WWE Champs The Undisputed Era & Shayna Baszler on Ruling NXT on USA Network
The superstars of NXT have much to celebrate the last few weeks. WWE’s youngest brand have been given its biggest platform yet, Wednesday nights for two hours on USA Network. And standing at the top of the mountain right now is the Undisputed Era. The foursome of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong hold the NXT, tag and North American titles respectively.
“To me this is the most important championship I’ve held in my entire career,” Cole said during a recent visit to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. “Considering the brand and the matches we’ve been able to put on, I’m so proud. And being on USA Network it’s even bigger. I’m proud of our crew, and I know our crew is filled with the best wrestlers in the entire world. For me to be the flag barrier and lead the charge, it leaves a special place in my heart.”
The 30-year-old believes the new cable home further solidifies NXT as a legitimate third brand. No more is it moving up to Raw or SmackDown. It’s more of a level playing field and another reason why it’s a cool time for pro wrestling in his eyes.
“You can like both. That’s okay. That’s the best part,” Cole added, referencing All Elite Wrestling’s Dynamite airing opposite to NXT on TNT.
Adding more meaning to this current run for the superstar is sharing the stage with his friends in the Undisputed Era. Collectively, draped in gold, they’ve become a dominant force in NXT.
“We’ve worked together in some capacity for over 10 years. I was in Kyle O’Reilly’s wedding. I was at Roderick Strong’s wedding. These are guys I talk to every single day,” Cole said. “…These are not just friends in wrestling but in my life. That’s a big reason the group is doing so well because the friendships and relationships are real. They can tell we are having a blast.”
O’Reilly agrees describing their bond as a genuine, real, unadulterated brotherhood. One whose origins go back to paying dues on the independent scene and working their way up the ranks of Ring of Honor.
“It’s as real as it gets,” he said. “…We’ve faced each other in the ring. We’ve teamed with each other. Now on this journey, we find ourselves on this journey together as a unit. It’s perfect.”
“I just want to present my authentic self,” Fish added. “This is me. This is how I choose to express myself. It’s what I want my children to know that from their dad. Don’t be afraid to be who you are…It’s authentic. I think as human beings you’re inclined to spot a fake. There is absolutely nothing fictional about this.”
The timing of their success comes at a time where competition is an all-time high. O’Reilly knows what a game-changer it is for NXT to secure a television partner in USA.
“It’s very exciting. It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “But Bobby Fish and myself always do extremely well under pressure. We’ve had the biggest matches of our careers, and it keeps happening. And we’re going to keep delivering.”
Strong certainly delivered winning the North American championship from Velveteen Dream in the main event of NXT’s first live hour episode on USA. To the Florida boy, it meant everything to know WWE trusted he and his unique opponent set the tone for what’s to come. The icing on the cake was winning.
“All the hard work and late nights, the same clichés. All the talks in the mirror. It’s about being true to myself and sticking to my guns as a performer,” he said. “To have them appreciate that and give me a great opportunity, it’s emotional.”
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Strong recalls watching his son holding the new hardware saying he was the champ for 40 minutes. It wasn’t until one in the morning when it hit the veteran what he, and his friends, have accomplished. .
“We feed off each other. We inspire each other. We ask each other questions. We try to help each other in every way possible,” Strong said. “We’re there to just listen. It gives you that safe place. It’s also the hard place because we set expectations so high. We expect excellence and are always trying to achieve that. We always reminisce of old times. It’s crazy where we’ve been and where we’ve gone here.”
Strong is also smiling these days witnessing the progress of his wife Marina Shafir, transitioning from MMA to WWE. One who has done a stellar job in that department is Shafir’s running mate Shayna Baszler, former UFC fighter who is the only woman to hold the NXT women’s championship twice including now.
“I think NXT has always placed an emphasis on the women’s division to begin with and the legacy the women’s title has,” she said. “To be a part of that and not just once but twice. It’s a huge honor. That’s not something I take lightly. I think if anything, just being thrust into the position that I’ve been in, you are either going to thrive or die. I think it has forced me to have to thrive. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve learned so much because I had to or else.”
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The “Queen of Spades” is grateful for the support of Jessamyn Duke and Shafir, who have lived and trained together during their MMA days. They attended fights and held each other accountable when it came to eating clean. Rounding out the Four Horsewomen is Ronda Rousey, who can be seen on the new season of Total Divas but not in a WWE ring these days. Baszler may not see the UFC Hall of Famer around the squared circle right now, but they maintain a strong friendship.
“We’re a team through and through. We stood by each other through wins and losses, though highs and heartbreak,” Baszler said. “Ronda wants to start a family right now. I don’t think wrestling is the best thing on earth. I don’t think anyone ever leaves. I think no matter what victories the four of us have or where we’re at, we’re going to celebrate them together. If it happens to be in the ring together, that’s another celebration.”
WWE NXT, Wednesdays, 8/7c, USA Network