The WWE Performance Center in Orlando welcomed 11 new recruits to NXT with seven international and four domestic, covering seven countries, to make it the most internationally-versed class yet.
Sesugh Uhaa is not only one of the four domestic NXT recruits but one of the most buzzed about signings for the developmental brand. The impressive performer developed a solid reputation working for promotions like Dragon Gate USA and Japan. Now the man better known as Uhaa Nation is ready to take his career to new heights. The athlete began his journey into pro wrestling in 2009 with the help of veterans such as WWE alum Curtis Hughes at World Wrestling Alliance 4’s training school in Atlanta.
Gaining experience working around the world, the powerhouse gained fans with his ability to take to the air and do things guys his size usually doesn’t do. The hybrid athlete’s background in high school soccer, football and track showed showcased his ability to diversify early on.
“I went to a military high school,” Uhaa said. “Sports were my outlet and a way to get away from the military life. I wanted to play all year long. Athletics have always been my life. I didn’t want any point in time where I wasn’t doing something. I would go from one season to the next. At one point, I was doing two sports in one season.”
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He recalls his interest in pro wrestling dating as far back as age four or five. However, Uhaa found it hard to find time for it or a school to train.
Uhaa worked hard to get the attention of anyone he could as he began his career. Sometimes his thirst to turn heads cost him. He pulled his patellar tendon in 2012, which sidelined him from action for a significant amount of time. The emerging performer has learned from every experience.
“I don’t do anything I don’t feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Especially, starting off I was just trying to make a name for myself and get noticed. Here the schedule is so much more demanding than an indie schedule. Those are things you have to keep in mind is that your body is your top priority. I’ve held back a lot doing those crazy things I used to do. Staying healthy is key, especially working a schedule like this. It’s just so important.”
Before his big tryout last October, he received advice from many of his friends within the industry.
“Kevin Owens was one of the guys I talked to leading up to this process,” Uhaa said. “There was also Finn Bálor and Chris Masters, who I became friends with doing work in England. Just talking to them about not just the tryout, but being a part of the roster. Things you had to do to get here. One of the recent conversations was with Kevin Owens because he did one not too long before mine.
“A good friend of mine, Ricochet, offered advice as well. Kevin and others just told me to be myself and work hard, help other guys, be a leader and things of that nature. It was good to get to talk to them and see how they felt about the tryouts and being here. These were guys who have been on the indies for years and made that transition. In my mind, they made it possible for me to make that transition as well.”
The prospect went in with the mindset of giving them no chance to turn him away. Uhaa wanted to wow the decision makers. He thinks the last time he trained so hard when it came to preparation was when he was going through therapy for his injury. His tryout was enough to get him a contract and an opportunity in NXT. Despite having an established name in pro wrestling, Uhaa doesn’t feel any added pressure or sense of entitlement.
“There is extra motivation for sure,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot for me to be motivated. First thing I’m thinking about when waking up in the morning is the want to learn something new or do better than I did the day before. As far as pressure, I try to keep a level head and not worry about what others say. I focus on what I got to do. I know what I bring to the table. I know there are certain rules and steps you have to take. I know I have to keep focused on not only what I want, but what they want for me.
“There are a lot of outside factors when it comes to this where people want certain things from you. You see people who may not live up to certain hype because all these people have these expectations for them, but they let outside forces affect them. I try to ignore that and do the best I can to the best of my ability, keeping in my mind that it’s not all on me. I also have to be patient and work with the coaching and rules that go along with being an NXT recruit.”
After his first week at the Performance Center, he expressed how ecstatic he was about being a part of WWE to his father. When it comes to the training facility itself the superstar-in-the-making hasn’t seen anything quite like it in Japan or the independent circuit.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Uhaa said. “You have 26,000 square feet with top-of-the-line training, top-of-the line strength and conditioning coaches. Trainers have years of experience and knowledge, you can’t ask for anything else. You wake up, train all day and go home. On the indies, that’s just unheard of. This is my type of environment and what I love to do. The coaching, you can’t say enough about them. They know what they are dong. Everything is so clean and nice around here. It’s something you have to be a part of to truly get a sense of how it feels. It’s hard to put in words.”
The student of the game has followed the common advice of keeping his mouth shut with eyes and ears open. Uhaa wants to soak up anything and everything. As a young fan, he enjoyed watching “Attitude Era” superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Kurt Angle was his favorite. However, the 27-year-old felt like he could relate to Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero, who much like Uhaa traveled the world honing their skills before making it to WWE.
“What I want to do is what other guys did growing up did for me,” he said. “I want to reach out to kids and motivate them, whether they want to be a WWE superstar or not. I just want to reach out to that young kid at home and motivate him to find his passion and do what he loves. I want to do what others did for me. If that means I have to step outside of my comfort zone and branch off into something new, that’s what I have to do. Of course, I would love to take myself and bring a little more character out, but not stepping off too far.
“If I can be myself, magnified times 15 and bring out a little more personality. I want to be that likable guy that everybody just wants to be around and watch and is motivated by. If I can do that, I would feel like I accomplished a lot.”
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