Frederick “Fred” Douglas Rosser III or as millions of WWE fans know him, Darren Young has always known he wanted to be a professional wrestler. Even when he played football at Union High School in New Jersey and later at Fairleigh Dickinson University, he realized wrestling was his first love.
That love took him on a rollercoaster ride throughout his career. The self-proclaimed “Weekend Warrior” paid to enter tryout after tryout from 2002-2009, chasing his dream, often wrestling for $25 a match and competing in arenas with no bathrooms. “I knew it would be tough,” Young said. “I knew for a fact that it would be tough but I was consistent. I realized over the years that without commitment you’ll never start and without consistency you’ll never finish.”
After wrestling for a plethora of independent companies, he finally got his big break in 2009 at a tryout for WWE’s developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling. It was there that he beat out 75 people to realize his dream. The following year, he would debut on WWE’s NXT division under the name Darren Young.
“It was either I become a WWE superstar or maybe make a career change, which probably would have been the fire department,” Young said “But I’m living the dream. I’m a WWE Superstar.”
The adrenaline from entertaining a crowd was something he got as a kid, as a teenager, and says he still gets at the age of 33. For Young, that rush exists in and out of the ring. As the first openly gay WWE Superstar, he is adamant about telling his story and giving back.
“My job is to be on TV and people can see me and identify with me and say, ‘Well if he can do it, I can do it’,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there in the world that are unsure about themselves and get bullied for just being their authentic selves. Like I said my job as a WWE Superstar is to entertain, but it’s also to push that message as hard as I can to be your true authentic self.”
When he decided to come out in 2013, he feared he was going to lose friends, but he was assured by people such as WWE owners the McMahons and a friend of his who goes by the nickname “Trouble” that everything was going to be okay.
“I’m glad because now I can help show others that it’s okay to be you, and give them that confidence,” Young said. “Just imagine, someone that’s LGBT, that is so talented, but is afraid to come out—afraid to be themselves. Imagine you give them that confidence and you give them that drive and you give them that spark, just imagine. Any LGBT youth can be in this world. So much potential.”
Though social media can bring negative comments, Young said, “if they don’t know you personally, don’t take it personally.” That said, the positive stories he hears on social media mean a lot more to him than the negative comments, especially when the props come from legends.
“When you have an experience like Cher contacting you via twitter saying that, ‘Thank you for being a role model now for the LGBT community and that if it wasn’t for you, my friend, who is a WWE fan would not have been able to come out to his family’,” Young said. “My story changed Cher’s friend’s life. That’s incredible, that’s incredible!”
Young’s passion for activism traces back to his native New Jersey where he was class president at Union High. He finds leadership to be fun, which is one of the reasons why he remains active as a professional wrestler. Young participates in events with Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer foundation, and WWE’s Be a Star program, which teaches young people to show tolerance and respect.
“When I lead those events. It brings great joy to my heart and it’s easy for me to sleep at night knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life,” Young said. “You can easily go to my social media platforms, @fredarren, you can go there and see that it’s my open diary to the world to see me giving back to the community.”
June marks LGBTQ Pride Month. As part of that, Young attended Los Angeles Pride and promoted his #BlockTheHate movement.
“What the #BlockTheHate movement does is it’s striving for greatness,” he said. “Biologically, we aren’t built to hate, we’re built to love, and that’s the message that I was really trying to push at LA Pride and push that hate is just a feeling not a characteristic, so there’s always hope in curing it. That was my message all weekend at Pride, and it was just a great time to really push the movement and tell people that love over hate wins out everyday.”
In his career, Young counts winning the WWE tag team titles alongside then-partner Titus O’Neil as the highlight of his career.
“That’s always been a goal of mine to win a championship,” Young said. “To be identified as someone who is one of the top superstars in the world and I’m not done yet.”
Young, who is recovering from major elbow surgery says he should be back within a few weeks with the goal of winning a singles title. “That’s a goal for anybody but it’s a major goal for me, ” he said. With the perseverance he’s shown in his career, it is a safe bet that he will get more gold around his waist. And he will surely have fun doing it.
“I still love what I do,” Young said. “I haven’t worked in a long time because if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. Everytime I step into that ring there is never a dull moment. If you’re having dull moments you need to get out of the industry that you’re in. I love it too much. I don’t want to stop doing this for a long time.”