Back in Singapore after eight years, nearly 9,000 WWE fans packed the Singapore Indoor Stadium on July 2 when WWE was in town for its sole show in South-east Asia this year.
The event drew regional interest. Fans flew in from nearby Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. They were entertained by a mixture of hard-hitting action, high-flying moves and good old-fashioned humour.
This writer sat down with WWE superstars - 2015 King of the Ring winner King Barrett and former NXT champion Neville - and WWE Divas champion Nikki Bella, to find out what makes them tick and more.
Former bare-knuckle fighter, King Barrett, previously known as Bad News Barrett and Wade Barrett, won the WWE King of the Ring tournament earlier this year. The 2m-tall Brit, whose crooked nose is a daily reminder of his former profession, is a four-time WWE Intercontinental champion. He gives an interesting insight into how one of the top wrestlers sees his profession.
Q. You've come a long way since being the leader of Nexus (a stable of up and coming wrestlers) in 2010. Now that you're the King of the Ring, what's your next target?
King Barrett: I've always said I wanted to be the WWE World Heavyweight champion so that's my ultimate goal. My biggest focus right now is to enjoy my wrestling, enjoy as much as I can being a WWE superstar. It doesn't last forever and be it through injury or retirement or getting fired, one day it's going to end so at the moment, I'm really trying to enjoy it as much as I can. I'm enjoying the experience and coming to great places like Singapore. It's my first trip here. I'm going to check out Orchard Road and some malls.
Q. Who inspired you to become a wrestler?
I love the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. I liked Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. When I got a bit older, I liked Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Those were my favourites growing up.
Q. How difficult is it to get your King of the Ring gimmick to work for you? It worked very well for previous winners such as Booker T but not for others like William Regal.
It depends on the opportunities afforded to me by our writing team. So far, I feel I haven't been the focus of the show but hopefully, that's going to change in the next few weeks or months. Hopefully, I get some solid storylines so that I can show what I can do.
Q. Your physique has changed a lot recently. You've become more muscular. How has your training routine changed?
I've changed my diet a lot. Believe it or not, I was a lot bigger and stronger before than I am now. My body fat is a lot lower now. I dropped about 25 pounds (11kg). I've focused on being as lean as I can. I improved my died by dropping a lot of carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta and now I'm eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. I'm about 225 pounds now (102kg).
Q. What do you love about your job?
I love the opportunity to wear ridiculous outfits and play crazy characters in front of millions of people. I walk around with a crown, cape and sceptre, yelling at people for a living and that's pretty cool.
One-half of the Bella twins, Nikki Bella is the current Divas champion. She's also known for starring in E!'s Total Divas, a reality show that follows a group of WWE Divas in and out of the ring.
Q: You're the second longest reigning Divas champion now. What are your future goals and aims?
My number one goal right now is to be the longest reigning Divas champion. I know it's going to be tough to beat AJ Lee's record of 295 days which means I have to keep it till after Night Of Champions (a WWE per-per-view on September 21). It's going to be really tough.
Another goal is make this championship mean something. I want to leave a legacy, to make the Divas division amazing. I hope I get more opportunities to do this and that the people upstairs, the bosses continue to listen, because there's so much I would love to do with this championship.
Q: Some female wrestlers such as Beth Phoenix and Natalya prefer to just focus more on wrestling. But the Bellas often do red carpet events. How do you answer your critics that you're just more than a pretty face?
It's funny because Brie (her twin) and I always have this perception with the WWE Universe that we're models or failed actresses. I hate to break it to everyone but I never did acting. I think I've been to three acting classes, two of which WWE made me do, and as for modelling, I did two modelling gigs because they paid US$200 (S$270). I was a soccer player until the day I came to WWE. The reason why Brie and I came to WWE was because we watched the divas in the ring and we wanted to wrestle. That was it. It's kinda sad to me when I always hear people say these things and try to take away Brie and I's passion for wrestling.
The red carpet events that we do, we do it for the company. Trust me, on that day off, I'd rather be at home working out, getting a massage or seeing my family.
WWE has given us more opportunities than just wrestling, attending really cool events and continuing to spread the word of WWE divas.
Q: Do you prefer to play the good girl or the bad girl?
The bad girl is so much more fun. You can have so much more personality and get really creative. When I see the kids out there, the Bella army, they make me want to play the good girl. But overall, being bad is so much more fun.
Neville, a fellow Brit like King Barrett, is a former NXT champion from WWE's developmental division and was recently promoted to the main roster earlier this year. Billed as the man that gravity forgot, Neville is known for his quick high-flying style and innovative finisher, Red Arrow.
Q: Who influenced you in the ring? How did you get your high-flying style?
I remember as a child watching The Rockers and the other tag teams like the Dynamite Kid and the British Bulldog. They had a huge influence on me. The Dynamite Kid was an innovator in the ring. He was a cruiserweight and someone I looked up to very much, especially his feud with Tiger Mask. That was something revolutionary. I've watched it over and over again. Later on, the WCW cruiserweight guys like Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon, Jushin Liger and onwards, to the Japanese junior wrestlers...they also influenced my style.
Q: How long did it take to come out with your finisher, the Red Arrow?
I was looking for a manoeuvre that was unique to myself, something that has not been done before. So I had this idea of combining a corkscrew moonsault with a shooting star press. These are both techniques that I had practised and perfected prior to learning the Red Arrow, so I had the idea of combining the two.
It took a lot of time, trial and error and landing on my head, but eventually, I developed the Red Arrow.
Q: How does NXT help you to develop your character into one that WWE fans will recognise by the time you move up to the main roster?
NXT is incredible. The performance centre in Orlando, Florida (where recruits train) is just a fantastic facility. It's got world-class coaches with hundreds of years of experience between them, all the facilities you need like a gym to places where you could develop your character like the promo room.
I have to give respect to the late great Dusty Rhodes who passed away recently. He was my main influence in bringing out my character. I worked with Dusty every week in the promo room. He really brought me out of my shell. Before coming to NXT, I was very much just a wrestler. Now I feel very confident as an all-round performer.
Q: Why should fans watch NXT?
NXT is something fresh, something different. There's a brand new array of characters you've never seen before. If you like the in-ring action, NXT is very much up your street. It's got a lot of young, hungry superstars eager to make a name for themselves. It's the future.
WWE Raw airs on StarHub Supersports channel 202 on Wednesdays, 10pm.