There aren’t many people in the wrestling industry whose name will elicit as big a reaction as LA Knight’s right now. At the tender age of 40, Knight is a hot commodity and his star seems to burning brighter than ever. But why?
What is it about the “Megastar” that fans are reacting to? Is WWE ready to push him? And does age really play a part in whether LA Knight could ever be a world champion? Let Andy Spoors talk to ya, as he sets out to answer the hard questions sweeping social media…

He’s got one word for ya…

Catchphrase. No. Not the family friendly British game show where you say what you see.

Catchphrase; a well-known sentence or phrase, especially one that is associated with a particular famous person.

Like any TV show worth its salt, WWE has seen some of the most memorable catchphrases of all time.

When Stone Cold finished his infamous interview at King Of The Ring ‘96 with the now immortal words, ‘And that’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so‘, he couldn’t have predicted those 10 words would become synonymous with the Texas Rattlesnake.

Nor could he have foreseen the word ‘What?‘ still echoing around arenas 22 years on from a joke voicemail to fellow Superstar Christian.

Conversely, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson churned out catchphrases at an astonishing rate.

If you smell what The Rock is cooking‘ and calling someone a ‘Jabroni‘ entered wider pop culture the moment the words left his mouth.

Even ‘It doesn’t matter!’ was turned into a song by Wyclef Jean that reached number three in the UK charts.

When you think of a popular WWE Superstar, they will without fail have a catchphrase of some description.

It’s a hook. Something fans can get behind and shout out loud inside arenas or repeat amongst friends.

Arguably it is one of three ingredients to create a popular Superstar.

A catchphrase. A gesture. A great t-shirt.

The latest utterance to really capture the imagination of wrestling fans around the world? ‘YEAH!

It’s not exactly re-inventing the wheel, but it more than does the job. And with no derogatory intentions, this is perhaps the best way to describe LA Knight.

Earlier in July, WWE visited London’s O2 arena for SmackDown and Money In The Bank.

Walking around the venue, travelling on the underground or drinking in local bars, shouts of ‘YEAH!‘ seemed omnipresent.

The excited talk between wrestling fans wasn’t about Roman Reigns and The Bloodline.

It wasn’t about Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins.

It was all about LA Knight.

A Million Dollar Feud

For some it has been a meteoric rise over the last couple of months that has simply caught fire on social media and inside arenas.

For others, it is the result of a storied career that really took flight in TNA under the name of Eli Drake.

A library of media appearances that range from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between have also solidified Knight’s place as cult favourite. 

But it was in NXT that the WWE Universe were first introduced to LA Knight and in a typically unique way.

In the black and gold era, new signees to WWE’s developmental brand were usually shown sitting ringside at a Takeover show.

A way to show new arrivals in a familiar and consistent way.

LA Knight instead introduced himself on the preshow for NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day, verbally lashing anyone unlucky enough to be stood in his vicinity.

Although his time in NXT failed to bear fruit in terms of the NXT, North American or Tag Team Championship, Knight holds the distinct honour of being one of only six men to have held the Million Dollar Championship.

That feat came about during a highly entertaining rivalry with Cameron Grimes and the belt’s originator Ted DiBiase.

It was a storyline that meant the world to the Megastar and one that he was all too happy to reminisce about when speaking to Rushonrock just before Money In The Bank. 

“It’s kind of crazy when you hear that Ted Di Biase is going to be around,” said LA Knight.

“That’s a guy that’s been around since I was a kid! I was a big time Hulkamaniac when I was kid, so Ted DiBiase was one of the biggest bad guys around at the time.”

“So it’s kind of crazy to think ‘Now I’m in the fold with Ted?‘. That’s kind of sweet!

“That and bringing in the Million Dollar Championship? You’re talking only four or five people have ever held that thing.

“And now wait a minute! I’m going to be in contention for that? You can’t beat that!”

As his career in NXT progressed, the crowd began to understand exactly who and what Knight stood for.

Boos changed to cheers and Knight became one of the final gatekeepers of the brand before it moved into its ill-received 2.0 era.

Yeah!‘ chants began to flow and whispers of a main roster call up began to grow.

A Main Roster Megastar

That move would eventually happen in 2022 when Knight appeared as a villainous manager with a new name, Max Dupri.

Wrestling fans on social media winced. Knight…sorry…Dupri had been given a gimmick. A manager of a male model agency gimmick.

On July 1 episode of SmackDown, Dupri announced Mace and Mansoor, under the tweaked names “ma.çé” and “mån.sôör”, as Maximum Male Models and was soon joined by his storyline sister Maxxine Dupri.

Somehow spinning straw into gold, the gimmick wouldn’t last long and thankfully.

Dupri ended his relationship with Maximum Male Models on the September 30 episode of SmackDown, reverting back to his former moniker of LA Knight.

Perhaps borne out of sympathy and respect for having enough talent to make even a crappy gimmick somehow work, the WWE Universe began to rally behind Knight.

An intriguing rivalry with a red hot and returning Bray Wyatt, suggested it wasn’t just the fans that saw the potential either.

As riveting as the back and forth promos and interactions between Knight and Wyatt were, WWE inexplicably made proceedings difficult one more time.

With the pair set to clash at the Royal Rumble 2023, the company decided to add a sponsored stipulation to their match in the first (and hopefully last) ever Mountain Dew Pitch Black match.

Other than a marketing ploy and to be fair visually interesting bout, it was a train wreck.

Yet somehow, Knight emerged from the wreckage with his popularity not only intact but increasing.

More established Superstars have tried and failed to progress after matches with Wyatt, yet Knight endured.

So exactly what is it about LA Knight that resonates with not just the WWE Universe but the wider wrestling audience?

Honestly? It’s hard to pinpoint one main reason.

Is it those ingredients mentioned earlier? Merchandise and a catchphrase certainly help, but the answer lies perhaps in those Superstars that have achieved immortality already.

In many respects and whether the man himself sees it as an insult, LA Knight is a throwback.

A reminder of eras past, when wrestlers could not just physically eviscerate their opponent, but verbally destroy them before a punch was even thrown.

His cadence is eerily similar to The Rock but firmly his own. His move set is simple yet effective.

He knows when the time to talk is and when it’s time to let the crowd do the talking for him.

Since the change of creative hands in WWE, Triple H has been rightly lauded for his simple yet effective storytelling.

LA Knight has perhaps become his first real challenge and test. Does he stick or twist to his plans?

A criticism often thrown at the feet of Vince McMahon was his inability to push Superstars the fans organically got behind in favour of his own favourites.

It hindered Roman Reigns just as much as the likes of Cesaro.

The real question now is will WWE hitch their wagon on the back of a 40 year old star?

Well, Triple H himself became a WWE Champion at the age of 46, Hulk Hogan captured a championship at 48. Even as recently as last year Bobby Lashley became champ at the tender age of 45.

What it really comes down to is timing.

With the company launching a new Heavyweight Championship and Roman Reigns in the midst of a historic title run, now simply might not be the moment for the reign of the Megastar.

But if the red hot reactions of the WWE Universe from London to New York are anything to go by, it may soon be. And to coin another of Knight’s catchphrases…’that’s just a fact of life‘.

Watch Rushonrock’s Andy Spoors interview LA Knight here: