When WWE tag team The New Day made its in-ring debut last week during “Smackdown,” the crowd exploded as its entrance music hit. The trio of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods had already won over the crowd before it even hit the ring.
But Woods – who has wrestled professionally since 2005 and made his televised WWE debut alongside Charlotte’s R Truth in November 2013 – doesn’t take those cheers for granted.
“One thing my sister said to me when we watched wrestling was that there was nobody that looks like us,” Woods says. “There were some influential African-American sports entertainers, but that’s why I feel like it is my job and it’s Kofi’s job and Big E’s job to be that for young African-American kids watching now. It’s important being able not to just tell people, but to lead by example especially in times of social media.”
The New Day will appear on Sunday’s card when WWE Live stops at Time Warner Cable Arena.
This isn’t just any tag team, and Woods is not your average wrestler. At 28, he’s not only made it to the top wrestling promotion in the world, he’s managed to get two bachelor’s degree and a master’s in psychology. Currently, he’s working on his dissertation for his Ph.D., with plans to study film after that.
Education and wrestling were always at the center of Woods’ world. He began wrestling in middle school, and wrestled professionally on weekends while attending Furman University.
“My parents instilled in me how important education was,” he says. “It really got into my head that this is something no one could take from me, keeping in mind that I could get hurt in the ring and never be able to wrestle again. Also, (I learned a lot from) talking to my grandparents about what they went through during the civil rights movement and the people before them. People died so I could read a book. (I’m not) wasting what they did for me.”
While he may very well be the most educated in-ring character to come along since “Leaping” Lanny Poffo (aka “The Genius”), Woods retains a sort of childlike wonder that resonates with kids on another level.
“I’m essentially an 8 year old with a bank account,” says Woods, who enjoys “Adventure Time,” anime, and ’80s cartoons like “Jem,” and participates in cosplay annually at Atlanta’s giant sci-fi convention, DragonCon, which he calls his equivalent to Christmas.
“When I’m not doing sports or school work, I’ll play PlayStation for the rest of the day.”