Cedric Alexander has charted out his future in WWE.
“If there is a title to win, I want it,” Alexander says. “Long-term, I want to capture the WWE championship. I want to be a grand slam champion.”
The 31-year-old Alexander is approaching his fifth year in WWE. In that time, he has had a run as cruiserweight champions, in addition to a brief period with the 24/7 title. He is fully aware that there will be many obstacles before reaching the WWE or universal title.
Alexander is driven by a quiet, determined inner strength, a skill gifted to him from his larger-than-life hero.
“I always looked up to my mother,” Alexander says. “My father was never around. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up and be the man that my father should have been, and I learned that by watching my mother.
“She is the most determined person I’ve ever seen, and she never accepts no for an answer. My whole life, I’ve watched people tell her she can’t do something, and then she works so hard and accomplishes her goal.”
A decade and a half ago, as his mother, Chestine Johnson, was raising two sons in Charlotte, she grew tired of working for someone else and decided to embark on her own career. Much to Alexander’s dismay, his mother started her business out of the family living room.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is ridiculous,’ ” Alexander says. “We had two computers set up in the living room, and at 15, I was supposed to be her tech guy. There were no resources, and she was somehow supposed to send out nurses to be care assistants. I just didn’t think it was possible.”
At that point, Alexander had only known his mother as the person responsible for raising and supporting him and his brother. That quickly changed, as he witnessed her display a combination of entrepreneurial skills, poise under pressure and an unwillingness to accept anything less than a standard of excellence.
“I literally watched my mother grow her business in front of my eyes,” Alexander says. “It went from the living room to an office, an office to a building, and then to a two-story building. In the span of two years, she erased every doubt. That’s the same thing I plan to do. She’s always told me, ‘Never take no for an answer.’ I heard for a long time I couldn’t make it in WWE, but here I am. And I’m determined to accomplish my goals.”
Alexander turned heel in September, joining the Hurt Business. He shares a longstanding history with MVP, Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin, making his entry into the group seamless both on and off camera.
“I’ve known Shelton since the start of my career,” Alexander says. “I’ve known MVP and Bobby for years, too, and we’ve always been really cool and tight. So this is an opportunity to work with some of my best friends.”
There is a 14-year gap in age between Alexander and Benjamin, but the friendship is the perfect backdrop for their new run together as a tag team.
“When I started wrestling state-to-state on the East Coast, Shelton was just hitting the indies,” Alexander says. “I remember running into him 10 years ago at a show in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and he was wrestling Christopher Daniels that night. I remember he watched my match that night, and he was really impressed. Ever since, we kept tabs on each other.
“I’ve said numerous times that Shelton should have been a three- or four-time world champ by now. If I could, I’d work singles matches with him all day, every day for the rest of my career. He’s an opponent I get excited about wrestling. You just know it’s going to be good, and he’s always teaching. I’ll always learn something new, usually the small things that people overlook, those small nuances that can make you great.”
Tagging with Benjamin against the New Day on this week’s Raw in a non-title match offers a rare opportunity for Alexander to work in the ring with Kingston and Woods.
“This is only the second time I’ve ever been in the ring with Woods and with Kofi,” Alexander says. “I just can’t wait to share the ring with Kofi. I’ve been watching him my whole career thinking, ‘I want to be in the ring with that guy.’ So hopefully Monday goes as planned, and I’ll be kicking the crap out of Kofi on Raw.”
The switch from protagonist to antagonist was necessary for a number of reasons for Alexander, primarily because it provides him an opportunity to showcase another side of his personality. An added bonus is that the heel turn allows him to work an entirely new slate of opponents.
“I needed a change of pace and the chance to let out a new side that people aren’t used to seeing,” Alexander says. “One of the things that made me love wrestling in general was my career in amateur wrestling in high school and college. Just being on the mat made me feel a type of aggression I wasn’t really able to produce in my regular life. Now, with the Hurt Business, this is my chance to let loose. Before, when I was frustrated, I couldn’t let it out. Sometimes being a bad dude just feels a lot better. I knew I needed this, and it feels good.”
Given their time together on screen, a natural rival for Alexander is Ricochet. Somehow, the wildly talented Ricochet has become lost in the WWE shuffle, but hopefully that will no longer be the case after a program with Alexander that ends properly in a pay-per-view blowoff match.
“I’d only worked with Ricochet two other times before this,” Alexander says. “A.J. Styles told me once, ‘You hit your friends hardest.’ I remember being in the ring with Ricochet right after the turn thinking, ‘I must really like him and he must really like me.’ I was trying to rip his head off and he had my jaw ready to fall off. We are very excited to have the ability to go out there and tell a complete story, and we have a lot of story left to tell.”
Pro wrestling is now a family business for Alexander. His wife is AEW star Big Swole, and every major event in his life can somehow be connected to pro wrestling. That does not mean that he has enjoyed a storybook career, as so much of his most compelling moments in WWE have went unnoticed.
Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy served as the cornerstones for the cruiserweight division on 205 Live, but those matches never received the recognition they should have merited. He is now met with a new opportunity, placed in the spotlight as a key member of the Hurt Business, to become the faces of WWE.
“I have a daughter, and every time I see her face, I want to make her proud,” Alexander says. “I have sacrificed to be here because this is something I love. No disrespect to those who came in from football or boxing or modeling and then fell into wrestling, but my goal was always to be in WWE. It’s been No. 1 since day one. I’ve given up relationships, missed weddings and missed funerals. You don’t do that for something you just like.
“I love this business, and I’ll love this business until the day I die. That’s how I know I’m going to accomplish my goals. Like mom said, ‘Don’t take no for an answer,’ so I won’t.”