Wrestling & MMA

WWE NXT returns to Miami with King of Bros Matt Riddle helping lead the way, Bro

The man who’s making “Bro” famous will be in Miami as WWE’s hottest brand NXT returns to Miami-Dade County on Friday at The Fieldhouse of the Watsco Center at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

Dubbed The King of Bros, Riddle quickly resonated with fans and is ready to prove that connection once again in Miami.

“I can’t wait,” he said during a phone interview. “I’ve been there a couple of times. It’s always a blast. The people in Miami always bring the heat, and I think the Bro is gonna bring a little extra heat toward that Undisputed Era.”

“So I think it’s gonna be a good night for the NXT Universe for sure.”

What you see is what you get with Riddle. His persona is an extension of himself.

When his entrance music “Hey Bro” plays, the crowd is instantly excited and reacts by chanting, “Bro! Bro! Bro!”

“I’m usually just so laid back most of the times,” he said. “I’m usually just chill in the back, having a Body Armor [sports drink], just relaxing.”

Click: ThisIsBodyArmor

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo By Jim Varsallone

“Then when I see the people, and they got the fists extended for the fist bump, and they’re Bro-ing it out, I get pretty wound up. I get juiced, man... It’s really out of my control. I really can’t control my actions at that point. It’s not me. It’s the crowd that’s making me do it.”

“The entrance music happened because the Bro became what it is,” he said, “and the Bro became what it is over time. I’ve always been a Bro, and I’ve used the word ‘Bro’ a lot.”

If Riddle doesn’t call you Bro, there may be an issue.

“When I talked to [NXT General Manager} William Regal [in an Evolve ring], and I called him ‘Bro,’ the whole crowd was like, ‘Ooow,’ you don’t call Regal, ‘Bro.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean. He’s a Bro.’ ... Since that, people started yelling ‘Bro’ at me.

“At first I was not necessarily liked, and people were saying Bro mean to me, but now as you can see a lot of people like me, and they say it as a term of endearment. It’s a nice, lighthearted Bro. It’s the evolution of Bro, and I think it’s just the beginning still.”

Riddle calling Regal “Bro” was his way of showing a sign of respect, a badge of honor, if you will.

“That’s how I look at it, dude,” Riddle said. “He said, ‘How dare you disrespect me,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He got all carried away, but that was years ago, Me and Regal now have a much better and respectful relationship, and I call him ‘Bro’ all the time, and he understands where I’m coming from now, and we’re better people for it.”

Born in Allentown, Pa., the 33-year-old Riddle grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He did some surfing, but skateboarding/snowboarding was his thing, even sponsored in it as a kid.

“That stopped once I started amateur wrestling in high school,” he said, “because I was trying to win state and national titles and live that life.”

Riddle, who wrestled collegiately for NCAA Division II East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, won a state title for Saratoga High School in 2004. A familiar face finished third.

From 2008-14, Riddle competed in MMA, excelling on The Ultimate Fighter which led to a contract with UFC. Between UFC and Titan FC, he recorded an 8-3-2 mark. His pro wrestling journey began in 2014 at the famous Monster Factory in Paulsboro, N.J. He wrestled the indies, including Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Evolve.

Riddle signed with WWE in July 2018, learning and training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.

“They took one look at me and said, ‘What are we waiting for. Let’s sign this guy,’” he quipped.

“What really happened was I was already on their radar because of my past with UFC. They weren’t so fond of hiring me right away, but they saw my work on the indies. They saw me prove what I’m made of the couple of years that I was there, and the whole time I was working with Evolve -- a company that works hand in hand with WWE.

“I wouldn’t say I was in touch or talking to them all the time, but I would rub shoulders with WWE all the time. It was never said when, but I knew it was going to happen. I knew it was gonna be inevitable. I knew this situation that I’m in right now was gonna be my future. I just didn’t know when, but I’m glad it’s now, rather sooner than later.

“If you train, you work hard, you’re actually 110-percent dedicated, you’re doing it for all the right reasons, you’re probably gonna end up on the top. You know the cream always rises to the top.”

Riddle is on the rise, already competing on three NXT TakeOver shows, including an excellent match against Velveteen Dream for the North American title.

It could very well have been Velveteen Dream against Ratthew Middle.

“So when I talked to them [after signing], somebody said, ‘Are we changing your name?’” Riddle recalled. “I was like, ‘If you’re gonna change it, I don’t want to, but if you’re gonna change it, I only want it to be one other thing.’ They said, ‘What would that be?’ I go, ‘Ratthew Middle.’

“My [birth] name is Matthew Riddle, so I wanted to change the letters around so I can be Ratthew Middle, and the crowd could chant, ‘Ratth-ew Mid-dle. Ratth-ew Middle.’ It has a ring to it.”

The decision: Matt Riddle.

Does Matt Riddle miss MMA?

“I do missing fighting,” he said. “I love fighting, but I don’t miss waiting months upon months just to fight once in front of people and then have to wait months again to fight once in front of people. In wrestling, sports entertainment, I get to fight in front of people; I get to wrestle in front of people; I get to entertain people sometimes four times a week -- all around the country, all around the world.

“For me, even when I fought, my goal was always to entertain the crowd... I love wrestling because I get to do it more. I don’t miss MMA that much, because I only got to do it, I fought five, six years and only fought like 12 times.”

Riddle and the crowd will be happy as he will be entertaining the masses wrestling in South Florida.

NXT in South Florida

NXT is Friday for a special show at The Fieldhouse in the Watsco Center at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

For ticket info, click NXTticketInfo or NXTMiami.

For NXT news and notes, click NXTnewsNotes.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo By Jim Varsallone

NXT is 8 p.m. Wednesdays on WWE Network.

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Jim Varsallone covers pro wrestling, something he’s done since his college days in the late 1980s. Spanning four decades, he currently covers WWE (Raw, SmackDown and NXT), Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, MLW, WOW, FSCW, AEW and the South Florida indies. He also writes MMA -- mostly profile stories and video interviews with American Top Team talent in South Florida. As for pro wrestling, he writes feature stories and profile pieces, updates upcoming show schedules in South Florida, photographs the action and interviews talent (audio and video) -- sharing the content here and via social media on his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel: jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel).
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