Many accomplished WWE Superstars have departed the company due to budget cuts this year, but not many had such a stop-start last year than Westin Blake. As Wesley Blake, the former NXT Tag Team Champion and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finalist was called up to the SmackDown roster after seven years on the black and gold brand. However, his release capped off a tragic six months which saw his push halted due to a tweet sent from his faction-mate, and the release of his tag team partner slamming the brakes on the storyline they had pitched after being removed from television through no fault of their own.
Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, Westin Blake recalled the creative pitches he made to get back on television, his relationship – or lack thereof – with Vince McMahon, working with Triple H and Shawn Michaels in NXT, and much more.
How’s it going today, Westin?
Oh, I’m great, man. I’m blessed. The sun is shining. It’s kind of wet over here, but it’s going very well. We just celebrated Father’s Day over here in America and I got to spend time with the family and the kids about that. So I’m on cloud nine right now.
Well, let’s start off with that. I know you are a father, you’ve got kids with someone many WWE fans will know from Tough Enough! Obviously it’s never a good time to lose your job, but getting to spend some time with your loved ones might just be one of the silver linings. What’s it been like since you’ve been released? Have you just been spending time with the family while your 90-day non-compete clause runs down or have you been passing the time any other way?
Yeah. So, when I got released, that was one of the first things that came to my mind was my family and just the reassurance of telling them that everything was going to be all right, that daddy/husband is going to keep working hard to provide the best life for them and almost use this as a teaching and learning tool for my kids to show that, when you have your mind set on a goal and if it doesn’t reach the potential that you want, you still keep going forward and you keep striving for your success and for your kind of greatness that you achieve with yourself.
Yeah, of course with the pandemic and with me getting released, getting to spend time with my kids has been absolutely something that I will always hold near and dear to my heart. My four-year-old, you just get to do little things like potty-training and stuff like that and my two-year-old, you get to be there for their first steps and get to hear them talk for the first time. It’s nice because, when you get into this profession, you don’t think that you’re going to be home a lot just because of the stories and everything. You know kind of what you’re getting into and the schedule that you’re going to uphold. So it’s just very nice.
It’s a breath of fresh air when you get to do those sort of things and get to spend a little bit more time with your wife and spend more time with your kids. Actually they’re enjoying you being home and they don’t necessarily see you all the time, going back on the road or just knowing daddy from two ships passing in the night type thing. So it’s very nice that I got to have that bond and that kinship just because, from very early on, I was blessed with two parents that we raised a close family. I had two older brothers and a younger sister and my mom and dad had a strong foundation. I saw my dad and my mom every day. I think that’s what has a strong family niche right there. That’s something that me and my wife are working on with our kids, making sure they have a solid foundation and that, you know, mom and dad are there for them.
Definitely, and I know you might be enjoying that time but I’m sure you’re itching to get in the ring again too, which we’ll get to. I know you recently had an interview with Innes McVey where he asked a lot of the good stuff that I was keen to ask, so we’ll try not re-run that one. One thing I’d love to ask you about, though, was your recent pairing with King Corbin. I know you didn’t even have a match, it seemed to be cut so short, but tell me about the Knights of the Lone Wolf. Obviously that came together after the Forgotten Sons were taken off television. How did yourself and Steve Cutler, now Maclin, find out you’d be paired with Corbin and what was that run like?
When the whole Jaxson Ryker tweet happened and once we were told like, “Hey, we’re not going to be using the Forgotten Sons anymore,” that was actually one of the pitches that Steve and myself pitched towards creative saying, “Hey, we would like to be paired with Baron Corbin. We feel like we would add to his already heel persona and we feel like we can get some miles out of him. It would just be kind of great interaction and I think we can have fun working with him,” because, of course, we’ve known him since NXT days, way back when. It was just something that we pitched. We didn’t really like the Knights of the Lone Wolf, we just kind of pitched us being with him, just kind of throwing stuff against the wall, and we found out that December of last year that we were finally going to get paired with them.
