Interviews

Interview With . . . Sha Samuels

Sha Samuels

Sha Samuels in NXT UK seems like a no-brainer now that it’s finally reality, but timing is everything. The 36-year-old has been one of Britain’s standout stars for the best part of a decade, but only officially signed with WWE in January, 2021.

As the ICW Lionheart League winner told Inside The Ropesā€˜ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, though, it was a long time coming after a failed medical put the kibosh on a move one year previous, and it was all worth the wait as Samuels has, in his own words, learned more in one year than he had in the 17 previous.

From being kept in the dark over his Ed Harvey name to EastEnders aspirations, Sha Samuels opens up about his NXT UK run thus far and so much more.

I need to ask about the breaking news that’s just emerged right before this call – Crowds are back! How exciting is that for you?

Oh, we’re looking forward to it. I mean, having fans in the building is what this is all about. Not have fans in the building, it’s harder to perform at a higher level, but NXT UK has always been lucky to perform at a high level without fans. We’ve actually benefited without having fans, I think because it’s been concentrated just on the in-ring action. With fans back now next week, on the 14th, can’t wait to get going!

I will say, I’m glad those fans are going to get to see Sha Samuels and not Ed Harvey…

Hey, at least had the guts to go, “No, I’m not Ed Harvey. I’m Sha Samuels.” Who else has done that in WWE? I’m the only one who’s got the bottle to do it.

Well, I need to ask about that. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve seen on NXT UK…maybe ever and Cagematch actually still lists you as Ed Harvey for the match too!

Does it?!

Yeah! I want to ask about that. How close did you actually come to being called Ed Harvey? Were there ever serious conversations to rename you?

Well, I was brought into a room and they said, “We’re going to change your name.” I was like, “OK, you know, company man, whatever you need to do, I’m happy to be here. Happy for the opportunity. I’m going to make it work.” And they said, “You’re going to be called Ed Harvey.” And my face dropped.

To be fair, I was… It was for about a week, I was led to believe I’d be called Ed Harvey. But then I was told, “Nah, you’re going to, you’re going to be Sha Samuels. You’re going to make a big thing about, ‘Nah, I’m not Ed Harvey’.” So that was a relief. But for a good week, I was a bit… I was a bit disheartened, to be honest, because if you want to give me a new name, I could think of a better name than Ed Harvey.

I think Sha Samuels fits you just fine but I do love that that was all one big rib for a week!

Yeah! Thanks for that!

Without jobbing myself out too much, I was delighted to see you sign with WWE – not just having watched you for years in ICW – but because I’d reported that there was interest and that the signing was likely

Yeah, I know! I thought I recognised the name but I was trying to keep it schtum, you know.

Most of those names signed, we’ll just not mention that a couple didn’t – but one thing I wanted to ask was about the lead-up to you signing. When did WWE get in touch in the first place and how did you finally make it to WWE?

Oh, it was in 2019, I had a tryout week at the PC, then I had a dark match. And then from there, they liked what they saw and we agreed a deal. Then I came back in January 2020 to do my medical, this, that and the other, and unfortunately, I didn’t pass the medical. I wasn’t fit.

So they said, “We’ll, give it six months until you’re healed then we’ll get in contact with you again.” But unfortunately, COVID happened, pandemic happened, and I thought it wasn’t… Nothing was going to happen. But I decided to just work hard during lockdown, get in the best shape I could, make sure I was healthy. Then I got back in contact with them, then I came back for another week, another tryout week, and then they signed me.

Yeah, I remember you’d been on Wrestling Daft mentioning about the previous trial and having an issue with the medical…

Yeah, with Grado!

Yeah, exactly! So it was great to finally see you make your way back to WWE. But you mentioned another thing – body tranformation. Anyone who checks out your Twitter will see that you’ve got into absolutely incredible shape! What was the inspiration behind that?

Well, because of lockdown, I had let myself go during lockdown, like I guess a lot of people have, and I was seeing my children. I was like, “I want to show them, you know, be kind of a role model and just get in shape and kind of motivate them to be more active.” So that’s how it started but then it just snowballed and turned a little bit of an addiction to getting as best shape as I can. So that’s what it was. Health first!

I love that it’s as simple as that. “I wanted to do it so I did it!”

I just wanted to show my kids to be more active. And then once, once that happened and they’ll come out with me for walks and, you know, little jogs and this, that and the other, it just snowballed and it turned into an addiction, like a new hobby, because the pubs were closed so I had to do something.

So, you have actually wrestled in front of a WWE crowd once in a dark match…

Yeah, just one dark match. Yeah, that’s what got me the job here. Yeah.

Obviously, for most of your run so far, you’ve been in the empty BT Sport Studios, which obviously has given us great matches, but one thing I’ve asked a lot of people about that just sounds surreal is the “Voice of God” in BT Sport Studios, Shawn Michaels, producing matches from across the pond. Have you had any interactions or advice from Shawn on your work via that wonderful Zoom link?

Yeah, it’s a very surreal experience, but that’s what it’s all about. He’s an idol of so many, myself included. It’s just amazing to learn from him. I can’t put it into words, to be honest. Being here for, I think I’ve been here about a year now, and the amount I’ve learned in that year compared to previous 16, 17 years blows my mind, you know?

