Since making his professional wrestling debut (post-MMA career) in 2015, Matt Riddle has always had a certain charisma that makes him stand out from his peers. Known as “The Original Bro,” his chill, laidback demeanor—he wears flip flop to the ring and then wrestles barefoot—draws you in, only for you to stay even more invested due to his brutal in-ring ability. And also because he says the word “debut” like “debutt,” which is pretty funny.
RondaRousey.com recently got the chance to interview “The Original Bro” Matt Riddle on his day off, and he spoke with us about how he balances being the ultimate bro and functioning in the competitive world of NXT/WWE, his general wrestling philosophy, and his personal opinion on the mystery of who stole Stokely Hathaway’s CD player.
First things first: It’s your day off and you’re relaxing. So what is a non-wrestling mode “Bro” like? How do you relax? Or are you always kind of in wrestling mode?
I can turn the switch pretty easy, work it pretty easy. But I’m pretty relaxed all the time. Like right now, I’m watching The Conjuring with one of my kids. They like the horror movies and so do I. And I play a lot of video games. I do that. I have wrestling mats at my house, so I stretch a lot, and just wrestle my kids and stuff. I guess that’s probably how I figure out all the cool new moves to do. That’s about it. I mean, I hang out on the recliner a lot when I’m at home. But yeah, I chill out, for sure.
So you’re a horror movie guy. Is that your number one genre?
I would say it is my number one genre for sure. And then it’d probably be comedy. Probably after that, it would be cartoons or anime or something like that.
Are you watching any good new shows?
Good new shows… I like bad TV, and I’ve been watching—I’ve been following the Jersey Shore since season one. And now they’re on Double Shot at Love with Pauly D and Vinny. So I’ve been watching that on the MTVs. But, I don’t know, before that… There’s a bunch. I watch the normal: The Walking Dead. … Barry. Barry is on HBO, that’s a good one.
Barry’s a very good show.
Yeah, I feel like it’s more obscure. I’ll watch Venture Brothers or something like that. It’s not mainstream like [the] sitcoms where they have the laugh track. I can’t do the laugh track. Where it’s like, “Ha, ha, ha, ha.” And I’m like, “Ugh.”
Like they’re telling you when to laugh.
They are telling you when to laugh. “We told a joke. Laugh.” And it’s not funny. I’m not laughing.
One of our writers recently wrote a piece looking back at Catch Point. Do you have any stories or memories about that particular time in your career?
You know, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was finally catching my groove on the indies. I was taken under the wing of Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, and TJ Perkins—TJP. And [Fred] Yehi was also part of the group. And it was good. It was just a really good faction. It was basically what I believe in. Even though we’re friends and we’re on the same team, you wrestle each other, be super competitive, and compete. Because we all wanted to be the champion. But we also had respect for one another. And that’s what made us Catch Point. It was a philosophy.
But it was fun. And it was … where I was growing a lot and I was getting more opportunities, wrestling guys like Cedric Alexander and Trevor Lee at the time. It was just—for somebody that’s only like a year and a half in or so getting to work with all of them and be part of a pretty good stable… I would say, one of the better-looking stables in the last five years. Bullet Club’s pretty decent, you know. But I would say Catch Point, we were a really good looking faction looking back.
So when you had your match with Drew Gulak in NXT—which was great, by the way—how excited were you to get in there and do that?
Oh, I was stoked. It was great. And then when we wrestled, of course, the producers were trying to be like, “Hey, what are you going to do?” And me and Drew were like, “Well, this is probably going to be the finish, and I’m probably going to hit this and this.” And they were like, “Well, when?” And we were like, “We don’t know.”… We’ll be like, “It’s in this order,” but we were not sure how we were going to get there. We might just do some strikes, we might do a sequence of grappling. It might be maybe a running spot, we don’t know.
And we went out there, and honestly, that’s still one of my favorite matches since I’ve been to NXT.
You obviously know Gulak so well, but now that you’re in NXT, what do you prefer: wrestling people you’ve wrestled before on the indies or the new experience of wrestling people you either didn’t get to face on the indies or homegrown, Performance Center wrestlers?
With me, I consider my style of wrestling like sport wrestling. I think Gulak would be the same. He has kind of a similar mindset. And there’s others as well. I don’t hurt anybody but I’m extremely physical. I feel like it’s just more competitive, you know?
And we’re trying to push one another to have a great match. And it doesn’t matter if I’ve wrestled him before or if I haven’t wrestled him at all or if they’ve been grown in the PC. If they have that edge or that mentality—they don’t just want to show up and collect a check or get an opportunity and view this as easy, but they actually want to work, because I like to work—then, I’m all about that.
I’ll have a good match with anybody, but you have great matches with those people. And I think that’s what separates NXT as well and guys like me, from other places and other people.
Is there a match that you haven’t had in NXT yet that you’re really looking forward to?
I would say, the match I’m really psyched on and I don’t know if it’ll ever happen… But I feel like I couldn’t wrestle [him] on the indies … he left right before I got there. And now I feel like I should wrestle [him] but we always have teamed: That would be Johnny Gargano.
