ESPN sat down with the WWE’s Xavier Woods to discuss his history with fighting games and the community’s growth at Evolution 2018.
Austin Watson, Ph.D, more commonly known by his ring name Xavier Woods, is a man of many backgrounds. Holding a doctorate in educational psychology, a master’s degree in psychology, and a bachelor’s in philosophy, Woods is as educated as he is eclectic: With a long history in wrestling leading up to his current status as a two-time Smackdown Tag Team Champion, Woods also hosts his very own gaming show and is heavily involved in the fighting game community. Woods’ show, appropriately dubbed Up Up Down Down, covers multiple gaming genres, and has even been the platform for important reveals: like Street Fighter V’s Team Battle mode. Woods’ love for gaming came to a head at this year’s Evolution Championship Series, where he sat down with ESPN to discuss his history with the FGC and how it has grown throughout the years.
Woods explained that his love for Windjammers ultimately brought him to Las Vegas’s fighting game celebration. Due to his efforts, Windjammers has grown from a side-tournament to a legitimate competition: while, initially, the game had 26 players on the spot, all of which were paid out of his own account, Windjammers has since grown to greater heights. “I was telling people, ‘In the next couple of years, Windjammers is going to be on one of these stages,'” Woods recalled. “One year later, Windjammers is going to be on stage. We have 256 competitors — that’s unreal.”
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Woods likewise covered his history with gaming in general. “I was a very awkward child,” he explained. “I didn’t go out, I didn’t have buddies, so my mom bought me a Nintendo and I loved it. But I had a problem: I thought that if you died in the game, you died in real life, so I didn’t want to stop playing.” Woods realized that video games were his forte once he began to play them with friends, and it soon became his safe space. “I still go back to games as my first basic need,” he stated. “You have the need to breathe, the need to eat, and games on top of that.”
Another topic of discussion was Woods’ recent scuffle with NJPW’s Kenny Omega at E3 2018. Team New Day and Kenny Omega’s crew went head to head in a series of tag-team battles using SFV’s team battle mode, which ultimately ended in hot pepper consumption and a quick trip to the toilet. “We wanted to get his camp and my camp together doing something,” Woods explained of the battle. “The way that we see what we do… is that it’s for everybody. Many times in our industry, there’s companies or performers who don’t communicate or cross lines. We wanted to start trying to do that a little bit more. We knew that our way to do that was video games.” After a three year rivalry between the two wrestlers within the game, their dream was finally made a reality, and the battle made it onto the CapcomFighters’ Twitch channel.