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. This week we present Roderick Strong.
In a ring career that spans nearly two decades, Roderick Strong has continued to develop his skillset and nowadays showcases it on a weekly basis in front of a televised audience. His initial in-ring exposure occurred when he tagged along to his father’s training under the late Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. It was at this time that Strong befriended a young Harry Smith (Davey Boy Smith Jr), which helped him develop his craft. He emerged from this as a young performer named ‘The Jester.’ By his own admission, the name was reflective of nothing more than simply being a tween that needed a starting point while he had fun playing around.
I was a kid, and when you’re 12 or 13 years old, you’re just trying to think of whatever. My dad was an impersonator and a very successful one at that. I was like ‘Ah, the king has his court jester and I should just be the jester’ because I was a kid. I had to wear a mask at the time just because I was so young and I was just messing around. It about just being a 13-year-old kid and it sounded good at the time. The funny thing was Matt Sydal’s name when he got into wrestling was The Jester as well. It’s a popular name when you get started.
Birth of Generation Next
One has to know where they have been in order to know where you are going. Over the span of four years in Ring of Honor, Strong, along with Austin Aries, Jack Evans and Alex Shelley formed the faction Generation Next. It is incredible to see how each one of these men have gone on to have successful careers. Their time together as part of this group stands out, and during that time Strong held the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship alongside Aries.
Strong spent many years in Ring of Honor, and his time there was memorable. He was even recognized as Mr. ROH due to his long-time spent there, plus his television and world championship reigns. He was a grand slam champion in the promotion, capturing every title available to him. But his career isn’t simply tied to one promotion, he had success in other companies as well. For a period of time, he competed for TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, with his first match coming against former Generation Next teammate Aries. In his brief time with that company, he faced the likes of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, and Christopher Daniels. For a time, he even aligned himself once again with Aries and Shelley, this time in TNA. Strong shared his experiences with the aforementioned Shelley, Evans, and Aries:
A collective chemistry
It’s been noted that in Ring of Honor that it was Gabe Sapolsky’s idea of putting us together as a group and none of us really knew each other, other than saying ‘Hello’ at different shows. We did that, and it was a fantastic opportunity for me and the others. He thought we were ready for that and it says a lot about him (Gabe). We made history together as a team. The four of us together, including Jack Evans, helped to save Ring of Honor and it always holds such a special place in my heart.
In TNA, it was something where they saw how hot Generation Next was and they wanted to do something similar, but I felt they wanted it as proactive and putting themselves in people’s faces because we had some fantastic chemistry. I had fun doing it, and the fact is every single one of them is a great wrestler. I can’t really complain about being in the ring with those guys.
Ring of Honor was still home to Strong as by his own admittance it provided him an opportunity and a place to grow. He did that while there and came into his own as well. He had prominent matches with notable talent all over the world, including Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, and Jay Lethal. The company showed their faith in him and he returned it by making the most of the opportunities that he was provided. Strong would leave Ring of Honor on June 25h, 2016. Despite leaving the promotion, it is impossible not to continue to call him Mr. ROH for all of his success.
Take the guy out ROH but you can’t take the…
Opportunity, and to be in a position to have bigger, high profile matches, and grow as a performer. As a performer, sometimes it really isn’t understood that I started with Ring of Honor when I was so young, my experience outside of the local Florida Indies was not very high. When I traveled with Ring of Honor, I had to go to CZW and learn a lot. When I was in TNA my time there was great, but at the time putting me in a bigger position there was not going to happen so wasn’t what I wanted.
I wanted to travel the world and I wanted to grow as a performer every way possible, and I didn’t feel that was going to happen there, even though I appreciate my time there. Ring of Honor allowed me to do that, and they’ve allowed me to find my place in wrestling and find out who I am. Some roads are longer for some than others and I think the last couple of years I’ve had an opportunity to come into my own.
Another prominent home for Roderick Strong was Pro Wrestling Guerilla. Much like in Ring of Honor, Strong captured both singles and tag team championships, winning the PWG Championship and the Tag Team Championship. He actually won the tag team championship on three separate occasions. It was there where he helped reform Mount Rushmore, called Mount Rushmore 2.0, alongside Super Dragon, Adam Cole and The Young Bucks. Strong’s departure from PWG came after losing the PWG Championship to Zack Sabre Jr and saying goodbye in 2016.
Remerging in NXT with an old teammate
In a surprise move, Roderick Strong made his first appearance as part of WWE’s NXT brand when he teamed with former partner Austin Aries for the Dusty Rhodes Classic tag team tournament. Within a few months of being in the company, Strong was a threat for the NXT Championship, coming close on several occasions to defeating then-champion Bobby Roode.
After some time, Roderick Strong began his newest journey, which must have felt like coming home again. He entered into a program with the Undisputed Era, who wanted him to join the group, something he had no apparent interest in, but he surprisingly turned on his tag team partner Pete Dunne and joined the group. He was reunited with former Mount Rushmore 2.0 member Adam Cole, as well as fellow Ring of Honor alumni Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. Thus, the Undisputed Era was now a foursome. He began teaming with O’Reilly to defend the NXT Tag Team Championships, as Bobby Fish was injured at the time.
Recently, the prophecy was made by Adam Cole that the Undisputed Era would be draped in gold, and on the September 18th edition of NXT, their debut on the USA Network in the United States, Roderick Strong defeated The Velveteen Dream to capture the NXT North American championship. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as it is what Strong does: he wins. He wins championships and never has a bad match. And that isn’t just now, it was true of him before WWE.