Fighting

Hugo Knox transitioning from soccer keeper to WWE NXT mainstay

NXT Superstar Hugo Knox is a former professional soccer player in England. The Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce welcomes the return of NXT on Saturday, June 4. Then on Wednesday, June 8, an NXT TakeOver: The End live special is 8 p.m. EST on WWE Network from Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando.
NXT Superstar Hugo Knox is a former professional soccer player in England. The Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce welcomes the return of NXT on Saturday, June 4. Then on Wednesday, June 8, an NXT TakeOver: The End live special is 8 p.m. EST on WWE Network from Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando. Courtesy WWE

After he closed the door on his pro soccer career in the UK, it didn’t take long for Hugo Knox to open another, receiving a developmental contract from WWE.

“Canyon Ceman was in the UK looking for certain athletes from different sports,” said Knox, who retired from soccer in July 2013.

Ceman, a former silver medal winning beach volleyball player, is the Senior Director of Talent Development for the WWE, scouting talent.

Knox continued: “I think he was looking at rugby [players].”

But he spotted Knox on the cover of the magazine “Men’s Health.”

Knox takes physical fitness very seriously, and his body proves it.

Ceman learned Knox played soccer, too, and all that led to an invitation for a WWE tryout.

“Things went from there and sped up quickly,” Knox recalled.

He signed a developmental contract with WWE, moving to the United States in December 2013.

He felt...

“Excitement really,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that the [WWE] Performance Center was open, but that was all explained to me, and I was more than happy to make the transition and leave the UK and come out here [Orlando] to give it a shot.

“It’s not something that many people get the chance to do. I’ve seen many tryouts at the PC where probably in a year thousands of people who want to apply and obviously be in the position that we’re in; so I do feel I’m very lucky to have this position.”

Knox, 31, grew up in England watching wrestling with his brother. His favorites Ravishing Rick Rude, Jake The Snake Roberts and the British Bulldogs, of course.

Knox swam, played badminton and was a pretty good golfer as a youth, but soccer consumed much of his athletic time. Soccer is the No.1 sport in his native country, and he began playing at a young age.

“My dad would take us to the football [soccer] field when I was 8-years-old, and then when I was 10, I got picked up by a football [soccer] club, and I played there until I was about 24. That was Crewe Alexandra.”

Crewe Alexandra Football Club is a professional association football club based in Crewe, Cheshire, England. Nicknamed The Railwaymen because of the town’s links with the rail industry, they play at Gresty Road. The team competes in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system. They also host a youth academy, a feeder program where Knox graduated. He played professionally there for seven years.

“I also have a passion for wrestling,” Knox said, “so I was lucky enough to get to experience both.”

That’s quite an unusual transition from soccer to pro wrestling, but Knox, a former keeper in the UK, is currently keeping up with his cohorts, wrestling on NXT. A physical specimen, the sexy Knox is smiling, dancing and wrestling throughout the Sunshine State.

“Training [to become a wrestler] is way harder,” Knox said. “In [soccer] we’d train for maybe an hour and a half, two hours, and we would build up for the the game on a Saturday. Here at the Performance Center, we train maybe two hours in the gym, strength and conditioning, three hours in the ring wrestling working on our technique and then obviously shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You’re constantly, you’re always on the go. By no means, I’m not complaining about that. It’s great. I enjoy it... So there’s a lot more going on than when I was in [soccer]. That’s for sure.”

Soccer is a sport recognized around the world. WWE is an established sports entertainment brand globally, too, and with that worldwide appeal, it seems fitting the roster includes international talent like Knox who has traveled far to pursue another dream.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Knox said. “Family is always a bit sad when you’re leaving home, but they’re happy for me. Looking at the bigger picture, hopefully it’s going to work out for the best.”

The 6-0, 245-pound athlete played goalkeeper for Crewe Alexandra, Stafford Rangers, Burton Albion, Barrow, and Port Vale in England.

“I was lucky enough to have a career that lasted over 10 years, playing [soccer] professionally, so I was real happy with that,” he said. “As a kid growing up, you always want to play for the team you support. For me that was Liverpool. When I was playing for Crewe Alexandra, I managed to play against them in the FA Cup.”

Soccer is a big part of his life.

“I’m a big fan, too,” he said. “I grew up watching it a lot [and he still watches]. I was watching the Champion League Final on [May 28]. The people playing in the Champions League Final that’s like the pinnacle of soccer, so hats off to them.”

Doctors advised him to stop playing soccer after a left knee injury in July 2013.

“I probably could have played a couple of more years,” he said, “but I was ready to come out here and begin training to wrestle.”

Was it difficult saying good-bye to soccer?

“No. Honestly, it wasn’t at all” he chuckled.

“I was chomping at the bit to get out here [WWE Performance Center] and start wrestling. I watched wrestling as a kid. I used to wrestle with my brother in the living room, and my mom would always tell us to stop messing about.”

Now he’s learning the proper way.

With an experienced staff of coaches at the WWE Performance Center, Knox began his wrestling journey, learning to become a sports entertainer.

“So this is something I was very excited to do...and it’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Five More Minutes

The creation of the name Hugo Knox

“I wish I could tell you a good story about that, but a list of names got put in a hat of the names I picked, and we came up with one that stuck...[NXT superstar] Nia Jax likes to say she came up with it, but I don’t think she did,” he chuckled.

No credit for Nia?

“I’m not giving her any credit whatsoever.”

Wearing tight polka dot tights, Hugo Knox likes to dance, especially entering the ring to his music.

“I’m okay. I have a couple of moves,” he smiled. “In all fairness, the first few times I was coming out for matches I got told to just enjoy myself. I wasn’t trying to be anyone else. That was just me being me.”

Any other good dancers in NXT?

“Mojo [Rawley] likes to think he is,” Knox said, “but I’m telling you now he’s not. He’s got one or two moves that he just keeps going back to [laughs].”

Dealing with injuries in soccer, are there any injury concerns now?

“In any high level sport, people are going to get injured,” he said. “Since being here, I’ve had a separated shoulder. I tore my bicep tendon. I cracked ribs. Things do happen, but that’s part of the price of the job. I suppose that’s why everyone always preaches, ‘Don’t try this at home.’”

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- NXT in Fort Pierce

WWE NXT returns to the Havert L. Fenn Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4 in Fort Pierce.

See first some of the newer faces on the NXT roster as well as progressing talent who are continuing to build a hot NXT brand and working toward joining the ranks of the main roster in WWE.

There will be a meet-n-greet included in the price of admission for the first 100 fans.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Bell time is 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: General Admission $10; Gold Circle (Ringside) $20.

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- NXT TakeOver: The End at Full Sail

NXT TakeOver: The End special is 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 8 at Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando. The event will be broadcast live on WWE Network.

NXT champ Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor in a steel cage

NXT women’s champ Asuka vs. Nia Jax

NXT tag champs American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan) vs. The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson)

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries

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- NXT on WWE Network

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

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- NXT abroad

To see NXT in a city near you, check

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- NXT/WrestleMania 33 Orlando

WWE WrestleMania 33 is Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Camping World Stadium, formerly Citrus Bowl Stadium, in Orlando. During WrestleMania Week, WWE NXT is Friday, March 31 at the Amway Center, home of the NBA Orlando Magic.

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- Pro Wrestling On The Web

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