Interview: WWE Superstar Bo Dallas Billy Donnelly July 18, 2014 Wrestling, Wrestling Features Bo Dallas has finally brought his positivity and optimism to the WWE. The longest reigning NXT Champion at 280 days, Dallas has tasted the WWE spotlight before, participating in the 2013 Royal Rumble and lasting about 20 minutes before his elimination. However, that also led to an encounter with Wade Barrett, which resulted in him upsetting the then-Intercontinental Champion in a non-title. He had a few shots at capturing the belt, but was unsuccessful before heading back down to NXT. But, it was that time in the WWE developmental system that really saw Dallas come into his own, as he went from sort of generic babyface to the disingenuous persona we’ve come to love or hate today. He’s more than happy, as you’ll read soon enough, to supply Bo-lievers with an uplifting message, letting you know that all you have to do is Bo-lieve, and that should get you by. It was that time in NXT that elevated him to the main event and got him ready over course of a year for a full-time spot on the main roster of the WWE. A third-generation Superstar – Blackjack Mulligan is his grandfather, Mike Rotunda (better known as I.R.S.) is his dad, his uncles are Barry and Kendall Windham and his brother Windham… well you can find that one out for yourself, if you don’t know already) – professional wrestling is in his blood, and he’s managed to make a name for himself outside of his family’s. So when I had a chance to talk with him heading into the WWE’s Battleground pay-per-view, I was curious how and if he uses those family resources to help craft his in-ring persona as well as what other wrestling personalities from the past he’s sort of studied in order to create Bo Dallas as presently constituted. As expected, Bo Dallas was extremely nice in our conversation, very positive, and even managed to scrape up a message just for you to help you get you get through the day. Enjoy. Billy Donnelly: What’s goin’ on, Bo? Bo Dallas: How you doin’, Billy? Billy Donnelly: Good morning, man. Bo Dallas: Good morning! Thank you for having me! Billy Donnelly: Thank you for doing this! The place I wanted to start is your experience going through the WWE system. There’s been a pretty seismic shift in developmental from when you first signed on with the company, when you started out with FCW through to the evolution of NXT. What have you found to be the biggest differences, either positive or negative, in how the WWE now grows and develops its talent? Bo Dallas: I feel the difference these days… It’s definitely positive. I mean they’ve taken WWE developmental to a whole other level. The NXT platform is its own brand. The way that they pair us these days is amazing, because something from NXT to RAW or Smackdown, there are very little differences, because there were so well prepared for the next phase of the game. Billy Donnelly: There’s a lot of wrestling knowledge in your family, from your grandfather, your dad, from your uncles and even your brother. Especially with some of them on the road with you, are those resources that you find yourself tapping into regularly? Seeking feedback or bouncing ideas off of? Or have you found yourself… not distancing yourself, but detached in order to try and figure it out on your own and find your own way? Bo Dallas: Well, me and my brother both, we both wanted to get into it. We loved wrestling, and grew up as fans. Our family was in it, but when we both got into it, we both looked at it as… We are our own entities and people, and we don’t want to tread off of our father or grandfather’s, even though we look up to and respected all of them, we wanted to come into it as ourselves. It’s great having them on the road and having family members and people you can trust and just having your family there in general, but in general, we are ourselves. We can bounce ideas off of each other, but each of us are so different. We’re just so different. Billy Donnelly: Obviously! Bo Dallas: A little bit. Billy Donnelly: But is that something where you can have a conversation and say, “Hey, this isn’t working,” or, “Hey, this is,” and kind of open up that line of communication for ideas and say, “Well, what if you tried this? Or maybe this would work?” And then be able to apply that to what happens in ring? Bo Dallas: Oh, absolutely that. Because you can always count on family members being completely honest and telling you what does and doesn’t work. And you can trust that opinion because I know that they have my best interests at heart in what they say. So that always helps. Billy Donnelly: Have you found it to be different of an experience between your first taste of the main roster back in 2013 with your entry in the Royal Rumble and the program with Wade Barrett… how different have your experiences been for you? Bo Dallas: Very different. What happened in the 2013 Royal Rumble and what happened in the follow up on Monday Night RAW… And then I got the opportunity to go down to XNT and I won an NXT championship. At that time in my career, I spent around eight months to completely develop this character that had become so much more of a full, rounded superstar. I learned so much in that time and I’m a completely different performer than I was before. Billy Donnelly: Was it jarring in that first appearance when you came up and did you feel that you were ready for the spotlight at that point in time? Bo Dallas: I do feel that I was ready at that point in time, but looking back, after going through what I’ve gone through, I have so many more experiences to have. Luckily I got the opportunity. So yeah, I felt more than ready, but looking back, I’m glad that I got the opportunity to go through what I went through because I want to be where I am today, and as comfortable and positive as I am today. Billy Donnelly: There have only been some minor changes to Bo Dallas in how we know you now, which essentially began with the rebranding of NXT, but the crowd reaction, especially down with