WWE has signed Canadian Superstar Kevin Steen to its NXT division. The burly, outspoken, Package Piledriving Quebec native, who bolts around the ring with equal parts grace and bad intentions, thrives on throwing fists and talking trash.
A 14-year veteran, Steen began training, with his parents’ approval, when he was a teenager. Possessing what no less than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has described as a “hell of an arsenal,” Steen has earned many accolades in North America and abroad, including the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor heavyweight championships. In 2013, the magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked him 10th on its annual list of the world’s top 500 wrestlers.
Along the way to becoming a world-class competitor, he also amassed one of the largest followings of any wrestler outside WWE, a fanbase that belts out their “Fight, Steen, fight!” mantra with pride. In his first official interview as a WWE signee, Steen spoke to WWE.com about his long-awaited signing, his expectations for NXT, WWE Network’s debut on Rogers Communications and his well-documented passion for visiting zoos.
WWE.COM: Congratulations on your signing. How’s it feel to finally be part of WWE?
KEVIN STEEN: It feels great. I’ve been waiting for this pretty much my whole career, so it’s pretty nice to finally get to do it now.
WWE.COM: Fans who know you love you, but many WWE fans might not be familiar with you. How would you describe your style?
STEEN: I think I’m pretty apt at every style. I can do highflying and that kind of surprises people, considering my size. I can do technical wrestling as well. I guess my specialty would be brawling, but I’ve been known to dip into whatever I need throughout my career, so I think I’m pretty versatile.
WWE.COM: You’ve probably been on the WWE radar for some time. What do you think ultimately led to your signing?
STEEN: William Regal came to a wrestling show I was taking part in in California almost a year ago exactly, I believe it was Aug. 31 of last year, and it was for PWG, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. The match I had that night, I think did a lot. I had never met William Regal before; I didn’t know him at all. I had great respect for him already; he’s actually been one of my favorite wrestlers for quite some time. To have him watch my match and take the time to tell me what he thought and give me advice was already great, but then a couple days later, I was contacted to see if I wanted to be part of a tryout camp. Just to have somebody like William Regal have enough esteem for me to go as far as to actually recommend me for a tryout meant a lot. Then I went to the tryout camp and I got through it, and what made me stand out were the promos, where we basically had to sell ourselves verbally. That’s always been one of my strong suits — the way I talk and what I say. I make it count, and I think that went pretty far in getting me to where I am now.
WWE.COM: Speaking of your interview skills, it was during a chance encounter in an airport with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that you received the advice to “never stop running your mouth.” Clearly you view trash-talk as a pivotal ingredient to your success.
STEEN: I don’t think I would’ve had the success I’ve had if I hadn’t met him. I mean, I may have figured it out on my own eventually, but him telling me that in 2005 really put it into my head. And then I realized it made sense, because if you look at “Stone Cold” or The Rock — you know, the biggest WWE Superstars there have ever been — at that time, in 2005, they weren’t full-time actors, but they were still the biggest names in wrestling. Steve Austin was my favorite wrestler from the moment I saw him. When he came into WWE at the time as The Ringmaster, I was already sold on him.
So when he became “Stone Cold,” that’s when he really started “running his mouth,” as he put it. When he told me to never stop running my mouth, it made sense to me. It clicked. I was like, “Of course!” Because that’s what he did. The next night, I was again at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in California, and I began running my mouth. I immediately put it to good use. The difference was instantaneous. The attention I got from the fans and the buzz around me in wrestling grew exponentially from that point on. It was a pivotal moment, for sure. Like I said, maybe I would’ve figured it out on my own eventually, but having the biggest name in WWE history tell you something really hammers it into your head pretty quick.
WWE.COM: With all due respect, some have argued that you’ve never quite fit the profile of a typical WWE Superstar. Did you ever have any doubt that you’d find yourself here?
STEEN: I actually didn’t, and that might be hard to believe for a lot of people. I’ve encountered a lot of people in my career that didn’t think I’d ever get to WWE, but I’m actually really proud to be an exception, which is what I’ve been pretty much my entire career, everywhere I’ve went. I’ve never been the norm and I take great pride in that, but I never doubted that I would get here eventually.
WWE.COM: Have you started training at WWE’s Performance Center yet?
STEEN: No, I start Aug. 25, in a couple weeks. I’m really looking forward to it. I had the chance to go there just last week and got to see how everything works and meet everybody there, and it was really good, so I’m looking forward to being there full time.