Great interview with D-Bry from GQ Magazine.
GQ: In the last couple of weeks, you've experienced a real groundswell of crowd support. Was this a surprise?
Yeah, it really was, especially the reaction last week in Miami for Monday Night Raw. I didn't expect that at all. How could you?
GQ: Monday was a special night. What were you thinking as the night went on and the chants just kept going?
I thought the whole thing was unreal, that all these people were getting behind me. Or maybe they weren't getting behind me. Maybe it's just fun to chant "Yes!" But it was really cool. I came out and did a post-show [non-televised] dark match, and there was a really special moment where they were behind me 100%.
GQ: Do you have any ideas as to why it's happening right now?
Especially last week in Miami, I feel like part of it was a backlash against how short my match at Wrestlemania was. A lot of it is that people like to boo me, but they kind of like me. They don't want bad things to happen to me, like an 18-second loss at Wrestlemania, especially the hardcore fans, which is mostly who comes for Wrestlemania. People come from all over the world. They travel to Wrestlemania, and a lot of those people know my story, how long it took me to get a Wrestlemania match. And then for my first one to be an 18-second loss, it actually generated a lot of anger.
GQ: Do you share that anger?
Of course I do. I was World Heavyweight Champion for four months. I wanted to go out there and steal the show. I was trained by Shawn Michaels, and that's what he's notorious for. I've always had the mindset that my wrestling is as good as or better than anybody out there. I was really looking forward to going out there and showing everybody what I can do on the biggest stage of them all, and then I just wasn't able to do it.
GQ: What was the conversation like when you were told that the match was going to go down like this?
I mean, there wasn't much of a conversation. This is my job, you know? You have to do something, and even if you don't like it, that's what you do. But you go out there and do the best that you can. I went out and did the best entrance I could possibly do. You just do your best; that's all anybody can do.
GQ: There have been moments where WWE has been notorious for not doing what its audience wants. But with all the chants for you and how much you've been catching on since Wrestlemania, it seems like the company wouldn't be able to ignore that.
Well, for example, [this week] I wasn't on Raw. There were loads of "Yes!" signs in the crowd, but I wasn't on Raw. There's always a lot of things that go into that; it was a hectic show. But yeah, there's some stuff like that that happens.
GQ: Moving forward, what would you like to be doing?
I would like to have a more aggressive side to my character. Losing the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds, storyline or not, is going to anger somebody. If you've been champion for four months and you lose it in 18 seconds on what's kind of a cheap shot, you're going to be a little bit angry. I'd like to amp up the more aggressive side of my character in that sense. But as far as what happens from here, who knows? I'm hoping that the fans keep getting behind me. Even if they do the "Yes!" chant in a mocking sense, I want them to see me in the same light that they've seen me before, as one of the main event guys on Smackdown.
GQ: Are there any people in particular that you're hoping to work with?
I'd love to actually get a good match with Sheamus [laughs]. Last year, Sheamus and I were supposed to wrestle for the United States title, and it got bumped to the dark match before the show. This year, we were supposed to wrestle for the World Heavyweight Championship, and it was 18 seconds. Sheamus and I don't like each other, but our styles fit together very well. We're both very hard-hitting wrestlers, and we both want to go out there and steal the show. That's true at any pay-per-view, any show, regardless of whether it's Wrestlemania or a live event in, say, Athens, Georgia. We want to be what people are talking about when they leave.
GQ: You and Sheamus were both wrestling at little holiday camps in England a few years ago, right?
Yeah, it's true. Sheamus obviously spent less time in independent wrestling than I did. But I spent a lot of time wrestling in high school gyms in front of 35 people. But I've also spent a lot of time in Japan, wrestling in front of 55,000 people. I've done both ends of the spectrum on the independent scale. But yeah, five years ago, me and Sheamus could've easily wrestled each other in front of 40 people in some little town hall in England.
GQ: Where did the "Yes!" chant come from? Was that your idea?
It was really just, "How do I be as obnoxious as possible?" The "Yes!" thing came from a UFC fighter named Diego Sanchez. He's a tremendous fighter, but he also has these little obnoxious aspects to his character. One thing that he used to do—he doesn't really do it anymore—is that when he would come to the cage, he'd say "Yes! Yes! Yes!"—not the same way I do it, but as some sort of positive affirmation that he could win the fight. I thought, "I love this guy, but that's so annoying!" And then when I became a bad guy, I started doing it, and it really worked out. Speaking of Diego Sanchez, he also did something ludicrous in his last fight: Brandishing a cross in front of him like he was warding off a vampire. If my character has to change at all, I might do that [laughs].
GQ: I loved your title reign. It would've been cool to see you just crush some more people, but the way your character was the guy who would sneak away with the win, I thought it was really well-done.
I was really thrilled with it, actually. I didn't expect to hold the title as long as I did. When I won it, I thought, "Oh, this is just a temporary thing. I'll probably lose it at the Royal Rumble." It cemented me, in a lot of people's minds, as someone who could be in a main-event spot and do a good job at it.
GQ: How hard is it to find good vegan food on the road?
