Exclusive: King Xavier Woods Talks Singles Run, New Day's Success, G4, and More
He, Kofi Kingston and Big E struck gold when they debuted as The New Day seven years ago, and their success has been well-documented. Woods in particular was known as the glue that held the group together and led them to a record-setting number of tag team titles.
Despite everything they accomplished as a unit, singles success seemed out of reach for the founder of the wildly successful UpUpDownDown YouTube channel until he entered the 2021 King of the Ring tournament in October.
Woods had talked for years about wanting to win the tourney that single-handedly drew him into watching wrestling and inspired him to join the business. And, ultimately, he emerged victorious in the finals against Finn Balor to earn the right to don the cape and crown and call himself the King of WWE.
Between his ongoing rivalry with Roman Reigns on SmackDown and his new gaming gig at G4, momentum is fully on the side of King Woods right now. However, he won't rest until he's finished creating an alternate avenue for wrestlers to explore once they retire from the squared circle.
Woods took time out of his busy schedule during Thanksgiving week to chat with Bleacher Report about his latest endeavors, why he strives to be different, expectations for WWE 2K22, and more. Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide and read on for the highlights.
Staying Busy with WWE and G4
Between being a WWE Superstar, a host at G4 and a father, Woods has never been busier and he'd have it no other way.
He did his first live stream with G4 on Nov. 18 and called it a "collaborative space" that allows him to present himself in his own unique way. He sees it as a proving ground of sorts for everyone involved and believes it's been a fulfilling, satisfying process so far.
His main goal at the moment is to stay busy with what he'll excel at post-wrestling, and it's only been cranking up more and more with everything he's been taking on.
"This year is probably the most I've been able to jump out into the gaming space while still wrestling," Woods said. "It's an extreme overload of burning the candle at both ends, but my hope is that it all pays off and when I'm done wrestling, I've got a life set up that I don't have to rebuild from the bottom up."
Woods has been wrestling full-time for WWE while also fulfilling commitments to G4 and recently competed at Survivor Series representing SmackDown. Because it's a gig he always dreamed of having, his passion for gaming makes his work with G4 feel a lot less like a job.
"It's definitely some of the most fun I've ever had, just getting to be in a new space that's different from the wrestling space as far as an actual job goes," he said. "I've been dabbling in the space doing appearances here and doing gigs there, but with G4, it's my job and that definitely feels different as opposed to what I was doing in the gaming space before, but I freaking love it.
"It's a lot and stressful, especially trying to balance between doing interviews and time at home and time with wrestling and then time with the gaming stuff. It's definitely a lot, but I feel if you want something, you're going to carve out time to make it work, and this is very much what I'm trying to do right now."
Reminiscing About New Day's Debut 7 Years On
In what should come as no surprise at this point, The New Day are the longest-tenured stable in WWE history that hasn't broken up, let alone shown any signs of dissension.
It was on the Black Friday edition of SmackDown seven years ago that they arrived on the scene as a unit and have never looked back. Their rough beginning as babyfaces prepared them for a promising future, and they've been extremely successful ever since.
Woods looks back at that debut and sees how far he's come in his career not only as a performer but also as a person. He has an updated list of goals and a better idea of what he wants to accomplish going forward as well as who he wants to be.
"It is [crazy], especially to look back now at where I was mentally at that time to where I am now," he said. "Just a completely different person. A lot of people say, 'What will your life look like in five years? What about in 10 years? Do you think you'll be a different person? Will your worries or needs or whatever change?' When I was younger, I was thinking, 'I'll be the exact same person in 10 years as I am now. Yeah, I might be more mature, but the things that I want out of life are going to be the exact same.'
"It's like, no, man, I feel like you change every three or four years, honestly. Not that I'm a completely different person at this point in life, but I'm definitely more confident in my career and what I think I can do and bring to the table, which I think is a natural progression for not just wrestlers but for anyone in any career."
