The NXT Interview: Kaval
NXT Rookie Kaval quickly took the lead on season two of WWE NXT, finally earning a win, and more importantly, finishing first in the NXT Poll. But what makes this fiercely driven, highly-motivated competitor tick? Find out which WWE Superstar Kaval has his competitive sights set on. And, surprise, WWE.com actually gets this extremely serious NXT Rookie to laugh … twice!
WWE.com: Congratulations on coming in first in the NXT Poll. How do you feel about ranking No. 1?
KAVAL: The feeling is indescribable. I'm a very humble and modest competitor. So I didn't expect the support I did receive on this stage for trying so long, for trying to get into the company, it was really a great experience to see my name at No. 1. (WATCH | PHOTOS)
WWE.com: How do you plan to keep your No. 1 ranking?
KAVAL: I'm just going to have to outwork and outlast every single competitor that's in this season of WWE NXT. Everyone disregards me simply by my size, but my level of experience and my drive are far greater than the remaining six guys on this season of WWE NXT.
WWE.com: You also earned your first victory Tuesday night. Tell the WWE Universe about your awesome finisher, the Warrior's Way. (WATCH | PHOTOS)
KAVAL: The Warrior's Way. I guess that's presenting me as a martial artist trying to crossover into the mainstream and not be regarded as an MMA guy. I want to be considered as a martial artist. It's just an extension of my experience, of my personality.
Since I am one of the smallest competitors, I can't outmatch the rest of the competitors in strength, so my body is the weapon. I'm going to use whatever I can, and I figured something that brings excitement, is very devastating and has a high degree of difficulty to execute, is something the WWE Universe would really, really get into.
It's taken me seven or eight years, actually, to perfect, and it's still going strong. It takes a lot of effort to pull that off without injuring myself. I've seen competitors throughout the years in different countries and it's much different than how I do it. My style and my way of executing it is much different, bringing my legs to my chest and really shooting my legs out, trying to get the concussive blow to the opponent's chest, is something, I think, every time I do, the WWE Universe can really get into. I think they showed me that on Tuesday night.
WWE.com: You mentioned you're the smallest competitor this season. Do you think you're the underdog?
KAVAL: In my mind, yes. I think I work better as the underdog simply because people disregard me from a visual standpoint. When you go out in public, and you walk into a mall or you're walking down the street, you can people-watch and you can just see the different types of people. For the most part, the people who get noticed first are usually the big guys, the big people. Everyone else is usually passed off until something unique stands out for them.
I think just from the visual standpoint, I think the average size of this season's competitors is like 6-foot-3 or so. I'm only 5-foot-8. I'm the average size of an American man, so I think I fit more in the underdog role than anyone else, just from a starting point, from a visual standpoint. Then that all changes once that bell rings.
WWE.com: You've wrestled in front of 40,000 people in Japan. How does this differ from your experience in WWE?
KAVAL: Well it's different than the WWE Universe because the culture is different. The Japenese culture is very … I guess it's based off a lot of respect and there seems to still be some type of class system for elders and people with success, so it's just a different culture.
I think it's more sport-oriented than sports-entertainment-oriented, as it is over here in the United States. In Japan, there are much more crossover athletes than in the United States. The majority of the guys that I wrestled against, that I competed against in Japan, the majority of them were black belts in judo because it's a mandatory sport for people in school. I actually didn't find that out until 2006, and I had already been competing for four years, and I didn't know that. The majority of the guys are black belts in judo or they have backgrounds in amateur wrestling. I know one of the companies I wrestled for, there were several wrestlers who were national champions in amateur wrestling for the army, for the military. There were guys who crossed over from sumo wrestling. There were several people who did karate. There seems to be much more accomplished athletes in other fields crossing over and bringing their particular styles over into competition in Japan than there are here in the United States for WWE.
WWE.com: You grew up on an Army base in New York. How does your background influence the competitor you are today?
KAVAL: Everyone needs to be brought up with some type of discipline. I started off on an Army Base, Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is just at the mouth of the Verrazano Bridge. My father was in the Coast Guard and he worked at Governor's Island in the city, but he was stationed at Fort Hamilton for the living arrangements. So I grew up on that Army base, watching recruits in training. My father was fairly strict with allowing me to get off the Army base, thought I wanted to see what it was like outside the Army base.
I have many, many people in my family who were in the military -- in the Army, the Marines, the Navy. My grandfather served in the Korean War. I had uncles and cousins who served in the Vietnam War. My dad served in the Gulf War. So I was surrounded by that military discipline. And I think because I started off with that, it became second-nature. So as I grew as I competed, I already had a set discipline in my mind on how to handle things. I think because of that, it has allowed me to adapt and accept all the obstacles and just know how to stay focused on what I want to keep going in order to succeed. I think that foundation was what gave me a chance to be successful in this field of work.
