Fellow competitors be warned — AR Fox feels that he is at his best in tournaments, and plans to prove it at Evolve 19, where the company will crown its first champion.

Fresh off his semi-final loss to eventual champion Samuray Del Sol in Brian Kendrick’s King of Flight Tournament in Huntington Park, Calif., Fox can’t wait to get into action at the big Evolve show on April 5 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, NJ as a part of WrestleMania weekend.

Following the tournament, where he takes on Jon Davis in the “B” bracket, with the victor facing Ricochet, Fox takes part in two Dragon Gate USA cards. On Saturday, he defends the Open the United Gate tag team title with partner CIMA against the Young Bucks. Then on Sunday, High-Flyers Fray — with ladders — with Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, AR Fox, Samuray Del Sol, Uhaa Nation, Christina Von Eerie, and Facade.

“It’s going to be a rough weekend, but that’s almost when I’m at my best. I’m really my best in a tournament,” he told SLAM! Wrestling on Monday night, shortly before heading off for his first trip to Mexico to wrestle.

Using the just-completed King of Flight Tournament as an example, Fox said that by the second bout, you are totally revved. “You ain’t got no time to recoup or doing anything. It’s just go-time. I’m just in go-mode, especially if I took a lot of crazy stuff in the first match, and people think I’m all banged up and that I’m not going to do too much. Then I want to do even more! Do another dive to the outside, even if I ate s— on it in the match before. I really like the tournaments. It really hit me yesterday in between matches. Tournaments are where I have my best matches.”

The “B” side of the Evolve title tournament includes Rich Swann, Samuray Del Sol, Sami Callihan, Jigsaw, and Chuck Taylor.

“That’s huge for Evolve to shoot for the title,” Fox said, wondering a little how it will change the promotion, which promotes wins and losses so distinctly.

“When Evolve first started, it was all about who’s the number one spot, seed, or whatever, just all on wins and losses records,” he wondered. “What does it do to the wins and losses records? What does somebody’s wins and losses mean to a champion? It’s interesting for me, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The 6-foot, 185-pound Fox is more than a little familiar with Jon Davis.

“He’s a monster,” said Fox. “I look forward to working with him. We’ve wrestled a few times now, and he might be one up on me, or maybe I’m one up on him, or maybe we’re tied. I feel like we still need that rubber match no matter what the actual record is.”

But don’t go calling AR Fox one of the favourites in the tournament.

“I think I’m highly overrated, actually. For real, I really do,” he confessed. “When I’m in the ring with a bunch of well-known guys, I’m like, ‘What am I doing here? How did I sneak in here?'”

The progression for Fox has happened quickly.

The 25-year-old Thomas Ballester, originally from Connecticut, trained to be a pro wrestler in Atlanta with Curtis “Mr.” Hughes and debuted in 2007. Elix Skipper was there as a trainer as well for a time, and other grads that came through the school include Heath Slater, Uhua Nation, and Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme.

“He’s a very hands-on trainer,” Fox said of Hughes. “He’ll have his good student working with whomever don’t know anything, or whomever is first starting out. If they can’t get it, then he’ll jump in himself.”

Early successes in CZW out of Philadelphia and IPW out of Indianapolis. Chris Hero liked what he saw and tipped off Gabe Sapolsky of Evolve / Dragon Gate USA about Fox.

The fact that he has the word “wrestling” tattooed on his ring finger speaks volumes about his commitment to making it big in pro wrestling.

“AR Fox is absolutely amazing to watch,” said Sapolsky. “He is easily one of the most exciting wrestlers in all of wrestling. His athleticism is extraordinary and he combines that with a lot of creativity. He has an incredible work ethic. He loves wrestling and you see that in his matches. He is the definition of a show stealer.”

The high-flying comes easy to Fox.

“I don’t really have fear in me,” he stated. In short, that means he is not worried about trying something and botching it the first time.

In fact, going back to the well for the same move is a bit of a lost art that he is trying to bring back. He’ll go back to the same move again in a match, like using a cutter once in the ring, another off the apron, then one off the second rope, then a springboard cutter. Fox believes it helps set him apart. “Even in 20-minute matches, I’ve seen people not repeat moves.”

AR Fox grounds Rich Swann. Photo by Christine Coons

Innovation can be simple as well, he said.

“We’ve all seen a frog splash for 10 years where the guy’s facing the ring,” he started. “So I was like, ‘Ok, I’ll stand on the top rope and do my frog splash backwards.’ It got a ridiculous reaction, and all I did is jump backwards. But you can do a frog splash all day and people won’t care.”

During the interview, it was evident that Fox was still pretty pumped about his first trip to Pro Wrestling Guerilla in California, and looking forward to Mexico.

PWG has a different way of doing things. “I wasn’t too familiar with their style. It’s balls to the wall. I didn’t know that,” he admitted. The fact that the crowd enjoys its fair share of adult beverages changes everything. “That brings a testosterone-type feel. You almost want to hit harder when all these fans are f—— drunk and f—— yelling. If they don’t like you, they’re really talking s—. It just gets you going if you’re working heel. If you’re a face, they’re like, ‘Oh, I love you!’ It creates an atmosphere.”

AR Fox and CIMA. Photo by Brad McFarlin

Fox also used the chance to soak up knowledge from the likes of Kevin Steen and Michael Elgin.

“A lot of guys were there that I don’t share locker rooms with often. I always consider someone who’s been around longer than me better than me,” he said. “Everyone in my match has been around way longer than me. I don’t really get matches too often where I’m the least experienced guy. Since I’ve started doing better shows, that’s happened a lot.”

On the smaller independent shows, he’s a leader. “I’m the most experienced person in the match, and I’m calling it all, and switching their spots that I think make no sense. Now this weekend, the whole s— was reversed. They kept switching my spots — but for the better. ‘No dude, do this and then do that.’ I was just like, ‘Holy s—, cool, thanks.'”

Upon arriving in Mexico, AR Fox shared the poster he found with himself on with his Facebook friends.

As for Mexico, after having to rearrange his flight, Fox was just looking forward to working. “I high-fly, but I don’t do too much lucha. I actually never have either, or even had too many opponents that do it,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get it down. I’m not worried about it.” As for Mexico, after having to rearrange his flight, Fox was just looking forward to working, though confesses to never having experienced the amazing Lucha Libre style. “I actually never have … or even had too many opponents that do it,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get it down.”

Upon his return, Fox will be thrown into WrestleMania weekend. He’s been there before and recognizes the opportunity to showcase his skills and the talent on the shows he is on.

“A lot of times we get people who are seeing us for the first time, so that’s what makes it cool. All these guys are going to pop really huge for things you did because they’ve never seen it before,” he said. “It’s cool too, because a lot of them are WWE fans too, and WWE is awesome, but on the indies, we do a lot more moves in our matches. They’re just blown away.”