Ridge Holland is essentially the first of his kind in WWE in the sense that he has transitioned to the biggest wrestling company in the world from rugby league.
The NFL has a rich history of plucking American Football standouts and turning them into superstars and Holland appears to be the window into what some rugby stars could offer to pro wrestling.
The 32 year old was breaking through when he suffered a horrendous injury in the latter part of 2020 on live TV.
The tough Yorkshireman will not let that keep him down, though.
As we kick off a new year, talkSPORT caught up with the promising Brit to discuss how he’s rehabbing and how WWE may use him as a blueprint to recruit more rugby players.
On the terrible injuries he suffered in October…
“Pretty freak incident. On my left leg I fractured and dislocated my ankle and then on my right leg, I dislocated the kneecap and ruptured my patella tendons. Kind of a buy one get one free on injuries!
But, it’s coming on well. The WWE medical staff are top notch and they’ve got me well on the road to recovery.”
On how WWE took care of him…
“They were all very concerned and just wanted the best for me. They made sure I got the best medical care and reassured me that everything is going to be fine.
“From my personal standpoint, mentally, as soon that happened and I was on the stretcher I was already thinking about ‘OK, let’s get ready to come back. What can I do to get back and be better than ever?’
“Everyone was really helpful from the doctors to the trainers to Triple H. It’s just a really good support system and it’s nice to know people care.”
On when he will return from his injuries…
“It’s early days yet, but the doctor has said six to nine months, so I’m just taking it day-by-day and see how the knee and ankle feels. If I look too far in the future I’ll probably take my focus on what needs to be done today. So yeah, we’ll see how it goes.”
On the plans for him before he got injured…
“I think there was a feeling for me that it was going somewhere. I was pretty confident, but things happen for a reason so I can’t really dwell on what was going to happen. All I can do is get back to where I was and come back bigger and better.”
On what made him make the jump from rugby to wrestling…
“When I was 18 and then when I was 23, I went through the sign-up process for different wrestling schools but I never went through with it. I told a friend and he told another one and then it got to the point of ‘what are you doing that for? You don’t wanna do that!’ and all that.
“The actual instance where I said do-or-die, now-or-never, I was actually on honeymoon in Mexico and I saw a tweet from William Regal. It said ‘anyone looking to get into the business would be well versed in looking up the coaching services or Marty Jones.’ So I shot Marty and e-mail right there and then, he e-mailed me straight back. Two days later, I was at my first wrestling practice.
“During my honeymoon though, I’d been let go from my rugby league contract, so that forced me to take that leap of faith.”
On the William Regal influence…
“He’s been instrumental, but kind of like a soft undertone to what I’m doing though. He’s just there for advice, he’s not overbearing. I think he’s just confident in what I can do and he lets me get on with my business. But he’s always there for advice and he’s definitely a very influential figure in a lot of careers and that’s for me also.”
On if WWE will continue to look at rugby players…
“I think it’s a massively untapped market. Especially when you look at the size, strength, durability and athleticism of some of the guys. And also, in sport there is always some characters and that’s what we need in wrestling.
“We need personalities, we need larger than life stars and if you couple that charisma with a good work ethic, a willingness to learn and a love for this business, then you’re onto a winner.
“If I can be a trailblazer and open a door, whether it’s rugby union or rugby league, to convince some of those guys to put their ego to the side and give it a try – because rugby in general is a very masculine, ego-driven sport and guys don’t come out of their shell unless they’re around the lads – but if they can drop that and come with a white belt mentality, I’m sure we’ll see more people, and it feels weird saying this, following in my footsteps.”
On how quickly he assimilated into wrestling…
“I’ve got no real barometer as to how well I did in a short space of time. I just went in there everyday and worked as hard as I could and listened. Then things happened the way they did.
“There was no set time scale and yeah, I’ve got goals but for anyone, if you apply yourself, the tools are there. You’ve got Triple H and Shawn Michaels and so on, so if you apply yourself and want it, you can get there sooner rather than later.”
To check out the great feature in Rugby World magazine that features Holland, Triple H and Canyon Ceman among others, you can order the magazine online.