Swerve Strickland believes it took so long for him to get a push because NXT was so crowded and Triple H had his core group he liked to use.
Swerve Strickland, who went by Isaiah “Swerve” Scott in WWE, was released on Nov. 18 of last year due to another round of WWE budget cuts. Since leaving WWE he went to AEW and made his debut recently.
On a recent episode of Getting Over: Wrestling Podcast, Swerve Strickland talked about his experience working in NXT and why it took a while for him to finally get his big push.
“There was nothing I really needed to work on, it was just a timing thing,” Swerve Strickland said. “Of course, I wanted to get better and improve on certain things, but they still had Riddle there, they still had Damian Priest, Damo [Killian Dain] just came back, Finn Balor just came back down, Gargano, Ciampa was getting healthy, there was like a lot of talent still. Like Undisputed Era was running rampant, you know? It was just so many guys and then Lio [Rush] came back as well.”– H/T To Wrestling Inc. For Transcription –
Looking To Hunter For A Big Push
NXT has had that problem for a while. The brand gets a huge influx of top indie talent and it must be hard to decide who to push first and who to wait a little while on. It also probably doesn’t help that guys like Gargano and Ciampa just never wanted to leave or get called up or at least it seems like that.
Even though Swerve Strickland didn’t get his push for a while he didn’t just sit around. He used the time to learn what he could. He was also asked if he would talk to Triple H who was the head of NXT at the time to try to get the push he wanted.
“Oh yeah. Absolutely,” Swerve Strickland said. “I had four good, strong conversations with Triple H about it personally. I was like ‘hey, I want to be one of your top guys. What do I have to do?’ Straight up and I wasn’t like bullsh-tting and getting around anything, I was like ‘what do I have to do? Because I know I can do it.’
And every time I had a conversation, he boosted me up a little bit with my position. And that’s why I got into the Santos Escobar thing. Because it’s like ‘okay, I want more.’ Okay, then he puts us on Takeover for the Cruiserweight Title. I was like ‘okay, I still want more. What’s the hesitation to put me with these top dudes?’ It was just like placement and all this other stuff.”
A Little Tweak Equals A Lot Of Recognition From Important People In NXT
The match may have been a turning point for him during his time in NXT and garnered a little attention from higher ups, but his big push was still a ways out. However, the one thing which he believes was his turning point in the NXT brand was changing his look. After he did that he received some big support from Shawn Michaels, William Regal and Terry Taylor.
“I came back and I put the grills in my mouth and the hair color, and the things like that,” Swerve Strickland said. “The first person who really recognized that was William Regal. He was just like ‘that’s brilliant. I like this.’ And then Terry Taylor was just like ‘I see what you’re doing and now you stand out.’ Because Terry was just always about like ‘you always did great stuff in the ring, you always had great moves and stuff, but now I feel you just by looking at you. I feel something for you.’ So now it’s like ‘okay, I think you’re ready now.’ Now all the office was starting to get behind me and then having those conversations with Shawn Michaels, Shawn was behind me, so all the office was like, ‘alright, he’s ready to go.’
Sometimes getting the big push or having your character finally click is due to the little things. Look at Stone Cold Steve Austin and his Austin 3:16 promo. He was a popular star on the rise and after that promo it shot him to the top in not much time after.
Hit Row Demands And Gets Some Respect
Swerve Strickland eventually went on to attack Leon Ruff and turned heel after the attack. The height of his time in NXT was after having a good match with Bronson Reed on NXT, Strickland defeated Reed to win the North American Championship. This championship was his first and only championship he won in the WWE.
Strickland eventually formed the Hit Row Records faction and gained a big following with fans and within WWE. One of the most important people to take notice of him was Triple H. Prior to that he felt that Triple H liked him and respected him, but focused on his “core guys” to the detriment of the people on the outside of “Triple H’s core group.”
“I feel like he liked me and he respects my talent and my ability. But I don’t feel like he ever truly bought in and invested until I made him have to with Hit Row,” Swerve Strickland said. “He’s one of those guys like, he has those talents on the show that he knows and he’s well-acquainted with and it’s hard for him to deviate from those guys. When he’s set on someone, he’s set on them. Anybody who says that he doesn’t, like, I wouldn’t call it picking favorites, but if somebody says he doesn’t have his core guys, you’re one of the core guys. You know what I mean?”
Triple H definitely had the group of people he really liked and they continued to get their push. They were all well deserving of their pushes, but it didn’t leave much room for new talent to come up and fill those spots. Now NXT has a new crop of talent taking over those spots with the NXT 2.0 revamp. Some of those talented young wrestlers may have never gotten that push with Triple H still in charge.
Do you think Swerve Strickland should have gotten his push sooner in NXT? Do you think if Swerve Strickland had formed Hit Row Records sooner he could have achieved more success in WWE? Leave a comment below and let us know who you would have loved to see Swerve Strickland wrestle in WWE.