Ask Xavier Woods and he'll make it clear: it's been a very good month. The 2021 WWE King of the Ring is also in the middle of the relaunch of the gaming-focused G4 television network, on which he's serving as one of the network's primary hosts. Both accomplishments fall in the "dream come true" category for the 35-year-old Georgia native.
Woods won the King of the Ring title at Crown Jewel in late October. Winning the tournament had been Woods' primary goal in wrestling since he became a fan as a child. After not being included in the tournament when WWE revived the concept in 2019, fans joined Woods in his frustration. Two years later, the dream came true as Woods entered a new stage in his career, that of being a singles star.
"It feels like anything would when you're actualizing a dream you've had since you were a child," Woods told CBS Sports. "It feels absolutely incredible. It's one of those things that nobody can ever take from you and a moment that will be burned into your brain for the rest of eternity. I got to achieve something that not everybody gets to do. I believe I'm the 22nd King of the Ring. To me, we're only in double digits so it's really cool to be in line with such prestigious performers who have been able to win the crown. So, it's just very surreal because this is the main thing I wanted out of my wrestling career. To finally have it is, I don't know, kind of incredible. I've been having a great, great month. King of the Ring, G4 launching. It's been pretty good."
Woods joins his New Day teammates, Kofi Kingston and Big E, as having turned the momentum of their faction into big singles success. Kingston and Big E achieved their goals of world title reigns -- with Big E currently holding the WWE championship -- and Woods' King of the Ring victory showed the continuing impact the group.
In many ways unique to WWE, New Day's members have almost forced the issue with achieving success, doing things in unorthodox ways to capture crowds and become more than just the most successful tag team in the history of the promotion. Woods chalked up the group's success to a consistent hunger to grow and adapt while also staying true to the core of what makes all three members special.
"As soon as you're not as hungry as you used to be, it's time to stop and figure out what else you like in life," Woods said. "If you're not grinding to achieve something, then you're not growing as a human. If you're stagnant and content with where you are, what's the point of doing it in the first place? As soon as I become complacent in wrestling, I'm done. That's when I hang the boots up.
"For me, and for us, it's always been a case of we are in a position where we are able to achieve these goals we have had for so long and then, at the same time, we are now also in a position where there are kids who are watching us and we're doing our best to lead by example that if you want something, go and get it. Don't sit and wait around for it and hope that somebody brings it to you. That's something we take very seriously because we know there are a lot of kids who watch wrestling and who are into us because of the bright colors, fun jokes, unicorns, pancakes and all that kind of stuff. We have a very kid-friendly act going on. We do our best not only to fulfill the things that we want in our personal lives, but also to make sure the kids that are watching understand that it doesn't matter if you don't fit the mold everyone else thinks you should fit. If you work hard enough, you can build the same exact house everybody else has built but you can use your own tools to build it."
Woods' tools in the early days of New Day were that of the "third man" and rarely the focus of the group's in-ring efforts. With his trombone, which he named Francesca, Woods was, in his words, "the little brother" of the team.
His in-ring work over the past few years, first as a stable part of tag team matches and now as a singles competitor, have exposed him as a tremendous wrestler. And those who didn't know he had it in him to compete at this level?
"I'm not going to lie, you were asleep," Woods said. "I've definitely gotten better. If you're not getting better, you're not doing it right. You always have to be listening and learning and I will be learning until the day that I die. But if I wasn't any better than I was five years ago, I'm doing myself a disservice. On the flip side of that, yeah, I'm finally getting the chance to shine a little bit. In that change in perception that is occurring now, it's kind of part of the plan of New Day. It was me being in that little brother role for such a long time and then branching out into what I've been doing recently and what I've been doing in the past couple of years with the tag division stuff. It gives us a new layer when I finally break out of my shell and helps keep the group fresh with more ways to go into storylines. It gives us more ways to counter other personalities on the roster.
"I think the three of us together understand that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. It's not one of those toxic masculinity things where, 'Oh, you got the title! I'm so jealous! I'm going to beat you up for it!' What are we talking about? You know? If you become the level of a champion or get the crown, wouldn't you want to have friends with you who help keep everyone off your back? Logically speaking, I've never understood the whole jealous, 'I have to fight you for the title' thing. ... It makes sense to have friends to watch your back. That's where our thinking has always been with that. It's been very fun to finally be able to be in this position where I am able to wake people up but it's something I feel I've had within me for quite a while
"Being able to do the stuff with New Day and bringing Francesca into the mix and being able to enhance that side of my game was pretty enlightening. We were able to get to the point where we were able to get people to fall in love with a trombone. I don't think that's really on your bingo card when you say you want to be a pro wrestler. What do you want to do? Oh, I want people to love the trombone like I do. That's not something that pops into your head. I've gotten the chance to do a lot of cool things that I didn't realize at the beginning of my career were going to be so important to me in how I understand wrestling, not only outside of the ring but also inside the ring."
Woods now heads into Sunday's Survivor Series with heaps of momentum. He will compete as part of Team SmackDown in the traditional Survivor Series five-on-five tag match against Team Raw.
Despite being involved in another bit of WWE tradition, Woods does not seem particularly interested in the idea of "brand supremacy" being determined through his match, especially when many of the men involved in the match just arrived on their brand after the recent WWE Draft.
"Considering a lot of us just got back to SmackDown within three or four weeks, it's not really excitement," Woods said. "It's just another match. It's cool to be a part of it but at the same time, we're trying to figure out what does the winner get? Are we just fighting to fight or are we fighting for something?
"The idea of brand supremacy, to a guy like me? I'm king. If I get rid of half of my constituents because they like Raw, I'm not a good king. I'm king of the entire kingdom. I'm not worried about Raw winning or SmackDown winning, I'm worried about people winning and they will because it will be an incredible match. But when my team wins -- When the king's team wins, I want something for it. I don't care to have matches for no reason. I'm going to need them to come up with something for the king when I win."