the NXT universe, turned against you about a little more than a year ago. Did you foresee that change in the reception and how easy or difficult was it to adapt to that and modify their perception of you to fit the persona? Bo Dallas: I look at the crowd reaction whether negative or not, I look at every situation as positive. Bo Dallas continues being positive no matter what, and anything is possible as long as he Bo-lieves. Billy Donnelly: But did you see it coming? Or when it happened was it kind of confusing? How did you figure out how to roll with it at that point? Bo Dallas: I definitely saw it coming, and sometimes being so positive can get on people’s nerves, but if you stay positive, one day they’ll all become Bo-lievers. They’ll change. No matter what. Billy Donnelly: The Orlando crowd is very different than most that you would wrestle and perform in front of. Has being in front of them, particularly this last year, made you better as a result of how they integrate themselves into being a part of the show and how they treat the characters that they tend to Bo-lieve in? Bo Dallas: Oh, absolutely. NXT’s venue is completely different from anything else, so it’s always great to have new experiences and I’ve definitely learned from them. The NXT Full Sail house as itself is completely different from anywhere else you can go. So if I can get a reaction from them? Then yeah, I’ve learned that I need to do different things to get reactions than anywhere else, and I definitely listened a lot throughout this past year, having an opportunity to perform down there. Billy Donnelly: Do you find any difficulty, then, transitioning to the main roster at WWE coming from NXT because of the fact that certain things that would get over and kill in NXT may be a little bit of a longer play to get over in front of the WWE Universe? Bo Dallas: Yeah, I can see how it would be difficult, but with the audience how it is in NXT, as long as you come up to the main roster I feel like we’re very prepared coming from the NXT platform and going to the RAW platform or the Smackdown platform. As long as you stay true to what you know works… You might have to bring it back a couple notches because in NXT everything is so intimate and it’s easy to interact and it’s smaller… You can be right there with people. So bring it back a little bit, but stay true to what you know works, and don’t stray from that. As long as you do that, I Bo-lieve that anything that works down there works anywhere in the world. Billy Donnelly: Well because there’s been a little bit of difficulty in some of the transition. You’ve seemed to transition nicely, what with the undefeated streak and what not going for you, but then somebody like Adam Rose or Paige who have come up with you in the same time frame have seemed to struggle a little bit taking what we know of them in NXT and dropping it right in RAW. So I was curious to see how that experience is in taking it, and whether or not there are tweaks that need to be made along the way in order to find that more mainstream acceptance. Bo Dallas: Well I can’t speak for them, but for me, in NXT the Bo Dallas character is so developed. You know everything about him, and I need people around the world to get to know me from where I started before they can… It’s like any relationship. You just start talking about the important things… You get to know them, and once you get to know them you get to know a little bit more and a little bit more, so I’ve gotta start back. It’s a new relationship. It’s a whole new world. So I start at the beginning, and once they get to know more about me they get to know more about me, and that continues it all. And then at the end, they all Bo-lieve. Billy Donnelly: Are there other personalities or personas from wrestling history that you study or try to… not copy from, but sort of try to evolve from as you continue to develop the Bo Dallas persona? Because the one that came to mind, especially as this has grown, is very early Kurt Angle, in that overwhelming goodness and positivity that kind of struck the wrong nerve with people and ultimately turned against him. So obviously you don’t have the gold medal in common with him, but are there other personalities that you have found some common interest in that, as a result, you’ve tried to, not mimic, but learn from in becoming who are you are now? Bo Dallas: Yes, Kurt Angle is the #1 when it comes to who is most similar to what I’m doing and that’s who I’ve looked up to a lot, and learned many things from. Honestly the other WWE Superstar that I can say I’ve learned from was John Cena, taking his messages and taking them to the fullest with complete positivity. Never back down, never give up, and Bo-lieving in that and not straying from that and believing John Cena’s messages to the fullest. Billy Donnelly: You’re in the Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal at Battleground, and there’s been a major emphasis put on restoring the value of that prestigious title recently. What does that IC belt mean to you as someone who grew up in the business? Bo Dallas: I grew up watching, I grew up a huge man. If you look back at the Intercontinental Championship, you’ve got Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Mr. Perfect. This title is a legacy and I believe it needs to be brought back to that. It needs to be put back on its pedestal, and if I can obtain this title it would be a major life and career achievement and I would do anything in my power to bring it back to the prestige that it deserves. Billy Donnelly: For all the Bo-lievers out there, can we part ways with some sort of inspirational message for us to all have a better day? Bo Dallas: Absolutely. If you’re sitting in your car right now sitting in traffic, or late to work, or if there’s anything wrong in your day today, just stop. Stop for a second and think. All you have to do is Bo-lieve and your day is gonna be great. Billy Donnelly: Bo, a pleasure. I appreciate it. Bo Dallas: Well thank you kindly.