@real1/Instagram

The man formerly known as Enzo Amore is ready to wrestle his first match in nearly two years. 

By Justin Barrasso
August 14, 2019

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Eric “nZo” Arndt: “I’m Going to Show People What I Can Do in the Ring”

The wrestling ring welcomes back a familiar face this Friday night in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Northeast Wrestling’s “Prison Break” show features the in-ring return of Eric Arndt. The controversial, enigmatic Arndt starred in WWE as the quick-talking Enzo Amore, but Arndt—now nZo—starts a new chapter in his career this Friday.

The show will be streamed live on the Highspots Wrestling Network, and takes place in the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, which is coincidentally where Arndt had wrestled his last match, a WWE Cruiserweight Championship defense against Cedric Alexander at a 205 Live house show in January 2018.

“You’re going to see a wrestling match this Friday, unlike the Enzo you were used to seeing,” said Arndt. “I am reinventing myself, I’m rising from the ashes, and you’ll start to find out this Friday that the only thing real in this business are the money, the miles, and me.”

Still able to elicit a reaction and traction based on his words, Arndt is undeniably talented with a microphone in his hands. But that all changes in Friday’s Northeast Wrestling match against talented young star Brian Pillman Jr., because Arndt won’t be talking once he steps between the ropes.

“I won’t have any entrance music and I won’t have a microphone,” said Arndt. “I’ve been training in boxing gyms and in MMA. You’re going to see ‘The Real 1.’ I’m reinventing myself as a formidable pro wrestler.”

Arndt was never known for his in-ring prowess in WWE, and he is aware of that blemish. But there is a reason for his seemingly maddening decision to take the microphone out of his hand on fight night.

“I loved my WWE career and it’s perfect the way it was, so I won’t give it a sequel,” said Arndt. “The character of Enzo Amore, the one who people loved and loved to hate, was put in a casket after the ‘Phoenix’ music video.

“The guy getting back into the ring at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center this Friday is me. I played a character on a television show that elicited a greater reaction than the guys hitting high spots, but now I’m going to show people what I can do in the ring.”

There will be plenty of people who doubt Arndt’s pursuit of a wrestling renaissance, but he is trusting his instincts and leaning on the lessons learned since he was fired by the WWE following a rape allegation. (Authorities in Phoenix declined to pursue charges, citing a lack of evidence.)

“Over the past year, I realized that I will never let anyone else dictate my happiness,” said Arndt. “2018 was the year that defined me. I got fired, then I found out my grandmother had congestive heart failure. So I took off from LA and drove back to New Jersey so I could live with my grandmother.

“It was so painful watching my grandmother, the woman who raised me, struggle and die. That was the year that taught me to handle pressure and adversity.”

Arndt’s also watched as his former tag partner, Big Cass, traveled a dangerous path battling depression and alcoholism.

“Watching Cass get back on his feet has been one of the biggest blessings of my life,” said Arndt. “I watched people laugh at him when he fell, and I’ve watched as he has returned to happiness. Nothing can tear us apart at this point, and nothing can stop us. When Cass is looking for inspiration, I tell him to look in the f---ing mirror. He’s on the exact path he should be.”

“I feel the same way about myself. It’s either know your role and shut your mouth or know your goals and run your mouth, and I know my goals this time around.”

With his return, Arndt will again add his own unique touch to wrestling.

When he wrestles this Friday, Arndt will be wearing boxing trunks with sponsor logos from brands including Modell’s, CORE Hydration, Steve Madden, Dogpound Gym New York City, Cult of Individuality and State of Fitness Boxing Club North Bergen.

“When I was with WWE, I got Champs Sports to give me a Champs Sports sneaker deal and had my own pair of Jordans,” said Arndt. “When I got fired by WWE, that persisted and now other people are making money in the shoe game and the fashion world. Now I’m going to be bringing new opportunities for brands to collaborate with independent wrestlers. We’re independent artists working in a social media driven market, and pro wrestlers need to be influencers and collaborate with brands.”

Arndt also drops his “Born in NJ” album this Friday, which has an album cover that is a tribute to New Jersey icon Bruce Springsteen. The album is six tracks and Arndt wrote every work, and also features rapper Velous.

“I’m doing this for all the fans who support my wrestling and my music,” said Arndt. “There’s no reason I can’t do both, and I can’t thank say ‘thank you’ enough. The people that say, ‘F--- you,’ I’m not even going to say it back. It’s not even worth my breath.

“But the people who support me, they’re such a blessing in my life. This new album features the track ‘Bury Me a G,’ which is the song that references my departure from the WWE.”

Arndt will also be in Big Cass’s corner at Northeast Wrestling shows on Saturday and Sunday, but his match on Friday is currently his only announced date for 2019.

“As it stands right now, this is the only wrestling match I’m signed to do,” said Arndt. “If the timing is right, then maybe you’ll see me again. The timing is right for this Friday against Brian Pillman Jr.

“I idolized Brian Pillman when I was a kid, and his son is one of the best cruiserweights in the world. He’s young, he’s hungry, and he has one of the best haircuts in the world. We’ll see just how good he is when he gets in the ring with me.”