I never, never wrestled him. Never touched. Never locked. Never locked the horns. I don’t even think we’ve played in the ring.
I think I’ve shaken his hand, that’s about it. And talked to him. Other than that, we have done nothing.
Wow, I didn’t even realize that until just now. But on the main roster—besides Brock Lesnar—who do you really want to wrestle?
Well, I mean, there’s so many people. But I would say, Cesaro’s been up there. His athleticism and style, you know, [basically] that’s what I’m into. And then like an AJ Styles, Andrade, Finn Balor—I mean, the list goes on. The main roster has a ton of talent. But it’s just a matter of getting the opportunity and the right amount of time. You know how it goes.
Of course. As for the past of the business, what were the matches and who were the wrestlers that ultimately inspired you to actually become a pro wrestler?
I don’t know if it was specific wrestlers but it was specific matches. Maybe like Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels‘s Ironman match. That match, how competitive it was, how hard they went, the reactions from the crowd. And then, guys like Jerry Lynn and Rob Van Dam, the competitive matches they’ve had. It’s just the sequences and everything. … I mean, there’s others. … Kurt Angle’s another one. I just like people that bring in a very competitive mentality to pro wrestling.
How did the past few years of the grind of the Independent circuit prepare you for NXT and WWE as a whole? What was the biggest difference coming from that world to the world of the Performance Center?
The thing with wrestling here is it’s just on a bigger stage, it’s more important. And I feel like sometimes there’s a different level of professionalism and … it’s a little harder. You gotta focus on a lot more things. You can’t just be like, “Oh yeah, I forgot to do that but it was still good.” You’re not just performing for the audience in front of you there, you’re performing for the audience at home.
So I feel like that’s the biggest thing. I feel like that even though they have bigger and better cameras, I feel like sometimes it’s harder for them to get the angles they want. Because there’s so much going on. But I feel like in the indies, you had three guys with camcorders just running around the ring. Like dude, they don’t have any cords or anything.
You’ve said it’s pretty easy for you to turn off wrestler mode, and you’re obviously you’re known for being a very chill guy. But how do you handle it in an industry which can be kind of cutthroat, ruthless, with people stepping on top of each other to get to the top? How do you handle that when you’re “Mr. Laidback?”
Well the thing is, I’m also really competitive too. And I understand wrestling’s not just about being good at wrestling or having buzz or trash talk, but you also have to play politics. And I think that’s a big aspect of wrestling I don’t think people understand.
And I don’t think I’m overbearing. I think in any environment, workplace, or whatever, you’re going to have people that are a little more aggressive and demanding and stuff like that. Or maybe do that and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it around. I mean, it’s everywhere. People always politic for themselves. But there’s different ways of doing it. I just feel like my approach is just very laid back. You got to take everything with a smile and kind of kill everybody with kindness. And I work really hard.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I might say something or do something that people don’t like, but at the same time I feel like I make up for it.
And what has been the biggest hurdle for you, moving from MMA to pro wrestling? What was the hardest part about all of it?
The hardest part is going from when you’re actually hurt and not showing anybody anything on your face because you don’t want them to know you’re hurt, to barely getting hurt and showing the world that you’re dying. The selling. Selling was probably the hardest thing for me at first. Because if somebody’s knocked out or just lays there … there is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. And it’s hard to be good at selling. That’s probably the hardest thing in wrestling. In my personal opinion. There’s probably people who are like, “Oh yeah, sell? Oh yeah, everybody knows how to do that.” I feel like little kids know how to do that. … [But] if you’ve been fighting for years or competing as a grown-up, it’s hard to sell.
So then what was the easiest thing to adapt to, going from MMA to pro wrestling?
I think it might have been easier depending on some of the things I was told early on in my career. … What I do now in pro wrestling, I use some pro wrestling moves, but I use mostly MMA moves … and submissions in wrestling. And I don’t run the ropes much and stuff like that. I feel like at the beginning of my career, they all told me just to do pro wrestling.
Which is fine, and I’m glad I did because I really learned to do a bunch of pro wrestling moves, but … going from MMA to wrestling, I was just trying to stay as true to that. Like, throwing head kicks, throwing knees, throwing elbows or forearms or whatever I can. I can kind of land but not hurt people, so I always miss their head and stuff like that.
Do you think that more MMA fighters should consider pro wrestling?
It’s fun, I love it, but I also love pro wrestling. And I always have. But it’s really hard. I mean, it’s really hard in the sense, just learning how to do everything. And then the politics of pro wrestling are way different. The mannerisms are way different, to make people happy. And the locker room thing is—there’s not one right answer, right? There’s different locker rooms all around the country. And I’ve wrestled all around the country, around the world. And it’s different everywhere.
So essentially, even at the higher level, if you’re on RAW or SmackDown or NXT or at Full Sail or whatever it is, every locker room’s a little different, depending on who’s in the locker room and where you are and all sorts of things. So, it’s just one of those things.
Alright, are there any wrestlers in NXT and WWE that you think would do well in MMA?
