Joel Redman is a British wrestler who’s probably best known as Oliver Grey during his time with WWE developmental territory NXT until his final television appearance on May 8th, 2014.
The 28-year-old from Exeter, Devon, England, wrestled all over the UK for several years before joining WWE. During his time in NXT, he worked with many of the NXT stars that have gone on to make it on the main roster including an NXT tag team championship run with Adrian Neville.
We caught up with the British grappler to talk about his time in NXT, the WWE Performance Centre and Adrian Neville making it onto the main roster plus much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
My dad played rugby to a pretty decent standard and as a kid, I was made to play rugby to start with and I then began to transition into wrestling and judo for a while. I was pretty good at judo and my friends who were wrestling fans took me to a wrestling show in Exeter – after seeing my first wrestling show we would do our own wrestling matches. I eventually started my own wrestling school in Exeter, a company called Revolution British Wrestling and I founded it when I was 16-years-old. Wrestlers from around the country would come and train us.
When growing up who were some of the wrestlers that you enjoyed watching?
I wasn’t a wrestling fan as a kid at all, my friends were fans and I didn’t really see the attraction until I was about 14 or 15-years-old. When I first started getting into wrestling at that age I used to watch WWE Sunday Night Heat on Channel 4 and some of the wrestlers that I used to really enjoy watching were the likes of; Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Eddie Guerrero, those guys made it look real to me.
I was never really a fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock or Hulk Hogan, I was more drawn to the more athletic, technical wrestlers.
Where you a fan of any of the British wrestlers whilst growing up?
The first British wrestler I saw was Doug Williams and then when I went to WWE I started watching more of the old World of Sport wrestling and I would try and base my style on the World of Sport stuff, trying to make myself a bit different to the American wrestlers that they had there at the time.
What did you make of the British wrestlers that had been in WWE and TNA before you, the likes of Wade Barrett, Drew McIntyre, Sheamus, and Magnus?
I had actually met the majority of them previously before I went over to America, so I knew them and I knew of them. I remember the first time I met Sheamus, he was doing a tour for BCW (British Championship Wrestling), I remember him being so big and muscular but I thought I had a different to style to all of those guys, I see myself as a more mat-based wrestler.
Knowing those guys and seeing them make it in America, did that make you think it would be possible for you to make it over there?
I remember my first time thinking about America and going over there to wrestle I bought William Regal’s autobiography. I thought William Regal was just an English guy similar to myself and he made a massive name for himself in America with WCW and WWE.
I would read his book and try to see what he did, how he got there and how he started off in wrestling…picking up tips from him.
You signed for WWE in 2012, what was that moment like?
I had gone to a tryout previously which had gone okay but they didn’t offer me a contract. I was invited to another tryout six months later and it was just one day at a SmackDown taping, the first time I had a tryout it was before Raw and SmackDown, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get offered the job.
I went to the SmackDown taping and it was everyone standing around the ring and you tag in and out and you wrestle for a bit. I was wrestling and Jamie Noble noticed my wrestling and he got in the ring and wrestled with me for a while.
After that, they asked me some questions about my background and then offered me a contact. When I was walking back to the stage area Triple H was walking towards the ring and he shook my hand and welcomed me to the team which was a pretty cool moment.
What was your time in NXT like?
NXT has just gone on to bigger and better things, there is more the connection now with the name WWE, a very strong connection with the two. Triple H would often be down at the Developmental Centre and I’ve heard he now watches the cameras at the performance centre from WWE’s headquarters in Connecticut. The Performance Centre is an incredible place to go to and the facilities they have there are just unreal.
It’s a lot bigger now than when I first joined the company, when I first joined they had just started filming at Full Sail University. Now that is a more regular thing and they go there to film every 3 weeks or so and doing monthly specials and even taking the show on the road. NXT has evolved and it will be interesting to see where it goes next.
