WWE NXT’s Roderick Strong: “Diamond Mine is an opportunity for me to sink or swim”

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Years of friendship will be thrown out the window on Tuesday’s WWE NXT, airing live on SyFy at 8/7c, when longtime tag team partners Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish go one-on-one.

Strong spent his two years in NXT forging his own path to singles stardom before joining Undisputed Era in April 2018, and the rest is essentially history. However, when Undisputed Era fell apart with Adam Cole turning on his stablemates earlier this year, the former NXT North American Champion took it upon himself to ensure he didn’t lost in the shuffle.

Enter The Diamond Mine, a collection of NXT Superstars specializing in mixed martial arts. Strong returned to NXT in June flanked by Tyler Rust, Malcolm Bivens and Hachiman and immediately made his presence felt by laying out NXT Cruiserweight Champion Kushida.

Fans have yet to see the full extent of what the group is capable of as well as who else they could be associated with. Their complete takeover of the black-and-gold brand starts this Wednesday when Strong wages war with Fish in what is bound to be a hard-fought battle.

Ahead of their upcoming outing on Tuesday night, Strong spoke with Daily DDT about Diamond Mine’s origins, his goal with the group, the end of Undisputed Era and their future in WWE, opponents he wants to face, and more.

Roderick Strong on how Diamond Mine came about and what he wants to accomplish with the group

When Cole delivered that superkick heard around the world to O’Reilly at TakeOver: Vengeance Day, Strong was left in a lurch. Cole and O’Reilly became obsessed with annihilating each other, and Fish, who was out injured at the time, wasn’t there for Strong to fall back on.

After coming up short in a few matches on NXT TV, he handed NXT general manager William Regal his resignation papers shortly following TakeOver: Stand & Deliver and disappeared for a few months. There were no updates on his status until he suddenly resurfaced with the rest of Diamond Mine on the June 22, 2021, edition of NXT.

In forming The Diamond Mine, he wanted to create an opportunity for himself to be a number one guy on the brand. He was also adamant about helping build a foundation for the future of NXT.

“I’m a team player,” Strong said. “I can do anything that you ask and I always have tried to do that and be as easy to deal with as I possibly can and I felt going into this part of my career, I needed an opportunity to show that I am who I think I am. With The Diamond Mine, I feel the pressure is based solely on me. If this thing is successful, it’s solely because of me, and Bivens, Rust and Hachiman are going to be successful as well. But if it fails, it’s on me as well. It’s an opportunity for me to sink or swim, I guess, in a sense. It’s something I’d been waiting for for a long time and I’m just excited to have it happen.”

He’s known Bivens, Rust, and Hachiman for quite some time and felt they shared a common bond that could be used to get all of them to that next level. Not only does he crave the singles spotlight, but he wants to help others in the process.

Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful reported in early July that Strong’s real-life wife Marina Shafir and Arturo Ruas were intended to be part of the group at one point, prior to being released from the promotion in June. Strong revealed that Diamond Mine was a group effort between the higher-ups at NXT and himself, and that he wants it to be different than anything else that has come before.

“I gave them some names and they gave me some names and at the end of the day, it is their idea and their vision,” he said. “I trust them in the process of what they think works best. The thing I loved about it, for me, is that there can be affiliates, there can be more people than what you see when you see us on TV and that’s something that’s big to me. It’s not only helping all of us, it can trickle down and help people that are part of the team and train with us that have very little experience in professional wrestling. They get to learn on the job and be involved by training with us.”

He added that it’s been fun and a great opportunity for him to help as many people as possible. He also looks at it as a clean slate for him and the fact that they’re still developing their chemistry as a unit is the most compelling part of the process.

Roderick Strong on Undisputed Era’s breakup, future, and possible opponents

Strong thought he put his past in Undisputed Era behind him when he returned with the rest of Diamond Mine, but he still has Bobby Fish to deal with on Tuesday night.

