I recently spoke with Matt Morgan for his first interview since leaving TNA earlier this summer. In the first part of the interview below, Morgan discussed appearing on Tough Enough, meeting Vince McMahon at the Titan Towers gym, his time on the show and more.
Make sure to check back on Friday for the second part of our interview, where Morgan discussed his stuttering gimmick, working with Brock Lesnar, being released by WWE and if he saw it coming, working overseas, signing with TNA and much more.You can also follow him on Twitter @BPmattmorgan.
Wrestling INC: Were you a wrestling fan growing up?
Morgan: Absolutely, I was an enormous wrestling fan growing up. I can remember being five or six sitting Indian style on the TV room floor with five older brothers and my father, watching Andre the Giant getting his hair cut by Big John Studd and Ken Patera. It was Andre and SD Jones versus those two. I remember crying because Andre was my hero growing up. That was a big, big influential moment where I just got hooked from that moment on.
Wrestling INC: How long were you a fan? Were you a fan pretty much until you got into the business? Or did it kind of taper off at some point?
Morgan: I was a fan the entire time, all the way until now. Even when it wasn't "cool" there for a minute, when it was transitioning from the cartoon side of wrestling into the Attitude Era. I was in high school around that time when it wasn't necessarily cool to be a wrestling fan for those few years there and I still loved it. I didn't give two s--ts what anyone else thought. I didn't care.
Wrestling INC: When the second season of Tough Enough came out, how did you find out about that and did you think about trying out for the first season?
Morgan: Great question. Not many people know this, but I actually technically auditioned for the first season of Tough Enough. I signed up while I was still in college out in Hawaii. All my eligibility was done, so if I wanted to start wrestling training I was technically allowed to under the NCAA rules. I did, and I was trained by this nut job who took $500 that I had to borrow from an assistant coach at the time - and I paid him back for it - to learn how to wrestle at this place called Pro Wrestling Hawaii. Here I am, 6'11", 380 pounds of lard ass of me on Waikiki Beach, learning how to lock up on these wrestling mats. He brought these wrestling mats; they were basically yoga mats or pads that people basically train abs on in gyms, right? I'm sitting there learning how to lock up with this guy. I literally only did one session of training with this guy and he collected $500. I heard from other guys in my gym he did this with, about 20 or 30 other people, and he left the islands for like about a year with a lot of our money. None of us were able to go get our money back.
So I was sitting there, pissed off, wondering how do I start. So I called wrestling schools on the east coast, where I knew I'd be once I graduated from college in Hawaii. So I called obviously Monster Factory with Larry Sharpe, who is a good friend of mine today now. I remember calling him and saying, "Hey, Mr. Sharpe. This is Matt Morgan." And he was like, "okay, tell me about yourself." "I'm almost seven feet tall, 382 pounds." He goes, "kid, you know how many times people call me and say they're almost seven feet tall? Call me when you're serious." He kept hanging up on me. So I was like dude, apparently this isn't going to be the route for me to take to go through a training school. That was the only school I knew of, at least where I was going to be living. So I was like, 'how the Hell do I get into this?' I still couldn't figure out how to start it.
So I moved back and was in my parents house in Connecticut where I took a job with Enterprise Rent A Car in Stamford. I remember Titan Towers was literally a block away. Literally, I could throw a football and hit it from where I was working at Enterprise. A lot of the wrestlers would come in there. So I would sit there and jump all over them and walk them to their car, rent them their car, hook them up, things like that, and beg them for info on how a guy gets started.
I remember one time Tom Prichard came in. Of course, I knew who Dr. Tom Prichard was, who didn't? I was a wrestling fan. He gave me the idea to start showing up to the gym, they have a gym there at Titan Towers, and start coming in there. I had a friend who wrote for the magazine, for the RAW Magazine at the time, and so between those two I would go work out at the gym on Friday nights. [I thought] hopefully, maybe I'd bump into Vince McMahon because I heard he worked out on Friday nights with his trainer.