As well as several British wrestlers throughout the WWE roster at the moment, there are a number of British trainers at the Performance Centre with the likes of Norman Smiley, William Regal, Dave Taylor and Robbie Brookside – do you think WWE want to implement a more British style of wrestling?
I would like to think so, it was a dream for me to have those guys there because it was the style that I was always attracted to, especially Norman Smiley. I was a wrestling fan and perhaps I wasn’t the student that I should have been and I hadn’t seen much of Norman Smiley’s work prior to going to NXT. During my time in NXT I’ve realised that Norman Smiley is probably the most incredible technician you’ll ever see, the stuff he can do in the ring is unparalleled – he was a pleasure to train with.
Robbie Brookside is an incredible wrestler, he is really good at giving a different look at wrestling to what other coaches would and I think that helped a lot of the students there.
What have you made of the likes of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Paige during their time on the main roster?
It’s been great seeing all of those guys and girls go on from NXT and to make it on the main roster. There is no one there that I had any issues with at the Performance Centre. I had always loved Bray Wyatt’s character, for me he was outstanding.
We would do our communication workshops with Dusty Rhodes every week in a small room and sometimes you would be tired in the evening, but Bray Wyatt would go there and do a one-minute promo and captivate everyone there every week for a year. He is just so good on the microphone.
During your time in NXT you won the NXT Tag Team titles with Adrian Neville, what was that like?
It was a great moment for the both of us, we were just kind of thrown together before the tournament. One of the original members of The Ascension was released from his contract in NXT, so they needed another team as part of the tournament, so we were kind of a last-minute thing thrown together and we both thought we would be eliminated in the first round.
We beat 3MB (Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre) in the first round, then we won our semi-final and suddenly we were in the final against the Wyatt Family for the tag team championships which was kind of surreal.
To win that match was amazing, I hadn’t been there that long, Neville had only been there for about three months, we were on a rollercoaster really.
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What have you made of Adrian Neville’s recent move to the main roster?
There is no arrogance, there is no ego, Neville and I became really good friends and I don’t think he realises actually how good he is at times. He is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and he doesn’t understand that sometimes, he just thinks he’s not that great but it’s refreshing to see people like that, who are so good and so humble as well.
What was your highlight from your time in NXT?
Undoubtedly winning the tag team championships with Adrian Neville was my personal highlight – to hold those titles in your hand on television was an incredible feeling and one that I will never forget.
What was the reason for your departure from NXT?
I had a knee injury that set me back for nine months, and it limited the style of wrestling that I was doing at the time, which was annoying because it’s hard to come back from that and recover. When I did come back Martin Stone and myself were doing some tag team stuff that was going really well and we were going to be back on TV, then I had a recurrence of an old lower back injury so I was sat out for another six weeks.
I was kind of cursed with injuries during my last year with NXT which was annoying. I then came back to England for my grandfather’s funeral and I have my son who I hadn’t seen for a while and he had begun walking and saying a few words and I realised I had missed a lot of his life being away.
When I went back I had to be honest with myself, and I wasn’t wrestling like I could due to the injuries plus I was missing my son and England, which led to me having a poor attitude and got me in trouble with the office and things started to tumble from there really. When I was eventually released it wasn’t a sad day, I think I was smiling actually when they told me.
You were involved in TNA’s British Bootcamp 2, do you think we could see you in TNA or WWE in the future?
At the moment I’m just enjoying being back home and being part of the British wrestling scene because it’s thriving with an incredible amount of talent. Obviously, I have to think about my career and if an offer from TNA came in, it would be something that would interest me. WWE, of course, I would like to go back but I would need to get in a better frame of mind before I do and I would need to make sure it is definitely what I want to do.
There is a wide misconception that WWE is the only place to wrestle, but there are other options, if you look at it in a broader sense there is wrestling in every country and it’s so good to travel to different countries and experience different cultures, so that is kind of what my aim is now.
For more information on Joel, you can follow him on Twitter @NXTOliverGrey.