This Sunday, the Road to WrestleMania makes a very important pit stop in Las Vegas as the “Elimination Chamber” serves as the last major RAW branded event before The Showcase of the Immortals hits New Orleans on April 8.
The Elimination Chamber match will determine the No. 1 contender for Brock Lesnar’s WWE Universal Title and features five former world champions (John Cena, Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, The Miz & Seth Rollins) a force of nature (Braun Strowman) and a huge underdog in Elias.
The 30-year-old drifter made his main roster debut on April 10, 2017 and despite never factoring into the NXT title picture, Elias has been a success on “Monday Night Raw” with his ability to goad a crowd by strumming his guitar and catchphrase, “Who wants to walk with Elias?”
Although he has an uphill climb, Elias will enter the unforgiving 16 short tons of steel structure last. But against this lineup, does he really have a chance?
Elias sat down with Yahoo Sports to discuss the character that has seemingly needled everyone that he’s come in contact with, being one of Dusty Rhodes last star protegés, who he can’t wait to mix it up with on Sunday and what it felt like being hit with a cello by Braun Strowman.
Yahoo Sports: How much is the Elias character on television an extension of yourself in real life?
Elias: The whole journey of being a wrestler is also a journey of finding yourself and who you are. If it feels natural to you, it’s natural to me because I’m just being myself every time I’m out there.
On the independent scene, you had a character named Heavy Metal Jesus. Has it always been your interest to implement the musical element into your character?
I definitely didn’t envision it the way that it is now. I did Heavy Metal Jesus because I looked like Jesus and played guitar so it was a cool thing that worked. It was when I got to NXT with Dusty Rhodes, being the creative force he was, and told us to bring our most creative side every single week. One of those weeks I brought the guitar and started telling stories while I played and it just evolved from there.
What was your relationship with Dusty Rhodes?
He was able to see the best in a person long before they were able to see it in themselves. I really feel like I was one of Dusty’s last people that he really believed in and put his seal of approval on before he passed away. I will always carry that with me.
We’re in an era where the fans like heels so it’s difficult sometimes to draw heat. But you get real heat from crowds, what’s the secret sauce that separates you from other heels?
It’s tough to say what separates me from everyone else. I guess it’s one of the things that the audience feels as soon as the spotlight hits me. All I can say is that I’m being as true to myself the best way I can.
Many of the callups have had some success in NXT before hitting the main roster, your journey was different. Were you ever worried about your place in WWE?
I don’t want to say worry, but I was extra motivated. I remember telling people in power that I wanted to be on those NXT Takeover specials and be the NXT champion. With my career, if I’m not where I feel like I should be, I will voice my opinion and let them know. It definitely put a little fire underneath me to do extra. I always felt like I could do it better than most.
It always felt like you were better suited for the main roster than NXT. Would you agree?
Ever since I wanted to be a wrestler I always wanted to be on “Monday Night Raw.” People have said that before and that’s fine. A lot of what I do on WWE TV is what I was doing on the NXT Live events. That wasn’t really seen by anybody. But now I get to do it on live television. It also makes the live events something to see. I give a unique performance everywhere I go. You never know what I’m going to say about your city and the people in it.
Can you take me through the day that you found out you were being called up?
I was told at the final NXT television tapings. It was days before “Monday Night Raw” that I was informed. There was a part of me that felt that I could be on “Monday Night Raw” for a very long time so when it happened it was a little bit of everything. It was relief, excitement and a burst of energy. It was all of the emotions that you want all at once.
Who came up with “Walk With Elias?”
I remember my uncle had said it to me months ago. It was in my head but not really a thing. I said it on Twitter and it had a nice response. But it really came down to a conversation with John Cena when he was ranting about the WWE universe and I stopped him and said “Do you even know what WWE stands for? Walk With Elias.” It seemed to be a hit at the moment so I said it again on “Raw” Christmas Day and as soon as I said it I felt that the entire audience got it right away.
You’ve had the opportunity to share the ring with both John Cena and Braun Strowman. What has that experience been like with a wrestler considered a living legend and one who has been such a force.
Mixing it up with those guys are two different scenarios. Braun is so massive and you see the kind of damage that he can do to everyone. Clearly, I’m no exception because he smashed me with a cello last week. And then there’s John Cena. He’s been in there with every legend and has done it all. That’s two different experiences but you gotta step up and bring your “A” game every single time.
I need to know if that cello felt as bad as we think it would.
It was the best! No! You can imagine a giant human swinging a giant cello over your back as you lay there helpless. It felt just as bad as you could imagine and then some.
Much has been said about the dangers of the Elimination Chamber, how do you prepare yourself for this match?
I’m pretty much not focusing on that aspect of the chamber. I’ve heard stories from guys in there but until I get in there myself and experience it, I won’t know what I’m getting into.
How happy are you that you’ll be entering last?
That is a huge advantage. I can see how everything plays out long before I get in there.
Is there anybody in this match that you can’t wait to get your hands on?
It’s all going to depend on the circumstances. I’d like to get a bit of revenge on Braun for what he did to me last week. He came out, sat on a stool with a giant guitar singing a song. He’s trying to be me, if people didn’t pick up on that. Then it ended with me getting smashed with a giant cello so I definitely owe him one. If he’s in there tearing everybody apart, I won’t be in a hurry to pop out of my pod. But if he’s down and beaten up by chance, I’d be down to pick up the scraps.
If you get through the chamber and become the No. 1 contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal title, do you feel that this would have been the perfect match to prepare you for Lesnar?
If there was ever a match to prepare me for Lesnar it would have to be the Elimination Chamber. You have to go through everybody and you have to deal with that structure. I’ve seen what the beast can do to the likes of Braun, Roman and Cena.
Do you already have a song in mind for Lesnar?
I don’t have it all mapped out yet but I do have some lyrics in mind if its me and The Beast. You might not want to prod the beats but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.