Since joining WWE, Rick Boogs has been a man with many strings to his bow – or his electric guitar!
Rick Boogs may have quietly plied his trade in NXT, but the moment he hit the main roster – despite it first being in an array of cameos at first – he’s been anything but quiet, standing out from the crowd and stealing the show in snippets on SmackDown.
Inside The Ropes’ very own Kenny McIntosh sat down with Rick Boogs to ask about his journey so far.
So you’ve been on SmackDown this past May, and you’ve been with Nakamura. You were in NXT before, then you did the Old Spice stuff. Talk to us about how it came about that you were coming to SmackDown and the pairing with Nakamura. How does that whole process take place?
Well, listen, this couldn’t have worked out any better, it was almost like it was written in a novel with how the magic came to be. I’ll take you back to the beginning of how Rick Boogs early days of development [went].
So I started in June of 2017, about six months in, I blew out my knee, my ACL, my MCL, and meniscus. I had extensive surgery, but they didn’t rush me because I didn’t have anything going on, I wasn’t on tv or anything. So they didn’t clear me for a year, so I had a lot of time to hone in on my craft.
I figure out who I am and what I do. Within that time frame, Paul Heyman would come to the Performance Center and do some PC promo instructional drills. I’m there cutting a promo, still very new, and I thought it was a pretty decent promo myself.
Paul [Levesque] says ‘How about you sing it like a girl?’ I’m like, ‘Okay, sure, that’s great.’ He then goes ‘I’m not putting you on the spot, I’ve done this with The Rock and I’ve done this with Stone Cold…’ I’m like you don’t have to explain it, I love this idea. So I’m doing this promo, I wail it, I sing it and if people are embarrassed to do that, I’m going to keep doing it. I want to be different and I want to differentiate myself from the rest of the talent.
So then I come back a month after I am cleared and I debut on NXT. I’m still very new and trying to figure things out. I do this high pitched scream on the entrance and people love it, they are drawn to it. Despite being received very well and people being very happy with it, I was still very new, so I did the Florida shows, the developmental shows for a couple of years.
Then I am starting to get feisty and itchy, I want to get on tv because I’ve got some skills that I want to show. Nothing is really happening, but then one day about a year ago, one of the writers contacts me about doing a campaign with Old Spice, because in a sense I am an over the top character. I have done a lot of promo classes and all that entertaining spiel, I have done it for over 4 years in the PC, that was good. I had a limited time on TV in terms of in the ring, but I was pretty well known in the company for character work.
So we do the Old Spice campaign, it’s great and a tonne of fun to do. I still wish at times that I could be The Night Panther, but one day, we will see down the road, maybe Rick Boogs and The Night Panther. That got me seen within the workings of the company, the higher ups. But they didn’t know anything about me because I was only on TV that one time, that was as Eric Bugenhagen, my real name.
So then they were like, ‘”ell what do we do with this guy?’ So then, like anyone would do, they go on my social media and see what I’m about. They see I
lift heavy weights, I’m a bit of a psycho, I play guitar. ‘Okay, let’s put him with Nakamura and have him play the guitar like they did with Nita Strauss.’ So that’s a lot of pressure!
They told me this the day before that SmackDown, so I don’t know what I am doing and I don’t know if I am being called up or anything. I have just been sitting backstage and on the sidelines for years. I was itching and dying to get a chance, and then they tell me this is what I am doing.
Wow, I am debuting on SmackDown, so it’s a matter of not botching the entrance music too bad, because I didn’t have a lot of time to learn it. I learn it one way, and we are walking through the entrance. Then they say ‘It doesn’t really sound right.’ This is a few hours before showtime. So then they ask me to play it a different way, so alright! Let’s try it a different way and see what happens.
From there, week after week you get a little bit better with it, and now I think we have got it down. Me and Shin, we are just crushing it, he is like a father figure to me. He is helping me out, giving me guidance, telling me where to play air drums, to do a powerslide here, it’s great! This is directly from a novel. There is the trials and tribulations, you’ve got your highs and your lows.
Blowing your knee out, then debuting on NXT but nothing is happening. Then you have Old Spice but nothing is happening, and all of a sudden you are thrown onto SmackDown – and with Nakamura as well, he seems like a pretty cool cat to be paired up with.
Oh it was great! Like everyone, I thought, ‘Rick Boogs with Nakamura? Let’s see how that plays out.’ Like I said, looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything, I don’t think it could have worked out any better.
One thing that is fascinating about you is that you talk about character work. I don’t think some people realise how important character work is in WWE. If you want to go far in WWE, you’ve got to be able to do character work and you’ve got to be able to change. You wrestled in high school right? It’s rare to find someone who has done both? Was WWE something you watched growing up, and how did you come into falling in love with it?
So as a kid I was obsessed with Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Ultimate Warrior. Then got into amateur wrestling in a sense, my brother was into it so I started that up. I then got away from it, because those are two different schools of thought, the amateur wrestling vs. the pro-wrestling.
