Just a week after “Universal Truth” came out, Elias found his second album climbing the charts all over music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. To his surprise, his gratifying EP took listeners on a bluesy journey towards his comeback story after being off TV for several months.
This week, Elias joined The Bump panel to walk them through how his return to the main roster came to be, and how excited the higher-ups were to have him come back on the show with such a strong note.
“When I got hurt last time on SmackDown, that’s really when this stuff got put into motion,” Elias explained about how his album came to be. “I’m going to reference the very first line in ‘Amen,’ how many times are they going to kill me? I don’t know if you remember, but Baron Corbin took a thing to my throat and I couldn’t sing, and my hand was messed up. He threw me off the ledge, and then I get hit by a car of all things. I was out of action for quite a while.
“I’m sitting at home and I’m thinking, how many times are they going to kill me and try to put my down? And I just wrote that song. I reached out to the WWE team, I said, ‘Listen, I really want to come back. I want to have an album for when I come back, whenever that may be, and they said they were on board. They said to write some songs and give it to them. I did that. I wrote about 10 songs. We narrowed it down, and that’s what we got, we got the ‘Universal Truth.'”
When Elias first came to WWE, his goal was to morph his love for music into his hard-hitting persona in the ring. It was “The Drifter” that captivated the late, great Dusty Rhodes’ eye, and from there, the rest was history. Elias compliments “The American Dream” for helping him create his most popular gimmick.
“It’s the testament of the eye that Dusty had for talent,” he complimented. “No matter who it was, you stepped up in that little promo room where you do your promos in front of him, which was a lot of high pressure right there. He was always able to pinpoint that unique special thing to that wrestler and say, let’s run with that.
“The very early incarnation of Elias, where I was ‘The Drifter,’ he saw that right away. He was like, ‘Dude, whatever you got right there, keep that going and never let that go.'”
Following his arrival on the black and gold brand, Elias admits NXT was the best time for him to begin honing his craft. He adds that, at times, it was no easy task.
“I guess it’s about finding yourself and creating yourself,” he began. “You’re put through the wringer in NXT, especially at the time I came up. You got to take those opportunities.”
There was a time Elias can recall where he felt completely lost in the shuffle. To gain traction among fans, he went around Orlando and performed to those who would listen. He says that experience opened the doors wide open for his in-ring career.
“I had a lot of great experiences doing that,” he exclaimed. “This is a behind the scenes story that I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about, but, you know, there was a time where I was not– the people in charge, so to speak, did not want me on their shows for whatever reason. So what I would do was go and get to know those people coming to our shows personally, and entertain them in my own way.
“So I took my guitar right out front of the buildings around Florida and I would perform for them. They started to get to know me, and eventually say, we want to get to know this guy. I loved it, man. I met a lot of great people.”
Whether you love him or hate him, Elias knows how to work a crowd. The loudest reaction he’s ever got, to his knowledge, was when he dissed fans of the Seattle SuperSonics two years ago. He never believed his comments could create such powerful feedback from the WWE Universe.
“I can remember they booed for such a long time, and so loud,” he chuckled. “I can remember, at some point, whoever was in production turned the lights up on the audience and you could just see everybody, you know, booing me, giving me the finger, and whatever. It certainly was a memorable moment.”
You can watch Elias’ full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.