There aren’t many tag teams who have had a more meteoric rise in professional wrestling over the past year than Pretty Deadly. Having sporadically appeared on NXT UK across 2019, Lewis Howley and Sam Stoker would visit Florida for three-weeks in a move they called a “game-changer” – coming back to the United Kingdom and turning in their first victory in WWE. However, immediately after, a global pandemic would force a six-month hiatus. Now, NXT UK is back and bigger than ever, with Pretty Deadly doubling up on their efforts to maintain their previous momentum and even earn a championship opportunity.
Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy sat down with the number one contenders to the NXT UK Tag Team Championships to discuss their WWE careers thus far, learning from Shawn Michaels and Triple H, and their most embarrassing interaction with a legend.
Firstly, congratulations on becoming the number one contenders to the NXT UK Tag Team Championships! Before we talk about that, though, I’m going to bring you crashing back down to Earth, so I apologise. If I remember correctly, you guys had a few sporadic NXT UK matches across 2019 and competed on NXT across the pond a few times. I’ll try not to insult you too much here, but my main memory was you guys only managed to pick up your first win in WWE back in March – which really seemed to start off this whole run – despite being the final NXT tapings before lockdown.
Having waited so long for that win, how frustrating was that six months off? And looking back, was that the start of your meteoric rise back in March, or did something change for you guys across the six month hiatus that’s now saw you jump straight to the top of a really stacked division? You looked slightly confused when I said that, so maybe it’s less significant than I’ve thought!
Lewis: Well, I tell you why I was confused, is I was because your tone was quite alarming at first and I expected you to be a bit rude. So when you said the last NXT UK match, I thought you meant the one that just happened. That wouldn’t have gone down nicely. [To Sam] Go on, boy, take it away.
Sam: So, yeah, I think as a tag team, as the best tag team now, we knew we were going to get here. We knew we always had it in us and everyone told us, “You’re going to be a great future tag team.” And we thought, “No, no, no, no, no. We ARE the best team.” So I think we needed to regroup and, right before this break, that was the start.
Unfortunately, we had this break, but that only gave us more time to train, prepare and get ready. Now, we’re on a hot streak now. Now we’re unbeatable. I think Pretty Deadly, doing what we do right now, we’re unbeatable. So if we’ve got matches before this big title match or if we just go straight into this title match, we’re unbeatable. I think this is a new us and it’s not going change. It’s not going to stop. We’re only going up.
The one thing that really caught me back in March, and even in those losing efforts, was the chemistry you guys have together. Some tag teams, particularly ones we haven’t saw a lot of, can seem thrown together and the actual working as a team can take years. The one thing, though, is I can’t quite compare you to anyone, which is great! Who did you grow up watching that inspired your wrestling journey?
Lewis: Obviously, when we were kids, it was a very different story, a very different story. But let’s talk about us. We like to go back and watch a lot of The Brainbusters and The Rockers, huge influences from them.
Sam: And modern-day – big fans of The New Day and the Usos. They are two teams on the main roster that we will be fighting, we need to fight, we need to face them. But they’re big inspirations, both in the ring and outside the ring. I think everything they do, whether it just be on the microphone for two or three minutes, that’s the kind of level we’re looking at and that’s the kind of stuff we’re learning from. There’s a few modern, there’s a few older teams. But you’re right, Gary, we are unique. You can’t compare us…
Lewis: You cannot.
Sam: ..so thank you.
Lewis: But even The Usos in particular, it’s the fact that they’ve managed to to just adapt and keep changing, and still be exciting for such a long period of time. It’s things like that as well that we have to keep a close eye on. I mean, obviously, me and Sam could never be boring. That would never be possible.
Sam: I wouldn’t dream of it!
Lewis: Hey, man, you would NEVER be boring. Not at any time in your life, boy.
Sam: YOU would never be boring! You excite me.
Lewis: But we’ll still keep on top of it, in case.
I don’t think anyone will be able to accuse you guys of being boring any time soon, so you don’t have to worry about that…
Lewis: I’m cautious that you might come out with that, Gary…
Sam: You talked about insults earlier…
Well, on that note, before we go into some good stuff, I want to ask one more question about losing matches… I brought up that you guys lost a lot of your first matches in NXT UK, but I feel like there’s a good point to be made there in that you kept coming back – so much so that you now you have a shot at the gold. I need to ask, how much more difficult, or how much perhaps easier is it, to impress when you’re losing matches? Is there a confidence in there about your own ability to make others look good?
