As previously noted, NXT Superstar Matt Riddle recently caught up with WWE legends Edge and Christian on E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness. Among many other things, Riddle talked about his favorite pro wrestlers growing up, wanting to become a pro wrestler before getting into MMA, transitioning from MMA to professional wrestling, getting heat from indie fans when he started in pro wrestling, who he would like to face in NXT, and goals for 2019.
Riddle, who grew up in the Pennsylvania area, shared that his favorite professional wrestlers growing up were performers who made their matches more athletic and physical like WWE Hall Of Famer Kurt Angle and ECW standouts Rob Van Dam and Tajiri.
"I was always into more, like, wrestling, so I was interested more in people who pushed the pace. One of my favorites and I watch him still is Rob Van Dam. And in ECW, even Tajiri. And, like, a Kurt Angle," Riddle said. "I really liked people who pushed the boundary of it being like a show and a sport, where the pace itself is fast, it's competitive, it makes it 100% believable to me. And that's even why I wrestle the way I do now. I try to keep it at a real athletic and physical pace."
Although Riddle always wanted to be a professional wrestler, he did not know how to get into it. Riddle explained to Edge and Christian that he got into amateur wrestling because it was the closest thing to pro wrestling that he could do.
"Growing up, I was always a fan of [pro] wrestling, but I was also a fan of MMA and stuff. And I always wanted to wrestle, but, like, when you're a kid, how do you do pro wrestling? Granted, [Edge and Christian] know what it's like because [they have] done it, but for me, it seemed like the easiest way for me would be to get into amateur wrestling and go that route because it was a place I was allowed to go; I didn't have to pay anything extra; and I could wrestle a couple of hours a day on mats; and it was competitive. It was like the closest thing I could get to pro wrestling." Riddle added, "it was definitely for pro wrestling at first."
During the podcast, Riddle stated that he got into MMA partly because he thought he was too small for pro wrestling. While sidelined with an injury, Riddle watched the WWE Network and realized that pro wrestling was no longer just for heavyweights.
"I was at home, I was recovering [from an ankle injury], and I was watching pro wrestling," Riddle recalled. "It was when the Network just dropped for that $9.99, so for a guy like me, I could finally afford the pay-per-views every month. Keep up with the product easily with one destination. And, like I said, I would watch it off and on, but I hadn't been watching it, like, hard, but I was watching it and I was like, 'do you know what? I feel like the landscape has changed drastically.' Like, I feel like the world of the giants isn't just giants anymore. There [are] guys smaller than me and for a guy like me, that's perfect."
On the subject of Riddle's pro wrestling training, Riddle said he trained at Monster Factory, ROH dojo, and CZW. 'The King Of Bros' indicated that he got a WWE tryout from training with Sean Waltman at Monster Factory. When WWE was not going to use Riddle right away, the sports entertainment leader pointed him to Evolve.
"I started training at the Monster Factory, the ROH dojo, CZW, and I trained there," Riddle remembered. "And eventually I had a tryout with WWE. I trained with Sean Waltman at the Monster Factory and he put in a word for me and I got a tryout at the [WWE] Performance Center. I did that and I hit him up like, 'hey, I've been talking to Ring Of Honor, and I've been talking to other companies, and I want to do something, but if you guys aren't going to use me right away, like, and I want to do something.' And they were like, 'have you heard of a company called Evolve?' And I was like, 'no,' and they were like, 'well, look them up.' And I was like, 'cool.'"
According to Riddle, he struggled getting the support of pro wrestling fans at the outset of his pro wrestling odyssey, with the New York State amateur wrestling champion garnering 'you can't wrestle' and 'Baby Lesnar' chants during matches. Although Riddle could work "decent" when he started in pro wrestling, he had heat with the fans.
"I could work decent," Riddle claimed. "I wasn't great, but I could work. But the crowds, they didn't like me. They didn't respect me because I didn't put my time in. I was just some MMA guy that was put on the same pedestal as guys that have been working the indies for 10 years, so I was getting a lot of heat, as one would say."
While Riddle would like to face many NXT Superstars in the squared circle, he is most intrigued by working former NXT Champion Aleister Black. 'The Ultimate Stallion' noted that he likes facing larger performers.
"In NXT, there's a laundry list [of performers Riddle would like to face]. One that stands out at the top for me, like, that I haven't had since I was really new in [pro] wrestling was Aleister Black. I wrestled him in Evolve when he was Tommy End, like, years ago. It was my first year in Evolve. Now, he's where he's at and I'm here. And I've definitely evolved to where I think we could really have a crazy one. Me and Kyle O'Reilly have wrestled all around the world. We've done good work. I've wrestled Keith Lee. I like wrestling the bigger guys, personally, because I can lay into them harder and they can dish it back out. So there [are] a lot of big guys, but I don't feel like a lot of the big guys in that position right now, like in the top five title contenders. And Lars [Sullivan] was in NXT, but now he's going up." Riddle continued, "same thing with Heavy Machinery and I wouldn't mind mixing it up with [Otis Dozovic]."
When asked what is next for Riddle, 'Deep Waters' floated the idea of participating in the 2019 Royal Rumble match.
"Well, I know that me and Kassius [Ohno] have some unfinished business, so I don't know if we're going to finish that [up] in the next couple of weeks or maybe we'll finish it at [NXT] TakeOver [Phoenix]. I don't know. I know the dates are coming though. You just never know what's going to happen. There [are] only so many slots available. I'll be around. If it's NXT related, I'll be there. I'm pretty sure. And I'm really hoping, I'm really hoping, in this new year… because I know TakeOver is the same weekend as the Royal Rumble. And I'll be honest, I'm a big Rumble guy. I know there's always [surprise entrants]. Maybe there's a spot open. Maybe I go in. Dude, I'm aiming for the stars!" Riddle added, "it needs to happen. If not this year… yeah, it definitely needs to happen."
Listen to the show here of check it out in the audio player below. If you use any of the quotations from this article, please credit E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness