Xavier Woods is a hardcore gamer, comic-book junkie, a die-hard anime aficionado, and even a Brony. But don’t you dare label him as just another geek, since he’s more than that. And we aren't just referring to his current stint as a WWE superstar.
Woods is also an athlete and scholar who boasts accolades in multiple sports and a master's degree in psychology (a Ph.D is in the works), spends his off hours filming content for his YouTube channel UpUpDownDown, and plans to spend his post-WWE life working with autistic children.
In other words, he’s one complex cat, and a firm believer in the notion that you can’t pigeonhole a person strictly by one or two aspects of their lives. In fact, it's something that we discussed with Woods during a recent phone interview.
"I think a lot of people think that since we are professional athletes that we can't have certain tendencies that other people might have, like they try to put people in a box and say, 'You're an athlete, which means you're a jock,' or 'You like reading books, so you're a nerd,' so you can't be more than one thing in a lot of people's eyes," Woods says. "Whereas I wrestled, I played football, I ran track but I also made straight As, and I also played through Final Fantasy VII like 900 times and I also love Street Fighter and I also love comic books."
There’s a couple of labels we can apply with absolute certainty to Woods, however: He’s pretty darn hilarious, and one of the most consistently entertaining members of the WWE roster along with the other two members of the three-man team, The New Day.
The trio, which also includes fellow superstars Kofi Kingston and Big E, tend to steal the show on WWE broadcasts with their often silly antics and even sillier vignettes, which include Woods playing their signature trombone (dubbed “Francesca”) during matches, glorifying unicorns, referencing pop culture and geekdom with aplomb, traveling through time in a refrigerator box, and even creating their own brand of cereal, Booty-O’s.
New Times discussed such aspects of the New Day with Woods during our recent interview, and also got into such topics as the team’s record-setting run as the WWE tag-team champions (now at 351 days and counting). We also talked with Woods about his friendship with Valley rapper Mega Ran and how the two are working to help nullify the stigma of being a “black nerd.”
How long do you think the New Day can keep the WWE Tag Team titles?
You guys just exceeded one of the records for longest WWE Tag Team Title reign, right?
The longest combined reign was [Paul] London and [Brian] Kendrick and we beat it. We crushed it into the ground. So we are number one.
Do y'all think you could eclipse Demolition's record for holding the WWE World Tag Team Title?
That's an extra 200 days, so considering we will keep them forever, yes, of course we will. Of course.
Besides being all about positivity and not being sour, is it safe to say that the New Day's gimmick involved being geeky?
Uh ... this word "gimmick" that you keep on using, I'm not sure what that is. When I go out on TV, I'm just myself, and I feel like my personality isn't really any sort of gimmick the way that people might use the word. What we do, when our music hits, we go out and we just hang out with each other. We're friends and that's what we're about, being friends and making sure that we have a good time. We've just been lucky enough that other people think that us having fun is funny.
There are a lot of geek influences with the New Day, though. Like, y'all dressed as Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z at this year's WrestleMania, as well as the unicorn thing you've embraced, the rainbows, and other elements that are popular with geekdom.
Uh-huh, that's because this is my life. This is what I've been living and breathing since childhood. So rather than going out on stage trying to portray a character that is not me, that is not Kofi, that is not [Big E], we feel it's much easier and much more fun to just go out and be ourselves.
So whose idea was it to do the Dragon Ball Z costumes at Mania?
The Dragon Ball Z-inspired gear was my idea, because I was thinking about some things and felt that I needed to dress up as Vegeta at some point in my life on the show and the largest WrestleMania ever seemed like the place to do it. And Kofi is a Dragon Ball Z fan as well and we're breaking E into it, so we all sat down and we agreed that this was the best route to go. And then it actually happened and it kind of blew my mind.
You've been a lifelong geek, right?
Yes, that is correct.
What are some of your earliest memories of geeking out? I assuming you played the old-school Nintendo.
Of course, that was the first thing that I played was Duck Hunt.
...and the name of your YouTube video game series, UpUpDownDown, is a reference to the Konami Code.
It's the first part of it, but I think a lot of people think that since we are professional athletes that we can't have certain tendencies that other people might have, like they try to put people in a box and say, "You're an athlete, which means you're a jock," or "You like reading books, so you're a nerd," so you can't be more than one thing in a lot of people's eyes. Whereas I wrestled, I played football, I ran track but I also made straight As, and I also played through Final Fantasy VII like 900 times and I also love Street Fighter and I also love comic books. Ender's Game is my favorite book.
So, to me, there's never really been a certain box that I've fit in, and I want to break down the paradigms that people are supposed to be in a box and you can like what you want and they don't have to "mess" with each other. You can constantly be in the gym and want to work on yourself physically but then you can also sit down and watch a whole three hours of Yu Yu Hakusho if you want. So I just feel like that's something that is very important to bring to the forefront, that you don't have to be just one thing.
This might be a tough question, but what are your top five video games of all time?
Uh ... I don't have enough time to go into all of that. [Laughs] Favorite stand-up arcade though is NBA Jam. Favorite console game is Mario Kart: Double Dash!! from the GameCube. I can hit number ones. Top five is a whole another hour debate that we'd have to go into.
So you're friends with a nerdcore rapper from here Phoenix, Raheem Jarbo, aka Mega Ran, right?
Mega Ran, that's my dude, yeah.
Mega Ran wanted me to ask you, “Who is your favorite rapper and why is it Mega Ran?”
Oh, of course, of course ... it's always Mega Ran. Simply because of the [Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII] album and the song, "Dawn of the Slums." He absolutely destroys it on that track, and he raps about a ton of stuff that I can relate to very easily because of a lot of things that we talk about and deal with and try to help kids specifically with the stigma of being a black nerd.
Growing up as like a black person, there's so many things that you're kind of labeled with, and people think that you should act a certain way and you should speak a certain way; that you should do certain things and it's like, if you're a nerd, coming up in that culture, people think, oh, that's not you because you're black, you need to be wearing backwards hats, you need to be listening to gangster rap. It's like, “No, you can be whatever you want.” We want kids to know they can start with a blank slate, regardless if they're black, white, green, purple ... you know what I mean? So we try very hard to make sure that kids that were in our position while we were growing up understand that there are now adults who are just like them and they're doing just fine in their lives.
Why is there a stigma associated with being a black nerd?
It's just a stigma that people have in their heads. And this isn't everyone, but it was pretty much the case when I was growing up and I know that there are some people that deal with it. So we just try to break stereotypes and break stigmas so that everybody can be seen on a level playing field and you don't have to be put in a box because of the way you look.
So what was with the dueling promos that you and Mega Ran threw at each other about being the true 2K Sports champion?
Oh, yeah. That was just us going back and forth. There was nothing to it at all.
Right, but it was still pretty funny. Mega Ran jokingly said it made him "a little scared," which speaks to your skills at cutting a promo.
Well, he came at me when I was on my off day. He texted it to me and said, "Hey I'm up at 2K's studios" and all that and I shot something back. And then luckily we were in the same town I think a few weeks later, so I had him on my gaming channel UpUpDownDown — which if you're not a subscriber, get on YouTube and subscribe now — and we had a match. So it was just a pretty fun time.
Have any celebrities been getting up in your DMs lately?
Uh ... you know, that's something I like to keep off any sort of interviews. Celebrities up in my DMs is not something I need to be talking about, since I keep myself private. [Laughs]
You're still hoping that Beyoncé will be up in your DMs, right?
I mean, maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Who's to say?