Q&A: Neville on NXT, British wrestling and why he doesn't care what Triple H thinks of him
WWE cruiserweight champion Neville is preparing for his upcoming submission match against Austin Aries at Extreme Rules on June 4. The hard-nosed, 5-foot-8 superstar from Newcastle upon Tyne, England took time out of his schedule to speak with Sports Illustrated about facing off against Aries, the challenges of being under-sized in pro wrestling, and whether he takes pride in setting a standard of excellence in the business for fellow British stars like “The Villain” Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay.
SI.com: How much of your success do you attribute to the Performance Center?
Neville: I credit a lot of my success to the Performance Center, but I’m just naturally gifted, so that’s that.
SI.com: Do you feel an extra motivation to succeed and engage audiences with your style since you are a cruiserweight in the land of heavyweights in WWE?
Neville: Pound for pound, I’m unmatched. This has traditionally been the world of the giants. For those who are smaller, we’ve always been fighting an uphill battle. The cruiserweight division consists of guys under 205 pounds, but I don’t need to tell you what I do. You can watch me and then you’ll understand what I do and what I’m all about. I don’t want to labor the point. I’m not one of these guys who is going to build myself up to you for an over and put myself over. I do my talking in the ring. Austin Aries, however, is someone who is a better talker than he is a fighter. I am fundamentally a fighter before anything else.
This is a big man’s business, so for any guy who is considered undersized, you are constantly fighting an uphill battle. This has very much been a catalyst in my change in attitude. For too long, I have been overlooked. For too long, I have been disrespected. For too long, I had been too good. That is exactly why I have turned up in 205 Live, and that is exactly why I have behaved in the manner in which I have behaved recently. I am a product of this environment. I am inevitability, and now I am showing everyone what I am all about. I tried to play the etiquette game, the respect game, for too long, and it didn’t work out for me. Now I’m rightfully taking what is long overdue.
SI.com: Paul “Triple H” Levesque is a guiding force with the Performance Center, as well as the creation of the Cruiserweight Classic and 205 Live show on the WWE Network. What have you learned from Triple H’s guidance?
Neville: Hunter is a role model to everybody. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of respect for Hunter. Right now, I’m not concerned about him or his admiration or respect. All I’m concerned about, right now, is myself. I haven’t always been that guy. For the longest time, I was trying to please everybody, the WWE Universe included. Now, I don’t care. If Triple H likes me or dislikes me, that’s not important to me. What’s important to me is me. It’s taken me a long time to say that.
SI.com: What are your goals for storylines and feuds post your work with Austin Aries?
Neville: Domination, baby. Domination. I am going to continue to house keep my kingdom. I’m never satisfied. If you think I’m satisfied now, that would be a big mistake. There is a lot for me to do, and this 205 Live and the Cruiserweight championship are just the first steps. You can mark my words–this is just step one.
SI.com: Talents outside the WWE, specifically Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll, have mentioned your work as inspiring, especially for a fellow British wrestler. Are you grateful for their words of support?
Neville: That makes me giggle. Isn’t that cute? Try your best, lads. I’ll see you soon.