0 of 8
WWE‘s highest-grossing and most-viewed SummerSlam of all time last weekend just so happened to be Riddle’s first. After just over a year on the main roster, he and Randy Orton opened the show and defeated the duo of AJ Styles and Omos to become Raw tag team champions.
At a time when the red brand’s ratings have never been lower and the overall creative direction of the show has been highly questionable, RK-Bro have consistently been one of the best parts of of the program since they joined forces in April.
From Elias and Jaxson Ryker to The New Day to now Styles and Omos, they have knocked off a number of teams in their pursuit of gold. More importantly, those tag titles are merely another stepping stone for Riddle on his path to superstardom.
WWE hasn’t had the strongest track record of booking NXT call-ups properly over the years, but The Original Bro has been one of the few exceptions along with Damian Priest and Rhea Ripley. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for him the entire time, but his ability to make anything he’s involved in entertaining has helped him tremendously.
In the wake of a historic SummerSlam, Riddle spoke with Bleacher Report about Roman Reigns taking credit for the show’s success, Brock Lesnar being back, hitting his stride with RK-Bro, and much more. Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide and read on for the highlights.
1 of 8
Despite being called up to the main roster in the spring of 2020, Riddle was left off last year’s SummerSlam card. It was a blessing in a disguise as it allowed him to make his debut at the event in one of the biggest installments WWE has done to date.
Per WWE, it was the most-watched installment ever now that it’s on Peacock in the United States. In addition to a sellout crowd of 51,326, merchandise sales went up over 155 percent from the 2019 installment in Canada.
Riddle doesn’t find the success of SummerSlam to be much of a coincidence given his presence on the pay-per-view.
“I’m not here to brag, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “But all I’m saying is that RK-Bro was there, we were in full effect, we opened the show, we won the tag team championship, and yeah, I’d say we played a part. When you put Randy with Riddle, RK-Bro, the Original Stallions, the Original Gangsters, bro! We bring it to the table and we bring that entertainment to the table. Bro, SummerSlam was insane. I’ve been to Vegas for fights, I fought in the UFC, but I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something of that magnitude.”
The Original Bro was born in Allentown, PA, but is billed from Las Vegas. He clarified that he sees Vegas as his second home because of all of the life milestones he got to experience in the near-seven years he was there.
That made his moment at SummerSlam all the more monumental.
“It’s one of those things that seems almost surreal,” he said. “I was thinking about how I met my wife there and started a family and had my first UFC fight there with Ultimate Fighter, and then to be back in that city and see those familiar faces and see my friends and my family, see all my bros that followed me from MMA all the way to WWE, for them to experience that experience in front of 50,000 people with me…it was amazing.”
2 of 8
Roman Reigns got in hot water with fans over the weekend for taking shots at CM Punk and stating that he isn’t a “needle-mover” in the same way John Cena and The Rock once were for WWE, leaving fans to wonder whether he was one himself.
It wasn’t long after the news broke on Tuesday morning that he took credit for SummerSlam’s success because his bout with Cena was the headlining attraction. Of course, it was an in-character tweet, but there’s no denying the roll he’s on right now and how there is some truth to his tweet.
Riddle reacted to Reigns’ response in the only fashion he could: brutally honest.
“No disrespect to Roman, he seems like a swell fella, but at the same time, it’s like when people say they’re a good parent,” he said. “You know what? If you were a good parent, your kids would be telling you you’re a good parent. When he’s saying ‘Acknowledge me’ or ‘I move the needle,’ no, you don’t. You’re related to The Rock. Shut up. Like, I’m not impressed, I can beat you up in a real fight. So, shut your mouth.
“You’re not moving needles. I’m the real stallion, RK-Bro is moving the merch, we’re moving the needle, and that’s it. I don’t want to say too much, I’m not trying to get in trouble. Hey, hats off to him. He’s amazing at what he does. I do like what he does, but at the same time, it’s like, get off your high horse. You’re in that spot for a reason. You’re not a bro. You’re second generation. I’m first generation.”
3 of 8
Although he hasn’t been wrestling for as long as a majority of the active roster, Riddle has no complaints about being on the road with WWE as much as he has been lately. If anything, he considers it an improvement over what he was doing on the independent scene.
