Brutal honesty. It’s hard to come by these days. Spin spewing from talking heads on television, celebrity publicists firing off excuses as to why their clients act like a fool, and politicians looking to finagle one last vote before caucuses close.
Listening to ECW color commentator Tazz each week on ECW on Sci Fi proves that the former wrestler-turned-announcer has no issues with honesty. And when WWE.com sat with him to discuss numerous topics, no matter what the subject matter turned to, Tazz pulled no punches and never backed down.
Why the original ECW didn’t last in WWE
In the original ECW, the inmates sort of ran the asylum. Don’t get me wrong – at the end of the day, whatever Paul Heyman (former ECW owner) said went. But it was a lax atmosphere to work under, and there wasn’t a lot of structure. Don’t think I mean that he was a pushover, because I know from experience that he wasn’t. His intentions were very good, but he’s such a creative guy that sometimes business wasn’t his strong suit.
It’s also not lack of talent by any stretch; it’s just tough to adapt. WWE is structured, hence while it’s still in business. The structure aspect was tough for some people that came from ECW; to adapt and succeed, for me ever, I had to change to be more professional. And that’s a good thing. I needed the structure and the hard line sometimes. Some of the Originals didn’t know how to deal with it and couldn’t adapt, so they had to go.
Is the new ECW just a "watered-down version" of the old ECW?
I don’t think the new ECW is a watered-down version of the old ECW because it’s a completely different brand, and that’s by design. The only similarity between the old ECW and the new ECW is the logo.
I’m not knocking the old ECW at all; I’d be a fool to do that. I’m just saying it’s a completely different – a different vision, a different style. And at the end of the day, it’s a smarter style. What we did back in the day was an explosive, combustible style. Injuries were happening often, guys were destroying their bodies and a lot of brain cells were destroyed in that bingo hall for a multitude of reasons.
WWE deserves credit for what it’s done for ECW. The ECW brand now has legs. Our fans won’t see what they saw back in Philadelphia or Cincinnati or Queens, N.Y., in 1998, and I can see how that’s confusing for some people. But it’s a different brand with the same name.
Why Tazz retired from in-ring wrestling
I had about 11or 12 years experience in wrestling before I got to WWE, and I had injuries. I felt burnt out in a way, and my neck was also a factor. It’s still not 100 percent. So when certain opportunities arose, I had to think about the future. My neck wasn’t going to get any better and I had to think about my son. My son was a baby at the time, and I thought to myself, “When he’s 10, will I be able to throw a baseball with him?”
When I was given the opportunity for a color commentator role, I felt like, “Man, this is a good opportunity.” And then I started to work with Michael Cole on SmackDown, and even though I didn’t know him well back then, he took me under his wing.
Does Tazz think of returning to the ring like Chris Jericho and JBL?
I get asked that question a lot, and the answer is no. Not at all. I’m happy that JBL and Y2J came back; they have that burning desire, but I don’t. They’re doing what they want to do, as am I. The butterflies I used to get before I’d go to the ring are the same butterflies I get before I call a show now.
Even before Y2J and Bradshaw came back, I was asked that question. Many people thought I retired at a young age; I was in my mid- to late-30s when I left the ring. The truth is I didn’t – and still don’t – have a desire to wrestle anymore. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot as a wrestler that I’m proud of. Unfortunately, my strong wrestling accomplishments came outside of WWE – like becoming a World Champion, which happened in the original ECW. But probably the greatest moment of my career was debuting for WWE at Madison Square Garden against an Olympic gold medalist. I’ll never forget that. I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life.
I don’t get the bug anymore, and I knew it was time to hang up my boots when I didn’t have the urge, that burn to compete. Plus, my neck is still in pain. I never had surgery; I didn’t want to, and still don’t want to risk it.
On being a color commentator
Some people in WWE or some of our fans may not like hearing this, but I’m not willing to completely destroy my body to appease other people. My family is one of the most important things in my life, and I don’t want my wife to have to help me walk about when I’m 50 years old. My body took an ass-kicking in the original ECW; I may not have been flying around through the air and doing crazy moonsaults or going through tables, but I was the one catching them and taking a beating, too. I’m happy with my career as a color commentator, and I don’t miss lacing my boots up.
Do I still think about it sometimes? Of course. But I’m grateful and happy with the position I have in the company. I’m proud of it. Being an announcer is a difficult job. I’m not breaking my body like I once did, but it’s a mental strain. There are no reruns, and in order not to sound repetitive, we announcers have to peel the layers and flesh out what makes these guys and girls tick.
How Tazz would fare in today’s WWE
If I were physically capable and had the desire I had years ago, I think I’d do pretty well within any brand in WWE. I feel the style that I had still works in the industry; I hate coming out and bragging, but I was one of the first guys in the United States using mixed martial arts-style submissions to win. We didn’t invent the tapout, but I brought it forward, and that was the part that made it different. Here I am, 5-foot 8, and I needed different elements to be perceived that I was physically able to make someone submit. But I think my style would still work and I’d do well.
Did Tazz believe the original ECW would ever die?
I never thought ECW would die after I left. I knew I was one of the guys, but I wasn’t the only guy. A lot of guys left for WCW or WWE, so it kind of dwindled, but I never thought it’d die. I was very upset when it happened.
My mission was to be the best I could be from a business standpoint. I never thought I’d leave the original ECW; if you asked me that question from 1994 to 1998, I would have said that the original ECW wasn’t going anywhere. However, if you asked me that same question in early 1999, I’d say, "Actually, maybe I will end up in WCW or WWE,” because I knew it wasn’t going great for ECW.
Our show and talent were great, but we didn’t have the finances or the exposure, in terms of television. I never would have thought ECW would be a brand under the WWE flag for most of my time in ECW. But toward late-1999, I knew things were bad in ECW, and I was also having business problems with Paul Heyman.