If He Realizes the Influence He's Had on Wrestlers and Others
Woods has mentioned before that his primary goal with G4 and UpUpDownDownDown is to create more opportunities for WWE Superstars for when they wrap up their in-ring careers.
The 35-year-old has featured countless talents on his YouTube channel over the years to allow them to show off a side to them that fans may not have seen otherwise.
He's been making his dreams come true for several years and has inspired plenty of people along the way when it comes to how he's built his own brand. Whether it's wrestling, gaming or learning how to play bass, Woods wants to be an expert in multiple fields and as well-rounded of a human being as he can be.
He also strives to be known for more than one thing and not be pigeon-holed as just a wrestler.
"Not yet because the book's still being written," Woods said when asked if he's realized what kind of impact he's made already. "This chapter specifically for me is a new one because it's not just a focus on wrestling. In my life, it's never been just a focus on wrestling. There's also been another thing I've been trying to jump into as well. But with G4 being my actual job, it feels like a new frontier.
"I've finally gotten past that idea of people in the gaming space possibly seeing me as the wrestling guy. I want people to know, 'No, that's the SEGA Saturn guy and he also wrestles.' As for the wrestling fans, I want them to say, 'That's the New Day guy or the King guy and he does video-game stuff.'"
How The Rock Has Been an Inspiration
Through UpUpDownDown and now G4, Woods has managed to make a name for himself outside of the WWE bubble even while with the company. One of the first people to do that in the wrestling world was, of course, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
The Rock has been so successful on the silver screen that there is a fair amount of people who aren't aware he started out in the squared circle and not as an actor. The same may eventually be true for John Cena and Dave Bautista, who have both also done exceptionally well for themselves in that realm.
Although The Great One laid the groundwork for guys like Woods to use WWE as a launching pad to bigger things, the King of the Ring is going about things his own way.
"In a sense, [Rock] is a huge inspiration as far as stepping out of wrestling and moving on to your new field, but I'm definitely not looking to follow in his footsteps," Woods said. "I'm looking to make my own footsteps and being the best version of Austin Creed I can possibly be.
"He's definitely a huge inspiration for that and without him stepping out and becoming as big as he's become in Hollywood, it would be a lot harder to do what I'm doing now because people would have a little bit more of that stigma of pro wrestlers just punching each other in the face and yelling on microphones."
If he can continue to wave the flag that wrestlers are tremendously talented and versatile, then it's mission accomplished. And being a WWE Superstar has given him a huge advantage when it comes to his G4 job.
"The more [Rock] does, the better we all look and the easier it will be for us to jump into those fields and I'm hoping I'm able to pull my weight in that same vein," Woods said. "I want to be a soldier of that camp as well and hope that people who come after me are able to jump into other fields easier than they were before.
"Essentially, someone will realize that pro wrestlers are literally money-making entertainers in whatever field you wish them to be in because we learn stage presence, we learn stage combat, we learn how to do interviews with people on the regular. There's things that people in other fields don't get training in and we have all of the training."
His Singles Run on SmackDown
After seven years of winning tag titles and supporting Kofi Kingston and Big E in their respective pursuits of the WWE Championship, Woods finally got his big break by winning the 2021 King of the Ring tournament. Additionally, he's been prominently featured on SmackDown each week in a rivalry with The Bloodline.
In fact, Woods is the only person to beat Reigns one-on-one by disqualification since The Tribal Chief's return to WWE in August 2020. Although he was excluded from last week's No. 1 contender's Battle Royal, his sights are still set on the Universal Championship.
"It's been really cool, obviously because I haven't had the chance to have a singles run in the company yet and the focus has always been on tag team wrestling," he said. "Even when I was a kid, I was just obsessed with it. Billy and Chuck was my favorite tag team. I freaking loved them.
"People always laugh when I say that, but when you go back and think about it, that was a situation where we had a team that hit the scene and it wasn't necessarily, 'Oh, these guys are world-beaters and they're going to be champions.' They evolved into one of the most entertaining teams we could see and they had a full main event segment with them getting married as partners with a reveal and Eric Bischoff...
