Former WWE NXT superstar Sawyer Fulton talks NXT, and where he is headed

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Fulton looks to blaz his own trail and on his own terms

‘The Madman’ Sawyer Fulton is among the most under-utilized talents in wrestling today. As a professional of nearly seven years, Fulton worked with a few smaller promotions before being given an opportunity to join the WWE’s NXT brand and be a part of its growing community of talent. With a strong amateur background, being a former all-American, he makes full use of his 6’6, 300 lb frame to impose his will on his opposition. During his time in NXT, he competed under the moniker of Sawyer Fulton and worked alongside some of the brand’s hottest talent. Despite suffering an injury towards the end of 2016, it didn’t diminish his drive or will to not only return but do so better than ever. His recent departure from NXT appears to have created several new and exciting opportunities for him that only strengthen his drive and will to compete, anywhere and everywhere.

His future is bright, as he has been a part of factions and teams on-screen that has helped to further his character. Fulton discusses his appreciation for a WWE Hall of Famer and how he has helped him, a long time veteran taking the time to go over and above to help him, and how the transition from an amateur to a professional background went for him.

Fans can communicate with him on social media, such as Twitter, where he can be reached at by clicking @FultonWorld, on Instagram @Fulton_World and his prowrestlingtees.com/madmanfulton

Coming out of ASPW, how would you describe the Big Jake South character?

I started off with a company called ASWA in Mansfield, Ohio, in a gym started by Charlie Fulton and under the tutelage of ‘The Living Nightmare’ Jimmy Lee. At the time I was still wrestling in college, and it was not acceptable by the NCAA rules to be competing as a professional and an amateur, but I wasn’t telling anyone. So I had still that college wrestling mentality, and I was still at an all-American wrestling level, and I wanted to show that in my professional wrestling as well. That was the only part of me that I really knew at the time. That is where the whole Big Jake South thing came about, it came from and taking what I was in college wrestling and then blowing it out of the water.

I think it is still a reflection of me. I think there is a lot of that still maintained. For me at the time, I really wasn’t that charismatic, and I was still learning how to do that whole showmanship part of the thing. I had spent so many years in amateur wrestling that it was just drilled into my head to show no fear and show no emotion and show no pain. You just beat it into your mind, going stone-faced, and working, and wrestling, and it is a whole different animal when you get into the ring. I think that Big Jake South character was my attempt at taking what I knew and pushing it in the direction that I needed to go.

 Most of your early career and development stemmed from being a part of NXT. How did that initially come about and how has it changed over the years?

Before his time in NXT, Fulton showed a strong amateur wrestling background.

I met Gerry Brisco in my senior year, at the national tournament. He was there completely by fluke. I think his flight had been canceled or delayed, and he actually drove down to the tournament. The way our national tournament works is, if you make it to the second day, you are automatically going to get into an all-American spot which was top 8 in the country. That year, I had already placed, and I had placed fourth the year before. I wanted to win that was my goal. I wanted to win a national championship. When I fell short, I took that out on each and every single person in my way, and that was what happened until the last day. I was going to be a champion no matter what. So, I started slamming people and throwing people around, and trying to make guys tap out and trying to get myself disqualified, which isn’t the way handle it, which wasn’t very smart looking back I think it was stupid. But all he (Gerry) saw was a gigantic bleached-blond kid throwing people around.

When I came back, I was in my match for third and fourth, I actually looked up and he was talking to my mom. Now my mom has zero ideas of who Gerry Brisco is, but she saw that he was with WWE, and instantly she started talking me up and started promoting me to him, and that was that. He came to me after, and I started doing my Hulk Hogan poses for him on the mat, just to let him know that I knew he was watching. And he came up to me. I am completely out of breath at this point and I am dead tired, and he comes up to me and says ‘Do you know who I am?’ and I said ‘Yes, sir,’ and he then says ‘Do you know what I want?’ and I said ‘God, I hope so!’ That was that. We met up later that night and he gave me his card and got me my tryout, and that spiraled into the next five years of my life.

