Mojo Rawley on life after WWE and whether he wants to wrestle again, his role in the G.I. Joe origins movie “Snake Eyes”, his WWE heel turn, how he got his pro wrestling name, winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania, a surprise pick for a top three MVP in WWE

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Mojo Rawley
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
Video available at Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube Page

What’s next after his WWE release: “I want to do everything. Right now, it has been almost ten years I just put in. You know how the commitment to WWE is, you can’t do anything outside of it. I want to do anything and everything. I definitely want to wrestle again, but right now I just need a little bit of time for me to get all of my stuff in line. I’ve got a lot of stuff I am working on. I also want to take some time to let my body recover. I mean, ask Rob [Gronkowski], he took a year off football and now he could go another ten. Sometimes getting hurt is the best thing that can happen. Your brain can rest up and some nagging injuries can heal up too. You can look at things from a fresh perspective and see what things will entail. That is where I am at right now, I am busier now than I ever have been. But I hate resting, so it’s a cool thing. I know it’s daunting leaving that career with the constant paycheck and security, but I am loving that freedom.”

On his heel turn: “I can’t remember whose idea it was. It was mine or Vince’s [McMahon] I think. Zack [Ryder] got hurt and I had my singles run, I had a good stretch there. Zack came back and we teamed up again. Everyone knew we were going to break up because we prefaced it for months. But I don’t I think anyone knew who was going to turn on who. We didn’t really know either. Then the thought came down to have me do the heel turn and I was all for it. I know they wanted me to get as far from the hype persona as possible, they didn’t want me to mention the word hype at all. We had a good run there. I would have preferred if Zack and I could have had our run for a bit. I turned on him, then they aired a dot com exclusive on the breakup. We had our one match on the Kick Off [show] on a pay-per-view. When you are doing a Kick Off, you have so many handicaps. You can’t swing for the fences and show people what you got. Me and Zack instead went, let’s just cut promos on each other on socials. I did one in my garage that got good traction. But that was it, the turn, the Kick Off match, then that was it. I would have loved to do more but it is what it is. As long as you did all you could, that is what will propel you through the years.”

His thoughts on wearing face paint: “[laughs] I was so against that. I really didn’t want to do that. But truthfully the sketches didn’t look half bad. I remember thinking I hope when I wear this it looks this cool, it couldn’t be furthest from. I pitched this idea of everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and everyone hypes themselves up. Everyone has that degree of vanity, let me run with it. Let me cut promos where I am berating them for their shortcoming, and you don’t know who I am talking to. You find out later it’s me, and we can take this whole new attitude and run with it. Somehow that led to me losing my mind and drawing on my face, I don’t know what it became. We literally did one match with that character. Me and Apollo [Crews] were paired together on a Europe tour. I remember I was like two and half weeks of everyday working together, we put on some great matches. There was so much that we pitched together. We put on matches that nobody was really expecting out of us and the fans gravitated towards. It’s hard though. You got two guys with no TV time going after these guys with established rivalries. But it was in the reports every night. These two are onto something, let’s give them a run. So they booked Apollo for my debut match in this new run. We were stoked, we were like let’s go out and kill it, show them what we got. Then we found out it was a 60-second match that was written out entirely for us. Two and a half weeks, then it’s that, then it’s over. I just painted my face like an idiot for nothing.”

On being in the movie Snake Eyes: “Dude how incredible is that? I had every G.I. Joe toy there ever was and now I am in the movie years later. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call I was so excited. I didn’t think that it was true at first. I just got out of a yoga class and I got this voicemail mentioning it and I’m like, you’re kidding! I was in my Zen at that point, so much for that. It was an incredible experience, it was really difficult not saying anything about it for a while. We filmed that a bit ago and now it’s finally coming out. I’m ready to talk about it finally.”

On how he got the role: “Well, apparently the director and one of the producers were on YouTube and they found me on there. It might have been that or a clip on my Instagram. But that’s how it started, just literally seeing a clip and they are like ‘Yep, we want that guy.’ That was it, it was crazy. You never know, everything you put out there what it’s going to lead to. Especially in the wrestling world. You never know which promo is going to get you a push. Now it’s like what social media post is going to get you a movie?! I think it was a wrestling related post that they saw.”