Creative came to us with the look that they wanted. They wanted the clean-shaved look. They wanted us with the hoodies with suits and stuff like that. They wanted to go like a more modern, athletic, sports entertainer look. We were very excited for it and I know I was very excited to work with Corbin and get back on TV and just kind of get your foot back in the door. We had some steam, we had some momentum going with Forgotten Sons, but that got halted and so when that stuff happens, you’ve got to try to keep moving forward to try to get your foot back in that door so you can kind of get your momentum back up. Once we started with Baron Corbin, we were very excited because there were some creative plans going forward with us working with the Mysterios, which is one of those dream matches that everyone wishes that they could have because Rey Mysterio’s such a legend and he can still go in the ring and getting to work his son Dominik would have been so much fun.
At that time, Buddy Murphy was still involved with that family storyline wise. So we were looking forward to that and we were looking forward to getting like some character stuff out there and get to work some six-mans with Murphy and the Mysterio family. So it was a very exciting time for us getting our foot back in the door and also getting to work with Corbin who has just been Mr Consistent. He’s got to do some cool stuff back in the day with The Rock and Becky Lynch and stuff like that, like he got to share some TV time with. When you’re paired with a guy kind of like that, it only helps elevate your level. That was one of the things that we really liked.
That one seems even more frustrating now that I’ve asked since there were clearly plans there that got halted when Steve Cutler was released. You mentioned you guys pitching that idea, and I recently interviewed Chelsea Green who has been open about pitching every thought she had to see what stuck. Was there anything else you pitched that you thought might have really taken off?
Yeah. So the Corbin thing was a good one. Chelsea Green as well. We pitched, like, a Dukes of Hazard and, of course, her being Daisy and that type of stuff. We pitched that stuff towards creative. We even pitched kind of like, off the Forgotten Sons, we pitched Lacey Evans kind of shaping us up, giving us the clean look and kind of turning us into gentlemen. We pitched that. We pitch all sorts of ideas.
Another crazy idea that we pitched was we, Steve and myself, would be part of the kind of the Wyatt Family, but we would be part of his Firefly FunHouse. We would be his pig or his rabbit and like we would actually bring it to life. Not only that, but we would be like real life pig and rabbit, we would actually wrestle people is kind of what we would say. Like, we would kind of do his dirty work. We pitched that and just all sorts of things that we were just throwing, just kind of seeing what stuck.
It was fun for Steve and I just to creatively just kind of, “Hey, does this sound good? Does this sound good?” Of course, just back at that time, they would be like, “Oh, yeah, that sounds good, go with that,” or that, “They’re doing something else with that person.” When you get told, no, it just opens your mind up creatively to think, “OK, if that’s not going to work, maybe we can go here.” You always got to keep the wheels turning, so to speak, on trying to get something that may stick or work or something you can just get a grasp of.
I almost regret asking that question now because I’d have definitely liked to have seen how some of those played out! So something that always comes up when Superstars are released is the relationship, or sometimes lack thereof, with Vince McMahon. A lot of people detail sitting outside Vince’s office for hours, Sin Cara recently told me that he refused to do that because the boss should know what he’s capable of. Did you have a relationship at all with Vince McMahon or were your pitches all just going to a writer or writing team?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t even… Like I said, it was a weird time where we got brought up during the pandemic and so we had a meeting with Vince prior, that WrestleMania that was going to be held in Tampa, we were going to fly to Connecticut – Ryker, Maclin and myself – and get the meeting with Vince and creative but, of course, with everything shut down, that got ixnayed. So we just went for it and they ended up debuting us but I never got to have a relationship with Vince McMahon. I think I shook his hand maybe twice and that was when I was with the Knights of The Lone Wolf, and he was just telling me “good job”. Other than that, there was several times where Steve and I were out after the tweet, that we tried to have a meeting with him because, like everyone says, you have to get a meeting or you have to try to build a relationship with Vince McMahon in order to get in front of him to kind of see who you are type of stuff. Unfortunately, I never got that. I never got to have a meeting with him. I never got to sit with him and talk. All my stuff to Vince was through creative, through a writer, through Bruce Prichard type stuff, through the creative of SmackDown. That’s how he got to hear what Wesley Blake is or what Steve Maclin was.