Sam: So I think I think you’ll find, even though we took those difficult losses, they were great matches and, yeah, everyone came out that looking good and there’s people told us, “Wow, you look great and it’s only a matter of time,” which it was.
However, I think, as Lewis spoke about, we are really big into this progression and that we get better every single time. You won’t see us make the same mistake twice and you’ll only see us improve every single time. So, we had a period of losses, and that’s when we first joined the company, we we were learning the ropes. You know, we were getting inside the ropes, trying to learn them, but…we’ve learned from it. Every mistake we made, every time we lost, we came back from and we didn’t repeat, we won.
Lewis: Something we always say is that we treat every interview, every match, anything we do, we always try to treat it as an audition for the next day. I attribute that to, like you said, you know, I like that word used, “Our METEORIC rise” – and I think that’s a perfect example of us putting in place, because everything we did from them losses, as you saw, each loss, we got better, we progressed, we lasted longer in there. Each time people saw more of us and they saw more potential and then, hey, look at us.
Sam: Look at us now, baby. Who’d have thought?
Lewis: Not me!
Well, actually, I did – and you did as well.
“Meteoric rise!” – Gary Cassidy https://t.co/sBl7RwVDBH
— Sam Stoker 😍☠️ (@SamStokerPD) February 3, 2021
And it has definitely been meteoric! Now, you guys definitely take a lot of credit for that, and rightfully so, but you are sitting under the learning tree of legends like Shawn Michaels, Triple H, William Regal, Johnny Saint. What kind of influence have those legends been in your careers? Has there been any advice you’ve picked up that’s been an instant, “Yep, that’s exactly what we’ve got to do”?
Lewis: Well, I’ve been lucky enough to sit under the learning tree of Sam Stoker and I’ve picked up a lot, I need to tell you, I’ve picked up a lot.
Sam: I will cut in. To be serious for a little bit, there’s been a massive list of people… I guess at the top of that list would be Lewis Howley for me.
I got you there.
So I will say we talk a lot and we discuss a lot, and we do help each other and we kind of elevate each other. However, there have been, as there are, great trainers in NXT UK, and across the pond in NXT, there’s great people to learn from and there has been many people helping us out. Shawn Michaels has been a great help. William Regal has been a great help. I mean, there’s a lot of people that you hear the names of and think, “Yeah, of course.” And there’s a few more people that maybe haven’t heard of for a while that we could name drop. I don’t know if we shall…
Lewis: You know, we’ve got some some secret helpers in the back pocket that, one day, you’ll find out about. Who knows.
But like you say, it’s such a huge learning tree. Everybody’s so good, every single coach, there’s the stuff you’re picking up from everyone. Terry Taylor as well was a huge help while he was over… The three weeks we did in Orlando was just, like, a game-changer for us in terms of the things we learned, the experiences we got. Even in terms of mindset, it just really made us realise, “Oh, hang on a minute. We’re we’re here. We can we can do this.” And it was a big switch for us.
And on the flip-side of that, I’ve asked a few people this one, and had everything from drunken hotel encounters to meeting your heroes in catering and telling them to go first. What’s the most surreal experience you’ve had with a wrestling legend? Have you ever done something in front of someone you watched as a child and immediately regretted it, completely embarrassed yourself, or has it just all been great?
Sam: There’s never a dull moment, Gary. It’s not always been great. Even us, we’ll make some blunders. So when we flew over the pond to train with NXT, we were obviously staying in a certain hotel, staying in the same hotel with us, having breakfast simultaneously with us with Steve Corino…
Lewis: And I made the mistake of saying, “Oh, Sam, that’s Steve Corino, let’s go and introduce ourselves.” I was closer to him than Sam was, so I got up and I walked over. And I think, just because, obviously, he’s always on my mind, I walked up and I say, “Hi, I’m Sam. Nice to meet you.” And I go, “No, sorry, I’m Lewis, nice to meet you.
Sam: I came in with a sweet handshake and I said, “Hi, I’m Sam.”
Lewis: It was terrible.
That is absolutely brilliant! You did mention that you’ve wrestled across the pond in NXT, you called it a “game-changer” there. Do you have any aspirations to go back there, maybe with some NXT UK gold around your waists, when possible?
