Exclusive Interview: WWE NXT UK's Kay Lee Ray & Rampage Brown
Rampage Brown & Kay Lee Ray exclusively speak to Cultaholic about inspirational matches, British wrestling and making BT Studios the ‘Full Sail’ of WWE NXT UK
Newest NXT UK superstar Rampage Brown and the NXT United Kingdom Women’s champion, Kay Lee Ray, are enjoying life with NXT UK and in BT Studios in 2021.
Cultaholic.com's Editor-In-Chief Mitch Waddon had the chance to sit down with the duo for an exclusive interview. You can listen to the interview here, watch the full interview above, or read on for the full transcript...
NXT UK has made its home at BT Studios during the pandemic. How have you found adapting to that environment and performing on a closed set?
Kay Lee Ray: It’s been very different. We definitely miss the crowds. We’re very desperate to get people back as soon as we can, as soon as it’s safe. But BT Studios has almost become like a home for us now. I’d say it’s almost like our Full Sail, and I’ve said a few times that I would like to fill that with crowds and have an event in there. I think that would be very cool.
You’ve both had some of your biggest matches in NXT UK within that environment that BT Studios has provided. What has that been like, plus then not having fans present on top of that?
Rampage Brown: For me, it’s been quite an adjustment. There’s years and years of performing in front of fans, but in fairness over the years I’ve wrestled in front of no fans so there have been a few of them! So it’s not massive out of the realms of things we’ve done in the past, but it’s not easy. We obviously feed off the crowd. We kind of depend on the crowd to get behind us and edge us on to that next little bit, but once you get in the ring, that’s our job and that’s what we do.
KLR: That’s it. You switch on and you know what you need to do. I’ve got a title to defend so it doesn’t matter if there are people there booing me or cheering me. I’m going to go out there and do my job. But I feel that the beforehand is a very mental kind of stress. ‘There’s no one there, is this going to be good?’ But I think we switch when we go in there.
RB: Once you get in there, you get your business head on. But like you said, before you go in, it is a bit of a...yeah, it’s different. It’s a bit strange!
Kay Lee, you just mentioned your title. The longest-ever reigning WWE NXT UK Women’s Champion. You must not ever get tired of hearing that?
KLR: Actually, it’s the longest reigning WWE women’s champion, across all brands! There’s no female in WWE that has held a title longer than me in the past 35 years. So it’s not just NXT UK now. And, no, I never get tired of hearing it!
RB: Would you?
KLR: I will never get tired of hearing it and, you know what, it’s never going to finish. I will forever be the longest reigning, because it’s never coming off me!
We’re speaking after seeing a really fantastic match that displayed the depth of talent in the women’s division in NXT UK, which named Meiko Satomura as your number one contender again. You were obviously watching on, but what did you think of the match?
KLR: It didn’t come without its surprises and I think I let my feelings show (after the match). Why does Meiko get to jump the queue again? No, that’s not happening...well, it is happening. But, you know what, I’ve already done it. I’ve already won. I’ve already beaten her, and this time I’m coming back for all the trophies. And I’m going to beat the Final Boss again.
That first match with Meiko was excellent. How do you look back on it?
KLR: I’m very proud of the match. I’m very proud of what we achieved and what we put out there. There’s a good level of respect there. I know what she brought to the table, which is why it hurt a wee bit more that she thought ‘Ah, I can just jump the queue now and I can get another shot at Kay Lee’. So I’m ready, and I hope she is.
Rampage, you recently challenged WALTER for the NXT UK Championship. How would you describe being in the ring with him?
RB: I’ve been in there a few times with him before in the past, and each time I’ve been in the ring with him it’s a different WALTER. And now he’s the best he’s ever been - there’s no denying that. Personally, I don’t get overshadowed by bigger, smaller, guy’s reputations and things like that.
I’ve seen a few things in my time. He’s a presence when you stand across from him and there’s the intimidation game of the entrance and the silhouette. It’s all a show but, as soon as you’re standing there and you’re looking each other in the eyes, and he’s just as afraid to stand across the ring from me. It is an experience but it’s one I live for!
Do you have any favourite matches from your run in NXT UK so far?
