Darren Young is a former WWE Superstar who wrestled with the company for years as part of the influential NEXUS faction and later alongside Titus O'Neil as part of The Prime Time Players, a team that captured the WWE Tag Team Championship.
Darren Young will receive the Vanguard Award during Miami's OUTshine film festival on April 28th, 2019. He spoke with Wrestling Inc. on today's WINCLY podcast and discussed his current priorities especially regarding acting.
"When I got released from WWE in 2017 it broke me," Young admitted. "2018 opened my eyes, and 2019 I had laser-like focus, just like I had when I was chasing the dream of becoming a WWE Superstar. I've been out here in LA taking acting classes, trying to do whatever I have to do to be seen on the big screen."
Young thinks that his story can help others in a similar situation
"My story is very unique. I always say, don't die with the story when you tell it. It's very important that I'm able to share my story with the world, and it's very important that people can get helped by hearing my story, and say that because of my story, (they're) able to come out and be confident with their own self. My story had a galvinate effect on the wrestling sports world."
Young also discussed the possibility of taking his story and impacting another media - superhero stories.
"Word on the street is that Marvel is looking for its first gay superhero, next gay superhero. Honestly, not to toot my own horn, but there's nobody that represents the community inside the ring and outside the ring more than me. So I've been putting that feeder out there.
"Wrestling has always been a love of mine. But my fight is bigger than in the ring. It's outside the ring fighting bigotry, hatred, and trying to be the voice of the voiceless when it comes to our LGBT community, or anyone that needs a voice for various reasons."
Young also opened up about a very hot topic in the wrestling world - unhappy WWE talents and how they deal with grievances.
"They sit in catering. They sit in catering all day at TV… Live events, the matches are a little bit longer. When you get to TV it's survival of the fittest. It's a dog-eat-dog world. There are only a certain amount of spots that can be filled, and the one thing I learned from Titus O'Neil is how to be a businessman. So anytime we didn't have anything on TV we would do backstage skits, get those reps together on camera. Do a backstage skit. Do something for the WWE app that was just being put on the map. So we'd say, 'PTP didn't land on the WWE app, the app landed on PTP!' So we were hustling and bustling backstage, Titus and I, when we weren't having any matches.
"You just gotta keep yourself busy, you know? You can get a little down on yourself, you could get depressed and all that stuff. But that's the nature of the business."
Young also knows what it's like to "pay your dues" in the sport, coming up in an era before the WWE Performance Center was around.
"One thing I learned from my metor, Dr. Tom Pritchard, is that sometimes you're going to have to eat s--t and like the taste of it. And that's just how it is. And it's unfortunate, but… Like I said, I've been able to achieve my dreams, grinding on the independents from 2002-2009, getting signed in 2009 from 75 guys and girls from all over the world. I paid to do a tryout. I paid hard-earned money, $2000, to do a tryout. Nowadays in WWE you get invited to a tryout, they take care of you and all that stuff. When I got signed it wasn't like that. So I know what it's like to grind, and I know what it's like to cut your teeth and all that stuff."
"My grandfather always says, 'one monkey don't stop no show,' so whether it's WWE, AEW, New Japan, ROH, or something in the acting world, I'm going to do it, and that's that."
But what about talents who are currently voicing their displeasure with their spot in WWE, especially on social media? Could they find a home somewhere else?
"I think it's a great time for wrestling because WWE, NXT… there could be NXTs all over. WWE wants to be global. But there are organizations such as AEW, New Japan, and ROH that have a great following, and I always say there's room for everyone at the finish line. So this is a great time for wrestling.
As for Young's personal relationship with WWE after his release?
"I'm not bitter over my release from WWE. I had no hard feelings with WWE."
In fact, Young says rather than being called a former-WWE star, he has another term he prefers.
"You know, I hate the word former. I put a lot of years and miles in WWE, so I like to be called a veteran. Because I started wrestling in 2002 right out of high school and college and I've been at it for some time, so I like to call myself a veteran these days."
In regards to receiving the Vanguard Award, Young calls it an "honor to be back in Miami" to receive the award, and says it's an honor to be recognized.
"It's cool to be back down there receiving such an important award… It's an amazing feeling to be appreciated for the walls and stigmas I've broken down in the very masculine world of professional wrestling.
"This is my biggest honor ever received."
Young's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in today's 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 this weekend, 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, a recent creative pitch he made to Brandi Rhodes for AEW and more.