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By Mike Johnson on 2021-06-15 00:00:00

This past Sunday evening, LA Knight captured his first taste of gold in WWE, becoming the winner of a Ladder Match to become the official holder of the resurrected Million Dollar Championship.  On Monday morning, Knight sat down with to reflect and discuss how far he's come, why he is overdue to be there and what the legacy of the Championship means for him going forward.

Mike Johnson: Hey, everybody. It's Mike Johnson in the audio section of It is the morning after WWE NXT takeover, In Your House and we have a new Million Dollar champion in LA Knight who defeated Cameron Grimes in the million dollar ladder match last night on the show. He has had a very interesting career that has had many rises and falls, many permutations and different monikers. And he's done everything from competing in a reality show, hosted by The Rock, to becoming the Million Dollar Champion.  So, you're in the afterglow of a hell of a performance last night and a milestone moment where you get to be part of the Million Dollar Championship being brought back into the Pantheon of WWE.   How are you feeling physically, emotionally, spiritually? How are things?

LA Knight: Well, you talk about an afterglow. You can damn well call it a hangover at this point, because not that I am hungover, my body certainly feels like it after the match happened last night. But on an emotional level, couldn't be anything that I can describe beyond ecstatic. That's where I sit right now.

Mike Johnson: Last night during the post show media call, Paul Levesque talked about the moment where you and Cameron Grimes each got to see the Million Dollar Championship for the first time. And you each related stories and talked about how Ted DiBiase and the Million Dollar Championship fit into your own personal stories growing up and getting into this genre.  I was curious if you could talk a little bit about that and what it was like working with DiBiase on camera for this part of your career.

LA Knight: Well, it's just crazy to think about.  I mean, the very first time I saw the belt, the first question was, "That's the real thing? That's not a replica? That's the real deal."  No, no.  Oh geez, this is the only one that exists.  It's the real one.  We get the name of the jeweler up in Connecticut that made it.  And that blew my mind.  You start to hear different stories.   As a kid, I was there watching when it first popped up on the scene, when the thing actual happened and with Ted and he's going into the jewelers in Connecticut and he's getting it made.  He's checking on it and all that stuff and he brought it in and hit a home run with it.  When I was a kid, I had the figure where he was wearing the green suit and it came with the Million Dollar Championship.   So, that's insanity to me to then walk in the door in NXT just four months ago, not even knowing that something like this was an option.  You look at the NXT Championship and North American Championship, and those are things I'm gunning for, but then all of a sudden, wait a minute.  Ted DiBiase?  Million Dollar Championship? Hell yes, because you're talking about just...I hate when people get too hung up on it's a childhood dream and stuff like that, but you cannot deny the fact that this is on some's something that, if I wasn't lying, a little bit overdue for myself. It's been a long, storied road.

Mike Johnson: Do you expect you'll be working with DiBiase in the future? Or do you believe that was sort of like the chapter end point for the Million Dollar man?

LA Knight: Well, I have to say this. He better be around for a little bit because we've got some stuff to do. Like I said, he's got to help me get that last puzzle piece, which is just becoming the millionaire because everything else, I've embodied, it's there, now I got the title. And I think it's game on from here.  So, I got to get Ted coming back. I don't think Ted's going anywhere.

Mike Johnson: You said you feel like it was overdue. Anybody who's followed your career has seen you go through different tenures in WWE NXT and in other promotions. What's your advice to talents like yourself who are still trying to find the right puzzle pieces to fit as you make your rounds and you do the journeymen thing? And looking to find your way back to WWE when the initial run may not work out as perfectly as you envisioned the day you come into the company?

