EXCLUSIVE: Arik Royal discusses wrestling during the pandemic, growth of Cameron Grimes, working with Fred Yehi

Andrew Thompson spoke with independent wrestler Arik Royal for an exclusive interview. Arik opened up about if he wants to be signed opposed to staying on the independents. He also talked about the growth of NXT's Cameron Grimes, working with Fred Yehi and expressing that he feels he's one of the best wrestlers there is right now.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sr6bj2tMVQ[/embedyt]


The independent wrestling scene is filled with talents that have reached the milestone of a decade in the pro wrestling business. One of those talents is Arik Royal, who hails from California. Arik was one of many performers who had several dates lined up for WrestleMania weekend in Tampa, Florida but their plans were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arik has been back in the ring for the past two months and I had the opportunity to chat with him about what it feels like to be wrestling under these circumstances. He feels that it has helped him improve in other areas of his game, other than just the in-ring portion. While discussing how it has been for him to be back in the ring, Arik stated that he feels he’s one of the best wrestlers out there and is confident that he can hang with any of the top wrestlers in the world.

“You know, it’s different. It’s definitely different because you’re used to wrestling in front of larger crowds and having more eyes on you and you’re able to be face-to-face with people and get your stuff out there and sell that merchandise, but for me honestly man, it’s definitely helped myself because it’s definitely helped me become more creative, as far as getting myself out there more because I feel like talent-wise, I’m one of the best wrestlers on this planet and I’m not trying to sound cocky. I’m just really confident in my abilities man. Like, I know I can go toe-to-toe and hang with any of the best wrestlers out there in the world and I know that I’m able to go out there and tell a good story with any of those guys and go out there and tear it up man. For me, it’s given me that perspective as to how can I give myself more looks and more notoriety by showing — they know what I can do in the ring but what can I do as far as character work and character development because I do a lot of my talking in the ring, instead of just going out and cutting a promo here and there so…”

One of several talents that Arik heaped praise upon during our interview was O’Shay Edwards. Edwards was a guest on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel in March and the written version of that interview can be read at this link.

Arik feels that O’Shay has been at the top of his game during this pandemic-era of wrestling and added that he should be on TV. Arik also questioned how Ring of Honor has O’Shay under their umbrella and hasn’t utilized him on their weekly programming.

“One of the main people that I… I wanna point out, you know, that I’ve been in the ring with a few times and I’ve actually had a match with before the COVID hit was O’Shay Edwards. O’Shay has been going out there and killing it man, especially with him being in the Ring of Honor dojo and I’m not taking away anything from those people that are on their program but O’Shay should be on TV, you know? He’s got the look, he’s got the size, he can talk and he’s willing to learn — and that’s another thing too. Like all these guys that are out, all these people of color that are wrestling right now, African-Americans that are wrestling like me and Suge [D] and AJ [Gray], they’re willing to learn man. The thing about Suge, Suge has been wrestling for just as long as I have and he’s been places and he bet on himself and I think that’s another thing, a lot of us are starting to bet on ourselves.”

As a black man/woman in professional wrestling, the bar when it comes to success is higher than it is for most. Over the past six months or so, multiple stories have come to the forefront about Black lives being taken at the hands of law enforcement. Sports leagues such as the NBA took the initiative to amplify the voices of their African-American players during these times and spread their message and support for the families who lost their loved ones to police brutality and also amplifying the Black Lives Matter cause and movement.

I asked Arik Royal has it been difficult to focus on his in-ring performances while knowing what has been going on in the world, specifically over the past six months. Arik stated that in way, he uses it to motivate and push himself forward.

“I do use it as motivation man, and it’s some cases where you go… man I wrestle in the south. I wrestle in the Bible Belt so, some of the places that I go, number one, you’re already getting the looks, so they’re already writing you off, number one just because of how my skin color is and how my hair is, but when I get in the ring and tear it up, then they’re actually like, ‘Oh, he’s actually not bad. He’s actually pretty good,’ and I mean like you said, people on social media all the time, but once you go to a show and those same people talking that trash on social media or saying that stuff, they won’t say two words to you or they won’t say nothing to you when you’re there, and then when you call them out on their BS, then they’re sitting there like, ‘Oh, well I didn’t know we had –’ well dude, you put it out there so obviously we do have an issue.”

Arik Royal has won multiple championships in the CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion based in North Carolina. Arik and the promotion have an established working relationship with one another that has lasted years. Royal has seen many talents come through the promotion but one name that has managed to stand out in Arik’s eyes is Trevor Lee, now known as Cameron Grimes in NXT.

