BURBANK, Calif. — Not too long ago, UPROXX got to spend the day with Xavier Woods as the gaming guru and WWE Superstar hung out at Blizzard Arena, checking out the beginning of Stage Two of the first Overwatch League season. Woods got to kick it up close and personal with the London Spitfire, who won Stage One in a match people are still talking about.
We talked to Woods about Overwatch League, the nature and future of eSports, Black History Month, pancakes, and what drove the New Day and the Usos to have the best matches of 2017.
This is just a portion of our half-hour interview with Woods, and you can find the entire thing over on the With Spandex Podcast. So check it out!
With Spandex: You’re wearing a London Spitfire jersey, and you’re here hanging out with the London Spitfire, which is the Overwatch League’s team in London — at some point it’ll be in London. How do you feel about Overwatch League?
Xavier Woods: Overwatch League is easily one of the coolest things in eSports that’s popped up in awhile. Also really cool because seeing the history of Overwatch, how there wasn’t a story mode or anything. They dropped [the title] and Blizzard’s like, “Hey, this is a just a game, just play this game.” And then they way that they would drop little videos about each character, so you kind of learn a little bit, but there was never a sit down functional story mode. When it first dropped some of my friends were like, “I don’t know about this, I want a story mode.” It’s like dude we don’t need this, and so to be able to see it grow from that into this league where we’ve got geolocated cities. It’s going to be something that rivals the NBA, NFL, it’s going to be the same thing.
eSports is in that place right now where the mainstream coverage of it is like, “Can you believe that people think that they can play video games for a living?” How long do you think it’s going to be for eSports and pro gamers to gain credibility?
I don’t know, that’s something that we kind of talk about a lot, because when you look at other sports — basketball, football, what have you — people automatically take those seriously. It’s like, okay, well somebody made this play, this 40-yard catch, oh this is amazing. They made that catch because they trained for hours. They took parts of their lives and they threw them in the background so that they can practice for this one moment, for this one catch so that people would be amazing. That’s the same thing that these guys and girls do in eSports. They train constantly, they’re playing 6, 8, 12, 15 hours a day in order to get to this stage, in order to be at the top of the League, in order to win.
[In the Stage One finale], Spitfire won $100,000. I was watching the end of Stage One — some people saw me watching it on my phone like, “What are you doing?” I’m like “I’m watching Overwatch.” Then, first off, “What’s that? I don’t play video games.” It’s like, “Well, Overwatch is a first-person shooter. You run around, you shoot stuff, you’re on a team.” They go, “Why is this important?” It’s like, “Well, one, I like it, and they’re playing for 100 grand.” Then people stop, and they go, “Wait, what?” Then they try to learn more about it because I think that people vote with their dollar. So when they see lots of dollars going towards a thing they go, “Oh, this thing is clearly important.”
Unfortunately, that’s a thing in our society right now. I think for casual people who don’t play video games who might come across it, they might see it on ESPN, or they might just see it randomly pop up online on whatever they’re browsing around on. When they see this dollar sign amount cash prize attached, suddenly they go, “Oh, someone has invested their money into this because it’s of some importance, so let me now see what this is.”
I feel like that’s the hook for a lot of people that don’t play video games, and then when they see how fun it is, and see the personalities involved, and see how great the game is then they go, “Oh, I start to understand this a little bit more now.” I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish that people just saw awesome stuff happening, people getting hype and then they’re like, oh cool I’ll watch this.
I think from a social aspect too things kind of help, because when we do have these big matches of tournaments in this Overwatch League, and they do clip off like awesome play, and a person who doesn’t play video games might not know what that awesome play is, but then when they cut to this side of the audience and everyone’s jumping up and high-fiving, they go, “Oh, okay. Now I saw this on Instagram and now I want to know what this is from.” And they backtrack and do the work, and they go, “Oh, Overwatch, what is this?” Then they start playing the game, and now they understand it next time that they see it.