Even though I am not with NXT, he still talks to me and he still calls me, and he still treats me like I am one of his boys, and I am not the only one. Almost everyone that he has brought in, he has maintained contact with still. And I think that is one of the great qualities about Gerry, that you are not a prospect to him and you’re not just a dollar sign for him to sign. He cares about you and he cares about your career. Even his son Wes, I am not on an extremely personal level with him, but Wes is a good friend and I know Wes would help me out in any situation. I have actually only had one traffic infraction ticket in my life, and I got out of it because of Wes Brisco. It’s just one of those things where Gerry has done a lot for me and I am better for it. Everything he has done has meant a lot to me.

Do you think there is more of a call for amateurs to turn to professional wrestling or transition like yourself?

So, I started amateur wrestling with the intention of turning pro. I had my first practice in elementary school in the sixth grade, and it was because I thought there was going to be a ring there. I didn’t know there was a difference. There wasn’t a ring there, I thought you just had to get better at it, the ring just shows up later. I didn’t know it was going to be sixteen years later, but it still came. I think the thing about pro wrestling is that amateur wrestling has a lot to do with it. We see a lot of guys with that amateur background that are just doing amazing, and not just guys like Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, everywhere else, guys like Matt Riddle and Jeff Cobb. You can easily transition that over. But I think for professional wrestling, there has to be a degree of really wanting it and really wanting to move over and do it. It isn’t always the easiest thing because they are very different. I think that it is a good transition tool.

For me, you spend so many years training and drilling into your head how to do things, stay low and keep light on your feet. For me, I always train myself to watch someone’s hips because you can’t move without your hips moving. We drill all these things in our head day after day after day, 10,000 times apiece, and then when you get into professional wrestling you need to not do it. In professional wrestling, you need to stand up straight and you need to keep your head up. One of the hardest things for me was being able to get picked up and not freak out because for years I was very bad at leaving my feet. The second someone goes to lift you, you immediately sink your hips. It is learning to work and flow in a different direction that I think is the discipline that wrestling has taught me. And that mentality and that mindset has furthered my career and pushed me, father. But the hardest part of the transition is forgetting everything you drilled into your head day after day.

The early exposure that fans had to you was alongside Angelo Dawkins. How was that experience, and what plans may you have had if creative decided to keep you both together?

Alongside Dawkins, Fulton appeared ready to move forward.

Actually, Angelo Dawkins and I were roommates for almost three years, maybe two and a half years. A lot of the stuff we did in the ring and character wise never really got to be explored, which stemmed from stuff we were doing messing around, talking one-on-one. I think when we started tagging and started getting that moving, it was our group that we were trying out, led by Chad Gable. That would be myself, Dawkins, Jason Jordan and Tucker Knight, who is part of Heavy Machinery. I think that is where we started our tagging. We had a lot of good matches. I think The Revival helped us out a lot. I think The Revival is one of the best tag teams on the planet, so it’s impossible not to learn something from them. We had a lot of fun matches and a lot of learning experiences. We really thought we were going places. It was just one of those things that it just never really materialized. He was doing well and I think I was sort of falling behind a little bit, and then he was into a new direction and they kind of made it known that it was going to be Gable and Jordan as a tag team, and so we stopped focusing on it. But we continued to get tag matches on TV.

After we started to become singles and compete on our own, started working singles, they still kept putting us in tag matches on TV. We had one really good match against Blake and Murphy, and I just came in there house of fire and destroyed at the end. I think was the first time that they really saw us separately and went ‘these two are monsters in their own right and if we aren’t going to do anything with them together than we need to pull them apart, asap and figure out what they need to be, separately.’ I honestly think it was that last match we had with Blake and Murphy that split him (Dawkins) off into his solo character, and then into the Street Profits. And for me, I think that was the first time they saw that absurd aggression that I can bring. I knew that a lot of the coaches knew about it, but I think that it was the first time that Hunter and some of the writers saw I had that aggression. I think that is what sparked me into going in that direction of Sanity at that point.

In the spring of 2016, yourself and Alexander Wolfe were aligned, and you were then part of the Sanity faction. Describe that experience and how it was working with Eric Young.

