Interviews

Interview With . . . Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott

Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott has taken NXT by storm, not least recently by winning the North American Championship AND leading Hit Row into a position of power on the black and gold brand.

Speaking exclusively with Inside The Ropes’Kenny McIntosh, Swerve opened up about his personal rise, as well as previous battles with Riddle, among other things.

How are you doing, sir?

I’m doing great, man. It’s a beautiful day to wake up as NXT North American Champion, it’s a beautiful day to wake up as a member of Hit Row. It’s a beautiful day to wake up in my Swerve City Podcast office. It is just a beautiful day and a beautiful time to be in the business.

So, let’s get straight into Hit Row. How did it come about? How did you guys come together?

It was honestly as simple as, like, peanut butter and jelly – boom, there’s the sandwich. It was literally as simple as that. Like they were doing a group in the Performance Center called The Hitmakers. It was Ashante, Top Dolla and B-FAB. They were their own separate group and they were supposed to take off and do something, in another project that didn’t end up happening in the Performance Center, and I’d just came off of the Falls Count Anywhere Match with Leon Ruff.

So I was in a groove and Triple H felt that I was in a really good groove right now with my character shift, like everything just went “boom” to a different way. My hair colour, my grills in my mouth and I was doing such a drastic change and he loved it. He wanted to support it and put more fire underneath and support what I was doing. So he just said, “Hey, we have AJ Francis, Ashante and B-FAB over here, we’re doing some stuff, so I want to put them with you.” I’m like, “OK,” and there we go. So it was it literally as simple as that. So we just started hanging out a lot more, watching RAW and SmackDown together and literally having these interactions the way we were talking and laughing and clowning at each other, among other things. We were just like, you know, “We need to do the same thing, keep the same energy and put it on TV.” And so they’re like, “Oh, cool, yeah, let’s do this.”

Top Dolla had a group on the independents called The Row, and that was a great concept. Like he was leading this group. It was like a lot of rappers, friends of his that like rapped on the side. They weren’t real wrestlers. They were just supporting his matches and stuff like that and come out with them. And I always thought that was dope. And then they were The Hitmakers. So we took those two concepts and just put it together and made Hit Row. And I’m just sitting there like I like the symmetry of things, you know, like like I was like three letters and three letters, and six letters. It’s just evened out. It wasn’t like nothing too off-putting. So it was like, yeah, we got a lot of ideas. So we started just drawing things, coming up with concepts to outfits and like, “Oh, what are you wearing on Wednesday? I’m wearing this, OK, Tuesday I’m going to rock this. I’m wearing these colours. OK, I got these boots. I got this hat. I’m always going to have the vest on.” So we all end up finding ways to to look like we were identical but also separate at the same time.

We all had our individual personalities in our outfits. Therefore you kind of knew who each person was, what each person brought as far as style to the group. You know, I like the denim, I like the rugged, more rugged look, you know, Ashante’s the pretty boy, slicked back hair, the perm, bright colors like the flamboyant sneakers or shorts that he’s wearing. Sometimes he walks in and me and Dolla are like… We’re like, “OK…” and then we just go through the curtain. But B-FAB is always killing her outfits, man. She was born to be a star. She’s born to be up front. And we try to put her upfront as much as possible because she just steals everybody’s attention as soon as she walks in that CWC. So B-FAB is like definitely like our core and she’s the heartbeat of the group. Hit Row is a culture that we’re trying to push forward and we’re trying to change the game in sports entertainment for sure.

It’s interesting you mention even down to the clothing, because that is so important for a group to look “in sync” in a way. It’s cool to hear you talk about that. I know you said Triple H and was very instrumental in letting you guys creatively see how it all plays out and go for it. How important is it that you guys have been able to kind of put your own stamp on it and kind of make it your own?

Yeah, it was essential. It lets us know our borders, how broad we can make this paint stroke, make our artwork. We know how far we can push the line and we push it a lot sometimes. We kind to go like, “OK, can we say this?” And a lot of times we get denied it, but we still say it in a way that kind of like goes over their heads. “Wait, did you say that? Nope, nope. All right, they’re already gone.” So, like, we kind of say the same things we’re not supposed to say, but we just definitely flip it and make it our own language to a way that still gets the point across.