When you guys came out at the Royal Rumble, you had the kente cloth-accented gear, and Kofi was rocking the Kyrie 4 quality BHMs. Instantly when you guys came out I was like, “Oh my god, this is their Black History Month gear. This is the coolest, swaggiest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” I was so stoked, and sure enough you guys wore it all through February and I know Big E’s talked a little bit on social media, what it’s all about. Do you want to tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind that, and how long are you gonna keep rocking it? Is there going to be any merch with the kente cloth-inspired stuff on it?
Gear ideas, we always have them. We have four or five ideas at any given time, and we just kind of circulate which can we use. We’ve been sitting on that idea for awhile. The first time we had the idea for kente cloth gear was when Gable and Jordan were a tag team that came up on the main roster, because man, we said if we ever wrestle them we’re getting kente cloth gear and we’re calling ourselves African American Alpha. For some reason that made us laugh so hard, and then they broke up as a team, and then we kind of forgot about it. Then we were like, you know what, Black Panther‘s coming out, we’re all really excited about that, and then it’s almost February, you know what, let’s do this kente cloth gear now. It was just something that we thought would be really cool and be a cool look.
It kind of shows everybody these are some cool roots that we got, and we just kind of want to show them through gear. It’s not necessarily a thing of coming out on our entrance and pointing [at it and saying] “LOOK AT THIS! LOOK AT THIS!” It’s just like we’re just wearing it. Our biggest thing since we’ve come together as a New Day is that we, for the longest time just wanted a blank slate, to be whatever we wanted to be. So it’s not that we have to be a certain thing or we have to be big, bad, and angry, or we have to be this certain stereotype of whatever it is.
We want to just be ourselves, and what we are is New Day. I’m me, Kofi is Kofi, and E is E, and what you see on television, and what you see at signings, what we see when we’re together is just three dudes who are friends, and we do things that we think are funny to us.
For instance, we like pancakes now, and things happen at random. There’s a lumberjack match, and since there’s three of us we couldn’t have three people in a tag match, so one of us were on the floor, so I was like well I should probably be on the floor because I want to be Chief Jack. The people in the back were like what is Chief Jack? I was like well, I’m on the team but I’m also a lumberjack so I’m the Chief Lumberjack, they’re like well, that’s ridiculous.
So we got some flannel and a toque, and then before we went out we were like something seems off about this, like it’s not enough. I’m big into cosplay, so I was like, “To finish this off we probably need some pancakes.” So then we had pancakes that night, and then the next week E was like, “Are we going to do pancakes again?” I was like, “Yeah, why not?” Then we asked Vince [McMahon], we’re like, “Hey is it cool if we go with pancakes?” He goes, “Sure, I don’t care,” and then that’s how we got pancakes.
Who makes the pancakes for you guys?
Different people every time, it just depends on whoever’s around. The first person who was making our pancakes was a guy who works in our catering department, and he was making these enormous pancakes that was taking him and one other person to flip on the griddle, it’s just ridiculous.
It’s cool to be able to go out, have fun with your friends, and just engage in complete and utter nonsense, but then be able to have good wrestling matches, or what I interpret as good fun. Hopefully someone likes them; I’m having a good time.
But it’s been nice, especially ’cause my dude growing up was 2 Cold Scorpio. I love that he was able to come out dancing and having a good time, and then once the bell rang he was moving like crazy, so he was my favorite. I’ve always wanted to kind of emulate that, and be like I want to find something where I come out, be myself. And “myself” isn’t necessarily an angry wrestler, but when the bell rings, not necessarily get into that mode, but be able to deliver on that type of platform.
The second half of last year basically belonged to New Day and the Usos, You guys crushed everything. You were the best match on SummerSlam, best match at Hell in a Cell. Clearly both teams really took it up several notches; what was the impetus behind that?
For me, I’ve always been a huge fan of tag team wrestling, to me it’s the best kind of wrestling. Singles is cool, that’s fantastic, but I’ve always just loved tag teams. My favorite tag team back in the day was Billy and Chuck, they’re so good … and just from an entertainment standpoint, hilarious, but then again, when the bell rang they were in there getting it done. Dudley Boyz, obviously, they’re fantastic. Edge, Christian, Hardy Boyz, all that type of stuff, but I’ve always felt …
We in The New Day — and the Usos too — we’ve always felt there wasn’t a light that was shone on the tag team division in a very long time, years. Yes, there were tag teams that came up and did well, and it was cool, it was interesting, it was fun. But it was never what you came to the show to see, and we wanted to changed that.