We actually started tagging to fill in for Authors of Pain, who were sick. We had not planned on tagging that night. It was just one of those things where Fulton is here, and Wolfe is here, let’s get them into a match. And we ended up facing the Hype Bros in Florida, and we had some type of unspoken chemistry between us. We weren’t doing a lot obviously, and we hadn’t tagged before, but I think it turned some heads that it can be something. I think that was what re-sparked that interest in Sanity, and bringing those smoking aces characters to life, it was us coming together and tagging together. We did a lot of stuff before we even knew that Eric Young was interested. We got to go overseas and wrestle. We went to England and Ireland on the tour over there, and we got to do a lot of out of state loops with Gable and Jordan. We were really gelling together and ironing out who we are as a team.

How was it working with a veteran like Eric Young?

I think Eric helped take us to new levels. I think there is a certain amount that we wanted to do as a team between Wolfe and I but we didn’t really feel like our ideas were going to be taken seriously and listened to. Eric was very good at taking what we wanted and what we felt and then bringing them to the writers and to Hunter as his own idea, and he really fought for the things that he wanted and we believed in. A lot of Sanity was him having a big part, and he really steered us in a great direction, but he didn’t have to go as far out of his way to make things as comfortable for Wolfe and I as he did. He was instrumental, there’s no downplaying how much he has meant to my career especially in the last two years of me being there, and even after I got hurt.

He was very good about calling me and checking up when I was rehabbing, and we figured out that there weren’t any plans for me. And he was helping me out with trying to figure out what direction we need to go, and how to help me out there even though I wasn’t part of Sanity anymore. It astounds me, with the career that he’s had and stuff that he has done, how far out of his way he will go to help a Wolfe and I and Nikki (Cross) and Killian (Dain), and I think it really shows his character and how good he really is. It’s cool to see someone at that point in their career reach down and lend a helping hand to pull some other guys up to their level. Obviously, things didn’t work out the way that I wanted, but I feel like he pulled me up quite a few levels before all was said and done.

An unexplained departure was yours from the Sanity faction. Was your injury a prime reason? Any thoughts on how it could have developed?

Image courtesy of 411mania.com

Getting injured was very untimely, especially with how our tapings aligned. I got hurt the night of NXT Takeover: Toronto, and then I did the next taping that was before a Smackdown Live in Ottawa. I didn’t find out how bad my injury was until a week later. I actually thought I was getting better, I was ready to come back. My bruising and swelling were starting to go down quite a bit, and I was getting a little bit more movement. It wasn’t until the doctor told me how bad it was that the placebo effect really wore off. That was when the pain started coming back. I had my surgery on Nov 29th (2016) which was my mother’s birthday. I found out Nov 28th and tapings were December 5th. It was very rushed, it was almost directly afterward. I was left completely out of the loop.

I did not know what was happening or what was going on until Killian (Dain) called me that night and let me know ‘we did this, this and this for the TV tapings tonight. I want you to know that no matter what comes out of this, I don’t want you to take this as a personal attack on you. This was an opportunity given to me, and I would hope that if the roles were reversed that you would do the same to me’. Obviously, I would. Killian and I are friends. We were friends before and we are friends after, and it was very cool for him to come to me, every man to man, and let me know this was going on because at the time none of the coaches had called me and none of the writers had called me. I was just sitting in a hotel room wasting away. Later on, I got a call from Wolfe, I think Killian just beat him to the punch. And then Eric shortly after that, and Nikki texted me a few times, and finally the next day I got a call from Terry Taylor. It was hard for me to accept. I think it was a little bit rushed, and I think there was a lot of things coming out of it. I pitched a lot of things, not just for Sanity, but feuding with Sanity, my own group and a whole bunch of different things. I had a running joke that I was going to start Sanity Red and Black and we were going to go straight WCW with it.