So it’s also really cool because we kind of speak in code a little bit. So it’s a lot of times it’s a lot of fun for the viewers to be like there’s a part of the audience that does catch it and there’s a lot of parts the audience doesn’t so that makes them have to go back and re-listen to our promos and really catch what we’re saying or listen to our cypher, just our cypher alone at The Great American Bash. A lot of times you got to go back and kind of like, “Wait, let me break this down a little bit. He said something here that’s like… Wait a minute, OK. Oh, I get it now.” And we’re trying to tell them stories and some of the things we’re saying, we’re telling old back stories and bringing them to the forefront and just speaking in our own code. Top Dolla speaking in top boy language with the British slang and Jamaican accent with B-FAB speaking Latin American, Spanish with a different dialect. Ashante being like, “Pause, rewind and shut your mouth” and stuff like that, there’s a lot of things that we’re saying that is just like speaking to different audiences that don’t hear that kind of language and don’t hear that kind of verbiage on WWE programming.

So we’re in a nice grooove where we’re like, “OK, we got something different and unique to offer every week, not just like being in a wrestling ring to do it.” We can do it anywhere we do any time. I still go IG live in the studio with my North American Championship, just showing how I start coming up with ideas to make a record. That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen very often. So we’re using different lanes to experiment and showcase who we are as individuals, but as personalities, but also as these fixtures you see on the TV screen. It’s very unique. And I’m really happy with how NXT, Triple H and the entire WWE Universe let us be and exist in the universe of it.

You can see that you found your groove in Hit Row and you are the North American Champion. How do you look back on your first couple of years in NXT? Because we know you debuted in the Breakout Tournament, but then so much happened – Covid happened, there was no crowd and like all this stuff happened before you get to Hit Row. How do you look back on those couple of years?Do you wish that Hit Row would have happened sooner? How do you kind of quantify it in your mind?

No, no. I am happy with how everything went. I wouldn’t push Hit Row back to my first six months of NXT at all because now you see growth. People want to see growth as much as they want to see, like someone come in and make a huge statement immediately. That’s cool. But there’s been so many times we’ve seen that – like Karrion Kross came in and made a huge impact immediately, you know, and now you’re going to see where he grows with that.

I like the slow burn. I like the going through the pit falls. I like taking people on the turns and the turmoil, seeing the character crack and fall to pieces and then build himself back up then he’s something new, something better than when he was when he first entered in. Because people have to understand, we’re storytellers as much as we’re professional athletes. We want to win championships and main event TakeOver’s, want to be in the Royal Rumble. We want to do all these things and because we’re competitive athletes, that nature, that’s what we are. That’s how we got WWE, we’re competitive.

We were the most competitive people on the independents or whatever field we were in. We were whether they were in the Olympics, whether they were black belt in judo competitions, whether they were former NFL, NBA players, WNBA players – regardless, they were the highest level competitors. So we’ve come in. We want to make an impact immediately, all the time. And we want to be we want gold around our waists. We want to prove that we are the best. And the only way to prove that is to have championships.

But we can’t lose out on the fact that we’re also storytellers. We also are on chapter one. When we get into WWE. Regardless of what we done in the past, we’re starting on Chapter one. And you don’t want to finish your book on chapter one or chapter two or three, you want chapter 25 and then when you finish that book, you want to start like the next the revelation you want to get into. You want you don’t want Harry Potter story to end in the Sorcerer’s Stone, it started in Sorcerer’s Stone and ends in Sorcerer… No, you want the Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire. You want Prisoner of Azkaban. You want the whole series. That’s what we are.

That’s what I’m striving to achieve. I want people to want to read my first chapter, before I got to be in WWE then the next chapter, 205 Live. I debuted in Miami in 205 Live against Drew Gulak as Cruiserweight Champion in front of 6,000 people. That’s a great way to start off my 205 Live career. But that chapter is over now. Now we’re moving on to the next chapter of trying to find my way, the Covid era. I’m trying to find my way and through the Cruiserweight tournament, then the Breakout Tournament, then TakeOver, my first TakeOver, first time me and Santos Escobar, first time we put the Cruiserweight Championship on a TakeOver. That’s another chapter. So now I built all this foundation.

