NZPWI had the opportunity to speak to WWE NXT Superstar Peyton Royce earlier this month.
Originally from Australia, Royce is a regular fixture on WWE NXT, and will be part of the first-ever NXT tour of Australia and New Zealand this December.
Royce spoke to NZPWI’s David Dunn about her first WWE live event experience, the origin of her name, advice for aspiring WWE Superstars, and more in this interview conducted October 6.
David Dunn: We’re here to talk about this WWE NXT tour of Australia and New Zealand. And you, perhaps more so than any other NXT Superstar, have an idea of what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence. You started out as a fan attending WWE shows when they came to this part of the world and now you get to come out as a performer, as an NXT Superstar. What was the first WWE live event you attended?
Peyton Royce: That is a great question. I want to say it was 2005. I can’t exactly remember what it was — no, it was 2006 because I missed seeing Eddie Guerrero live. That was the first thing I remember seeing so I would have been 14 years old, maybe. Ever since then my mum would take me every single year that WWE would come out, and not let me miss it.
I imagine she’ll be there then, at any and all of these NXT shows coming up, to see you perform?
Oh yeah! I have her front-row ticket but she doesn’t know yet.
I hope she doesn’t see this interview and get spoiled.
Yeah, imagine that! [laughs]
Where did the name Peyton Royce come from?
To be honest with you, I just loved the name Peyton. That was one that I sort of had my heart set on. And I was actually trying to find a last name that would match a different first name, which is where I came up with Royce, and then I combined the two and I fell in love with it.
Your first couple of matches in WWE NXT were quite significant. You made your debut against Sasha Banks, who was the NXT Women’s Champion at the time, and you wrestled Eva Marie in her much-hyped NXT debut. Did you feel any sort of additional pressure put on you knowing that there were perhaps more eyeballs on your first couple of matches than there may otherwise have been because of your opponents?
No, I didn’t actually. I felt very comfortable in there and I trusted my opponents. So the pressure didn’t get to me in a negative way. I used to to fuel me. Above everything I just was so excited to get out there, and it was a lot of fun.
When you first started watching WWE the women were still known as Divas. What’s it been like for you to see that Divas Revolution become the Women’s Evolution, and know that you’re down there in NXT ready to be part of the next phase of things?
Yeah, it’s been incredible. I came into NXT at a perfect time when this all sort of started happening and it’s something that I think, as a pro-wrestler, we all wanted and we all dreamed of this day to come. And we all dreamed of the day that women would be able to have the same sort of matches as the men were able to have and show the world that we were just as good, if not better than the men, and that we can definitely hold our own in their world. So it’s been really cool to watch happen but I’m really excited to get in there and be a part of it, in NXT and on the main roster. That’s something that I can’t wait to do.
What’s it been like having Billie Kay there with you throughout your journey? You came from the Australian independent scene and then you had the WWE tryout together and now you’re both on NXT. Is it quite comforting to have a familiar face there with you?
Yeah, absolutely, that’s a good way to put it, it’s very comforting. We sort of leaned on each other when we really needed someone. I can’t imagine how some of the other people came over here without anyone to lean on. Moving to a different country is quite stressful on its own. But it’s been amazing to have her with me, to say that we’ve been able to do this journey from literally the start, to do this together. Best friends don’t get to do that very often so we’re very fortunate.
Would a women’s tag team championship work on NXT, or indeed Raw or SmackDown?
Oh absolutely, with the way the women are working at the moment. That’s actually been mine and Billie’s goal from the start, we’ve wanted to pioneer the women’s tag team division so that’s always been on our mind. We’ve always pushed for that to happen.
Do either of you have aspirations for the NXT Women’s Championship?
At the moment that’s our foremost goal. Everyone wants that, but something that we want to do is make history and pioneer this [tag team] division. But it’s not a team sport, you could say, so everyone does have their eye on the one goal.
What do you think the key to your success is? And do you have any advice for aspiring wrestlers from this part of the world?
For myself, consistency was really big. This might sound obvious but it is so important to train constantly. You can never learn too much. I work every day with these incredible coaches at the Performance Center and I still learn something new every day. Consistency in training is very important. Wrestling on different shows with a whole bunch of different opponents who come from different areas of life. It’s just so important to get as much experience as you possibly can, and just always trying to evolve yourself and create something that no one’s seen before. It’s really… it’s on yourself. You can’t expect anybody else to make you succeed, you have to do it yourself.
You’re based in Orlando now, right?
That’s the site for WrestleMania 33 next year, which means a lot of Australians and New Zealanders will be thinking about making the trip over for it. Do you have any advice for potential tourists now you’re a local?
I mean, you have to do Universal and Disney and all of that. I don’t know if any of these are booked in at the time but every few months we do a WWE Performance Center: All Access. It’s where fans can pay a certain amount of money and see exactly what we do day-to-day in the Performance Center. If one of those is on around WrestleMania, which hopefully it is, that is a must-see. You can’t miss that.
As almost the opposite of that, what are you most looking forward to about coming back home to Australia and New Zealand?
Aside from obviously seeing my family and friends I think the biggest – well, not the biggest thing, but it’s the foods I can’t get here that I really want. You can’t get a meat pie here, you can’t get Tim Tams here. There are some things that I just want to eat and I can’t.
My final question for you… what would you say to someone who has seen WWE on TV but might be unsure about attending a live event?
These live WWE NXT shows, they’re really interactive. You might not necessarily get to see that on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown but they’re really interactive. NXT is touring for the first time so everyone is just raring to go and everyone is super excited to be there and show the world what NXT is about.
WWE NXT comes to Auckland and Wellington for the first time ever this December. Tickets available from Ticketek.