Darren Young is a former WWE Superstar and will receive the Vanguard Award during Miami's OUTshine film festival on April 28th, 2019.
He joined WWE as part of the inaugural WWE NXT reality-lite competition in 2010, being mentored by CM Punk. He then made his main-roster debut alongside various other WWE NXT rookies as part of the unstoppable heel faction The Nexus.
Afterwards,Young then competed as both a singles wrestler (at one point being managed by WWE legend Bob Backlund), and as one half of the WWE Tag Team Championship winning team The Prime Time Players alongside Titus O'Neil. Young was eventually released from his contract in 2017.
Since then, fans continue to wonder if Young could show up in ROH, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or even… AEW. Wrestling INC managing editor Nick Hausman recently chatted with Darren Young about exactly who Young has met with in Tony Khan's upstart wrestling promotion.
"I don't think I've met The Bucks personally. I'm a northeast guy.
"I've talked to Brandi, I've sent her ideas about teaming with Sonny Kiss. If no one has ever heard of Sonny Kiss he's an incredible talent. And the story would be like, I'm the big brother, he's the little sister, you know? So no one messes with my little sister Sonny Kiss. I think we could rock-and-roll in AEW as a team. Me, making sure no one messes with him, me having his back, and him wowing the crowd with his athleticism, and me wowing the crowd with my ground-and-pound attack.
"So I presented the idea to Brandi. I sent it to her and creative, I just haven't heard anything back. Like I said, I'd love to get an answer, as to 'we have nothing for you' so I can just keep it moving, but I haven't gotten anything."
And Young says that he hopes the lack of response has nothing to do with his reputation - a reputation he says is backed up by multiple WWE main-eventers.
"I hope I don't think I'm a bad talent, or someone hard to work with. My reputation in WWE speaks for itself. Some of the top talent really enjoy me as a talent - Sheamus, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle - these guys have my back and always gave me the time of day. So I think I'm pretty good to work with."
So if he hasn't heard back from Brandi, what about his relationship with Cody Rhodes? Young and Rhodes were both in WWE around the same time, for nearly the same amount of time.
"Cody and I have been in some matches together, and Cody's always been a cool guy to be around backstage. He might, in a funny, cool way, stir the pot between people, but it's all in good fun.
There was another Rhodes family member that Young cites as being even more impactful on his career, however.
"But his dad was very influential in getting me up to NXT and starting at the performance center in Tampa, Florida at the time, with Percy Watson as the Southeast Party Boy. So any time I was around Cody's dad I never wanted to let him down. I never wanted to let Dusty down. Even if I was nervous to do a promo I made sure that I nailed it. I made sure that, even if it did suck, I still tried.
And the Rhodes family member Young says he was perhaps closest with? That honor goes to the legendary Goldust.
"The relationships with The Rhodes are great, you know? Especially Goldie. Goldust is someone that I really, I think I was more closer to Goldie than Cody. Cody and I were cool. But I was a lot more closer to Goldie because I remember his career early… WCW and stuff like that. He was always known for selling. He could sell. He could tell a story in the ring. He was a great storyteller. So I always clung on to him, not only as a fan, but I'm working with him.
"With Goldust, there would be nights where, we could be on tour ten nights in a row and Goldust would come up to me and be like, 'Hey Darren, you mind taking the heat? You don't have to take the heat if you don't want to, but I'm a little beat up.' And I'd say 'Absolutely, Goldie! I'll definitely take the heat for you.' Because I want to out-sell him, I want to outperform him. He's one of the best that does it, so I want to mirror him and try to do it better. And at the end of the day, everyone finishes at the finish line strong, and everyone looks go.
"Yeah, Goldie, Dusty, Cody… I've always had a love for those guys."
Young started the #BlockTheHate movement, something that's become synonymous with Young himself. It's something that helped him win the Vanguard award.
"Not only am I a WWE veteran, I'm a trailblazer. I'm an activist. I'm an advocate for the LGBTQ rights, or all rights to be honest with you. So my coming out story, I provided a model of possibilities for others to be their authentic self, a model I wish I had when I was younger.
"For the last three years I've partnered with HQ Clothing out here in Sherman Oaks, California because I believe in seeing those under me succeed. I truly believe in streetwear/clothing brand HQ clothing to be a brand that can be globally respected, where people (who) belong to different nationalities, and races, and religious beliefs, will wear that brand with intense purposes.
"The three reasons I love HQ clothing is because 1) they're like family to me. 2) The quality of the clothes. And 3) the message behind the brand. And the message behind the brand is parallel to what I preach everyday. Every time my feet touch the ground, I know someone is counting on me. HQ clothing, repping the 'block the hate' movement, means the world to me.
"In this world we all receive hate for various reasons, but in order to be strong and successful you must block the hate. It's a universal message. I want it to be a household name. I want it to be the next middle finger. You tell me I can't achieve my dreams because… I have a speech impediment. Or I'm overweight. But you know what? Block the hate. But it's more than just an LGBT movement. Anyone that gets bullied for various reasons.
So what does Darren Young hope to achieve with both the #BlockTheHate movement and now this award?
"Ever since my coming out story my goal has been to inspire others to be comfortable in their own skin. So the point of the movement is to show that we aren't all as different from each other as we think."
Young's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. The full audio can be heard in the embedded player at the bottom of this post. It it Young discusses receiving the Vanguard Award at Miami's OUTShine Film Festival, being a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community in pro wrestling, the backstage atmosphere in WWE, why he feels hurt by Finn Balor wearing rainbow LGBTQ colors and more.