WWE.com: Switching gears a bit, how is your relationship with your WWE Pros, Layla and Michelle?
KAVAL: Oh, it's definitely unique. Their personalities are so far over the top. Mine is more reserved and laid back, more low-key. It's definitely one heck of a contrast. Again, they're just so over the top. Sometimes it's a bit too much and I have to take a step back. But I think because of the dynamic of how far apart we are personality-wise, their mentoring and them trying to draw a little more out of me is eventually going to ultimately make me better.
I'm actually looking forward to prolonging this to see where it goes because success is all about growth. If you don't grow, you're not going to succeed. So I think with this dynamic between the three of us, it presents a good chance for me to succeed and improve on what I already have as a foundation. So I think it's going to be good in the long run.
WWE.com: What have they really taught you? Are they helping you come out of your shell more?
KAVAL: I think so. I think what they've helped me with is trying not to be so serious! (laughs) I'm so disciplined and I'm so straightforward with my approach on a lot of things, sometimes them being over the top actually breaks my concentration and that actually relaxes me. So it's a good change from what I've been doing before arriving here. Like I said, I think because of the difference between us, I think that's going to help me grow as a competitor and as an entertainer. Ultimately, it will be more helpful than not.
WWE.com: At first you seemed reluctant to wear the pink shirt they gave you. Now it seems to be bringing you a little bit of luck. You're No. 1 and you had your first victory. Do you think it's helping you?
KAVAL: I think it's too early to determine that, actually. Coincidence? Probably. (laughs) I mean, I'm not wearing the pink shirt when I'm in the ring. So, I don't know … that actually may be a psychological weapon. Before I arrive in the ring, everyone discredits me as some weirdo wearing a pink shirt, but I don't know. I still think it's way too early to determine if it's actually an effective tool on my performance.
WWE.com: Who is your biggest competition on WWE NXT?
KAVAL: I think right now it would be Percy Watson. The reason I say that is because his charisma is hard not to like. His in-ring ability is very limited at this point because of his experience level, but as time goes on, depending on his effort, he can improve greatly. But his charisma is something that can't be taught.
When people are attracted to something, it just seems to me that with his type of charisma -- the type you can't not like or dislike -- that becomes a very big challenge because in-ring ability is only so much. The personality is what people get behind. It's the same as any other field of sport or entertainment. People don't get behind the acting; they get behind the personality behind the acting. So I think Percy presents the biggest challenge because he's so appealing overall, whether it's comical or it's cheerful, that's a bigger challenge than some of the other guys.
The in-ring ability I'm not worried about. My mentality and my discipline tells me in my mind that no matter how big they are, if they're on WWE NXT or the other two brands, I can hold my own against anybody. I just think it's that personality, that charisma, that presents a really big challenge for anyone who wants to be a Superstar here in WWE.
WWE.com: Who would you like to face next -- an NXT Rookie, a WWE Pro, anyone?
KAVAL: In my mind, I'm not a Rookie, just because of my experience before arriving here.
My ultimate goal is to get my hands on Rey Mysterio. Because I think me coming up the way that I did, him proving there's only a select group or there's a very rare occasion you have competitors of this size who can reach that plateau of success, he's the ultimate challenge for me on whether or not I belong here. Growing up watching him back in WCW, ECW, even in Mexico, traveling to and from Japan, ultimately landing here in WWE, to me, that's the greatest challenge because he's the highest level of, I guess you'd consider the small men, in our profession. If I want to compete, I'm regarded in that category as well, small men. Me, him, Evan Bourne -- we're very small, very efficient with our techniques, very fast, very exciting. He's like the ultimate, I guess I wouldn't say the guy I look up to, but the greatest challenge. Because if I could hang with him, then I know that without question that I'd do well, 100 percent.
WWE.com: Is that whose championship you'd go after if you won tomorrow?
KAVAL: If I won tomorrow, I think I'd probably aim for Rey just to see where my skills are. Again, I don't know everything, so it's all about improving. Even the ability to challenge him, without the championship, is a great challenge. Now with the championship title in the mix, that elevates things ten-fold. So there's a greater payoff than just the challenge itself. So if could I think I'd most definitely challenge Rey for his championship.
WWE.com: Do you have any final messages for the WWE Universe?
KAVAL: I'd like to say I am greatly appreciative for the support. As I said before, I am very humble and very modest about my work. Being selected at No. 1, to get my first victory, it was just a whirlwind of emotion. Words can't describe all the emotions I had going through my body at the time and as they continued. Just know I am greatly appreciative and I will continue to work hard to improve and prove I belong here and will become WWE's next breakout star.