Grimes has won a handful of titles in the CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion and Arik talked about seeing Grimes begin training at the age of 14 to where he is now. As far as Grimes’ run with the WWE NXT brand goes, Arik feels that the company is trying to dive into the character of Cameron Grimes but the moment he is asked to go out and have a “Trevor Lee-style match”, Royal thinks he’ll deliver ten-fold.

“In 2009, this little skinny, big head kid Trevor Lee comes in, 14-years old and I didn’t know who he was but I knew — see, I train in Sanford [North Carolina] now… and he was training out here, out in Sanford and then his dad, he used to work for OMEGA, he knew coach Jim and I and he brought him up to one of our shows and the rest is pretty much history. I had a 14-year old and a 15-year old kid pushing me to get better because I saw the look in their eyes and the work ethic that Trevor put in to get to where he’s at now, but that helped me because I was like, ‘I gotta keep up with this kid because if I can keep up with him, then I know that I’ll be able to be and keep up with anybody in the ring around the world,’ because to me and I’m not just trying to sound bias because I’m close to him but to me, I feel like he’s one of the best wrestlers in the world and you know, WWE is slowly and surely showing that here and there. They’re showing it with his character and everything, but I’m telling you man, you already know. They go out there and let him have a Trevor Lee match, a Trevor Lee CWF match, these people are gonna be like, ‘Yo, this Cameron Grimes dude is legit’ and I’m just gonna be sitting there like, ‘Duh, been legit bro….’ he definitely helped motivate me.”

Royal has also become a regular for the ACTION Wrestling promotion based in Georgia. He has put together a rivalry of sort with Fred Yehi, who’s currently being featured in the Ring of Honor Pure Title tournament. In past interviews that I’ve done, fellow wrestlers have spoken highly of Yehi and Arik did the same when asked for his thoughts about Fred Yehi and why he enjoys working with him.

“Yeah man, Fred’s just a genuine dude. Like he’s a real genuine nice guy who wants to be good and tell great stories in the ring and so, for me to interact with him but [not] only that but Matt [Griffin, ACTION Wrestling promoter] gave us an opportunity to have a program. I loved it because we got to both showcase what we can do and the match is like, if you watch the matches in order, the violence turned up or the brutality — I don’t wanna say violence. More brutality. The brutality turned up in each match, because the very first time I worked him was in NOVA Pro and it was like we were showcasing, we both could wrestle a little bit or we both chop it up a little bit and both throw them strikes.

We beat the hell out of each other man, but it was all for the sake of the story and that’s another thing about Fred. Not only is he genuine but he’s a professional too, and he’s creative and we’re always trying to find a thing, somebody gives us something, a ground structure of what we’re gonna do and then leaves it up to us to be creative and come up with something good for the fans to watch. With Fred, it was very easy to do because we both were sold on psychology of the match.”

Arik has been a part of the independent wrestling scene for ten years and has not signed a contract to exclusively join a wrestling company as of this writing. When asked is being signed something he desires, he admitted that he would like to be signed but added that there are many talents who are making a good living for themselves on the independent scene.

Overall, Arik is fine with either option but did state that he’d be much happier earning a good living from the independent scene than exclusively joining a company because he’d like to do things his way.

“Well I feel like… obviously the easy answer is yes, I would love to get signed somewhere and make money doing what I love to do which is wrestling and entertaining the crowd and putting my body on the line for the crowd to be entertained. But, the long answer is I just wanna go out there and be able to — if I go and get out there in front of a major company, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna give you a match. You got six minutes, show me what you got.’ Like, okay. That ain’t no problem bruh. That’s a walk in the park for me. The decision [is] not gonna be hard for me. The decision’s gonna be hard for you, and it shouldn’t be. If I go out there and kill it and then you try and test me again, I go out there and kill it again and keep killing it, then you have no choice but to sign me…

But like I said, I would love to get signed so I can showcase what I’m capable of, but at the same time man, there’s so many matches that I wanna do on the independent scene and a lot of people are making more money in the independent scene what they’re doing [than] getting signed. So, that’s the other side. Do you wanna get signed and make money or are you making enough money right now, not signed and do you want to continue to do that? And some people are happy doing that and some people are happy getting signed so, if I’m able to get signed first, great. But if I’m able to go out here and make money off independent wrestling and make just as much money doing that, then I’d be much happier — it wouldn’t [make] any difference to me I guess, to be honest. Whichever comes first.”

Arik Royal has several dates lined up for the remainder of 2019 and in early 2020, he’ll be taking some time off as he and his significant other are expecting a child. Congratulations to Arik and his family.

Our full interview can be watched via the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel. Arik can be found on Twitter @BigArikRoyal and on Instagram @ace_royal11. His YouTube channel can be found at this link and again, congratulations to Arik and his family on the forthcoming birth.

About Andrew Thompson 8236 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.