RIDDLE isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last mixed martial artist to cross over to the world of pro wrestling.
But this early, one-half of the current RAW Tag Team Champions already holds himself with a high regard, noting that he believes he's probably the second-best MMA fighter to make the crossover.
"I personally rank myself very high. So I write myself great behind the Beast. And I'm number two," said Riddle in a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Centaur Marketing.
The only fighter above Riddle in his rankings? Brock Lesnar.
Riddle lists Lesnar as number one in MMA to WWE list
"I would say Brock's got to be the best especially with how he's booked and built and how he looks, and he is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion," he said. "The guy brings it, and he's very good at professional wrestling as well."
It's an audacious take to come from Riddle, who came from The Ultimate Fighter and holds a professional MMA record of 8-3, 2 NC (10-3, if you'd ask him), especially looking at those who moved from the Octagon to the squared circle — a list that includes the likes of Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, former WWE Champion Bobby Lashley, and former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion and one-time RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey.
But what sets him apart from the others, at least in his eye, is how he transitioned to the pro wrestling world, with the fans being hooked to his jovial yet lethal demeanor in his short time in WWE.
"I think I'm very good at professional wrestling, and I think like the one thing those guys are known for, they're known for like MMA careers, right? Like, 'Oh, he's from MMA.' But most people, especially in the WWE Universe, don't even know I was brought from MMA and they just know me for my pro wrestling," Riddle explained.
He went on: "So the fact that I'm at the level that I am because of my pro wrestling and not because of my MMA career, I think with the selling and the working and the promos, and being able to be goofy and being able to be a savage that I have to be, I think I'm the full package."
Riddle has one of the best schticks in WWE today, with his odd-ball pairing with Randy Orton, collectively known as RK-Bro, making him a must watch in every episode of WWE RAW.
Answering the riddle that is Riddle
What makes the 35-year-old Allentown, Pennsylvania native such an engaging character to follow, though, is his ability to be real with himself and on-screen.
"I think with what goes on with me is it’s real, it’s natural. I’m really enjoying myself and I think it’s contagious," he said.
It's been the case since he made the move to wrestling in 2014, and when he signed with the WWE in 2018. "If you go to a party or you go to dinner and somebody is over the top and having fun, you kind of end up having a lot of fun yourself."
May it be in his singles runs — where he won the United States Championship, or in oddball pairings with the likes of Orton or previously with Pete Dunne, who he won the NXT Tag Team Championships and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with — Riddle never fails to bring fun to the party.
He credits this contrast of styles and attitudes to the immense fan support he has gotten from his move from NXT to the main roster.
"Whenever you see people on-screen, for the most part, it’s a group of people that have a lot of interest or a lot of common things, they have a lot of personality traits that are similar," explained the 35-year-old fighter.
"When you mix yin and yang, when you got me and Randy, or me and Pete, they’re so serious. Randy likes putting people on fire, Pete is a Bruiserweight, he likes breaking people’s fingers. Then you got The Bro, I can kick your head off or maybe choke you out, but I ride a scooter and I’m kinda goofy."
He pairs all that with a defiant spirit that many fans have responded to.
"In pro-wrestling, most people are like, 'I’m going to beat you up and there’s nothing you can do about it.' and I’m more like, 'Bro, do you think you can beat me, dude? You know you can’t.' and you know it's true. So I think I have that personality and demeanor, and that’s what makes me different and what makes me work so well with the more serious wrestlers and entertainers that we have," continued Riddle.
As proud as he seems, he's keeping his foot on the ground and acknowledging that he still has a lot to learn, even though most of the time, his brutally honest takes get him in hot water — as it did did in his comments regarding WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg and current Universal Champion Roman Reigns before.
That's why he's just grateful to be able to work with a veteran such as Orton who has been willing to impart him with the wealth of knowledge he has learned over the years.
What Riddle has learned from the vets
"It hasn't been a long time that I've been working with Randy, but I’ve learned a lot in that short amount of time," Riddle said of the 14-time world champion, who linked up with him to beat the team of AJ Styles and Omos to win the RAW Tag Team Championship at SummerSlam last month.
"The one thing I learned is [that] Randy is extremely cool and laid back," he went on.
"In a sense, I’m kind of like that, but Randy, even though he’s been doing this for years, he’s one of the best. He’s a 14-time world champion and he still makes sure he takes care of every little thing he has to take care of every single week. Sometimes I forget, but Randy is on the ball every time. He doesn’t make mistakes and even when he does, you can’t tell because he’s Randy Orton. That’s something I’ve learned from Randy, just being in the moment and doing the right things, and just crossing those Ts and dotting those Is, and making sure you don’t leave any loose ends."
It's this oppositional push and pull that grounds this wrestler's shtick.
"That’s something I kind of got away from because I’m wild and I’m like, 'Whatever, dude,' and let’s get wild and crazy. Being with Randy, especially if I’m trying to work with others throughout my career, some people aren’t as crazy as me, so I’m going to have to work a different way or talk a different way. And I bet you've already noticed that I rubbed some people the wrong way. So that’s just the way it is."
That's why one can't blame The Original Bro if he currently feels satisfied on where he is today, away from the bloody field of mixed martial arts as he found a niche for himself in WWE.
"I’ve loved every opportunity. If it’s me doing a party in the background, popping a bottle of champagne for somebody else’s win or if I’m the one at Summerslam holding the RAW Tag Team Championships above my head, or even if it’s just me cracking jokes with the absurd ideas that I have, I love it all. I really enjoy my job," he said.
"I enjoyed my job even before I was in the WWE when I was making scraps, making pennies, struggling to get by selling t-shirts out of my suitcase. This is something that I really love and something I really love to do. It entertains me and it keeps me happy and it feel like it keeps me younger. I really enjoy what I do and I couldn’t be happier working for the WWE. I’m lucky that they have me and I'm glad they haven't got rid of me.
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