Before the journey began for a number of WWE talent, their skills were being honed in gymnasiums, auditoriums and in front of crowds of a few hundred people. They never wavered in their pursuit of their goals, and those roads they traveled helped them achieve the success they have today. This is the newest series to be found here on Pro Wrestling Post, titled “Before the E”. ‘The E’ is inspired by a common nickname for WWE. In order to understand where talent is today, it is important to understand how they came to be part of the Entertainment side of World Wrestling Entertainment.
An Original Bro
A world-class athlete, Riddle’s journey into professional wrestling and sports entertainment began at the age of 18 while he attended Saratoga Springs High School, where he became a state wrestling champion. He later went on to defeat a future UFC champion in Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. Right away he was making himself known at a young age, but no one could have envisioned at that point how successful Riddle would become.
After high school, he earned a wrestling scholarship at East Stroudsburg University. Unfortunately, the departure of his coach also spelled the end of his scholarship and his time as ESU. While that disappointment could have been a setback for Riddle, instead it opened up to other opportunities. Instead, he transitioned into the world of MMA.
Ground and Pound
Early on in his MMA career he faced Dan Simmler, and early in the second round knocked him out in what Rampage Jackson said ‘most gruesome knockout’ he’d ever seen and one of the biggest knockouts ever. After a few years in the industry, Matt Riddle lost to Tim Credeur. However, he was undeterred by the loss and continued to move forward. This was until he was faced with the roadblock of his contract coming to an end with UFC.
According to different reports, Riddle’s release was believed to be tied to the use of medicinal cannabis. He believed he had clearance since despite it being an illegal substance he had a prescription for it. After departing UFC, he went on to compete for Bellator MMA. However, Riddle had his eyes on another career path, and that was professional wrestling. He has said that seeing Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX inspired him to think that his fighting style could work in a professional wrestling ring.
Grassroots at the Monster Factory
In the beginning, he began to hone his craft at the Monster Factory Wrestling School in Paulsboro, New Jersey. He was under the tutelage of Brian Heffron, who fans will remember as The Blue Meanie in WWE and ECW, and owner Danny Cage. Both Heffron and Cage could see Riddles’ natural talent and it wouldn’t take long before those skills were recognized by EVOLVE owner and promoter Gabe Sapolsky. Sapolsky brought Matt Riddle in, and that exposure opened up independent booking dates for Riddle all over the world.
His matches weren’t just against the premier men on the independent scene. They were against premier women as well. In fact, one of the smoothest matches he was a part of was against current NXT women’s championship contender Mia Yim. Not only can he deliver punishment, but he can take it as well. In that match with Yim, he took a Canadian Destroyer from the second turnbuckle and came up unscathed. It was shortly after this match that the rumors began to circulate about Riddle’s time on the independent scene coming to an end. It appeared that the WWE had come calling.
Where he was and Where he is going
It is remarkable to think about what this 33-year-old has accomplished in only four active years of competition, not to mention who he has faced as well. He has faced legendary Japanese wrestler Katsuyori Shibata. Riddle has captured the PWG tag team championship with former Ring of Honor Television champion Jeff Cobb and defeated Zack Sabre Jr. His win over ZSJ was for the EVOLVE Championship. He has won the Progress Atlas Championship, and has been ranked in the top 50 of PWI’s 500.
Matt Riddle has had stellar matches against his contemporaries such as Roderick Strong and Keith Lee while turning heads, including those of management. Today, a world championship reign doesn’t seem too far out of reach. He continues to find his place on the WWE NXT brand. Riddle is now utilizing social media to get his name discussed as a threat to beat anyone past or present. If his online confrontations with the likes of Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Booker T, and Goldberg are any indication, then Matt Riddle is just as committed to building his profile online as well as in the ring.
The “Original Bro” has his sights on achieving his dreams now that he is in WWE, but this wouldn’t have all be possible if he hadn’t established himself before the E.