EXCLUSIVE: Grizzled Young Veterans Feel They Made The Right Decision Leaving WWE

Grizzled Young Veterans "did the right thing" leaving WWE

The Grizzled Young Veterans believe they made the right decision leaving WWE in 2023. 

Zack Gibson and James Drake of GYV were being utilised as Rip Fowler and Jagger Reid of The Dyad on WWE NXT during their final 15 months with the company, with the tag team having more of a spooky gimmick as part of The Schism with Joe Gacy and Ava. Drake and Gibson initially asked for their releases around WrestleMania 39, a request that was rejected, and they ultimately exited WWE in October 2023 when their contracts expired.  

Speaking exclusively with Cultaholic Wrestling's Tom Campbell, James Drake revealed when GYV knew they wanted to leave WWE. 

"It was up in the air for a long time but we decided just before Stand & Deliver last year that we'll tidy up the storyline at Stand & Deliver because at that point everything's done. Then we would go and talk to the office and have conversations about us wanting to leave. We did the match and both myself and Zack were on the ramp looking back at the ring. At that point, myself anyway, I was genuinely ready to move on now," Drake said.

"As a whole, WWE are doing great business and it's a great place to be. It wasn't a great place for us. We were being optimised to help the younger talent get ready because there was an influx of brand-new wrestlers from [NXT] 2.0 that really didn't know anything about wrestling. We used to own a wrestling school so we could actually articulate things as well. It was a nice compliment that they could see that in us and they trusted us to get people essentially prepared for a main roster run. On the flip side, we were kind of locked in a situation where we couldn't progress and we could see that. So we got to a point where we're still grizzled, young, but we're only young for so long and it was one of those times where it was now or never, essentially. If we don't do this now, when is it happening?"

Zack Gibson added: "It was a big decision to make, it wasn't something that was made overnight. There was no one big thing that made us do it. It was more of a combination of a lot of things that came together... The easiest way that we have found to describe it is in a nutshell, WWE's stock is going up and up and up but our personal stock at the time was going down. Regardless of where their stock was going, obviously we are our own business. We looked at ourselves and noticed that our stock was going down so we did something about it. Now, six months out, our stock is going up again so we made the right decision."

Gibson then detailed how the leadership changes within NXT led to them being repackaged as The Dyad, a gimmick they didn't believe was "going anywhere." 

"The easiest way to say it is look at the bigger picture at the time when this was happening to us. It was NXT changing to 2.0, it was the chaos of the competition with AEW, it was management at the highest level that hasn't changed for the past god knows how long suddenly being completely overhauled. Teams of people 30-40 deep were getting fired overnight and then an entire new team was in overnight when he walked into work and we say, okay this new team sees this direction as opposed to this one, so we're going to do this to make them happy. Then you start making those changes because you have to and you come in the next week, there's a new team again. When it started to settle, we just found ourselves back in a position where we should have just been GYV but we weren't and now we can't take a step backwards," Gibson continued.

"It was just very muddy and it left us just stuck in limbo basically doing this act that we didn't think was going anywhere. I think everyone else that was watching could see it wasn't going anywhere. I know social media isn't the be-all and end-all, but it is a viable indicator of what people are thinking. Not once did we get messages like, 'This is the one. This is the thing that these guys should be doing,'" Gibson stated.

"We didn't make our entire decision based on social media, that would be stupid. We made it on a number of different factors coming in. But, again, when we made that decision to come out, we haven't met anyone yet that's been like, 'Wow, these guys made a mistake'. Our stock is going up, that's all we necessarily need to care about at this moment. When we work for a company we do our best to make them money, but the ultimate goal, as it should be for anyone, is to make their own business entity money as well. Our stock was going down, now it's going up. We did the right thing."

Since departing WWE, the tag team have returned to being Zack Gibson and James Drake of Grizzled Young Veterans. They had a mini run with TNA and recently debuted in All Elite Wrestling, a situation described as "everything coming up Milhouse." 

GYV are also part of a committee that has launched Burning Heart Pro Wrestling, a new promotion. Burning Heart's first show will emanate from the Liverpool Olympia on Friday, June 21, followed by events in Wolverhampton and Swansea on June 22 and June 23. In addition to Zack Gibson and James Drake, Rickey Shane Page and TNA's George Iceman are involved with running the promotion. 

Tickets for all three of Burning Heart's opening shows are available now. 

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons