Christopher Lindsey has been wrestling since 2000. Over the past two decades, he has witnessed every major success in the industry while seeking to catch his own lightning in a bottle. Already one of the top performers in the world, he accomplished the defining feat of his career thus far when he was part of the massively successful faction The Undisputed Era.
Better known as Roderick Strong, he is now the leader of The Diamond Mine in NXT. But from 2018 to the early part of this year, Strong teamed with Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. Their run together was magic, serving as a career highlight for each performer and bringing out the best in all four men.
“That was the most memorable part of my career so far,” Strong says. “I’ll always be grateful for it.”
As to whether The Undisputed Era had more sand left in its hourglass or ended at the right moment, Strong notes that either side of that debate can be argued.
“I’m not going to say I was ready for it to end, but people had seen a lot of us together,” Strong says. “Had we stayed together and changed brands, that would have been a fresh start for us. But this opportunity came, we spoke about it, and we did it.
“It was the hardest decision of my career, even harder than leaving Ring of Honor. It had worked so well, and we grew together as performers in so many ways. But I trust Hunter [Paul “Triple H” Levesque] and Shawn [Michaels], and they want to see us grow. And if the opportunity ever presents itself to get back together, we’re going to be even bigger, which will make that reunion even better.”
Strong meets former Undisputed Era member Bobby Fish on Tuesday night’s edition of NXT, which again airs on SyFy due to the Olympic programming airing on USA Network. This is a proving ground for Strong, particularly considering he is in a new role, and he is grateful to be able to show his worth in the ring against someone as talented as Fish.
“Bobby has some very educated feet,” Strong says. “He brings a very special standup style to pro wrestling that makes him very unique. We bonded when we traveled Japan together, and we know we always give each other our all. So Bobby is going to show the world what he can do, and I’m going to unveil some new tools in my tool box.”
Another of Strong’s former Undisputed Era teammates, Adam Cole, is in the news after a report that his WWE contract will expire later this month.
“Adam’s going to do what Adam does,” Strong says. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m just focused on the areas of my life that I can control. For me, when I’m not working, I’m focused on my family. But of course, I wish the best for everybody.”
Similar to the opportunity afforded to Cole in The Undisputed Era, building a new entity with Diamond Mine represents a chance for Strong to be spotlighted as the focal point of a group.
“Starting The Diamond Mine, it’s been invigorating,” Strong says. “This is my opportunity to be ‘The Guy.’ That is so motivating to me, and I love this kind of stress. Without pressure, there are no diamonds. The chip on my shoulder keeps growing, and I know what I want to do. We’re going to incorporate a lot of parts of our real lives. Martial arts have helped me grow as a human since my buddy Josh Rafferty got on me about it in 2012. My wife Marina [Shafir, a mixed martial artist and former WWE wrestler] is immersed in it, and she’s done it since childhood.
“Plus, these guys depend on me. I love that. My cup is full when everyone succeeds. Tyler Rust is a star, he just needs the opportunity. It’s the same with Suzuki [Hachiman]. They need to test themselves, and they’re going to respond fantastically. And [Malcolm] Bivens, man, he’s been a special addition. We have a lot to prove.”
Before coming to WWE, Strong made a name for himself with the California-based indie promotion Pro Wrestling Guerilla, which is a showcase of the future stars of the industry. PWG returned to action on Sunday for its first show since the start of the pandemic, which brought back memories of when Strong finally won the company’s top title in a match against O’Reilly (who had previously defeated Cole) nearly seven years ago, in December 2014.
“I posted that picture on Sunday night from when I won the title,” Strong says. “My wife Marina’s in the picture looking at me, and that’s the first night we’d ever met, so it’s a special night for a lot of reasons.
“Winning the title in PWG was my opportunity to show myself to the wrestling world. I wanted to do more of that in The Undisputed Era. I was able to show a different side of my personality, especially my confidence and charisma. Diamond Mine, this is another opportunity to show it.”
Strong now sets his sight on new pieces of championship gold, narrowing in on the cruiserweight title—with an eye, ultimately, on the NXT title.
“There are a couple titles that I still need to get my paws on,” says Strong, a former North American and tag champ in NXT. “I sent a message to [cruiserweight champion] Kushida, and eventually he’ll respond. That’s what I’m waiting for, and that’s a title I want. But I’m going for every title.
“I’m on a mission, I have a lot to prove, and I’m excited for people to see the progression of this character.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached atJBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.