Former WWE wrestler D.J. Gabriel (a/k/a Steve Lewington) interview: Recently released WWE star discusses his run in developmental, on the main roster, and whether he's interested in working for TNA
Steve Lewington (a/k/a D.J. Gabriel) interview
Conducted by Alan J. Wojcik of AlanWojcik.com.
Alan Wojcik: Let’s take it from the top. Talk about the process you went through during the tryout that got you signed by WWE?
Steve Lewington: It was rough at first. I was pretty nervous because I knew it could’ve been one of my only chances to prove myself to the WWE and I wanted to show them I had the skills to be in the number one company in the world. The staff at WWE had my number because I had worked a few shows for them when they were touring and they called me and said that they were coming in for a Raw event and asked if I’d be interested in working for the night. And the rest is history.
Alan Wojcik: 2006 saw you begin training with the Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion. Who was in charge of the training and what a typical day in OVW was like?
Steve Lewington: Al Snow helped me definitely. I consider him one of the most passionate people for this business. He helped all of us day in and day out no matter what else was going on. We would usually meet around 9:30AM every few days, work out, and train, for about five hours. He’d make sure everyone was at their best and he always took the time out to help anybody.
Alan Wojcik: OVW held a weekly TV taping in addition to shows at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Do you feel that help you in getting ready for WWE TV and how was the Kentucky crowd to work in front of?
Steve Lewington: I had a blast in front of the OVW crowds; I had some of my best matches there. As for if I think it prepared me for WWE, I can say it did. It helped me learn what the fans liked and disliked. It helped me figure out what I can do to showcase my skills to the crowd without them turning away from me and not giving me a chance. The Kentucky crowd was very supportive. They always made me feel right at home.
Alan Wojcik: You had a successful tag team with Chet the Jet called Terminal Velocity (who joined FCW for a brief time.) What was right about that team that OVW kept it together?
Steve Lewington: I never really knew how it stayed intact, but I’m glad it did. We both had great times teaming together and we both learned a few things while teaming. I think it worked so well because we worked well together, we had the same style and we knew how to make the crowd happy whenever we performed.
Alan Wojcik: Long after you left it, OVW folded into what is now Florida Championship Wrestling. Talk about the environment switch from Kentucky to Tampa.
Steve Lewington: It was different. Kentucky was definitely more “old-fashioned”, if you want to say that. Tampa is just a huge city, tons of so many different people. In Kentucky we were more of a family so to speak, while in Tampa everybody was going in their own directions.
Alan Wojcik: Fans might be aware that FCW is run by Steve Keirn and Dr. Tom Pritchard (lately Dusty Rhodes among others.) How was FCW run different than OVW and talk about the weekly shows run at Bourbon St. Night Club.
Steve Lewington: It was a different atmosphere. FCW was more of a fast-paced promotion. We did everything so quickly. The shows at the club were interesting at times and we had great times. I think the only bad thing about it was that we were rushing into things too quickly and we weren’t even performing in a building we can call our own. There were plenty of us that were ready to leave the club, and they finally listened to us.
Alan Wojcik: Steve Lewington went from fan favorite to heel tag partner to “Handsome” Heath Miller. Talk about the Bourbon St fans loving you and the next Tuesday night event they wanted to throw beer on you.
Steve Lewington: The fans definitely reacted, and it was a success. I think we needed a change. Things
were getting old and we all knew it. I was ready to see how the fans would react to it and I was surprised and thrilled to see how much they were into it.
Alan Wojcik: During a few weeks in FCW you went from Steve Lewington to Jack Gabriel to DJ Gabriel. Was this Dr. Tom and Keirn or someone in Stamford making the change and did you have any input on your character development?
Steve Lewington: Dusty Rhodes and Billy Kidman were the initial ones to think of the Jack Gabriel persona during a conversation with them. Dusty kept pushing for the switch and it finally came. I had no problem with it. Then, I had a meeting with Keirn and he told me that WWE wanted to switch me to the DJ Gabriel persona. It was an unexpected decision but I went with it for the sake of the business.
Alan Wojcik: On a Florida State Fair show in February 2008 you and Heath wrestled then WWE Tag Team champions John Morrison and The Miz in front of a crowd of 5,000. Some people think that match led to you being brought up to the main roster. How were you told about the move to ECW and being paired with Alicia Fox (Victoria Crawford in OVW/FCW?)
Steve Lewington: John Lauranitis called me on the Wednesday before my main roster debut and said that they were going to give me a chance. He said that a few of the guys in management were impressed with me and that Keirn pushed for me to get moved to the main roster. We set up a flight and he said he’d explain it later. I flew to Atlanta on Monday and that’s when they told me that I’d bring the DJ Gabriel persona with me to the main roster and that’s when I found out I’d be paired with Victoria. I had seen her before but never knew her that much. I met her early on Tuesday morning and we just connected. She’s a great friend personally and professionally.
Alan Wojcik: In early 2009 you and Alicia met up with former OVW opponents Paul Burchill and Katie Lea. Was there any difference from the matches in OVW and if possible who was your favorite OVW/FCW/WWE opponent?
Steve Lewington: It was different definitely. I’d consider our matches last year entirely better and more superior than the ones we had in OVW. Both of us grew in the business greatly from OVW to our matches on ECW. We’re more experienced and trained, and definitely at our best. As for my favorite opponent, it’s him without a doubt. Paul and I are extremely close, we have a family-type bond and I’d take a bullet for him. We started our careers in the WWE together and we made it to the top around the same time. TJ Wilson would be my second most favorite.
Alan Wojcik: You and Alicia began doing dancing segments on ECW. Was this fun or were you sitting there going “I’m a wrestler not a Chippendales member?”
Steve Lewington: I had no problem with it to be honest. Some of the fans enjoyed it and I was happy that they were being entertained, and I wasn’t going to complain about it because WWE gave me a chance.
Alan Wojcik: For the rest of 2009 you seemed to bounce from ECW to Raw dark matches back to FCW being called “Mr. FCW.” Was this due to injury, lack of desire from creative to use you or something else that led to your release a couple of weeks ago?
Steve Lewington: I don’t really know the answer as to why it occurred. I remember getting a call from John Laurinaitis and he told me that they were going to re-debut me in FCW with the Gabriel persona. He told me up front that some of those within management thought that the DJ Gabriel character wasn’t going to last much longer. I was glad that they decided to put me back in FCW, as it was better than just releasing me, but I saw that the release was coming.
Alan Wojcik: You openly talked about the release on your Myspace Blog (www.blogs.myspace.com/stevelewington ) and many people might be surprised reading this interview and the blog you have no bitterness towards WWE for releasing you. Guess the obvious next question is…why?
Steve Lewington: I don’t have any bitterness for the WWE because the only thing they did was give me a chance. That’s all I asked for. I didn’t complain about the personas I played and I don’t have any ill feelings towards anyone in the WWE. I was lucky enough to be in the number one company in the world for almost five years because I proved that I had what it took to be there. I’m upmost happy about my tenure with the WWE and maybe one day I’ll return.
Alan Wojcik: The obligatory next question is how long until we see you in TNA? The perfect spot for you would be to join former FCW roster member Big Rob Terry in the British Invasion clique (hint to Russo and pals)
Steve Lewington: I’m not going to deny the possibility of me coming to TNA, or anywhere else for that matter. TNA is one of the best promotions in the world today, they have superb talent, and it’s a great company. I’ve actually talked to a few friends that are in TNA and it could be a possibility in the future.
Want more on Steve; check out this fan site www.DJ-Gabriel.com or www.twitter.com.UKLewington
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