Days after his debut match at WWE NXT "TakeOver: XXX", Pat McAfee joined Corey Graves on the WWE After The Bell podcast, to reflect on his debut that he said he'll remember for the rest of his life. McAfee thanked Graves for the praise he gave him, and he reflected on his match and the chat Graves and former NFL player AJ Hawk gave him before the match.
"Well, I appreciate that. It means a lot because I know you've seen a lot of wrestling," McAfee said. "I mean, you were calling like 40 hours a week of live wrestling, so to hear you say that means a lot obviously. What you said to me in the days leading up to the match and everything like that, there was a little bit of worry. I am a person that operates very much on the fact that I am so stupid, I just assume that I can do anything. It has been a gift in this life to be like, 'I am so dumb, I could do it. I could figure it out.'
"For me, the biggest move was just trying to keep all that doubt out. And obviously, you guys put up some compelling arguments on why I should be very stressed for what was going to happen on Saturday night. I did think about that, but I went in there and I had no idea what was going to happen. I knew that I was going in there with a guy who is, although he was a scumbag, incredibly talented in the ring.
"So for me, I've been a fan of TakeOvers for so long. I've been a fan of wrestling for so long. I understood the amount of pressure that it was on me to put on a good show, and I think I was just pumped to get in there and see what happened.But boy, what you had mentioned to me about getting winded, there were some moments in there where I thought I was potentially never going to be able to breathe again."
McAfee discussed whether he will return to WWE for another match. He said he had not thought about it because the NFL schedule is a week-to-week schedule that requires players to remain focused throughout the week to be successful.
"The conversation that was happening very loudly around me the last couple of days before 'TakeOver: XXX' and now after 'TakeOver: XXX about, 'are you going to get in the ring again? Are you gonna wrestle again?'," McAfee explained. "And whenever I said, 'well, I haven't even thought about that.' I think people thought I was lying. No, no. I was only worried about that match.
"So whenever I was training, I was only worried about training for that match. Let me get through this match and then we'll talk about that on Sunday. Then Sunday obviously came, and I literally had to roll out of bed because I could barely stand up. And I was like, 'alright, I guess now we have to think about what we're going to do.' It really is how I do my life."
McAfee admitted that if he was asked to do another match at SummerSlam, he probably could not because of the pain he was in after his match against Adam Cole. He credited Dominik Mysterio for having his match at SummerSlam and going out the next night on RAW and doing another match.
"After coming out of the ring for the first time, I have a whole new respect for - not that I didn't respect the profession, I did respect the profession. But the next day feeling, for instance, Dominik made his debut as well," McAfee noted. "The Seth Rollins match was insane. I mean, he did a lot of awesome things. And then, Monday night, he was back in there with a full match.
"And I was like, hey man, if they were to call me on Sunday and say, 'hey we need another match out of you,' I don't know if I would have been able to do it. This is going to sound so ridiculous, but on Sunday, I was watching everything as, 'OK, how would I feel the next day if that happened to me?' That's how I'm watching everything."
Graves was announced for commentary soon before "TakeOver: XXX", taking the place of Mauro Ranallo. McAfee talked about how excited he was to have his friend call his match, and joked that he would have loved to hear Graves kindly critique him if he was bad in the ring. Graves also revealed that he found out he would potentially be on NXT commentary the night before the show.
"Me finding out that you were calling my match, I was so pumped. I was so excited for that," McAfee admitted. "I really was. Listen, obviously anybody that would have been calling him a match, I'm a fan of a lot of the commentators. I've had a chance to work with a lot of the commentators. That department under Michael Cole was a cool group of humans all together. Whenever I heard you were going to be calling it, you, and [Vic Joseph], and Beth [Phoenix], you know, she stormed off the set the last time I was there. And she was so nice to me during the match. It was just something that was really, really cool as a nice little bonus that I was pumped up about.
"It was really fun because I did your show a Thursday prior, and I had made a joke about how I might stop by and, full disclosure, I had no intention of physically being there," Graves added. "I was definitely going to watch, but then I find out Friday evening like, 'hey, you might be needed on Saturday.' And I went, 'oh, alright,' and yeah, I was just as stoked particularly for that match-up just because I was like, 'wow, I get to call my friend's big, special match.' And the fact that you didn't suck really made things better.
"And I would love to hear you dance around me being terrible," McAfee joked.
Graves also praised McAfee for thanking the NXT crowd after his match for the reactions. Graves said he was appreciative that someone from outside of the world of wrestling showed that kind of respect, and said that he will always be welcomed back because of that.
"Of all the things that you did this weekend that got the world talking, the old-school wrestler in me, the one that would be going, 'he doesn't belong here. He came from the NFL,' much like I was with Corbin who became one of my best friends," Graves stated. "The fact that after it was all said and done, I watched you walk around the ring and thank everybody for participating in the crowd who are all NXT wrestlers and up-and-coming talents. And from my perspective, I have the utmost respect for the fact that you did that.
"That was the coolest thing rather than just going, 'hey, thanks. I came and did my thing and I'm paying attention to my people that I directly have contact with.' The appreciation you showed for everybody, and I'm only saying this on this show because hopefully some of the talent listens to realize how cool that was, I just want to take my hat off to you for having that appreciation, and love, and respect for our world, and that is why I think you will always be welcome back."
McAfee said that he felt it was the right thing to do. He said as a wrestling fan, he hated seeing outsiders come in and not put in the work of knowing anything about wrestling. McAfee's goal for his match was to show that he respected the business, and he wanted to show his appreciation for everyone involved.
"Well, thank you for acknowledging that, but to me, it was the right thing to do," McAfee admitted. "With my match, I wanted to show respect to the business, and I think that was something that as a wrestling fan, I always hated when the outsider came in. When you watch most of these outsiders - not all of them obviously, there's some great matches that have happened. But the majority of them, it looks like the person didn't even attempt to learn about the business. They weren't a fan of the business or watched the business.
"For me, the biggest thing was that I want to respect this business. The people who have made a living in here, whenever they watch me, I want them to think like, 'OK, that guy at least cared about the business a little bit.' So for me, that was everything, and the fact that the the reception it was the way it was and the fact that people are out there banging on glass and everything like that, I was just very, very thankful, very appreciative, and very lucky for a spot at 'TakeOver: XXX', and I knew that."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit WWE After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.