Cameron Grimes grinds to find that feeling euphoria as an WWE NXT champion again


It’s been a banner year so far for WWE NXT’s Cameron Grimes, who captured his first NXT North American Championship over WrestleMania weekend and will headline The Great American Bash this Tuesday with Bron Breakker for the NXT Championship.

Prior to April’s Stand & Deliver event, Grimes didn’t know if he had what it took to be a champion in WWE. He contended for the title on multiple occasions and came up short every time, but winning the gold in front of one of his biggest crowds to date changed his mindset completely.

He went on to reign as champ for a mere two months before dropping the belt to Carmelo Hayes at In Your House. For as long as it took him to achieve that feat, he wasn’t satisfied with how short his run was.

Heading into Great American Bash, it’s do or die time for Grimes. Last week on NXT, he told Breakker that he doesn’t what his future holds beyond this bout, and that hunger mixed with desperation will be what makes him all the more dangerous as a challenger.

“It’s wild to think it’s been three years since the original Breakout Tournament where I made my debut and what a roller coaster we’ve been on,” Grimes told Daily DDT about his journey thus far on the former black-and-gold brand. “I’ve been a butler and a little bit of everything, but the biggest thing I was was the North American champion. I started this year saying I needed to be a champion for my father.

“I always told my father I would be a champion in this company, and at 65 days, I was North American champion,” he added. “For me, 65 days wasn’t enough to call myself a champion. The problem is, if I don’t win the NXT Championship at The Great American Bash, I don’t know where Cameron Grimes will be. I could be in the trenches as opposed to the peaks.”

Grimes’ biggest advantage over Breakker is his experience, not only as a champion but in the business in general. He’s been honing his craft for nearly 15 years, and at the age of 28, he’s already accomplished quite a bit, including on American television with IMPACT prior to signing with WWE.

He also feels his passion for pro wrestling and drive to be better every time he steps inside the squared circle will be what propels him to the next level. A WWE Hall of Famer recently told him backstage that he’s earned the reputation of a locker room leader and that pressure could determine what kind of performance he has at Great American Bash.

“The major thing that’s helped me is that I’ve always shown my passion, whether it be going through a haunted house or being a butler,” Grimes said about his character arc in NXT. “I’ve always been very passionate and I’ve always worn that on my sleeve. Even the casual viewer can see I’m really trying and whatever it may be, I’m giving it my all. The past few weeks, I’ve gotten to show that. Shawn Michaels pulled me aside and told me this a few weeks ago that at 28-years-old, I’ve the most grizzled guy in the locker room. That comes with the priorities, but that also comes with some people being a little bit upset.”

Grimes’ goal is always to improve the product any way he can, and although he knew there would come a time where the rookies of the brand would look to him for advice, he didn’t think it’d be this soon.

That said, he feels ready for that responsibility and enjoys being in that position. He offered praise to Breakker, Hayes and the rest of the NXT newcomers and explained how their fire motivates him as well.

On that same token, the NXT audience is already in the process of turning on the former Million Dollar champion after rallying behind him only three months ago. To his credit, he’s turned it into a positive by going darker with his persona in recent weeks and it’s made the dynamic of his match with Breakker infinitely more interesting.

Grimes believes it’s a case of the crowd siding with the “shiny new toy” and that there will come a time when he’s back to being in their good graces as a fan favorite.

“It’s definitely a strange position, right? Ultimately, I haven’t done anything different,” he explained. “I’m the same guy I was before I won the title, but I think it does come down to that: the flashy toys. It’s hard to be put against and not be booed. I want to cheer for that guy, he’s such a badass.

“If I had to pick and choose whether I’m going to cheer for Solo or cheer for Grimes, I understand it, I’ll cheer for Solo,” he continued. “I also think they know in the back of their minds they’re going to cheer for me again. There’s a reason why they cheered for me in the first place, and as long as I can keep doing what I was doing, they’ll be back.”

His catchy entrance music, originally created and performed by the amazingly-talented Josiah Williams, was a big reason why he became such a beloved babyface in the first place. It fit his character at that time perfectly and told his story exceptionally well.

Williams has since been replaced as the leader singer of the song, but Grimes has no doubt that he’ll continue to kill it with whatever he does outside of the company.

“I definitely think it helped with the presentation of the whole Cameron Grimes thing,” he said. “I took a couple of weeks off for a knee injury and while I was off, I had the idea of, ‘What if this happened?’ And it did happen! I really did hit well in the stock market, that did happen. Because of that, it helped me transition into this idea I had always kind of played with. It helped kind of start it and Josiah knocked it out the park with the entrance music.

“It’s unfortunate that he was replaced in the song, but I have nothing to do with that,” he clarified. “It sucks, but the music is still going to be great. Josiah is still going to be great and he’s going to be great wherever he’s at.”

Even with the ton of turnover NXT 2.0 has had in the last year, Grimes has maintained his popularity and position of prominence on the show. As one of the last remaining stars from the old guard, he understands the changes being made to the brand and is only concerned with making the most of whatever he’s involved in.

That’s why the stakes of this NXT Championship clash between Breakker and Grimes are so high: Grimes knows that a main roster call-up may not be waiting in the wings for him if he loses. Becoming NXT champion on Tuesday is of utmost importance to him, because he fails, he has no idea what his next step will be.

“That’s the nature of the beast. We’re in the entertainment industry. If you ask a singer or a comedian, people come and go all the time. It’s my job that I can be the best I can be. This is always what I wanted. I don’t have it in my head that, ‘I have to be this.’ I have to be whatever they want to be.

“If they want me in a House of Horrors match, I’ll be in that,” he continued. “I’m a rider for this company and for this business. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t have a backup plan. I can’t just go and work at McDonald’s. This is it. If they want me to be silly, I’ll be silly. If they want me to be serious, I’ll be serious. That’s what makes a good sports-entertainer is the range to do anything and that’s Cameron Grimes.”

Catch WWE NXT: The Great American Bash this Tuesday on USA Network at 8/7c.