Impact World Champion Rich Swann was on the latest episode of Talk Is Jericho ahead of his big Rebellion Title vs. Title match against AEW World Champion Kenny Omega. Swann began his pro wrestling career in the mid-to-late 2000s, and he discussed why WWE was always a dream for him.
“Once that was the final place to go in 2002, at that time, I knew I wanted to be a wrestler. That was the only place that you could go if you wanted to be a star,” Swann noted. “That was definitely always in my head. That was always where I wanted to be.”
Swann got his start in in CZW, Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE before he signed with WWE. He revealed who was influential in helping him get signed to WWE.
“I was wrestling with EVOLVE and Dragon Gate, and a rapper by the name of Wale, he had saw a match between myself, and Uhaa Nation, who goes by Apollo Crews now, Ricochet and another wrestler that goes by AR Fox, who is super talented, one of the greatest I’ve ever seen and one of the best high-flyers I’ve ever seen,” Swann said. “And Wale, he puts out a tweet. This was in 2014, so Twitter’s just starting to get hot. It’s just starting to get that weight.
“So here goes this famous rapper, Wale, and he puts us over. ‘Hey, these are the guys you need to look at,’ and he puts myself, Uhaa and Ricochet out there. And next thing I know, I’m getting a call from Canyon Semen, and I see the 203 number. And at this time, I had no clue who he was or anything like that, and apparently, Wale had spoken with Mark Henry. And Mark Henry saw my work through Wale, and he liked it.
“And I was fortunate enough that he put a word and helped me out, and they saw my talents. And I’m getting this call, and I’m seeing the 203 number. And I’m like, alright, so that’s Connecticut. There’s no way. This isn’t real. I pick it up. He’s (Semen) like, ‘Hey, are you Richard Swann? Nice to talk to you.’ I’m like, oh man, this can’t be real. He’s like, ‘Hey we got a tryout set up for you.”
Swann continued where he described the tryout that he did. He also described his mindset at the time especially with the perception of him being a “smaller guy.”
“Next thing I know, I get this tryout at the beginning of 2015, and man, it was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through,” Swann admitted. “At that point, physically in my life, that tryout was just so exhausting. They push you to the limit. I went in there, and I was doing my drills that I do in Japan and Dragon Gate and just doing everything I can, but I’m not the biggest guy in the world. I’m not going to lie. I’m not the strongest weightlifter in the world.
“When it came time to do the weightlifting and seeing all the bodybuilders, and the athletes and all these guys that are jacked to the gills, I’m like, whoa, how am I going to make this? So I went in there pushed 100%, but still, they told me no. They said, ‘Hey Rich, your time and this tryout, ‘you’ve earned your spot here’ was the words, and at that point, when I heard that, I was like, oh snap, I’m about to get signed!
“Yes, oh snap, I’m pumped, but ‘unfortunately, just because of the size and stature, we can’t hire you at your age. I’m 30 now. I was 23. I don’t know. I guess too young at that time. I just took that and just kept going and kept going. People were there and kept pushing me, and I didn’t let that deter me to get where I wanted to be. Next thing I knew, I got another call and another email, and they signed me to WWE.”
Chris Jericho asked Swann what made WWE change their minds. Swann explained the growing wrestling scene at the time.
“I feel there were a lot of other promotions getting hot at the time like Lucha Underground and things like that,” Swann recalled. “I know that they were possibly, at that time, thinking about starting the cruiserweight division back again, so I think that must have been something that they looked at, and they said, ‘Hey, maybe we can use him for this down’ And they signed me to NXT.
Swann then talked about his short time in NXT as well as his inclusion in the Cruiserweight Classic. He noted how groundbreaking it was for WWE fans.
“I was in NXT for maybe a year and a half before the you know did the Cruiserweight Classic,” Swann stated. “Once they did the draft thing, Shane and Stephanie, they took control of RAW and SmackDown. The last 16 guys that were in the Cruiserweight Classic were on 205 Live as the new cruiserweight division. It (Cruiserweight Classic) was awesome. I hope they do it again. For the first time, fans got to see Zack Sabre Jr. Kota Ibushi, that was the first time WWE fans were exposed to Kota Ibushi.”
Many 205 Live alumni have praised the show and its loyal fanbase. However, 205 Live’s launch is largely remembered for it’s lackluster crowds especially with fans leaving when the show began after SmackDown was done taping Swann talked about why 205 Live struggled when it began.
“At the time, it was, oh man, I’m about to be debuting, but then, as you’re in it and looking back in through it, it’s like, man, there’s so many people not only in WWE, but in this new brand that we’re about to try to push to this massive audience,” Swann pointed out. “There’s so much content. There’s so much going on.
“Everybody that’s being put out is just going to get lost in the shuffle, and nobody’s going to understand who and what they are because there’s so much. I thought it was great to be in it, but looking at it now, I don’t know how much of a good idea that was just because you got so many people. How can you connect?”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.