Alex Zayne, aka former WWE NXT star Ari Sterling, sat down with Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman recently on The Wrestling Inc. Daily to talk about his time in NXT. When asked if the recent rumors of changes in the NXT brand were apparent, Zayne confirmed that there was definitely something up.

“Yeah, yeah definitely,” Zayne said. “I think, going in, there was this hiring influx and it kind of felt like there was a shift and change in the sense of ‘oh, they’re going onward and upward with this.’ Like NXT is getting a push itself. And then things just started to come off the rails. And everyone’s just like, what’s that Spongebob meme, where he’s like a caveman? There was a lot of that.”

Zayne was one of the thirteen wrestlers released last Friday evening by WWE, just before his match on 205 Live against WWE Cruiserweight Champion KUSHIDA aired. Despite this, Zayne appreciated his time at the WWE Performance Center, calling it a cool environment that really helped him improve as a wrestler.

“The Performance Center as a whole, which is so interesting, because when I was entering into that atmosphere, you hear all these sort of things going around,” Zayne said. “Especially in the wrestling community and on Twitter that’s like talking about how it’s kind of like this, I don’t know, turbulent sort of place. You hear a lot of different stories. But when I was there, everything was such a positive environment. It was a great work environment. And it was kind of unexpected. So at first I’m walking in, kind of on eggshells, right? And then I slowly was like ‘oh, it’s not like that.’ So it’s a very cool environment. I can really appreciate the entire thing that they’re doing down there. Obviously they’re going through, I truly don’t even know, but they’re going through something. I mean, you’re supposed to get lost in the sauce, not supposed to lose the sauce right?

“So they’ll figure it out. And so, a crazy, cool environment, and everyone there pretty much has the same aim in these sense that they want to do cool s**t. It was really cool to be in that environment, four and five days a week, just working on the craft. And I feel I grew a lot working in that environment too. But also, there’s so many people who you don’t see on the independents, because there are these world class athletes who are just coming into wrestling for the first time. Never stepped foot in a wrestling ring until then. So it’s such a weird mix of people, and of course it’s very diverse and stuff, with people from many different countries and such. It’s really cool, a really cool thing. And for me, that kind of helped in a way. I don’t have a traditional indie wrestling background. Mostly backyard stuff, yard boy, barely trained, just pulling it out of my ass really. So I was lucky to be in there with people who were new to the game too. So it felt a little less like the first day of school and more like ‘oh, we’re all in here trying to better ourselves and get better at what we’re doing.'”

Zayne also revealed the inspiration for the name Ari Sterling, which came from a character on a hit HBO show. He also touched upon why he didn’t feel it was a bad thing that he wound up on the 205 Live brand.

“Ari Gold was a character that I really liked from Entourage,” Zayne said. “And Ari Gold, Ari Silver, Sterling, Silver, that’s pretty much how that came about for me. I just thought that was funny. Like you asked about 205 Live? I thought it was great, even though a lot of people were like ‘oh they’re misusing him’, because I saw the trajectory of what I was going to be able to do as well. I didn’t feel like some people felt like ‘oh he’s going to get stuck on 205 Live or whatever.’ If I get stuck anywhere, that’s much more on me than the company in seeing the value.

“It’s just as much on me in any position, whether it’s independent or WWE or wherever I may go, it’s just as much on me to show them the value. If they’re not seeing it, then I have to be louder and put it out there more for them to hook into it.”

You can following Alex on Twitter @AriSterlingWWE

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