WWE NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong recently spoke with Sports Illustrated to promote tonight’s title defense against Keith Lee on the USA Network. Strong said he can’t wait to get in the ring with Lee and show everyone what he can do against someone that special. He was asked what excites him the most about working with a super heavyweight like Lee.
“Keith is definitely a super heavyweight, he is just such a special athlete and he knows that about himself,” Strong said. “This is one of those matchups that mean the world to me. He is a unique athlete, and I feel like I am a unique athlete. There is no one else with my style?that is as aggressive or persistent and won’t stay down. There are a ton of good wrestlers out there, but no one just like me, and Keith understands that. My question is, how will Keith last the longer the match goes? Does he have the gas tank? We don’t really know. He hasn’t been in a lot of matches that have taken him to the limit. I’m eager to get out there and show the world what I can do against someone as special as Keith Lee.”
Strong was also asked about his big non-title Triple Threat win over WWE Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and then-WWE United States Champion AJ Styles at the 2019 WWE Survivor Series pay-per-view, and what was his takeaway from the match. Strong recalled how he got emotional after the match.
“That was a great opportunity to give the WWE Universe just a taste, but not everything,” Strong said. “Those are two guys that I have the utmost respect for, and obviously I’ve wrestled AJ quite a few times before and Nakamura quite a few times prior to coming to WWE. It was very, very special for me.
“After the match, I was celebrating on the ground, and I got emotional. I take a lot of pride in what I do, and that was a big moment. I was very, very happy that I had the chance to do that with guys that I have so much respect for, and ones I feel that have the same respect for me. I’m just excited to continue, until the day I stop doing this, to show the world how good I am at this job.”
Strong has another big match later this week as The Undisputed Era (Strong, NXT Champion Adam Cole, NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) battles Imperium (NXT UK Champion WALTER, Marcel Barthel, Fabian Aichner, Alexander Wolfe) at WWE Worlds Collide on Saturday night. Strong was asked why moving into The Undisputed Era was the right move for him personally and professionally. He said the move allowed him to be true to himself.
“It gave me an opportunity to be true to myself,” Strong revealed. “Anyone watching me prior to coming to NXT the last couple years, I had been more of that heel role. For me, that’s something that I’m far more comfortable with, and based off my style and character, it’s where my true value is. That just works better for me. And the minute I knew those guys were coming in to NXT, that was immediately where my mind went. Based on our history, a lot of fans’ minds immediately went there, too. In the last four months of me being with Ring of Honor, we were all in a tag match together. Me and Adam have been really good friends since the first couple months of him coming to Ring of Honor. He was a guy I tried to help when he was new, and it’s the same with Kyle and Bobby, who I’ve done tours of Japan with. We have a relationship that is a lot deeper than the surface, and we’re like brothers.
“We are working to make The Undisputed Era better and each other better on a constant basis, and we have each other to depend on. It’s something super unique, and it doesn’t come around very often. We’re still trying to figure out exactly, in the grand scheme of things, what our legacy will be together, so I’m very intrigued to see where this will be in a couple years.”
Strong’s wife Marina Shafir continues to appear in NXT with Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke. Along with Ronda Rousey, the group has been known as MMA’s Four Horsewomen. Strong was asked if he thinks we’ll ever get the MMA Horsewomen vs. WWE Horsewomen match, and what has impressed him the most about his wife.
“I would love to see them all have that opportunity, and it could be a WrestleMania moment,” Strong said of a possible Horsewomen battle. “They’ve been teasing it here and there for quite some time now, and I really hope, for all the women involved, that they get the opportunity to do that match. It will be a banger, that’s for sure.
“When it comes to my wife, I am so proud. This was so foreign to her, and to watch her?and I know it sounds weird to even say this?but I feel like a parent in that sense. She figured out a lot of this on her own. It’s been very interesting to see her creative side and take this a lot faster than I ever did. I am really intrigued to see how much she improves in the next year. She is beautiful, she’s charismatic, she’s a frickin’ beast of an athlete. When she gets 100 hundred percent comfortable with this, there is no stopping her.”