LA Knight: Man, it really comes down to, if you know you've got something awesome, you've got to keep moving forward. There's just nothing else you can do, because I know a lot of times, guys get disheartened. They'll just get turned off of the business. And then, if one thing doesn't work out, then they just go and disappear, and it's like... I get that to a degree, but at the same time, I don't really do anything else. This is what I do.  So, I got to keep moving within this universe so to speak, to coin a term.  Also, man, if you're talking about guys who were just coming up, know what you want and know how to ask for it, because that was the biggest thing for me for the longest time is me just hoping somebody would just pluck me out of obscurity and bring me in until finally I figured out, "Oh, you got to actually be assertive and ask for what you want and take what you want instead of just waiting for somebody to bring it to you."  On top of that, also at the same time, just... Man, I'm so an island unto myself. I stayed on myself. I'll get around and say hello, whatever.  But for the most part, I stayed to myself.  Another big detriment.  People see that and they're like, "Oh, look at this guy. Who does he think he is?"   So, my thing would just be, make yourself available. All that kind of stuff. Here has been your LA Knight career expo advice.  So, this is one hell of a culmination to this point.
Man, it really comes down to, if you know you've got something awesome, you've got to keep moving forward. There's just nothing else you can do.

Mike Johnson: One of the true calling cards for LA Knight is obviously your ability to articulate whatever is on your mind and come up with very clear, concise, entertaining ways of doing that. When did you finally realize, "All right, this is when it's clicking for me and this is the direction I need to take it in"?  I feel like if LA Knight doesn't show up and cut a promo that entertains people or makes people go, huh?, they're not seeing the full package. When did you finally feel like, "All right, I'm comfortable with this. I know how I want to present myself. I know what I need to say."? Where was that moment where you found that confidence? And where was the moment where you knew it was working and you knew to follow that path?

LA Knight: I would say it was probably 10 years ago, honestly, way back in Championship Wrestling in Hollywood. Now that you mention that, way back when I was back there, it was just I felt comfortable in my own skin. I started to feel like that had something going.  For me, it was always about, when I grew up, I liked that you could talk. If you couldn't talk for the most part, I didn't care. You could be the best wrestler ever. You could do the coolest moves ever. Did not care. If you couldn't talk to me or you couldn't connect with me in that way, then you weren't on my radar for the most part and so for me, it was, that's what I want to do. I want to talk. And then I want to walk like it, too. And I think that I started to really feel, like I said, that confidence and just feel comfortable in my skin with all of that, "Okay. I've got something going here."  So, about 10 years ago. I would say 2010, 2011 ish.

Mike Johnson: You worked a lot with Cameron Grimes in recent months, had a phenomenal ladder match with him last night. Obviously anybody who follows Cameron Grimes knows that he's not someone who's just going to disappear into the night. Thoughts on what the next chapter for yourself and Cameron may be, as well as thoughts on the unique experience of working with him thus far in WWE NXT?

LA Knight: Well, hell, at this point, I think we're both just trying to get our bodies in one piece after last night. He took a hell of a spill at the end. And then, I took a couple of nasty spills in there. And I know if he's feeling anything like I'm feeling today, we're both feeling like complete crap. And at this point, it's just take it a day at a time, and look, tomorrow's another episode of NXT on USA. So, who knows what could happen if he shows up, if he doesn't. Maybe he decides to take a little time off. Nobody knows, but I guess in the coming weeks, we'll find out.

Mike Johnson: We're at the beginning of this genesis, the return of the Million Dollar Championship. In your mind, how would you like to see that belt presented and utilized by WWE NXT in the days and weeks ahead?

LA Knight: Look, to me, that championship, honestly now just with its presence, has now become, at least in my mind and I think a lot of people's minds, probably the most prestigious or at least one of only because, if you consider, it's been around for what over 30 years. The lineage is packed, but it's short.  There's only been four guys to hold that thing before me. And two of those are gigantically iconic. You're talking about Ted DiBiase. You're talking about Steve Austin.  To be on that level, on such a short list, and then I'll be holding that title, I think that puts it in a whole different stratosphere.  That doesn't take anything away from the NXT title, because I still got my eyes on that. And that doesn't take anything away from the American title because I still got my eyes on that. But I think you could arguably say that now, with the advent of the Million Dollar title, you're looking at possibly the most prestigious title walking the streets.

