LA Knight knew he’d have to take pay cut when he returned to WWE, took it on the bet that he could turn it into more

Photo Courtesy: WWE

The journey of L.A. Knight. 

The last year of L.A. Knight’s career was reflected on while he was being interviewed by Chris Van Vliet. Knight said he regrets not coming back to WWE sooner than he did and reiterated that he feels he stayed with IMPACT Wrestling too long.

When it comes to his WWE return in 2021 for the NXT brand, Knight knew he’d have to take a pay cut. He was fine with that knowing he could bet on himself to turn it into much more down the line. Around 2020, Knight had a conversation with his significant other and felt his time in wrestling might be coming to an end. 

He was of the mindset that he should try to make as much money as he could in other companies. He had Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque’s contact information and did not want to contact him directly to avoid getting heat, but figured he had nothing to lose. 

Yeah, a lot of it (regret about not going back to WWE earlier than I did). I had overstayed my welcome — it wasn’t overstaying my welcome. But I had overstayed bad booking. I had overstayed misuse, I’ve overstayed multiple regime changes. And so with that being the case, it was just like, man, it was like, start, stop, start, stop, start, stop. And then when they did throw me the bone and gave me the title, (it) was like, they still didn’t really feature me as the main event. And I’m like, what is this this? Like, consolation prize or something? And, at that point, I was like, alright, I have to leave, I have to go. But the only reason I was staying was because I had been broke for so damn long. And I’m now making good money for the first time. I had never seen money like this before. And so I’m just like, I can’t pass this up. I need this at least for two or three years before I can go and take the risk in my mind for the first time around that is going back to WWE. And what I was promised was not, hey, you’re going straight to NXT TV. It was, ‘We’re gonna bring you into the P.C. and then you prove yourself’ and that’s because I left with heat the first time. So understandably so, I guess to a degree, but at the same time, I’m thinking like, I’m on TV. I’m ready-made. I’ve proven in other places. I know how to do TV. I know how to do this stuff. Now look, WWE is always different from other places. It’s a whole other level as far as like TV production, all that stuff, but not to toot my own horn, but if you look at what I would do on IMPACT or whatever else, I think that I knew how to work TV above average from most of the people that were there. I know how to work the cameras but also interact with the crowd and the house and stuff, and I think a lot of people struggle with that, especially guys who come from the indies because they want to go to the crowd… or some people only do the camera and then they never, you know, look at the crowd or that stuff. So it’s finding those balances and stuff like that. So I’m just like, ‘Why am I only going into the P.C.?’ But again, it was because we want to make sure you’re a team player, this kind of stuff and whatnot. So finally, when I did make the jump over there, there was a little bit of not necessarily negotiation, but it was just kind of like, I knew I was going to have to take a pay cut coming in. But I was willing to take the pay cut on the bet that I could turn it into much more. Because I had hit the ceiling basically in IMPACT. And I had an awesome time (in) NWA for that little bit that we were able to do before the pandemic hit… During the pandemic 2020, I remember having a conversation with my girlfriend, and just being like, ‘I gotta accept that this thing was just over.’ And like, ‘Nobody’s taking me now,’ 37, or whatever it was at the time. And, ‘I just gotta make whatever money I can in any of these other companies.’ And I had been given Triple H’s email, and his phone number, just before the pandemic started. And I was like, ‘Well, what am I going to do with this? I have no relationship with this guy.’ I mean, we knew of each other and like, I had spoken to him once or twice the first time I was in NXT but, I didn’t have a relationship where I was like, I could just hit him up. And so my relationship was with Talent Relations, and I’m like, I’m probably gonna get heat if I go over their heads, so I’m just not gonna mess with it. But then when I was at the point where I’m like, ‘This ride is probably over.’ I was like, ‘Well, screw heat. I’m messaging.’ So I was like, ‘Hey, look, this is what I’ve been doing for the last year that ended. Here’s pictures, here’s videos,’ whatever. And then I just let Talent Relations know, ‘Hey, look, by the way, I sent this email,’ whatever. ‘Just giving a heads-up.’ And that’s where it was just kind of like, ‘Well, we got to talk about some things,’ whatever.