But with Triple H, I had a good enough relationship where, down there in NXT, he always made himself very visible. He was always out at the ring know, going over finishes or going through entrances with people. So even to grab his ear for a minute or two just to go over a finish or go over a creative idea that you had for the group, it seemed better that way that – and plus you had Shawn Michaels down there who was his best friend and who was there at the Performance Center every day and getting to coach and getting to go through video sessions with him. So you kind of got Triple H’s mind and got to see his best friend and see his vision as well. NXT-wise, it was just very much easier for us to get to Triple H or at least get into his ear about what we wanted to do or a creative idea pitch.
It’s interesting that you mentioned Triple H and Shawn Michaels. I recently spoke with then on a media call and asked about current wrestlers working as producers. Johnny Gargano and Pete Dunne have notoriously done that, then Jason Jordan for different reasons and even Drew Gulak we hear does a lot of coaching. When you were off television, was that ever something you enquired about?
Yeah, in my time in NXT, they kind of entrusted me with several different jobs at that time. At one time, there was a promo class for NXT and for the people coming up and people coming into the Performance Center and they trusted me and a couple other people to lead this promo class and lead them through exercises and hopefully get them to where they feel more comfortable and stuff like that for about three or four months because the writers at that time and the creative people, they were getting pulled from every which direction. So they needed a couple people that been in NXT for a while to kind of just help out and I was more than happy to help whenever I could.
So I did that, I helped with the promo classes for about three or four months there when stuff was getting crazy. I also got to do some cool stuff with… I got to help out with a lot of times every year NXT pairs themselves with the Special Olympics and we got to get to work with them. You know, we do like the plane pull every year. And most of the time it’s Matt Bloom, who’s the head coach there, most of the time he runs everything. But at that time, with NXT being on TV and everything like that, of course, he’s another one wearing a lot of hats get pulled in every which direction, he’s another one that entrusted in me like, “Hey, do you mind taking care of this for me or kind of going with the Special Olympics?” Which I was more than happy to do. And so that was another cool aspect where I kind of got to do that as well. I got to be involved in that and kind of get to lead that. It was just very much a lot of fun and just cool that they entrusted in me to give me these roles and stuff like that.
As far as coaching, I was with Terry Taylor and Shawn Michaels and if they ever asked me, “Hey, do you mind going to another class or helping out here?” I always did. You know, I was kind of one of their… I Would like to say a go-to guy for just about anything and everything, whether it be setting up a ring or whether it just be helping a guy out, or whether it just be working someone’s first match at the Performance Center. They can rely on someone communicating with them and making sure they are at ease wrestling their first match and stuff like that. I got to do a lot of cool things like that where, you know, not only was I Wesley Blake, the WWE or NXT Superstar that you see on TV, I got to do a lot of different activities and events for them, which was a lot of fun for me.
That means that whatever comes next, if any companies are watching this, they know hiring Westin Blake will get them much more than just a talented wrestler! So, you said Matt Bloom wears a lot of hats, but you did too! I’d say quite literally sometimes. We saw you as a cowboy, in Forgotten Sons as a soldier or marine, then Knights of the Lone Wolf, and there’s Blake & Murphy. You told us about those incredible and bizarre pitches, but was anything ever pitched to you that you simply weren’t a fan of?
No. Not a lot of stuff got pitched my way, it was actually the opposite. I pitched stuff and it kind of came back. With Corbin, that was probably the one where I had the least input to say. I mean, they’re like, “Hey, you’re with Corbin. Here’s your look. Here’s what we want you to do. Here is kind of how we want you to act.” And of course, like I said, at that time, I just kind of wanted to put my foot in the door type thing. And so I was just kind of like, “Yeah, I’ll do whatever you need or whatever you ask.”
I remember I even talked to Daniel Bryan about it a little bit when we were there and he even brought up and said, “Hey, do you think you could even make this a comedy type thing?” And Steve and I, we were more than willing. I was like, “Whatever you want, whatever y’all see The Knights of the Lone Wolf being, I think we could be. So if we want all wanted us to be comedy and Corbin the more serious, we can do that.”