Latest on Jon Moxley’s NJPW Future

Jon Moxley did not win New Japan’s G1 Climax.

After a hot start, Moxley dropped four matches and was unable to win his block in order to advance to the finals. His final defeat took place this past weekend in Tokyo at the famed Nippon Budokan venue, where he lost to Juice Robinson.

Moxley remains the IWGP United States champion, which is the title he took from Robinson in June. Their feud intensified with Robinson evening the score with a win of his own, opening the door for a decisive rubber match.

Kota Ibushi captured the G1, winning his block with an upset victory over Kazuchika Okada and a defeat in the finals over “Switchblade” Jay White. Ibushi is now slated to face Okada at January’s Wrestle Kingdom, which is a card that will include Moxley.

Moxley’s current deal with New Japan is said to run through the Tokyo Dome show on January 4, Sports Illustrated has learned. The third in his trilogy of matches with a budding star in Robinson would make for a compelling bout at New Japan’s biggest show of the year.

Dana White Confident Brock Lesnar Not Part of UFC’s Future

Brock Lesnar delivered a spectacular performance in the main event last Sunday at SummerSlam.

Lesnar bumped and sold for Seth Rollins, ensuring that the Universal Champion entered his new title reign with every ounce of momentum needed to carry the company.

The match lasted over 13 minutes, which is rare for Lesnar, whose prior two matches with Rollins had lasted a combined two minutes and 47 seconds.

Although he did not appear on Monday’s Raw, Lesnar is under still contract with WWE and will continue to return for big pay-per-views and whenever Raw is in need of a ratings boost. And his schedule is open, considering there are no future dates with the UFC.

UFC president Dana White spoke with Sports Illustrated and revealed that Lesnar’s legacy in the Octagon will live solely in the past.

“I don’t see Brock coming back,” said White, who also previewed UFC 241 with SI. “I don’t see Brock fighting in the UFC ever again. So that’s out the window.”

At only 42, Lesnar is in position to be a heavyweight attraction for WWE unlike any other in the entire industry.

The Fiend’s New Theme

Bray Wyatt’s stalk to the ring was a highlight of SummerSlam, with “The Fiend” carrying a severed Wyatt head atop his lantern—and a new theme song.

Grammy-nominated group Code Orange wrote and recorded the new “Let Me In” theme, which does an even better job capturing Wyatt’s frightening aura than his previous “Live in Fear” song.

Code Orange also performed live at TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2017, playing Aleister Black’s entrance song before his victory over Hideo Itami. The guitar solo at the end of Wyatt’s song will be incredible when it is played live, likely at WrestleMania 36.

After Wyatt’s thrilling entrance and squash of Finn Balor at SummerSlam, “The Fiend” was absent from this week’s Raw and SmackDown to build even more intrigue in his next appearance.

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

• Sasha Banks returned to Raw this week, immediately igniting the women’s division in WWE.

• Big news out of New Japan over the weekend, as KENTA joined Bullet Club… but even bigger is the potential return to the ring of Katsuyori Shibata. 

• WWE announced the return of the King of the Ring, which will be a 16-man tournament with the finals at September’s “Clash of Champions” pay-per-view; in honor of the occasion, here is Randy Savage’s coronation as king in 1989.

• Last night’s SmackDown was a very entertaining show, and the highlights center around the Roman Reigns storyline that included a star-making match for Buddy Murphy against Reigns, and some incredible interview work from Bryan.

• With just over two weeks remaining before All Out, the Young Bucks continue to build anticipation with “Being The Elite.”

• Brock Lesnar was spectacular in defeat this past Sunday at SummerSlam… here he is in 2002 against another SummerSlam legend, Mr. Perfect—and this match ends perfectly.

Conrad Thompson Previews “Grilling JR” and “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”

Conrad Thompson returns with two new podcasts on Thursday and Friday with two executives in the business, AEW’s Jim Ross and WWE’s Bruce Prichard.

This Thursday’s edition of “Grilling JR” will feature the show’s first Q&A.

“We’ve never had the fans ask questions before, but it’s cool with Jim because you can ask about today’s product, AEW, WWE, Japan, or WCW and the NWA,” said Thompson. “There’s some stuff on this episode that even Jim admits he’s never been asked before.

“My goal is for everybody to hear the real JR. Not through the WWE filter, not through a book, not through Twitter, but he really goes deep here and explains his wrestling philosophy.”

Friday’s edition of “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” will explore SummerSlam 2004, which saw Randy Orton defeat Chris Benoit in the main event to become the youngest world heavyweight champion in WWE history.

“That’s the night Randy Orton became the man,” said Thompson. “Then the next night, he was kicked out of Evolution by Triple H, which was the beginning of a very big storyline.”

The card also included Kurt Angle-Eddie Guerrero, John Cena-Booker T, and a triple threat Intercontinental title match between Edge, Batista, and Chris Jericho. But ultimately the night belonged to the 24-year-old Orton.

“We’ll look into specifically why Orton was chosen as champ from the WWE’s perspective,” said Thompson. “It will be interesting to see why there was a push for Orton, even though there were others just as talented, or maybe even more so, than him at the time.”

Tweet of the Week

Another reason I’m happy the Internet exists, brother.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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