"It's hard for tag teams to get that position where they not only get to have cool matches but where they get to be in the middle of the most important stuff on the show."
It was that infamous Billy and Chuck storyline from 2002 that helped him understand what wrestling really is. He witnessed the legendary battles between Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz and decided that he wanted to be a part of a team that either helped change the game or had a little fun or both.
That said, the singles spotlight has been long overdue, and he's made the most of the opportunity.
"It's been a blast getting that spotlight and going out and talk a little bit more and wrestle a little bit more because this is my life," Woods said. "This is what I do, this is what I enjoy. And to be in a position where I can really start to show off the the things not only that I can do but also that I've learned over the years from being a part of the company is really cool."
His Approach to Comedy and Why He Strives to be Different in Wrestling
The New Day have been one of the most entertaining acts on WWE TV in the last decade for good reason: They know what the fans find funny and do what they can to make themselves laugh.
That would explain the random references to pop culture they've incorporated into their promos over the years, as well as why they come off as so much more genuine than almost anyone else on Raw or SmackDown.
Woods wants to be different to what viewers saw right before the commercial break, and he's excited to get more of a chance to explore those goofy, over-the-top aspects of his king character.
"I want to do things on the show that would pop me if I wasn't a wrestler right now like making anime references and talking about King Mabel and King Ken Shamrock," he said. "People were like, 'I forgot Ken Shamrock was King,' but you shouldn't, because that was incredible. Little things like that. If it's something you think would be funny or entertaining, then it's probably on my list of things I want to do."
He noted that a lot of the Superstars have the same attitude about them on TV, whereas he's out there more often than not just to have a good time. He can be taken seriously when need be as well, but the sheer ridiculousness of the business is what made him a fan, and he wants to keep that going.
"There's so many serious people on the show and people who are world-beaters and they come out angry and want violence," he said. "That's cool, but on Raw, you have three hours to fill; and on SmackDown, you have two. Then you've got NXT and pay-per-views. How many hours of people being intense badasses can you really consume before you get sick of it and before it gets old?
"I've always been of the school of thought that if 85 percent of what you're seeing in wrestling is going to be that, what happens if I do something else. Let's try something else, and it worked with New Day. That's the kind of stuff that I like. I like for it to be a little more ridiculous. I like for my wrestling to be wrestling and to me, wrestling is the most ridiculous thing anybody could ever watch."
His Expectations for the Return of GM Mode in WWE 2K22
Anyone familiar with Woods and his UpUpDownDown YouTube channel will be aware of his fascination for General Manager mode in the old WWE video games. It was available for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 installments of the SmackDown vs. Raw series before being discontinued.
Woods has waged war with close friend and former WWE star Tyler Breeze on an UpUpDownDown series called Battle of the Brands. Not only did they select shows and trade talent for years in the game, they also clamored for "Money in the Bank" for Lil Scrappy to be used as the official theme song for the same-titled pay-per-view.
With it recently being announced that the beloved mode will making its return in WWE 2K22 (due out next March), Woods has high hopes that will be worth the wait.
"I hope that everything runs smooth and that it's good," he said. "My thing is, I obviously have no part in making the game, I'm on the wrestling side of things. But I definitely have a stake in it because I am in it and it's a wrestling game for the company that I am an independent contractor for. I'm pumped because everyone on the 2K team seems very excited about things and things seem promising. I can only keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best when it finally releases."
The last several installments of the WWE 2K franchise, 2K20 in particular, have been poorly received by fans and critics alike. The upcoming improvements being made to 2K22 give Woods confidence that it will restore some of the magic that has been lost since the original games.
"I'm hoping this game brings back that equity with the gamer fans because I know it was hard to play some of them, to be honest," Woods said. "They all have their good things and their great aspects, but as far as a fun video game is concerned, sometimes I'm just looking for that and I feel like the learning curve got a little intense. On this one, they said there's remastered controls and all that stuff and I feel good about it. So, like I said, fingers crossed."
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.