I don’t know. I mean, somebody like Keith Lee, I think could really devastate somebody if he landed a punch. But he also doesn’t train mixed martial arts and stuff. But I’ve also seen the guy jump up and do a spinning heel kick, do backflips and all that, and he weighs like 350 lbs. So then if he cut down to like 285, get him a meal plan or something, and really focus, and just made the weight, he’d be even more agile. That guy is like a lethal machine. So a guy like Keith Lee would be pretty good. Yeah, I think that’s where my money would go, Keith Lee.
Aleister Black, maybe. … I don’t know, I think he’d be decent too.
Or Kyle O’Reilly.
So those are three choices. Kyle, yeah, yeah. Those are good choices. Roddy [Strong]… I feel like Roddy trains—but I don’t know how good he’d do at it… And Bobby’s had a fight. I don’t know if he won it or not but I know Bobby Fish has had a fight. [Ed. note: Bobby Fish won his fight.]
Well, speaking of wrestlers and MMA we’ve got to talk about Brock Lesnar.
Do you have a specific timetable for retiring him?
You know, I feel you just have to look into his contract. Whenever he does it.
I think of it as more of a passing of the torch. And the thing is, it’s like one of those things, I feel like it would be a good way to go out. And I feel like, if it’s going to be anybody… If he’s going to have his last match with anybody… If Ric Flair had his with Shawn Michaels in WWE, I don’t know why [Brock Lesnar] couldn’t have his with me.
I think it would be good.
So I have a really big question for you about a mystery currently going on in the NXT locker room: Do you know who stole Stokely Hathaway’s CD player?
Do I know who stole Stokely’s… I don’t even know if he has—or even had one. I think he just made it up. If he had one and I had to pick somebody… It’s hard. I think it would be probably Mia [Yim]. I feel like Mia would steal it just to mess with him and not tell.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure. She’s always messing with people.
You heard it here first, folks: Mia Yim stole Stokely Hathaway’s CD player. If he actually had a CD player in the first place.
Yeah. He probably just made it up to get attention. He’s a guy like that. … People have offered to buy him a CD player and he was like, “No. Mine had [a sticker].” I’ve seen people hand him CD players and be like, “That’s not mine. It doesn’t have this sticker on it.” And I’m like, this is unreal. I don’t know what he’s doing.
It’s a long con of some sort.
On a more legit topic, do you have any opinion about UFC getting into the CBD research business? I mean, considering why you were released from UFC in the first place.
Yeah, I mean, I could get mad about that. But I’m not going to. I’m going to let that slide. I feel like I’m in a good place. And I think even then, when they fired me, I knew I was on the right side of things. Trust me. I did it as a kid for years, and this is the whole fighting before wrestling anything, and it’s made my life even easier with wrestling.
It’s just been one of those things. And with UFC turning this page, I mean, I’m not shocked. Because they have tons of athletes that are suffering. Because they do go that hard in the UFC and do MMA, and you try to make weight and you train like they do, you’re like on death’s doorstep. So, yeah, I’m glad they’re doing it.
And I wish it would’ve came, what? Six years earlier? Whatever, I don’t know, it’s probably been even longer. It could even be 10 years. Yeah, probably like 2012. So it’s been a while. Like seven years.
But, it’s good. Good for you guys. Good for your athletes now. Keep improving. And that is one thing: I hope they do keep improving things and getting better. I try to look at some of the positive things. Right now, I feel like they don’t get paid as much, they don’t get guaranteed money contracts. Like right now in WWE, even if I got hurt, I’m still going to get paid. So it’s like, at least I’m taken care of to that extent. Because in MMA, I remember I had multiple surgeries, I had to go out-of-pocket for it before they had health insurance for us. And I was paying and it was brutal.
Now back to the less serious: If you couldn’t be the “King of Bros” and you had to have the type of “professional” gimmick they had in early 90s WWF—like The Goon or Duke “The Dumpster” Droese or IRS—what would your gimmick be?
Well, that’s really hard. Like a corny gimmick, right?
I would say, if Matt Riddle was in the corny gimmick era, like Doink the Clown and … IRS and all of that, I would be Tarzan. I would be like a jungle boy type character. I think that would be my thing. I’d be super tan, I’d be barefoot like I am now. Just would have a loin cloth. And I would probably swing into the ring with a rope or something. And … I guarantee right now, people are like, “Oh, he shouldn’t give people ideas. You could be, in a week: Brozan.”
Just flying through the air.
I think you’re on to something.
I feel like in that era though, that would’ve been it. For sure.
Now if you ever get tired of being the “Bro,” you got “Brozan.”
Well, I already got my next persona. It’s I ever go bad guy, I’m going to make people start calling me “The Rude Dude.”
And make them say, “Dude.”
But hey, I’d still be really good at wrestling so, it’s chill. And I’m funny.
Final question: Would you ever want to stop by Browsey Acres to train?
Yeah, I mean, if I ever got an invite. I would stop by to train. I could learn some judo. Do some submission grappling.
I’ll talk to some people. I’m sure we can get this going.