For the past month, Rhyno has had everybody talking with his triumphant arrival in NXT. With a storied twenty year career so far, this is the next exciting chapter for The Man Beast. I sat down with him at House of Hardcore 8 at the famous ECW Arena in Philadelphia to talk about his emotional return to the WWE and how much it means to him.
Alex Obert: How was your first appearance in NXT set up? It came out of nowhere.
Rhyno: Yeah, it really came out of nowhere. I was just finishing up a loop one day and they’re like, “Hey, you wanna come down to NXT?” I’m like, “Yeah.” That’s all I’ve heard about, NXT this and NXT that from the fans. Really, if you’re gonna make a splash, you want to do it where everybody’s talking about.
Alex Obert: What was the feeling like when you walked out of the curtain for your first match?
Rhyno: I was ready. If you look at all the competitors in NXT from the Divas to Kevin Owens the champion, from the guy that just got there, they have something to prove and nothing’s gonna get in their way until they prove it. They want to prove that they’re the best. They’re there for a reason. They may have felt rejection, I mean look at me throughout my career. I think that as human beings, we understand rejection and we don’t like it. When you’re rejected, you have nothing else to lose. And when you have nothing else to lose and you’re competing in the ring, you’re a pretty dangerous competitor. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Alex Obert: Who has your attention on the roster right now?
Rhyno: Gosh, who doesn’t? From top to bottom, you see it in their eyes and you see it when they go out there. They’re hungry. You see it everyday when they get up. I don’t just tune into the program, I see who’s working the hardest in that Performance Center. I see and I listen and I hear and I ask questions. I have been in wrestling for twenty years, I have a lot of friends and I have eyes and ears in all different places. Not that I’m spying, but I’m asking questions and I’m doing my research. There’s a lot going on.
Alex Obert: Are these younger guys teaching you a thing or two?
Rhyno: I feed off of their hunger and I feed off of their passion. And it makes my passion grow even more. My passion is still there after twenty years. With age comes experience. But with youth comes something grand too. I’ve been very blessed. Being thirty nine, I feel like I was when I was nineteen. But let’s face it, I’m not nineteen. But they feel me and I make sure I feel them.
Alex Obert: So I understand that the recent NXT live events were pretty exciting.
Rhyno: Well besides my five stitches underneath my eyebrow and some sore ribs and a sore arm and sore back, I took out a victory at NXT in Cleveland. A hard-fought victory. From what I’ve seen what I’ve seen in Florida and every event I’ve performed at with NXT, the crowd has such a passion because they know all these guys and girls have something to prove. Every match stole the show, especially the women’s match. The champion Kevin Owens went out there and stole the show too. That main event match was just a heck of a match. But the women, they push us harder. By watching them, you’re like, “Man, I’ve gotta step up my game!”
Alex Obert: One week after your arrival, Brian Kendrick made his NXT debut.
Rhyno: He’s so talented. I remember a match Kendrick had in 2005 with Jay Lethal for the Pure Championship, it was a thirty minute match, unbelievable.
Alex Obert: So now that you and Brian Kendrick have come to NXT, who would you like to see next? I was talking to Bully Ray earlier, he does have a school in Florida. Perhaps a visit is due.
Rhyno: I think if he made a visit, it would be a big visit. Bully, he’s intense. Definitely! There’s a lot of guys out there. I think instead of driving back to Detroit, I’m gonna run behind the car for a couple miles! (laughs)
Alex Obert: In 2005, you had one of the most interesting years in wrestling. You got released from WWE, you appear on RAW and at ECW One Night Stand two months later, then you debut in TNA the following month. How did you feel about all that?
Rhyno: Well I was released from WWE for a little incident, but it’s not a secret. It involved alcohol and I was going through a difficult time in my life. Alcohol wasn’t an issue, I just happened to be drinking. And I was very irresponsible. As a man, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Every action. There was no physicality, I just threw a flower pot. I laugh at it now and my ex-wife laughs at it now. But like I said, you have to be a man and stand up. No matter what was said or done, there is no excuse for the behavior. And when you behave, you have to be responsible. I understand what I had to do, I had to work hard and work towards the indies. We already had the One Night Stand booked and I fulfilled my commitment with that. They wanted me to honor that commitment and we did good business. We professionally parted ways. They were good on their part and did everything as far as they were contractually obligated to, they did not try to mess around or anything. It was just one of those things where it was a very good learning experience. But it was a good situation for me. I made it a good situation by learning from the mistake and that mistake becomes an error, then I move forward in my career. I put my nose to the grindstone and worked to keep my career going. I moved forward, there’s no dispute about it. I began to create some good memories like working with “The Monster” Abyss, he’s a great talent. I worked on the independents and developed a great relationship with the fans. I met and interacted with them, one on one, on a smaller intimate level. You have that time and you have that ability. When you’re doing the bigger venues, it’s harder because there’s so many more fans and it can get chaotic.
Alex Obert: In closing, now that you’ve lived the experience, what does NXT mean to you?
Rhyno: At this moment in my life, the fans of NXT and their passion, I see that same emotion and that same passion and that same drive from all the fans that I did fifteen years ago. I see that same passion and drive from the performers that I did fifteen years ago. They had something to prove fifteen years ago in the company that I worked for, we all know the company that I’m talking about, don’t even have to say it. They were rejected, look at each and every single talent, they had something to prove. Stone Cold Steve Austin was fired from WCW, they said he’d never make it and that he’d never be anything better than a midcarder. Where did he go for six months to prove his worth? He had something to prove because he was rejected and he proved it in under six months. Then he went to WWE and within six, seven months, he started taking off. The rest is history. Kevin Owens has something to prove. Sami Zayn has something to prove. The list goes on and on. Finn Balor. The list goes on and on. It’s the same stuff that happened then, people crave that same passion. There’s a lot of great wrestling out there and there’s a lot of great things happening in wrestling, just with a little different formula. And that brings a person alive. That brings me alive. I feel alive all the time and I feel great, but this makes me feel really young again. The fans and their passion makes me feel really young again. You’ve just gotta feel it. Whether you’re in the crowd or in that ring, it brings you alive.
Alex Obert: Beautifully said. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and I sincerely wish you the best ahead.
Rhyno: Thank you for your time!