As soon as we got the chance, we said okay, people are in the building for match X most likely, we’re going to make them leave the building talking about us, and the next time we’re going to make them talk about us, and then the next time they’re going be in the building to see us, and they’re going to leave talking about us.
It definitely wasn’t a selfish thing, it was a “put the tag division at the top of the show” type of thing. I feel like in this generation there’s much less backstabbing; you don’t hear those kinds of stories as much anymore. I feel like every division has that chip on their should that they don’t want to undercut anybody, they want to be the best, and that’s one thing that I love about our roster on Raw, and our roster on Smackdown.
Everyone wants to put on the best performance humanly possible, so that the person who’s after you has to go bump it up even more. That’s exactly what we were trying to do through that whole couple of months.
Is it tough to go into something like Hell in a Cell and know that there’s certain restrictions these days on doing a Hell in a Cell match, but you guys came up with a bunch of creative stuff that no ones ever seen, and you guys had a Hell in a Cell match that I don’t think that anybody expected to be that lights-out. Is it tough to put together a match like that?
Yes and no. Definitely tough because we have to, like you said, work around certain restrictions, but then no, because we all like puzzles. So me coming from the world of video games, I enjoy puzzles, so rather than saying … So okay, if go Attitude Era, they always call that the wild wild west, we can just do whatever, that’s cool, perfect, awesome, but I enjoy having to live in this world we you can’t just go out and throw a bookshelf at somebody, and we can’t just crash a car into a wall. We have to say okay, we need that same effect, but we have to figure out a different way to get it. So we have to sit and think, and it’s a cool creative process that I love that we get to do in this generation.
Obviously with us and the Usos, we meshed very well in what we wanted to do, the kind of stories wanted to tell, because there’s that hint. Especially with the Hell in the cell of, we don’t want to go into the match as New Day and just completely lose all character stuff because the bell has rung. We still want to be ourselves and show that we are New Day, but then also show we are in a match that is very competitive and we need to put in. The Usos, they come out angry, ready to go, so there’s a different mentality. You think we’re in a Cell, we’re in this thing with weapons and all this stuff. Usos, this is where they strive. They’re just gonna run through New Day because they’re “too soft,” quotes, I’m doing air quotes.
It was really cool to be able to piece those things together, and then go to [the Usos] and be like, “Hey, [you] should beat me up with kendo sticks.” They’re like wait, why? I was like, “It’ll be really gross, and it’s still within the PG boundaries, but it’s going to make everybody feel real awkward.”
There’s that hint of yes, everyone knows what wrestling is, you understand what wrestling is, and we try to go out and perform to the best of our ability every time that we’re out there. Especially at the end of a four-, five-month story arc, we want to give you something that puts a button on it, that puts a period at the end of the sentence. It’s the last page of the book, so we’re able to tell that story of these are two teams that are ready fight, and then it turns to now it’s a thing of Woods is getting demolished, now here comes big brother E to save him.
Now E’s in trouble, but Woods is dead, but he’s gonna give everything that he has to try to save his brother inside this cage from these two monsters. It’s cool to be able to tell people that story and bring them along, and you can tell with the crowd how you … It’s a weird energy in the building, in the arenas when you’re doing stuff and it’s going well. You can tell when it’s going well, you can tell when it’s going bad, so it’s cool to be able to do that and kind of make history in that sense, with my two best friends and with the Usos, and to be able to say, “Hey, this four months actually led to something really cool.” I think that we don’t necessarily see that a lot nowadays, in anything, not just wrestling, where stories take time to evolve, and progress, and there’s a cool button on the end of them.
It was nice to be able to be a part of something like that, where in this current day of pop culture things move so fast, and everyone just forgets about things, or heres about things, talks about them for two seconds and then it’s gone, and there’s no build for stuff. So it’s definitely really cool to be a part of that.
Listen to this entire interview, including Woods’ further thoughts on gaming, 2 Cold Scorpio, and coloring books, on the With Spandex Podcast.