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you think they should. There is a reason why I am not a writer. It’s just one of those things that are just beyond my control. I am not ashamed of anything and I know I worked as hard as possible to get back, and sometimes the cards just don’t fall in the right places. There is nothing to do, but just move on to bigger and better things. It has opened up so many doors and so many opportunities for me now, to figure out who I am and to establish myself as a wrestler and to do some things I didn’t think were possible in WWE. I am excited about everything.

Intergender wrestling, what are your thoughts?

If it was me that would have wrestled a girl in a match that was 5’5 and 115 pounds, however small some of the girls are, it is a little outrageous. I do know any number of women that can hold their own with plenty of guys in the ring with plenty of opportunities, not only me. Personally, I’ve had practice sessions in the ring with plenty of the girls on the main roster. I know that Charlotte Flair will go toe to toe with you regardless of who you are. She does not care, and if you go easy on her she will take advantage of you plain and simple. She is bad, man, she is bad, she will mess you up. I know that I am good friends with Jessica Havok, and I would love to wrestle her in the ring one day, and I told her that. I think we could have good matches together. There are plenty of women that can hold their own with guys and have good matches. I don’t think that, especially in today’s day and age, it should be something to hold you back.

While rankings and championships may not mean to some what they do to others, what does being included in PWI’s top 500 mean to you?

I think it’s really cool. That’s obviously my first time being included in that. I think I was somewhere in the mid 400’s, but even then it is cool to know that I am recognized on some level, and that brings this feeling that everything you do isn’t for naught. It really shows that people actually pay attention to me. It’s very easy, especially in a position like right now, where I am, or where I was when I was injured and wasn’t making any headway, it is easy to get down on yourself and get depressed. And then you see something like that and realize that ‘oh, yeah I have done some things and accomplished things.’ It’s an easy way to take a step back and look at your life and realize it really isn’t as bad as you are making it out to be. I was very happy to be included in that and to be recognized at that level, and I hope to just keep pushing that number up.

Now that you are free to compete independently, what plans do you have and where can you see yourself competing in 2018 and beyond?

Image courtesy of Atomic Wrestling Entertainment.

I am free to roam around, and I have been in talks with a few different companies. I have a few small-scale shows here and there. I was very happy to get back with ASWA, and as well as companies around here like AWE in Coco. I have signed up with a few places in California, and I will be in Pro Wrestling Magic in New Jersey. But being out here, especially with my no-compete up, there is a lot of opportunities and a lot of different places I want to go. I want to establish myself as a wrestler and as a top competitor and be able to go out and prove to the world that this is my calling and this is what I want to do, this is how I am going to do it. I would love, and my goal and my dream is that I want to be able, to wrestle in Japan and hold my own there. I want to be able to wrestle in Mexico and hold my own there.

I want to be able to travel the world and make this my dream and my living, and I think not being with WWE anymore is a blessing in disguise. I want this to be a great ride for the next few years, travel and get out there and live the life. I really want to use this opportunity to show my athleticism. It wasn’t that I wasn’t pushed into this niche, but I felt like I was in this big man rhythm with WWE. While I am big and happy, I know I can move and I know I can wrestle and flow. I think that is what I want to try to establish. I didn’t feel, with my character, comfortable with moving and wrestling in a way that I can. I know that I can work out of situations, and I have a good amount of throws and moves that I can work in. That is just what I am, being able to look at my overall wrestling ability. It isn’t just with my overall professional ability, but with my amateur skills. Start throwing in more of that. Some of the things people would get to see on live events with me and Dawkins is going to make its way back on a much larger scale.

Those are really my goals for this year, for 2018. I want to be able to establish my name now, and that it is just Fulton, not that guy from Sanity that got kicked out. Or that lowest rated character from 2K18. I want to be established as who I am, and I want to be viewed as a top contender, the guy that is worth going out and going to see. I think more and more this year goes on, I plan on making sure my name goes out as far as possible, and I’d love to go to different countries. Like I said, Japan, Mexico, and I had so much fun wrestling in England that I would die to be able to do it again. Those were some of the most fun matches I’ve had in my career. I just want to go out and travel and experience all these different cultures in the world and to do that by doing what I love, and that’s professional wrestling.

 

 

 

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