Then you’ve got the coaches who are all, you know whatever. So I started to get away from that. As I wrestled for the University of Wisconsin for The Wisconsin Badgers, it’s a big time program, very prestigious, so I’ve been through it.
I’ve been through the highs of amateur wrestling so you know what? I’m going to tune back into these old school promos again, because they are very entertaining. From that point on, as I started finishing up with college wrestling, I started to upload a lot of videos of my own through YouTube, Instagram
and all that stuff.
I was being crazy and over the top trying to draw inspiration from that old school ’80s promos. I eventually started to get comments where people were like ‘You should try out for WWE, you would be a great professional wrestler, sports entertainer, superstar if you will.’
I was a little hesitant at first, but then I was like, ‘Well, why not? I’m only getting older, there’s no harm in trying it.’ Dude, I don’t think there is anything else, this is exactly what I am here to do. Just being an entertainer in a sense. Like I said, when I was a kid I was so drawn to the over the top crazy promos, that’s probably why I put so much work into that character’s sense of high energy. I’ve kind of morphed my being into that, because that was what I was all about as a kid.
Now it’s like you were saying, some people overlook the character, but that’s the most important thing. It’s what drives people to not change the channel, and I love it.
When you came up to SmackDown you were still in the ThunderDome initially. But then you guys go from the ThunderDome to like 20,000 people straight away. You were going from 0 to 100, was that scary, was it difficult? What was the biggest challenge in doing that?
Like I said it all worked out, it couldn’t have worked out any better.
When I was starting, it was in the ThunderDome. So it was high pressure, but you couldn’t see the people, they were just on the screens. It felt like it was promo class at the PC, which is nerve wracking.
You have the higher ups and you have your boss watching you cut promos, I’ve had half a decade of experience with that. Once I got more comfortable with that, it transitioned into arenas, where I was like wow! It is nerve wracking, but it is exciting and it is fun.
The most nerve wracking part is before you start in your head. You are thinking there is a lot of people and I hope it doesn’t go wrong. But once you are out there, once people are cheering and you see the smiles, you aren’t nervous anymore, it’s fun, and it makes it more fun to have those people there and be engaged.
One of the things that a lot of the WWE wrestlers said over the years is how important it is to put in facetime with the boss. Being on SmackDown this year, how has your relationship been with Vince McMahon? Have you had some banter with him?
Yeah, absolutely. I was very fortunate when I started, they flew me out to Stamford to get a tour, see the warehouse and all that. I then got a chance to talk with Vince for a bit and like you said, just bantered. Just a chat, nothing too businessy in a sense.
We are both similar in a sense, we are both intense dudes and just love crushing some weights, he appreciated that about me. He is great at communicating and letting you know what he wants and what he doesn’t want. Kicking it off with that first conversation was great, I felt like I can connect with this guy.
And now on tv or whatever it may be, if there is some aggression he wants. He is very blunt, he knows what he wants and he will drive that point home, and he wants you to know what he is saying.
Some people might take it the wrong way, but I am very appreciative of how he is like ‘I like this, I don’t like this, try this…’ It just makes it easier to know where you are going. I love his ideas, he likes characters as well, so it doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. You want me to be a big character? I want to do that too, so we are on the same page.
You got to wrestle in the multi man match in MSG in the first live match in ages. Did it feel like a big deal to wrestle in that building?
Yeah you can tell it’s just a historic venue. I’ve been to so many venues in just the short amount of time that I have been with SmackDown. I’ve been to some really nice, new, fresh, clean venues. But then you have Madison Square Garden, it’s a little older, but you shouldn’t change it in any way, it’s history.
I love going to venues where you can see all the acts, feel the history and you feel like you are a part of history. I am putting my stamp on this venue, and it’s pretty surreal being part of touring the world in a sense. I just got back from the UK and it’s crazy, the fans are crazy in the UK. The fans, the support, the cheers.
With the entrance I just started throwing in a ‘Hey-hey!’ like a singalong, which I started in the UK, if I’m going to try it anywhere I am going to try it in a place where people are going to make noise and want to be a part of it. It’s great because now the world can unite for WrestleMania 38, there’s no travel restrictions anymore, unlike the past couple of years. A year ago it was half attendance, before that it was at the PC with no attendance.
We can now get back to the glory days, have the entire world come in for WrestleMania, make some noise, and hopefully sing along with Ricky B and the Boogs cruise, that’s what I am most
Hopefully you and Nakamura win the tag titles on the show.
Yeah! I have no quarrels of where we are. The direction, the pace, I can’t reiterate this enough, it’s like a fairytale. Everything has been so great so far and it’s just a matter of yeah, we are going to get those titles. April 2nd or 3rd, in a sold out venue in Dallas, and maybe in front of you.
Thanks to Rick Boogs for chatting with Inside The Ropes. You can follow Rick Boogs on Twitter here.