Diamond Mine is working under pressure, and creating valuable assets along the way.
The MMA-influenced stable, featuring Roderick Strong, Tyler Rust, Hideki Suzuki and Malcolm Bivens features established talent, in ring veterans, prospects, and proven commodities on the microphone. In speaking with Fightful, Strong opened up about how MMA started to influence his in-ring work.
"In 2012, I started training a little (MMA). My buddy Josh Rafferty had moved to Tampa from Cincinnati and we lived down the street from each other and he was always like, 'Come train.' We would workout together four of five days a week. He was one of the first people to be like, 'even if it's not something you're gonna do full time, you need to get on the mat and test yourself.' As I've gotten older, I've gotten more competitive because I've found out more about myself and how much of an athlete I truly am, even outside of a wrestling ring. I got very lucky when I met my wife and she's been a huge influence because she lives and breathes martial arts and has since she was six years old. To be around it is very inspiring, to see what it can do to you and for you. Being okay with getting my butt kicked, it was very difficult to handle that stuff. Back to Diamond Mine, that was the thing that attracted me to this opportunity. I'm now able to bring what is a big part of my life into who I am as a pro wrestler. Rust is a guy who needs opportunities and that's how we grow. Being aligned with me creates opportunities. He's gonna have that chance to grow at a faster than he would have by himself. Bivens is unbelievably talented and he needed a chance to have the spotlight on him too. That's what this brings. From all my time in wrestling, one of the things I love to do is give back. It's an opportunity to do that, for people that have a ton of potential and needed an opportunity like people helped me get. Hideki, Hachiman, he's a Japanese God of War. He's a beast and a huge influence on me now, just being able to train together. He gives me a ton of insight. It's turned into a team, which is exactly what we want to be. We communicate constantly and we're training together, training in catch wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, working on pro wrestling; we're trying to do it all to make ourselves the baddest men that we can," said Strong.
Months ago on NXT TV, Roderick quit the company as a part of the story that led to Diamond Mine. Strong said he had to really immerse himself in the situation to make it as real as possible.
"I did (quit). To me, I did, and I was done. Honestly, there's a huge influence from Shawn Michaels, but Jamie Noble was one of the first people to tell me, 'If it's real to you, it's real to everybody else.' In my head, I had (just quit). It's one of those situations where the highlight was on Kyle and Adam, but the competitor in me wants to be a part of that, but there wasn't an opportunity at that time. For me, this gave me a chance to distance myself, decompress and really think about what I wanted to do. I've been in a wrestling ring for 25 years. Thankfully, I was gone for awhile and this opportunity that was coming about was with the right people and obviously, I could get the spotlight for myself, which I feel I deserve and worked very hard for, along with that, I can bring some other guys in to that spotlight and get that on them and pass it on and transfer a lot of this stuff. It gives more value to my career than just my matches. I told my mom I quit, my dad, my family. I was like, 'We'll see what happens down the road.'"
Strong went from one of the most dominant stables in WWE history, Undisputed Era, to quitting on NXT TV. He knew that Diamond Mine had to be something special to be a sufficient follow up.
"It honestly needed to be something where there was a lot of pressure on me. I know the saying, 'No pressure, no diamonds.' Honestly, for someone like me, as competitive as I am, I needed to be put in a position to be tested and to see if I really am who I say I am to myself and my bosses. For them to be like, 'Okay, we understand you want this opportunity, here you go.' There's a lot of respect for them that I have for doing that. It's one of those things where it's either hit or miss and it's all on me. I know the guys in Diamond Mine have my back and I have theirs. We're excited to see where this thing goes because it's still so new and week by week it's changing with our conversations and what we're trying to do with it and how we're trying to performer. It feels so new and refreshing," said Strong.
When Diamond Mine debuted, it was quickly reported that Marina Shafir and Arturo Ruas were originally pegged for the group as well. Strong confirmed there was some back and forth over who should be a part of the group.
"Names were thrown at me and I threw names at them. Whatever they felt was the best fit for their vision for what they had. For me, they have a great track record so I trust anything that Hunter or Shawn suggests, or [Lead NXT Writer] Johnny Russo. I trust them and know that they're going to give use the opportunity that we deserve. It's something that I think is good because it can expand and it can expand in many ways without having to shove every member or someone affiliated in people's faces. They'll just be able to see natural progression, which is nice," said Strong.
Strong takes on former Undisputed Era partner Bobby Fish tonight on NXT at 8 pm EST, which airs on Syfy this week.