT career, you've competed against everyone, from Kevin Owens to AJ Styles to Seth Rollins. What was it like for you to see these men eventually make it to WWE and achieve top tier success?
STRONG: I couldn't have been happier for them. They all worked very hard to get to where they are and to see it pay off is great. I look forward to wrestling them again, but this time on the biggest stage of them all.
WWE.COM: Was your goal always to make it to WWE, or were you happy with what you had achieved?
STRONG: Honestly, it has always been a goal, but wasn’t always my top priority. Like a lot of the guys that I looked up to in the business, I wanted to travel the world and establish myself. As a competitor, I always have to test myself on the biggest stages and against the best there is to offer. The only place for me to end up to truly fulfill that goal is WWE and NXT.
WWE.COM: So, we’ve established it was your goal, but did you really think you would end up here one day?
STRONG: Yes. When I first got into wrestling, guys my size weren't really being signed to WWE like they are today. But deep down, I knew if I worked as hard as I possibly could, it would eventually happen. Timing is everything, that's for sure.
WWE.COM: Let’s take a step back. How did you get your start?
STRONG: My father is the reason I'm a wrestler today. He was trained by Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and competed under the names Billy the Kid and Elvis Wesley on the Florida Independent scene. At the time, I was living with only my dad, so he brought me to training. From the first day I was around wrestling, I fell in love with it, but not in the way a lot of people do by just being a fan. Being in that environment and starting in the ring at the age of 12 gave me an escape from a pretty crazy life at the time, and it let me be whoever I wanted to be. It really became my happy place.
WWE.COM: Much like your dad, you spent quite a bit of time on the Florida Independent scene before applying your trade all over the world. What was it like to see the growth of NXT in Florida and beyond before you got here?
STRONG: The fact that NXT runs as much as it does in Florida and out of state is unbelievable. It’s giving so many people the opportunity to work on their craft every weekend in front of live crowds, but at the same time giving them something to work toward with out-of-state shows. Plus, it is only going to get bigger!
WWE.COM: Tell us about some of the experiences you've had prior to joining NXT?
STRONG: Over the last 16 years, I've traveled all over the U.S. and the world, including Canada, Japan, Mexico, U.K. and South America, working for many different companies, like IPW Hardcore, IWA Mid South, Rev Pro, PROGRESS, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor. I also had the chance to make history by becoming one of the first Americans to work for Dragon Gate in Japan. I also went on to work for Pro Wrestling NOAH and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
WWE.COM: In addition to competing on NXT, you’re also training during the week at the WWE Performance Center. Has it been challenging to start from square one despite your experience?
STRONG: It really hasn't been challenging at all. I guess some would think [it] would be a negative, but I get to work on every aspect of my game daily and it has only made me better. Plus, every day I step in [the Performance Center], I am surrounded by great coaches who are there to help me become the best I can be, and that's exciting.
WWE.COM: What's your motivation every time you compete?
STRONG: [My motivation is] proving that the 12-year-old kid who believed he would do this for a living was right, and to prove to myself that I can do this at the highest level possible.
WWE.COM: Where do you see yourself in two years?
STRONG: In two years, I see myself fighting those Superstars you mentioned earlier, this time on Monday or Tuesday nights, and continuing to show the WWE Universe why I am one of the best in this business.