Former NXT star Alex Zayne (Ari Sterling) appeared on The Shining Wizards Wrestling Podcast to discuss his time in NXT and the process of WWE bringing him in.

Zayne gave detailed explanation of WWE’s signing process, which was hampered due to the worldwide pandemic. He also noted how William Regal was the main person who worked with him joining the company.

“The courting process with me and WWE was kind of a lengthy one compared to a lot and some of that’s due to the pandemic,” Zayn recalled. “Like that kind of got in the way. I think the first conversation I had with WWE was actually before I ever went to Japan which was just four or five months after I went viral for the 630 and stuff. It came pretty quick and I originally reached out, and I don’t know how much of this I’m supposed to say, but whatever. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

“This was before the pandemic. I had tons of stuff scheduled for the summer of 2020, like it would blow this schedule out of the water. I had Japan again, I had Australia, I had Europe. A half dozen countries in Europe that I was going to do in a 30-day tour over there and that was supposed to be in August. I had all this stuff planned and I was already in talks with WWE then. It was like the first week in February 2020, I was supposed to do a tryout originally in WWE and I got that where I was going to do that European Tour, I was already trying to work dates out for it, I reached out to Jim Smallman to get me on PROGRESS.  He said, ‘I will gladly put you in touch with them, but if you ever wanted to give NXT a try, let me know.’

“He had started working with WWE. I said, ‘Of course I’m interested.’ It was like a day later, William Regal was calling me, and I was on the tour bus with New Japan at the time, and so I answered. They wanted blood work and physicals before the tryout. We were like seven days out from the tryout, and I was like I can’t get this stuff to you, I’m on a tour bus. He was like, ‘Okay, we’ll reschedule.’ Regal actually came and we met backstage at the final date in Atlanta for that New Japan tour in 2020. That was the first bit of the process and then we were rescheduling the tryout and then I got hurt at ROH in February where I wrestled Andrew Everett and I hurt my hurt my foot doing silly Alex Zayn things.

“I was supposed to be out six weeks, so I took three weeks off and taped it up.  Then, so we didn’t even get to the rescheduling. We were still trying to sort it out, and I was with ROH in Vegas the day the pandemic was announced. Of course, those releases came right off the pandemic from WWE. So I didn’t even bother reaching out because I’m not trying to get signed in a world of releases right now. So right on the back end of the pandemic, when things started to ease up, is when they called me and we went straight to paper and we skipped the whole tryout process and went straight to negotiations which was cool. It was a long process.”

WWE announced Zayne’s signing in December of 2020 where he eventually worked on both 205 Live and NXT. His time was cut short though after being released in August of this year when WWE let go numerous NXT stars.

“I think for me, every bit of it was good,” Zayne stated. “Every thing is good. That’s why the name thing is frustrating for me because they’re on top of their s*** for the most part. Every place and person and thing in the world has its faults, but overall the whole experience was incredibly positive. The locker room was incredible. The producers were awesome. The writers were cool. Everyone was super cool and just trying their best to do whatever they think is best, right? So, the most positive thing for me, on a personal level, would be just that I basically got paid to go to the wrestling Harvard for ten months. That’s awesome. Who can argue with that?

“When they called with the release, I was like, ‘thanks.’ [John] Lauranitis called and he was like, ‘Hey, I got some bad news,’ and I was like, ‘Thank you so much’ and you could almost hear it in his silence that he was caught off guard by the fact that I was cool with it. I immediately got off the phone, hung up, and called William Regal, because that’s who — at the end of the day — really brought me in, and thanked him for everything.  He was super helpful while I was there and remains super helpful and just like a mentor to me, and someone I’ll always keep in touch with to the best of our abilities. He seemed more broken up about it than I was.”

Since his release, Zayne has since appeared for promotions like Ring of Honor and GCW.