Mike Johnson: I mentioned earlie, when we started this conversation, you appeared on the reality show, The Hero, which The Rock was involved in. He was the host. He was producing. What was the experience like on that show? And how did that help you on the way to discovering who LA Knight is, if it did it all? And in general, what were the positives of being on that series during that juncture of your career?

LA Knight: Well, I'd love to give you the answer to say that it had some shaping in that. But in all honesty, I don't think it really did, because at that point, I had already been on the trajectory of forming my character and the way that I spoke and the way that our vessel moved and all that stuff. That was just an experience on the way.  Now, a lot of people I think are under the impression that the first time around that I got opportunities because of that show. But actually, it ended up being it was two parallel things that just happened at the exact same time when I originally got picked up in 2015.  So, it was a great experience. It was funny the one time when The Rock did an impression of me at a press junket we were at, poking fun.  But I mean, if you're going to talk about it as far as influencing the career, there wasn't a lot there. But it was a hell of an experience. And I'll tell you this, that $35,000 got me out of debt and turned my life around. So, that was amazing. And I could say that about it.

Mike Johnson: When you look at where you are now and you reflect back on everything that you've been through, all the different promotions, all the different personalities, all the different experiences and runs and monikers and beta versions that lead us into who LA Knight is now, what does it mean to you now to be standing here as a full-time WWE NXT star, to be the Million Dollar Champion, to know that you're going to be one of the cornerstones of this brand going forward? When you look at that journey that you've had, and you see where you've landed today, what does that entire journey mean?

LA Knight: Well, I'm going to make one minor change to that and just say I feel like the personality has pretty much been the same, no matter where I've gone. Only occasionally has the name changed. But it's always the same feel. It's always me.  To be here at this point is giving me very mixed emotions, if I'm honest. Because a lot of it is, there's some anger and frustration still that it's taken me this long, but there's a lot of gratitude. But at the same time, a lot of like, "All right, now it's time to turn it on. Now it's time to take it to another level. Now it's time to not only do what you've done before, but expand beyond that to make things bigger, exaggerate them, whatever you need to do to continue to be, as you said, a cornerstone of this brand," as it does seem that I'm starting to step into that role.  It's an amazing feeling.  At the same time, like I said, there's still a little bit of that where it's like, no, I'm hot about the fact that it's just happening now.  But you know what? Better late than never.  I think I'm finally where I belong. I think it's long overdue and time to just continue doing what we're doing. I think we've managed to make a good amount of noise. And if I can continue making that noise, and maybe even make it a little bit louder, a little bit bigger, a little bit crazier, then we're going to have a nice, fun, memorable run here at NXT.

Mike Johnson: Well, I think you're well on your way. And I thank you for sitting down and talking to us. I want to let everybody know you can track down LA Knight on Twitter at @laknightwwe. And of course, he'll be appearing this Tuesday and every Tuesday thereafter on WWE NXT on the USA Network and beyond.

Mike Johnson: One last question for you. A big piece of the Million Dollar Championship, especially in the early days, was that Ted DiBiase had Virgil helping him along and handling all the minor things and even carrying the championship belt when needed. If you could pick someone to kind of be the second to LA Knight, is there someone that you have in mind? Would you like to bring back that aspect of the Million Dollar Championship to the program?

LA Knight: Well, I'm actually taking applications as we speak. I've got a full line of recruits coming in who want to take over that. But if somebody meets the challenge, then perhaps that'll happen. But if nobody meets the criteria, then I might just have to keep rolling solo.

Mike Johnson: All right, everybody stay tuned for that. Of course, you can find the replay of In Your House, the takeover event that took place last night, on Peacock and internationally on the WWE Network, featuring Cameron Grimes against LA Knight in a hell of a match for the reconstituted Million Dollar Championship.

Mike Johnson: I appreciate you sitting down and talking to us. We look forward to further success out of you. And we look forward to seeing what you do this Tuesday and every Tuesday thereafter on NXT, so thank you for the time.

LA Knight: For sure, man. Thanks.

Mike Johnson: All right, everybody. Until next time here on, I'm Mike Johnson. Stay tuned for basically everything that you could imagine. Take care.

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