Unfortunately none of it got to play out like that. But I would say Knights of the Lone Wolf was probably like the least input I had on a character or something like that. But most of the other times when you do pitches, you’re doing pitches for yourself and kind of what you see yourself as, a kind of character that you’re going to come up with. Steve and myself with the Forgotten Sons, we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted and the tone and the theme that we wanted for our tag team. Then WWE or NXT creative just kind of sprinkled their stuff that they wanted, they would work with us in a way to where we kind of got both sides happy.
You mentioned almost working with Rey Mysterio earlier. Obviously you were paired with Baron Corbin and worked with, a lot of huge names at different stages in your and their careers – the likes of Alexa Bliss and Street Profits. Who would you say you learned the most from in WWE?
Oh, man, there is a plethora of people that that I learned from, whether it be in the ring or outside the ring. Like whether promo wise or whatever. With Alexa, I get paired with her down at NXT, which I think helped transform her because, at that time, she was the Sparkle Princess and then she kind of got in there. And they liked the attitude change with that. I got to work with some with some great talents. Shinsuke Nakamura, who was one of the greatest, coming out of Japan, in the world. I’ll never forget. He just had his debut. This is when I knew that Shinsuke was kind of like a next level star. So he just had his debut match with Sami Zayn at TakeOver: Dallas.
And the next morning was a WrestleMania Axxess. And I don’t know if people don’t know what that is, but it’s basically you get to go in and WWE opens its door to the warehouse wherever it is, and you can kind of go see merchandise, you get to go see old stuff. But not only that, you get the kind of see matches and, at that time, NXT put on like just exhibition matches and stuff like that and so he just had this killer match with Sami Zayn and then me and him were scheduled to do a match the next day. I want to say that Saturday morning, for Axxess at eight o’clock in the morning. So this guy just went out, killed it, and then he had to wake up at six o’clock in the morning to get shuttled over to WrestleMania Axxess. At eight o’clock in the morning, there’s not a lot of people there and they’re just kind of like floundering and looking around and stuff like that, and I’ll never forget… I was in the ring and his music hits, and I just remember looking out and people at merchandise just drop their stuff and just come in waves towards the ring where I swear everyone in Axxess heard that music and they wanted to go see Shinsuke Nakamura. That was just a cool moment in time where I was, “Oh, Wow.” And I cherish it and what’s great is that he helped me out so much in and outside the ring just presentation wise, moves and just kind of like how he sets things up. He was a great one. There’s several other people.
Tyler Breeze is another one that, even when I first got there, just helped me build confidence and stuff like that and wrestled how I want to wrestle. People like Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, we were all kind of coming up in that tag division at the same time. We got to work those guys lot on live events quite a bit. We got to learn a lot with tag team chemistry and stuff like that. So they were another team that I learned quite a bit from.
Shawn Spears I got to work with a lot on live events and I also got to do one of my favourite matches before Brooklyn II. That’s when I first found out that I was becoming a father before that match and so it holds a special place in my heart just with that and Shawn Spears has been in the wrestling business for now I would say 20 years or so, or right up there, and just his knowledge and getting to hear stories of when he was back in FCW and his kind of coming up and his perception of the business.
Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, having those two guys in the locker room. I mean, just being under that knowledge tree of them, just kind of getting to tell stories and their perception of the business and what they thought. Bobby Roode another one that you kind of connected to, to where you would get to talk to and stuff like that. There’s just so much more with so many talented people, even people they brought in just for a little bit. Tommy Dreamer, they brought in for a little bit down in NXT. Rhyno they brought down in NXT for a little bit.
Pac! I got to wrestle Pac a couple of times and he is probably one of my favourite opponents to wrestle. I mean, the guy can just do literally anything and everything in the ring and all his stuff looks so good. Just like his thought and process of putting a match together, there’s just so many talented people.
Enzo and Cass! Those two, it was just great. I mean, they were red hot in NXT at that time and they really helped Murphy and myself propel to a really quality heel team and really helped us generate a lot of heat for us at that time. Man, I’m pretty sure I’m leaving some people out right now because there’s so much but the great thing about when I was in the NXT and even WWE is they bring in a lot of talent from all sorts of different cultures and different wrestling styles and stuff like that, so I kind of got to mix in with a little bit of everybody, whether it be live events or just sharing the locker room and you just kind of get bits and pieces and stuff that you like from everybody and kind of mould into your own.
