Leon Ruff recently beat Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship in a shocking upset on NXT. The reason it was so shocking is the Ruff has not been with the company long, having only been signed to the NXT brand on October 7th 2020.
In a recent interview with Instinct Culture, Ruff discussed the process that led to him winning the championship including not believing it was true at first and also some advice he received from legends of the business.
When asked about how he found out about the plans, Ruff said:
“I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought it was a joke, I thought somebody was just playing a prank on the new guy and ‘Yo we’re gonna make him believe this and then see how looks when we tell him not.’ But when I found out it was real, I had to take a second to think because Johnny Gargano was somebody that I admired a lot when I discovered who he was on the independent scene. I started to watch a lot of his matches and his documentaries and I used to write a lot of notes about him. So, to not only wrestle him on TV, but to take the title from him – it was mind-blowing and I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity to do what I felt really fortunate for.”
Afterwards, Ruff was asked about who his mentors were in NXT. He had this to say:
“I would say wrestler-wise, the first guy I would say is Tommaso Ciampa. He’s the first guy in the WWE that I started messaging about anything wrestling related. He would always not just give me an answer, but give me a really, really detailed answer and manage to go into detail about whatever it is I asked him about. I remember telling him I was signed and how excited he was for me and how he couldn’t believe it. He was somebody I felt had my back. Who else…..Shawn Michaels. It’s not that I forgot, it’s just that it’s unbelievable to say. Shawn Michaels is someone I feel that has taken a liking to me. He just came up to me and gave me a speech and told me to just soak it in. But the fact that he took the time to talk to me to tell me how he appreciates what I do for the company and how he appreciates how I go out there and wrestle, it means a lot.”
Ruff was then asked what COO and leader of NXT, Triple H said to him, both before and after the match itself.
“He told me a lot before and he didn’t tell me a lot afterward – not because he was too busy, but I felt like he said ‘You did good out there.’ I think he wanted to let me know what I did what I was supposed to do and he was proud. He didn’t have to go over the top – him being the boss. He just let me know ‘I approve.’ That’s what I got from him, and that’s what I really, really appreciated. Before I went out there, he was like ‘Hey we’re doing this, we’re really doing this, this is really happening, so go out there and enjoy it.’ He said have fun out there and do what you’re supposed to do. So, to come back, and he gave me one of the firmest handshakes and he looked me in the eye, and in that moment, I felt I did Triple H proud.”
Some interesting insight into the behind the scenes process of a title win like that. Ruff is still champion at time of writing, having successfully defended against Gargano, winning via DQ after Damian Priest punched him. It will be interesting to see where NXT goes from here with their new champion.
Credit to 411Mania for the transcription.