WWE's Xavier Woods is probably best known for his remarkable three-man tag team run with Kofi Kingston and Big E, as members of The New Day. The powerhouse team still holds the longest reign as tag team champions in WWE history—that’s 483 days, by the way. But Xavier is more than your average wrestler.
His real name is Austin Watson, and he holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He also has a YouTube channel called UpUpDownDown where he plays a variety of video games with fellow WWE superstars, totally breaking kayfabe and showing the world that these larger-than-life characters are just like us. Oh, and did we mention that UpUpDownDown was awarded the Guinness World Record as the Most Subscribed-to Celebrity Video Gaming Channel?
Recently, Xavier Woods took the time to pass by the Philippines to meet with his Filipino fans and talk more about his YouTube channel, WWE 2K, and the possibility of him competing in e-sports.
With UpUpDownDown, you showed the entire world what WWE Superstars are like behind the scenes. How do you feel when people say that ‘kayfabe’ (pro-wrestling stories) is dead?
The thing I enjoy about it is being able to do that. It’s 2018: we know what wrestling is. We’re all aware. Having UpUpDownDown is an opportunity to remember that WWE Superstars are normal people with lives, with families. That’s all it is. Then, I think it makes you enjoy the characters more when you see them on Raw or SmackDown! or Wrestlemania. You have a more relatable place to look at them from.
Do you have creative freedom when producing UpUpDownDown?
WWE has a say, obviously. It’s within the WWE umbrella. It is its own thing though. So, I would say I have 92% creative control. I am lucky enough to now have a team of editors and producers. We’ve gone from me and two other guys to now me and six other people. So, it’s creating jobs within the company. There isn’t much they take out. The biggest thing is just cursing and that’s because people get heated.
If you watch Raw or SmackDown!, obviously those shows are going on TV. So there’s perfect light, perfect sound—it is a pristine product. It is fantastic. I try to make UpUpDownDown the complete opposite because, to me, it’s got more of a grassroots feel to it. It’s me doing it.
I bring my studio with me everywhere I go. It’s a briefcase with my laptop, my DSLR, a microphone, my mouse, and rechargeable batteries. I could set up right here and film an episode if I wanted to. And that’s how I like to keep it, small and compact, so I can do it anywhere in the world. That lack of production helps me create more content.
How has UpUpDownDown changed the atmosphere behind-the-scenes?
It’s a complete 180 because video games weren’t allowed. And then once the YouTube channel was generating money for the company, it became okay. When we set up a Playstation or an X-Box, we call it the Lab, because when we’re in there, we’re cooking. At its height, you might see eight Playstations going on at one time in the locker room and it’s a rotating thing. We have the shows to worry about and we need a way to relax. Back in the day, it used to be cards.
For us, it’s upped morale by a hundred percent! There are guys who might not have been as close to each other and now, they’ve got a tight-knit battle they’ll want to get to when they get to the arena. So it helps in that respect. And honestly, that boosts everyone up so once we’re in the ring, performing, we’re a lot more comfortable with each other. It’s very healthy for the locker room, I think.
Has it caused any problems?
Even if guys have a problem with each other, it doesn’t get physical. We’re all performers and professionals. If there’s an actual problem between guys and girls, once you’ve passed through the curtain, we’re working and we all have the same goal. But, when stuff does happen in the Lab, that’s when promos occur. And honestly, I feel like everybody’s promo game has been going a little higher just because you have to be able to talk trash while you’re in there!
Given the success of UpUpDownDown, what piece of advice can you give fellow content creators on YouTube or other platforms?
I would give the advice that was given to me: Don’t start YouTube or Twitch if you think you’re going to make money off of it. Do it because you enjoy it. Do it because you like it. As soon as you get to a point where you are making money from it, then it’s going to become a job and a hassle. You’re not going to want to wake up at six in the morning to make a video because Red Dead Redemption 2 dropped at midnight and you want to stream it. It’s going to become a hassle. Do it to enjoy it and hopefully, you can turn it into something.
Do you ever play as yourself in WWE 2K?
I always play as a created version of myself in wrestling games. Unless I’m doing a tournament where we have to play as ourselves. But I always play as the alter ego of myself, the wrestler I thought I would be when I was a kid.
So, when I was a little kid, I thought my wrestling name was going to be ‘Zero.’ I started going through the dictionary backwards, trying to think of a wrestling name, and the definition of ‘zero’ is the sum of nothing, but everything. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool!’ When I started amateur wrestling, my dad took me to this place that does airbrushed t-shirts and hats, and I spent my birthday getting a bunch of airbrushed things that had ‘Zero’ on them.
Whenever I created a player, his name was Zero. He was a bad guy, he was mean. He’d spit on people. He didn’t care about anybody. And so, I always make that guy whenever I play a wrestling game. It’s a very far departure from what I do when I’m actually wrestling. So, it’s a fun, little fantasy.
In terms of your actual WWE 2K character, are you satisfied with the rating?
Oh, never! I should be 110! I should be the highest rated character in the game each and every year because I’m the person who knows how to play video games!
Have you ever considered playing in e-sports?
Oh, 100%! Definitely! I, throughout my life, wanted to be a wrestler. I also wanted to be a kickboxer. And I also wanted to make video games. Obviously, kickboxing: not happening. Ever. I do not want to get Muay Thai’d in the face! So, I’m okay without that. But video games are a huge part of my life and being able to work up the amount of skill it takes to be part of WWE, especially as one of the smaller guys in the company, it’s definitely a unique grind to get there and to be successful there. So I feel very lucky and honored to be in the position I’m currently in, especially with Kofi and Big E, The New Day; being able to do what we’ve done so far. At the same time, I want to be able to use that platform to propel myself into the gaming world.
On some very real levels, seeing what has happened to guys and girls who have been in the wrestling business when they have to transition out is hard. It’s very difficult. Being wary of that struggle, it’s one of the reasons that I created UpUpDownDown so that I can create a lane for myself in video games. I currently have two jobs. And once I’m done wrestling, I’ll have time for my other job. That will make it a lot easier, mentally on myself, and I won’t have to start from scratch.
What are your thoughts on e-sports, in general?
I think e-sports are amazing! I think the biggest thing about video games is that they bring comradery. I think a lot of people who dislike video games or try to demonize them just think of them in a negative way.
I think the one thing e-sports is missing, that pro-wrestling or sports-entertainment has, are the charismatic characters; big, larger than life aspects. The whole thing with WWE is that we put smiles on people’s faces. So it’s an awesome place to be. We get to perform all over the world, in all these different countries. The music hits and kids are losing their minds and having a good time. I feel like we can bring that same emotion to e-sports and teach them how to essentially do our live events.