I love that you mentioned an NXT Hall of Fame essentially there, but I’m glad I have this recorded because I have to be honest – I was half paying attention and half thinking of how good FTR versus Blake and Murphy nowadays would be.
So that’s the possibilities that, right now, can be presented down the road. Obviously, Murphy got released, which was very sad to hear, he’s a super-talented athlete but, yeah, it opens those doors now. I mean, that was one of those where we had a couple of dark matches on NXT where both teams were kind of get looked at to kind of see who’s going to get put on TV, and now with the way things are and with FTR, they got to propel into tag wrestling and Murphy and I, we kind of got separated and which I feel like we still have a lot to give to the tag team wrestling world – Murphy and myself.
And Steve, a Forgotten Sons type reunion, where it could be Steve and myself working a couple other people as well. It’s just… The opportunities for the future is just incredible.
So one thing I do need to ask about, the tweet has come up in conversation already many times, but Forgotten Sons, I need to ask about that little SmackDown run. We saw some vignettes and it genuinely seemed like you guys were being prepped to take the titles off the New Day, then it ground to a halt after the tweet from Jaxson Ryker. He’s still with the company, he even looks set to be pushed as a babyface, and the two guys whose push was halted seemingly due to his actions aren’t with the company anymore. Are there any regrets there looking back at how that went down?
Looking back on it, it’s one of those things that everything happens for a reason. When that tweet happened, Steve and myself messaged him and asked him if he would take it down. At that time, he declined. He said, “No, I won’t take it down. I see nothing wrong with that tweet.” And so we told him up front, just like, “Hey, well, we’re going to kind of put our own opinion out there and kind of separate ourselves a little bit from you,” which he understood. I think when he sent out that tweet, he didn’t realise, I think, how big it was going to get and how it would stop momentum.
When that tweet happened, Steve and myself, we went into the Performance Center to talk with creative and they kind of let us know, like, “Hey, we’re going to let this blow for about two weeks and then we’ll kind of bring you back and y’all start going again with the New Day.” So, you know, at that time, we didn’t think the tweet was going to cause that much damage. But then, of course, a week later, we were told that they’re going to go into a storyline with Cesaro and Shinsuke.
Once that happened, Ryker apologised to me and Steve repeatedly. He didn’t mean for our careers to get halted like that or anything, he didn’t want to have that negative effect on us. I think it’s just the way the company was going forward. I think they saw it and thought, “OK, well, we’ll split them up.” Ryker can go to Raw. Steve and myself went to SmackDown. We were given an opportunity with with the Wolves and it just so happened that it didn’t pan out, I guess, the way they wanted it to be. So they just went a different direction with the company and then, of course, Ryker stayed on Raw with Elias and now he’s doing his thing with it.
One final question, you’ve done a lot of media, we won’t ask for dream matches. I feel like we’ve seen a lot of different Wesley Blakes in WWE and your talent has shone through in-ring, but for some reason, something else has happened to derail the momentum. Wherever you land next, what’s the hope for Westin Blake? What do you want people to see next?
When I’m elsewhere, I just want people to see me for who I am and for what I bring to the table. I believe I have value. I believe any company that shows interest in me, I believe I can bring their value up.
When people take a look at me or my work, I think that I want my passion and my drive to kind of speak for itself, my work ethic. I just want people to see what what kind of vision I have for wrestling as a whole. I hope I can inspire younger generations, as I looked at wrestling, that inspired me to kind of chase this dream or even if it’s just inspiring a family member to go for what their dream job is or their passion – whether it be cooking or whatever it is, whether it gives you the courage to just do what you love to do most in life. For everyone, that can be something different.
I want to bring just a sense of pride with my career and how I came up with coming up through the Funks and stuff like that, I have that name attached to me and so you always want to do well by the name and you always want to hold that up to the highest regards, so you always want to have that honour and always want to do best for the name and stuff like that and hopefully keep that legacy going on with my name as well.