Xavier Woods is a tireless optimist. What The New Day calls "the power of positivity" inspired Woods to earn two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree in addition to his candidacy for a PhD.
On the recent Behind the Curtain documentary, Woods' journey to the WWE roster was profiled. Though he had the support of top official Triple H, who praised him following his debut match on Raw, Woods' tenure on the main roster hasn't always been a smooth one.
During the PodNasty Wrestling Podcast, Woods spoke about his early struggles on the main roster, including a dropped militant gimmick alongside Kofi Kingston and Big E.
"Wrestling is a never-ending storybook, so sometimes you start going one direction, but the beauty of it is we could go in whatever direction we want, but things just changed. For what reason, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s WWE, and you kind of just go with the flow,” said Woods.
“It’s one of the things you learn when you get hired, that it is an ever-changing and ever-evolving, living, breathing workism, so the best way to stay afloat is to just go along with the things that are occurring around you."
Woods barely remained afloat with the initial launch of The New Day. The motivational babyface gimmick came one era too late. Gone were the fist-pumping babyfaces of the '80s. Instead, the stable operated in a genre of entertainment dominated by scandal, cynicism and salacious headlines.
Even in the WWE bubble, fans have grown more jaded and skeptical than ever before. News-making outrage is one hashtag away, and fans are never afraid to let their voices be heard.
Despite the new environment, and even because of it, Woods, consummate optimist, originally felt The New Day gimmick would work as a babyface stable. After all, WWE constantly preaches that characters can only get over by being different, and being happy in an angry world is doing just that.
"We had a couple of different schools of thoughts. We thought this would occur, that people would be into it, because it’s maybe one of the only positive things on television, because you turn on the news, and there’s death, murder, car crashes and everything,” said Woods.
“Here’s a positive thing with three guys, all college educated, all college athletes, all very eloquent, so we’ll preach a positive message like ‘do well in life and go to school; make sure you work out, you could be big and strong like E; make sure if you stretch a lot, you can be flexible and agile like Kofi; and make sure if you read your books, you could be smart like Woods.’”
“And then we realized after a few months it turned into ‘people don’t like those who are happy.’"
The rejection of a happy-go-lucky gimmick seemed to bring out the pessimist in Woods. But even when The New Day embraced its role as a heel stable, it remained positive. In fact, The New Day has gone over the top with its message—not to inspire but to incite.
Woods realized that people don't like those who are happy. But instead of getting angry, The New Day simply kept smiling.
"Back in the '80s, if someone’s happy, someone’s doing well, someone’s getting hardships, you cheered for that person,” said Woods.
“But now it’s 2015, and they don’t like that. They want someone who’s grimy and who doesn’t like people and who doesn’t smile and isn’t happy and wants to punt a puppy across a football field. If that happened, people would be watching, and it would get 3 million views on YouTube because it’s something that’s horrible, so essentially society has created this thing where people like to see car wrecks, and they want to see a hot mess, and they want to see a fall from grace."
"So if you don’t have those things, people are going to boo you because that’s not entertaining to them, they want to see a mess, they want to see somebody fall on the sidewalk and bust their lip on the ground. They don’t like nice things."
The future doctor's theory has led to success for The New Day. In addition to being the tag team champions, the group is the hottest heal in WWE right now. After floundering around the midcard without a purpose, it scored its biggest win to date over Randy Orton and Roman Reigns.
Its rhythmic claps, once intended to lift the crowd's spirits, result in anti-New Day chants. So the group just keeps clapping.
By spending the entire episode of Raw celebrating its big win, The New Day acknowledged society's general irreverence toward positivity and used its eternal cheer as its greatest weapon.
With enough success will come the inevitable chatter about who has the most promise as a singles star. Big E certainly has the look WWE likes, but Woods has fans in high places, and his story is a very marketable one.
In fact, Woods' potential legacy as the only PhD to ever compete in a wrestling ring is one that is more important to him than a WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
“I feel like we have the opportunity as WWE Superstars to make some sort of impact on lives, whether it’s one kid or whether it’s an adult,” said Woods.
“Yes, guys have been WWE World Heavyweight champion, and it’s amazing. I take nothing from that at all. But if there’s a kid who’s out there in the world watching wrestling, and they see me and they know I have my PhD while I was wrestling, that could possibly inspire them to not drop out of school, to not drop out of college, to go and obtain that type of educational status, and that to me means a lot more.”
Optimism is a helluva drug. It can be used for both good or evil. Woods intends to do both.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.