In a recent interview, a former North American Champion recalled Stephanie McMahon once telling him that he were her favorite heel.
Current AEW Star Swerve Strickland signed with WWE back in 2019, where he adopted the name Isiah “Swerve” Scott. While the former MLW Champion had been a regular character on NXT since his arrival to the company, he turned heads after forming the Hit-Row faction alongside Top Dolla, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, and B-FAB in 2021.
Speaking to Renee Paquette on “The Sessions,” Swerve Strickland opened up about his frustrations during his early days in the company, as he felt like he was only there to be viewed as a “good hand” by the management to help put over other talent.
“It’s interesting to see that people had that thought about me, like I was on the up and up in NXT. And I was like, oh, man, you get a lot of success.
“But at the time, there was no chatter about me in NXT at all. Because for that first year, like I felt like I was just like a good hand to have, and that’s also what built up a lot of like that resentment is starting to build a little bit because I put over the Lio Rushes, I put over the Cameron Grimeses, I put over the Santos Escobars, I put over you know, the Bronson Reeds the Austin Theorys, I kept putting all these people over, even when MSK first came in their debut was against me, I put them over, I put over Leon Ruffs.
Continuing, Swerve Strickland noted that he worked hard to get a conversation with Triple H about what it would take for him to advance in NXT.
“So it was just like, okay, and I had like a couple conversations with Triple H, I’m like, ‘When am I going to be your guy? What is it going to take for me to be your guy?’ I had three specific conversations with them. I’ll never forget them, that I always pushed the envelope. I even texted him like, ‘Can I have a conversation with you?’ [He’d respond] ‘Was there anything that you can talk to Matt Bloom about?’ I’m like, ‘No,’ and he’s like, ‘Okay, okay.’
“And I’m like, I would like stare holes in them all day at production, just like, I wanted them to feel the heat that I was like, glaring on him. And finally, like, when we did have a conversation, I’m like, ‘What is your hesitation putting the ball in my hands?’ And he gave me like, the answers that kind of felt like they were repetitious answers from this person asking them, this person asking him, and the one before and I was like, ‘Okay, I got it,’ so I knew I gotta keep tapping that egg, it wasn’t going to work.”
Swerve Strickland then recalled his meetings with Shawn Michaels and Triple H which led to things starting to turn around for him, with the instance where Stephanie McMahon expressed her love for his heelish character work.
“So I’m like, ‘Okay, here’s me, I gotta be creative. I gotta think again.’ So I went to Shawn and Shawn Michaels started really like sitting down half an hour long tape studies, just me and him. No distractions, not in the middle of TV day, it’s just me and him and the office. We were watching me and Matt Riddle from Defy wrestling and we’re watching PCW Ultra from LA, we were watching like other stuff and he’s like, ‘Okay, I want to watch what got you here? Why are you here? That’s the person I want to see.
“That’s what turned everything around for me. So it took like a year of like doing all that stuff to get to that point to be able to do that, to have that equity to even get that like conversation, that window open. And then it was just like, okay, cool.
“And that’s where it started really turning around. That’s where like my hair color started changing. That put the grills on my mouth and all that other stuff. I really started diving into the hip hop feel of things.”
Swerve Strickland went on to recall that none other than Stephanie McMahon, who is no stranger to villainous behavior herself, said that he was her favorite heel in the promotion after a particular match with Bronson Reed (now known as Jonah).
“And me and Bronson had another TV match, Jonah, and we just went at it because like I felt like Triple H didn’t feel like I was intense enough. And I was like, okay, so we just beat the crap out of each other, boom, had a banger. And then it was like, that’s the one that light bulb went off for them. And then Stephanie McMahon came up and said, ‘You’re like my favorite heel? You’re my favorite heel here.’ And then everything just kind of whirlwinds and went up from there.”
At AEW Dynamite Grand Slam, Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee lost the AEW World Tag Team Championships when they were defeated by Max Caster and Anthony Bowens of The Acclaimed.
If you use any quotes from this transcription, please credit The Sessions and link back to this article with a h/t to Inside the Ropes.