When it comes to WWE developmental, some talents spend a short time in NXT while others spend multiple years there. Elias falls in the latter category, as he was an enhancement talent in his early days before forming the character he now utilizes on the main roster.
Elias discussed his evolution in NXT and how long he spent there on Table Talk w/ DVon.
“A lot of people think I was there for a few months and then showed up on Monday Night RAW, but I was actually there for three years and maybe two months,” said Elias. “You had probably seen the shell of who I was, and that’s about figuring out the character, and who I was, and how I wanted to present myself to a worldwide audience. So that took some time, and I had some injuries. I had broken my tibia during a match with Andrade at one point.
“There was a process there, but once I became ‘The Drifter’ in NXT and I started singing songs before my matches, that’s when, all of the sudden, the crowds got louder, the crowds got bigger. All of a sudden, Elias is in the main events of NXT and traveling a lot more. I can remember Triple H calling me aside and saying, ‘Okay, now the hard work begins.’ I was there for a couple of years for sure.”
Elias’ Drifter gimmick developed a cult following before exploding in popularity. It’s the type of gimmick which works best in front of a live audience that reacts with every word or musical note that comes from him.
Elias has received some polarizing reactions over the years, and he was asked what was the biggest fan reaction he ever received.
“Seattle is absolutely up there because they booed for such a long time and so powerfully. In fact, I couldn’t even do anything at one point. I remember just setting my wrist and my hand across my guitar and going, ‘Okay, I’m just going to let them let it out because they are upset with me,'” recalled Elias.
“I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do and be able to play with the crowd when we had a live crowd. There was a time in Buenos Aires where I started singing a song that was very special to this country, that I actually had no idea how special it was. The entire arena sang it with every ounce of energy they had. They sang that song at the top of their lungs with me in the middle of the crowd.
“It had to be one or the other for sure. As a bad guy, the Seattle, and as a good guy, Buenos Aires.”
D-Von Dudley is more than just a podcast host these days, as he’s also a WWE producer. He’s produced several of Elias’ matches over the years, and he asked Elias what his favorite D-Von-produced match is.
“I want to say the Six-Pack Challenge on Monday Night RAW with Jason Jordan, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, possibly Jeff Hardy, [and Matt Hardy]. I remember having so much fun in that match, and D-Von can produce any genre of matches but it seems like when multiple people start getting involved, he just got these ideas,” stated Elias.
“I just remember we did that match, we had D-Von on our side, we come back and the big guy [Vince McMahon] is very happy with it. He’s very happy with me. I got D-Von to thank for his input there, so, that one kind of stands out to me.”
Elias wrestled on the indie circuit for a number of years before joining NXT in 2014. He was asked about his wrestling training and who helped prepare him for WWE.
“First off, I trained out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There was a school there called IWC [International Wrestling Cartel] Wrestling School and the main people that worked with me were a wrestler by the name of Shirley Doe Super Hentai and Shiima Xion was his name. He’s currently in NXT under Joaquin Wilde,” stated Elias.
“I was there to get started, and then actually, for a few months before I was with you, I would go down on the weekends. I wasn’t booked to Louisville and I’d train with Rip Rogers.”
Earlier this year, Elias suffered a torn chest muscle that required surgery and sidelined him for five months. He just returned to action in October and was drafted to RAW after spending the last year-and-a-half on SmackDown. He talked about adjusting back to life in WWE and experiencing the Thunderdome for the first time.
“I’ve been doing the in-ring performances I normally do, and it’s just very interesting because I’m pretty much out there– I’m a guy that almost exclusively works with a live crowd. In my entrance, in my opening shtick when I strum the guitar and I play off them, I react off them. So, you almost have to create your own reactions or the way you want to in the meantime. It’s definitely an adjustment period, but I think there’s an opportunity to have new moments occur because of this.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Table Talk w/DVon with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.