Freak Off A Leash: Lars Sullivan’s Success Is No ‘Accident’

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Photo: WWE

If you heard the name Dylan Miley, it wouldn’t necessarily resonate with you as a fan. However, the man who has that as his proper name has been given an in-ring appellation that is becoming recognized by a wide swath of fans: Lars Sullivan. As Sullivan, he has emerged as a threat for the NXT Championship, having ascended to the top of the brand. Miley could be described as a late bloomer. Unlike many other top of the card NXT performers, he did not make a name on the independent scene prior to coming to WWE’s NXT brand. The reason for that is that his athletic background is based on everything other than wrestling. In trying to find out more about his background, there is very little that is recorded. Clearly, his emergence is the tale of someone completely homegrown within the WWE Performance Center.

Photo: WWE

He first joined the company in 2013 but underwent a great deal of seasoning and preparation before he was ready for the small screen. When he joined the company he competed under an array of names, such as Dylan Roode and Dylan Mile. Indeed, there are even conflicting reports as to whether his real name is Dylan Roode or Dylan Miley. Certainly, when he joined WWE he was quite green, but that didn’t mean he would take a long time to develop. He joined their developmental program when he was 26, and is now 30 years of age.

After being given the Lars Sullivan moniker, he began appearing on NXT TV, and this massive man struck fear in the hearts of many simply with his presence alone. At 6’3 and over 300 lbs, without question, he stands out against anyone he faces, no matter who they are. He first started working in the ring at house shows in 2015, after a couple of years of training and developing his craft. That start in 2013 followed a tryout in September of that year which was very impressive, as coaches were amazed at his agility and ability to move seemingly effortlessly.

Photo: WWE

Miley first came to the attention of fans after appearing at Wrestlemania 31 Axxess event, where he wrestled former NXT talent Marcus Louis and defeated him in only a few minutes. While he wasn’t the only one to compete during the Axxess event, he stood out, immediately impressing those in attendance. It wasn’t just his size that amazed people, it was other things about him that are perhaps reminiscent of one Braun Strowman. For example, his hands are enormous. The damage that people could imagine them inflicting means they should legitimately fear those hands. At one point a photograph compared the size of his hands to those of former WWE champion Triple H. Sullivan’s hands made Triple H’s look minuscule in comparison.

Sullivan’s success has grown as he has gone on to face a number of notable names within the company, including many top talents. However, before that his notoriety started to grow due to other factors: for instance before he changed his twitter handle, Kevin Owens tweeted the following about Sullivan. “Can we get @DylanMWWE to, like, 1000 followers before the end of the day? If he tweets like he talks, you’ll all thank me for it!”. He also trained with current WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar in the lead up to Wrestlemania 31. There is something unique about Sullivan’s look, but many have made the comparison to wrestler Maurice Tillet, who was The French Angel in the 1940s and the inspiration for the look of the animated character Shrek.

Early wrestling star The French Angel

Some elements of Sullivan’s current presentation were chosen by Triple H; the head of NXT knows how Vince McMahon has an affinity for Irish sounding names, leading to the last name Sullivan being chosen. When he did debut it was as part of tag teams, and after losing their match his partners would receive his wrath. It is in his reaction to those losses that fans were witness to the unbridled fury of Sullivan. He also showed something of a Jekyll and Hyde personality early on. As he would apologize to his partner after beating them nearly half to death, only to do it again to a new partner the following week. It was only a matter of time before Sullivan was pushed in the singles division. He would face the likes of Kassius Ohno and Killian Dain on his road to earning the right to compete for the NXT Championship.

At NXT Takeover: Chicago II, he faced NXT champion Aleister Black. It was Sullivan’s first one-on-one opportunity for a championship, though he competed in a multi-man match at the previous NXT Takeover for the newly created NXT North American championship. While he didn’t win that match up, in the wake of it he emerged as a threat to Black’s title. The story told in his battle against Black was outstanding. Sullivan was a fierce monster that administered as much punishment as he took, and more. The match concluded in quite climatic fashion as he took three ‘Black Mass’ finishers before being defeated. One loss should not define Sullivan’s career, and instead it could be the start of new beginning, as ‘The Freak’ has a great deal of promise, and likely championships in his future as well.

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As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I’ve had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @TheMarcMadison

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