I went every Friday night for about eight months straight without seeing the man. I kept hearing that I just kept missing him. So, I was coming up from work on Friday nights, so I didn't have many hours to be able to do this. One night I finally hit it and I met him and I introduced myself. He obviously looked at my size and was asking how big I was and things like that. "What's your name? Where are you from?" That kind of thing. He was pretty shocked I was from Connecticut and he hadn't heard of me and I explained to him that I never wrestled, never trained, I didn't know much of anything, I had my money taken from me from an independent trainer in Hawaii. I asked him, "what's the best bet for someone like me to make their start in wrestling? I really want to do this."
He goes, "You don't play any other sports?" I go, "I've got a combine with the Rams coming up very soon." He goes, "I think you would owe it to your family and yourself to at least go to the tryout. You at least owe it to yourself. There's no guarantee in wrestling, no matter how big you are." I was like, "okay, and if it doesn't work out?" He was like, "well, you talk to Tom Prichard and maybe Tom can set you up with something." So I talked to Tom Prichard. The combine for the Rams did not go well, [but] I couldn't have cared less because my mind wasn't even on it. I already wanted to be in wrestling. When your mind's set on something else, it's kind of hard not to make up for that. So when your mind and your heart is really set on something, after I talked to Vince McMahon, it felt like the dream was starting to come together in a weird way, a very slow, weird way. What was the next step to take?
So I called Tom Prichard. My NFL camp didn't work out. He said, "they're doing this Tough Enough thing now. You would be great because you have zero experience. We wouldn't have to untrain any mistakes you made on the indys that you learned. I can't guarantee anything will work out for you. You clearly have to go there, bust your ass and impress whoever's judging this thing, whoever the talent scouts are because it's just as much MTV's decision as it is WWE's. So got out there, bust your ass, show them your heart, your passion, and hopefully you can make it. That would be my advice to you to get started."
So I sent in an audition tape for Tough Enough 1, because this was going to be a brand new concept at the time. They hadn't aired any commercials or anything yet. I sent Kevin Kelly my audition tape. Kevin was going to put it into the mailbox of whoever sifted through the audition tapes for the judges to see. Somehow it got lost. I don't think he forgot to do it, I think what happened was somewhere in there it fell between the cracks. I don't know how, but it did. So I'm watching Tough Enough air on TV and I'm going, "son of a b---h, how the hell did I not make this?" The athletic arrogance kicked in. I could do what these guys are doing. I was kind of fired up about it for a little bit, but I let go. I got to find another way in other than Tough Enough.
As I said that, they already started doing auditions for the second season. Lo and behold, I had already gotten a call about a month later from the casting company from MTV that I'd made the next round of cuts for my audition tape. I'm like, "I didn't even send an audition tape in for the second season." So what I think happened was I somehow missed the first one, and somehow the tape miraculously made it on its own accord for the second season of it. Crazy. Very, very crazy.
Wrestling INC: Trying for eight months to meet Vince McMahon and then he walks in, was that intimidating at all?
Morgan: I mean yes, because he's Vince. He's a star. To me, being a huge wrestling fan, so of course it's like holy s***, this is Vince McMahon! This is the guy I've been watching week after week. Huge, huge celebrity. But no, because in my heart, you just know when you want to do something and you'll talk to whoever you have to with as much confidence and whatever you have as possible to make that dream come true. He can be very intimidating, but he was very, very cool to me. Very, very nice and very encouraging actually. That man busts his ass in the gym, let me tell you that, boy.
When I was going there, Raj, on Friday nights as well, I actually met Stephanie before I met Vince. She was in the gym. She works out hard as hell too, boy. She's super, super encouraging. She would say, "if this is something you really want to do, keep coming in here. You're bound to bump into my dad. Keep it up, that's a really cool story And if that's what you want to do and it's meant to be, it will be. There's no denying passion." She was super cool. I bumped into her about three or four times before I actually met her dad finally within those eight months. That was very encouraging at a time when I'd go for eight months there.
Wrestling INC: That's crazy. I can't remember the last time where a chance meeting with Vince was the way in.
