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August 10, 2016

Enzo Amore on coming back from a concussion and fulfilling a dream at SummerSlam

Enzo Amore and his tag team partner Big Cass have become arguably the biggest breakout stars in WWE this year. Since the very first night Enzo and Cass debuted on the main roster, the night after WrestleMania 32, their entrances and in-ring promos have consitently gotten some of the biggest pops of the night, and the team even temporarily joined forces with 15-time champion John Cena prior to the brand extension. Now on Raw, Enzo and Cass are headed toward a showdown with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho at SummerSlam August 21st. Enzo Amore spoke with Fox Sports ahead of WWE's second-biggest event of the year to talk about his journey to the main roster, getting his big break from Triple H, and the concussion that knocked him out of action at WWE Payback.

Fox Sports: Let's go back to your debut in April. Coming up from NXT, were you expecting the type of reaction you got from the Raw crowd with everybody knowing the words to your entrance bit?

Enzo Amore: You know, there was probably a ton of people there - including Vince McMahon - that would have never expected that kind of reaction. But going into it, you know, Triple H gave us the opportunity of a lifetime and I don't think anybody ever realized that when the WWE Network came out and NXT was on the Network it became a brand. And it was the third brand of our company.

The opportunity we got there was to perform in front of crowds by the thousands in the U.K. [at NXT TakeOver: London], and the majority of the crowd that night after WrestleMania for Monday Night Raw in Dallas was a U.K. crowd, a crossover crowd. People who are enthusiasts of WWE and they knew what WWE NXT was.

I kinda looked at Hunter when my music hit from across Gorilla, I saw him right before I went out of the curtain ... and it was organic, it was real. I could have never imagined that kind of reaction in a million years, but at the same time I had an inkling that 'hey wait, these are the same fans that I just performed in front of in Europe three months ago."

FS: Speaking of Triple H, I know you have an interesting story about how you got your big break with WWE in the first place?

Enzo Amore: My athletic trainer when I was playing high school football, college football was a guy named Joe DeFranco out of New Jersey and Triple H, you know he's got the craziest schedule in the world, he was looking for a new athletic trainer that could work with him around his schedule, and Joe was a guy near the area - probably, if not the best, one of the best in the country. And I knew Joe since I was growing up, man, about 14 years old.

So when he first came to me and said 'hey do you know this guy named Paul Levesque?' My jaw nearly hit the ground. I mean, you're talking about a kid who used to train at DeFranco's and talk about becoming a WWE superstar his entire life and walked around in this persona. Enzo Amore, the guy you see on TV, existed in a gym in New Jersey long before he ever took to a TV screen. Here he is saying 'hey do you know who Paul Levesque is?' Call it destiny, call it whatever you want, basically what I was given was the opportunity of a lifetime to try out in WWE NXT - and by my saving grace I was given the opportunity to talk to Dusty Rhodes. I was handed a microphone and told 'go, kid.'

FS: I want to ask you about the setback you had at Payback when you suffered a concussion and were out for about three weeks right as it seemed you and Big Cass were headed for a title shot. What was your recovery process like?

Enzo Amore: Well, the process began when I was sitting in a hospital and I went 'what's going on?' and I looked up and I saw Big Cass and Sami Zayn standing there. And the doctor looked at me and said 'you got hurt in your wrestling event.'

I had no idea what had happened, but luckily for me I work for the WWE, and by God's saving grace I never had any post-concussion symptoms, no ill side-effects of this concussion that was almost a freak accident. But what we do in the ring is not ballet, this is dangerous. People have their fair share of injuries, but luckily for us in WWE some time off doesn't mean that you're not going to be taken care of or you're not going to be getting paid or you're not going to see the best doctors. I honestly believe that the WWE is the leader and/or ahead of all the other sports in concussion awareness and understanding what it does to guys. Understanding how serious an injury can be. They go by the right protocol, they set a parameter of what is a healthy brain and what isn't. And while they're learning so much more, I believe the WWE is leading the way in gaining that knowledge so that we can better prevent these things from causing ill side-effects in the future and so that our guys remain healthy and taken care.

FS: Every week after that, I always see fans tweeting that they're scared you might get hurt again flying through the ropes or doing a high-risk move, were you apprehensive at all when you finally got back in the ring?

Enzo Amore: Nah, not at all. I'm just one of those guys that, when I'm going in, I'm going all-in. That's kind of the way you've got to be in this business that I'm in. It's not for everybody, and some of the toughest people I've ever met in my lifetime, I met in the wrestling ring. There's only one way to get back into it for a guy like me, and that's just to do it.

What people fail to realize is, while they're seeing me on TV, I'm doing this with the WWE all year round Friday, Saturday, Sunday wrestling - and then I do it on TV Monday nights. Getting back in the ring and squaring up against opponents and taking high risks, that's what we do for a living. And I signed up for it, so I knew what I was getting myself into.

FS: At SummerSlam you're going to be facing Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, who are both pretty similar to you in that they're both very charismatic and they're great talkers. Were you a Chris Jericho fan when you were younger?

Enzo Amore: You know it's funny you should say that because you said they're similar to me, but the one thing that me, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens have in common, is that we have nothing in common. How you doin'?

Let's just be fair here. Kevin Owens? He couldn't rock with me. It just wouldn't happen.

Chris Jericho... I will give him one thing. As a kid growing up, I did idolize Chris Jericho at one point. But, the reason we get into this business is so that your idols become your rivals. Step into a ring with a guy like Kevin Owens, who's traveled around the world and been in the ring for 15 years, and a guy like Chris Jericho, who has achieved pretty much everything there is to achieve in this business. They set the bar high, man, that's what they did, but we didn't come here to play limbo, we came here to jump hurdles. How you doin?

FS: As a New Jersey/New York guy, what are you most looking forward to about performing in the Barclays Center at SummerSlam?

Enzo Amore: I probably can't tell you how I feel about it until I'm actually in it. It's just words can't describe it... and I am great, great at describing things. It's going to be a dream come true and a lifetime coming to fruition for me to be able to perform in front of my 86-year-old grandmother, my mother, my brother, my sister. I'm going to have a lot of friends and family out there in that crowd, as is Big Cass, so it's a dream come true for a couple guys who grew up going to wrestling shows, watching the WWE in the Garden.

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