WWE’s Ridge Holland wants to emulate ‘dork’ Kurt Angle by balancing comedy and wrestling talent

Holland is ready to prove himself in all areas of wrestling (Picture: WWE)

NXT superstar Ridge Holland has revealed he hopes to emulate Kurt Angle – and described his hero as a ‘dork’.

The Yorkshire-born star swapped rugby league for wrestling when he signed with WWE in 2018, and while the bruiser – who recently returned after almost a year out due to injury – has the athletic pedigree to back himself up on screen, he also spent his time away from the ring honing other vital skills.

He exclusively told Metro.co.uk: ‘There’s definitely room to grow, there’s definitely things I wanna do and show people – but there’s a time and a place.

‘You need to establish yourself first and build a base before you can actually turn things and show people another side of you. We’re definitely just scratching the surface with Ridge Holland, to be honest.

‘I always look at people like Kurt Angle. He came in and he was a badass, but he behaved like a dork. He was drinking milk and then he went through the comedy stage with Austin, then went really serious with the Wrestling Machine.

‘Those levels are perfect, and if that’s something that I can kinda show, just different edges to my personality, that’d be great. But like I say, I’ll get established first and see where it takes us.’

Holland wants to emulate Angle (Picture: WWE)

During his injury layoff – which came just as Holland looked to be in line for a big push on television – the proud Brit took the chance to improve and add other strings to his already impressive bow.

‘I was watching as a fan, I was working on promos, I was going through character development things, I was having acting classes virtually,’ he explained.

‘I was trying to pick away at things and taking every opportunity I could to improve in other areas, other than physically, so that I would have an extra dimension to myself when I came back. It kept me busy, as well!

‘There’s nothing like moping around and feeling sorry for yourself, that doesn’t serve a purpose for me.’

Samoa Joe has also been an influence (Picture: WWE)

And while Kurt Angle – plus current NXT Champion Samoa Joe – remain big influences on him, the person to have arguably the biggest influences on his on-screen persona is his own father.

‘I actually draw a lot of inspiration from my dad. My dad was a bouncer back in the day, he’s a policeman now – he’s seen things, he’s been through things, he’s got a lot of life experience,’ he smiled.

‘His little sayings, his mannerisms that he does – I kinda try and take some of them. And with the character, I try to put a northern spin on things like Snatch, Lock Stock, Peaky Blinders obviously, there’s that little element there.’

However, Holland – who first started watching wrestling aged six with his nan – was quick to point out his flat cap isn’t taken from the BBC period drama, but it’s instead meant as a tip of the hat (pun intended) to his roots back home.

He said: ‘Everyone thinks that the flat cap, I got it from Peaky Blinders. but actually all the old boys where I’m from up north in Yorkshire, they always have the flat caps on, they’re always hard working men. So it’s a little bit of a homage to them.’

Looking to the future, Holland seems a safe bet to hold gold as NXT enters its new era, whether that’s as a singles star or with Pete Dunne by his side after they betrayed Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch this week.

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However, his focus is on proving himself to fans – especially those who might doubt his love for WWE and wrestling as a whole

‘It’s just improving. Getting in there and showing people that I’m not just some meathead that’s just been thrown in there because I look a certain way,’ he said.

‘I’m in there for all the right reasons, and it’s just opportunity, man, and getting better – that’s what drives me. What could be, rather than, you know, “I want this, I want that”. I’m just interested to see where this takes me, you know?’

*WWE NXT airs Tuesdays at 1am on BT Sport 1.

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