Morgan: Yeah. If you think about it, I'd gotten screwed by trying to go the traditional route through school. And then Larry Sharpe, who I would have loved to have trained me, and any kids listening to this I'd suggest they would go to the Monster Factory, cause the guy knows his s--t. That was the funniest part of the story, that he didn't believe my size, my credentials, because at that time it was a hot bed. He had so many guys calling and crank calling. I can imagine.
Wrestling INC: Do you ever see Larry Sharpe now?
Morgan: Yeah. Oh, my God. I went, paid my own flight, put myself up at my own hotel at my own expense and was there for Dominic DeNucci being inducted into the Hall of Fame and spoke on his behalf before he dropped the news that he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. They had like a ceremony to talk about him being inducted, basically. I was at that and so was Larry Sharpe. Of course, I told him the story and he couldn't believe it. But he laughed.
Wrestling INC: Going back to being on Tough Enough, did you ever feel any resentment from the veterans?
Morgan: You know what, I was going to have resentment on me no matter what way I came in. I could have done the indy scene for 28 freaking years. It wouldn't have mattered because I would have had the same target on my back no matter what because of my sheer size. That's the way I always looked at it. I could see why and I went into it knowing that that would happen. The Tough Enough thing was just another layer of resentment and I was willing to take it head on because you know what? I'll never crap on my Tough Enough opportunity because that is how I got started technically.
What I learned on that show was very cool. It was a lot for the short time I was there before I got hurt. Most ironic is that's the only injury in wrestling I've had the last 10 years. Because that's the biggest lesson in life I've learned. When I was on that show, I saw everybody's conditioning. From Bob Holly, to Al Snow, to Chavo [Guerrero], to Ivory. They weren't so much as bodybuilders as they were all just around athletes like I was when I played basketball. For basketball season I'd have to drop a decent amount of weight to be able to play football and basketball in college. So, I'd have to drop 40 pounds at least, for me to be able to be ready for basketball for the season.
I went into Tough Enough from the combine for the Rams, and I was trying to be a lineman on top of that, so I was the biggest I'd ever been. 382 was not a good weight for Matt Morgan to be climbing over walls on the beach in California, doing all these crazy Tough Enough things we had to do. I tore my knee doing it because I was too heavy. So the lesson I learned was that I need to be lean and as athletic as possible, and that meant to start picking up three days of cardio and trying to do a proper diet again. Things like that versus trying to lift for mass in the gym. That was the biggest lesson I probably took out of that, one of the biggest lessons. Your cardio has to be up to par. It really does. It's better to be leaner than it is to be big and bulky. I've been very fortunate with my career because I learned that day one.
I've never had to sustain a major injury throughout my career. I've had bumps and bruises here and there, like every other guy, but in ten years I've never had a single surgery. I've never missed a day of time. I've never missed anything due to illness or an injury. So it's better to not be bulky is what I learned day one.
Wrestling INC: You don't hear about that that often with larger athletes [going injury free throughout their careers].
Morgan: You hear the complete opposite usually. Our knees are weak, or our backs go out, or things like that. I was really able to learn from other big men that came before me on how to prepare for that.
Wrestling INC: While you were on that show, it's obvious that WWE officials were very impressed with you before you got injured. How shortly after you got injured did they contact you? Was it pretty immediate?
Morgan: It was pretty soon, I would say it was within a month. So I went back to work at Enterprise, I was actually selling cars for them at the time. I'm out selling cars and I get the call, I believe it was Tom Prichard, that I'd be moving to OVW in Louisville, Kentucky. Here's x amount of money you'll be making. There's no guarantee. Every 90 days technically you could be released. That was a risk I was willing to take. My wife supported me so I had no qualms about it and was ecstatic. I couldn't believe it. I remember jumping around my office all excited about it.
Make sure to check back on Friday for the second part of our interview, where Morgan discussed his stuttering gimmick, working with Brock Lesnar, being released by WWE and if he saw it coming, working overseas, signing with TNA and much more. You can also follow him on Twitter @BPmattmorgan.