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Meet NXT UK's James Drake: Shawn Michaels' advice was 'literally words from god'

GiveMeSport | Updated: 2018-09-28 01:45:13

It got to the point where it would have been neglect on the WWE's behalf not to create it's own UK brand - the talent was far too strong across the Atlantic.

Thanks in large part to Triple H, NXT UK has now been born and one of the stars who continues to trend upwards is one James Drake.

Many fans might know Drake as one-half of the Grizzled Young Veterans, a year old tag team that has won tag gold in Progress Wrestling (twice) and continue to amuse with their pranks against each other on Twitter.

Hailing from Blackpool, just like the man that discovered him, William Regal, Mr. Mayhem had never left the UK before December 2016, even though he had about 700 matches under his belt at the time.

Since being signed to the WWE at the tail end of 2016, he's taking his talents all over the globe in a bid to grow and develop. He went and competed in Florida for WrestleMania 33 at WrestleMania Axxess, then onto France, Italy, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, China, New Orleans again for Axxess at WrestleMania 34, NXT live events in Florida, New York, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, back to China and Germany.

GiveMeSport caught up with Drake ahead of NXT UK's next pitstop in Plymouth to discuss how NXT UK has been going thus far, how the new brand has impacted him and what fans can expect moving forward.

Despite WWE being one of the biggest companies in any walk of life on the planet, the 25-year-old believes NXT UK has captured a special vibe in its infancy that is almost impossible to fabricate.

"Something that I think is really cool: this is the brand that everybody in the UK really wanted," Drake said. "Obviously, we perform and do the show, but like anyone - like you're a movie star, a TV star or a band that has done a local gig, you check online to see what people are saying about the product, because you want to work on it or whatever - and everyone is just raving about it.

"Obviously, we know that WWE is a huge entity, but NXT UK still feels like punk rock to me. It's the alternative. And, obviously, that's what NXT has always gone for, but that's what it feels like and it's great."

NXT UK is the brainchild of WWE legend Triple H, but he has a team around him including the likes of Matt Bloom, William Regal, Johnny Saint and, not to mention, the Heart Break Kid Shawn Michaels.

HBK's involvement in the project has been a dream come true for Blackpool-born Drake during his WWE adventure.

"It's so surreal when you're mentored by the same people you used to have action figures of. For me, Shawn Michaels defines wrestling. He's a guy who captivated me as a kid, captivated me through my teens and he's never stopped. So for him to give me advice and help me grow as a professional, it's literally words from god.

"It's so surreal, and at the same time, Triple H is a guy that I booed and hated as a kid; he's given me so much advice. We've got William Regal, Matt Bloom, Jonny Moss, Robbie Brookside - he taught me how do European uppercuts when I was 15 in Morecambe. I don't think I'll ever get used to it - this is my dream."

Drake is a man that's all business in the ring, but he's extremely relatable too. His passion for the business is evident in almost everything he says and the fans in him has never left him. In fact, it appears to drive him.

His story of meeting Vince McMahon late last year sounds as intimidating and overwhelming as nearly every wrestling fan would imagine.

"Last year, I got to meet Vince McMahon. We were doing 205 in Manchester straight after AJ Styles beat Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship - follow that, right! We were on straight after and man, that was scary.

"For me, he [Vince] is the creator of everything I know. Growing up, I had so many little things that I liked. I liked Star Wars, I liked superheroes, all these bits and bobs, but they filtered in and out as I grew up, they never were stable. But since I was four-years-old, wrestling has been and forever will be a staple of my life. It was always WWF/WWE. And to then actually see the guy who created everything that you obsessed about for years and years... you just have to sit down. But, Unfortunately, I couldn't sit down I had to go out and wrestle!

So, what's the NXT UK dressing room like? With the cream of the crop from the UK vying to make their mark in the biggest wrestling company in the world, one could be forgiven for thinking it's like shark-infested waters, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

"It's real hungry. We're all dead supportive. It is a big team, we all know we are a team and this is ground zero. We're all there to help each other and to progress, we're all there to help the brand expand and get better and better. We want wrestlers to grow up in a scene where they didn't know there wasn't an NXT UK.

"Myself and Zack Gibson have our own training school in Maghull and we're always telling the lads 'If you really wanna go for this and you actually want to make a career out of this now, you've got to do it'. You can't be tip-toeing around it, you've got to kick the door down because it's right there.

"I've been in so many locker rooms down the years and the best thing I've picked up about the NXT UK locker room is no one is making a name, and no one will make a name for themselves, at the expense of anyone else. We're all there as a unit and we're all there to make NXT UK better.

"We've got an NXT UK flag hanging up in our training school so when we do this speech, we point at it and we say 'it's right there. This is a thing. This is real'.

Drake also says he'd love to team up with 2018 UK Championship Tournament winner Gibson in NXT UK down the road and WWE legends Edge and Chris Jericho are his dream matches to have in NXT UK. Of course, Edge is impossible at this point, but you never know why Y2J might turn up...

You can watch James Drake and the rest of the WWE NXT UK roster live at Plymouth Pavilions on 13 & 14 October, tickets still available on www.livenation.co.uk

LISTEN TO OUR LATEST PODCAST WITH OUR FULL PREVIEW OF WWE2K19 AS WELL AS INTERVIEWS WITH COVER STAR AJ STYLES AND XAVIER WOODS


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