The US Airways Center in Phoenix recently spoke with Ryback to promote Tuesday’s WWE tapings. Below are a few highlights:

While attending UNLV in 2004, you were selected to participate in the WWE reality show, Tough Enough. What was that experience like for you?

That was my first taste of the WWE, but it was a stressful period. When I was a kid I was always very outgoing amongst people I knew, but as far as group speaking and speaking out loud, I wasn’t. I didn’t have a lot of experience in that. I wouldn’t say that I was shy, but I just never had to really speak in front of a large group of people.

I wanted to be a wrestler so bad, but I knew that this was going to be hard for me, getting accustomed to being in the middle of center stage with everyone looking at me, (especially on the mic). I took a speech class right before(Tough Enough) just to give me a little experience and thought, “Okay, this isn’t too bad. I can do this. But it’s one thing, being a wrestling fan growing up and watching it, and wanting to do it, to actually physically doing it.

Looking back, it was an incredible experience and I am thankful for all of it. Me and Miz were the last two standing, and they got two great WWE Superstars out of it, so it was worth their time.

You first used the name Ryback in Florida Championship Wrestling, tagging with Sheamus. Did you come up with that name originally or did someone suggest that to you?

No, that was me. I was released from WWE (after Tough Enough) and away for almost two years… I was sitting at home one night and there may have been an empty bottle of Vodka by me (laughs), and Terminator 2 may have come on TV. I’ve always been a big Terminator fan and a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Somewhere in that period, I may have told myself that I am a machine, and I may have somehow come up with Ryback in that condition. My real name is Ryan and my nickname as a child was Silverback, so I combined the two somehow that night to come up with Ryback. That’s why Ryback was initially a Terminator-based character with a red eye and cut-off leather jacket. It did very well in Ohio Valley Wrestling at the time and helped me get resigned.

You return as Ryback and really explode onto the scene, beating everyone they put in front of you, even two and three guys at a time. Within a matter of months, you’re in the main event of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view against CM Punk and then finishing second in the Royal Rumble here at US Airways Center in January 2013. Shortly after that, you are main eventing against John Cena. What have these last few years been like for you, as someone who grew up a huge wrestling fan and is now getting to live your dream?

It’s been an unforgettable experience. I’m very thankful for everything, coming back as Ryback and getting put into the main even scene and delivering, and then kind of slowly getting away from that and being in a little bit of a different position right now, being in a tag team (with Curtis Axel) and having fun. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked and in-ring wise. I’m at a level I’ve never been at before, and very confident in myself and what I’m able to do.

But I think people are going to very soon see the rise of Ryback once again. This business goes in cycles, where you can be hot one minute and then you’re cold the next, and then you’re hot again. The key is to try and stay hot as long as possible. I look forward to getting back in the main event scene again, because I’m the one guy that could change the whole thing. And I’m looking forward to that opportunity again because it’s going to come.

I’m just very thankful, though, to be a WWE superstar and be able to live my dream and make people happy doing what I do. It’s a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice, but when you see the result at the end of the day, making people happy, I love the job that I have.