Swerve Strickland on becoming first black AEW Champion: ‘It’s possible, it can be done, but it’s not easy’

Image Courtesy: AEW

New AEW World Champion Swerve Strickland spoke from the heart during the post-Dynasty press conference on Sunday night.

When asked by Renee Paquette how he was feeling, Strickland said, “First thing to say, my champion is black.” He added:

A ton of hard work went into this. Nothing was guaranteed at all. Nothing was handed out to me.

I had to do a lot of inner searching to figure out what I needed to change up, what I needed to improve, and have a lot of humility to be honest with myself and say, “Yeah, you’re not great here. You’re not the best here,” and figure it out and just work at it.

No excuses ’cause in my culture where I come from, we’re not awarded excuses. Excuses get us nowhere, or killed, and I’m gonna stay alive. I’m gonna keep pushing.

I have so many things to fight for, so many people to fight for, and that’s what drives me every day. I get up early. I stay late. I make the extra drives, and I stay in the weight room.

I stay disciplined. I do the things that a lot of other people don’t wanna do.

I get on the plane two days earlier than I gotta be there because that’s what’s required in this, and I want that to be the standard for being a champion.

We’re not rewarded rest. We gotta be restless ’cause where AEW is and where we’re going, I want the fans to see how hard we’re working.

I want the people who aren’t fans to see how hard we’re working to try to join us and be fans and join this company ’cause this is special.

Two back-to-back amazing pay-per-views of Revolution and Dynasty tonight, and I was in back-to-back championship matches in both of them. That’s never been done in this company as an African American man.

Strickland was asked what message he wanted to send to black boys and girls who were watching. He replied:

It’s hard to choose just one message. I think this one moment sends many messages to everybody. And primarily it’s just like, it’s possible. It can be done, but it’s not easy.

I kept saying this throughout the week through all these interviews and media I was doing, is like, what happens if this doesn’t work out — I don’t win the championship?

I’m like, “Oh, we’ll push it down the road. We got to wait for a bigger moment. We got to push it down the road again.”

That’s happened several times in history and pushing it down the road results to missed opportunities, as it never happens.

And I’ve seen that way too many times as a kid growing up. I’m sure you have too, and I’m sure a lot of other people have. They’ve seen opportunities for us pushed down the road.

We want to build it to something bigger around the corner and, boom, injuries, boom, somebody else gets the opportunity in front of them. Boom, that person’s not as hot as they were before.

When it’s our moment, we have to take it. That’s the message I wanted to send.

That’s why I came out in the outfit that I wear. I’m not coming to be rewarded the crown and the throne. I’m here to take it. That’s what we have to do. We have to take it.

He was then asked what kept him motivated and pushing on:

Friends of mine, seeing friends like my friend, Kofi. In the last five years that was probably one of the biggest inspirational things you’ve ever seen, not just in black wrestling history, but just wrestling history period. And that’s like, that’s motivating, that’s inspiring.

And that makes me wanna do that for the next generation, you know? And I don’t wanna just do it once, I wanna do it multiple times.

He added that the accomplishment was a team effort:

And it’s not just me, it’s a team. Like Nana’s a part of that. My people, my family, all these people right here, none of this happens without any of these guys together.

All this is like pushing me, like pulling something out of me that I didn’t know I had. Like Tony believing in me, putting me in the opportunity. He didn’t give me anything. He gave me an opportunity to make something out of it. And it was up to me to do the work.

And that should go for anybody, not just any black person, any person period. You’re never given, like some people, I hate the feeling of hearing on social media, something like, “Oh, they weren’t given a chance.” I’m like, “No, they were given chances. What did they do with those chances?”

You’re given chances, whether they’re big or small, but you gotta make something out of that shit. I was given small opportunities, company after company after company, time and promotion and like, it didn’t matter. I found a way to make something out of it. And I pushed forward and I made it uniquely me.

It was Swerve doing it. It wasn’t another wrestler doing it, it was Swerve doing it. That’s the only way to progress in this game.

About Neal Flanagan 822 Articles
Based in Northern Ireland, Neal Flanagan is a former newspaper journalist and copy editor. In addition to reporting for POST Wrestling, he co-hosts The Wellness Policy podcast with Wai Ting and Jordan Goodman.