WWE/OTIS: Switch from amateur to pro wrestling pays off for WWE's Otis (Yahoo.com)

Posted on 5/23/120 by Mike Informer

For Nikola Bogojevic, life has always been about wrestling.
After winning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in
2014 the then 23-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler was a
legitimate prospect to represent the United States at the
2016 Olympics in Rio.

A trip to the Olympics would have been the pinnacle of
achievement for Bogojevic, who was a legendary high school
wrestler and had flirted with being selected to Team USA for
the 2012 London Olympics.

Despite once again not being named to Team USA, Bogojevic’s
career in wrestling was not over. Bogojevic’s focus shifted
from amateur wrestling to the world of sports entertainment.
The move paid off when WWE signed him in 2016. Four years
later, Bogojevic, known to fans now simply as Otis, is one
of the biggest personalities and stars in the company.

“I had a vision of [getting to this point],” Bogojevic told
Yahoo Sports. “I’m not a big fan of the word goals. As the
great Arnold Schwarzenegger says, you have to have a vision
after you say the word goals. My vision was always the
WrestleMania moment and entertaining everyone.”

While on the surface it may seem as if Bogojevic’s career
switch was a fallback, the reality is that sports
entertainment played a pivotal role in his childhood. An
archived Team USA bio of Bogojevic from 2005 has the teen’s
favorite athlete, video game, and movie listed as Brock
Lesnar, “Smackdown vs. Raw,” and “Ready to Rumble,”

“I used to have pretend wrestling shows as a kid,” Bogojevic
said. “I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up so I had my
two wrestler dolls, I’d beat them up, have the stereo
blasting in the basement, all these outfits I had. I always
had that vision. For it to come true, that’s the thing you
have to work for and keep pushing.”

Bogojevic’s childhood sounds like it could be pulled from
any professional wrestling fan or anyone who aspires to work
in the industry itself. Bogojevic’s ability to entertain and
perform in the ring are two factors behind his huge push in
WWE, but what also makes him a star in the eyes of the fans
— the ultimate deciding factor in the business — is his
passion and relatability.

In fact, if you take one look at him, you might be stunned
to learn that the 5-foot-10, bearded, husky Bogojevic is in
the same business as someone like Drew McIntyre or Lesnar.
Understanding that he wouldn’t have the physique or “look”
of your traditional professional wrestler, Bogojevic built
his character on being “Blue Collar Solid” alongside his
tag-team partner Tucker Knight, an All-American NCAA
wrestler in his own right.

“You can’t really B.S. the fans, they see you as they see
you, so if you’re trying to be somebody else, they know
that,” Bogojevic said. “Generally, I don’t have a lot of
insecurities. I used to wear a butcher singlet. The more and
more I got comfortable with people, with 20,000 people,
being in Madison Square Garden, I decided to drop the
straps. With me, what you see is what you get. I don’t think
about it much. I eat my food to keep up my training and
performance, but if I’m feeling pizza or chicken wings, it’s
gonna go down. If I’ve got it, I might as well flaunt it.
It’s the power belly.”

Being “blue collar” or an “everyman” has always been
something that works in professional wrestling.

The late Dusty Rhodes, one of the most influential and
important figures in the industry’s history, billed himself
as the “son of a plumber” and often found himself at odds
with Ric Flair and his flashy lifestyle. Rhodes’ “Hard
Times” promo continues to be influential, 35 years later.

Part of the appeal of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was his
ability to relate to fans by drinking beer and allowing them
to live vicariously through him during the iconic scripted
feuds with his boss, Vince McMahon.

Bogojevic implemented the tried and true strategy as he
entered a romantic storyline with Mandy Rose and began his
ascent late in 2019. What started as a joke between the two
backstage and on social media quickly turned into one of the
main angles on “Smackdown.”

“Every time she’d post on Instagram, I’d post them to my
page too, trying to joke around like she was my girlfriend,”
Bogojevic said. “Then, about two weeks after that, one of
the top Google trends when you typed in my name or Mandy’s,
were rumors and questions about if we were really together.

“It was basically the story of the loner in high school who
never talked to the pretty girl in class, or getting the
popular girl in school. Once we started that, we knew
exactly how to have fun with it, keep the story relevant
with the times. We have had a great time doing this.
Everyone who has been involved is an awesome professional,
Mandy, Sonya [Deville], Dolph [Ziggler]. It’s been a blast.”

The storyline’s success has catapulted Bogojevic to new
heights, and with the spotlight on him, he’s managed to
truly embrace the entertainment aspect of the job. When you
hear Bogojevic speak, it’s hard not to immediately think of
the late Chris Farley (“just two big ol’ dudes from
Wisconsin,” Bogojevic jokes.), but the comedian isn’t the
only influence that has shaped his WWE character.

“I also looked up Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage,” Bogojevic said.
“I first saw ‘Macho Man’ in the late ‘90s, so I wasn’t even
seeing prime Randy Savage. I went back and looked at his
promos and thought ‘Oh my God, this guy is one of the best.’
I love him. A lot of the other mannerisms though, they came
from my mother. She would make a lot of these weird faces
when she was with us as kids. Her and my dad would
impersonate people from their jobs, it was addicting and
laughable, what they were doing and it caught on from me.
We’re all just weird, making faces and noises.”

Bogojevic’s star doesn’t appear to be dimming anytime soon.
After winning a singles match against Ziggler at
WrestleMania — and earning an on-screen kiss as a result —
Bogojevic won the “Money in the Bank” ladder match earlier
this month, earning him a shot at any championship in WWE.

It’s a position that has helped elevate stars like Edge,
C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins to the top of the
WWE card. For Bogojevic however, being in the main event or
winning a championship isn’t his measuring stick.

“I fell and got back up before, but now the train is moving
forward and I have to take these opportunities and make the
most of them,” Bogojevic said.

“For me the bottom line is, if the fans are happy, I’m

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