So what do you think I’m going to talk about every time? All these roadblocks, I went through all these challenges and failed. Maybe the failures is what created Hit Row. Maybe the failures is what created the drastic change in my appearance. You know, I don’t have me any without those failures and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

You talk about those failures or those stumbling blocks, but then you got this amazing moment when you won the North American Title. Take us back to that day and take us back to the experience. Was it surreal, overwhelming? What was going through your head?

I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore at this point. I feel like all those overwhelming feelings there with those challenges, that’s the fun part for me. I’m like, “How do I conquer this to the for the day?” That’s how I keep my motivation. I don’t look at it like, “Oh, I got to do this interview all I got to film this. I’ve got to be over here. Oh, I got to take these pictures. I got to rehearse this. I got to…” like I don’t look at it like that. I look at all these things that should be grunt work. I’m like, “Oh, OK, how can I make this mine? How can I accomplish this? Oh, I’ve got to do that at three go back. I do this at 2:45. Oh I got to get this done now too. All right, cool. But if I knock this out real quick. Boom, boom, boom.”

I try to make challenges out of it to keep myself motivated throughout the day. And then leading up to that day I was all I was ready for it. Like I said, those challenges got me ready for this. There’s nothing going to be harder than what I already went through. I’ve already went through the hardships of those things. So now it’s just like, “OK, I just got to be me.” And if you can be yourself through any challenge, it’s not a challenge anymore. You’re just doing what you do. You just don’t you’re doing what you’re born to do.

And this is what I was born to do. You know, I getting in that ring facing Bronson Reed like we faced off before. So this is nothing new. I just had to find different strategies on how to finally get what I wanted at the end of it. You know, that North America Championship. That’s the challenge. I like putting all of these things together and this is the fun part. “OK, challenge here. We got this. Can I do that? I’ma do it anyway. Challenge. Boom.” Like, you know, like, like finding all those ways to work around it to make something unique, make it yours like it is because there’s a way that you could always jump into it and you know, the fanbase, the staff the people that watch the they already know what they’re going to get with that.

They already know that this is going to work. I’m interested in giving you something that you didn’t know was going to work. That’s what my goal is. And that’s what Hit Row is in general. You know, give me something we didn’t know was going to work, but now it’s working. And now we get to carve out a niche and do something that hasn’t been done. And when we wouldn’t have the impact that we had without the North American Championship win on top of that and then going into the Great American Bash, performing and celebrating that North American Championship title win on an NXT special.

My last question – there’s a lot of guys in WWE you’ve faced before over the years. I know you’d said before once that Riddle was one of your favorite opponents and he’s on a roll. What’s it like to see all his success on RAW and do you have hope that one day you guys will get to lock up again?

Couldn’t be more proud of the man.

Like, literally, he’s getting everything that we already knew, a lot of us, a lot of my friends who are in WWE who aren’t in WWE. And we were like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve seen this coming. We’ve seen this coming years ago.” Like I seen this coming when we fought in Seattle, we fought in Chicago, we fought in New York, we fought in Philly. I always knew he was going to do big things. And so this is nothing as a surprise to me. It’s just so amusing watching him, like, literally just implanted throughout the show on RAW. He’s in the first hour, in the second hour then wrestling on the third hour.

Like, “Man, you did this quick, bro!” And he’s making it all work. And it’s all funny. It’s all funny and it’s all amusing. I can’t wait to see more of him. And then putting them with Randy Orton on top of that is just like, “Oh, yeah, yeah. This is great. It’s a match made in heaven.”

I can’t wait till I get in the ring with them though, because we used to like beat the crap out of each other and then just have so much respect for one another afterwards. I can’t wait till the day I get on RAW and go one-on-one with him again because I beat him for some championships, that’s for sure. I definitely took some championships off his waist in the past. I definitely want to see him like have either the United States Title, WWE Championship and next time we face off in the ring is for one of those championships.

Thanks to Isaiah “Swerve” Scott for taking the time. You can follow Swerve City Podcast on YouTube and check out Isaiah Scott every Tuesday night on NXT.