Meet your new North American Champion (Picture: WWE)
WWE celebrity Leon Ruff resides the dream.
The 24-year-old rising star seized his alternatives in the course of the pandemic, and went from one-off losses to the likes of Sheamus and Aleister Black to successful the NXT North American Championship just a few months.
Reflecting on a wild 2020, he completely informed Metro.co.uk: ‘I’m not saying I used to be presupposed to win this championship, however if you happen to’re coaching laborious, doing all your job and doing what you’re presupposed to be doing, you’re gonna get a possibility that you just knock out of the park…
‘That’s my primary factor. I hope that this win makes individuals really feel like, man, “he was simply getting beat up and thrown round”.
‘Folks can really feel like that about their entire life. Then I get one win, and it’s the most important win, the win that I wanted. I would like individuals to only attempt!’
Ruff surprised Gargano for the gold (Picture: WWE)
Leon surprised viewers when he defeated Johnny Gargano two weeks in the past for the gold, and he’s grateful to have the ability to share his triumph along with his companion – and NXT referee – Aja Smith.
‘We’re so excited, we’re comfortable, that is such an awesome factor,’ he mentioned about his household’s response to his win, regardless of them not figuring out a lot concerning the wrestling world.
‘And with me and Aja, we get to sit down and discuss what it means.’
Having a companion who actually understands the enterprise is a big factor, and Leon has had Aja by his aspect since his early days as a trainee.
‘I’ve recognized her since I began. It wasn’t till I used to be doing a college present, it was a giant college present occasion,’ he recalled. ‘Me and her had been simply speaking and we went on a date after the present, and it kinda simply snowballed from there.’
The 2 then moved to Orlando, Florida when she signed with NXT, and he admitted the coronavirus pandemic has truly introduced them nearer collectively.
‘It’s actually simply been us two – particularly with the quarantine,’ he added. ‘You may at all times discover the silver lining in something. I really feel just like the silver lining for us within the pandemic is we received to spend so much of time collectively.’
Leon can also be grateful to have the ability to encourage different individuals, and he pointed to the significance of seeing characters like Miles Morales – Marvel’s first black Spider-Man – on the large display in 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse meant an awesome deal (Credit: Sony Footage Animation)
He mentioned: ‘After I grew up in Detroit, it was a whole lot of African People, a whole lot of black individuals. We not often had white college students. I didn’t develop up going to highschool with white individuals till I used to be in seventh grade.
‘There was a whole lot of stuff that I didn’t know I may do or see or be. Like for Halloween, you’ll be able to by no means actually be a personality as a result of perhaps your hair’s not proper.’
Nevertheless, seeing Morales modified that, and he hopes extra kids might be impressed sooner or later.
‘I bear in mind the scene the place Miles jumped off the constructing, that leap – that’s how I felt,’ he beamed. ‘I’m getting emotional.
‘That’s how I felt after I left my job to return and do wrestling. I felt like I used to be leaping off the constructing, and it felt like I used to be falling however I used to be flying.
‘The way in which that made me really feel watching that film, I can solely think about how youngsters rising up who’ve all these retailers of various characters – I can solely think about what they’ll really feel rising up.’
After three years, his wrestling profession is really taking off, however his love for the character begs the query – would he think about Hollywood?
‘I’ve at all times wished to encourage individuals, and I wished to do it via wrestling,’ he insisted. ‘[But] I’d positively like to play Spider-Man!
Leon needs to encourage different individuals along with his journey (Picture: WWE)
‘I like Spider-Man – we now have a black Spider-Man now, which is actually cool. I used to be at all times a fan of him rising up! The spot I do after I bounce from rope to rope, I name it the Spider-Man spot! It suits!’
Now, Leon is driving the wave and absorbing the adulation his laborious phrase has introduced, and he stays level-headed, grounded and filled with confidence for the long run.
‘I simply thought, as a child, you go up there, you audition, you get on TV if you happen to’re good,’ he laughed, admitting some naivety concerning the highway to WWE superstardom.
‘So I kinda stored that concept – “I wanna do that!” I’ve seen individuals surrender on their goals, I’ve seen what it seems to be like. I’ve seen how they discuss my goals – and I by no means wished to be that particular person.’
*Catch North American Champion Leon Ruff on NXT each Wednesday evening at 1am on BT Sport 1.