Lewis: I like it. I like the sound of that, boy. “Might” it be? Well, there’s no “might” in that. I think we all know, with our skill-set…
Sam: You best believe it!
Lewis: When the time comes, we will hold those championships. But yeah, 100%, but we’re really enjoying the NXT UK tag team division. We’ve got so many good opponents in there that it’s just fun to be in there with so we’re more than happy to stay here for quite a while. What we always said, we really want to just try to elevate tag team and we want to try and make it to be back to, like, a main event status. So, hey, let’s achieve that in NXT UK first and then let’s get that ball rolling, boy!
Sam: I like that. That is infectious. Yeah, I agree. NXT UK Tag Team Championships. Let’s get elevating the scene, main events on the TakeOver’s, then we’ll go get the Dusty Cup, then we’ll get the NXT Tag Team Championships.
Lewis: Yeah, we’ll do the same there. Then what?
Lewis: Then what?
Lewis: Then what?
Sam: Hall of Fame!
Sam: Why not, eh?
Love it! You can just unify all the titles and main event every show. But back to NXT UK. So, we always hear about locker room leaders. Who is the locker room leader of NXT UK? Who do you look up to as the measuring stick of the brand? Without mentioning each other, I’ll add in there.
Lewis: You think you’re funny, Gary?! Trying to steal that from us!
Sam: Trying to split us apart. You wouldn’t be the first!
Lewis: I think, in terms of tag wrestling, we really do… As much as we’re going to smoke them, we really do have to give credit to the Gallus boys. They’ve carried the division for 18 months now and they really have set a standard. So definitely, for us, they are people that we look up to within the roster. As much as they are the big numpties and insecure men at heart…
Sam: Give me more insults.
Lewis: Well, there are a lot of things, Sam. You could say that they’re a bit scared of Pretty Deadly. I’ve heard that. That was a whisper I heard.
Sam: Let me compliment them more and you can give them more insults.
Lewis: What have you got for them?
Sam: I’d agree. They’re hard-working. I’d agree that they’re hard workers – in the gym, outside the ring, inside the ring – they’re super hard workers and they’re always pushing to be better. And they do they do elevate the scene on the division on, tag team wrestling has never been as strong as it is now on NXT UK. However, we are going to beat them because they are…
Lewis: Well, let’s look at Wolfie in particular. He’s just a nutjob. He’s off his head. It’s quite scary and embarrassing. So it’s an odd…
Sam: Yeah, you wonder how you got there.
It definitely must be the accent that gives that impression!
[Gary says as a fellow Glaswegian]
So, those guys are obviously some of the founding fathers of the brand, and I know you’re closer to the younger side, the talent that’s going to come in and do everything you can to take over. There are a lot of fresh faces, both younger talents and veterans, on the brand. Who would we be looking out for? Who has impressed you?
Lewis: I mean, with charisma that’s so unrivalled, it’s hard for people to stand out to us, but let’s think of the new…
Sam: The announcement that’s just happened of Meiko [Satomura] coming in, I think it’s ignorant of us not to say she’s already a megastar – so she’s going to come in and she’s going to blow this place up.
Lewis: She really is.
Sam: For the new talent, maybe people we haven’t seen before, we’ve heard bits about, we’ve read this about coming onto the scene. Who do you like?
Lewis: I mean, Ben Carter’s been impressive with his debut and his last couple of matches. I think he’s already got a lot of eyes on him so I think he’s going to have some some high standards to keep now that he’s impressed so much since he started something, he’d probably be the one he’s on the list.
Sam: Let’s give it to him. Who do you think?
Oh, definitely Pretty Deadly are the ones to watch, and I’ll throw in Isla Dawn, who’s looked great since the return too – but what do I know?
Lewis: Well, Gary, what you know…is nothing.
A perfect note to end on! Since we’re all stuck inside and I won’t see Gallus out and about in Glasgow, I’m going to wish you guys the very best of luck for your upcoming NXT UK Tag Team Championship opportunity!
Lewis: If you do, though, just kick them in the shins or something. Just give them a little one.
Sam: Dead leg…
No, I don’t fancy my chances, I’ll leave that to you guys. Good luck!
Thanks to Pretty Deadly for taking the time and to WWE United Kingdom for facilitating the chat. You can follow Lewis Howley and Sam Stoker on Twitter for more.
You can watch Pretty Deadly every week on NXT UK, which is available via the WWE Network at 8pm every Thursday, then on BT Sport every Friday.