RB: Obviously the match with WALTER was a highlight. The outcome necessarily wasn’t. I would say the match I had with Joe Coffey. I felt like that was my introduction to the promotion and I felt like that was my welcoming party there. I loved that match and I enjoyed being in there with Joe. He’s a hell of a competitor, he’s one of the best. To go in there and get a good solid victory, was excellent.
This run with WWE isn’t your first, of course. There was some time in the developmental a few years ago. What do you remember about that time?
RB: So my time in developmental was in 2010 and it was a completely different place to now. And I was in a different place too. I think I was 24 or 25 at the time and it was a completely different world, what I’d come to, to what I was doing at the time.
I think that me leaving and going away, and getting another ten years’ experience - growing, maturing and seeing things differently - that definitely helped me as a performer and is helping me with returning to be in this position. As soon as I hit the ground, I’m ready to go. Everybody knows what I’m here for. It’s definitely a different turnaround to last time.
Kay Lee, the beginning of your love for professional wrestling is a bit different to most people’s, isn’t it?
KLR: I was never interested in wrestling. And I’m almost to a point where I’m so sad that that was the case. I met my partner when I was 15 and he told me he was training to be a wrestler. At first I was like ‘what are you doing?’ But I went to one show, one training session, and I was hooked from the get-go.
I started training, started watching wrestling, and I’m so disappointed that I spent so many years denying it. So, from that, I say to everybody that if even for a second you think ‘what is this?’ then go and just give it a chance. Because it might be for you.
Was there a match that you watched that was almost like a lightbulb going off in your head, where you instantly knew that wrestling was for you?
RB: There were lots! Genuinely, there was a load for me! I’m trying to remember a specific one…
KLR: I can remember a moment when I didn’t watch wrestling, and I think it was what intrigued me into it. The first match I ever watched was Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog. I watched it on DVD and the match was from the year I was born, 1992. And I remember thinking that I’m going to give this a go.
I also remember my little cousins watching it, and it was Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio in an I Quit Match. And Chavo is hammering on Rey’s knee with a chair, while Rey is stuck upside down, and Rey has to quit. And I loathed Chavo Guerrero, but now I can see that that is everything that I want to be! That’s the first moment for me where I went ‘yeah, I think I like this’. But at the same time, I was still so young that I also kept thinking ‘no, I can’t like this’. And I’m so disappointed in myself that I didn’t go for it.
RB: I think wrestling can get a bit of a bad stigma. When you actually open yourself up to it, it’s an amazing thing. There’s different flavours and different things to see. For my match, I’ll go with Shawn and Bret Hart in the Ironman Match from WrestleMania 12. Especially at that point, it was such a pivotal point in my growing up that I went ‘you know what, this isn’t going away. It’s not going away’.
British Wrestling has come so far in the last few years. How proud are you both to have been a part of that?
RB: For me personally, I’m massively proud. I started in 2000 and, when I started out, wrestling schools were few and far between. And if you went to wrestling school it was blue mats on the floor. There weren’t any rings there or anything like that, whereas facilities now have two or three rings and have loads of stuff. So, to come from that, and you start getting on shows, they still had rings from the early ‘80s and ‘90s! They were horrible! Rusty and everything!
KLR: Those rings did more damage than good!
RB: One hundred per cent! So to see that evolve to what it is now, it’s amazing.
KLR: It’s like, people can walk into the wrestling scene now and there’s so many wrestling schools with good trainers. And WWE is right on the doorstep, and that’s incredible.
RB: One thing for me as well. When I made the decision that this is what I wanted to do with my life, I had to think about going to America because that’s where it all was…
KLR: It couldn’t be a lifestyle here. It wasn’t that elite level, but it is now. And I’m proud to say that this is my job and it has been for years! And even before WWE it was still my job and I was proud to say that professional wrestling is my job and it pays my bills. And it’s nice to know that people can do that now and commit to it and get a return from it.
Finally, a simple one: why should wrestling fans be tuning in to watch WWE NXT UK?
KLR: There’s such a fire in this brand and we’re doing something different. As I say, with wrestling, people just need to give NXT UK a chance. Everybody is hungry for this, and everybody wants this to work well. We’re putting out some great stuff so, come and give us a watch.
RB: We have a young, hungry roster that is ready to take the world by storm. You’d be a fool to miss it!