In the span of a few days, he traveled from Las Vegas for SummerSlam to Denver for a house show the next day to San Diego for Raw and finally to Stamford for WWE’s The Bump on Wednesday. It was a hectic stretch of four days for him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People talk about the WWE grind and I get it, but when I was on the indies, when you’re the top guy on the indies like me or Zack Sabre Jr. or Keith Lee at the time, I would fly internationally every weekend,” he said. “I was flying to Mexico or Canada or England every weekend and doing tours of America and everything else, but I was making a lot less money and I was struggling. Yeah, this is easy. My job is awesome. I know people complain, ‘Oh, I’m so tired.’ Yeah, well, get some sleep. I don’t know what to tell you. I sleep on the airplane. I love traveling, I sleep on the plane, and put my neck pillow on.”
Riddle added that he took only one weekend off during his entire time on the indies and that he has yet to take a day off since signing with WWE.
He loves the WWE grind and would rather be on TV wrestling if it means not getting replaced or seeing his spot go to someone else.
4 of 8
Riddle has been very vocal over the years about wanting to retire Brock Lesnar from wrestling. He said as muchwhen he was in NXT, which reportedly led to a not-so-friendly interaction between the two backstage at the Royal Rumble in 2020.
Lesnar apparently made it clear to Riddle that he never wanted to work with him, but that hasn’t stopped The Original Bro from pitching the match. To be fair, there is definite intrigue about the bout among fans given their respective MMA backgrounds and how Riddle has been portrayed as an in-ring threat so far in WWE.
Riddle became aware of Lesnar’s return at SummerSlam on Saturday shortly before he showed up at the end of the evening to confront Roman Reigns. He made the comment that The Beast Incarnate made the correct choice by going after The Tribal Chief and not him to avoid enduring a legitimate beating.
“Brock came out at the end of the show,” he said. “I saw a sign on a door say Mr. Beast and I was like, ‘Who the hell is Mr. Beast? I got a feeling that’s Brock.’ You know, hey, I’m glad Brock’s back. Fans missed him and he’s one hell of a competitor. I personally think he went for the wrong man—he went from Roman—but people love that Universal Championship, so I get it. I think they’re both doing the right thing because they don’t want to get hurt.”
Riddle revealed in a recent interview with Sony Sports India (h/t Wrestling Inc) that he and Goldberg are now on decent terms after burying the hatchet. That said, he has no expectations of the same thing happening with Lesnar.
“I don’t see Brock doing that,” he said. “The way we talk to each other when we talk to each other, he is not a fan. He thinks I’m extremely arrogant and disrespectful.”
5 of 8
Riddle and Randy Orton were the tag team fans didn’t know they wanted until they got it.
The tandem came together on a whim following their respective losses at WrestleMania 37, and it was the best thing that could have happened to either of them.
Riddle needed direction while Orton needed a reset of sorts, and thus RK-Bro was born. They instantly developed chemistry as partners, and the way The Viper has acted toward his teammate has been fantastic television.
“Dude, me and Randy, we just get it. But we really enjoy each other’s company,” he said. “I enjoy his work, he enjoys my work. He respects me for my background in mixed martial arts and even Goldberg respects me now for my passion and my grind and the work I put in and that I don’t take shortcuts and I always want to have a hard-hitting great match.
“For me and Randy, when we work together, it’s a beautiful thing, we’re at different points of our career, but mentally, we’re at the same point. He’s just so smart and knows what he’s doing. Literally, he’s probably helped save my jobs multiple times. There’s not a bad thing I can say about him. I just really like Randy. He makes me happy, he makes me a better wrestler, [and] he makes me a better person.”
Riddle noted that it took time for him to win Orton over, with The Legend Killer coming from a drastically different period. Despite that, he’s managed to change The Viper’s mentality as well as other stars from that same larger-than-life era.
6 of 8
It isn’t often that a top star from NXT is called up to the main roster and treated as well on either Raw or SmackDown as they were on the black-and-gold brand. Riddle has been one of the few exceptions aside from an odd period late last year when the material he was given to work with for his promos wasn’t the greatest.
Now that WWE has returned to the road in front of live crowds, it’s clear he is over with the audience. His pairing with Orton has been a huge help, of course, but he’s managed to maintain his momentum from NXT and win more matches than he loses.
In the span of a year and a half, he’s won the NXT Tag Team Championship, the United States Championship, and now the Raw Tag Team Championships. Riddle always had his sights set on being a Raw Superstar, and he feels never being content in NXT is why he’s been so successful on Monday nights.
“It means the world to me to do well on the main roster and, as you said, as far as people coming up, my thing is that, not that I don’t like NXT, but my goal was never NXT or being NXT champion,” he said. “My goal was the main roster, WWE, trying to be on Raw. Not that I don’t like SmackDown, but my goal even when I got called up at first was I wanted to be on Raw. I grew up watching Raw. Raw is War. The War Zone, baby! I wanted to be on that product. It’s something that’s near and dear to me.”
Getting the aggressive push that he has and being a focal point on the flagship show is certainly not lost on Riddle. Damian Priest and Rhea Ripley are another two examples of stars who have done well for themselves since graduating from NXT, although others haven’t been as fortunate.
“I’m stoked I’m in the position I’m in and being used the way I am and everything else, but with [some people], our goal wasn’t NXT,” he said. “Some people set themselves up for certain things, but my goal was to be a main roster Superstar. Rhea Ripley’s goal was to be a main roster Superstar. Damian Priest’s goal was to be a main roster Superstar.
“I think that’s why we’re having the success we’re having. Not that we didn’t mind the stuff to get here, but our goal was this. I think a lot of people were happy with NXT. My goal was always to use it as a stepping stone to get to WWE.”
7 of 8
It’s no secret that Riddle has been notorious for getting heat on himself over the years and speaking out of line at times, but he’s tried to take a different approach since arriving on the main roster.
He admitted he always used to do things without permission and would simply ask for forgiveness later. However, he quickly realized that isn’t how he should be navigating the waters on Raw if he wants to make it to the top of he card.
“I used to be a firm believer in doing something and asking for forgiveness later,” he said. “That was my mentality. After taking to Randy and stuff, I ask before I do things. The other day, I grew out my facial hair at SummerSlam to look like Randy. I had the mustache and the flavor saver and the goatee and I colored it in so it was really dark so you could see it.
“I showed Randy and he died laughing, but he said, ‘You have to run that by Vince. You can’t go out there like that, you can’t go to Gorilla. If he doesn’t like it, you’ll be screwed.’ So, I took Randy’s advice. I talked to other people who said, ‘Oh, just do it.’ I said, ‘No, I got to talk to Vince.’ I talked to Vince and he said, ‘Hey, I think it’s hilarious, but I want you to be yourself. I want you to be you. So, take it off.’ I said, ‘For sure.'”
8 of 8
Riddle’s on-screen persona in WWE is almost identical to who he is in reality. Thus, it should come as no surprise to find out he legitimately forgot his lines during a backstage segment on Raw earlier this year.
Upon running into Asuka backstage on the March 29 edition, he started asking her whether she shared a love for scooters. He then tried to tie it back into Japan, failed to do so, forgot his lines, and rode his scooter out of the shot thinking it was part of a rehearsal.
It wasn’t, and as a result, the WWE Universe was treated to one of those most memorable moments in recent Raw history.
Riddle explained in our interview that not only did he win over Orton with his botch, but everyone among the powers that be were fans of his hilarious approach to it.
“I’ll tell you this,” he said. “When I got back to the locker room, Randy Orton, just before RK-Bro was a team, he goes, ‘Hey, Riddle. I don’t know if that was planned, but best promo yet.’ And he walked away. If I’m being honest, that was not what was written. They had me talking about robot fights and Tokyo underground battle bots, there was a lot there. In my defense, they waved me over and I thought it was just a rehearsal.
“I roll up and say, ‘Yeah, yeah. Do you like scooters? Do you want a scooter? OK. I forgot what I was saying.’ And I just roll off. And as I roll off, I see everybody behind the camera … waving me down. I said, ‘What? Wait, was that live?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘Nooooo!’ I thought I messed up so bad. I was like, ‘Shoot. I can’t believe I did that.’ But then [producer] Bruce [Prichard] and everybody thought it was better than what was written for me.”
Regardless of whether Riddle can continue to follow the script going forward, he has a bright future ahead of him in WWE.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.