Matt Riddle appeared at NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV, solidifying his official move to WWE from independent wrestling.
— Italo Santana 🇧🇷 (@BulletClubItal) August 18, 2018
The original story on WWE’s initial reluctance to sign Riddle is below:
WWE might have changed its tune on signing MMA-fighter-turned-pro-wrestler Matt Riddle, according to Dave Meltzer.
In Friday’s edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Meltzer noted that Riddle has pulled out of two previously scheduled dates for Ireland’s OTT Wrestling. Significantly, those dates, August 18th, and 19th span SummerSlam weekend.
Could the dates be a coincidence? Certainly. But on Monday’s edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Meltzer expanded on the situation, stating there’s a “rumor” that both WWE and NJPW are interested in Riddle:
“The rumor that I heard is that both New Japan and WWE have interest in him. New Japan I’m gonna guess, as far as interest in him, would probably only have been for the U.S. market, so that’s very limited dates. I can’t imagine that they would take him in Japan, unfortunately, it’s just a matter of how Japan is. But yeah, he’s probably WWE bound.”
Oh yes, Dave, it’s so unfortunate that Riddle is probably headed to WWE instead of NJPW.
The fact of the matter is that Riddle has been on WWE’s radar for some time. In fact, Riddle technically has WWE Senior Director of Talent Development, Canyon Cemen, to thank for his current Evolve Championship reign. As Riddle told Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp in September 2016, he had been in talks with WWE when he asked Cemen if it would be okay to work with Ring of Honor during negotiations. Cemen told him it wouldn’t be an issue – but encouraged him to work with Evolve instead:
“I emailed Canyon [Ceman], what would you think about me working for Ring of Honor? I wouldn’t sign anything, but what do you think? He suggested that it wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but wondered what I thought about working for Evolve. Afterwards, he introduced me to Gabe [Sapolsky], which was last October, and I debuted late October or early November last year, and it’s been a wrap.”
Riddle went on to win the Evolve Championship from Zack Sabre Jr. in April 2018.
Adding fuel to the fire, Matt Riddle also pulled out of PWG’s “Battle of Los Angeles” taking place in the middle of September.
And in case you’re wondering why Riddle isn’t already signed with WWE – it’s because he’s a fan of Mary Jane. Riddle was released from UFC in February 2013 after twice testing positive for marijuana. Notably, WWE’s substance abuse and drug testing policy prohibits the use of synthetic marijuana and imposes a $2,500 fine per positive test for traditional/natural marijuana. If WWE is interested in signing Riddle, it could mean they’re willing to ease up on their stance on pot. That or Riddle would have to change his extracurricular activities.
But the penchant for pot aside, Riddle is highly charismatic, an incredibly talented technician, and exactly what WWE looks for in a Superstar. Furthermore, he’s currently scheduled to face PCO at Joey Janela’s Lost in New York on August 17th in Queens, N.Y., just a hop, skip, and jump away from NXT TakeOver and WWE SummerSlam in Brooklyn. Will Riddle show up at the Barclays Center? We’ll have to wait and see.