“There Was Residual Heat” – Top SmackDown Star Admits They Had Heat In NXT

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One of SmackDown’s top stars scheduled for an important performance at the 2023 Royal Rumble, discussed that it took a while for some of his heat to go away, despite the issue causing that heat taking place many years earlier.

Shaun Ricker currently wrestles under the name LA Knight. But before that he was known as Eli Drake in Impact. And before that, he had a short stint in NXT from 2013-2014 during which he wrestled under the name Slate Randall and was largely relegated to losing to already established stars.

However, his run was cut short due to alleged problems with NXT’s then head-trainer Bill Demott.

But despite the seven-year gap between his first NXT run and his current run, the heat he garnered during the first run didn’t go away completely.

New NXT staff wondered if LA Knight could be “a team player” after butting heads with Bill Demott

Upon his return o February 2021, LA Knight didn’t receive the warmest welcome as there was some “residual heat” among WWE officials.

They remembered his interactions with Demott and questioned if he would be able to cooperate with the new environment and policies put in place following Demott’s departure.

During an interview with Sports Illustrated, LA Knight confirmed that he’s ready to work with everyone now, even if he wasn’t ready to do so back then.

“When I came back [to WWE in 2021], there was residual heat from my first time around. There was a little bit of headbutting between me and the former head coach back then. It’s a new head coach [Matt Bloom] in place, but there was still the question of whether I could be a team player.

I never saw myself as trouble, but I am a very proud guy, so I do speak up. That’s kept me very authentic to myself, but it’s also made my path take a lot longer. I always knew I had something to offer. And to be quite honest, I don’t have a backup.

Persevering and being better were the only choices I had. There is still no choice for me but to keep going and make this work… Maybe I wasn’t quite for this ride back then. But I am damn-sure ready now.”

LA Knight faces Bray Wyatt in a Mountain Dew Pitch Black match at the 2023 Royal Rumble Premium Live Event.

h/t 411Mania for the transcription