It just shows that that one year working here, getting advice from him has made me 20 times better, in my opinion. So now I’m really excited. Fans are back. People get to see it. Hopefully we do more live shows and I can just put my skills to the test because I’ve been chomping at the bit. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a match in front of fans, so I’m hopefully it’s soon.

Being from Glasgow and seeing a lot of Sha Samuels in ICW, I can’t wait to see this new and improved Sha in front of a WWE crowd! One thing that’s been making the rounds is this ever-increasing talk of a WWE pay-per-view in the UK. A lot of football stadiums are getting mentioned… So, you’re a big Chelsea man.

Yeah, I love Chelsea, of course.

I won’t hold it against you, but I do have a question on that. A lot of talk about a WWE PPV and football stadiums seem like the most likely place. Picture the scene, Stamford Bridge, WWE PPV. We’re booking a fantasy match. Sha Samuels can team with any PL footballer against any WWE Superstar and footballer combo. Who are you picking and who are you going against?

I’m picking… Well, I’m Romelu Lukaku because he’s a big, big boy!

I’d love to be… Noam Dar and Cristiano Ronaldo, ’cause I’d love to give Ronaldo a slap around the ear and it’s always fun beating up Noam Dar. Even though he’s my mate, I love giving him a slap.

I love that! Two best strikers in the Premier League, which I’m happy to say as a Liverpool fan as Mo Salah isn’t a striker.

You shouldn’t have told me that. Come on!

I’ll tell you what, I asked Sheamus that before and he had himself and Virgil van Dijk. I’m sure a lot of people would pay good money for yourself and Romelu Lukaku to take them on!

One thing I want to ask. I’m not going to pull you out of wrestling just yet, but you seem like the perfect fit for acting, and one soap opera in particular! Have you ever had any serious thoughts about that?

Actually, yeah, I’ve thought about it many, many times. I’ve actually tried to become an extra many, many years ago, but it just wasn’t for me. I put all my eggs into the wrestling basket. But I’d love to be on EastEnders if that’s what you’re hinting at…

You said it, not me!

As a young boy… Frank Butcher is one of my inspirations and so is Danny Dyer. So to get to follow in their footsteps would be amazing.

I mean, you’re down in London, it’s right around the corner.

It could be in the future. I could be the next Phil Mitchell!

I mentioned Shawn Michaels earlier – obviously an absolute legend you get to work with every day. When I asked Trent Seventhis question, he gave me an answer that included drunkenly meeting Ric Flair in a hotel and speaking to The Undertaker about Japanese wrestling. So no pressure. What is the most surreal experience you’ve had or interaction with a WWE Superstar?

Oh my! That’s a tough question. I mean, I went to… Being a Chelsea fan, when Finn Balor was over here in 2016, and I’ve been friends with him for many years from when he worked over here, he told me to come to a Tottenham game, so I went to a Tottenham game with him. Then, next thing you know, we’re walking on the pitch. Now imagine being a Chelsea fan and I’m walking on the pitch. That was a surreal experience. Obviously, it’s not quite being drunk with Ric Flair in a hotel, but you know, maybe that’s to come in the future.

The best ones are yet to come, but I love that story. I’d have loved it more if they’d made you put on a Tottenham top before walking onto the pitch.

Hey! Actually, saying that, they were going to take a picture and I was offered to hold up the Tottenham shirt with Finn but I said, “No, absolutely not.”

Before the last question… I’m not going to talk myself up too much here but I want to hit you with THE most difficult question I’m sure you’ll get all day, by far the most controversial. WWE comes to Sha Samuels and says you can bring ONE man in. It can only be one. Grado or Jack Jester – who are you choosing?

Oh, what are you doing to me?!

I can’t answer that, you know? I can’t. I’d rather see him both… Oh, that’s really tough, mate. I would say Jack Jester. Jack Jester because, you know, we’re a good team, we’ve got great chemistry, and I’d love to see him here. That’s no offence to Grado, but he’s more of an enemy than a friend.

I don’t think Kinky Party ever actually split up and Jack Jester’s a bit bigger than Noam Dar, so why not? But I’ll be sure to send that to Grado later.

Cut that!

Final question. My favourite thing about NXT UK recently has been the complete overhaul and the new beginning seeing people like Pretty Deadly, who hadn’t one a match pre-pandemic, taking the ball and running with it, becoming Tag Team Champions. A lot of people were talking them up beforehand and they’ve hit the top. Who should we be looking at that you’re seeing putting in that time in the gym, putting in that effort behind the scenes, always eager to learn, that will just explode when fans are back and hit top gear?

There’s two people I think that are working hard and maybe not getting the recognition they deserve. Kenny Williams and Saxon Huxley. I think them two are amazing. They always work hard, they put amazing effort in, and the improvement they’ve made over the last year has been phenomenal. I reckon, in the next year, especially Kenny Williams, they’re going to be breakout stars in the UK.

You are not the first person to mention those two names and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that corroboration is everything!

Everyone must be on the same wavelength with them two because we see it at the PC every time, we see it at the shows, they work so hard. It’s inspirational to see how hard they work and it deserve all the success in the world, both of them.

Thanks to Sha Samuels for taking the time and to WWE United Kingdom for facilitating the chat. You can follow Sha on Twitter here, and watch Sha every week on NXT UK, which is available via the WWE Network at 8pm every Thursday, then on BT Sport every Friday.