On his role in the beginning of his NXT run: “I came in with this personality and my football background. They were really high on me in the beginning, they just needed to teach me a few things and let his hype take care of the rest. I had my first match at a live event seven weeks after my first day. It was very quick and some people backstage were not happy about that. But there were seven people in the audience so who cares? They were like this is our opener. Big babyface, gets the crowd hyped. They kept the matches basic because at the time in NXT, the opener was supposed to have a basic match, no false finishes, super generic. All the high spots were saved for the rest of the card. I was stuck in that spot for a long time. I was grateful for the reps but I was pigeonholed. If you open every show, what a career you will have, but it got tough man. I was seeing some of the guys I started with pass me because I was the opener. I was grateful but I wasn’t being challenged. My first match with a near fall came when I was on the main roster.”

How he got the name “Mojo Rawley”: “Rob Naylor was a creative assistant at the time. He was like Dusty’s [Rhodes] right hand man. He came up with the name and I think he came up with it after a week of knowing me. He said ‘You should be Mojo.’ And I’m like ‘No. Who is going to take a guy named Mojo seriously. That is ridiculous.’ I could not have been more against it. But he explained it to me, told me to take some time and think about it. So I did and I started chopping it up from a marketing perspective. All the crafty marketing too. You meet Mojo one time; you are going to remember it. You know what, let’s run with it but tag a real life name on the end. The thought was originally to be just Mojo. I wanted to do ‘Monday Night Rawley’ which of course 30,000 people have already done. The funny thing is we never used Monday Night Rawley. But even after not being with the company, Mojo has still stuck with me.”

On winning the Andre The Giant Battle Royal: “I think the plans all went into that [me winning]. I’ve come to learn that when you win the Andre it’s not to start a push afterwards. It’s either the lead in to a great moment sometime, or it’s a reward for a guy who’s been quietly busting his ass and here’s a thank you. It doesn’t always mean that it’s going to amount to a push. I don’t know what their thoughts were at the time, I know they put me on this path to win it, especially in retrospective. Looking at the weeks leading up to that, it made sense that I was going to take it. When I heard that it was probably going to be me, that’s when I had the idea to bring in Robbie G [Rob Gronkowski] and just hype it up even more. I always try and focus on big picture. I can do this myself and people are going to look at it as an average Andre moment. Or we can make it bigger than it is and get it out to more eyes and make it a bigger moment. They moved it to the pre-show, which a lot of people were upset about. But the pre-show was on cable, the pay-per-view was on the network, the pre-show gets more views by a mile than the network did. I was looking at it as a plus all around. But then afterwards they didn’t know what to do. I think I was doing some strange promos with kids or something.

“Honestly I think that was what my whole career boiled down to. It’s we got this guy, he is perfect for this one spot, high energy, hyped up dude. We are going to put him in this space and we don’t know what to do with him after. I remember meeting with Vince one time, I felt pretty boosted after it. He sat me down and went ‘Alright, you may be one of the best athletes in the company. You may be one of the strongest in the company. You have one of the best attitudes and one of the best work ethics.’ He literally went down the list of all these superlatives where I was number one or top three. Then he was like ‘We’ve just got to figure out what to do with you.’ I remember thinking to myself I think you just said it. How do we not use that? There are so many things you could do with it. But you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. All you can do is work your butt off. I was pitching things constantly, very seldom does that come to anything if at all.”

On if he thought he would survive this round of cuts: “Truth be told, there’s some other stuff going on there. All I can say is I’m grateful to have been with the company as long as I was. I mean putting in almost a decade, that’s a hell of a run. Truthfully, I am happy it happened. It was time for a change. Sometimes you never want to be the one to necessarily initiate that, but you needed it to happen. It was a thought that was going through my head for a while. Let’s give this another year or two, if this amounts to nothing, or very little, then yeah it is time for a change. I am going to turn 35 shortly. If I am thinking about starting another industry, the more you wait, the less is on the table. I got pigeonholed a lot as being this big hyped up guy that very much did a lot outside of the ring. I was one of the few guys they used for the community service drives. There aren’t a lot of guys in the company that can do those. I know that Titus O’Neil is the poster boy for that stuff. Honestly, in my opinion I think Titus is one of the top three most valuable people in all of WWE. I know that might come of a shock to some people, but we got tons of guys that can wrestle. Almost everyone on the roster can put on a hell of match. But how many guys can go out there and make change and bring in a new fanbase from all of the promos that he does. There is no one that does more in that space than Titus. I felt like I was used for both, but again, sometimes those guys don’t get the big Roman Reigns career. But sometimes change needs to happen, whether it comes from you or them.”


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