Tye Dillinger on his surprise Royal Rumble entry and dealing with SAnitY
It was only a few weeks ago that Tye Dillinger was on the receiving end of the biggest opportunity of his sports-entertainment career. As a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match, Dillinger fulfilled one of his childhood goals of competing at the legendary event. But as the old saying goes, with success comes tribulation. In Dillinger’s case, being embroiled in a convoluted conflict with NXT’s unorthodox juggernaut known as SAnitY, The Perfect 10 must now bridge the gap between experiencing a career high and fending off the threat of a menacing foe in order to reach the next level of career success.
WWE.COM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Tye. Let’s start off by revisiting the Royal Rumble. Take us through the events of that day and your eventual entry into the match.
TYE DILLINGER: The day leading up to the Royal Rumble was pretty routine. I got up early, went to the gym, got a good meal in and then packed my bags to head to the Alamodome. The only thing was, I had no idea what was going to happen or just how busy it was going to get. A few months prior to the Royal Rumble event, I began to hear rumblings, no pun intended, on social media about this concept of me entering the Rumble, and entering at the 10th spot.
Slowly but surely, that idea began taking a life of its own and before I knew it, a great deal of the WWE Universe thought it was a great idea and began to voice that opinion. I toyed with the idea all day, thinking, "what if?" By the time I got to the Alamodome, I was beyond excited but I didn't want to get my hopes up as things always change in the entertainment world. However, if I did get the green light, you can bet your a** I was going to be ready for it.
WWE.COM: Once you found out you were going to be part of the Royal Rumble Match, how did you mentally prepare yourself for the experience of performing at one of WWE’s biggest pay-per-views of the year?
DILLINGER: I don't know if I could fully mentally prepare myself for that moment. I've replayed it over and over in my mind countless times and even now, it still feels surreal. Once I found out that I had officially been entered in the Royal Rumble, I took some time to myself to sit down and try to comprehend what was going to take place later that night. I couldn't.
All I could do was reflect on the past 15 years of my career, the paths I took at various times and the people who had helped me get to the point of performing in front of over 52,000 people at the 30th annual Royal Rumble. There have been many ups and downs for me and, to be frank, more downs. But in those 15 years, I've learned to understand that anything worth chasing isn't easy and takes time. That one moment in the Royal Rumble Match, when I entered at No. 10, made every up, down and hardship absolutely worth it.
WWE.COM: What kind of reaction did you get from your peers?
DILLINGER: My peers may have been the main reason that day was so special for me. You have to remember, I've been in three different WWE developmental systems, between OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling), FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) and now NXT, for nearly six-and-a-half years combined.
A great deal of WWE Superstars, like Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, The Miz, etc., came from WWE's developmental system, and I've had the privilege of working with them over the years. To see all of them doing so well in WWE on the big stage truly makes me the happiest guy in the world. As it turns out, a lot of guys felt the same way once they saw my name in the Royal Rumble Match. So many people were genuinely happy for me. Even after the event, over the next few days, I received messages congratulating me on a great night, but in reality, they made that night great for me.
WWE.COM: I understand the YouTube clip chronicling your Royal Rumble debut has garnered over 1 million views. That's a pretty amazing accomplishment.
DILLINGER: Yes. That’s pretty wild for a guy from a small town in Ontario, Canada. To get that kind of support for a moment that meant so much to me makes the experience even sweeter and one I'll keep with me until my final days. Thank you to everyone who watched.
WWE.COM: What did competing in the Royal Rumble Match do to motivate you back in NXT?
DILLINGER: My motivation level here in NXT has always been high. I believe it's one of my stronger attributes. Competing in the Royal Rumble capped off a chapter in my career that I feel was 15 years in the making. That one moment, on that night, taught me that if you work hard enough when no one is watching, believe in yourself when others don't, be good to people even if they don't deserve it, and have incredible patience, eventually, something will roll your way.
I just didn't think that something would be competing at the 30th annual Royal Rumble event with the likes of The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and Roman Reigns. [Laughs] I couldn't be happier that it was, though. The way I look at it now, that’s just step one. WWE gave me a taste of what it's like on the big stage and I want more. So now, I'll work even harder.
WWE.COM: Speaking of working hard, it seems that despite the high of your accomplishment, Eric Young and SAnitY have been right there to bring you back down.
DILLINGER: Eric Young has been saying that I belong in SAnitY for a while now. To be honest, I'm not really sure why. Young is very talented, he's accomplished a great deal in his career thus far, and now he's assembled a group of people who have no fear and share his vision. I don't share his vision. I don't believe in the same things SAnitY does. Clearly, Eric Young doesn't like that and if he and SAnitY have a problem with it, I'm not that hard to find.
WWE.COM: You’ve described SAnitY as bullies in the past. Can you expound on this?
DILLINGER: I was picked on as a kid growing up. I was tall, but very skinny and early on in my grade school years, didn't have a lot of friends. That made me easy pickings for bigger kids who were older than me and had friends who felt in order to feel good about themselves, they needed to make others around them feel terrible.
SAnitY is the same way, very bully-like. Three-on-one or four-on-one, it's a numbers game with them. However, I stood up for myself in grade school against guys bigger than me and who had more friends than me. Sometimes, you win and sometimes, you lose, but eventually, the bullying stopped. The same outcome will happen whether SAnitY realizes it or not. Either they move on from all this "Tye, join us" nonsense, or I will take them all down one by one.
WWE.COM: Do you feel that competing in the Royal Rumble Match has put a bigger target on your back?
DILLINGER: I don't think it put a bigger target on my back. I'm hoping that my appearance in the Royal Rumble motivated a lot of talent in NXT. Whether you've been here for three, four or five years or just walked through the door a week ago, knowing that a guy you see or work with every day can go out and perform in front of over 52,000 people live, with millions watching around the world, that should, hopefully, spark a fire within them to want to do the same thing. Is there a target on my back? Maybe, but I've been around long enough to know that if you want to survive in this industry, it’s a good idea to grow eyes in the back of your head.
WWE.COM: You’ve insisted that SAnitY isn’t in your head, but we’ve also seen you doubt your own abilities recently. What must you do to keep yourself both personally and professionally out of the mental rut?
DILLINGER: It's been no secret that at times I have questioned my ability. Just when it looks like things are going to go my way, I let them slip through my fingers. If that happens enough, I don't care who you are, you're going to question your own ability. In those times, though, I was brought back by one thing alone —the people. Those in the NXT Universe never gave up on me. They have been there since day one of The Perfect 10 and for that, I am eternally grateful, so the very least I can do for them is to never give up on myself.
It's amazing what can happen to someone and their life when others believe in them. At NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, I didn't have a doubt in the world. Yes, I did lose the match, but I lost to the numbers game. I don't feel any shame in that. Three-on-one is difficult for anyone, and I knew that going in. But, at the same time, I thought to myself, "Well, if I'm going down, I’m going down swinging.” The battle was won by SAnitY that night, but I am very good at visualizing the long-term picture here in NXT. Down the road, if SAnitY keeps coming for me, that picture of NXT won't have them in it.