Before Strong could ambush Kushida for a second time several weeks back, Fish came to Kushida’s aid and made it clear that there was unfinished business between the former NXT Tag Team champions. Strong is aware that tensions will be high in their upcoming one-on-one outing but is confident he’ll walk away with the win.

“From that time together, there was obviously emotion toward each other,” he said. “We were a family, traveled the road together all the time. There’s a lot of stuff that happened behind the scenes that has built up the emotion and the aggression. The biggest thing that’s going to be the difference is the fact I feel I’m truly coming into my prime and evolving as a performer. I think I’m going to test Bobby in a way that he hasn’t been tested in a long time. I think it’s going to be a fight.”

Since the split of Undisputed Era earlier this year, fans have debated whether it was the right move for NXT to break them when they did. Some have argued that they had a lot left in the tank even after four years together and could have flourished as a unit on the main roster, while others believe it was an appropriate time for them to go their separate ways.

“As long as they wanted us to do it, we would have been able to do it,” Strong said. “We would’ve found ways to refresh ourselves and change the dynamic a little bit. When Kyle switched into the singles role and me teaming with Bobby, we were all interchangeable in that sense. We’re all team players. We’d all do whatever was asked of us. I would’ve done that because unless I didn’t have a better idea or a grander idea than that, but when they brought [Diamond Mine] up to me, it was something I was very attracted to doing just based on how martial arts has had such an influence on me in the last nine years.”

The former NXT North American Champion and multi-time NXT Tag Team Champion discussed his love for martial arts and how he’s progressively gotten more and more into it. Having a former MMA fighter in Marina Shafir, one-fourth of the Four Horsewomen, as his wife has played a major factor in that as well.

He has a lot of respect for the sport and admires the team mentality, which is what he’s looking to adapt into the NXT culture with Diamond Mine. While he admits he would have been happy riding with Undisputed Era for the rest of his career, he was ready to step outside of his comfort zone, and now he has the chance to be the performer he knows he can be.

While Strong and Fish are feuding, Cole and O’Reilly have a ruthless rivalry of their own going on in NXT. The two have traded wins back and forth in recent months, and with a third match on the horizon (not to mention talks of Cole’s contract being up soon), Strong has no doubt that all of them, including himself, will thrive wherever they end up.

“There’s just people that you know are going to fight each other forever and that’s just going to be [Cole and O’Reilly],” he said. “If they eventually patch us this relationship, I’m sure Adam will do something to Kyle to make Kyle upset. It’s just the way that’s going to work. I think it’s hilarious because Adam… I guess he loves getting beat up, but he usually tends to come out on top most of the time. He’s tough.

“I honestly don’t know about those guys,” he said about what’s next for Cole and O’Reilly. “I just know that we’ll all be successful in our own way as long as we want to be. If those guys change brands, they’ll be successful. If I end up changing brands, I’ll be successful. I just wish the best to them all and what I focus on is making myself a big success.”

From Drew McIntyre and Robert Roode to Riddle and Keith Lee, Strong has had excellent matches with a variety of opponents over the course of his five-year tenure with NXT. Even today, there are a number of stars he has yet to do battle with, including the current NXT Champion, and desperately wants to.

“Karrion Kross,” he said when asked about who leads his list of potential opponents. “He’s going to Raw, or is floating between brands. That’s someone I’d like to fight. Obviously Joe. We’ve had our battles in the past and it’s been quite some time, but I’d like to get my hands on him. Swerve with his new attitude. I’d like to test him to see what he’s all about.”

He also threw out the names of Top Dolla, Austin Theory, Jake Atlas, and Santos Escobar, and with Diamond Mine in his corner, all of those possible matchups are infinitely more intriguing.

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“There’s a lot of people to work, and when you’ve been wrestling a long time, it’s just one of the things that’s very invigorating,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh my god, there’s so many fresh matches and a lot of them are so different from me.’ And a preference of mine is to work with people that work different from me. There’s a lot of fun matches out there.”

Catch Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Fish this Tuesday on WWE NXT at 8/7c on SyFy.