Oh, it's so hard. I've been doing media all morning, so I had to be on the hotel lobby at 5:45 this morning. We had an hour between two interviews, so trying to find a vegan spot here in Virginia that's open that early was tough. But we found one! It's harder late at night, after shows. If we finish work at 10:30 and we've got a 250-mile drive, it's hard to find anything vegan, so I just bring a lot of protein shakes and stuff like that.
GQ: Which cities have the best food option for you?
I love Chicago. We'll be there for Extreme Rules at the end of this month. I love Seattle because that's where I'm from and I know all the spots. One of the places I love flying into is Baltimore. There's this vegan place right across from the airport that I always go to, and that's always a real treat. But in major cities, I can always find someplace good.
GQ: You're a big indie rock guy; what have you been listening to lately?
Right now, I'm really digging this English guy named Frank Turner. He was opening for someone in Vegas recently, where I live, and I just missed him. We had a show on a Saturday, and I had to fly out on the Friday night, which is when his show was. He's my current favorite. And I also have a hit single with Kimya Dawson. She did the soundtrack for Juno, and she was part of the Moldy Peaches. It wasn't a hit single! [laughs] I did a song with her about Captain Lou Albano.
GQ: Is music something you want to do more of?
No, no. I have a horrible voice. We recorded it just because she was making this tribute to Lou Albano. She knows me, I'm a wrestler, and she loves wrestling, so she was like, "Hey! You do backing vocals." I'm actually rapping, of all things. I don't think I have much of a career as a rapper.
GQ: The documentary Wrestling Road Diaries shows you on the road in your independent days, and it's got you buying records from thrift stores in all the cities you visit. Do you still try to find time to do that?
It's hard now because I don't ever have time to listen to records. I left Vegas on Sunday, and I won't be home for 25 days. On the independents, I'd only be wrestling two or three days a week. I'd go to Japan, and I'd be gone longer, but normally I'd be home four days a week and I'd have time to listen to records. Now, we're on the road so much and I'm home so infrequently that it's just not worth the money. I was spending like $250 a month on records, but I just don't get a chance to listen.
GQ: How difficult is all that travel? Does it wear you down?
The most draining part of it is that there's not a break. You don't get two weeks to let your body heal unless you're actually hurt, and none of us want to get hurt. There's no point where you can take a breather from it all. Raw is live every Monday, so you never get more than four days off in a row, and that can be taxing. That's the way the whole thing goes.
GQ: Do you find yourself missing the independent scene, or are you happier with the WWE?
There are positives and negatives to both. I wanted to come to WWE party for personal accomplishment. I'd done essentially everything I could do on the independent scene, and I wanted to see how far I could get in the WWE. But also, you can only do this for so long, and at some point you have to try to save enough money to retire or at least to put yourself into a position to do something else. But what I miss most about independent wrestling is the people. I have a lot of friends in independent wrestling, and those bonds develop over 10 years. They don't come quickly. In the WWE, it's such a competitive atmosphere. There are only a few top spots, and then the rest of them are independent spots; you don't really create the bonds and friendships that I had on the independents.
GQ: But a bunch of indie guys are coming to the WWE now, right? Like Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero?
Yeah, and I'm excited. I hope those guys get up on the road. That would be cool. But they're still down in the developmental system right now. Taking that step up from the developmental system to TV, you never know why they're going to bring somebody up. They could be down there a couple of years. My friend Tyler Black is wrestling in the developmental system as Seth Rollins; I'd love to have him come up to TV. That would be cool for me, but who knows when that's actually going to happen?
GQ: Do you have a favorite match that you've wrestled in the WWE?
I don't have a specific favorite match. I had a series of matches with William Regal, and some of them were in England, where those people are so behind William Regal and so anti-me. And this is when I was a good guy! I just loved that. William played a big part in my training; he was a mentor to me ever since I was 18 years old. It was just a blast for us to go out there and wrestle like only we could do it.
GQ: How about in your years before WWE? Do you have a favorite match or a favorite feud?
It's hard to say. I always loved wrestling Nigel McGuinness, and we had this match in England. Those people just loved Nigel; he's English. I ran his head into a pole, and he started bleeding furiously. That crowd was so with him. It was one of those matches where, at the end, you feel like you've accomplished something, like you really touched the 1200 people there. That's something that I miss about independent wrestling as well: The intimacy of those crowds. That was one of my favorite matches ever.
GQ: You've known CM Punk for a long time. On the indies, you used to call yourself "Best in the World," and he's adapted that as his catchphrase. Did he clear it with you beforehand?
No, he didn't [laughs]. Literally, we haven't talked about it at all.
GQ: You're not annoyed about it?
No, not at all. Chris Jericho had done something similar after I had done it. The only thing that I find really funny is that the "Best in the World" font on the back of his T-shirt is almost identical to the "Best in the World" on the back of my Ring of Honor shirts. It's just funny.
GQ: Punk used to use Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" as his theme music on the indies, and the WWE recently licensed it for him. You used to use Europe's "The Final Countdown." Has there been any talk of you getting that in the WWE?
There has been zero. They've never mentioned getting anything licensed for me. Maybe things will change. But you know, I like the "Ride of the Valkyries" mix that I've got going on now.