Your first world title reign came very early in your tenure on Raw. Did you feel that added a lot of pressure to the situation? And how does it compare to being back in the world title picture now with more experience and the audience behind you?
It's completely different. When I first won my WWE Championship, I just got to TV -- I believe I was there five months. Everything just happened so fast; it was like a whirlwind. I was still trying to find my feet and such. My back was against the wall. I'm more relaxed now than I've ever been.
I've been here three years; I've done quite a bit in a short time. I still believe two and a half, maybe three years, is a short time in WWE. I've definitely come out a little bit of my shell; I was in a little bit more of a shell. I just feel right now is a different time for me. When I was WWE champion back then, there was so much happening, everything happened so fast. Mania happened so fast with Triple H at 26. I really didn't get a chance to take a breath and find out what's going on.
Now I feel I'm in a different place, a better place. I feel I've proved myself a lot more, showed my ability, showed what I can do. I continue to push to get better, have better matches. Right now I'm in a great spot. I'm literally on the crest of a wave.
Winning the Royal Rumble is an honor very few people have had through the years that it's been around. How did it feel to win this year's event and to have the great ending with Chris Jericho?
It was incredible; it was absolutely incredible. You took the words out of my mouth there where you said winning the WWE and World Heavyweight championships is a very prestigious thing. There's not many people who have done it over the course of its history, but there's even fewer superstars who have won the Royal Rumble.
They say it's the toughest match to win. They say it's based on the number you draw and everything, but to me it was an incredible feeling winning the Royal Rumble, especially being in with Chris there for such a long time. That really doesn't happen either, you know. Normally you don't see two guys slug it out for such a period of time trying to win the match. The crowd went along with that; they didn't know who was going to win.
There were a couple hairy times there when I was hanging over the top rope and hanging on for my life, to be honest with you. But when I finally broke Chris off the apron, fella, it was just, to me, it topped off a great seven months, such a turnaround from being in the pre-match at Mania to knowing I was going to be in the main-event match at WrestleMania 28.
Unlike a lot of superstars today, you come from Europe obviously and were raised, as I understand it, watching World of Sport and drew a lot of influence from that program. Sadly, that's a dying artform in today's professional wrestling environment. Do you think that there's room for that to stick around in wrestling and particularly in WWE?
I think that style was great for its era, and I'll be honest, it captivated me as a kid. But I think it's definitely evolved a lot, even WWE has evolved in a huge way. The wrestling side of it never stays the same; it's always changing and growing.
Obviously Regal brought a lot of it with him, but he obviously improved and he basically married the World of Sport style with the WWE style. I think for its time, it was great. I think there's certain aspects still, like Daniel Bryan who has been in England quite a lot. Obviously he's my opponent at WrestleMania. He can definitely do a lot of that style, too, but he's a perfect example of the different styles meshed together, including Japan, UK and the American styles.
As I said, I don't know if there's a place for it right now, but I definitely think that certain aspects of that sport, that technical side, will always be relevant.
When it comes to next weekend, are you on Team Cena or Team Rock?
I'm going to go Team Cena, man. There's a lot of rumors going around, people with animosity for The Rock. That's not the case with me at all. The Rock has come back; he's been cool with me and I have nothing against him at all. He's achieved everything in WWE, and of course, he's achieved everything in Hollywood. It's a huge success story.
Cena, as well, he’s been on top of WWE for years now, and it's drawn in interest from everybody. It's one of the reasons WrestleMania will be one of the biggest ever. I just think Team Cena because Cena has been here all the day, and Cena has obviously been here week in and week out. I know it's probably the story you've heard all the time, but that really is the truth of it all. I'm really looking forward to this match because it's going to literally be a once-in-a-lifetime match, but I think I have to tip my hat to Cena. I think Cena's going to do it.