For the early portion of Knight’s main roster run, he was known as ‘Max Dupri’ of Maximum Male Models. Knight stated that him and WWE Executive Chairman Vince McMahon felt they were butting heads over the character. Knight shouted out former group members Mace and Mansoor for telling stories of his uphill battle as that character.

Well, the problem is you look around the wrestling landscape. And I even think to my past, and I’m like, man, I had so much freedom to kind of be me and do my thing. And now I’m doing whatever this stupid model thing is. I don’t know who this is or what this is but all right, well, I got a nice raise out of it. So at least I try and make this thing work. And so I’m sitting there and I’m trying to do it. And all praise to Mace and Mansoor because I mean, I even heard them kind of sharing the stories about how Vince (McMahon) was just — it was really weird. Because I was told not to talk like I did, nothing. ‘Don’t say any of the things you said, don’t talk the way you did.’ And I’m like, okay, I mean, what brought me to the dance is getting completely stripped from me. But alright. I mean, at the same time, I kind of looked at it as a challenge. I’m frustrated by it but I’m also kind of like, okay, well, let’s see how we can do this. And then I mean, in short order, it was just like, this is crazy. And then he and I kind of felt like we were butting heads, but it was just like, he had a vision for this thing that puts such a microscope on it. And I didn’t know what the hell it was, but I was trying to figure it out. And it just was not going well. And I was very unhappy. And I’m sure he probably was and then at some point, it was just like, all of a sudden, I’m not on TV and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m pretty sure I’m fired. Pretty sure this whole ride is over.’ And at that point, I’m kind of looking at other options and what I can do and where I can go to kind of, you know, just keep my whole thing rolling. And, lo and behold, circumstances prevailed that kind of put me in the right spot where I could at least come back in a wrestling capacity, do my thing. And again, like I said, I don’t think there were great expectations thrust upon me. It was just, hey, here’s a guy who can handle himself. He’s a professional. He knows how to do his thing in the ring. And we can work with some guys, he can have some good programs. Well, surprise, surprise on your eyes, because things just got a little crazy after that.

Fast forward to when Knight transitioned from Max Dupri back to L.A. Knight, he sent an email to a writer and noted that he’d like to do X, Y and Z and then at some point, he’d ask for the ball. The feel Knight got from the writer was he appreciated the ambition, but who is this guy? 

And it’s funny because I just joked, story my career. But at the same time, I always hesitate to say this stuff because I feel like it sounds like I’m like being self-congratulatory, but, I can’t help but state the fact that I willed this sh*t into existence. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t just be like, well, I’m just here, I’m just going to be happy with that, and that’s cool. I wrote an email to one of the writers when I first came back as L.A. Knight and I just said, ‘Hey look, I’d like to do this and this and this and at some point, I’m going to ask for the ball.’ And he was like, probably just was kind of brushing me off. I don’t know, I can’t speak for him, but I’m sure at the time was probably just like, his response was I appreciate the ambition. And it was kind of that. I’m sure at the same time, he’s just thinking who is this guy? Whatever. But I meant that and I meant that in the realest possible way to where I want the damn ball. And I’m going to make that happen. And so, as many times I’ve been told no, as many time maybe I’ve shot myself in my own foot or slipped on a banana peel, or whatever it is, I need to will this thing into existence. So far, 2023 has been a hell of a climb and making that happen. And so my goal is to just continue on in 2024 and 2025 and who knows from there. And you know, people want to look at the age number, but my God, I’m in some damn good shape.

Coming up for Knight is a shot at the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble Premium Live Event. He’ll be part of a Fatal 4-Way with Randy Orton, A.J. Styles and the champion Roman Reigns.

About Andrew Thompson 8240 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.