Joe Gacy talks his transformation throughout WWE NXT journey and his biggest influences

Despite falling short of becoming NXT champion at  NXT: In Your House, Joe Gacy still has his sights set on success in WWE NXT.

Gacy taunted and terrorized current champ Bron Breakker for over two months and narrowly came close to capturing the gold. In both bouts with Breakker, he proved he’s more than a manipulative mastermind; he’s also an exceptionally talented athlete that should be taken seriously when the bell rings.

His recent setbacks may have hindered his momentum, but his overarching goal remains the same.

“The ultimate goal for me is to spread the message I’ve been attempting to spread since I got here in NXT,” Gacy told Daily DDT. “I guess having the NXT Championship would just put me on a higher pedestal to be able to deliver that message.”

It was almost exactly one year ago that NXT brought back the Breakout Tournament and gave a slew of promising up-and-comers the opportunity to earn a future title shot. Gacy was among those men who took part, though it was a very different Joe Gacy than who fans see nowadays on the Tuesday night program.

Prior to signing with WWE in 2020, Gacy had been best known for his work in Combat Zone Wrestling as well as EVOLVE, where he held the tag titles once with Eddie Kingston. He competed in his fair share of hardcore matches but lacked the character needed to make it in WWE.

“Coming into WWE, I looked different and acted different,” he said. “I had longer hair that was a little straggly. Over the last year, I think I kind of put myself together a little bit more. I wasn’t used to the lifestyle as a WWE Superstar coming in. It was all brand-new to me. I was just a fish in the ocean trying to find my way. I think I’ve found a way that works for me, so I thought, why not have a fresh start? Get a haircut, cut my beard, maybe get some new clothes, and maybe go for it that way.”

Gacy took his shortcomings in the Breakout tourney and transformed himself into a messiah of sorts, falsely preaching about safe spaces and inclusivity. He essentially became a walking target for cancellation, which is actually what happened very early on in his NXT run.

Talking about the audience being “triggered” and hitting on other buzzwords led to him making mainstream headlines immediately following his debut. He saw the negative as a positive in that it got people talking about him straight out of the gate, and thus the polarizing reaction to his debut didn’t deter him in the slightest.

“Being out there right away and going from a long-haired guy wearing trunks to a guy with short hair and gray button-up and a whole lot of time to talk on the microphone. That would be the only tweak that came about was me changing my appearance,” Gacy said. “Being out there and hearing how people reacted to what I said or even reading about it, reading news articles and headlines about what I said, I honestly love it. I think it was a great thing. Everyone sort of noticed me for what I said and not for what I did in the ring that night. I bet a lot of people don’t remember I even had a match after I appeared and talked on the microphone. I love every moment of it. I think everyone is kind of intrigued, so I’d like to continue that and see where it goes.”

As part of his current character, he’s been able to do more talking and rely on his mind much more. It’s also allowed him to be creative and put ideas out there, most notably during his storyline with Breakker over the NXT Championship.

With Breakker now in his rear view, he’s now looking forward to potentially rekindling his rivalry with Wes Lee from the independent scene and mixing it up with Solo Sikoa for the first time.

As he approaches the two-year anniversary of when he officially joined the company, he’s grateful for everyone who has played an important part in his journey behind the scenes at the Performance Center, specifically Terry Taylor and Fit Finlay. He’s also appreciative of everyone who influenced his style in the ring and on the mic as it was his slow evolution that made him what he is today.

“I’ve never had an opportunity to talk this much on a microphone, let alone on TV,” Gacy said. “For me, growing up watching WWE as a kid, I grew up on guys like Mick Foley. I was obsessed with Mick Foley. A lot of promos he’s done over the years is something I looked up to. I think in-ring, I grew up idolizing guys like William Regal and Triple H. I don’t know if that comes across the same, not to put myself on any sort of level that they’re on. Those are the kind of guys I came up watching and adapted my in-ring style close to that.”

WWE NXT airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c on USA Network.