As AJ Styles and King Corbin stood at the top of a ladder atop WWE headquarters, struggling to wrestle control of the men's Money in the Bank briefcase from one another, it fell out of their reach -- seemingly in slow motion -- and into the reach of Otis.
Time stood still for a moment, as Otis and the WWE audience at home slowly processed what had just happened. What's already been a whirlwind 2020 for half of the tag team known as Heavy Machinery got serious in a hurry, as Otis had locked up a title shot and all but guaranteed that his presence will continue to grow in the spotlight of SmackDown on Friday nights.
"The thoughts are overwhelming, that's for sure," says Otis, reflecting on his victory on the Monday morning following the Money in the Bank broadcast. "Just the realization that a match that I've seen ever since the start -- Money in the Bank -- it was like something I thought I'd never probably achieve or even risk to do. ... Being a part of history in a match like this at the headquarters ... it's pretty crazy, man.
"Phone's been going all crazy. And a great Mother's Day gift for my mother, for sure, because this was her birthday weekend as well. We brought home the briefcase, baby."
Otis was uniquely qualified to entertain within the first-of-its-kind approach to Money in the Bank. As 12 WWE superstars battled through the halls of WWE headquarters, floor by floor, Otis got the match started off in a location he's most comfortable, the gym, by laying a barbell with some heavy plates across the chest of AJ Styles to trap him on the ground. He mimicked Daniel Bryan's "Yes!" chants, and even started a food fight at catering that ended poorly for Paul Heyman. He capped off his food-related shenanigans by throwing a pie into the face of John Laurinaitis.
But as the match rolled toward its conclusion, few predicted Otis would be the one walking away with the briefcase in hand. The other five participants had previously either won the Money in the Bank briefcase or had at least one major title reign (and in the case of Bryan, both). But with Bryan incapacitated, and Rey Mysterio and Aleister Black seemingly tossed off the roof by Corbin, Otis was exactly where he had to be at the right time.
Even in the moment of his greatest success to date, though, Otis' mind was on his Heavy Machinery tag team partner, Tucker.
"I like to really share these experiences with my big brother Tucky," says Otis. "It will be four years this July 22 as a tag team. At the Performance Center, coach Matt Bloom, he was basically like, 'I can see you two clicking and I can see you guys being partners.' And I didn't know [Tucky] at the time, I just knew of him, but I met him one time, shook his hand and said, 'What's up, man?' Ever since then, we kind of have a connection -- with food, obviously, and eventually when we get into the ring. The magic we have with each other and just knowing what he knows and knowing what I know, he basically knows what step I'm going to take next.
"Coach Bloom was really close to us, and I think he's probably the biggest Heavy Machinery fan. Every time we did something wrong in his eyes, he'd confront us and he'd tell us. But when he was happy, he was super happy, man -- definitely like a father figure to Heavy Machinery."
The Performance Center has played a pivotal role in Otis' development as a wrestler. He had to wait six months between his tryout and when he ultimately signed his contract, but the moment Otis first walked into the PC is forever etched in his mind.
"My first day was April 11, 2016," Otis says. "It definitely had an, 'I made it' feeling. Not made it to the top at all, but you're there, and now it's time to work. We had the greatest coaches at the Performance Center: Robbie Brookside, Scotty 2 Hotty, Norman Smiley, Terry Taylor. And these guest coaches would come in, and my favorite will always be Ricky Morton from the Rock N' Roll Express. I mean, the passion he still has for the business at his age. The fire was already lit, but he made me even more passionate about tag team wrestling."
Otis also pointed to key work he did with Steve Corino working on his psychology, and insights from Scotty 2 Hotty about how to work and interact with a crowd. It helped Otis to slowly build a rapport with Tucker as Heavy Machinery found their rhythm -- first in the NXT tag team division, and then on Raw and SmackDown.
After spending his first few years with WWE performing as half of a tag team, Otis has had the opportunity to show a different side of himself over the past few months. His romantic pursuit of Mandy Rose built to a heartbreak on Valentine's Day, as Dolph Ziggler swooped in on his date and ultimately drew Rose's attention and heart.
In a soap opera-esque twist, it was eventually revealed that Rose's best friend, Sonya Deville, had orchestrated a coup of sorts by sabotaging the Valentine's Day date and derailing Otis' dreams. What may have seemed shallow and one-dimensional at first on paper became the WWE's most engaging long-term story, and ultimately put Otis in his first (non-kickoff) WrestleMania match.
"I imagined my first major WrestleMania would be with Tucky and a big tag team match of some sort. We all have our fantasies, our visions, certainly, of what we'd like to achieve," Otis says. "But going into this program with Mandy, Sonya, and Dolph, they're awesome professionals, nothing but a great time with them. Every time we're on camera it just clicks. There's a chemistry there.
"This WrestleMania was coming up and I'm thinking, 'Well, OK. I mean, I don't know what's going on here. Maybe it's a mixed tag, and it's me and Mandy versus Sonya and Dolph,' at the time. But then when things got closer, I find out that it's going to be Dolph's first singles WrestleMania match, and it's against me.
"Even though Dolph's been in a lot of WrestleManias, that was his first-ever singles match, along with my first singles match at WrestleMania, of course. And yes, there's no crowd there, but it still was very special to me, just growing up watching it and watching WrestleMania. It's like, you can never really believe that you're going to be part of the historic night of the year, our biggest night of the year."
Otis got his storybook ending, picking up what has to be considered a major victory over ZIggler, and then celebrated as Rose confirmed she shared Otis' level of affection.
"When me and Dolph were done, it was a great feeling. I got the kiss from Mandy, our lips touched and the emotions were running high," says Otis. "Obviously with that kind of thing you for sure want a crowd, but still, with the response we got on Twitter, I think we were the No. 1, our trending thing going on Twitter at that time."
If that had been the peak of the year, 2020 would've already measured as the biggest of Otis' WWE career. By adding the Money in the Bank briefcase win, Otis' momentum is growing, along with the scope of possibilities for his future. As to how he might cash in his title opportunity, Otis was quick to mention the possibility of a type of cash-in that's never been done before. Luckily, the on-screen rules of WWE are typically pretty pliable, as needed.
"I mean, I don't think there's a set rule for which title we can cash it in for -- we could cash in for the tag team championships," says Otis. "I know that'd be really weird, but we'd just let the guy know firsthand, 'We're cashing in for tag titles.'
"Or [maybe] it'll be for one of those world championships, if you know what I'm saying."